I live in the city now, but I grew up in a small village as a child. There was a mountain to the rear of that village, and people claimed that it was cursed. “You must never go there!” my parents and grandparents always told me, and so of course, I didn’t.
If you went up the mountain, then apparently something bad would happen. That, or you’d get lost. It was a famous ghost spot in our village, and nobody went there. But there was one person who did. A so-called traveller.
I think the rumours of the mountain were only known in our village. We didn’t have any souvenir stores, and to speak honestly for a moment, everyone wondered why on earth anyone would travel to our village. They were also suspicious how the traveller reached the mountain.
Yet this traveller climbed it and came back down and nothing bad happened. They said that there was an abandoned shrine up on the mountain, along with a bunch of other stuff that made me think they really did go up there.
One day at school, one of my friends started talking about the shrine on the mountain. He was suspicious and wondered why a mountain with a shrine on it would be cursed. Hearing him say it out loud, I wondered the same thing. That really was strange.
We decided to go check the mountain out together. I don’t think I was scared of it at the time, because that traveller had gone up and safely returned by themselves. The story of the curse had to be nothing more than a superstition. And so, that day after school, we set out for the mountain.
I took bug spray, a torch, and some snacks with us. My friend came over to my house first, and then we left for the mountain. Of course, we didn’t say anything to our parents.
In the end, we climbed the mountain without anything strange happening to us. Maybe because we were feeling on top of the world. It was after school, and the sun was setting in the distance. As we were wondering if we might have some time to sit down and eat the snacks we’d brought, we safely arrived at the shrine. But… once we got there, we started to regret it.
I could feel someone look at us from deep inside the shrine. We both froze. It felt like someone was looking at us, but it was difficult to say for certain…
I didn’t feel very good. My friend’s face stiffened. I wanted to run, but when I tried to turn, my body refused to move. ‘Shit,’ I thought. We were cursed and going to die. That was what I thought. I couldn’t move, and my head was spinning.
Then something far in the distance banged loudly. It was like the sound of a hammer falling to the ground. The paralysis gripping us broke and we both turned heel and ran from the shrine. We tripped over numerous trees as we ran, but we didn’t fall. If we did, we feared it would all be over.
Then I realised something.
The sky, which until that point had been vaguely bright, was now wrapped in darkness. As my fear grew, I noticed something else strange. Something was chasing us from behind.
No, not chasing. It caught up to us. The grass behind us rustled and it was very clearly right there with us. Once it caught us, we’d be dead. I knew it.
I quickly glanced behind us. A disgusting, mysterious black monkey was chasing after us. Its eyes were bloodshot.
‘Die, die!’ I thought, and somehow we made it off the mountain. The black monkey stopped chasing us. I sighed, and on trembling legs we returned home. Which is to say, my house was right there anyway.
That night, everyone at home was, for some reason, dark. Especially my grandmother, who was muttering something. A prayer maybe? Did she know? Had we been found out? I was worried, but she didn’t say anything about it.
The phone rang after dinner. I was still so frightened of the mountain that I couldn’t leave my mother’s side, so I overheard her on the phone. I listened in dumb shock. It was my friend’s mother, the one I’d gone up the mountain with. He hadn’t arrived home yet, and she wanted to know if he was at our house.
It didn’t make sense. I held his hand as we ran down the mountain, and now he was nowhere to be seen.
That could only mean one thing. The mountain had spirited him away. Right from my side.
I couldn’t say anything. My mother asked me if I knew anything and I said I didn’t. What a blatant lie. She hung up the phone. Apparently my friend’s mother had been crying. Guilt hung over me like a dark cloud.
When I returned to the living room, my grandmother glared at me. Then she opened her mouth and said, “Did you go to the mountain?”
For some reason, I nodded in agreement. That was the only thing I felt like I could do. Then she jumped up and at me with a speed I never expected from an old woman like her.
“Why did you go up there?! It’s cursed! You’ve been possessed! It’ll come for you soon!”
It would come for me… did she mean the monkey? I was scared out of my wits.
“Your friend went too, didn’t he? He was taken instead of you.”
I passed out. When I heard that my friend had been taken in my place, everything in front of me went black.
Coming back to the present, I’m thankful that nothing bad has happened to me since then. All I can do is apologise to my friend.
That cursed mountain. It has a connection to our village. Apparently the villagers who lived here in the past were cannibals. Now it’s almost a superstition, but the truth is that it’s the villagers who are cursed, not the mountain. Meaning, me as well.
The blood of those cannibals still runs deeply throughout our village, which the holy shrine on the mountain detests. I asked my grandmother what that meant, and she said the protection mechanisms of the shrine were too strong. Even though it looked abandoned and empty, those effects were still going strong. Meaning, if cursed people such as us went up there, something bad would happen to us.
That was why nothing happened to the traveller. But my friend was taken in my place, and disaster befell him.
So in the end, it wasn’t the mountain that was cursed at all, and that monkey was probably a mountain spirit. I have no desire to return home for New Year’s or Obon. I think, if I ever go back there again, I’ll be the next to die.