Authors: Dave Ferraro
Tags: #urban fantasy, #ghosts, #japan, #mythology, #monsters, #teen fantasy, #oni, #teen horror, #japanese mythology, #monster hunters
By Dave Ferraro
Copyright 2015 Dave Ferraro
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A term used to describe
a class of supernatural being in Japan, ranging from the malicious
to the mischievous, or even those who offer knowledge or luck. They
can boast animal features, look mostly human, resemble inanimate
objects or have no apparent physical form, but exhibit some form of
supernatural power. This umbrella term can include virtually any
monster or supernatural being.
As the sun set, shadows bled over the
landscape. Ordinary objects, harmless items by day, became sinister
as darkness infected them. Secrets hid in shadows. Nightmares were
born from them. The night depleted courage, corroded bravado like
an acid, eating away at it as the shadows deepened, suffocating the
warmth and safety of light.
And monsters took advantage of man’s
This will be your
Seven-year-old Yumiko Sato looked
beyond the small sparsely-furnished room to the window, which was
open, allowing in a slight breeze that stirred the red curtains.
Beyond was darkness. She’d seen what walked the streets at night,
and she didn’t dare leave the safety of this house until the sun
climbed the horizon again. So this would be her prison during the
She glanced at the bed on the floor,
then at the small dresser with a mirror hanging beside it, just
over a trashcan. That was the extent of what the room had to
We’ll buy you some
clothes, and other things, of course,” her aunt said
Yumiko turned and bowed to her. “Thank
you for all that you’ve done for me.”
Her aunt looked away. “Well, it’s the
least I could do. You’re family, after all. When your mother…well,
you must be tired. It’s been a long day. The bathroom is just next
door, to the right. I’m at the end of the hall, if you need
Yumiko bowed again, low so that she
wouldn’t have to look her aunt in the face.
Well, then. Good night,
When she heard the door slide shut,
she finally looked up, and watched as the light switched off in the
Yumiko couldn’t stop a few tears from
spilling from her eyes, and wiped them away angrily. Her mother
hadn’t abandoned her. They had it all wrong.
She dropped her backpack and suitcase
to the floor and walked over to the window, where she leaned
against the casing. Nothing looked out of the ordinary at the
moment. That, or the night hid things too well.
I’ll get you back,
Mother,” she whispered to the night. “I promise I will.” She
shivered as the night answered in the form of a sudden gust of wind
that chilled her skin and sent her hair back over her shoulders.
She reached out and pulled the window closed.
With a sigh, she turned back to regard
her room. She bent over and unlatched the clasps of her suitcase,
throwing it open with little ceremony. She grabbed two t-shirts and
walked them over to the dresser, refolding them as she went. She
pulled open the top drawer and shoved the shirts inside, closing it
with more force than was necessary. She suddenly felt angry. It was
so unfair. She hadn’t asked for any of this. She just wanted things
to go back to how they used to be.
She blinked over at the mirror and
issued a snarl before she swatted it from its hook on the wall. It
fell a few feet away from the trashcan, shattering into several
large jagged pieces against the hardwood. Chest heaving, she stared
down at the shards, her anger focused in her gaze, as if she were
taking out all of her frustration on the reflective surfaces. Then,
all at once, the anger faded from her, and a heavy sadness
descended upon her.
She dropped to her knees and sobbed
silently as she gathered the pieces of the mirror.
A bump overhead startled her and she
looked up. The ceiling was featureless. There was no fan or vent
above her, although there was a tile that most likely allowed for
access to the crawlspace between the ceiling and the roof. She
wiped her nose and returned to the task at hand, grunting when one
shard sliced her finger. Blood bloomed over her pale skin and she
immediately stuck her fingertip into her mouth, sucking at the
She picked up the remaining pieces of
the mirror carefully, sliding them into the trashcan with regret.
She’d been rash and felt bad for breaking it. She hoped her aunt
wouldn’t be too upset about it.
A scraping from the ceiling drew her
attention and she frowned as she looked overhead once more. She
cocked her head, waiting for the noise to return, but a minute
later, all was still silent. She hoped her aunt didn’t have mice.
Or bats. Yumiko shuddered.
She pulled her finger from her mouth
and stared at her wound, which was still bleeding. It didn’t look
deep, but she should probably find a bandage for it. She hesitated
before reaching out for the door handle to the hall. She felt like
she was a visitor, like she was intruding or trespassing. As she
slid the door aside, she peaked out, hoping that she wouldn’t be
disturbing her aunt. She didn’t want her regretting the decision to
take her in. After all, Yumiko had nowhere else to go.
Tentatively, she stepped
out into the hallway, skulking along the wall to the bathroom. Once
inside, she closed the door and leaned against the door. After a
moment, she turned the light switch on, blinking at the feminine
colors. Pinks and pale purples. The towels, the shower curtain, the
rugs, the wallpaper…even the pink bowl held lavender flowers,
sharply fragrant. Back at Yumiko’s house, the bathroom had been
sunny and warm. Bright and inviting, with yellow walls and rubber
duckies, Totoros emblazoned across the shower curtain. The handle
of her tooth brush had been the witch Kiki from
Kiki’s Delivery Service
. There would
be no room for silly, welcoming touches like that in this
Yumiko ached for home, but before she
was swept up in despair once more, she put her mind to finding a
bandage, and rummaged through the cupboards until she found one. It
didn’t have a cartoon character on it, but was a plain old
Band-Aid. She wrapped it around her finger and quickly left the
room, holding her breath until she reached her door, sliding it
shut behind her silently.
When she turned to regard her room
again, her eyes widened. The clothes from her suitcase had been
thrown across the floor, her backpack opened, spilling its
contents. The top dresser drawer, where she’d just placed her
folded t-shirts had been pulled open, the clothing hanging over the
She looked back at the door. Her
aunt…she wouldn’t have done this. Would she? She didn’t really know
her aunt. Her aunt had been a woman who would come to her house on
birthdays and given her a card with money. She had been nice to
her, but not particularly warm. Yet Yumiko couldn’t see her going
through her things. But if not her aunt, then who?
Yumiko swallowed hard and began to
pick up her clothes. She took the time to fold them all and lay
them in her dresser drawers with care, an uneasy feeling weighing
in her stomach like a rock the entire time. She kept looking
around, wondering if she was being watched. Her eyes were
continually drawn to the window, but it was closed tight. Still,
the monsters she’d seen wouldn’t all be kept out by a plane of
glass. The yokai king who’d spirited her away could probably walk
through it like tissue paper.
A thud sounded from
Yumiko paused in her folding, and
placed a final shirt in her dresser before staring up at the
ceiling, thinking. Could something be up there?
She’d barely finished the thought when
the panel in the ceiling shifted, and then slid aside.
Yumiko took a step back, heart
pounding as she stared up at the darkness that lived beyond the
tile. Nothing happened after a moment, so Yumiko licked her lips.
“Hello?” she called tentatively.
You don’t scare me,”
Yumiko added, a clear lie, as her voice shook as the words left her
mouth. She clenched her hands into fists, digging her fingernails
into her palms. She concentrated on the pain it produced, shoving
aside her fear for the moment. She took a bold step toward the hole
in the ceiling, and then another.
Something suddenly tumbled from the
hole. An old woman with wild white hair. She laughed manically as
she hung upside down out of the crawlspace. Her tongue was forked,
like a snake’s, and slithered out of her withered lips in a
disturbing way, as if testing the air. “I haven’t had anything to
eat for so long,” the woman proclaimed, laughing some
Yumiko leapt back, screaming. She ran
into the door and shook her head, as if denying the existence of
this thing would make it go away.
I’m going to chew on your
pretty little face while you sleep!” the woman promised.
Yumiko!” Her aunt burst
into the room behind her, eyes wide, breathing hard. Her eyes swept
the room quickly before rounding on Yumiko. She grabbed her by the
shoulders. “What’s wrong, child?”
The…the woman!” Yumiko
stammered. She pointed at the ceiling, where the woman still hung,
Her aunt frowned and walked over to
the woman. The woman made a halfhearted swipe at her aunt, but her
aunt didn’t even seem to notice.
Yumiko, there’s nothing
Yumiko’s mouth fell open. “What…but
she’s right there! She came out of the crawlspace! She’s going to
Her aunt frowned and crossed her arms
as she regarded Yumiko. The old woman crossed her arms mockingly
Now, young lady, I know
it’s been a trying day, but you can’t let your imagination get the
best of you. And you will certainly not act out in this
No buts. Get into bed.
Yumiko blinked back tears as she
walked mechanically over to her bed and sat down on it, as ordered.
Her aunt waited, gesturing for her to pull the covers over
Maybe you had a
nightmare,” her aunt said, softly.
It wasn’t a
Her aunt’s eyes flashed. “It’s those
stories of your mothers. She always did love that superstitious
nonsense. Yokai.” She scoffed. “Well, Yumiko, there are no such
things. It would be best for everyone if you just emptied your mind
of those stories.”
Yumiko bit down on her lip to keep it
from trembling. She looked back at the ceiling tile, and saw that
the woman had disappeared back into the crawlspace.
Her aunt followed her gaze and shook
her head as she walked toward the door. “Goodnight, Yumiko.” She
shut the light off. “Now, get some sleep.”
She shut the door.
Yumiko stared into the darkness around
her, heart racing wildly in her chest. Would the woman attack her
in the night, as she’d threatened to? Yumiko didn’t see why she
wouldn’t. The woman was a demon. A monster. Yokai.
A scraping sound came from the ceiling
directly overhead, and Yumiko squeezed her eyes shut against it. It
sounded like nails being dragged over wood.
She would never be able to sleep,
knowing that that monstrosity was in the room. But what could she
do? Maybe she should leave. Run. But then what? There were monsters
out there too. They thrived in the dark streets. They would eat her
alive as surely as this woman would.