Read Yokai Online

Authors: Dave Ferraro

Tags: #urban fantasy, #ghosts, #japan, #mythology, #monsters, #teen fantasy, #oni, #teen horror, #japanese mythology, #monster hunters

Yokai (2 page)

BOOK: Yokai
12.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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There was a shuffling sound from
across the room, and then a thump.

Yumiko pulled the sheets up over her
nose. Maybe her aunt was right. Maybe it wasn’t real. Maybe it was
all in her head. That happened to people, right? Especially
following a traumatic event.


Yuuuuumiko,” a voice
mocked from the dark corners of the room. “Are you ready to have
your tender meat stripped from the bone?”

Yumiko covered her ears with her
hands, but she couldn’t keep the monster’s voice out.


I bet that your blood
tastes like honey,” the creature whispered. “Perhaps I will keep
you alive for a while and feast on you every night as you slowly
lose your strength. Then, I will have a feast of your skin and fat
when you can no longer put up a fight. When you can’t call out as
your bones snap in my mouth like twigs.”

Yumiko opened her eyes to see the
woman’s face directly overhead. Beyond her, Yumiko could see that
her body was like a snake’s, covered in rags and stretching the
length of the room so that she could hang suspended over Yumiko,
poised to strike.


Do it then,” Yumiko said,
lifting her chin. She would have felt braver if her jaw hadn’t
shaken. “I’m going to die anyway. Kagami is going to come for me
when I turn eighteen. He will have me for his bride. I’m only
delaying the inevitable. At least if you kill me now, I won’t have
to suffer. I won’t have to live in torment, counting the days until
he returns to devour me.”

The woman stilled, eyes widening.
“Kagami, you say?”

Yumiko nodded once, and the woman
considered her for a moment. “You lie to try to get me to spare
your life.”


No. Just do it. Kill me
now. If you don’t, Kagami will.”

Something came over the woman’s face
then, something like fear, or perhaps pity. She looked at Yumiko
with new eyes. Or perhaps she was going to take Yumiko’s advice and
kill her then and there, and was pondering what sort of sauce would
go well with her flesh.

Yumiko closed her eyes, waiting for
the woman to strike. She heard the creature shift and sigh. And
then the window flew open, allowing a gust of wind to blow through
the room, stirring the sheets and Yumiko’s hair.

Yumiko’s eyes snapped open to see that
the woman had vanished. She glanced up at the window and spied a
serpentine tail slip between the curtains and out into the cool
night.


What?” Yumiko blinked,
then sat up. She went over to the window and looked out into the
dead of night, but couldn’t see anything in the shadows. She closed
the window tight and stood there, staring out at the dark streets,
watching for signs of anything out of the ordinary.

But she saw nothing.

She looked up at the hole in the
ceiling, noting that the tile had been replaced. It was like the
woman had never even been there.

But Yumiko knew better.

She knew that things were out there,
hiding in the shadows, stalking humanity. Terrible things. And most
people wouldn’t even see them coming.

Unless they had a little
help.

Chapter One

The water was still and black as oil
under the moonless sky. Yumiko Sato stared straight ahead, into the
open sea, as if daring it to offer up its secrets. She breathed in
the cool night air, welcoming its cleansing touch.

Leaning against the railing, she
watched as a man rushed along the deck toward her. Looking up at
the dark sky, her eyes lingered on the white luxury yacht. It was a
beautiful ship, bone white, standing out starkly against the
surrounding darkness, and she noted that many of the men onboard
were scrambling about frantically. She hid a secret smile and
turned toward the man on deck as he slowed upon reaching her. He
bowed, then stood straight, a cigar hanging from his lips as smoke
escaped the right side of his mouth. He adjusted his white
captain’s hat, his gray eyes sweeping over her. “Pardon me, Miss
Sato.”


Is everything alright, Mr.
Watanabe?” she asked before he could slip past her, her eyes
flickering back to the frantic men behind him with
meaning.


No need to worry. You are
quite safe.”

Yumiko bowed her head slightly, noting
the non-answer with pleasure. She then looked up at the crewman at
the wheel of the yacht overhead. “If it wouldn’t be much trouble,
Captain, could I possibly see the view from up there?”

Mr. Watanabe’s eyes flashed briefly
with annoyance, but he offered her his arm nonetheless. “Of course.
Allow me.”

Yumiko blushed prettily and took his
arm, allowing him to escort her up a narrow staircase to the wheel.
She gazed down at the deck below, before her eyes swept out over
the open water again. A few tendrils of fog were tentatively
testing the waters from out of the darkness ahead, like feelers,
searching. She watched them roil and billow, her eyes
narrowing.


Ah, a little fog never
hurt anyone,” the captain said reassuringly as he followed her
gaze.

She sent him a grateful smile. “I hear
that I have a very competent guide, so I’m sure that I’m in good
hands.”


That you are,” Mr.
Watanabe agreed, puffing out his chest a little.


Unless the Funa Yurei have
anything to say about it,” the man at the helm muttered.


What was that, Mr.
Arai?”

Mr. Arai cringed under the captain’s
scrutiny. “Nothing, sir. Sorry, sir.”


The Funa Yurei are nothing
but folk tales,” Mr. Watanabe barked, crossing his arms and
sticking his cigar back into his mouth.


And what of the ships that
have sunk in this area over the past few weeks?” Mr. Arai
challenged. “The sole survivor claimed that it was the work of Funa
Yurei, the vengeful spirits of men who have died at
sea.”


To drag others to their
deaths, to join their ranks and become Funa Yurei themselves,” the
captain scoffed. “Yes, I’ve heard the tales. You don’t sail these
seas without hearing murmurs of superstition.” He turned to Yumiko.
“But rest assured, Miss Sato, no harm will come to you out
here.”


Of that, I am certain,”
Yumiko replied. She arched an eyebrow at Mr. Arai. “But please,
what have you heard of these ghosts?”


Yokai,” Mr. Arai corrected
her, glancing her way, and withering under the sharp look that Mr.
Watanabe sent his way. “It is of little consequence, Miss Sato. I’m
sorry for bringing it up.”


No, please,” Yumiko
protested. “You’ve piqued my interest.”


See what you’ve started,
now?” Watanabe scowled at Mr. Arai.

Mr. Arai smirked, but didn’t
reply.


The fog is thickening,”
Yumiko observed, her eyes once more drawn out to sea, where a large
wall of white cloud had appeared out of the darkness.

Even Mr. Watanabe gave pause at the
sight, and withdrew his cigar from his mouth to peer at it. “Yes,
it is,” he said, softly. He glanced at the helmsman. “Mr. Arai,
please keep Miss Sato entertained for a moment.”

Mr. Arai nodded. “Yes,
sir.”

The captain hesitated on his way down
the stairs and looked back over his shoulder at them. “And don’t
scare her with any more of your superstitious nonsense.”


Yes, sir,” Arai repeated,
hiding a smile.

When Mr. Watanabe had descended the
stairs, Yumiko turned to Mr. Arai. “I didn’t see anybody at the
helm earlier.”


Yeah. That’s because it
was on autopilot.”


And why isn’t that the
case now?”

Mr. Arai looked sheepish. “Part of the
machine seems to have disappeared.”


It’s gone missing?” Yumiko
tinged her voice with alarm.


Oh, there’s no need to
worry. We still have control of the ship. That’s why I’m up here
now. To navigate and make sure that you reach Hachijo Island in
plenty of time.”


That’s a relief. Thank you
for your dedication.”

Mr. Arai beamed.

Yumiko looked ahead to see something
dark rise within the wall of fog. A loud creaking split the air, as
if something in the fog was settling.

Mr. Arai licked his lips nervously,
and blinked ahead at the fog. Yumiko could see that he was tense,
and turned curiously back to the fog as the darkness within took
shape. It looked like…a ship. And then the shape broke through the
veil of fog, and indeed, it was a clipper ship. It looked old,
nothing like the modern ships one saw on the waters today. Its
sails were in tatters, and hung limp, the dark wood rotting, and
covered in lichen as if it had just arisen from the depths of the
ocean. A headless mermaid led the ship, hanging from the prow as
the ship sliced through the water beneath her, sending up a fine
mist. And aboard the ship, Yumiko could make out dark shapes. Black
shadows that roiled over the deck, vaguely shaped like
men.


It’s them!” Mr. Arai
swallowed hard, and Yumiko turned to see sweat standing out on his
forehead. His knuckles stood out white where he gripped the wheel.
“The Funa Yurei.”


Yes, it is,” Yumiko
agreed, her heart skipping in her chest at the sight.
“Finally.”


Finally?” Mr. Arai turned
to her with a questioning look, but Mr. Watanabe had
returned.


Turn to avoid the ship!”
Watanabe shouted. “Quickly, you ingrate!”


No!” Mr. Arai held his
chin high. “If we don’t change course, if we sail through them, the
Funa Yurei will allow us to pass safely. Otherwise, they will give
chase.”


Those aren’t ghosts, man,”
Mr. Watanabe frowned, looking back up at the ship
fearfully.

The dark shapes aboard the ship began
to glow a sickly green, and a few shapes could be seen on either
side of the ship, in the water, hovering over the dark sea, as if
escorting the ship. And as it drew closer, Yumiko could make out
the features of men. Or, their skulls, at least. They gleamed in
the sickly light they gave off.


Oh, god!” Mr. Watanabe
took a subconscious step backward.

Yumiko jumped into action, however,
and grabbed the wheel from Mr. Arai, pulling it sharply to the
right to avoid the oncoming ship.


Are you mad?!” Mr. Arai
yelled at her. He shoved her to the floor, where she slid
gracefully. “You fool! You may have just damned us all!”

Yumiko watched as the ghost ship
changed course to follow them, and satisfied, scrambled down the
staircase to the deck below. She’d left a guitar case beneath the
stairs, and quickly opened the clasps to reveal a sword. She pulled
the sword from its sheath and turned the blade in her hand,
examining the razor sharp double edge, its surface so clear that
she could see her reflection in the steel. A mirror. Her dark brown
eyes looked back into her own intently, as if trying to search for
something beneath the surface. They were calm and steady, and
perhaps a little excited for the coming confrontation.

A crewman ran her way, and she stepped
into his path. “I need you to bring me all of the ladles and
buckets from the kitchen and closets.”

The man blinked at her, and moved to
try to pass by.


If you want to survive
this, do as I say!” she ordered, her voice confident and
commanding.

The man hesitated, then nodded and
turned back the way he’d come.

Satisfied, Yumiko sauntered along the
deck to the front of the ship. The Funa Yurei were nearly upon
them. From her vantage point, she could see one ghost with a tall
black hat standing at the prow, watching the yacht with hunger.
Most likely the captain. A strand of seaweed stuck out from between
his skeletal teeth, an eye patch lowered over one of the holes in
his skull.

Leaning over the railing, Yumiko noted
the ghosts floating over the water, robes covering their torsos,
appearing radioactive green. Black slime covered much of the side
of the boat, leaving little doubt that the ship had emerged from
the ocean floor to carry out the nefarious work of this
crew.


Miss Sato!”

Yumiko looked back to see three men,
carrying buckets and ladles. They looked to her for direction,
eager to do what they could in the crisis, as they felt helpless.
“Set them down.”

The men obeyed, and with a flash of
her blade, she cut out the bottoms of the dozen buckets, and poked
holes in the eight ladles. She moved quickly, like one accustomed
to handling a blade, slicing through metal and wood with graceful
strokes. Her movements were more like an artist at a canvas,
running a brush over a painting, than a swordsman accustomed to
horror and violence.


What do you think you’re
doing?” Mr. Watanabe demanded, stalking up to her.

Yumiko didn’t look up as she worked.
“One way to outsmart The Funa Yurei is to leave out ladles and
buckets for the ghosts that have been sabotaged. They will try to
fill the ship with water using them, in order to sink it, but will
be unable to. They’re too possessed by rage at their deaths to
consider that their work is for naught.”

BOOK: Yokai
12.91Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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