She laid the silvery satin cloak neatly on her bed. It was a full-length hooded cloak she had stitched by hand. She had stretched out the fabric on her worktable and cut each of eight pieces to form a circular pattern. She sat down, and from her chair she stared at the polished surface of the fabric. Reflected in the folds, she could see her tools: sewing needles, pins, scissors, colored thread and remnants of fabric, reproducing countless images of themselves in multiple directions. She stood up and, as the front flaps of the cloak moved slightly apart, she entered the cloak’s inner lining. She lay still in the dark interior unflinching while familiar objects brushed against her skin, punctured through and burrowed into her flesh. A renewal had begun. “From now on we will shelter each other and we will be stronger than ever,” she thought. With spools of cotton thread spinning around her calves; scraps of linen fabric weaving in and out of her neck and spine; silk pins embedded in her elbows and knees; and sewing needles threaded through her waist, she cried out ecstatic, blissful, joyful: “It’s happening! We have fused!” And so, the creature emerged.
Four Poems by Gwyn Helverson
moss the antlers of a deer hung over the mantel dripping velvet a necklace of strung acorns and bones from sparrow wings a fire, and a hacking cough, the fire Over which red centipede legs turn black and crumble twisting the cork out of a green bottle more silty powder Plans go awry far from this forest crawling with centipedes Plans go awry a dash of this a dash of that 10,000 legs of marching poison in the pot Just as the witch has planned 10,000 legs march awry Plans go awry the cough becomes a cackle Just as the witch has planned Plans go awry
pale flaccid skin limbs limp icy black eyes tangled strands, the witch’s ashen hair like a web on the snow
perched on branches flaking layers of bark swaying in the breeze tangled strands, the witch’s ashen hair, a swallow’s nest
a ghost in human form crosses the bridge
one bark from afar then
in the forest
of one hand
as a tree
Click here to view contributor bio
Day 79 Driving Me Mad by Jen Mierisch
Liz had already switched off the car’s radio, but the voice persisted. It appeared to be coming from the vent. “Donating my ’65 Mustang?? Kids these days! No respect for tradition.” That was Grandpa all right. Liz snapped the vent closed. “You know, your father was conceived in this car!” Grandma this time. Cringing, Liz gripped the wheel. “Seriously? Kars4Kids? You know they only give money to Jewish children, right?” “If we were alive, you’d be out of the will for this!” Liz pressed the gas pedal to the floor. The sooner she got rid of this wreck, the better.
Possessed by Snigdha Agrawal At Shibuya crossing I hugged Hachiko And like all tourists do Took several photos Multiple takes to get that perfect frame Of You and me in tight embrace Now left, now right Now frontal face
While you may think of him as a statue frozen I swear I heard his heart beat again and again Felt his warm coat against my face He whispered into my ears "They think I'm dead... Nah! I live in enso people You for instance"
I jumped with joy and shouted out "Hachiko's alive" In the midst of the busiest crossing in the world You winked at me I gave a "high five" The lights turned green Tourists crossed the street bemused if I was possessed by your spirit.
So be it!
Click here to view contributor bio
Day 80 Hoichi the Earless by Hengtee Lim
What nobody knew about the Night of the Fireflies was that it all began with a young boy who loved nothing more than song and storytelling. The boy liked to visit Amidaji Temple where the blind old man was known to play the biwa. He’d never heard anything like it. The old man’s songs brought the world to life in a way nothing else quite did. They gave it a color and vibrancy that was difficult, if not impossible, to find anywhere else. And though his memories and his mind had grown hazy as the years went by, there was still great magic in the old man’s music, and the spells he weaved with his song. It often seemed that the old man knew more songs than the boy could possibly imagine, and so he would sit entranced, his eyes closed tight, as the biwa and the old man’s voice took him to places he could never go alone. He saw the ecstasy and heartbreak of star-crossed lovers, historical battles waged across vast battlefields, and fictional heroes as they set off on epic adventures. The boy often felt as though the plucking and the strumming of the old man’s biwa painted pictures that his voice breathed life into. But more than anything else, the boy loved the stories of the Taira clan, and the tales that weaved and snaked their way through history until finally ending at the battle of Dan-no-Ura. The old man’s retelling of the clash of two clans upon the ocean seas captured the boy’s heart, and the sound of the biwa seemed to spread from his ears into the rest of his senses. He heard the straining of the oars in the sea, and the arrows flying through the air. He saw boats colliding, the clash of blade upon blade, warriors trampled in battle, and the fallen pushed into the sea. It was a world so distant and chaotic from his own, and yet in these brief moments of music the boy felt like he was transported right into the middle of it. The tale was as exciting and extraordinary as it was heart wrenching and tragic. When the old man sang of the women and children who threw themselves into the ocean at the end of a hard-fought, but ultimately lost battle, the boy wept with great pity in his heart, and loss in his soul, and he felt the overbearing, crushing weight of lives that have reached a conclusion. Though the old man’s artistry struck the boy as otherworldly, he had also, over the years, become little more than a quiet recluse, living a quiet and largely hidden life in the temple he called home. It was said that people had once come from far and wide to hear the old man play, but the river of time is unforgiving in its forgetful nature, and eventually the visits thinned until they stopped completely, and the story of the man whose song cast spells became mere local legend. The story of the old man was not unlike the ghostly flames once seen floating over the cemetery by the beach, where the spirits of the Taira clan were said to rest. Both were talked about like relics of the past, gone if not forgotten. The old man did not talk about himself very often or in much detail, and so it was only natural that rumors swirled like autumn leaves on a brisk morning, painting ever-changing pictures of who the man was, the riches he amassed, and the source of the injury that had given him his nickname. There were many such stories about Hoichi the Earless, and sometimes it seemed that the boy had heard all of them. Some said the old man chopped off his own ears when the woman he loved lost her hearing the night before he had planned to play for her. Others said the old man was attacked by bandits who left him earless when he refused to give up his biwa, even at the threat of his own life. There were many such stories, and they were restless, fickle tales whose details shifted to suit the person telling them. However, the boy’s favorite story was told by one of the old servants who had known the blind Hoichi from the day he first arrived at Amidaji Temple. The old servant spoke of Hoichi’s playing with great reverence, and often liked to say that his retelling of the Battle of Dan-no-Ura was so beautiful even the goblins could not hide their tears. But it was this very song, and the skillful way in which he performed it, that one day brought the ghosts of the Taira clan themselves, who brought him to their graves by the beach to listen to him play. The ghosts requested Hoichi play for them in the cemetery where they gathered, and over several nights he did just that. But so enraptured were the ghosts by his playing that they had no intention of ever letting him go. One night, the old servant, then a young man, was sent out by Amidaji’s chief priest to find Hoichi on a night of rain and storm. The servant found Hoichi sitting on the stone floor in the center of the cemetery, playing his biwa as crabs scuttled around him and ghostly flames flew back and forth in the sky above. It was as if the sound of Hoichi’s song had stirred the spirits from old memories and brought them back to life. In order to hide and protect Hoichi from the ghosts, the chief priest’s assistant covered the biwa player from head to toe in the scriptures of the Hannya-Shinkyo, rendering him invisible from the eyes of searching spirits. But because the assistant had neglected to write upon Hoichi’s ears, the ghosts had torn them from his head, thinking they were all that remained of the talented biwa player whose song they so greatly admired. The story gave a wonderful aura of the fantastical to the boy’s favorite song, and he thought of this story every time the old man played for him, until the mixture of music and memories became something so otherworldly it was all the boy could think about. This was why, on a lazy summer evening as the sun began to set, the boy found himself wandering the cemetery near the beach around Shimonoseki, looking at the different stones that lay in dedication to the Taira clan, who had sunk into the ocean as the sun now did the same. He sat down in the middle of the cemetery and wondered what it must have felt like for the old man, then so young, to sit amongst an audience of ghosts and regale them of a tale so familiar. He closed his eyes and let the sounds of the world coalesce around him, until all of it came together to form a unique and yet strangely familiar melody. He could feel it in the crashing waves and the rustling trees, the whisper of the wind and the scuttling of crabs. It was a song he had heard so many times before, and it painted a picture of memories that were not his own. He saw arrows flying through the air. Boats colliding on the waves. The shouts and cries of warriors battling for control. The ocean water turning red as more and more bodies filled it. The boy listened to the strange, interwoven music of the world around him, and when he opened his mouth it was to sing the song he had come to know and love so much. His voice was beautiful in its own way; tender and naive as was his age, and yet somewhere in it an unseen gravity, depth, and power. In that moment, the boy felt the song for what it truly was; a moment in time, captured in music, relived and reborn with each retelling. It was here, as the sun set in the distance and the boy sang his song, that the flames began to appear above the cemetery, weaving through the air and settling like an audience for a long-awaited performance. It was an evening that is remembered as the Night of the Fireflies, a night in which people claimed to hear a song on the wind of such ghostly beauty it was as if the spirits themselves had come together to relive their past in a dance of flame on the ocean winds.
Click here to view contributor bio
Day 81 Glint of Silver by A.E. Jackson
October 31, 1963. The date was etched on his memory. The horrors of that night still filled his dreams. He was just a boy and should never have seen such a terrible scene. This was his third official trick-or-treat outing, and his stomach rumbled with anticipation. His nerves were shot. He had been on edge since lunch, and was unable to pay attention for the last half of school that day. The last two years his father and mother accompanied the boys through the neighborhood as they gathered candy. But this year, his older brother George would be fourteen. Old enough to babysit Brian after school. And old enough to watch over him as they canvased the nearby houses for choice candy treats. The boys waved goodbye to their parents and stepped off the narrow path onto the sidewalk. Brian turned right. George turned left. "No you dork," said George, "this way. The best stuff is always on Elm." "But Mom and Dad--," Brian started. "Are at home. Handing out apples to the babies that visit. We're on our own. And you're coming with me." George grabbed Brian's hand and took off with a tear down Poplar. They both panted and gasped when George stopped in front of the tracks separating the ruined two-story house from the edge of their small neighborhood. The tracks were off-limits, and Brian wondered just how far George was planning to take this adventure. George reached into his pocket and removed a bright silver quarter. It looked new and caught the bright light as a cloud slid by revealing the full moon. He left his little brother on the side of the road. Mingled with the tall grass were stones, chipped glass, and rusted railroad nails. Spikes, Brian thought. He told you before they were spikes. Don't you dare say nails or he'll get pissed. Brian watched as George bent at the waist. His plastic devil costume bunched at the front and split open at the back to reveal George's thick plaid shirt. It was double-lined and smelled like their Dad. The shirt had been their father's until last year when George started wearing it as a rough coat to work outdoors. Brian had watched several cords of wood get split and stacked by male members of his family wearing that red and black outerwear. He wondered for a moment if it would still be intact when he was old enough to inherit the jacket. A light caught Brian's eye and pulled him from his mental wandering. The crisp night breeze carried the sound of children laughing, and feet trampling piles of leaves from several streets away. But the boys were out here alone. By the rusted railroad tracks. And the darkened gaze of that house. A moment later the stillness was shattered. George lifted a hand to wave to Brian. His mouth opened. Years later, Brian contemplated, George must have started to call his kid brother over to see the quarter placed on the tracks. To explain to him what the forces of gravity, weight, and steel would create. But before a breath could rise from depths of George's lungs to form a word on his lips, the light glared brighter. The light shone with the brilliance of a 60-watt bulb penetrating the eyelids of a child woken for school. Unwelcome and hated. As the light shot past him, Brian saw smoke-colored lines form a locomotive engine and churning metal wheels. The silent killer slid between him and the dead house across the tracks. But not before sweeping into and exploding the body of his brother George into a thousand raining pieces. The next day the coroner returned effects paramedics collected from the scene to Brian's parents. Just three items were left by his big brother. The plastic devil's mask he had dropped on the hardscrabble and dry grass. A torn shred of the red and black flannel coat. And a smooth, flat oval of silver without one identifying mark on either face. But Brian knew it had been a moonlit quarter just hours before.
Click here to view contributor bio
Day 82 The Masque of the Red Death by Edgar Allen Poe Published 1842
The “Red Death” had long devastated the country. No pestilence had been ever so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avator and its seal — the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleedings at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest-ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease were the incidents of half an hour. But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless, and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince’s own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair from without or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballêt-dancers, there were musicians, there were cards, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the “Red Death.” It was towards the close of the fifth or sixth month of his seclusion, and while the pestilence raged most furiously abroad, that the Prince Prospero entertained his thousand friends at a masked ball of the most unusual magnificence. It was a voluptuous scene that masquerade. But first let me tell of the rooms in which it was held. There were seven — an imperial suite. In many palaces, however, such suites form a long and straight vista, while the folding doors slide back nearly to the walls on either hand, so that the view of the whole extent is scarcely impeded. Here the case was very different; as might have been expected from the duke’s love of the bizarre. The apartments were so irregularly disposed that the vision embraced but little more than one at a time. There was a sharp turn at every twenty or thirty yards, and at each turn a novel effect. To the right and left, in the middle of each wall, a tall and narrow Gothic window looked out upon a closed corridor which pursued the windings of the suite. These windows were of stained glass whose color varied in accordance with the prevailing hue of the decorations of the chamber into which it opened. That at the eastern extremity was hung, for example, in blue — and vividly blue were its windows. The second chamber was purple in its ornaments and tapestries, and here the panes were purple. The third was green throughout, and so were the casements. The fourth was furnished and litten with orange — the fifth with white — the sixth with violet. The seventh apartment was closely shrouded in black velvet tapestries that hung all over the ceiling and down the walls, falling in heavy folds upon a carpet of the same material and hue. But, in this chamber only, the color of the windows failed to correspond with the decorations. The panes here were scarlet — a deep blood color. Now in no one of the seven apartments was there any lamp or candelabrum, amid the profusion of golden ornaments that lay scattered to and fro or depended from the roof. There was no light of any kind emanating from lamp or candle within the suite of chambers. But in the corridors that followed the suite, there stood, opposite to each window, a heavy tripod, bearing a brazier of fire that projected its rays through the tinted glass and so glaringly illumined the room. And thus were produced a multitude of gaudy and fantastic appearances. But in the western or black chamber the effect of the fire-light that streamed upon the dark hangings through the blood-tinted panes, was ghastly in the extreme, and produced so wild a look upon the countenances of those who entered, that there were few of the company bold enough to set foot within its precincts at all. It was in this apartment, also, that there stood against the western wall, a gigantic clock of ebony. Its pendulum swung to and fro with a dull, heavy, monotonous clang; and when its minute-hand made the circuit of the face, and the hour was to be stricken, there came forth from the brazen lungs of the clock a sound which was clear and loud and deep and exceedingly musical, but of so peculiar a note and emphasis that, at each lapse of an hour, the musicians in the orchestra were constrained to pause, momently, in their performance, to harken to the sound; and thus the waltzers perforce ceased their evolutions; and there was a brief disconcert of the whole gay company; and, while the chimes of the clock yet rang, it was observed that the giddiest grew pale, and that the more aged and sedate passed their hands over their brows as if in confused reverie or meditation. But when the echoes had fully ceased, a light laughter at once pervaded the assembly; the musicians looked at each other and smiled as if at their own nervousness and folly, and made whispering vows, each to the other, that the next chiming of the clock should produce in them no similar emotion; and then, after the lapse of sixty minutes, (which embrace three thousand and six hundred seconds of the Time that flies,) there came yet another chiming of the clock, and then were the same disconcert and tremulousness and meditation as before. But, in spite of these things, it was a gay and magnificent revel. The tastes of the duke were peculiar. He had a fine eye for colors and effects. He disregarded the decora of mere fashion. His plans were bold and fiery, and his conceptions glowed with barbaric lustre. There are some who would have thought him mad. His followers felt that he was not. It was necessary to hear and see and touch him to be sure that he was not. He had directed, in great part, the moveable embellishments of the seven chambers, upon occasion of this great fête, and it was his own guiding taste which had given character to the costumes of the masqueraders. Be sure they were grotesque. There were much glare and glitter and piquancy and phantasm — much of what has been since seen in “Hernani.” There were arabesque figures with unsuited limbs and appointments. There were delirious fancies such as the madman fashions. There was much of the beautiful, much of the wanton, much of the bizarre, something of the terrible, and not a little of that which might have excited disgust. To and fro in the seven chambers there stalked, in fact, a multitude of dreams. And these, the dreams — writhed in and about, taking hue from the rooms, and causing the wild music of the orchestra to seem as the echo of their steps. And, anon, there strikes the ebony clock which stands in the hall of the velvet. And then, momently, all is still, and all is silent save the voice of the clock. The dreams are stiff-frozen as they stand. But the echoes of the chime die away — they have endured but an instant — and a light, half-subdued laughter floats after them as they depart. And now again the music swells, and the dreams live, and writhe to and fro more merrily than ever, taking hue from the many-tinted windows through which stream the rays from the tripods. But to the chamber which lies most westwardly of the seven there are now none of the maskers who venture; for the night is waning away; and there flows a ruddier light through the blood-colored panes; and the blackness of the sable drapery appals; and to him whose foot falls upon the sable carpet, there comes from the near clock of ebony a muffled peal more solemnly emphatic than any which reaches their ears who indulge in the more remote gaieties of the other apartments. But these other apartments were densely crowded, and in them beat feverishly the heart of life. And the revel went whirlingly on, until at length was sounded the twelfth hour upon the clock. And then the music ceased, as I have told; and the evolutions of the waltzers were quieted; and there was an uneasy cessation of all things as before. But now there were twelve strokes to be sounded by the bell of the clock; and thus it happened, perhaps, that more of thought crept, with more of time, into the meditations of the thoughtful among those who revelled. And thus, again, it happened, perhaps, that before the last echoes of the last chime had utterly sunk into silence, there were many individuals in the crowd who had found leisure to become aware of the presence of a masked figure which had arrested the attention of no single individual before. And the rumor of this new presence having spread itself whisperingly around, there arose at length from the whole company a buzz, or murmur, expressive at first of disapprobation and surprise — then, finally, of terror, of horror, and of disgust. In an assembly of phantasms such as I have painted, it may well be supposed that no ordinary appearance could have excited such sensation. In truth the masquerade license of the night was nearly unlimited; but the figure in question had out-Heroded Herod, and gone beyond the bounds of even the prince’s indefinite decorum. There are chords in the hearts of the most reckless which cannot be touched without emotion. Even with the utterly lost, to whom life and death are equally jests, there are matters of which no jest can be properly made. The whole company, indeed, seemed now deeply to feel that in the costume and bearing of the stranger neither wit nor propriety existed. The figure was tall and gaunt, and shrouded from head to foot in the habiliments of the grave. The mask which concealed the visage was made so nearly to resemble the countenance of a stiffened corpse that the closest scrutiny must have had difficulty in detecting the cheat. And yet all this might have been endured, if not approved, by the mad revellers around. But the mummer had gone so far as to assume the type of the Red Death. His vesture was dabbled in blood — and his broad brow, with all the features of the face, was besprinkled with the scarlet horror. When the eyes of the Prince Prospero fell upon this spectral image (which with a slow and solemn movement, as if more fully to sustain its rôle, stalked to and fro among the waltzers) he was seen to be convulsed, in the first moment, with a strong shudder either of terror or distaste; but, in the next, his brow reddened with rage. “Who dares?” he demanded hoarsely of the group that stood around him, “who dares thus to make mockery of our woes? Uncase the varlet that we may know whom we have to hang to-morrow at sunrise from the battlements. Will no one stir at my bidding? — stop him and strip him, I say, of those reddened vestures of sacrilege!” It was in the eastern or blue chamber in which stood the Prince Prospero as he uttered these words. They rang throughout the seven rooms loudly and clearly — for the prince was a bold and robust man, and the music had become hushed at the waving of his hand. It was in the blue room where stood the prince, with a group of pale courtiers by his side. At first, as he spoke, there was a slight rushing movement of this group in the direction of the intruder, who at the moment was also near at hand, and now, with deliberate and stately step, made closer approach to the speaker. But from a certain nameless awe with which the mad assumptions of the mummer had inspired the whole party, there were found none who put forth hand to seize him; so that, unimpeded, he passed within a yard of the prince’s person; and, while the vast assembly, as if with one impulse, shrank from the centres of the rooms to the walls, he made his way uninterruptedly, but with the same solemn and measured step which had distinguished him from the first, through the blue chamber to the purple — through the purple to the green — through the green to the orange, — through this again to the white — and even thence to the violet, ere a decided movement had been made to arrest him. It was then, however, that the Prince Prospero, maddening with rage and the shame of his own momentary cowardice, rushed hurriedly through the six chambers — while none followed him on account of a deadly terror that had seized upon all. He bore aloft a drawn dagger, and had approached, in rapid impetuosity, to within three or four feet of the retreating figure, when the latter, having attained the extremity of the velvet apartment, turned suddenly round and confronted his pursuer. There was a sharp cry — and the dagger dropped gleaming upon the sable carpet, upon which instantly afterwards, fell prostrate in death the Prince Prospero. Then, summoning the wild courage of despair, a throng of the revellers at once threw themselves into the black apartment, and, seizing the mummer, whose tall figure stood erect and motionless within the shadow of the ebony clock, gasped in unutterable horror at finding the grave-cerements and corpse-like mask which they handled with so violent a rudeness, untenanted by any tangible form. And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.
Click here to view contributor bio
Day 83 Yuki-Onna by Lafcadio Hearn Published 1904
In a village of Musashi Province, there lived two woodcutters: Mosaku and Minokichi. At the time of which I am speaking, Mosaku was an old man; and Minokichi, his apprentice, was a lad of eighteen years. Every day they went together to a forest situated about five miles from their village. On the way to that forest there is a wide river to cross; and there is a ferryboat. Several times a bridge was built where the ferry is; but the bridge was each time carried away by a flood. No common bridge can resist the current there when the river rises. Mosaku and Minokichi were on their way home, one very cold evening, when a great snowstorm overtook them. They reached the ferry; and they found that the boatman had gone away, leaving his boat on the other side of the river. It was no day for swimming; and the woodcutters took shelter in the ferryman's hut, – thinking themselves lucky to find any shelter at all. There was no brazier in the hut, nor any place in which to make a fire: it was only a two-mat hut, with a single door, but no window. Mosaku and Minokichi fastened the door, and lay down to rest, with their straw rain-coats over them. At first they did not feel very cold; and they thought that the storm would soon be over. The old man almost immediately fell asleep; but the boy, Minokichi, lay awake a long time, listening to the awful wind, and the continual slashing of the snow against the door. The river was roaring; and the hut swayed and creaked like a junk at sea. It was a terrible storm; and the air was every moment becoming colder; and Minokichi shivered under his raincoat. But at last, in spite of the cold, he too fell asleep. He was awakened by a showering of snow in his face. The door of the hut had been forced open; and, by the snow-light (yuki-akari), he saw a woman in the room, – a woman all in white. She was bending above Mosaku, and blowing her breath upon him; – and her breath was like a bright white smoke. Almost in the same moment she turned to Minokichi, and stooped over him. He tried to cry out, but found that he could not utter any sound. The white woman bent down over him, lower and lower, until her face almost touched him; and he saw that she was very beautiful, – though her eyes made him afraid. For a little time she continued to look at him; – then she smiled, and she whispered: – "I intended to treat you like the other man. But I cannot help feeling some pity for you, – because you are so young.... You are a pretty boy, Minokichi; and I will not hurt you now. But, if you ever tell anybody – even your own mother about what you have seen this night, I shall know it; and then I will kill you.... Remember what I say!" With these words, she turned from him, and passed through the doorway. Then he found himself able to move; and he sprang up, and looked out. But the woman was nowhere to be seen; and the snow was driving furiously into the hut. Minokichi closed the door, and secured it by fixing several billets of wood against it. He wondered if the wind had blown it open; – he thought that he might have been only dreaming, and might have mistaken the gleam of the snow-light in the doorway for the figure of a white woman: but he could not be sure. He called to Mosaku, and was frightened because the old man did not answer. He put out his hand in the dark, and touched Mosaku's face, and found that it was ice! Mosaku was stark and dead.... By dawn the storm was over; and when the ferryman returned to his station, a little after sunrise, he found Minokichi lying senseless beside the frozen body of Mosaku. Minokichi was promptly cared for, and soon came to himself; but he remained a long time ill from the effects of the cold of that terrible night. He had been greatly frightened also by the old man's death; but he said nothing about the vision of the woman in white. As soon as he got well again, he returned to his calling, going alone every morning to the forest, and coming back at nightfall with his bundles of wood, which his mother helped him to sell. One evening, in the winter of the following year, as he was on his way home, he overtook a girl who happened to be traveling by the same road. She was a tall, slim girl, very good-looking; and she answered Minokichi's greeting in a voice as pleasant to the ear as the voice of a song-bird. Then he walked beside her; and they began to talk. The girl said that her name was O-Yuki; that she had lately lost both of her parents; and that she was going to Yedo, where she happened to have some poor relations, who might help her to find a situation as servant. Minokichi soon felt charmed by this strange girl; and the more that he looked at her, the handsomer she appeared to be. He asked her whether she was yet betrothed; and she answered, laughingly, that she was free. Then, in her turn, she asked Minokichi whether he was married, or pledged to marry; and he told her that, although he had only a widowed mother to support, the question of an "honorable daughter-in-law" had not yet been considered, as he was very young.... After these confidences, they walked on for a long while without speaking; but, as the proverb declares, Ki ga aréba, mé mo kuchi hodo ni mono wo iu: "When the wish is there, the eyes can say as much as the mouth." By the time they reached the village, they had become very much pleased with each other; and then Minokichi asked O-Yuki to rest awhile at his house. After some shy hesitation, she went there with him; and his mother made her welcome, and prepared a warm meal for her. O-Yuki behaved so nicely that Minokichi's mother took a sudden fancy to her, and persuaded her to delay her journey to Yedo. And the natural end of the matter was that Yuki never went to Yedo at all. She remained in the house, as an "honorable daughter-in-law." O-Yuki proved a very good daughter-in-law. When Minokichi's mother came to die, – some five years later, – her last words were words of affection and praise for the wife of her son. And O-Yuki bore Minokichi ten children, boys and girls, – handsome children all of them, and very fair of skin. The country-folk thought O-Yuki a wonderful person, by nature different from themselves. Most of the peasant-women age early; but O-Yuki, even after having become the mother of ten children, looked as young and fresh as on the day when she had first come to the village. One night, after the children had gone to sleep, O-Yuki was sewing by the light of a paper lamp; and Minokichi, watching her, said: – "To see you sewing there, with the light on your face, makes me think of a strange thing that happened when I was a lad of eighteen. I then saw somebody as beautiful and white as you are now – indeed, she was very like you." . . . Without lifting her eyes from her work, O-Yuki responded: – "Tell me about her.... Where did you see her?" Then Minokichi told her about the terrible night in the ferryman's hut, – and about the White Woman that had stooped above him, smiling and whispering, – and about the silent death of old Mosaku. And he said: – "Asleep or awake, that was the only time that I saw a being as beautiful as you. Of course, she was not a human being; and I was afraid of her, – very much afraid, – but she was so white I . . . Indeed, I have never been sure whether it was a dream that I saw, or the Woman of the Snow." . . . O-Yuki flung down her sewing, and arose, and bowed above Minokichi where he sat, and shrieked into his face: "It was I – I – I! Yuki it was! And I told you then that I would kill you if you ever said one word about it! . . . But for those children asleep there, I would kill you this moment! And now you had better take very, very good care of them; for if ever they have reason to complain of you, I will treat you as you deserve!" . . . Even as she screamed, her voice became thin, like a crying of wind; – then she melted into a bright white mist that spired to the roof-beams, and shuddered away through the smoke-hole.... Never again was she seen.
The Snow Ghost by Linda Gould
Hidden under the overhang as the blizzard raged around me, I trembled as Yuki-onna glided through the maelstrom towards me. Her black locks swirled in the wind, her dead eyes hunting, scanning, for a warm body. I knew these woods. Had passed through them many times on my way to the small town at the base of the mountain. Yet tonight, as I had struggled toward the light of the town in my race to outrun the blizzard, I felt and heard the crunch of bones under my feet, the brittle bones of travellers across centuries who had succumbed to Yuki-onna's charms. Now, their spirits danced atop the snowdrifts. A glorious, macabre dance to welcome another traveller? I vowed that traveller would not be me.
Click here to view contributor bio
Day 84 The Magic Shop by H. G. Wells Published 1903
I had seen the Magic Shop from afar several times; I had passed it once or twice, a shop window of alluring little objects, magic balls, magic hens, wonderful cones, ventriloquist dolls, the material of the basket trick, packs of cards that looked all right, and all that sort of thing, but never had I thought of going in until one day, almost without warning, Gip hauled me by my finger right up to the window, and so conducted himself that there was nothing for it but to take him in. I had not thought the place was there, to tell the truth–a modest-sized frontage in Regent Street, between the picture shop and the place where the chicks run about just out of patent incubators, but there it was sure enough. I had fancied it was down nearer the Circus, or round the corner in Oxford Street, or even in Holborn; always over the way and a little inaccessible it had been, with something of the mirage in its position; but here it was now quite indisputably, and the fat end of Gip’s pointing finger made a noise upon the glass. “If I was rich,” said Gip, dabbing a finger at the Disappearing Egg, “I’d buy myself that. And that”–which was The Crying Baby, Very Human –and that,” which was a mystery, and called, so a neat card asserted, “Buy One and Astonish Your Friends.” “Anything,” said Gip, “will disappear under one of those cones. I have read about it in a book. “And there, dadda, is the Vanishing Halfpenny–, only they’ve put it this way up so’s we can’t see how it’s done.” Gip, dear boy, inherits his mother’s breeding, and he did not propose to enter the shop or worry in any way; only, you know, quite unconsciously he lugged my finger doorward, and he made his interest clear. “That,” he said, and pointed to the Magic Bottle. “If you had that?” I said; at which promising inquiry he looked up with a sudden radiance. “I could show it to Jessie,” he said, thoughtful as ever of others. “It’s less than a hundred days to your birthday, Gibbles,” I said, and laid my hand on the door-handle. Gip made no answer, but his grip tightened on my finger, and so we came into the shop. It was no common shop this; it was a magic shop, and all the prancing precedence Gip would have taken in the matter of mere toys was wanting. He left the burthen of the conversation to me. It was a little, narrow shop, not very well lit, and the door-bell pinged again with a plaintive note as we closed it behind us. For a moment or so we were alone and could glance about us. There was a tiger in papier-mache on the glass case that covered the low counter–a grave, kind-eyed tiger that waggled his head in a methodical manner; there were several crystal spheres, a china hand holding magic cards, a stock of magic fish-bowls in various sizes, and an immodest magic hat that shamelessly displayed its springs. On the floor were magic mirrors; one to draw you out long and thin, one to swell your head and vanish your legs, and one to make you short and fat like a draught; and while we were laughing at these the shopman, as I suppose, came in. At any rate, there he was behind the counter–a curious, sallow, dark man, with one ear larger than the other and a chin like the toe-cap of a boot. “What can we have the pleasure?” he said, spreading his long, magic fingers on the glass case; and so with a start we were aware of him. “I want,” I said, “to buy my little boy a few simple tricks.” “Legerdemain?” he asked. “Mechanical? Domestic?” “Anything amusing?” said I. “Um!” said the shopman, and scratched his head for a moment as if thinking. Then, quite distinctly, he drew from his head a glass ball. “Something in this way?” he said, and held it out. The action was unexpected. I had seen the trick done at entertainments endless times before–it’s part of the common stock of conjurers– but I had not expected it here. “That’s good,” I said, with a laugh. “Isn’t it?” said the shopman. Gip stretched out his disengaged hand to take this object and found merely a blank palm. “It’s in your pocket,” said the shopman, and there it was! “How much will that be?” I asked. “We make no charge for glass balls,” said the shopman politely. “We get them,”–he picked one out of his elbow as he spoke–“free.” He produced another from the back of his neck, and laid it beside its predecessor on the counter. Gip regarded his glass ball sagely, then directed a look of inquiry at the two on the counter, and finally brought his round-eyed scrutiny to the shopman, who smiled. “You may have those too,” said the shopman, “and, if you don’t mind, one from my mouth. So!” Gip counselled me mutely for a moment, and then in a profound silence put away the four balls, resumed my reassuring finger, and nerved himself for the next event. “We get all our smaller tricks in that way,” the shopman remarked. I laughed in the manner of one who subscribes to a jest. “Instead of going to the wholesale shop,” I said. “Of course, it’s cheaper.” “In a way,” the shopman said. “Though we pay in the end. But not so heavily–as people suppose. . . . Our larger tricks, and our daily provisions and all the other things we want, we get out of that hat. . . And you know, sir, if you’ll excuse my saying it, there isn’t a wholesale shop, not for Genuine Magic goods, sir. I don’t know if you noticed our inscription–the Genuine Magic shop.” He drew a business-card from his cheek and handed it to me. “Genuine,” he said, with his finger on the word, and added, “There is absolutely no deception, sir.” He seemed to be carrying out the joke pretty thoroughly, I thought. He turned to Gip with a smile of remarkable affability. “You, you know, are the Right Sort of Boy.” I was surprised at his knowing that, because, in the interests of discipline, we keep it rather a secret even at home; but Gip received it in unflinching silence, keeping a steadfast eye on him. “It’s only the Right Sort of Boy gets through that doorway.” And, as if by way of illustration, there came a rattling at the door, and a squeaking little voice could be faintly heard. “Nyar! I warn ‘a go in there, dadda, I warn ‘a go in there. Ny-a-a-ah!” and then the accents of a down-trodden parent, urging consolations and propitiations. “It’s locked, Edward,” he said. “But it isn’t,” said I. “It is, sir,” said the shopman, “always–for that sort of child,” and as he spoke we had a glimpse of the other youngster, a little, white face, pallid from sweet-eating and over-sapid food, and distorted by evil passions, a ruthless little egotist, pawing at the enchanted pane. “It’s no good, sir,” said the shopman, as I moved, with my natural helpfulness, doorward, and presently the spoilt child was carried off howling. “How do you manage that?” I said, breathing a little more freely. “Magic!” said the shopman, with a careless wave of the hand, and behold! sparks of coloured fire flew out of his fingers and vanished into the shadows of the shop. “You were saying,” he said, addressing himself to Gip, “before you came in, that you would like one of our ‘Buy One and Astonish your Friends’ boxes?” Gip, after a gallant effort, said “Yes.” “It’s in your pocket.” And leaning over the counter–he really had an extraordinarily long body–this amazing person produced the article in the customary conjurer’s manner. “Paper,” he said, and took a sheet out of the empty hat with the springs; “string,” and behold his mouth was a string-box, from which he drew an unending thread, which when he had tied his parcel he bit off–and, it seemed to me, swallowed the ball of string. And then he lit a candle at the nose of one of the ventriloquist’s dummies, stuck one of his fingers (which had become sealing-wax red) into the flame, and so sealed the parcel. “Then there was the Disappearing Egg,” he remarked, and produced one from within my coat-breast and packed it, and also The Crying Baby, Very Human. I handed each parcel to Gip as it was ready, and he clasped them to his chest. He said very little, but his eyes were eloquent; the clutch of his arms was eloquent. He was the playground of unspeakable emotions. These, you know, were real Magics. Then, with a start, I discovered something moving about in my hat–something soft and jumpy. I whipped it off, and a ruffled pigeon–no doubt a confederate–dropped out and ran on the counter, and went, I fancy, into a cardboard box behind the papier-mache tiger. “Tut, tut!” said the shopman, dexterously relieving me of my headdress; “careless bird, and–as I live–nesting!” He shook my hat, and shook out into his extended hand two or three eggs, a large marble, a watch, about half-a-dozen of the inevitable glass balls, and then crumpled, crinkled paper, more and more and more, talking all the time of the way in which people neglect to brush their hats inside as well as out, politely, of course, but with a certain personal application. “All sorts of things accumulate, sir. . . . Not you, of course, in particular. . . . Nearly every customer. . . . Astonishing what they carry about with them. . . .” The crumpled paper rose and billowed on the counter more and more and more, until he was nearly hidden from us, until he was altogether hidden, and still his voice went on and on. “We none of us know what the fair semblance of a human being may conceal, sir. Are we all then no better than brushed exteriors, whited sepulchres–“ His voice stopped–exactly like when you hit a neighbour’s gramophone with a well-aimed brick, the same instant silence, and the rustle of the paper stopped, and everything was still. . . . “Have you done with my hat?” I said, after an interval. There was no answer. I stared at Gip, and Gip stared at me, and there were our distortions in the magic mirrors, looking very rum, and grave, and quiet. . . . “I think we’ll go now,” I said. “Will you tell me how much all this comes to? . . . . “I say,” I said, on a rather louder note, “I want the bill; and my hat, please.” It might have been a sniff from behind the paper pile. . . . “Let’s look behind the counter, Gip,” I said. “He’s making fun of us.” I led Gip round the head-wagging tiger, and what do you think there was behind the counter? No one at all! Only my hat on the floor, and a common conjurer’s lop-eared white rabbit lost in meditation, and looking as stupid and crumpled as only a conjurer’s rabbit can do. I resumed my hat, and the rabbit lolloped a lollop or so out of my way. “Dadda!” said Gip, in a guilty whisper. “What is it, Gip?” said I. “I do like this shop, dadda.” “So should I,” I said to myself, “if the counter wouldn’t suddenly extend itself to shut one off from the door.” But I didn’t call Gip’s attention to that. “Pussy!” he said, with a hand out to the rabbit as it came lolloping past us; “Pussy, do Gip a magic!” and his eyes followed it as it squeezed through a door I had certainly not remarked a moment before. Then this door opened wider, and the man with one ear larger than the other appeared again. He was smiling still, but his eye met mine with something between amusement and defiance. “You’d like to see our show-room, sir,” he said, with an innocent suavity. Gip tugged my finger forward. I glanced at the counter and met the shopman’s eye again. I was beginning to think the magic just a little too genuine. “We haven’t VERY much time,” I said. But somehow we were inside the show-room before I could finish that. “All goods of the same quality,” said the shopman, rubbing his flexible hands together, “and that is the Best. Nothing in the place that isn’t genuine Magic, and warranted thoroughly rum. Excuse me, sir!” I felt him pull at something that clung to my coat-sleeve, and then I saw he held a little, wriggling red demon by the tail–the little creature bit and fought and tried to get at his hand–and in a moment he tossed it carelessly behind a counter. No doubt the thing was only an image of twisted indiarubber, but for the moment–! And his gesture was exactly that of a man who handles some petty biting bit of vermin. I glanced at Gip, but Gip was looking at a magic rocking- horse. I was glad he hadn’t seen the thing. “I say,” I said, in an undertone, and indicating Gip and the red demon with my eyes, “you haven’t many things like that about, have you?” “None of ours! Probably brought it with you,” said the shopman– also in an undertone, and with a more dazzling smile than ever. “Astonishing what people will carry about with them unawares!” And then to Gip, “Do you see anything you fancy here?” There were many things that Gip fancied there. He turned to this astonishing tradesman with mingled confidence and respect. “Is that a Magic Sword?” he said. “A Magic Toy Sword. It neither bends, breaks, nor cuts the fingers. It renders the bearer invincible in battle against any one under eighteen. Half-a-crown to seven and sixpence, according to size. These panoplies on cards are for juvenile knights-errant and very useful– shield of safety, sandals of swiftness, helmet of invisibility.” “Oh, daddy!” gasped Gip. I tried to find out what they cost, but the shopman did not heed me. He had got Gip now; he had got him away from my finger; he had embarked upon the exposition of all his confounded stock, and nothing was going to stop him. Presently I saw with a qualm of distrust and something very like jealousy that Gip had hold of this person’s finger as usually he has hold of mine. No doubt the fellow was interesting, I thought, and had an interestingly faked lot of stuff, really good faked stuff, still– I wandered after them, saying very little, but keeping an eye on this prestidigital fellow. After all, Gip was enjoying it. And no doubt when the time came to go we should be able to go quite easily. It was a long, rambling place, that show-room, a gallery broken up by stands and stalls and pillars, with archways leading off to other departments, in which the queerest-looking assistants loafed and stared at one, and with perplexing mirrors and curtains. So perplexing, indeed, were these that I was presently unable to make out the door by which we had come. The shopman showed Gip magic trains that ran without steam or clockwork, just as you set the signals, and then some very, very valuable boxes of soldiers that all came alive directly you took off the lid and said–. I myself haven’t a very quick ear and it was a tongue- twisting sound, but Gip–he has his mother’s ear–got it in no time. “Bravo!” said the shopman, putting the men back into the box unceremoniously and handing it to Gip. “Now,” said the shopman, and in a moment Gip had made them all alive again. “You’ll take that box?” asked the shopman. “We’ll take that box,” said I, “unless you charge its full value. In which case it would need a Trust Magnate–“ “Dear heart! No!” and the shopman swept the little men back again, shut the lid, waved the box in the air, and there it was, in brown paper, tied up and–with Gip’s full name and address on the paper! The shopman laughed at my amazement. “This is the genuine magic,” he said. “The real thing.” “It’s a little too genuine for my taste,” I said again. After that he fell to showing Gip tricks, odd tricks, and still odder the way they were done. He explained them, he turned them inside out, and there was the dear little chap nodding his busy bit of a head in the sagest manner. I did not attend as well as I might. “Hey, presto!” said the Magic Shopman, and then would come the clear, small “Hey, presto!” of the boy. But I was distracted by other things. It was being borne in upon me just how tremendously rum this place was; it was, so to speak, inundated by a sense of rumness. There was something a little rum about the fixtures even, about the ceiling, about the floor, about the casually distributed chairs. I had a queer feeling that whenever I wasn’t looking at them straight they went askew, and moved about, and played a noiseless puss-in-the-corner behind my back. And the cornice had a serpentine design with masks–masks altogether too expressive for proper plaster. Then abruptly my attention was caught by one of the odd-looking assistants. He was some way off and evidently unaware of my presence– I saw a sort of three-quarter length of him over a pile of toys and through an arch–and, you know, he was leaning against a pillar in an idle sort of way doing the most horrid things with his features! The particular horrid thing he did was with his nose. He did it just as though he was idle and wanted to amuse himself. First of all it was a short, blobby nose, and then suddenly he shot it out like a telescope, and then out it flew and became thinner and thinner until it was like a long, red, flexible whip. Like a thing in a nightmare it was! He flourished it about and flung it forth as a fly-fisher flings his line. My instant thought was that Gip mustn’t see him. I turned about, and there was Gip quite preoccupied with the shopman, and thinking no evil. They were whispering together and looking at me. Gip was standing on a little stool, and the shopman was holding a sort of big drum in his hand. “Hide and seek, dadda!” cried Gip. “You’re He!” And before I could do anything to prevent it, the shopman had clapped the big drum over him. I saw what was up directly. “Take that off,” I cried, “this instant! You’ll frighten the boy. Take it off!” The shopman with the unequal ears did so without a word, and held the big cylinder towards me to show its emptiness. And the little stool was vacant! In that instant my boy had utterly disappeared? . . . You know, perhaps, that sinister something that comes like a hand out of the unseen and grips your heart about. You know it takes your common self away and leaves you tense and deliberate, neither slow nor hasty, neither angry nor afraid. So it was with me. I came up to this grinning shopman and kicked his stool aside. “Stop this folly!” I said. “Where is my boy?” “You see,” he said, still displaying the drum’s interior, “there is no deception—“ I put out my hand to grip him, and he eluded me by a dexterous movement. I snatched again, and he turned from me and pushed open a door to escape. “Stop!” I said, and he laughed, receding. I leapt after him–into utter darkness. THUD! “Lor’ bless my ‘eart! I didn’t see you coming, sir!” I was in Regent Street, and I had collided with a decent-looking working man; and a yard away, perhaps, and looking a little perplexed with himself, was Gip. There was some sort of apology, and then Gip had turned and come to me with a bright little smile, as though for a moment he had missed me. And he was carrying four parcels in his arm! He secured immediate possession of my finger. For the second I was rather at a loss. I stared round to see the door of the magic shop, and, behold, it was not there! There was no door, no shop, nothing, only the common pilaster between the shop where they sell pictures and the window with the chicks! . . . I did the only thing possible in that mental tumult; I walked straight to the kerbstone and held up my umbrella for a cab. “‘Ansoms,” said Gip, in a note of culminating exultation. I helped him in, recalled my address with an effort, and got in also. Something unusual proclaimed itself in my tail-coat pocket, and I felt and discovered a glass ball. With a petulant expression I flung it into the street. Gip said nothing. For a space neither of us spoke. “Dada!” said Gip, at last, “that was a proper shop!” I came round with that to the problem of just how the whole thing had seemed to him. He looked completely undamaged–so far, good; he was neither scared nor unhinged, he was simply tremendously satisfied with the afternoon’s entertainment, and there in his arms were the four parcels. Confound it! what could be in them? “Um!” I said. “Little boys can’t go to shops like that every day.” He received this with his usual stoicism, and for a moment I was sorry I was his father and not his mother, and so couldn’t suddenly there, coram publico, in our hansom, kiss him. After all, I thought, the thing wasn’t so very bad. But it was only when we opened the parcels that I really began to be reassured. Three of them contained boxes of soldiers, quite ordinary lead soldiers, but of so good a quality as to make Gip altogether forget that originally these parcels had been Magic Tricks of the only genuine sort, and the fourth contained a kitten, a little living white kitten, in excellent health and appetite and temper. I saw this unpacking with a sort of provisional relief. I hung about in the nursery for quite an unconscionable time. . . . That happened six months ago. And now I am beginning to believe it is all right. The kitten had only the magic natural to all kittens, and the soldiers seem as steady a company as any colonel could desire. And Gip–? The intelligent parent will understand that I have to go cautiously with Gip. But I went so far as this one day. I said, “How would you like your soldiers to come alive, Gip, and march about by themselves?” “Mine do,” said Gip. “I just have to say a word I know before I open the lid.” “Then they march about alone?” “Oh, quite, dadda. I shouldn’t like them if they didn’t do that.” I displayed no unbecoming surprise, and since then I have taken occasion to drop in upon him once or twice, unannounced, when the soldiers were about, but so far I have never discovered them performing in anything like a magical manner. It’s so difficult to tell. There’s also a question of finance. I have an incurable habit of paying bills. I have been up and down Regent Street several times, looking for that shop. I am inclined to think, indeed, that in that matter honour is satisfied, and that, since Gip’s name and address are known to them, I may very well leave it to these people, whoever they may be, to send in their bill in their own time.