A vagrant settled outside an antique shop in Japantown after sunset. In the wee hours of the morning there was dead silence until he heard muffled sounds of someone– as though sobbing from within the shop. In a few minutes the sobbing entity started wailing in a gravelly, nightmarish fashion, ‘Bango… bango! Kanojo o korosanaide!’* and then everything went quiet.
At that exact moment, Julia Stiles was murdered in another part of San Francisco.
Karen sat at the coffee shop pondering over the misfortune that had befallen her family. Karen’s mother, Julia Stiles had been found brutally murdered in her parent’s apartment in San Francisco.
In the police report, Oscar Stiles,Karen’s father, had claimed that he had woken up around 3 a.m. to a strange, guttural sound originating from the living room of their apartment. When he had entered the living room, he had witnessed a blood bath.
Julia was lying face up on the floor in a pool of blood, her mouth agape in a silent scream. Her eyes were bulging out of their sockets, staring horrifically at the object that had been impaled through her heart.
The sight had been so unnerving that Oscar had to rush to the washroom to throw up, where he had collapsed in a heap. When came to his senses, he called the authorities to report the tragedy.
The police investigation revealed that the antique Samurai* sword, which was Oscar’s latest acquisition from an artifact shop in San Francisco’s Japantown, had been driven through Julia’s heart by the assailant. There was no sign of forced entry in the apartment. The footage from the CCTV cameras installed in the lobby and passages of the apartments didn’t lead to any clues either.
The last dialled number on Julia’s cell phone, five minutes before her death, was that of Oscar’s business partner, Martin. While going through Julia’s phone records, the police found that Julia had made several calls to him at odd hours, especially at wee hours of the morning. Martin was called in for questioning and gradually a grim fact came to light. A teary-eyed Martin shamefully admitted that Julia and he were having an affair.
As the police tried to piece the mystery of the murder together, Oscar was emerging as their prime suspect. There was no one at home except Oscar when the murder had taken place. Additionally, he was the cuckolded husband, so he obviously had motive. Last but not the least, the murder weapon had his fingerprints all over it. He was put behind bars, but due to lack of concrete evidence, he was remanded on bail, until the court hearings.
Not only was Karen grieving her mother’s death and betrayal, but she was also distressed about the fact that her father would be unjustly blamed for Julia’s murder. Oscar had tearfully confessed to her and his lawyer that he was unaware of Julia’s relationship with Martin, and he didn’t have any hand in killing his wife.
Karen was jolted out of her reverie when she was called out to pick up her coffee from the counter.
Asshe returned to her window seat and pensively sipped at her coffee, she suddenly noticed a mysterious, hooded figure standing outside staring intensely at her from the window. Karen experienced fear and trepidation in equal measure.
The hooded guy urgently beckoned Karen to come outside. She decided to ignore the strange man. But as soon as he realised that she had no intention of joining him outside, he boldly walked into the coffee shop and joined her at her table.
‘We need to talk bijo*. Lives are at stake,’ he said urgently.
‘Huh! Firstly, I’m not a bijo! And how dare you join me at my table uninvited? Who the hell do you think you are?’, demanded Karen.
The stranger slipped down his hood and Karen was confronted with a handsome guy of Asian origin. He didn’t possess an ounce of malevolence on his face.
”I’m Takeda Akira. We need to discuss the Samurai sword your mother was murdered with. I will be much obligated if you keep your voice down. And you are very much a bijo!’, he added firmly with a twinkle in his eye, as he shook hands with Karen.
‘How do you know about mom’s murder? How are you involved in all this?’
‘Karen San* I read about your mother’s murder in the newspapers. Since the past month, I had been on the lookout for that Samurai sword. It’s important for me to know where it was sourced from. I assure you, it’ll save a lot of lives’, explained Akira.
‘Dad is an art collector… he frequents certain antique shops in Japantown. I can ask him more about it. But how is this connected to the murder?’ questioned Karen.
‘The truth is utterly bizarre Karen San!’WhatAkira recounted then was an unbelievable tale of love, betrayal and of course magic!
‘I’m a descendant of the Takeda Clan, a revered Japanese Samurai clan which dates back to the late 12th century. Takeda Nobukaro, an ancestor of my family, owned a Samurai sword gifted to him by the shogun*. It was a precious family heirloom passed on from one generation to another and has been with us since the 16th century.
In the late 18th century, another ancestor, Daichi San fell madly in love with a peasant’s daughter, Cho San. He asked for her hand in marriage and her poverty-stricken father readily agreed to marry off his daughter into a rich and influential family, like ours. Unfortunately, Cho was in love with Aiko, a poor village boy. After marrying Daichi, she continued having trysts with Aiko in her father’s paddy fields.
One fateful day, a guard informed Daichi about his wife’s illicit love affair. Daichi was obviously enraged. He invited Aiko at his home on the pretext of offering him a job.
As Aiko bent over to sit down at the table for tea, Daichi had every intention of plunging the ancestral Samurai sword in his neck. Daichi’s murderous plan was thwarted by Cho who had been alerted by one of the maids.
In a bid to save her lover’s life, she rushed between him and the sword. Daichi was inconsolable when he realised that he had plunged the sword in his beloved Cho’s neck.
Before Daichi could recover from his shock, Aiko retrieved the sword from Cho’s neck and thrust it with all his might into Daichi’s back.
Now here is the catch. There is a term Tsukumogami* in Japanese. Tsukumogami means that an object would become occupied by a spirit after it turned more than a century old. Daichi’s vengeful spirit possessed the very thing that had killed him, Takeda Nobukaro’s sword!’
Karen had covered her mouth in shock while hearing Akira’s spine-chilling narrative and yet she was intrigued enough to know more.
Akira continued recounting the tale, ‘Then on, the sword had a life of its own. As it rose to point its tip towards Aiko, another strange phenomenon took place. The sword was magically hauled towards a tansu* chest. Not only that, one of the drawers of the chest opened and the sword, or should I say Daichi’s spirit got locked in the chest.’
Can you guess why that must have happened, Karen San?’, asked Akira. He answered without waiting for Karen’s reply, ‘Because the tansu was possessed by Cho and for the second time that day she had thwarted Daichi’s attempt to kill her lover. ‘You see’, he paused before he could continue,‘the sword wasn’t the only item in that room which was over a century old, the chest was almost as old too. Love was obviously more powerful than hatred here’, he added pensively.
‘This story has been passed down generations through word of mouth. Believe me, it is genuine. Since then, my family has been safeguarding these two mystical relics. Only once in our familial history has the tansu been pried open using occult magic. Back then too, the possessed sword had taken the lives of people who were unfaithful.
A month ago, the tansu along with its contents, was stolen from my ancestral home in Japan. Since then, I have been on the lookout for any news I could find pertaining to both the relics. The vendor who sold the sword to your father, might have information about the tansu as well. I need to lock the sword back in the tansu using ancient Japanese magic.’
Just as Akira was wrapping up his saga, Karen received a call from her father. He had been summoned to the police station. Fresh evidence in Julia’s murder case had come to light.
Akira gained information about the artifact vendor from Oscar and went in search of him. In the meantime, Karen joined her father at the police station. Detective Smith, who was handling Julia’s case, showed Karen and Oscar the horrific CCTV footage which they had gathered from the crime lab.
The video showed the forensic expert, looking at something under the microscope. A few minutes later one of his colleagues joined him in the lab and they started kissing fervently. Behind them a figure rose from the Samurai sword which was laid on the table. Its eyes were stark white, sans pupils, and it wore a blood-splattered kimono.
Unbeknownst to the lovers, the eerie figure crawled on the ceiling, and positioned itself on top of them. In a trice, the Samurai sword magically appeared in the spectre’s hand. First it lopped off the man’s head. The woman was left kissing the severed head of her paramour. As the woman screamed in fear, the sword was plunged through her belly and her guts spilled all over the floor. The spectre then disappeared in thin air.
Detective Smith switched off the video and explained to the Stiles that Oscar wasn’t a murder suspect anymore. The horror that they had just witnessed had established the murderer’s identity for them.
Karen found herself narrating the legend of the Takeda Samurai sword and tansu to Oscar and the Detective. Soon he had dispatched two detectives to the artifact shop in Japantown.
When it was established that the tansu was at the same shop where Oscar had picked up the Samurai sword, Detective Smith headed there along with the Stiles and the murderous sword.
The shop owner confessed that since he was expecting the tansu to be full of precious relics he had hired a Japanese Shaman, Sato Emiko, to perform a specific ritual to pry open the tansu. Emiko’s magic prevented the tansu from detaining the Samurai sword within itself. He was summoned at the shop to cast a reversing spell.
The ritual took place in the inner sanctum of the artifact shop. As soon as the ritual was reversed, one of the drawers of the Tansu opened automatically and the Samurai sword flew into it. Everyone present in the room during the ritual heaved a sigh of relief. Akira reassured Detective Smith that he would make arrangements to travel back to Japan with the tansu. The others soon filed out of the room, except Oscar.
Oscar lovingly ran his hand over the tansu. He whispered gleefully, ‘These silly people thought I wasn’t aware of the curse of the Samurai! Who do they think tipped the artifact dealer to steal the tansu and bring it here? I didn’t mind paying heftily to finally own it. I knew once the spirit of the Samurai was set free from its confines, it would catch my unfaithful wife in the act and kill her.”The others who got killed were just collateral damage and my ticket to innocence. Good job Samurai!’, muttered Oscar.
In a split second the Tansu opened one of its drawers and swallowed Oscar whole. The tansu had claimed the life of another vengeful husband.
- Bango… bango! Kanojo o korosanaide!’* – No… no! Don’t kill her.
- Samurai* – A member of a powerful military caste in feudalJapan. A Japanese warrior.
- Bijo* – Beautiful woman.
- San* – As a rule of thumb, in Japanese language, the surname, name is always followed by the honorific suffix “San” (meaning “dear” or actually “honourable Mr/Ms.”).
- Shogun* – a hereditary commander-in-chief in feudal Japan. The shogun was generally the real ruler of the country until feudalism was abolished in 1867.
- Tsukumogami* – In Japanese folklore, tsukumogamiare tools that have acquired a kamior spirit once they become significantly old. The Tsukumogami Emakidescribes how an object would become occupied by a spirit after one hundred years.
- Tansu* – Tansu are traditional portable storage chests from Japan. Tansu were intended as mobile cabinetry, and used to keep objects of daily use, like clothes, and personal items.
This Post Has 14 Comments
A thought procoking story and fearful one too! A samurai sword attaining a spirit and a body to strike the unfaithful! Saionara to the unfaithful!
A great take at horror and a really interesting plot! You captured the spirit of Japan well.
Wow, you really brought a Japanese legend alive! The samurai sword possessed by a vengeful spirit is the stuff nightmares are made of. However, the twist is what delivers a sucker punch at the very end. A well written story that has obviously been well researched as well. Kudos!
One more very intriguing, crisp. This could be a script of a movie.
Lots of local flavours installed in the heart of this narrative make it appear authentic. A well narrated story with some extensive research that has gone behind this creation. The twist at the end made the narrative even more interesting. Well done Vaiju Panchal
The twist in the tale – didn’t see that coming! A Japanese legend playing out in SF – that was well done!
Wow!.. This story was rolling in front of my eyes like a movie! Beautiful writing and superb imagination. I guess a lot of research went into it too. The end was just mind blowing. Well done!
Interesting end to a gripping tale. I liked the story behind the myth and then its connection to the key characters. Nicely done
Japanese myths always fascinate me, and you’ve done a great job of keeping the fascination alive and kicking! Great one! Loved it.
The story is spooky with a sense of suspense. The legend of the ‘unpronounceable’ chest of drawers is fascinating!
It is fast-paced, engaging and thoroughly intriguing. Though I expected the ending to be as it is, it still surprised me. (Blame it on all the crime fiction I read. I have grown cynical about people who say I knew nothing about the so and so!)
Please run the story through a couple of rounds of editing to take care of typos and punctuation errors.
The highlight for me was the CCTV footage. Absolutely fantastic! That was some pretty awesomely gruesome horror. ❤
You brought the Japanese flavour well. Full marks for prompt incorporation! The end had me intrigued, because all the while I was focusing only on the tendency of the sword and forgot about the other Tsukumogami. I understand you had so much going on, the word limit must have been a factor- yet, if with some rephrasing, you can get more show don’t tell- I am only speaking about the part before Akira enters the coffee shop. The rest is already brilliant. Good one!
So loved the ending, yeah it’s horror but it made me chuckle, someone got his due! This was clever. You have explored the prompt very well. The plot is well woven. I think the word limit did cramp the story telling and you had to rush from one point to another. I loved the pace at the beginning of the story. This was not too much of horror for me, and I am not complaining.
What a brilliant blend of history, horror, and revenge tale! I especially liked the twist at the end–very well done!
This is a story that brought alive a legend of Japan, as a Samurai sword plays a spine-chilling role to eliminate the unfaithful. As the writer deftly puts it, “an unbelievable tale of love, betrayal and of course magic!” The atmosphere of the story is maintained throughout the story as the legend of the sword being locked in the tansu (storage chest) and how and why it is unleashed proves to be a fascinating saga of revenge and violence. Tsukumogami is a concept both enthralling and horrifying!