Friday, January 2, 2009

Tale Of the Peony Lantern
Part 1

The great samurai Ogwara had not left his home for a year. Not since his wife had died. He could see no reason to. Everything in the world had lost its color. All food had lost its flavor. And for him it was always a winter without snow. Ogwara spent his days existing, simply waiting for the days of his life to be finished. He moved from room to room in his large house unable to sleep, to read or to eat. He could no longer concentrate on things. He no longer cared to do anything, but wait for another day to pass.

Ogwara’s neighbors was a very old man. He had admired the samurai’s since he had first known Ogwara as a young man and had been one of the master carpenters to build his home. The samurai had been a man of great and noble bearing in his youth. Fearless and honorable in all things. Ogwara service to the Emperor had been rewarded and his generosity had been well known throughout the village. It had sadden and embarrassed the old man to see the now emaciated form of the once great samurai as he walked mindlessly through his garden, talking to himself. Late at night when the old man was forced to get up again to relieve him self, as he now so often must. Through his window he would often see a glow from Ogwara’s lantern through the shoji screen walls of the samurai house as he paced from room to room. The old man would go back to his bed and curl up to his wife’s frail old body. Glad that she was still with him. He said a quick prayer that she would not leave him alone first.

The moon was very bright. It was distractingly so. The moon was hurting Ogwara's eyes. He tried to ignore it. But the moon would not be ignored, it’s light kept boring into his eye. He would have to rise and close the shoji screen against it. He was just so tired. How was it possible for the moon to be this bright? Why couldn’t he be left alone? As he did approached the door, a warm soft gust of wind brushed his face. The cherry blossoms swayed in the garden and for a moment the garden once again looked beautiful. In the moonlight he could see the pinks of the petals and the greens of the leaves. He thought he heard a woman humming a song and then, just as quickly it was gone. The world was grey and lifeless again. Like a starving man Ogwara ran out into the garden. And stared at the moon. It was wrong. Everything was very wrong. Suddenly Ogwara was frightened. For a moment he wasn’t sure of his footing. He was light headed.
He had just gotten up too quickly. That was it. When was the last time he had eaten? He was a fool chasing shadows. Afraid of the moon. Well, why not, he supposed, He had lived on little more then boiled rice and wine for at least a week now. The wind picked up again. It was warm, and wrapping around him. Brushing against his skin, gently moving his hair. Ogwara sat on the stonewall of his garden and took a long slow breath. He relaxed his shoulders. The moon was indeed very bright, but why was that something to be afraid of? It gave a strange light to the garden, but not unpleasant one. The colors of the cheery trees could be seen faintly as his eyes adjusted to the night. The warm breeze carried the scent of many of the flowers in the air without being cloying. Ogwara began to feel more peaceful then he had in months. He suddenly knew that his wife was at rest. He felt certain that that everything was just as it should be. He began making plans for repair to the stables and hiring men to rethatch the roof, when out of the corner of his eye he saw the glow of a lantern coming down the street toward him. Who would be out this late he wondered. As it got closer he saw that it was two women. A servant carrying a large paper lantern decorated with peonies. Next to her a very beautiful woman who was singing the song that Ogwara had heard earlier that night. What was any woman doing out at this hour. Especially one of this woman’s apparent rank. Certainly she would be an easy victim for any thieves.
Ogwara stood and quickly ran his fingers through his hair and straighten his kimono as the pair drew closer. The women smiled shyly at Ogwara and came to a stop closer to him then he had expected. Her eyes were warm and dark brown. Her skin pale, but not made up the way a woman’s face would normally be for one so formally dressed. Her black shiny hair was pinned up in an elegant bun, but a tendril had come lose and curled slightly around her ear. The Lady’s servant faded into the background and was quickly forgotten by both of them. Ogwara bowed to the lady. The lady did not return the greeting. Instead she held out her hand and led Ogwara back into his home. The servant followed holding the lantern high to light their way.

A few weeks later the old man was staring out his window looking out at Ogwara house. His worry was beginning to gnaw at him. It was not his place to meddle in the samurai’s business, but he knew something was very wrong. He had not seen Ogwara in many days and at night he no longer saw the light from his lamp moving from room to room as the man grieved for his wife. Now the house stood dark until very late into the night. And then a light would be lit in one room. The same room every night. In the dawn there would be no sign of life again until late the next night. The old man knew it was his duty to do something. But he worried how to approach the samurai without insulting the mans dignity. Both their honor was at stake. How was it he thought that a man could live such a long life and still find himself so mystified as to how to go about things just the right way. It was then that the old man’s wife shuffled over to his side. She looked out of the window with him.
“I know what you are thinking my love. You are right something must be done.”
“Yes, but how is it to be done is the problem.”
“Perhaps husband, you should see for yourself just what the problem is first. Why not go quietly into the house at night after the lantern is lit and see with your own eyes what is happening. Then you will know if you suspicions have merit.” If not then you can quickly leave the house and leave Ogwara to himself. But if as you fear something has happened to the good Samurai then you will be able to face him with the truth, and then you will truly have a chance to help him.”
“What if I am caught wife? He might take me for a robber. Or something worse. “the old man said his eyes growing wide with fear.
“ Do not be foolish. The man knows you. He has for many years. You may say that you thought you smelled a fire, or perhaps you thought you saw robbers yourself. It is that or do nothing and husband I do not think you can do that. Don’t worry you old fool, it is one of the many reasons I love you,” she said as she hugged him. As he held her small fragile frame he knew she was right, and that tonight he would have to steal his way into Ogwara’s house if he was to put his worrying to rest.

The old man stood in Ogwara’s garden staring at the glow passing through the shoji screens of the house. There was nothing about the light itself that was unusual. It’s just that the rest of the house was always now so dark and still. To the old man, it was a house that was empty except for that one light. And when that light was gone it was a house in which no one lived. How could a thing look so empty and at the same time look some how bigger, thought the old man. It no longer looks like the house he had helped to build. . The angles on the roof were no longer plumb. This was not a house for thoughts of serenity and beauty. This was a place that felt very much alive. The house looked almost bloated like a fat tick. It’s wall slightly bowed out. It sat lurched forward on its foundation as if it would topple forward at any moment collapsing under it’s own weight. Imploding a wall of blood and bone, and what ever else it had sucked out of the life of its victims. It would be a tsunami of horrors that would wipe away himself, his home, and his wife completely from the earth.
The old man now felt quite certain that the master of this house was no longer of this world. Perhaps there was a chance that the samurai was still alive within it’s walls. It was his duty to try to save him. The old man looked at his hands shaking with fear, and gnarled with arthritis. Would he be strong enough to face what was inside? This house had become a place that was wrong. It was not sane. It was a place that was empty of reason and feeling. This was a house that wanted to keep what it had.


Eva said...

MORE MORE MORE!!!!!!!!!! It seemed like a cute nice story at the beginning and it's turning into a really gruesome one!!!!! I need to know!!!!!

Happy New Year, by the way! ;o)

Ana said...

I love this! I've read lots of Japanese lit and you have captured the style beautifully! I agree -- I love the nasty turn it's taking and can't wait for next installment! Please don't make us wait a month!

I especially love the comparison of the house to a tick. Perfect!

Beverly Hamilton Wenham said...

Oh I hope part two and three will be OK. I'll tell you the story of where it comes from when it's done. I think I am much more gross then I thought I was.
I had to fight with myself to write about the tick thing but it had to be done!