Zombie

Author: Murakami Haruki (村上 春樹)
Japanese Title: ゾンビ (Zonbi)
Taken From: TV ピープル (Terebi piipuru, 1993)

A boy and a girl were walking down a road next to a graveyard at midnight. It was even foggy. They didn’t particularly want to be walking in such a place in the middle of the night, but they had to pass by that way due to various circumstances. They held each other’s hands tightly and walked as quickly as they could.

“It’s almost like that Michael Jackson music video,” the girl said.

“Yeah, the gravestones are moving,” the boy said.

Just then, they heard a groan, giiiiii, that sounded like something heavy moving somewhere. The two stopped walking and, without thinking, turned to look at each other.

The boy laughed. “It’s okay. There’s no reason to get nervous. Some tree branches were scraping against each other. It was the wind or something.”

But the wind wasn’t blowing. The girl gulped and looked around. She had a bad feeling about this, a premonition that something terrible was about to happen.

It was a zombie.

But they couldn’t see any such thing. There wasn’t any indication that the dead had risen, so the two started walking again. The girl sensed the boy’s face growing strangely rigid.

“Why do you walk like such a slut?” he asked abruptly.

“Me?” the girl asked, surprised. “Do I really walk like a slut?”

“It’s terrible,” the boy said.

“Really?”

“You’re bowlegged.”

The girl bit her lip. She probably was a little bowlegged. The bottoms of her shoes tended to wear down a little more on the outside, but it wasn’t bad enough for anyone to come right out and make a point of mentioning it to her.

But she didn’t say anything. She loved the boy, and the boy loved her. They were planning on getting married next month, and she didn’t want to get into a stupid fight. I’m probably a little bowlegged, she thought. What’s the problem with that?

“This is the first time I’ve dated a bowlegged woman.”

“Really?” the girl said with a stiff smile on her face. Was he drunk? No, he can’t have had anything to drink tonight, she thought.

“And then there are the three moles inside your ear,” the boy said.

“Oh really?” the girl said. “Which ear?”

“The right one. Right inside your right ear, there are three moles. They’re really ugly.”

“Do you hate moles?”

“I hate ugly moles. What planet would you have to come from to like something like that?”

The girl bit her lip.

“And then there’s your body odor,” the boy continued. “It’s been bothering me for a while. If I had met you for the first time in summer, there’s no way we would have started dating.”

The girl sighed and withdrew her hand from the boy’s.

“Hey, hold on a second. Do you have to say it to me like that? That’s really terrible. Is that what you’ve been thinking all this time?”

“The collar of your blouse is dirty. The one you’re wearing tonight, right now. Why are you so filthy? Can’t you do even one thing right?”

The girl was silent. She was so angry that her mouth wouldn’t work.

“You know, I have a whole ton of things I could say to you. Your gross legs, your stench, your dirty collar, the moles in your ear, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Oh that’s right, why are you wearing earrings that look so bad on you? You look just like a prostitute. No, even a prostitute would have more class than you. If you’re going to wear something like that, why don’t you just put a ring through your nose? It would go perfectly with your double chin. And that’s right, your double chin made me remember – your mother is a real pig. She’s a real oinking pig. That’s what you’re going to look like after twenty years. You’re a fatso, just like your mom. What a porker! You really eat shit up. Your dad is terrible too. He can barely write kanji, did you know that? He recently wrote a letter to my parents, right, and everyone laughed at it. They were saying it was like he was almost illiterate. Did that asshole even graduate from elementary school? Your house sucks. It’s a cultural slum. It would do us all a favor if someone would douse it with gasoline and set it on fire. All the pig fat would sizzle while it burned, you bet.”

“Hey, if you hate me that much, why are you marrying me?”

The boy took no notice of her. “You’re a pig,” he said. “And then your thing. It’s really terrible down there. I just give up and do you, but it’s like a cheap rubber band that’s already been stretched out too much. If I had something like that, I would die. If I were a girl, and something like that was stuck on me, I would die of shame. It wouldn’t even matter how I died. I would just die as quickly as I could. I would be too embarrassed to live.”

The girl stood there in a daze. “How could you….”

Suddenly, the boy clutched his head. His face contorted painfully, and he sunk to the ground. He scratched at his temples with his fingernails. “It hurts!” he said. “My head is tearing apart. I can’t stand it. It’s too much!”

“Are you okay?” the girl spoke up.

“I’m not okay! I can’t take it! My skin is burning up into pieces!”

The girl touched the boy’s face with her hand. It was feverish, as if it actually were burning. The girl gently tried to stroke it, but the skin slipped off in a film. As it peeled away, slimy red flesh appeared. She gasped and jumped back.

The boy stood up and cackled, tearing off his skin with his own hands. His eyeballs plopped out of his head and dangled down. His nose shrank away to nothing more than two black holes. His lips disappeared, and his teeth stuck out, grinning at her.

“The reason I stuck with you so long was to eat your fatty piggy meat. Why else would I date someone like you? But you were just too stupid to get it. Are you an idiot? Are you an idiot? Are you an idiot? Heh heh heh heh heh heh heh…!”

And then the lump of exposed flesh came chasing after her. She broke into a run, but she couldn’t escape from the shambling mass of meat behind her. At the edge of the graveyard a slimy hand clutched her collar. She screamed and screamed.

…..

The boy held the girl’s body.

Her throat was dry. The boy looked at her, grinning.

“What’s the matter? Did you have a bad dream?”

The girl sat up and looked around her. She had been sleeping with the boy on a bed in a hotel by a lake. She shook her head.

“Did I yell?”

“A whole lot,” he said, laughing. “Your scream was really loud. I bet everyone in the hotel heard it. It hope no one thinks I murdered you.”

“I’m sorry,” she said.

“It’s okay, don’t worry about it,” the boy said. “You had a bad dream?”

“You can’t even imagine what a bad dream it was.”

“Would you tell me about it?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she said.

“It would be better if you talked about it. If you tell someone, then all the bad vibrations will just float away.”

“That’s all right. I don’t want to talk about it now.”

The two were silent for a moment. She hugged the boy’s naked chest. She could hear frogs croaking in the distance. The boy’s heartbeat thudded solidly.

“Hey,” the girl said, remembering. “Can I ask you something?”

“What?”

“Are there any moles in my ears?”

“Moles?” the boy asked. “Are you talking about the three ugly ones in your right ear?”

She shut her eyes. It wasn’t over…

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The Demons of the Adachi Moor

Author: Kurahashi Yumiko (倉橋 由美子)
Japanese Title: 安達ケ原の鬼 (Adachigahara no oni)
Taken From: 大人のための残酷童話 (Otona no tame no zankoku dōwa, 1984)

Once upon a time, a monk who had set forth from the capital for spiritual training passed through the desolate Shirakawa barrier gateway to the far north of Japan. He found himself in a place called the Adachi Moor as the short autumn day was beginning to grow dark. The monk was weary after a day of ceaseless walking. He thought to beg lodging for the night if he could find even a poor farmer’s cottage, but he could see no thread of smoke rising into the sky above the field of abundant autumn grasses. Just as the monk, chilled in the midst of a gathering wind, felt himself beginning to despair, he suddenly saw the will-o’-the-wisp flicker of a mysterious light in the distance.

Could it be that the legend of the Kurozuka demon lair of the Adachi Moor in the northern reaches of Japan is no mere story . . . ?

Although the monk thought that the house was more than likely the lair of a demon, just like in the old songs, he was drawn by the light and hurried towards it. Before long the rotting shack stood before him.

Peeping through a hole in a shōji screen, the monk saw a solitary old woman squatting in the shadows thrown by a floor lamp. She was mumbling an evil-sounding spell deep in her throat as she wound thread. As the monk watched the lazy rotations of the spinning wheel, he felt a string of drowsiness wrap around the length of his body. The old woman turned in his direction, and the monk came to himself with a start. He found his voice and begged her to give him lodging for the night. The old woman was reluctant, protesting that she could provide him with neither a good meal nor bedding in her isolated house in the middle of a moor. When the monk persisted, claiming that he merely sought shelter from the rain and the dew, the old woman readily complied, as if she had been waiting for this earnest request. Happy to have stumbled upon such an obviously kind-hearted old granny, the monk accepted her offer of accommodation with an untroubled mind.

The old woman threw firewood into the back of a sunken fireplace and boiled some millet porridge for the monk. When dinner was finished, the monk recounted a few tales of his journey. The old woman nodded as she listened to his stories, turning her spinning wheel all the while.

Before long, the fire at the back of the sunken fireplace had grown thin and weak, and the piercing night wind blew into the shabby house. Seeing the monk rearrange his robes with trembling hands, the old woman stood up.

“If I had known that I would be receiving a guest, I would have put away more firewood. Could you kindly do me the favor of looking after the place while I step out to the nearby mountain to gather some?”

“What are you talking about?” protested the monk. “There’s no reason for you to go through such trouble so late at night. Please let me go instead.”

The old woman laughed. “What would a traveler know about where to find firewood out here? Besides, since I couldn’t provide you with a decent meal, please at least consider a roaring fire as a substitute for a proper dinner.” With these words, the old woman cheerfully prepared to set out.

The monk suddenly became uneasy. “Hasn’t it been said since ancient times that a demon dwells on the Adachi Moor?” he asked, bringing up a certain old song.

“I wonder,” the old woman replied. “But not even a demon would go outside on a night like this! Anyway, I have a favor to ask of you. Even if I take some time getting back, please don’t go into the back room. Please, could you do this one thing for me?”

After the old woman had departed into the wind, leaving behind her request, the monk began to wonder about the mysteriously gleeful mood in which she had set out. Why did she make such an odd request about the back room before she left? The fear that perhaps this was the lair of a demon after all reared its head. Maybe he was imagining things, but the monk began to hear various wailing voices intermingled with the sound of the wind. He shivered and covered his ears without thinking. It was as if the voices of a host of lost souls, crying mournfully in complaint, had been set free. Even worse, it sounded as if these voices were somehow emanating from the room that he was told he must not open. The monk, in an ecstasy of terror, found himself pulled uncannily closer to the forbidden room. He placed his hand on the door.

He swung the door open, and a nauseating stench poured out. Inside the room, things resembling human corpses were piled up almost to the ceiling. There were things stained red with blood, things tinged green with decay, things flowing with yellow pus. The corpses within this dead mountain of myriad colors seemed to be disintegrating as they moved their hands and feet while emitting terrible moans. One pushed itself out from the middle of the pile and rose to its feet. It bared the teeth of its rotting face and laughed.

“It’s a demon!” The monk dashed out of the old woman’s shack and ran for his life. The field of rich autumn grasses overflowed with an otherworldly luminescence. All around the monk the shining grass undulated like the back of a running beast. The multitude of carcasses rose and lurched out of the house. While emitting sounds that were neither laughter nor wails but could have been both, they all came together and pursued the monk as one body. The monk fled before them while chanting sutras in a voice filled with desperation. Suddenly he saw the shape of the old woman on top of a hill in the distance. She seemed to be shouting something in his direction while laughing maniacally. As the monk returned her screams, he felt an immense power take hold of him from behind. His legs were captured by a hideous tidal wave, which dragged him down into a bloody sea.

Nothing remained of the monk save a stain of black blood on the earth of the Adachi Moor.

Moral:
Old women aren’t the only demons in the world.