A specter’s desire

Kuniyoshi_The_Ghosts

A chilling breeze whipped the night air and dragged leaves along an empty neighborhood road, scratching against the asphalt. The moon hung high against the backdrop of a starless sky. In the silent distance, a street light flickered, casting a blinking glow on the sidewalk. On, off. On, off. Light, nothing.

“It’s following me.”

America whipped his head back. “What?”

Japan came to a stop a few feet behind him. Like a still frame she stood with her arms at her sides, staring past America and straight ahead into the darkness where the shine of streetlights couldn’t reach.

“A monster.”

Immediately America ducked and jerked his head in all directions. “Oh, shit–China?”

Japan narrowed her eyes.. “No, it’s not… It’s a ghost.”

He let out a big sigh of relief, and if it were any chillier Japan might have been able to see his breath. “Damn, don’t scare me like that.”

“America, do you understand? I’m being haunted.”

He stuffed his hands into the pocket of his hoodie. “Okay, here’s what we do. We conjure a second evil spirit. Then we train that ghost to fight other ghosts. How? Glad you asked. I have the complete series of Walker, Texas Ranger on DVD. Okay, so we set up a place for the fight. It’s gotta be somewhere scary but big enough to fit a bunch of those infrared ghost cameras because I’m putting the whole thing up on Youtube…”

While Japan listened to America’s ridiculous plan–she’d gently turn it down later–she found it increasingly difficult to concentrate due to the pale, bleeding woman hovering behind him.

***

An unsettling trio of skeletons greeted Japan when she stepped into the candle-lit and cobweb-ridden haunted house. Wait, that wasn’t a haunted house. That was Romania’s office.

“Thank you,” Japan said as she was invited in, “for offering to help me.”

“No, thank you,” replied the caped woman. She led Japan as they maneuvered around clutter on the floor– ancient tomes, jars of fake(?) organs and limbs, and an alarming number of garlic cloves.

They sat in plush leather armchairs soaking up the warmth of a brick fireplace. Romania propped up her elbow on the arm of the chair, rested her chin on the palm of her hand, and stared at Japan with a predatory smile. Japan stared back, increasingly more uncomfortable as each second ticked by. From the corner of the room, the skeleton triplets watched them.

“So,” Romania said finally, “how bad is it?”

“Every night at 2am exactly it starts to wail incomprehensibly for hours. I can’t even sleep.”

“Yeah, it shows.” Romania leaned in closer. “Okay, be honest with me. Who did you kill?”

“What?”

Romania crossed one stocking-clad leg over the other and laced her fingers, tipped with shapely, jet black nails, together. “That’s why you’re being haunted, isn’t it?

Japan’s hands balled into fists on her lap. “I haven’t killed anyone. That’s why I’m so… troubled. I’m not sure why it’s here, and because of that, I don’t know how to get rid of it. I’ve visited temples. I’ve tried Western methods,” she explained, which reminded her that she she needed to look up the return policy on holy water. “Whenever I ask what it wants, it just screams.”

The other nodded slowly. “Yeah, I know that type. She just lacks good communication skills. It is a she, right?”

Japan blinked. “Yes.”

“Oh, you’re wondering how I knew? I get vibes about things like that. I can hear the screaming right now. Sounded feminine.”

“Ms. Romania, the ghost isn’t with me right now.”

Romania froze for a second, then she smiled. “Oh. That must be someone else, then.”

From then on, Japan would feel an even greater chill up her spine whenever she caught a glimpse of skull or decapitated head in her peripherals.

***

It was a quiet room. Japan had retreated there many times seeking reprise, and many times she’d found in while meditating mat flooring. It was a relic of sorts leftover from the Feudal age, and that night it would be the site of a seance.

“Give it a better way to communicate with you, Romania had suggested. Some ghosts like to communicate with Ouija boards or magic makers. Most like blood, though. That’s why Japan was standing at the center of the room with a basin of dark red fluid (Ebay was an amazing resource) and a Shinto talisman–just in case.

At 1:57 she heard the howling wind rustle trees outside. The pounding of her own heart echoed in her ears at 1:59. At 2:01 the world stood still. Slowly she looked to the corners of the dimly lit room but only saw the wispy flames of candles. Until the flames began to flicker. Drip, drip, drip. Japan’s skin crawled when she felt wet drops of something on her arm. A bead of crimson trickled down from her wrist. She looked up slowly to find blood seeping through cracks in the paneled ceiling and a droplet landed on her cheek.

The piercing ring of a telephone forced a gasp out of her lungs. With a trembling hand she reached for her cell and brought it to her ear, only to hear a dead tone droning like a heart without a pulse. From outside she watched the shadows of trees as they swayed in the stirring wind. The candles flickered one more time.

A sudden gale blew open the doors and swept through the room, knocking Japan back. The rushing wind flipped the basin over and sent it rolling across the floor with horrible clanking sounds, as whatever questionable substance was inside drenched a startled Japan’s garments.

A horrible wailing sound moaned from within the walls as she fumbled for her phone in the darkness. She flashed the light ahead to reveal a hovering apparition with long, black hair and blackened, sunken eyes. An icy chill crawled up Japan’s skin and she couldn’t even scream.

“What do you want?” she managed to choke out in a weak voice.

The ghost’s eyeballs rolled downward in their sockets to look at the pool of crimson on the ground. Snapping its neck to the side with an unholy cracking sound, it stared directly into Japan, perhaps reaching past scared eyes and into her soul, before uttering a terrible scream.

As quickly as the ghost appeared, it left. Candles, reignited on their own, washed away the darkness to reveal a room little different from the way Japan had entered it. No haunting specter lingered. But the ghost hadn’t left Japan with nothing. On the wall was a message scrawled in blood:

What’s the WiFi password?

A/N: For anyone interested, here’s a cool and informative article about Japanese supernatural things. Here is another excellent piece that goes even more in-depth by exploring religious and philosophical beliefs that influence Japanese ghost culture.

While in both American and Japanese culture a ghost’s end-game is (generally) to just kill the shit out of you, this isn’t always the case if the ghost has a particular desire or need that’s keeping it from moving on. In this story it probably wanted the WiFi so it should take revenge on whoever killed her, probably by making a call-out post on Tumblr. Now that is scary.

Author: sarahbruso

International relations major, certified nerd, and suffering writer. I dig humor, video games, and global politics.

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