Part 12: UPDATE 12
Gojaku Peak / Jakobey Pass
This refers to children who vanish without explanation, never to be seen again. Many believe these disappearances to be the work of spirits who abduct the children and bring them to the Other World.
Some people simply vanish forever, while others reappear at a different time in places far away from where they were last seen, in deeply hidden caves or forests, or in locations that are humanly impossible to reach. In these caes, the length of the disappearance varies. Some are missing for only a few days, some for decades. Those who are lucky enough to return are usually found in a delusional state, unsure of how they came to be in that place, of where or when they disappeared, or of any other details leading up to the disappearance. Few can offer concrete information.
The Lost Child
A siren's wail cuts through the air.
"Where am I?"
The little girl suddenly finds herself walking on a secluded mountain trail, her bright red backpack on her back. The glorious sun sets into the deep, thick forest. She continues forward, stepping on her elongated shadow.
"Why does that siren make me feel so sad?"
Loneliness creeps over her as she tries to recollect how and why she ended up in this place. She grasps for memories, but they seem always just out of reach, like recollections of a past dream. It seems as though she has just woken up from a dream, pieces of her memories fading away.
A siren's wail cuts through the air.
"Somebody must be missing again."
The echoing siren reminds the girl of her mother's disappearance. The entire village had searched the mountains, but they never found her. A hill enveloped by darkness, villagers spreading out with torches in their hands. These images are burned in her memory. Did her mother miss the flickers of light from the torches? Is her mother still searching for the flickers?
"Lights on the mountain top. That's right, I'm here because I wanted to investigate those lights."
Yesterday on her way home from school she noticed those strange lights at the top of Gojaku Peak. Glittery pins of light that seem to follow the curves of the mountain. The young girl believes the lights are connected to her mother's disappearance, so she came all by herself to investigate.
A decade or so ago, when the mine on Gojaku Peak was still operating, people often walked this path. But ever since the mine's closure, few have traveled this way. Recently she heard that feral dogs have been gathering in these woods, sometimes even attacking people. A girl her age is not allowed here alone, so she told no one at home she was coming.
She thinks the her nerves and exhaustion must be getting to her.
The setting sun paints the mountains a beautiful red. The sky begins to darken, and a cool night breeze picks up. The girl shivers and hears the books clattering in her backpack.
"It was due back today."
She realizes she's still carrying the book she checked out from the school library. If she doesn't return it on time, she will be scolded and won't be allowed to check out books again. If she goes back now she may still make it in time. Maybe the teacher is still there. It's getting late anyway. She can come back to the mountains again tomorrow.
The thought of another scolding from her teacher makes up her mind. The young girl decides to go back. Just then she hears something behind her, rustling in the bushes, and a chill travels down her spine.
She freezes to the spot. Her mind screams at her to run, but her legs refuse to obey.
A twig snaps at her back.
She takes off running in a blind panic, taking no notice of the branches tearing at her clothes and legs as she flies through the woods. Her heart pounds in her chest and blood rushes in her ears. The girl's breathing becomes ragged and red spots begin to swim in front of her eyes. She can't tell how long she's been running or which direction she went. Up ahead she can see that the path is running out, and there is a stone statue at the end.
"What am I going to do?"
The girl hesitates for only a moment, but she is sure the creatures behind her have noticed.
The ground begins to shudder beneath her feet and the world itself begins to distort.
She loses consciousness and tumbles into the darkness.
"Where am I?"
She opens her eyes, but the darkness is absolute. At first all was chaos, and now, nothing but blackness. She lies on hard concrete, chilled to the bone.
"I must have fallen into a mine shaft."
She reaches for her surroudings in the dark, feeling nothing but hard cold cement walls. Suddenly she remembers being chased by something and shivers. Before falling into the shaft, she recalls seeing someone or something, but she can't collect her thoughts. No matter, whatever it was appears to be gone now, and she feels a wave of relief.
But she can tell the tiny exit is far out of her reach and despair sets in again.
"I'll never be able to climb up."
The girl tries again and again to lift herself out, but her tiny arms aren't enough to carry her weight and each time she falls back to the bottom.
"Help! Is anyone there? Help me!"
She screams at the top of her lungs. But no matter how loudly she yells there is no response.
Thinking there might be something helpful in her backpack, she puts it on the floor and begins going through it.
There is a triangle from music class, and she rings it in the hope that someone will hear. But the only response is a dull echo from the icy walls.
Many times she tries to climb, but the result is always the same.
She has no idea what to do.
Night falls completely. She hears faint sounds of raindrops falling and feels the rising humidity. She longs for something to drink, overpowered by an unimaginable thirstiness. Rain water seeps through the creases and cracks in the shaft. It tastes sweet, and somehow the water is soothing to her and calms her beating heart. She falls asleep on the cold, hard floor, her consciousness slowly engulfed by the darkness.
"I have to get out of here..."
In her dream, she was running on the mountain path.
A presence behind the girl, catching up to her. The uneven breathing and the ruffling in the bushes.
She can't make out the shape, but she's sure it must be a feral dog. In her muddled dream, the scene began to change.
Once she caught a glimpse of a girl wearing a kimono as she ran past, her pale skin rising from the darkness behind. The girl has beautiful shiny hair, and seems to be trying to say something.
She is very beautiful.
Her kimono is black and she wears a vibrant flower in her hair. Not many girls in the village dress like that.
"She must be a daughter of the Kajiro family. I've never seen her before."
She realizes the siren must be calling for this girl.
Then she sees images of funeral bands. People dressed in black carry a child using a small coffin, walking through a graveyard covered in Mana crosses.
"The coffin is empty."
Somehow, the young girl still felt uncertain and vulnerable. Unrecognizable scenes appeared before her eyes. The lines blurred between dreams and reality. Time passed. Has it been hours? Days? Time slips by.
"Sooner or later I'm going to die like this."
But for some reason the thought did not frighten her. The idea of "death", the fact of her disappearance from the world, did not seem real.
The feelings of hunger and loneliness were understandable. And yet, increasingly the feelings of starvation and loneliness began to disappear. She began to feel warm and safe, as though she was in the arms of her mother once more. In the dark, the young girl continued to see images of dreams mixed with reality.
After a time the young girl woke from her dreams and was drawn back to reality.
But she has been away from the world for such a long time that she is forgetting who she is and how she got here. She lifts her head, letting the sun's rays shine through the cracks.
The siren continues to wail.
When the girl hears the sound she feels a tightness in her chest. She is the one the siren is calling.
Still half-conscious, she pushes her body against the wall, trying to climb upwards. Her hands and feet find protrusions on the walls, pulling her ever higher.
Her body feels light.
She climbs out of the shaft easily and into the open air, instantly forgetting her previous discomfort.
Dazed and feeling as though someone is calling her, she sets off at a run. As she races down the path toward the village she spies a small figure. It is a young girl around her age, running with a red backpack. There is a sudden rush of familiarity, and she feels the urge to call out to the girl, but she can't seem to find her voice.
As she chases the young girl she spots a familiar stone statue out of the corner of her eye.
While chasing the young girl, she comes across a familiar stone statue.
"Where have I seen that before?"
Suddenly she feels disoriented.
The ground begins to shake and rattle. She watches her other self disappear into a red haze.
"What I saw just before I fell was..."
The young girl turned around, lifted the library book in her mouth, and began to run on all fours.
The Mysteries of Hanuda Village: The Girl Coming Home
The village has a number of local folk tales, the scariest of which is about my old elementary school. I'll tell it to you.
A long time ago, a young girl in fifth grade vanished in the mountains. No matter how hard the villagers looked, they were unsuccessful. Many say she was abducted by spirits. Not long after there were a big landslide, and many people died during the incident. As a result, the chances of finding this girl alive dwindled.
Many years later, while a teacher was cleaning up the books in the school library one evening, an extremely dirty old book fell down from the ceiling. Out of curiosity the teacher looked up, and she saw an old lady, clothed in dirty, blood-stained children's wear, soiled from head to toe, using all fours to climb on the ceiling. The old lady spoke an incomprehensible language and jumped down in front of the teacher. She bent her arms and legs in impossible directions, and seem to wrap herself into a ball. It is said that the old lady was wearing the clothes of the missing girl, Namiko Yoshikawa, but she looked like she was in her 80s.
Apparently, the teacher who saw the old lady went insane soon thereafter. Some days later she ran off, yelling in the same language the old lady spoke, and no one has seen her ever since. As for the old lady, though all her joints are surely broken, it is said that she is kept alive in a special hospital somewhere.
-A former student