The thin man reeled in his fishing line and smiled smugly at el Monstruo, who froze immediately. Turning, he watched as the man sat cross-legged on the sand, gazing at the rolling ocean.
“How do you know that I’m turning into something?” asked el Monstruo meekly.
“We smell our own.” answered the man as he pulled the worn sandles from his feet. To el Monstruo’s astonishment, the sandles each had a single eye that looked eagerly at the surf. The sandles sprouted little arms and legs; they raced to the surf and began splashing each other. El Monstruo sat on the ground, his head swimming. The man looked at el Monstruo’s confused expression and giggled. “You don’t know anything about us, do you? You never heard of the yokai?”
“The yokai?” asked el Monstruo.
“That’s what we are. You are an Oni; I can tell from those horns and teeth. It is a curse and a blessing.”
“And you are one of these yokai?”
“Yes. I am a kappa, a water spirit. When I was a man, I fell into the water by a bridge. When I was under the water, I began to change. Instead of drowning, I became what I am.” replied the kappa in a bouncing tone. “Now you are what you are. The only question is, how did you become what you are?”
El Monstruo let his thoughts drift back to when he received the mask. “I started wearing a mask. It was red and reminiscent to what I look like now. Do you think that it did this to me? Maybe the mask was to me like water was to you?” El Monstruo didn’t notice the flash of agony wash over the kappa’s face.
“There was more to it than that.” replied the kappa softly. El Monstruo urged him to continue, but the kappa wouldn’t let go of his secrets that easily. He simply changed the subject, saying “What did you feel when you wore the mask?”
“I felt powerful. I felt changed. It was like the slate was wiped clean. I liked it.”
“Why did you like it?” asked the kappa, paying little attention to the sandles as they romped and played. El Monstruo’s eyes watched them intently, wondering if he had finally gone insane. “Why did you like it?” asked the kappa again.
“Because it let me be someone else. I was just tired of being who I was.” said el Monstruo, obfuscating the truth slightly. One of the sandals grabbed the other and heaved it into the ocean with a great, cackling laugh. The kappa listened intently, letting el Monstruo open up slowly. El Monstruo found himself telling the kappa more than he ever intended. He told him of the night he came home to find his fiancee with another man. He told the kappa how he just left, without so much as a word. El Monstruo’s eyes lit up when he told the kappa about Rita, who had helped him get on his feet after the break up, and then how she helped him after he started wearing the mask. El Monstruo realized that he was smiling broadly. “Talking about her always makes me feel happy.”
The kappa took off his sailor hat, revealing a bowl of water that was balanced on his head. He felt it was time to reveal a little more of himself. “This is part of who I am now,” said the man, “I need the water no matter where I go. Since that time in the water, I’ve lived on the fringe of the normal world. No one would ever notice a simple beach bum, you know? I just sit here and fish. I can’t live a normal life anymore. Could you imagine going to a job interview wearing a bowl on your head? This is part of my punishment, doled out because of the things I have done.”
EL Monstruo reflected on the kappa, then, pointing at the sandles said, “What did they do?”
“They are over one-hundred years old. Now they have their own lives. They let me walk on them only because of the good deeds I did for them.”
“You aren’t being very forth-coming about yourself.” said el Monstruo abruptly. An injured look appeared on the man’s face. Pointing a finger at himself, the kappa said, “I am trying the best that I can. This is hard for me.” A feeling of anger creeped over el Monstruo. He wanted to grab the bowl off the kappa’s head and smash him in the face with it. The kappa must have seen the anger rising in el Monstruo’s eyes, because he began to rise to his feet.
“I don’t want to fight you,” he said, “I know I can’t win. I just thought you might want some help. I’m sorry.” The kappa called to the sandles, which dashed back to him, throwing themselves at his feet. He slipped his feet into them and cautiously stepped back. He had dealt with an oni in the past, an he knew that he stoo no chance in a physical confrontation. He tried to soothe el Montruo, but realized that a rage had come over the red-skinned ogre.
El Monstruo felt his fists curling into tight balls. He wanted his way; he was tired of the kappa’s hints and subterfuge. He wante to know the kappa’s secret. He had told his own, after all. Then, el Monstruo felt tears well up in his eyes and pour down his cheek. His emotions ran wild and confusing circuits through his heart and stomach. He considered what he was about to do and what he had done in the past. He roared with primal anger as the kappa continued a slow retreat.
“Grant! What are you doing!” yelled a feminine voice that cut through the turmoil that filled el Monstruo’s body. He turned to see Rita, who was followed closely by Arouna.
“Calm down, friend.” said the kappa as sweetly as he could. “They’re friends here to help you. Don’t let what you’ve become destroy them.” El Monstruo felt a rush of calmness flow through him. His anger, chilish upon examination, deminished quickly when Rita drew closer. He could smell the scent of flowers on her and he immediately thought of great rolling fields of multicolored blooms billowing in a gentle breeze as Rita ran through them gleefully. He held his arms out for her embrace, but she didn’t come any nearer.
“You need to go now.” said Arouna in a deep, thickly accented voice, “The kid is dead. The cops are gonna look for you. They are coming soon.”
“Why did you do it, Grant?” asked Rita, weeping.
“I guess you met me at just the right time.” remarked the kappa as he scanned the horizon, looking for police. El Monstruo felt a tremendous sensation of shame and hung his head sadly. He realized that Rita would no longer stand by his side as she stood there crying. He hated himself, because he had made those tears. “Come on, friend,” said the kappa, “the road is long and often short of cucumbers.”