“Ugh! Yuck!” exclaimed Carol as she rolled off of the furry cushion she had been lying upon. Sam chortled, his belly rippling with waves of laughter.
“I’m sorry. I wanted you to be comfortable, and it was the only way I could think of. I didn’t want to lay you on the cold ground, so I used what skills I had at my disposal.” No matter how hard he tried, the tanuki couldn’t keep himself from smirking. Carol, blushing, had remembered that tanuki were renowned for their shape shifting, and then she remembered that the males were also able to shape their specific anatomy.
“Thank you, really, for your help, but I have somewhere I need to go.” Carol hadn’t forgotten that she was supposed to be in Dunwich by now, securing the kanabo. She felt disappointed with herself; she had lost control on the highway, lost Adam’s body, and now wasn’t where she was supposed to be.
“Where do you need to be?” asked Sam
“I don’t know any more.” confessed Carol. Under the bright light of the full moon, she told Sam about everything that had happened over the past few weeks. She told him about Adam, the oni, and the murders. She also told him that she was scared. “I don’t know what to do anymore. I thought that returning to the other world would be a good thing, but I’ve started to have my doubts. I’m worried.”
Sam put his paw on her shoulder casually and fixed his gaze on her eyes. “If you really want to go back to the other world, I can take you.”
Carol was confused; she thought that only Adam could open the way into the other world. She thought that Iwao guarded the way through. She said as much to Sam.
“Adam has fed you lies, and now you need to spit them on the ground. Iwao won’t let Adam pass, for if Adam awakes his wife, it will be the doom of all worlds.” said Sam softly. “She is a creator and destroyer, but all she will do is destroy.”
“We need to stop him then.” decided Carol, slapping her palm with a clenched fist. Taking control of her destiny made her feel exhilarated. Pulling at Sam’s wrist, she charged towards the East, towards Dunwich.
“We don’t need to walk there. I have a car, and that van you were driving is still running, just lightly charred from the fire.”
“We’ll take your car. I don’t think I want to have anything to do with Adam anymore.”
Don held the mask in his hands. It glittered in the faint light, seemingly begging to be put on. He ran his fingers across the laces of the mask and felt a strange magnetism, as though the mask was drawing him to it. He tried to stand, but tumbled to the ground. He had forgotten that he was missing a leg now. The mask flew from his hands when he fell, and it landed next to him. Don stared into the mask’s hollow eyes, taking brief note of its savage, toothy smile.
“I’m not going to fall for it.” he said, feeling like a mad man as soon as the words fell from his mouth. He continued the staring contest with the mask, unwilling to look away and half expecting it to try to bite him. Why isn’t it alive like those other ‘things’? What’s making me thing that it isn’t alive? I bet that it is trying to bait me into trusting it. I won’t fall for it. The thoughts stayed safely contained inside of Don’s skull. The last thing he needed was to end up in an asylum. I wonder if Mom and Dad are worried about me? I’ve got to be six hours late for supper by now. I wonder if they will come to try and find me.As he thought, he noticed a flickering light. The floating lantern had returned, along with the umbrella. The umbrella bounced along on its one muscular leg, carefully balanced on a wooden sandal. Its red tongue lolled ghoulishly from its mouth. Don cringed as it came close, nearly licking him.
“Please! Don’t! I’ve had enough today.” Don wasn’t crying, as he had expected. He was simply angry at the creature. He studied its blue paper body and asked, “What’s your name?” The umbrella, though supplied with a mouth, could not speak. It simply shrugged with its thin arms, rolling its immense, single eye in a gesture that seemed to convey bewilderment. “You don’t have a name, do you?”
The umbrella shook its whole body, trying to say no. The lantern belched fire, unhappy that it was being ignored. Don chastised the lantern, telling it to wait its turn. He considered the two creatures and felt bad for them. They were lost and had come back to him, either for help or to assist him. He decided that the living objects should have names.
“I’ll call you Dale,” he said to the umbrella, which bounced happily. The lantern glowed gloomily until Don said “and I’ll call you Johnny.” The lantern hissed angrily. “What? I think Johnny is a fine name.” Don reached his hand out and the umbrella helped him stand. In the dim moonlight, Dale and Johnny helped Don get home.
Grant crashed through the doors of the Dunwich Museum of Oriental Antiquities. A dozen alarms wailed loudly as he charged past electronic eyes and their invisible beams. He knew where he needed to go, and it was my job to make sure that Adam didn’t escape.
“Kyoko, let me out of this thing!” Adam begged, his words muffled by the thick walls of the safe that Grant had torn out of the motel room. Kappa, in a shallow slumber, mumbled not to let Adam out.
“I won’t let you out. These are good people.” I said, meaning to say that these were good yokai. Not that there was a world of difference. I always thought that people and yokai were the same thing; yokai were just had more intense emotions that shaped them. Since I was human once, I felt that I could attest to the similarities and differences. Pulling off my white gloves, I looked intently at my fingers. My nails were long and sharp; they were caked with blood. The tip of each digit was permanently stained a rusty color. It was part of my punishment for my murders.
“And you are not good. Why should you go against the grain? The gods made you to hate and kill, just as they made me to do the same.” Adam’s voice seemed to be getting louder. “Would you expect a wolf to feel bad for eating a lamb? Would you expect him to go to a dentist and have his teeth pulled?”
“I’m better than a wolf.” I responded weakly. His words were true; forever would I be compelled to ask strangers if they thought I was pretty. If they said yes, then I would take off my mask and show them my face. I’d ask again, and if they lied, they died. I could never make a friend, unless it was someone who always told me the truth about my looks. Of course, they’d also have the ability not to hurl at the mere sight of my mouth.
“No one’s better than an animal, Kyoko. We are all animals. Humans and yokai; we’re no better than the beasts that spawned us. Look at you now. You are waiting in a stolen car while Grant rummages through antiquities, searching for the right one to steal. Why is all this stealing going on? So he can bash in the head of someone that stands in our way. Is it for a good enough cause? Something higher than survival? In the end, I don’t think so. Just let me out of the box. I need to get to my body before sunrise, and if I don’t, I die. At the rate we’re going, I’ll be dead and the gate to the other world will be sealed forever.” Adam’s voice seemed to be in my head now. I thought of why I wanted to be human again.
I remembered being picked on as a girl. I remembered trying to be a sexy young woman. I remembered the blood; long, sharp scissors shoved deep into a man’s stomach. Throats opened wide, blood flowing as if from an over-full tub. The beautiful eyes I always wanted lined up on a shelf, watching me as I bathed. I was a monster then, as much as I was a monster now. Yet, Grant didn’t make me feel like a monster. I tried to hold onto his crooked, reassuring smile. It was my anchor. It made me want to be something more than monster or animal.
I struggled to turn the safe so that its door faced downward. I let it lay there, unable to open. I wanted more for myself, and I would have it. However, I worried that Adam would find a way to screw us in the end.
Rita was surprised to see Arouna closing the bar. He poked and prodded, sending the regulars out to find other bars. He smiled as he told them that he was going back to Africa, and that he didn’t want to lock anyone inside. She chased after him, asking why he was closing up shop.
“I’m tired of being something I‘m not.” replied Arouna as the last patron left. “Grant left, and I let him go without too much fuss. I should have helped him more. All this talking about him has got me thinking. I need to help him, and I need to help myself.”
“So, what are you going to do?” asked Rita.
“I’m going to take my mask off.” replied Arouna, “and I’m going to keep it off.”