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The Thunderstorm

Some kids just love the thunder..

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We had just moved into an old style Japanese farmers’ house in the suburbs in Hokkaido.

Exhausted from my recent divorce, the neighborhood seemed like a perfect place to start over –  quiet environment, nice neighbors (mostly farmers) and the outstanding nature. My four year old son quickly fell in love with the place. He blended in with the locals pretty quickly as well. By the second week, he had made friends with the neighbors’ kids.

The house I purchased was previously owned by a farmer and came with a few acres of rice fields and farming equipment. I had decided to take this opportunity to quit my office job and start over as a new farmer. Luckily, my neighbors took turns to check up on me and taught me what I needed to know about farming.

A few months had passed since we moved in and we were both getting the hang of our new life style. The rainy season had kicked in and there were thunderstorms almost everyday.

Back in Tokyo, we had never experienced a thunder so up-close. But out here, with no tall buildings to block the sound or the flashes, the thunder felt much closer. My son loved it anyways. Every time flashes of lightening flooded through the window, he would jump around and squeal in joy.

It was after one of those nights with heavy thunderstorms,I found my son awake in bed and smiling the next morning.

I watched the lightning at my window!” he said to me with excitement.”

A few mornings later, he told me the same thing.

You’re silly,” I said. “It didn’t thunderstorm last night, you were only dreaming!

Oh…” He seemed somewhat disheartened. I ruffled his hair and told him not to worry, there should be another storm soon.

Then it became a pattern. He would tell me how he watched the lightning outside his window at least twice a week, despite there being no storms.

One day over dinner, my son brought up the subject again and he added,

But Yuya and Taro said they see the lightning everyday, too

Yuya and Taro were my neighbors’ kids that my son liked to play with. Yuya was 5 and Taro was 3. Kids around this age like to make up stories and play along. So I thought this was the story they liked to play with at the time.

Then, Taro went missing….

His mother put him in bed the night before, and he had disappeared before morning. The whole village looked for him for days. But he never returned.

My son said to me,  “Taro said the last 2 or 3 times, he saw the lightning in his closet

It finally took him

There is a monster that comes with a thunder that took him!

There was a heavy rain the night before Taro went missing. I thought that my son was traumatized that his friend had gone missing, and tried to make sense of it by blaming it on thunder and an imaginary monster.

My son started to be scared of thunders. When there were thunderstorms at night, he would come to my room and asked to sleep in my bed.  Back at that time, I would often stay up late and teach myself new knowledge about farming.

After a couple weeks, I figured it wasn’t healthy for my son to sleep in my bedroom that had a light on till late night. I told my son to go back to his room to sleep.

There’s no monster. I’ll be awake and make sure no monster enters our house.” I told him.

For a week, my son didn’t say anything about the lightning.

Then one day, he mentioned it again over breakfast.

Dad, I saw the lightning by the window last night

Of course, it was heavy rain last night. Don’t worry, you’re safe inside the house

3 days later,  Yuya went missing…

His parents were frantic. They swore he was asleep in his bed when they went to sleep, but  he was gone in the morning. There was a thunderstorm that night.

My son said. “Dad, the thunder took Yuya. It’s coming into my room too

What do you mean it’s in your room?

It was trying to get inside my room last night

I knew something was wrong with these kids going missing, but my son was too young to articulate many things back then. I couldn’t tell if my son’s fear was making him see things.

It’s hard not to blame myself. Everybody assures me there’s nothing I could have done, no way I could have known. But I’m supposed to be the guardian of my child, and these are useless words of comfort.

I constantly relive that morning: making my coffee, pouring milk over my cereal, and picking up the newspaper to read about the pedophile serial killer local authorities had just arrested. It was front-page stuff. Apparently this guy would select a young target (usually a boy), stake out their house for a while, and take flash photos of them through their window while they slept. And then he did more. He had taken Taro and Yuya at those night. Their bodies were found in his house.

My stomach sank as the connection was made.

At the time, it was merely something from a child’s imagination. In retrospect, it is the scariest thing I’ve ever heard.

About a week before the predator was caught, my son came up to me in his pajamas.

Guess what?” he asked.

What?

No more lightning at my window!

I played along. “Oh, that’s nice, it finally died down huh?

No! Now it’s in my closet!

I get chills thinking what could have happened to my son if the authority had not caught him at that time.

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