A few days later, J was hanging out in his friend’s house .
B said, “ C(the other friend) told me that the witch’s spirit came to knock on his door at night!!”.
J went back to his house and told his father about it.
His father said “That’s what happens when people die, they come back to where they used to live. She will go to heaven in 49 days, don’t worry”.
J said to him “ But why does she go to C’s house and not her own house? “
His father said “Ume was a little bit crazy. She must be mistaking the house she should return to”.
His father’s tone was so light and casual, J was convinced this was all normal and there’s nothing wrong.
But it wasn’t.
As it turned out,
C’s parents was assigned the task of burning Ume’s shed that day and Ume knew it.
J heard the neighbors whispering
“The Ibushi came to C’s house again”
“They must have caught her grudge because they burnt the shed”
“Ibushi” (not sure about the correct sound) was a local code only understood inside the village. J assumed that it meant “spirit”.
The adults would tell kids “Never speak about Ume’s spirit to the outsiders of this village. If you speak, her spirit will come to you”
No kids dared to talk about Ume.
The code word would prevent outsiders from learning about the “shame” of this village, even if the adults accidentally slipped their tongue outside.
The villagers were desperate for protecting this village from the degradation from the outside world.
C’s family came to J’s house one day looking exhausted.
“We ‘ve been losing sleep every night. Is moving out of this village the only way left for us?”
J’s father responded to C’s father:
“You must leave the house for a while. In the worst case, you could demolish the house and rebuilt it again. You can stay in my house until everything is settled”
C’s family started living in J’s house. C would share a room with J.
J asked C: “Did you see the ghost of Ume?”
C: ”No. But I hear the door knocking every night.”
J: “You sure it’s not the wind?”
C: “I don’t know. These days I stuff my ears with some cloth so I don’t hear it. My family has been keeping the light on all night, I can’t sleep”
J’s father asked his wife “Hey. Did you set up the Anti-ibushi for today?”
Anti-ibushi was a sort of charm from evil. We would hang some food(dry squid, rice cake or fruits) at our front door. It was a common practice in our village when there was a death in the village.
C told J, “In the morning when I check, it’s always gone”
J said “It must be the monkey that took it”
However, J was feeling scared. He had an eerily feeling that he couldn’t explain. J thought, “Now C’s family moved in to my house. So the witch might come here instead too…”
In the evening,
J was in his room lying in his bed. C was sound asleep next to J. A piece of cloth was sticking out from both of his ears. He could hear the adults talking loud downstairs. Sounded like they were drinking.
He was staring blankly at the ceiling, when suddenly loud knock echoed in the house. The voice downstairs stopped at all sudden. J’s gut feeling was right. Ume is knocking on the front door. J got scared and woke up C and told him what’s happening.
Shaking in fear, J and C went downstairs where the adults were. The adults were whispering at each other.
J said to his father “Father…I’m scared”
His father said “There’s nothing to worry about. Go back to sleep”
Then they started to drink beer and talk loud again, as if nothing had happened.
The next morning, J and C checked the food they set up the night before at the front door.
It was gone.
“Just like I told you, right?” C said to J.
J asked about it to his father, which he simply said “We took it back first thing in the morning”
The same thing happened every night for a while.
But eventually, it stopped.
J thought, “49 days had passed…”
In his village, graves were made only after the 49 days had passed. Until then, the dead person would be cremated or buried temporarily. According to the villagers, for 49 days
The spirits can play around the village
There was a graveyard at one area of the village, where all villagers graves were located.
But Ume’s grave wasn’t made there.
The villagers agreed to make her grave somewhere else.
Their reason being “it is disrespectful to our ancestors if we include the crazy person’s grave in there”
J felt sorry for Ume. Even after her death, the villagers still wouldn’t treat her as one of the villagers. But J never said it out loud, because he was afraid of getting scolded.
Ume’s grave was created at the bank of river. It was a simple grave built with 2 thin wood plates only. There was no wall around it to protect it from the elements. It was built in the middle of an open area, with nothing around it.
Since it was built right next to the river, there was a great risk that the grave would be flushed by the increased water after the rain. In fact, Ume’s grave was flushed off within a month. There is a common expression in the Japanese language;
“Flush with water” which means to “Forget”.
Ume’s grave was flushed by the water. She was forgotten. They wanted to forget her. The villagers placed the grave at the river on purpose, to conveniently put the blame on the nature.
“The rain and the river flushed Ume’s grave, we didn’t do anything wrong. We couldn’t help it.”
“Now the grave is gone, if we forget about Ume, we can’t help it”
The “inevitable force” like this was used as a common excuse for a lot of cruel things done in the village.
Lot’s of murders and inhuman conducts were done in the village, because as long as they could blame it on something “out of their control” they didn’t have to own up to what they had done or feel guilt about it.
J, as a kid, was very afraid at that time.
He saw one “person” got erased inside the village, at the hand of the whole village, just because she was old and alone, just because her family weren’t here and she was probably suffering alone from a bad case of dementia.
It was probably only a natural thing that happens with old age. Instead of giving her a helping hand, everybody turned their backs and ganged up to torture her. She must have been confused when the dementia hit her.
She must have been scared when she was losing herself. She must have been in great pain and suffering when the villagers hit her. She must have been hungry. She must have been sad and devastated.
Her crying voice echoed in J’s head. There was no justice for Ume. She got disrespected, abused, tortured, then killed and then finally, forgotten. The villagers justified the whole thing.
He saw the villagers truly believed what they did was “normal” and “nothing wrong”. Young J thought to himself,
If I angered these adults, I’d never know what they could do to me….
In that village, there was no “misbehaving” children. The adult was the absolute justice and all children kept the adults’ rules and followed their words.
J was my grandfather. He would tell me when he was alive,
The village was a closed community. It is a scary thing when a closed community has its own culture.
The common senses in the village, almost all of them were not the common sense outside the village.
If I had grown up to be an adult in the village, I would have been brainwashed and become just like those adults.
So I want you to make as many friends as possible, listen to many different opinions and values, and always question your actions and values.
Always doubt yourself
Read The house at the end of the village | Part:1 by Click here.