A woman searches for the missing pages of her grandmother’s diary, only to discover an unspeakable memory her beloved Gamma was desperate to erase.
An original “Blood on the Digital Page” horror fiction story by Brian Keiper
Brittany Holcomb ran her fingers over the cracking, leather cover of the small book. She held it to her nose and breathed in the yellowing paper combined with aging leather and let it sting her nostrils. The tears sprang to her eyes again. The previous day had been one of the hardest of her young life. She adored her grandmother, or Gamma, as she had called her since she first began to speak.
When Gamma was very young, she had been moved by the Federal government from her home in Bainbridge Island, Washington to a temporary internment facility in a little town, nestled in a fertile valley, called Puyallup. In the shadow of a wooden roller coaster in the local fairgrounds, she, along with thousands of others was assigned with her family to a small wooden “apartment” in a barracks where they would spend the next several months before moving on to a more permanent facility several hundred miles inland in Idaho.
This small book was the story of her experience there.
Gamma had spoken very little about this period of her life. She preferred to talk about happier times before and after the War; her Bainbridge Island childhood, meeting her husband, starting a small and eventually successful business, and of course her children and grandchildren. Occasionally, Brittany was able to convince her to talk about these years, but Gamma spoke very generally; talking about the people she met and friends she made over what it was like to have her freedom taken. She even spoke kindly of the soldiers who were the constant sentries of the facility. This journal was the only evidence of her real experience.
Brittany thumbed through the book, cherishing the small, flowing handwritten script, evidence of her grandmother having been alive and, at one time, young. The journal was written in English, the only language Gamma had ever known. As a third-generation American citizen, she knew very little of the native language of her grandparents who had emigrated from Japan in the early twentieth century and worked hard to learn English and teach their children in American culture. This didn’t mean they were ashamed of their heritage, quite the contrary, but they embraced their new home and what would be the only homeland of their children, grandchildren, and eventually, great grandchildren.
Gamma had written something every day in that journal. Some days, only a sentence or two; others, whole paragraphs, even pages.
It started on March 30, 1942 with this entry:
We all got dressed in our best clothes this morning and were loaded onto trucks with the belongings we were allowed to bring. I am proud of my people who are carrying themselves with dignity in the light of this injustice. Many of us are naturally born United States citizens, loyal Americans to the core. Why are we now forced to leave our homes? We were allowed to bring very little. Even this diary is considered contraband. We are on our way to a place they call ‘Camp Harmony.’ A strange name, I think.
Brittany couldn’t help but agree. Now the place was a parking lot for the Puyallup Fairgrounds which hosted one of the largest fairs in the country each year. 1942 had not been an exception. After the Japanese internees were transferred to Idaho, the Fair went on as usual, though in a scaled down, wartime mode. Now, the period was a rarely mentioned blight on the record of the nearby town.
Brittany continued to thumb through; March 31, April 1, April 2, and on and on.
She scanned a few entries here and there, mostly about settling into their new surroundings and adjusting to their new life, having no idea how long it would last. She thought about the dates she was looking over. In April of 1942, Gamma would have been fourteen years old; a year older than Brittany was now. She felt a commonality with the girl who had written these words; realizing that time goes by, but people, at their core, remain very much the same.
May 6, May 7, May 8.
Makeshift school classes start to happen. The community draws together closer. Babies are born.
June 3, June 4…June 19.
Brittany had to stop herself. She carefully examined the dates. She had them right the first time, approximately two weeks were just…missing. She felt in the crease between pages and felt the slight roughness left behind by a group of pages that had been carefully torn out. Very strange. Gamma had so carefully documented each day and seemed unashamed to pass the book down. Why remove two full weeks? What possibly could have happened in those two weeks?
And then the most important question: where were the missing pages?
There were a multitude of boxes in the house of Gamma’s belongings; it would take forever to go through them all.
Well, better get started, Brittany thought and descended the stairs to the pile of boxes that would have to be removed in the six remaining days between now and the funeral on Saturday afternoon. Her mom had already gone through a few, it was doubtful that the missing pages would be in any of those. Brittany worked smart: books, photo albums, and similar items would be the most likely places. She opened a box of photo albums first, but decided it would be too difficult to see pictures of Gamma just now. She moved on to a box of books.
Gamma was a voracious reader, but used the library much more than the book store. The books she owned were the ones that truly mattered to her. Brittany looked at the spines for clues. A History of World War II seemed promising, but turned up nothing. She had several classic novels: Jane Austen and Charles Dickens were her favorite authors. She also had a healthy collection of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes books. None turned up anything.
Brittany’s eye happened onto one more book; it was old, leather bound, and looked a lot like the diary, only considerably larger. Japanese Ghost Stories and Folk Tales was embossed in gold leaf on the spine. Brittany wasn’t quite sure why, but she had a feeling and took the volume up to her room and closed the door behind her. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she began to leaf through the book. Nothing.
Ah well, there’s still the photo albums.
She flipped to the title page; maybe it would make an interesting read. On the inside cover were the printed words: This Book Belongs To: and below that in the same flowing script as the diary the name: Evelyn Watanabe. Brittany ran her hand over the name and the pain of loss rose in her chest again. Then she noticed the bump.
What’s that? She asked herself and ran her fingers over the spot again just to be sure she wasn’t imagining it. She most certainly was not. There was something between the leather cover and the paper glued to the inside of it. Could it be…?
Brittany rushed to her desk, opened the top drawer, and pulled out a small Swiss Army Knife. She opened the blade, which was only about two inches long, but still fairly sharp, mostly because she rarely used it. She carefully placed the knife under the paper, separating the ancient glue from the leather. It came up easily and without damage.
She put the knife down and slipped her finger tips inside the pocket that had been formed. She touched something. Paper! She placed her index and middle finger on either side of the small stack of six or seven pages and carefully pulled them out.
At the top of the first page were the words June 5. She eagerly began to read:
I am not crazy. I know what I saw. If I were to tell anyone, they would think I am out of my mind. I would be afraid to tell anyone anyway since Yuki, Deborah and I all broke curfew when we saw the…thing. I don’t know what else to call it. The three of us decided to risk meeting after curfew and lights out. We’ve become very good friends as I’ve already written in this diary. Extraordinary circumstances create quick bonds. After tonight’s events, our bonds will surely be stronger than ever.
We met behind the shack at the far end of the camp, which is still empty, though locked. I’m not sure why they bother, it’s unlikely that anyone will move in between now and when we are moved to the permanent camp. Who knows, maybe this will all be over before that and we can go home. The nights are getting warmer, but the rain is still falling. The whole camp is mud. Everywhere, just mud. I didn’t have much trouble sneaking out. The guards don’t seem to pay as close of attention after eleven o’clock, an hour after lights out. Yuki and Deborah were already there when I finally made it out. I guess I was nervous about my parents waking up. It’s not my nature to do be ‘bad.’
“You finally made it” was Yuki’s reaction. She had managed to sneak a few cigarettes from her mom’s pack—one for each of us. I wasn’t crazy about trying it, but I wanted to be with my friends. Yuki lit a match and lit hers first, followed by Deborah’s and then finally mine. Deborah and I both coughed as we inhaled.
“Quiet you guys. Someone will hear.” Yuki was not new to this. She was a little older than either of us and has been sneaking cigarettes for a while. Deborah and I worked hard to stifle our coughs. We took a couple more puffs from our cigarettes and began to get the hang of it, though I didn’t care much for the taste. Then Deborah said something kind of weird.
“Isn’t it bad luck to go three on a match?”
“What are you talking about?” Yuki asked.
“Well, isn’t it if you light three cigarettes with one match, one of you will die?”
“That’s just a stupid story match companies used to sell more matches. Don’t be silly,” Yuki said.
Then things got strange. There was a loud screaming sound, but it definitely wasn’t human—I guess it sounded like some sort of cat. It sounded like someone was hurting it and it was fighting back. We all looked in the direction of the sound.
“What’s that?” I asked, but neither of them answered. The only light at all was from an overhead searchlight that swept the camp, but we were in no danger of falling into its light. We went around to the other side of the shack to see if we could see anything. It was dark. The sweep of the searchlight was in another part of the camp.
“It’s probably just a couple cats humping. They probably crawled in under the fence,” Yuki said in her usual colorful way.
Then we saw a flash of two eyes glowing in the dark. If it was a cat, it was big, probably five feet long even. The searchlight swept in the direction of the thing and it bolted catching only a glimpse of the thing. All I saw was a flash of the eyes and ears, which definitely belonged to a large cat. The only other thing I saw was the tail. No, that’s not quite right. There were TWO tails swishing near the ground as the thing bolted. I dropped my cigarette.
“Um, guys, did you see that?” I asked the others. Silence. “Come on, did you see that?” I asked in a loud whisper.
Yuki finally said something. “I didn’t see anything.” I could tell she was lying, or more like trying to convince herself that she hadn’t seen anything.
“I think we better get back,” Deborah said.
“Yeah, that’s probably a good idea.”
We headed back to our quarters together, Yuki split off first, followed by Deborah and then I walked the last twenty yards or so back here. I don’t know what I saw, but I have never seen anything like that before. I just hope I don’t see anything like it again.
Yuki, Deborah and I didn’t talk about what we saw last night. We were able to spend some time together today, but it was a regular day at Camp Harmony. Today, the place just feels a bit more sinister than it did yesterday. I can’t stop thinking about what we saw. I still don’t know what it possibly could be. Maybe it was just a trick of the light and it was a big black cat that snuck it and got scared. In fact, I’m sure that’s what it was. I’m sure the second tail was a shadow or something. As for it being so big, I don’t know, sometimes your mind can play tricks on you.
Brittany continued to scan through the days. June 7th and 8th were also fairly uneventful and Gamma made no mention of the “sighting” on these days. Brittany was a little surprised to find that Gamma had a bit of a mischievous streak and had so easily gave in to a little peer pressure, but, Brittany supposed, it was all part of growing up. Attitudes were different in those days and so far, she hadn’t seen anything so horrible, only humanizing. But still, why the secrecy? How long could these pages have been hidden?
I spent some time with Mrs. Sato, one of the older women in the camp today. We were assigned to laundry duty together. She is very interesting and I enjoyed our time together very much. She was born in Japan, but speaks English fairly well, though with a heavy accent. It takes me a minute to process exactly what she’s saying sometimes, but she’s also very careful about the words she chooses, which makes understanding easier. She loves to talk about her homeland and is sad to see her new home at war with her old one. Mrs. Sato also shared with me some legends from Japan. I had to admit to her that I haven’t heard very many. She was very happy to share. She told me that she has a book at home that she would be happy to give me when we return. She is very optimistic. For me, the past couple of months have felt like an eternity. I wonder if we’ll ever go home.
Couldn’t sleep. Spent some time after lights out last night looking out the window. I saw it again and now I know what I saw. The searchlight was sweeping by and I saw a big, black cat with bright green eyes and two long tales. I got a good look at it this time. It was…I don’t know how to describe it. First of all, it was standing on its hind legs, like a man. I guess it was pushing at the door to the quarters across the street from us. I guess you can call it that—more like a narrow mud path. The night was clear and the moon was out, not full, but bright enough to cast a decent amount of light. It seemed to be trying to get into the place but couldn’t. This sounds so crazy, but I swear it looked at me. It hissed and bolted away again. When the search light went by, I saw that it had left scratches all over the door.
I tried to sleep but couldn’t. I had to talk to someone. In the morning, I sought out Deborah and Yuki and told them what I saw. They told me I was crazy and it was probably just one of the guards having a smoke while making his rounds. Yuki said it was just a trick of the moonlight. I know that it wasn’t, but I didn’t know what else to say. So, instead of fighting about it, I told them that we should meet again tonight, blow off a little steam out by the empty shack again. They said okay. I actually hope we see the thing again. I want them to know I saw what I saw.
The third entry that day was the most interesting to Brittany. She knew her grandmother was not given to fantasy. She liked to tell stories, alright, but only about things she really experienced. Brittany’s grandfather had died when she was too young to remember him, but she felt like she knew him because of Gamma’s stories.
I spent more time with Mrs. Sato today in the laundry rooms. As we worked, she talked about her life in Japan as a girl my age. I enjoyed her company, but was not getting much out of what she was saying. She must have noticed because she asked me what I was thinking about. “Nothing,” I told her.
I looked at the washboard and the blouse I was scrubbing for a while.
“You will wear a hole in that blouse if you are not careful,” she said with a chuckle.
I stopped and looked at her. “It’s nothing, really.”
“Ah, but you are thinking about something, child,” was her response. “I can tell. I can read people very well. Now tell me, what is on your mind?”
I was afraid to tell her at first, but Mrs. Sato has a way about her, I knew I could trust her. “I saw…something.”
“What did you see?”
“It was…this is going to sound crazy. Even I think I may be crazy.”
“Try me. I will not judge. I have seen many things that people would think me crazy for.”
“I saw something that looked like a big cat by one of the barracks last night.”
Her face lost its smile and became very serious. “A big cat?”
“Yes. It was all black and had bright green eyes.”
Mrs. Sato was silent for a while. When she broke the silence, her voice was low in pitch and volume. “Did it walk like a man?”
I was stunned when she said that. “Yes. It did.”
“Did it have…two tails?”
“Yes…what do you know about it?”
She didn’t respond right away but looked like she was thinking about what she should say. “Nothing,” she finally said, very firmly. “I’m sure it was a dream or a trick of the moonlight. I must go. I am not feeling well. I must go lie down for a while.”
With that, she got up and left me to finish our work. This is not common for this community, especially the older people. I must admit it was a little shocking. She must know something she is not willing to talk about. Why would she offer me the information about ‘walking like a man’ and ‘two tails?’ Obviously, she doesn’t want to talk now, but I have to try again.
Morning, very early.
I’m writing this by the first light of day. I haven’t slept again tonight. I’m too afraid. Yuki, Deborah and I met behind the empty shack again last night. The moon was bright again. The skies have been very clear the past several days, though the ground is still covered with mud. On my way to the shack I saw footprints in the mud—and they were from a big cat, I know they were and because of what happened next, now Yuki and Deborah believe me too. When I joined them, they joked and told stories about people around the camp, but I wasn’t listening, at least not to them; I was listening for the sound again.
“What’s going on with you?” Yuki asked. “You’ve been really strange tonight. You’re not still thinking about that cat thing, are you? I’ve already told you, it’s not real, it was a trick of the light or one of the soldiers.”
Suddenly, the screaming cat sound started again. “Is that one of the soldiers?” I asked. I grabbed them both and ran to the other side of the shack. There was a soldier in the road this time with his gun raised and pointed at the cat monster. It was standing on its hind legs and its tails were thrashing about in different directions. It snarled and screeched at the soldier, who was not moving. He was transfixed on a ghostly blue ball of fire that floated in midair before his face. Why weren’t people running out to see this? Didn’t they hear?
I now recognized the soldier. He let us call him Corporal Bill because none of us could pronounce his last name. It was Leudonovich or something like that. We all liked Corporal Bill very much. He didn’t seem to like the injustice of all this and wanted to make us as comfortable as possible. He shared stories and jokes with us when his superiors were not nearby. His stories were very funny and mostly about his family from back home in Iowa and experiences as a farmer and bush-league baseball player.
The cat monster rushed forward, leaping through the fiery ball. Corporal Bill still did not move. It jumped on him, pinning him to the ground which awoke him from his trance. I can hardly even say what happened next, it was so horrible. But it began to eat him. I remember Deborah gasping and burying her face in my shoulder. Yuki vomited on the ground and looked away. I couldn’t look away and I don’t know why. It was horrifying…the blood, the tearing, the teeth ripping. But nothing could have possibly prepared me for what happened next.
The cat thing devoured the soldier, every bit of him including bones, clothes and even his gun. It seems so crazy as I write it down, but I saw what I saw. Then, it started to kind of convulse. No, it was more than that, it was…faster. It started to vibrate.
“Yuki, Deborah. Look.”
“I can’t,” Deborah said sobbing.
“Deborah, really, you need to see this.” It was Yuki who said this. She was now staring at what was happening along with me. We could not blink or tear our eyes away. Deborah was still unable to pull her face away from my shoulder. The cat thing continued to convulse and shudder for a moment, but in nearly the blink of an eye, it transformed itself. It wasn’t the cat thing anymore. It was Corporal Bill; fully clothed and armed. It scanned the area and walked off toward the guard post.
I looked at Yuki. “Did you just see that?” I asked her.
“I think so,” Yuki said after a moment. “I just saw…” She trailed off, unable to finish her sentence.
The three of us leaned up against the shack hugging each other for a while, unable to move. Deborah hadn’t actually seen the transformation take place, but was now a full believer in what I said I saw and what we all had seen a few days ago. We walked each other back to our quarters, though I was again left to walk the final part of the journey alone. Those were probably the most terrifying twenty yards of my life. I spent the rest of the night with my head under the covers listening to my father and older brother snore and my mother and sisters breathing, all of them blissfully unaware of the grave danger we are all in.
Mrs. Sato knows something, and I’m going to find out what it is.
Mrs. Sato avoided me today. I saw her across the yard from me near the mess hall. I called to her and she looked up, but immediately put her head back down and hurried away when she saw me. I asked Yuki and Deborah to try to talk with her as well, but both of them were unsuccessful. Deborah was ignored, as I was, and Yuki didn’t see her at all.
The three of us have decided to make a pact. We must do our best to protect others from this danger. We need to talk to Mrs. Sato to find out what we are protecting others from, and how to stop it…if it is even possible to do so.
Yuki, Deborah, and I joined forces to confront Mrs. Sato today. We knew we had to talk to her no matter what. We started by knocking on the door of her quarters. Her son said she wasn’t there and to check the laundry. We headed for the laundry and literally ran straight into Corporal Bill—or the thing that was pretending to be Corporal Bill.
“Watch it!” he growled at us. We stared up at him terrified. All of the light in his eyes and usual joy in his face were completely absent. His eyes had an unusual hue now—a hint of green shone behind his usually chocolate brown eyes. Not enough for anyone else to notice. He pushed us out of the way and walked on toward his next destination. We watched him as he passed before heading on to the laundry. We scanned the room and she was there.
We rushed for Mrs. Sato, surrounding her on three sides. We weren’t trying to be threatening, but we could see the fear in her eyes. I came close and sat on my knees in front of her. “Mrs. Sato, we saw something two nights ago. We need to talk to you.”
“Yes, please, we need to know what this thing is, and we think you know,” Yuki added.
“I do not know what you are talking about,” Mrs. Sato said.
“Then why did you ask me if the cat had two tails and walked like a man? You know what this is. Please, we need your help. We need to protect each other,” I told her. “Please, for your people…our people.”
She took a moment, but finally answered. “Okay. I will talk to you, but not now…not here. Come to my quarters tonight just after lights out. Can you do that?” We nodded. It wouldn’t be the first time we’d snuck out. “Okay. We will talk then.”
I’m very anxious to talk to her.
Again, it is early morning and I am writing this at first light. I slept some last night, but only out of exhaustion. The body must sleep and demands it if it does not get it. Last night, I met Yuki and Deborah at Mrs. Sato’s quarters. This time Yuki was last to arrive. When we were all there, I knocked softly on the door. Mrs. Sato’s son answered the door and invited us in. Mrs. Sato sat on her cot and invited us to sit on the cot across from her. The quarters here are very cramped and we had to keep our voices down so the other families could not hear our conversation.
Mrs. Sato did not waste any time. “I know what it is that you saw. It is called bakeneko, or the cat monster in this somewhat inelegant language.”
Brittany paused. She was vaguely familiar with the bakeneko from her cousins who were very much into anime and manga. The pictures she had seen of bakeneko were usually girl-cat things, usually more girl than cat. One drawing she’d seen was of a girl on all fours in a short skirt with tousled hair, cat ears, and her two tails curved and twisted into a heart; literally a sex kitten. They were mischievous and sexy, but still had more in common with Hello Kitty than the creature her grandmother had written about so many years ago.
She read on.
“It is a powerful creature with abilities far beyond what you can imagine. It can enter dreams, shift into the shape of a human, even resurrect the dead. Some say that it will devour its owner to assume its shape…”
The three of us looked at each other at this last statement. I spoke. “Mrs. Sato, we saw something last night. The…what was it called again?”
“Bakeneko ate Corporal Bill and then shifted into his shape. Are you saying that he was the thing’s owner?”
Mrs. Sato didn’t say anything for a while. Finally she said, “No, he was not bakeneko’s owner. To do such a thing, this bakeneko is far more powerful than any I have heard of before. Does it know that you have seen it?”
Yuki and Deborah both shook their heads. I thought back to the night I saw it through the window. Had it seen me? I really can’t be sure.
“Evelyn, you must tell me, does it know?” Mrs. Sato asked me.
I told her that I didn’t know for sure, but it might have.
“If it knows, it will try to invade your dreams and drive you mad.”
“How did it get here?” Yuki asked her.
Mrs. Sato dropped her eyes. “I do not know. It is likely that it had taken on the form of a woman and entered the camp. It then took on its true form when it felt it would be safe here.”
“Why a woman?” Yuki asked.
“All of the legends tell us that the bakeneko prefers the form of a woman. The fact that it has taken a male form is quite unusual. It will not like it and will seek a new body to take.”
“So, you’re saying it’s going to kill someone else?” Deborah asked. Her face turned very pale when she said this. I’m sure that she was imagining what happened to Corporal Bill since she didn’t actually see it.
“I am afraid so.”
“How do we stop it?” I asked.
“It is quite dangerous. It must be dismembered in its true form. If it shifts or is in a human form, it will not be destroyed but freed to take on another form. Once it is dismembered, it must be burned and the ashes scattered to the winds.”
Knives, swords, even fire, these will not be easy to come by. I am quite determined, though, as are Yuki and Deborah. Frightened, of course, but we know what me must do. God help us.
I actually slept last night, though I don’t know how after hearing about the bakeneko. I met up with Yuki and Deborah after breakfast at the play field where we had the opportunity to play baseball with some of the other kids for a while. The game was a nice distraction, but the three of us had our minds elsewhere. I realized about halfway through the game that the baseball bat would make a useful weapon. I began to think about other things throughout the camp that could be used. As we left the field I mentioned this to the others and for them to keep their eyes out as well.
I spied Corporal Bill along the outer fence. He was watching us intently. He ran his tongue over his front teeth. A very odd gesture for a man, I thought, though not all that unusual for a cat. I think he knows that we know what he really is.
When Yuki, Deborah and I met up later, we realized that we have more at our disposal than we originally thought. Several of the jobs in the camp require implements that we can use against the bakeneko. There are axes for the firewood. Shovels, picks and hammers are also available for the various work and maintenance projects. There are knives and cleavers in the kitchen. We practically have an arsenal available to us, though mostly blades. That is okay, though. I’m not sure that any of us would be very good with a gun. The hardest part will be procuring these items. Most are placed in the tool sheds, which are padlocked at night; the kitchens are locked as well. It will take some ingenuity.”
I was plagued by horrible dreams last night and did not sleep well. This is proof to me that the bakeneko knows that I am aware of him. I do not wish to recount the dreams here. I do not want to remember them. I will say that they were the most horrifying dreams I have ever had. In them I experienced pain that felt completely real and I woke up still able to feel it. Each time I awoke, I prayed for the dreams to be taken away, but still they persisted. I must see Mrs. Sato again. There is one more question I must ask.
I just spoke with Mrs. Sato. She was much more willing to talk today. She seems to regret that she cannot help us in our effort, but she said she has been and will continue to call upon the Buddha for our protection. Though I am not Buddhist, I am grateful for her prayers. I asked her the question I sought her out for. “How do we get the bakeneko into its true form?”
“Ah, yes, a very good question. I do not know for sure, but I have an idea that may work. Bakeneko is a trickster—a deceptive spirit. In order to entice it to its true form, you must be just as deceptive.”
“In what way?” I asked her.
“Tempt it with a new form to take on. You are young women. Bakeneko prefers this form to its present one.”
“One of us should be its bait?”
“Yes. This will be very dangerous, but it is the best way to protect your people. If you can attack it and disable it before it transforms, you will be able to destroy it.”
This plan of action frightens me terribly. I do not know how one of us can be placed in harms way like this. I will not ask my friends to do it. I will act as the bait.
There was another attack last night. Yuki, Deborah and I met by the empty shack once again. I told them what Mrs. Sato had told me.
“I’ll be the bait,” I told them.
Yuki immediately spoke up. “You most certainly will not. I’m the oldest, I’ll do it. I’m the one who got us into this mess in the first place.”
Neither of us knew what she meant by that. It was no one’s fault that we had seen the creature all those nights before. She continued by saying, “I’m the one who convinced you to sneak out and meet here. It’s my fault and I want to be the one who acts as bait. No more talk about it. I’m doing it.” We could not argue. Yuki is also the prettiest. Perhaps that will tempt the bakeneko more. We still needed to figure out how to get the weapons.
“I can convince my brother to get me an axe. He’s working chopping wood right now. We’ll also be able to get wood for the fire from the yard. That won’t be difficult.” Yuki was going to be a great asset to our little battle.
“I can get into the kitchen. My mother is helping tomorrow night with supper. I’ll see if I can help her. I bet I’ll be able to get a couple of knives and some matches.” Deborah had obviously thought this through.
It was my turn. “I think I know how we can break into the tool shed for a shovel or a pickaxe. I’ll take care of that. So, I guess tomorrow night it is.”
Yuki and Deborah did not say anything, but nodded. We sat together for a while and talked—not about tomorrow’s battle, that had already been decided, but instead, we talked about everything but. We talked about how long we thought the war would last and what we would do when we get out of this place. Yuki talked about a boy she liked, Deborah and I just laughed at her. Neither of us are very interested in boys. We talked about the radio programs that we liked before the war like “The Shadow” and “Little Orphan Annie.”
Then we heard the screech again. Our enemy was on the prowl. It had reverted to its true form. We didn’t see the attack this time, but a woman had been out of her quarters, perhaps to use the latrine. We saw the bakeneko devouring the corpse and turn into…Mrs. Sato. Our ally, our friend, our mentor is dead. She was so afraid of the creature and it destroyed her.
Seeing this happen had an odd effect on us. It did not make us afraid; it made us angry. Our resolve has strengthened. We are going to kill that thing, burn it, and send it to hell. It will not take another.
Today is the day. If there is no later entry in this diary, it means I am either dead or severely injured. Judging from last night’s dreams, death will be far more likely. The intensity of the bakeneko’s invasion of my dreams was far greater than the previous night. It intends to destroy me as much as, perhaps more than, I intend to destroy it. It wants to rip me to pieces slowly so that I feel every scratch, every tear, every bite. If we are not successful tonight, it will have its wish. In case we fail, I am leaving this diary under my pillow rather than its usual hiding place. If I do not return, it will be found. If the bakeneko chooses to take on my form, I fear that hope is lost for my family. God protect us.
It is done. The vile creature is gone, though at a greater price than I ever would have hoped.
Yuki, Deborah and I spent the day going about our plan. I stole a butter knife from the mess hall to remove the screws from the door of the tool shed. I was able to retrieve two shovels and two pickaxes. I took them after dark, but am lucky the guards did not see me; I could have gotten in serious trouble. They were quite heavy to haul to the empty shack where I met up with the other girls. Yuki had been able to bring an axe as well as the baseball bat. Deborah had two large kitchen knives and a meat cleaver along with a box of matches.
There was nothing to do but wait. The moon was dim and only occasionally peaked out from behind the layer of steadily moving clouds. How I wished it had been full and bright on this night. The anxiety and fear were so strong among the three of us, but we barely spoke; just watched and listened. Then we saw a ghostly figure emerge from one of the quarters. It was Mrs. Sato, or rather the bakeneko disguised as Mrs. Sato. She moved gracefully and elegantly around a corner
We had to make our move. We each chose a weapon: Yuki, the axe, Deborah, one of the large knives, and I took a shovel. Yuki directed us where to go, pointing to each side of the path between barracks. I moved into the shadows on the far side while Deborah situated herself across from me. Yuki placed herself in the middle of the path. We moved from shadow to shadow, building to building until we were near the creature.
“Mrs. Sato,” Yuki said when the ghostly figure came into earshot. It turned and looked at her. Yuki held the axe behind her and kept one hand on it at the ready. “Where are you going?” Yuki’s hand moved toward the hem of her skirt which she lifted above her knee. At first I wasn’t sure what she was doing. How was this going to affect an old woman? But of course, it wasn’t an old woman. She continued to lift her skirt until her thigh was exposed, giving the creature an idea of what it could be.
Mrs. Sato stared at her with what seemed to me to be a suspicion. She then scanned the area around her and sniffed at the air. Her body began to shudder, and she turned into the giant black cat with the green eyes and two long tails, though still on its hind legs. It hissed at Yuki, who stood her ground. The beast went down onto all fours and slunk toward Yuki, keeping its eyes transfixed on her. Suddenly, it crouched in readiness to pounce, that was our signal. As it leapt into the air at Yuki, Deborah and I rushed out of the shadows with our weapons upraised. Yuki swung the axe from behind her back and struck the creature across the teeth. It screeched a horrible sound. I could hear feet hitting the floorboards of the nearby apartments to rush to their windows. Still, no one came out to help.
Yuki quickly moved toward the creature and began to hack at it with her axe. The unwieldy instrument did not strike true through the neck where she was aiming but hit it on the shoulder. It reached out its paw and slashed at Yuki’s leg, removing a chunk from her calf. I brought the shovel down on the thing’s head and Deborah stabbed it in the side. Yuki had fallen to the ground but struggled to her knees to bring the axe down on the creature again. We had managed to injure the bakeneko quite a lot, but its strength was greater than we anticipated.
As we beat, stabbed and hacked at the creature, it continued to swipe, claw, and snap at us. Yuki was in the most dangerous spot but was powerless to move on her badly injured leg. The creature put all its strength behind one more swipe which struck Yuki in the side of the head. Its claw ripped at her face and neck. She fell to the muddy ground and did not get up. Deborah and I continued our fight until the creature finally stopped moving. The blade of the shovel had caused serious damage to the bakeneko’s head and the knife had pierced its lungs multiple times and quite possibly its heart. The axe had also caused major wounds. When it stopped moving, I placed the shovel on its neck and jumped onto the top of the blade with both feet, severing its head.
After this, I immediately ran to where Yuki lay. Most of the right side of her face was torn away and she was bleeding from the neck. Her breathing was rapid and her body twitched. She pulled me close to her mouth, “Finish it,” she whispered to me, “burn it.” Her breathing slowed and ended with a long exhalation followed by a rattling of her limbs. Then she was still.
I knew we had no time to cry just then. Deborah could not hold back her tears. “We need to finish, Deborah. Grab the hind legs, we need to go.” We dragged the beheaded body of the creature back to the empty shack. “Start cutting it apart,” I told Deborah and I ran back to retrieve the head. I had almost forgotten about the searchlights, the guards, and the other inmates inside their quarter houses. I was able to avoid them all, but just barely.
One searchlight came to rest on Yuki’s body and two guards arrived at it just after I managed to get to the shack. Deborah had managed to remove one of the thing’s legs during the time and was working on a second. “Keep going,” I told her and grabbed one of the pickaxes and the box of matches and headed for the door of the empty shack. I pried at the door with the flat rear side of the tool. The door popped open with only a little trouble. I began to hack at the floorboards to break it down into smaller pieces. When I had enough kindling, I lit the first match. It took me a while, but soon the broken pieces began to burn. I pulled what I could from the walls to add to the blaze. Soon the fire began to grow and spread. I rushed out and threw the head of the creature on the fire. Deborah brought its limbs and together we hoisted the torso onto the blaze.
Several guards ran our way. I’m sure we were quite a sight covered in blood before the blazing shack. I do not know what will happen now. We have been detained in our quarters until an investigation can be mounted. But I am not afraid. What I faced in these days has been far worse than anything that man can come against me with. The creature is gone. My people are safe from it. May these be the worst of our horrors.
Brittany put the pages down unable to believe this story. Her mind went over what she had read and compared it with what she knew of her grandmother. She was always honest, never one to embellish the truth. But this was impossible. Wasn’t it? The only other reference she found to these events were in the journal and rather cryptic. It simply said, “The investigation is over. Thanks to Mr. Sato, Mrs. Sato’s oldest son, and Mr. Watanabe, a close friend of her family, we are safe. The army wishes that the incident not be mentioned and considers the matter closed.”
Mr. Watanabe? Could this be Grandpa? Brittany realized that Gamma was far more of an enigma than she had ever known her to be. The stories she had told came into sharp focus in light of this new revelation. She recalled something Gamma was fond of saying:
“There are many horrifying things in this world, but even the most horrifying can bring about good things.”
It was a lesson Gamma apparently had lived through and knew very well.