The sounds entered his dream like tendrils of smoke, drifting through the cracks in his consciousness until finally there was nowhere left for him to escape it but to waken. Unusual sounds in the night did not ordinarily bother Steve Vannon. So when he found himself staring wide-eyed at the ceiling, pulse racing, he naturally assumed he’d had a nightmare and did his best to drift back to sleep. Despite his insistent cajoling and the deep breathing exercises his idiot father had forced him to learn by locking him into an online Prana class, the slow incessant click, click, grate, snicker, whisper that seemed to emanate from the woods just beyond the Fujiwara family’s ornate garden, refused to allow him to sink back into his dreams.
His girlfriend Emily lay be beside him on a futon of her own, her deep breathing indicating that she was still fast asleep. He watched her for a moment, wondering whether she dreamed and if that spidery echo had found its way into her mind also. If it had, she did not appear disturbed by it.
Awake or asleep, to him Emily was perfect. He had no doubt her dreams would be as well, though she often professed to not having any. Right now, with that nail-on-slate rasp echoing in his mind, he envied her that.
He extricated himself from the futon, stood, then walked to the window, padding as quietly as he could across the tatami. Outside the world was lit blue by a waxing moon. The garden lay below like a fallen jumble of shadows that hinted at a geometry that by day was disguised by the soft lines of artfully placed shrubs, bushes and rocks.
Above that, a wattle and daub garden wall topped by a row of gleaming roof tiles ran the length of the property and beyond it towered the blue-gray wood that Steve knew stretched for miles in nearly every direction until finally cut by the freeway back to Tokyo. Overshadowing it all was the rocky peak of the mountain with its cliched single spire of weathered granite topped by a single dwarf black pine. Tree and mountain were back lit against the brightness of the moon and framed as perfectly by the window as a Spielberg shot.
Steve listened again for the nose, but it had stopped. If it even existed in the first place. Lately his dreams had been troubled, but he suspected that finding a corpse in a park was the kind of thing that might have that effect on someone. And finding one that seemed to have been dismembered and burned was even worse.
Somewhere nearby a small animal cried out in pain or fear. Steve heard the beating of birds wings, the chirrup of crickets and the constant drone of cicadas. He rubbed his face, yawned and started to head back to his futon when a movement from the corner of his eye stopped him. For an instant he thought he’d seen a figure perched atop a large rock beside one of the moss-covered stone lanterns that dotted the garden. He blinked, looked again and whatever it had been was gone.
Crawling back into bed, he lay listening to Emily’s soft snores and hoping sleep would find him once more.
To be continued…
This is just something I’ve been thinking about and part of a larger project. Let me n
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Tengu statue pic from here
A. J. Savage was born in Australia where they trained him as a lawyer and put him to work. After escaping the sand and the sea, he now lives in Japan with his wife and two children. If you look at him silhouetted against a bright light, you might see the hole in his heart where he says his dog should be.