The Perfect Place To Die - Part Five
The Perfect Place To Die
Tamiko was keenly aware of the rapid pounding of her heart. The blood thundered in her ears. Her breath came in labored gasps and perspiration beaded her upper lip. Irrelevant thoughts crowded into her mind, distracting her and sending her off course. She was desperately trying to get out of the forest when she twisted her ankle on some moss covered rocks that jutted up out of the ground.
Miko went crashing to the forest floor and found herself struggling in swathes of sticky colored plastic tape, like a buzzing fly in a spider’s web. She remembered Mamoru’s grisly explanation that scavengers looking to loot dead bodies in the forest used the tape to mark the routes they were searching.
In that moment she felt helpless and without power, a victim of the forest. She was completely at its mercy. Gazing up into the dense, greenery overhead, she saw a notice in red letters nailed to a trunk.
Please Reconsider Before You Decide To Die
She didn’t want to die.
Tamiko could hear foot steps slowly and methodically approaching her. After reading the note grasped in her dead husband’s hand and running she had at some point picked up the knife again. She could still hear the sickening sucking noise that it made as it came out of Mamoru. The cold forest floor seemed to be draining all the energy from her body. She willed herself to get up and keep moving.
She had to find a way out.
Entering The Woods
When they had arrived at the entrance to the forest the sun had briefly gone behind a cloud and a cold wind had gusted through the trees. Miko had looked up at the sign and felt a shiver run down her spine. She tightened her grip on Mamoru’s hand. One would never have guessed that a place of so much outstanding natural beauty could camouflage such a site of death and misery.
“Are you certain you want to go in there?” Tamiko asked.
The breeze sprang up and the leaves on the trees quivered and shook. They rattled in the branches and Miko fancied she could hear voices whispering to each other on the wind. The twigs creaked and snapped. She remembered the tales she’d heard about the Yūrei, the spirits of the dead that haunted the forest.
The dead were supposedly jealous of the living and not very friendly.
Mamoru gave her a strained smile.
“Yes, let us walk for a bit in the forest...it seems such a peaceful place...a perfect place to...” Mamoru broke off and tugged her across the archway onto the path.
They walked on in silence each absorbed in their own thoughts. She kept having the reoccurring feeling that they were being watched, but they hadn’t come across anyone else on the path for about ten minutes now. She was not enjoying herself at all.
When she looked up at Mamoru there was a light sheen of sweat on his forehead and his face was pinched in a frown.
“Mamoru, you really don’t look well...we should go back.”
He stopped abruptly a scowl coming over his features that caused her to let go of his hand and step back.
"What is wrong Mamoru?” “Why do you look at me like that?”
Instead of answering her Mamoru reached into his right pocket and thrust a slip of paper at her. It landed between her feet and even though it was badly crumpled she knew exactly what it was.
A note from Andrew that read:
My Dearest Miko
I am staying at the usual hotel. I want you to come to me there as soon as you can. I believe that we only have one life and we must follow our hearts. I know you are the only woman with whom I can be truly happy. My room number is 850. I am waiting for you.
She had foolishly slipped it into her her Japanese-English dictionary, forgotten about it and somehow Mamoru had come across it.
This was terrible. What could she say?
Before she even had time to finish that thought Mamoru quickly brought his hand out of his left pocket producing a very large, sharp knife and took a step towards her.
“I can’t believe you would dishonor me so!” he shouted at her.
“I have done nothing, but work hard to provide for you...love you and this...this is how you repay me?”
Tamiko took another step back and put her hands up in a warding off gesture. She could not believe the how in moments things had changed so drastically.
“Mamoru…stop…what are you doing?”
She took another involuntary step backwards.
“I’m sorry...you were never there...we grew apart...please...it is over between Andrew and I though...that note...he gave that to me in the hopes that I would leave you...but I told him it was over...please Mamoru...I’m so sorry you found that note...I wanted to start over with you.”
She had never known Mamoru to be a violent man, but that knife.
What was he going to do with that knife?
The arm grasping the knife fell limply to his side.
“You wanted to start over?” he asked incredously.
“Yes.” She whispered. "I broke it off with him."
Tamiko took a step towards Mamoru. “Please, drop that knife.”
A multitude of emotions crashed across his face. “I was going to do something stupid...perhaps...yes...perhaps we can start over.”
His gaze then settled on someone behind her. Mamoru began shaking his head. “No, wait...there is your Andrew...your English teacher...there he is...to take you away from me...he won't stop!”
“What?” Miko asked in disbelief.
Tamiko followed Mamoru’s stare, but did not see Andrew at all.
Mamoru raised the knife, yelled an obscenity and charged.
Miko screamed and closed her eyes.
Air rushed past her as Mamoru ran off the path and into the forest.
Leaving The Path
Tamiko called after Mamoru and after a brief moment of hesitation went after him.
She hadn’t realized how deeply into the woods she had gone after Mamoru until she was hopelessly lost. She picked her way over the lichen covered roots that twisted along the ground, trying not to look too closely at the remnants of leather wallets and rusted keys gleaming dully from under the decaying mounds of leaves. She glanced down and noticed a long length of string near her foot.
She guessed it was someone’s strategy to ensure that they got out of the forest. She hoped they were successful and began to wonder if she would ever get out.
Her mind was still teeming with unbidden thoughts when she came upon Mamoru.
He lay face down with his foot was caught in between some lichen covered roots. Miko rolled him over into a sitting positon with his back against a tree. It appeared that he had tripped and fallen onto the knife. She reached out and touched his face. His skin was ice cold. It seemed all life had left his body long ago.
She knelt down and pressed her warm, moist face against his clammy, pale cheek. “Oh Mamoru.” she whispered.
Then, as if in a grotesque reply, shockingly, he fell forward and released a gush of air. Mamoru coughed into her face, spraying her with tiny droplets of blood. She reared back in terror, her whole body quaking.
Mamoru roughly grabbed Miko. “Go!” “They feed on your sadness.” he sputtered.
“Don’t believe them…they are not what they seem…go!” a bubble of blood formed and pooped on his lips and then the light extinguished from his once kind, mild brown eyes.
Miko sat there a moment in stunned disbelief trying to puzzle out Mamoru’s cryptic last words. She forced herself to remain calm. Fighting back her revulsion she slowly and deliberately, she put a trembling hand on the handle of the knife and drew it out of his body.
She then noticed the piece of paper in Mamoru’s hand, gently extracted it and read:
My darling Miko
If I am successful, this will be my final letter to you. Do you remember when we were first married and Yamitsui sent me on all those courses so far away? I wrote to you nearly every day. I missed you so much. We were so young and carefree in those days. I still miss you. I miss the sweet Yoko who showed me so much love and affection. When I saw the note from Andrew that dropped out of your book I knew I had failed you. I knew that you could not love me any more. I have lost you, I have lost everything and I am nothing.
Tamiko groaned with realization.
The knife had never been meant for her.
The sounds of voices were closer this time.
She got to her feet and called out. “Help us!” “Over here!”
What Tamiko saw approaching her and the dead body of her husband through the trees caused her to flee in terror.
She stumbled out onto the path scrambling to get to her feet. She didn’t think the knife would do her any good, but she stubbornly held onto it as she lurched to her feet and started up the path. Her ankle throbbed and she kept looking behind her sure that her pursuer was close at hand. As she dared another glance backward she didn’t notice the figure on the path. Miko slammed straight into it, fell onto her back, started to scream and began slashing the air in front of her from side to side with the knife.
The forest ranger jumped back just in time.
When he finally calmed Miko sufficiently so that she stopped screaming and relinquished the knife the first thing she uttered was:
“We have to get out of here...spirits of the dead...at least the spirits of the dead were once human...that thing though...that thing...” she then promptly passed out.
Time may improve it, she can and does hope for that. Time may fade the memory as it has faded the scratches and bruises she obtained while running through those cursed woods. In the meantime, though, she sleeps with the lights on so that she will know at once where she is when she wakes up from the nightmares. She is still haunted by those cold, hungry dead eyes and the slobbering, mewling voices as they bent over the corpse of Mamoru...and began to feed.