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Author Topic: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai  (Read 1470 times)

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Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« on: October 01, 2010, 05:37:08 AM »
Hands vermillion,
Start of five,
Bright cotillion,
Ravens dive,
Nightshade promise,
Spirits thrive,
To the living,
Let now the dead
Come alive!

Well, the season of the witch has again returned.  I'd like to suggest to you all that in celebration we resume our round of hyakumonogatari kaidankai.  To remind the elders and initiate the novices, hyakumonogatari kaidankai is a Japanese tradition in which people tell spooky stories around one hundred candles.  When someone finishes a story he or she snuffs out a candle; and when the final candle is snuffed out, it is said that a spirit or spirits will visit the storytellers in the darkness.  (Here on Elliquiy we don't snuff out real candles, of course -- we snuff out virtual ones.  Real candles are delightful, but I've discovered that they're fairly difficult to squeeze through optical fibers.)

I've taken the liberty of starting this new thread rather than invoking the old one -- not because I dislike thread necromancy (though I understand that it's against netiquette, I myself have no problem with it in principle), but rather to prevent creating a thread that's unwieldy.  Don't worry: The ghosts won't care.  If anything, they'll delight in visiting multiple threads, exactly as they delight in visiting multiple worlds.  (Besides, if we accidentally tell a story twice, fewer people -- living or dead -- will notice.  Feel free to hex the lulled ear of this drowsy marmot.)

We'd just snuffed out the sixty-seventh candle when the dawn of November 1 arrived.  Now, the spirits rarely have a firm sense of how much time has passed in this world, so I think that we should begin there -- that is, that we should begin with the sixty-sixth candle.  They won't know that a year has passed.  Heck, I barely know that a year has passed.

So let's hyakumonogatari kaidankai together!  Lock the doors.  Lock the windows.  Draw the curtains.  If you're feeling a chill, snuggle up under a blanket.  Ready?  Excellent.

If you have a spooky story to offer, please post it in this thread.  Once more, it can be true or fictional; it can have happened to you or to someone else; it can be long or brief.  I encourage you to tell multiple stories, though I do suggest including only one story per post.  Finally, if you tell someone else's story, please give credit where credit is due.

Lean close now.  Sorry if my whispers are a little shaky.  I'll offer this season's first tale -- one from this site, which is also where last year's first tale and our first year's first tale originate in telling if not in substance.

Under the Peony Lantern

Long ago, on the first night of Obon, a widowed samurai named Ogiwara Shinnojo sat on his porch, watching the day fade into night.  To his surprise, a beautiful young woman and her maid, who was carrying a lantern emblazoned with a peony, walked near.  The pair paused to speak with Ogiwara, and he found the young woman's name to be Otsuyu.  An instant attachment was formed, and Otsuyu promised to return the following night, at the same time.

From that night onward, always at dusk, she would arrive with her maid, carrying the same Peony Lantern.  Ogiwara and Otsuyu rapidly progressed in their affair, and she took to sleeping with him, always leaving before dawn.  This relationship continued for some time, and both were happy.

However, a suspicious neighbor, wondering at Ogiwara's new habit of staying awake all night and sleeping the day away, hid outside his house, peeking through a small hole in the wooden wall in order to observe the old man's nighttime shenanigans.  Much to his surprise, he uncovered the widowed samurai passionately entwined with a skeleton, packing only scarce, clinging bits of rotting flesh and cobweb-infested long black hair.  Half-mad, the neighbor fled screaming from the scene.

The next day he confronted Ogiwara, bringing with him a Buddhist priest who warned of the danger facing his soul.  One cannot dally with the dead.  Ogiwara took this to heart, and vowed to free himself from the spell of Otsuyu.  With the priest's help, he surrounded his house with ofuda, strips of paper upon which are written Buddhist sutras, offering protection from the supernatural.  That night, Otsuyu and her maid came as always, but they cried at the steps of his porch, unable to enter the house.

Night after night she returned, begging Ogiwara to remove the ofuda so that they may be lovers again.  Slowly, the lonely old man's resistance slipped away, and one night he left his house to join his beloved.

The next morning, he was nowhere to be found.  His friends looked far and wide, until the neighbor suggested they search the cemetery.  At long last, they found the graves of Otsuyu and her maid, emblazoned with the same peony pattern.  Opening the crypts, no one was surprised to see the corpse of Ogiwara, still passionately entwined with his skeletal lover.

So they say.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Sixty-five candles remain.  Who's next?


Will you recount a spooky story?

Edit: Formatting.
« Last Edit: October 01, 2010, 07:01:23 AM by Ziggy Speldust »

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #1 on: October 10, 2010, 03:51:24 PM »
Don't be nervous!  Even if you tell a story, you'll still have plenty of time to slip away before all of the candles are extinguished and the ghosts arrive...

In the meantime, I've got a couple of more tales.  The first is, appropriately enough, from a dead site; a fellow named Doug Howard Chamberlain recounts what happened on an expedition to Chernobyl...

Reactor Three

In April 1986, Chernobyl (Chornobyl in Ukrainian) was an obscure city on the Pripiat River in north-central Ukraine.  At 1:21 a.m., the No. 3 reactor exploded and spewed thirty to forty times the radioactivity of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs combined.  Thirty-one workers died instantly.  Many more succumbed weeks and months later.  Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians, Russians, and Belorussians abandoned entire cities and settlements within a thirty-kilometer zone to escape extreme contamination.  All in all, it was an unparalleled holocaust that to this day impacts millions of people, not only within Russia, but the world at large.

In September 1988, I traveled to Chernobyl to assess certain data for a national research institute.

I arrived at the power station at around 3:00 p.m. and was directed to the Reactor Three sarcophagus, the scene of the explosion.  And as you'd expect, the prohibitive radiation level precluded me and my hosts from entering; I stood relatively close to the entrance and took readings on the radiation and roentgen levels.  Nobody from my entourage entered the sarcophagus, nor could they; no one would have survived in that nuclear wasteland.  And definitely, nobody worked inside for the same reasons.  Yet I swear on my mother's grave, I distinctly heard the shrieking and high-pitched screaming of people entombed inside.  The clamor was so loud, my heart flew into my throat, and I looked to my Russian colleagues, who appeared to hear the same screams but ignored them.  Their matter-of-fact demeanor shook me to the core.  I gesticulated wildly, pointing toward the reactor control room, but they shrugged their shoulders and pulled back a few paces.  I was dumbfounded.

It turns out that they were no stranger to the weird, unearthly sounds issuing from the Reactor Three sarcophagus.  They'd heard it many times before, apparently so much so they considered it old news and thought little of it.  They even recognized the scream of one of their noble, expired female associates inside.  But it was better to ignore it, they mused.  If the dead wanted to scream and whoop it up, let them.  It was no skin off their noses.

I'm snuffing out a candle.  Sixty-four candles remain.  Brrr -- getting chilly in here!


Don't ever say, "I'm ready, I'm ready, I'm ready..."

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #2 on: October 10, 2010, 03:53:17 PM »
Next, I'd like to pass on a tale about a very strange kitty indeed...

Ghost Cat

I had all but forgotten this certain incident until I stumbled across your Vanishing Cat story.  A few years back when I was around 20-23 I had a small apartment all to myself with my white and brown cat, who was named Biscuit.  I did not have a car at this time and rode my 10-speed bicycle everywhere, which was convenient since I lived in a small down a bit north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

One Halloween night as I was cycling home from a friend's house, a shadow caught my eye as it leapt in front of me on the small country road.  I stopped my bike and to my surprise I saw a small black kitten timidly mewing in a small ditch.  I ran over and gathered her up in my arms, quickly decided to take her home and put her in my pouch I was carrying around my waist.  Once I got home, I introduced her to Biscuit, and to my dismay he didn't take too kindly to her at all.  He spit and hissed and would always cower in a corner far away from the kitten.  Despite this, I wanted to keep her and named her Cheddar.

Cheddar stayed with us a few months and began gaining weight and growing big and healthy.  One day I decided to take my camera out and take some snapshots of Biscuit and Cheddar together -- that is, if I could get them in the same room.  It wasn't an easy task, but I managed to get at least two pictures of them together.  A month or so later, Cheddar began acting very strangely.  She would mew and claw at the window screens and door as if she urgently needed to get out.  Figuring she needed her space since she originaly was an outdoor cat, I let her go, hoping one day she would return to me.  Unfortunately, she never did.

However, I remembered the film in my camera needed to be developed, so I at least would have some pictures of her.  I dropped off the film and came back for it after a week.  As I was sifting through my pictures, I realized there was absolutely none of Cheddar!  Biscuit appeared in all the pictures he was supposed to, but no Cheddar.  I studied the pictures, gave them to friends to study and even asked the film crew at the store if there had been some sort of mistake.  The negetives didn't even hold any clues.  She simply was not there.  Whatever happened to my Halloween kitten?  I wish I knew.

I'm snuffing another candle.  Sixty-three candles remain.  Do you have a spooky story to share?


Just be still with me...

Offline Valerian

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2010, 09:06:03 AM »
Haunted Christmas

retold by S.E. Schlosser

The soft thud of following footsteps echoed behind him as he hurried through the snowflakes toward home.  They kept pace with him, quickening when he quickened and slowing when he slowed.  His flesh crawled at the sound and he sped up, cursing himself for walking home alone from the midnight Christmas Mass. 

Normally not a pious man, the middle-aged bachelor had suddenly been struck by a wish to hear the old Christmas songs sung once again by a church choir, and had walked across town to attend the service.  Now he regretted his choice, as he passed dark house after dark house in the snowy night, and the footsteps ever followed. 

He sped up until he was nearly running, and skidded into his street.  A few more paces brought him to the bottom of his front steps, and as he dashed up them, he realized suddenly that the following footsteps had ceased abruptly.  He glanced behind him at the cross-street from which he had just turned and saw only one pair of footprints in the snow-covered street when there should have been two.  He frowned in puzzlement, and then shuddered as a cold breeze struck him, driving snow against his collar, and slammed against the door.  Almost, it seemed to pass through the door, but that was superstitious nonsense.  His hand was shaking as he unlocked the front door and hurried inside. 

He expected darkness, but was delighted to see the yellow glow of firelight coming from his study doorway upstairs.  His old housekeeper, whom he thought firmly asleep in her attic bedroom, must have lit the fire pending his return.  He shrugged out of his coat and paused for a moment, amazed to find it still warm and dry, though he had walked for more than a mile through a snow-storm.  It was almost as if he’d been walking in a bubble of calm air, though he remembered the snowflakes hitting his face when he first stepped out of church.  Before the mysterious footsteps began…

His shudder was interrupted by a shout of greeting as his old friend Andy came hurrying out of the study.  His whole face lit up in a grin at the unexpected surprise.  The two men shook hands heartily and retreated back to the warmth of the firelight, talking so fast they stumbled over each other’s words.  Andy had left town years ago to take a government job in D.C., and they hadn’t seen each other since. 

Nearly an hour passed before it occurred to him that his guest might be hungry.  His offer of a meal was instantly accepted, but Andy was unwilling to leave the comfort of the fire to eat in the kitchen, so he jogged downstairs alone to fetch some food.  He didn’t wonder at his friend’s reluctance to join him in the kitchen.  Andy had looked very pale and had kept shivering with cold while they talked.  He hoped his friend wasn’t ailing for anything. 

A few moments later he was back with warmed up meat and potatoes and a couple of glasses of beer, apologizing profusely as he handed Andy a plate, for the mismatched dinnerware.  Andy just laughed and hunkered down to eat.  When they were both finished, he showed his friend to a guest room and then tumbled into his own bed to sleep, all his apprehension caused by mysterious footsteps forgotten in the visit of his friend. 

He jumped out of bed Christmas morning and dashed immediately downstairs to the guest room to rouse his friend.  Andy wasn’t there, and the bed had not been slept in.  He ran down to look in the study, but Andy wasn’t there either, and one plate full of food was sitting on the end-table beside his old friend’s chair.  Skin creeping, he ran to the kitchen and asked his housekeeper if she’d seen Andy.  But the housekeeper had seen no one either the previous night or this morning.  He flopped down on the bottom step of the staircase, completely baffled.  Where had Andy gone?  It was a mystery that plagued him all Christmas Day, and he did not enjoy his holiday dinner at all, a fact that annoyed his housekeeper. 

He was awakened the next morning from a restless sleep by the sound of the front door bell.  He stumbled out of bed and was splashing water from the bedside pitcher onto his sleepy eyes when a knock came at his bedroom door.  When he answered, his housekeeper handed him a telegram that had just arrived.  As she hurried back downstairs to prepare his breakfast, he opened it curiously, not knowing who would be telegraphing him so urgently. 

As he read the telegram, he started to tremble.  The message was short and to the point:  Andy’s family regretted to inform him that his old friend Andy had passed away on Christmas Eve in his home in Washington D.C.


Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2010, 07:43:33 PM »
Thank you so much, Valerian!  I thought that the cat had gotten everyone's tongue; glad to have been proved wrong.*  And what a great story -- spooky but poignant.  Better still, one that I'd never heard!

So let me think... another tale...

Oh -- yes!  A moment ago I mentioned stolen tongues; why shouldn't we, then, talk about stolen thumbs?  In 1844 psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffmann wrote and illustrated some stories for his young son.  Were the stories satirical or just plain scary?  I don't know, but Mark Twain found them worthy enough to translate, and I've met grown Germans who still shiver when they're reminded of them.  Tonight I'll recount just one of the tales, "The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb"; I'm drawing from the translated version that can be found here.

The Story of Little Suck-a-Thumb

One day Mamma said: "Conrad dear,
I must go out and leave you here.

But mind now, Conrad, what I say,
Don't suck your thumb while I'm away.
The great tall tailor always comes
To little boys that suck their thumbs,
And ere they dream what he's about,
He takes his great sharp scissors out,
And cuts their thumbs clean off -- and then,
You know, they never grow again."

Mamma had scarcely turn'd her back,
The thumb was in, Alack! Alack!

The door flew open, in he ran,
The great, long, red-legged scissor-man.
Oh! children, see! the tailor's come
And caught out little Suck-a-Thumb.
Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go;
And Conrad cries out -- Oh! Oh! Oh!
Snip! Snap! Snip!  They go so fast
That both his thumbs are off at last.

Mamma comes home; there Conrad stands,
And looks quite sad, and shows his hands --
"Ah!" said Mamma, "I knew he'd come
To naughty little Suck-a-Thumb."

So keep your thumbs out of your mouth!  I'm snuffing another candle.  Sixty-one candles remain.  Thanks again, Valerian!  Does anyone have a spooky story to share?


* If the cat does get your tongue, try to remain calm: We can usually snatch them away again, and doctors can sew them things back on these days!

But you've still got me under your thumbs...

Offline Host of Seraphim

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #5 on: October 23, 2010, 10:57:13 PM »
I like this idea!

Here's a story I've saved for a while. I found it on one of the chans a while ago. I just googled it and realized it's from Ichor Falls. It's in the format of a web forum. Read it until the end!

Candle Cove

NetNostalgia Forum - Television (local)

Subject: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Does anyone remember this kid’s show? It was called Candle Cove and I must have been 6 or 7. I never found reference to it anywhere so I think it was on a local station around 1971 or 1972. I lived in Ironton at the time. I don’t remember which station, but I do remember it was on at a weird time, like 4:00 PM.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
it seems really familiar to me…..i grew up outside of ashland and was 9 yrs old in 72. candle cove…was it about pirates? i remember a pirate marionete at the mouth of a cave talking to a little girl

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
YES! Okay I’m not crazy! I remember Pirate Percy. I was always kind of scared of him. He looked like he was built from parts of other dolls, real low-budget. His head was an old porcelain baby doll, looked like an antique that didn’t belong on the body. I don’t remember what station this was! I don’t think it was WTSF though.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Sorry to ressurect this old thread but I know exactly what show you mean, Skyshale. I think Candle Cove ran for only a couple months in ‘71, not ‘72. I was 12 and I watched it a few times with my brother. It was channel 58, whatever station that was. My mom would let me switch to it after the news. Let me see what I remember.

It took place in Candle cove, and it was about a little girl who imagined herself to be friends with pirates. The pirate ship was called the Laughingstock, and Pirate Percy wasn’t a very good pirate because he got scared too easily. And there was calliope music constantly playing. Don’t remember the girl’s name. Janice or Jade or something. Think it was Janice.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Thank you Jaren!!! Memories flooded back when you mentioned the Laughingstock and channel 58. I remember the bow of the ship was a wooden smiling face, with the lower jaw submerged. It looked like it was swallowing the sea and it had that awful Ed Wynn voice and laugh. I especially remember how jarring it was when they switched from the wooden/plastic model, to the foam puppet version of the head that talked.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
ha ha i remember now too. do you remember this part skyshale: “you have…to go…INSIDE.”

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Ugh mike, I got a chill reading that. Yes I remember. That’s what the ship always told Percy when there was a spooky place he had to go in, like a cave or a dark room where the treasure was. And the camera would push in on Laughingstock’s face with each pause. YOU HAVE… TO GO… INSIDE. With his two eyes askew and that flopping foam jaw and the fishing line that opened and closed it. Ugh. It just looked so cheap and awful.

You guys remember the villain? He had a face that was just a handlebar mustache above really tall, narrow teeth.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
i honestly, honestly thought the villain was pirate percy. i was about 5 when this show was on. nightmare fuel.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
That wasn’t the villain, the puppet with the mustache. That was the villain’s sidekick, Horace Horrible. He had a monocle too, but it was on top of the mustache. I used to think that meant he had only one eye.

But yeah, the villain was another marionette. The Skin-Taker. I can’t believe what they let us watch back then.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
jesus h. christ, the skin taker. what kind of a kids show were we watching? i seriously could not look at the screen when the skin taker showed up. he just descended out of nowhere on his strings, just a dirty skeleton wearing that brown top hat and cape. and his glass eyes that were too big for his skull. christ almighty.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Wasn’t his top hat and cloak all sewn up crazily? Was that supposed to be children’s skin??

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
yeah i think so. rememer his mouth didn’t open and close, his jaw just slid back and foth. i remember the little girl said “why does your mouth move like that” and the skin-taker didn’t look at the girl but at the camera and said “TO GRIND YOUR SKIN”

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
I’m so relieved that other people remember this terrible show!

I used to have this awful memory, a bad dream I had where the opening jingle ended, the show faded in from black, and all the characters were there, but the camera was just cutting to each of their faces, and they were just screaming, and the puppets and marionettes were flailing spastically, and just all screaming, screaming. The girl was just moaning and crying like she had been through hours of this. I woke up many times from that nightmare. I used to wet the bed when I had it.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
i don’t think that was a dream. i remember that. i remember that was an episode.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
No no no, not possible. There was no plot or anything, I mean literally just standing in place crying and screaming for the whole show.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
maybe i’m manufacturing the memory because you said that, but i swear to god i remember seeing what you described. they just screamed.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
Oh God. Yes. The little girl, Janice, I remember seeing her shake. And the Skin-Taker screaming through his gnashing teeth, his jaw careening so wildly I thought it would come off its wire hinges. I turned it off and it was the last time I watched. I ran to tell my brother and we didn’t have the courage to turn it back on.

Subject: Re: Candle Cove local kid’s show?
i visited my mom today at the nursing home. i asked her about when i was littel in the early 70s, when i was 8 or 9 and if she remebered a kid’s show, candle cove. she said she was suprised i could remember that and i asked why, and she said “because i used to think it was so strange that you said ‘i’m gona go watch candle cove now mom’ and then you would tune the tv to static and juts watch dead air for 30 minutes. you had a big imagination with your little pirate show.”

60  :-)

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #6 on: November 01, 2010, 05:55:28 AM »
Thank you very much for the story, Host of Seraphim!  I really enjoyed the creepy imagery and the twist; I got a kick out of the format, too.  (Also, I like pirates.)

Well, the sky is beginning to brighten.  It's just about the end of this year's witching season, and the things that go bump in the night are preparing to slumber for a while, awakening only occasionally to remind us that they are indeed out there.  Fortunately, however, I think that we have enough time for another story.  Although]Lilias recounted the very spooky "The Outsider"[/url] by H.P. Lovecraft, telling another of Lovecraft's stories wouldn't hurt, would it?  Hmmm... how about "The Music of Erich Zann"?  I've taken the below from Project Gutenberg Australia, where you can also find a bunch of other Lovecraft stories.

The Music of Erich Zann

I have examined maps of the city with the greatest care, yet have never again found the Rue d'Auseil.  These maps have not been modern maps alone, for I know that names change.  I have, on the contrary, delved deeply into all the antiquities of the place, and have personally explored every region, of whatever name, which could possibly answer to the street I knew as the Rue d'Auseil.  But despite all I have done, it remains an humiliating fact that I cannot find the house, the street, or even the locality, where, during the last months of my impoverished life as a student of metaphysics at the university, I heard the music of Erich Zann.

That my memory is broken, I do not wonder; for my health, physical and mental, was gravely disturbed throughout the period of my residence in the Rue d'Auseil, and I recall that I took none of my few acquaintances there.  But that I cannot find the place again is both singular and perplexing; for it was within a half-hour's walk of the university and was distinguished by peculiarities which could hardly be forgotten by any one who had been there.  I have never met a person who has seen the Rue d'Auseil.

The Rue d'Auseil lay across a dark river bordered by precipitous brick blear-windowed warehouses and spanned by a ponderous bridge of dark stone.  It was always shadowy along that river, as if the smoke of neighboring factories shut out the sun perpetually.  The river was also odorous with evil stenches which I have never smelled elsewhere, and which may some day help me to find it, since I should recognize them at once.  Beyond the bridge were narrow cobbled streets with rails; and then came the ascent, at first gradual, but incredibly steep as the Rue d'Auseil was reached.

I have never seen another street as narrow and steep as the Rue d'Auseil.  It was almost a cliff, closed to all vehicles, consisting in several places of flights of steps, and ending at the top in a lofty ivied wall.  Its paving was irregular, sometimes stone slabs, sometimes cobblestones, and sometimes bare earth with struggling greenish-grey vegetation.  The houses were tall, peaked-roofed, incredibly old, and crazily leaning backward, forward, and sidewise.  Occasionally an opposite pair, both leaning forward, almost met across the street like an arch; and certainly they kept most of the light from the ground below.  There were a few overhead bridges from house to house across the street.

The inhabitants of that street impressed me peculiarly.  At first I thought it was because they were all silent and reticent; but later decided it was because they were all very old.  I do not know how I came to live on such a street, but I was not myself when I moved there.  I had been living in many poor places, always evicted for want of money; until at last I came upon that tottering house in the Rue d'Auseil kept by the paralytic Blandot.  It was the third house from the top of the street, and by far the tallest of them all.

My room was on the fifth story; the only inhabited room there, since the house was almost empty.  On the night I arrived I heard strang music from the peaked garret overhead, and the next day asked old Blandot about it.  He told me it was an old German viol-player, a strange dumb man who signed his name as Erich Zann, and who played evenings in a cheap theater orchestra; adding that Zann's desire to play in the night after his return from the theater was the reason he had chosen this lofty and isolated garret room, whose single gable window was the only point on the street from which one could look over the terminating wall at the declivity and panorama beyond.

Thereafter I heard Zann every night, and although he kept me awake, I was haunted by the weirdness of his music.  Knowing little of the art myself, I was yet certain that none of his harmonies had any relation to music I had heard before; and concluded that he was a composer of highly original genius.  The longer I listened, the more I was fascinated, until after a week I resolved to make the old man's acquaintance.

One night as he was returning from his work, I intercepted Zann in the hallway and told him that I would like to know him and be with him when he played.  He was a small, lean, bent person, with shabby clothes, blue eyes, grotesque, satyrlike face, and nearly bald head; and at my first words seemed both angered and frightened.  My obvious friendliness, however, finally melted him; and he grudgingly motioned to me to follow him up the dark, creaking and rickety attic stairs.  His room, one of only two in the steeply pitched garret, was on the west side, toward the high wall that formed the upper end of the street.  Its size was very great, and seemed the greater because of its extraordinary barrenness and neglect.  Of furniture there was only a narrow iron bedstead, a dingy wash-stand, a small table, a large bookcase, an iron music-rack, and three old-fashioned chairs.  Sheets of music were piled in disorder about the floor.  The walls were of bare boards, and had probably never known plaster; whilst the abundance of dust and cobwebs made the place seem more deserted than inhabited.  Evidently Erich Zann's world of beauty lay in some far cosmos of the imagination.

Motioning me to sit down, the dumb man closed the door, turned the large wooden bolt, and lighted a candle to augment the one he had brought with him.  He now removed his viol from its motheaten covering, and taking it, seated himself in the least uncomfortable of the chairs.  He did not employ the music-rack, but, offering no choice and playing from memory, enchanted me for over an hour with strains I had never heard before; strains which must have been of his own devising.  To describe their exact nature is impossible for one unversed in music.  They were a kind of fugue, with recurrent passages of the most captivating quality, but to me were notable for the absence of any of the weird notes I had overheard from my room below on other occasions.

Those haunting notes I had remembered, and had often hummed and whistled inaccurately to myself, so when the player at length laid down his bow I asked him if he would render some of them.  As I began my request the wrinkled satyrlike face lost the bored placidity it had possessed during the playing, and seemed to show the same curious mixture of anger and fright which I had noticed when first I accosted the old man.  For a moment I was inclined to use persuasion, regarding rather lightly the whims of senility; and even tried to awaken my host's weirder mood by whistling a few of the strains to which I had listened the night before.  But I did not pursue this course for more than a moment; for when the dumb musician recognized the whistled air his face grew suddenly distorted with an expression wholly beyond analysis, and his long, cold, bony right hand reached out to stop my mouth and silence the crude imitation.  As he did this he further demonstrated his eccentricity by casting a startled glance toward the lone curtained window, as if fearful of some intruder -- a glance doubly absurd, since the garret stood high and inaccessible above all the adjacent roofs, this window being the only point on the steep street, as the concierge had told me, from which one could see over the wall at the summit.

The old man's glance brought Blandot's remark to my mind, and with a certain capriciousness I felt a wish to look out over the wide and dizzying panorama of moonlit roofs and city lights beyond the hilltop, which of all the dwellers in the Rue d'Auseil only this crabbed musician could see.  I moved toward the window and would have drawn aside the nondescript curtains, when with a frightened rage even greater than before, the dumb lodger was upon me again; this time motioning with his head toward the door as he nervously strove to drag me thither with both hands.  Now thoroughly disgusted with my host, I ordered him to release me, and told him I would go at once.  His clutch relaxed, and as he saw my disgust and offense, his own anger seemed to subside.  He tightened his relaxing grip, but this time in a friendly manner, forcing me into a chair; then with an appearance of wistfulness crossing to the littered table, where he wrote many words with a pencil, in the labored French of a foreigner.

The note which he finally handed me was an appeal for tolerance and forgiveness.  Zann said that he was old, lonely, and afflicted with strange fears and nervous disorders connected with his music and with other things.  He had enjoyed my listening to his music, and wished I would come again and not mind his eccentricities.  But he could not play to another his weird harmonies, and could not bear hearing them from another; nor could he bear having anything in his room touched by another.  He had not known until our hallway conversation that I could overhear his playing in my room, and now asked me if I would arrange with Blandot to take a lower room where I could not hear him in the night.  He would, he wrote, defray the difference in rent.

As I sat deciphering the execrable French, I felt more lenient toward the old man.  He was a victim of physical and nervous suffering, as was I; and my metaphysical studies had taught me kindness.  In the silence there came a slight sound from the window -- the shutter must have rattled in the night wind, and for some reason I started almost as violently as did Erich Zann.  So when I had finished reading, I shook my host by the hand, and departed as a friend.

The next day Blandot gave me a more expensive room on the third floor, between the apartments of an aged money-lender and the room of a respectable upholsterer.  There was no one on the fourth floor.

It was not long before I found that Zann's eagerness for my company was not as great as it had seemed while he was persuading me to move down from the fifth story.  He did not ask me to call on him, and when I did call he appeared uneasy and played listlessly.  This was always at night -- in the day he slept and would admit no one.  My liking for him did not grow, though the attic room and the weird music seemed to hold an odd fascination for me.  I had a curious desire to look out of that window, over the wall and down the unseen slope at the glittering roofs and spires which must lie outspread there.  Once I went up to the garret during theater hours, when Zann was away, but the door was locked.

What I did succeed in doing was to overhear the nocturnal playing of the dumb old man.  At first I would tip-toe up to my old fifth floor, then I grew bold enough to climb the last creaking staircase to the peaked garret.  There in the narrow hall, outside the bolted door with the covered keyhole, I often heard sounds which filled me with an indefinable dread -- the dread of vague wonder and brooding mystery.  It was not that the sounds were hideous, for they were not; but that they held vibrations suggesting nothing on this globe of earth, and that at certain intervals they assumed a symphonic quality which I could hardly conceive as produced by one player.  Certainly, Erich Zann was a genius of wild power.  As the weeks passed, the playing grew wilder, whilst the old musician acquired an increasing haggardness and furtiveness pitiful to behold.  He now refused to admit me at any time, and shunned me whenever we met on the stairs.

Then one night as I listened at the door, I heard the shrieking viol swell into a chaotic babel of sound; a pandemonium which would have led me to doubt my own shaking sanity had there not come from behind that barred portal a piteous proof that the horror was real -- the awful, inarticulate cry which only a mute can utter, and which rises only in moments of the most terrible fear or anguish.  I knocked repeatedly at the door, but received no response.  Afterward I waited in the black hallway, shivering with cold and fear, till I heard the poor musician's feeble effort to rise from the floor by the aid of a chair.  Believing him just conscious after a fainting fit, I renewed my rapping, at the same time calling out my name reassuringly.  I heard Zann stumble to the window and close both shutter and sash, then stumble to the door, which he falteringly unfastened to admit me.  This time his delight at having me present was real; for his distorted face gleamed with relief while he clutched at my coat as a child clutches at its mother's skirts.

Shaking pathetically, the old man forced me into a chair whilst he sank into another, beside which his viol and bow lay carelessly on the floor.  He sat for some time inactive, nodding oddly, but having a paradoxical suggestion of intense and frightened listening.  Subsequently he seemed to be satisfied, and crossing to a chair by the table wrote a brief note, handed it to me, and returned to the table, where he began to write rapidly and incessantly.  The note implored me in the name of mercy, and for the sake of my own curiosity, to wait where I was while he prepared a full account in German of all the marvels and terrors which beset him.  I waited, and the dumb man's pencil flew.

It was perhaps an hour later, while I still waited and while the old musician's feverishly written sheets still continued to pile up, that I saw Zann start as from the hint of a horrible shock.  Unmistakably he was looking at the curtained window and listening shudderingly.  Then I half fancied I heard a sound myself; though it was not a horrible sound, but rather an exquisitely low and infinitely distant musical note, suggesting a player in one of the neighboring houses, or in some abode beyond the lofty wall over which I had never been able to look.  Upon Zann the effect was terrible, for, dropping his pencil, suddenly he rose, seized his viol, and commenced to rend the night with the wildest playing I had ever heard from his bow save when listening at the barred door.

It would be useless to describe the playing of Erich Zann on that dreadful night.  It was more horrible than anything I had ever overheard, because I could now see the expression of his face, and could realize that this time the motive was stark fear.  He was trying to make a noise; to ward something off or drown something out -- what, I could not imagine, awesome though I felt it must be.  The playing grew fantastic, dehnous, and hysterical, yet kept to the last the qualities of supreme genius which I knew this strange old man possessed.  I recognized the air -- it was a wild Hungarian dance popular in the theaters, and I reflected for a moment that this was the first time I had ever heard Zann play the work of another composer.

Louder and louder, wilder and wilder, mounted the shrieking and whining of that desperate viol.  The player was dripping with an uncanny perspiration and twisted like a monkey, always looking frantically at the curtained window.  In his frenzied strains I could almost see shadowy satyrs and bacchanals dancing and whirling insanely through seething abysses of clouds and smoke and lightning.  And then I thought I heard a shriller, steadier note that was not from the viol; a calm, deliberate, purposeful, mocking note from far away in the West.

At this juncture the shutter began to rattle in a howling night wind which had sprung up outside as if in answer to the mad playing within.  Zann's screaming viol now outdid itself emitting sounds I had never thought a viol could emit.  The shutter rattled more loudly, unfastened, and commenced slamming against the window.  Then the glass broke shiveringly under the persistent impacts, and the chill wind rushed in, making the candles sputter and rustling the sheets of paper on the table where Zann had begun to write out his horrible secret.  I looked at Zann, and saw that he was past conscious observation.  His blue eyes were bulging, glassy and sightless, and the frantic playing had become a blind, mechanical, unrecognizable orgy that no pen could even suggest.

A sudden gust, stronger than the others, caught up the manuscript and bore it toward the window.  I followed the flying sheets in desperation, but they were gone before I reached the demolished panes.  Then I remembered my old wish to gaze from this window, the only window in the Rue d'Auseil from which one might see the slope beyond the wall, and the city outspread beneath.  It was very dark, but the city's lights always burned, and I expected to see them there amidst the rain and wind.  Yet when I looked from that highest of all gable windows, looked while the candles sputtered and the insane viol howled with the night-wind, I saw no city spread below, and no friendly lights gleamed from remembered streets, but only the blackness of space illimitable; unimagined space alive with motion and music, and having no semblance of anything on earth.  And as I stood there looking in terror, the wind blew out both the candles in that ancient peaked garret, leaving me in savage and impenetrable darkness with chaos and pandemonium before me, and the demon madness of that night-baying viol behind me.

I staggered back in the dark, without the means of striking a light, crashing against the table, overturning a chair, and finally groping my way to the place where the blackness screamed with shocking music.  To save myself and Erich Zann I could at least try, whatever the powers opposed to me.  Once I thought some chill thing brushed me, and I screamed, but my scream could not be heard above that hideous viol.  Suddenly out of the blackness the madly sawing bow struck me, and I knew I was close to the player.  I felt ahead, touched the back of Zann's chair, and then found and shook his shoulder in an effort to bring him to his senses.

He did not respond, and still the viol shrieked on without slackening.  I moved my hand to his head, whose mechanical nodding I was able to stop, and shouted in his ear that we must both flee from the unknown things of the night.  But he neither answered me nor abated the frenzy of his unutterable music, while all through the garret strange currents of wind seemed to dance in the darkness and babel.  When my hand touched his ear I shuddered, though I knew not why -- knew not why till I felt the still face; the ice-cold, stiffened, unbreathing face whose glassy eyes bulged uselessly into the void.  And then, by some miracle, finding the door and the large wooden bolt, I plunged wildly away from that glassy-eyed thing in the dark, and from the ghoulish howling of that accursed viol whose fury increased even as I plunged.

Leaping, floating, flying down those endless stairs through the dark house; racing mindlessly out into the narrow, steep, and ancient street of steps and tottering houses; clattering down steps and over cobbles to the lower streets and the putrid canyon-walled river; panting across the great dark bridge to the broader, healthier streets and boulevards we know; all these are terrible impressions that linger with me.  And I recall that there was no wind, and that the moon was out, and that all the lights of the city twinkled.

Despite my most careful searches and investigations, I have never since been able to find the Rue d'Auseil.  But I am not wholly sorry; either for this or for the loss in undreamable abysses of the closely-written sheets which alone could have explained the music of Erich Zann.

I'm snuffing another candle.  Fifty-nine candles remain...


Strange, mad celebration...

Offline Spookie MonsterTopic starter

Re: Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai
« Reply #7 on: November 01, 2010, 05:58:17 AM »
Ooo! -- not quite dawn -- enough time for one more quick tale!  Please enjoy "The Boy in the Mirror," which I found]here[/url], as originally told by an individual named Angela.

The Boy in the Mirror

When I was 10 years old, I would be by myself and this little boy would appear in a mirror.  I'd say he was a year or so younger than I.  I saw him a handful of times.  He was perfectly clear to me, but the rest of the mirror was pitch black.  I conversed with him with my mind or or mouth.  He told me he passed in a boating accident with his dad.  It was a little 2-4-seater boat.  He fell in and got cut up by the propeller.  That's all I really remember that we talked about, but he would be in the mirror a lot and would be standing there just staring.

I'm snuffing the last candle for this season.  Fifty-eight candles remain; they'll burn, burn, burn, waiting for us until next year.  I hope that everyone got some thrills and some chills.  Thank you again, Valerian and Host of Seraphim!


Staring through the message in his eyes...