Chapter One, Part Four
It got dark quick during fall, and even now at 4 pm, the sun was beginning to set. That could also explain why she was being braver, but I was still new to this and too busy running even faster when I realised, I was in my neighbourhood. The weird sound she made got quieter as I got closer to my house.
When I got to the empty driveway I stopped and hunched over getting my breath back glancing up to see she was completely gone. I then took out my keys and strode over to the door, my long legs aching as I fiddled with the clanging keys to get them into the lock.
When I got in the house, I locked the door behind me and braced against the door with a huff. Then I suddenly remembered something that I had, and it was strange timing on my part. It was a Buddha pendant I got that was my Grandfather’s when he was still alive. It was all I had left of him. I wasn’t Buddhist myself, even though I do remember some of the things he taught me about Buddhism. My Grandfather was one of the few people that could calm me down and make me feel safe when I would freak out that I now realised was probably some kind of creature which was even worse to know, and the small silver pendant always made me feel better like he did.
I didn’t take it anywhere out of the house in case I would lose it, but right now I felt like I needed it more than ever so I can stay strong for Zack. I rushed straight to my room going right to the bedside table, opening the bottom draw. I then dug around until I felt the small black square box that the pendant was in. I placed it quickly in my jeans pocket. Then I went into Zack’s room to get his favourite soft toy, his sleeping bag from the top shelf of his wardrobe and his iPad. Before I had time to think of anything else, I heard the front door open and my Eomma calling my name. I went back down the stairs, with my full backpack in one hand and Zack’s sleeping bag in the other.
“I’m here Eomma,” I said as she pulled me into a tight hug.
“Now tell me what’s wrong? Where’s Zack?” She asked glancing down the hall towards the kitchen for him.
“He’s not here, he’s with my friend, we need to get over there now,” I said putting a hand on her shoulder hoping to usher her to the door.
“What friend? Alisha?” She asked not moving.
“Umm…no. It’s a new friend, her name is Elsa and she runs a corner shop in that stranger part of town.”
“YOU LEFT YOUR BROTHER WITH A STRANGER?!” Eomma screamed at me in Korean making me cringe. I could have worded that better.
“She’s not a stranger, and her shop is the safest place Zack could be right now,” I replied.
“He’s in danger?!” she asked worryingly and I nodded.
“But Elsa and her friend K both can help. We need to get there now, and Dad too when he gets back,” I told her gesturing to the door.
“What danger is he in Ryder?! Tell me now!” She demanded crossing her arms.
“It’s…something you will think is insane. It is complicated Mom. Like even more than all the accounts stuff you do at work or rocket science,” I rambled trying to pluck up the courage and find the words to use to explain. “Zack is being targeted by a dangerous woman from Japan, but she’s not really human, she only looks it. She’s a demon,” She then frowned even deeper.
“What are you talking about?! Demons?!” She then let out a little gasp covering her mouth with her hands like she just realised something. “Zack has started seeing things…” She whispered sounding hurt, but she wasn’t aiming it at me.
“No, no Mom, this is real. Elsa can see it too. And there’s more than her but right now we need to get to Zack because he’s afraid and needs us to protect him,” I told her taking hold of hands softly to calm her down.
“Okay, we should get somethings for Zack,”she told me and I held up my bag.
“Already done,” I replied then she took it off me to check it. She tutted and shook her head.
“Hardly! What is he going to sleep in? Or eat?” She demanded.
“Leftovers?” I said pointing a thumb in the direction of the kitchen.
“He will need more. I will bring some of his favourite treats to help distract him from.” She cringed, struggling to find the right words while looking like she was still struggling to process it.
“The danger,” I filled in and she nodded, handed me the bag of his stuff and then went off to the kitchen. I went into the living room and looked out the window to see if she was around. She was staying away, but that was still making me look around anxiously. What if she tried to harm my Eomma?
“So, err, where is this place your brother is in?” She asked me coming back into the living room with a couple of Tupperware boxes filled with leftovers and a bag of his favourite candy.
“On the stranger part of town, you know where all those warehouses are with a few shops and houses?” I replied, but that seemed to worry her more because she sighed deeply and rubbed her forehead.
“Yes, I know it,” she replied then took out her car keys from her bag balancing the Tupperware. “Come with me, I’m not letting you out of my sight,” she added pointing a stern finger at me. I nodded sheepishly then unlocked the door again before opening it up.
I poked my head out then began looking around for Eight-Feet-Tall. It was getting late. The neighbourhood was empty and unnervingly quiet but I didn’t see her.
“Okay, come on,” I said then we walked to the trunk of her car. She unlocked it and we quickly loaded the stuff in. I kept glancing up and around, paranoid that she’d try to harm me or my Eomma.
“I will call your father to see where he is,”she said as we got into the car.
“Okay, he said he was less than two hours from home when I spoke to him earlier,” I added as she took out her phone and dialled him. I kept look-out and scanning the drive and road as my Eomma started talking to my Appa. She still sounded confused and snapped at him a few times. He also sounded like he had no idea what to make of all the stuff I told them was happening, not that I blamed them. I’m just glad they were going along with it. I bet that if I asked Elsa, she’d tell me some Creature Seers had a lot of trouble with their parents believing them. Things got even worse when I started hearing that familiar ‘Po Po Po’ sound near the back of the car. I jerked my head back to see Eight-Feet-Tall’s lower body right near the trunk. “Oh no…” I muttered then my Eomma stopped talking and looked at me.
“What?” She asked me then looked back over her shoulder at the back of the car.
“She’s there, she followed us to the house,” I was freaking out watching her float around to the front of the car.
“I don’t see her!” My Eomma shouted, my Appa was yelling down the phone at us.
“You can’t but she’s right there at the end of the drive!” I pointed seeing her standing looking right at my Eomma.
“Zack? Zack!” I heard her speak trying to sound like my Eomma more.
“She’s trying to sound more like you!” I added trying to open the door to get her to stop because it was freaking me out because my Eomma was right next to me, and she may be able to fool my little brother and take him away because she sounded so real.
“Ryder,” My Eomma began putting the phone down to take my hand and make me look at her. “I don’t know if what you are seeing is real or a hallucination-”
“Eomma it is real-”
“Let me finish,” She cut me off with a firm look and I shut up. “But you need to stay as calm as you can for me. Remember that I am here sitting next to you Ryder,” She stressed squeezing my hand. I nodded understanding what she meant and clutched onto my Grandfather’s pendant then took some deep breaths to clear my mind and calm my nerves with my eyes shut. After a moment I opened my eyes and glared back over my shoulder seeing she had now crouched down peering in at us.
“You don’t scare me; you just freak me out. I’m telling you now you can leave us alone and never come back or you’re gonna get so messed up you’ll never be the same again. Make your choice, creepy tall child predator,” I said to her in Japanese. All she did was give me a shit-eating grin while looking incredibly unintimidated. She then vanished into thin air making me frown and look around again.
“What is happening?! Answer me please!” My Appa called down the phone and I hastily picked it up.
“Japanese mythical creature that wants to take Zack. You need to get here fast. I’ll text you the address,” I told him then handed my Eomma her phone back. She took it slowly while looking at me taken aback by what I said. It wasn’t like me, but I didn’t know until now how I would react to my family being in danger, and I guess it was a good way as my Eomma hadn’t shouted at me over it.
“Make sure you get to this address as soon as you can,” Eomma told Appa before she ended the call. She then started up the car and we began to drive. “Which way?” She asked. I began to tell her the way. Whilst on the way she did ask me a few questions about Eight-Feet-Tall. I told her what I knew, and there were a few times she looked at me like she was watching some drama go down, but she seemed to understand. She also seemed to be starting to believe me. When we stopped in front of the shop, I picked up my Eomma’s phone opening maps to get the address for Elsa’s shop from there and sent it to my Appa. He sent back a thumbs-up emoji back which made me laugh a little.
“Look at this, he’s still using emojis at a time like this,” I joked but she wasn’t impressed and just tutted, taking the phone from me.
“He needs to focus on driving and getting here as soon as he can,” She scolded typing as she spoke a reply to him.
“Yeah, also…Elsa says you’re going to have to sign a type of contract to make you promise you won’t tell anyone about all of this,” I told her looking around outside to see if Japanese Slenderwoman was there.
“Who would believe me?!” She exclaimed with a huff.
“I don’t know, but it’s for our protection Eomma. Lots of people have done it before,” I replied and she nodded getting out of the car.
“It is necessary then. I’m sure I’ve had worse contracts to deal with at work,”she added as I got out of the car and followed her back to the trunk.
“You have some busy ones today?” I asked and she nodded.
“Mostly expensive office buildings, and a few developments in older areas that’s just painful,” She told me opening the trunk so I could pick up the stuff and locked and closed it afterwards.
“Well, this one won’t be painless,” I chuckled glancing down at my bandaged finger as we strode over to the door. I saw Elsa appear from the back and she rushed over to unlock the door.
“Hello Ryder, is this your mother?” She asked me and I nodded.
“Yes. Mi Young Park,” My Eomma introduced holding a hand out for her to shake.
“Elsa Lenek, please come in,” Elsa shook her hand once then beckoned us to come in. My Eomma never kept her eyes off Elsa and I could tell she was already beginning to work out who she was as a person.
“Ryder has told me some unbelievable things. Including that a monster wants to take Zack away,” She began as Elsa locked the door and spun back around to listen to her.
“That is true,” Elsa nodded lacing her cupping her hands together in front of her.
“If you have proof that this is real, I need to see it,” My Eomma demanded.
“Eomma, you can’t see her. Only me, Elsa and Zack can-”
“I know. But if you have any proof that these monsters are real, and that he is not seeing things that are not there, and that you are not lying to him, I need to see it,” My Eomma repeated. Elsa thought for a moment before she spoke.
“Usually I need you to sign something to make you promise not to share this with other first. But I will make an exception,” Elsa told us then she turned her head. “Kappa, will you please show yourself to our guest?” she said in Japanese making my Eomma frown at me as she didn’t speak that language like me and Appa.
“She’s asking for a creature to show himself to you,” I told her.
“What creature is- AHHH!”
“Eomma!” When Kappa walked out, she saw him almost right away and screamed jumping back and nearly falling over. I nearly dropped the stuff in my hands to catch her but luckily, I was able to stop her from falling by moving my body so she would fall back against me and steady herself. “Mom it’s ok, Kappa isn’t going to hurt you,” I reassured her in Korean as she tried to process what she was seeing.
“I-I didn’t think it would, I…I am just so surprised that I am seeing it,” She stuttered, and my Eomma does not stutter. “It…is actually real!” She added pointing at Kappa as she stared at it in fascination.
“It is rude to point at Kappa, Mi Young,” Elsa pointed out surprising me too as she said it in Korean.
“Oh, so sorry. Hello mister,” She replied bowing, Elsa translated what she said into Japanese then Kappa let out a strange scoff that sounded lizard-like again, like a random lizard sound you’d hear at the zoo or in a nature documentary, but it still came across as a scoff.
“So, this is where he gets his manners from,” Kappa commented looking her up and down with his beak in the air.
“Hey! Give us both a break we just found out mythical creatures are real!” I reminded pointing the couple Tupperware boxes like I would one of my fingers at someone I was arguing with.
“We have no time for this,” Elsa interrupted then she strode up to my Eomma. “Now you see it is real? What he saw was real?” My Eomma looking at me nodded.
“But what exactly was it? I need to know,” My Eomma questioned frowning at Elsa.
“I will tell you, Ryder,” Elsa then jerked her head towards the table where the stuff about Eight-Feet-Tall still lay on. “The creature that is wanting to take your son is called Hachishakusama,” Elsa began as the three of us all took a seat; my Eomma sitting in the chair with the pictures and book in front of it.
“What are these pictures?” Eomma frowned picking up one of her at night that was taken from a window as she walked away.
“It’s pictures of her Eomma, don’t you see how creepy she is in each of them?” I asked frowning too.
“You don’t see her Mi Young because you are Blind Human, and she did not make herself visible to you when this picture was taken,” Elsa explained. My Eomma, however, looked sideways with an eyebrow raised when she heard ‘Blind Human’. “There is this sketch of her though, you see?” Elsa added turning the page in the book to reveal a terrifyingly accurate pencil sketch.
“This… thing wants to take Zack away?” My Eomma seethed leering down at the sketch.
“Yes, but we have plans to stop her,” Elsa replied gesturing to the bowls of salt and Buddha statue. “We can do more though with you,” She added as my Eomma read the information on the creature.
“If she gets him, we will never get him back?” Eomma read getting a nod back from Elsa. She then let took in a deep breath and let it out shutting her eyes. “What do I need to do to help stop the bitch?”
“Damn Eomma…” Elsa’s eyebrows shot up in shock, my eyes went wide and I leaned back in my seat. She was going full Momma Bear, or Tiger, and I’d never seen her do this before.
“We will have to lock him in a room alone until morning. And we can do things to keep her away,” Elsa explained.
“Wait, I can’t even be in the same room as him?” I asked and she shook her head.
“As a seer, we need you and your energy to help keep her away. You and your husband can also help but you must listen to what we tell you,” Elsa explained. My Eomma looked really unhappy, as she flitted between listening and reading about what we’d have to do to protect Zack.
“But before we do, I must insist on you signing the promise note. Please follow me,” Elsa then stood up, and my Eomma reluctantly did the same and followed her upstairs to the meeting area. I rubbed my forehead thinking over what Elsa told me. Zack would be even more afraid on his own in a room, with that crazy bitch trying to get to him. Would all this affect him when he was older? Why did he have to get dragged into this? Why couldn’t she just try to kill me?! I thought resting my head on my hand while I rested my elbow on the table and looked over at my brother and K. He was playing now, but K had to do a lot to encourage him to play with the toys. Speaking of which, I didn’t ask how she knew Elsa and decided to stroll over to sit next to K on the ground and ask her that and more.
“How you holding up?” I asked and Zack paused from playing to smile at me as he held up a toy truck.
“This is a cool toy! Can I keep it?” Zack asked me.
“I’m sure Elsa will let you, but you should ask her first,” K, who was resting on her knees, told him with a soothing tone. Zack pulled an annoyed face before he went back to playing. It made me chuckle, but she was right and I’d make sure he does that and ask Eomma if he can keep it too.
“Thanks for looking out for him K, I’m Ryder, nice to meet you,” I began holding a hand out for her to shake. “I’ve never met someone in this situation before, and never have I not been awkward when meeting someone,” I added grinning and she laughed once shaking my hand.
“Hello Ryder, you may call me K,” She then let my hand go and bowed her head a little which I did back. “And Elsa will tell you that you will meet lots of new people and creatures in situations like this. Being awkward or not is up to you though,” She added and I nodded then wondered what other characters Elsa knew through being a Creature Seer.
“So, how do you and Elsa know each other?” I asked, resting my pointy elbows on my knees.
“We were at University in Tokyo together. And my family have been involved with protecting children from Hachishakusama for years,” She told me.
“I thought Blind Humans were supposed to stay away from the world of Creatures?” I questioned.
“My family were dragged into is when that monster took a child from us,” K replied, seething slightly.
“Whoa, how long ago was that?” I asked her.
“Nearly a hundred years. My uncle was the child taken. My grandparents vowed to do everything in their power to stop her from doing it again, and my son will take over from me one day,” She explained.
“So, like, your family are the guardians for that one creature?” I asked and she nodded.
“We do what we do with approval from Creature Seers, and in return, we keep the secret of this world and help them where we can. There were once some Buddhist monks who together managed to keep her trapped. Elsa thinks one of them may have been a Seer or got help from a Seer. But she sadly gets free sometimes. How she has got here I do not know, and it is very worrying,” She went on, that last line she said with a concerned look on her wrinkled face.
“Yeah, I saw in that book she isn’t supposed to be able to leave Japan. Yet here she is in the US of A. Do you think you can take her back to Japan again?” I asked her cracking my knuckles with nerves, I was a string bean for crying out loud.
“Possibly. We may be able to drive her into this,” she then presented me with a dull metal urn with a prayer in Japanese scratched onto the front. I took it from and looked over closer then frowned.
“An urn? Are we gonna cremate her?” I asked and she shook her head.
“No. It is a blessed urn, and we will try to force her to flee into the urn, then I will take her back to Japan to where we can imprison her again,” She explained. “We will need to wait until morning, and for your father,” She replied. Thank goodness it was Friday; I’d be like a zombie at school if it were a Monday.
“He should be here soon, I hope…” Just as I said that my Appa called and said he was outside the shop; he was also confused as to why we were here and not at the police station. I said I would explain later then called up to Elsa and my Eomma telling them the news.
“Wait here,” Elsa firmly warned going back into the shop, but not before she took a handful of salt out of the bowl closest to her.
“What the heck?” I questioned tilting my head at K hoping she’d be able to tell me why Elsa did that.
“It is possible she mimicked your father on the phone just then. And first item of defence against all demons is salt,” She said, I understood let out an ‘ah’ while nodding.
“Through here please Mr Park,” I heard Elsa’s voice slightly muffled before she opened the door into the study letting Appa rush in; not at all surprised by its bigger on the inside appearance, and when he saw us, he rushed over.
“Ryder, what happened to you and Zack?” He asked with a huff and crouched down to hug Zack who jumped up to hug him.
“As cliché as it sounds, it’s a long story Dad,” I replied standing up with K. “Err, this is K. She’s helping protect Zack from a crazy- woman…” Elsa made eye contact with me and shook her head rapidly telling me not to say demon or monster so instead, I said woman.
“We should call the police!” Appa began taking out his phone.
“Honey no,” Eomma began gently, moving the phone away before he could dial 911. “They can’t help us,”
“But we can,” Elsa added walking up to him. “My name is Elsa Lenek, and you may not believe me, but your youngest son is being targeted by a demon from Japan, and your oldest son can see her and other creatures you may think are mythical.” Appa scoffed with confusion plastered on his face.
“She is telling the truth, Joon Woo,” Eomma told him.
“It’s what I thought were hallucinations. They are real. I’m something called a Creature Seer, and right now near the back doors is a small ninja turtle creature called a Kappa,” I said not turning my head while I gestured over my shoulder with my thumb. My Appa looked over and he looked like he’d seen a ghost when he saw Kappa.
“Mi Young, I’m seeing it…” He muttered, unable to move his jaw properly because of shock.
“So, do I, so do I,” Eomma sighed heavily, still not processing this all herself.
“What is it?” Appa asked me.
“A Kappa, a water spirit also from Japan. But he is my companion and lives in the pond outside. He is not a harm, so do not worry about him. Worry about following me quickly,” Elsa insisted. Eomma grabbed him by the arm and pulled him up the stairs after Elsa to go sign a blood promise note too, I guess.
“We should get Zack’s things set up,” K told me and I nodded seeing that the light that was managing to shine in through the thin newspaper was fading. Zack was quiet again despite still playing with the toys. He was going to be terrified, and I knew I had to do something else to make it less scary and scarring for him.
“Zack, we are going to unwrap your sleeping bag okay?” K said putting a hand on his shoulder to get his attention as she spoke. An idea came to me just after she said it.
“No, we’re not. We’re gonna build a fort!” I exclaimed throwing clenched fists up into the air enthusiastically.
“A fort?” K frowned and even Kappa looked back puzzled.
“Yeah! A blanket fort! To keep that mean lady away! We can build it with Eomma and Appa!” I added. Zack thought it over for a few seconds but eventually, his face lit up and he jumped to his feet.
“HURRAY!” He cheered. “I’ll get them!”
“Whoa, whoa, wait!” I stopped him by sidestepping in front of the stairs. “We err, need to get the stuff first! To make the fort! It’ll be a fun surprise!” I added and he nodded then grabbed me by the hand.
“Hurry up! I wanna build it fast!” He pouted, tugging me in all different directions.
“I’m sure Elsa has some old sheets in the shop that you could use,” K huffed leading the way back into the shop, also grabbing a handful of salt from one of the bowls she passed by. We got those from one of the shelves under the cash register as well as some rope from the kitchen. Elsa eventually came in to check on what we were doing and she was okay with it.
“Your parents are talking about it all. Sometimes Blind Humans need time away from Seers to process it all,” She told me and I nodded as she turned to Zack. “Do you want anything to drink sweetheart? Tea? Water? Hot Chocolate?”
“Hot chocolate please,” Zack replied.
“Of course, what good manners,” Elsa complimented making Zack go all shy. “Cup of tea Ryder?” Elsa asked and I said yes, and K said yes to one too. She even handed me the fort building supplies and began getting cups out.
“C’mon Ryder!” Zack whined. We went back into the study seeing our parents stood facing each other like they were having a serious conversation. “We’re gonna build a fort!” Zack sang skipping towards the chair and table on the other side of our parents, once again blissfully oblivious to the danger. They watched him skip then looked at me. I felt a little anxious and sorry because this day was probably the weirdest, scariest, most stressful and horrible in all their lives.
“I feel like I need to say sorry to you,” I blurted out to them. Both of them frowned.
“Ryder, this is not your fault,” Appa said.
“Why are you sorry?” Eomma asked me.
“The timing of all this, and the fact we don’t get it all, and that we are in danger because of these, things I see,” I explained. My parents then strode up to me other, Eomma cupped my cheek and Appa put a hand on my shoulder.
“We will be here to support you, Ryder. No matter what happens, and whatever this, thing you have is,” Appa promised, even though he sounded unsure.
“You don’t need to be sorry son,” Eomma added and I nodded I had to focus on what was important. Eomma then turned around to go help Zack with a chair as Elsa and K came back into the study with drinks. They gave out the drinks, which were just the thing we all needed, and K had to keep reminding me and Zack to drink ours while we built the fort. Appa even got involved despite him being tired, but Eomma spent much of the time watching the time on her phone and looked towards the door going back into the shop she would have to go through soon.
Eventually, we finished the fort. It was made by two chairs placed with their backs towards each other about two meters apart that had the rope ends tied around them. We got two more chairs and put them side by side but with the backs facing towards the door near the other two and the rope. The sheets were draped over them and the rope to make the ceiling of the fort. Elsa got some pillows and cushion to put on the floor in the fort to make it comfier with his sleeping bag. Eomma and Elsa got the leftovers onto plates for us to eat when it got to 6 pm, and I went with Zack to the bathroom to change because K said he couldn’t be left alone even for a second, as 8-Feet-Tall might take him.
As the evening got closer to night-time, Zack started to get sleepy but he was still not settling down. He was still too scared. Elsa said our parents could read him a bedtime story, but they had to be done before 7 pm, since that was time the sun set. Yep, she was a night owl, which made her a bogeywoman. K gave him another piece of Parchment before we left.
“So, err… are any other bogeyman-like creatures that are going to appear tonight?” I asked K while we stood in the shop peering out the window and between the thin metal blinds at the dark street.
“No, they know to stay away from Creature Seers, and the presence of Hachishakusama will make them stay even further away,” She told me.
“What about the other places they go to?” I asked knowing unless she cloned herself, Elsa couldn’t protect everyone from all dangerous creatures at once.
“Myths and legends do teach blind humans about how they can protect themselves, but sadly Creature Seers can’t stop them all, they are only human,” She explained a little grimly.
“With the ability to see monsters,” I scoffed.
“It is true. You’d need a lot more power to be able to protect everyone. And sadly, lots of creatures that live to cause pain and terror have more power than seers. But they also have weaknesses,” K told me.
“So, the salt bowls aren’t for seasoning fries?” I said figuring out that salt and the statue of Buddha were her weaknesses.
“No, they are her weaknesses. I know of all of them, however not even I know how she is in this country,” She huffed thoughtfully.
“Maybe she wanted a vacation from Japan,” I suggested with a shrug but K rolled her eyes and muttered something under her breath. Then was when Elsa came back into the room with my parents and Kappa.
“He is sleeping finally. Nothing like a warm glass of milk and fairy tale to make a child sleep,” Elsa grinned lacing her fingers together in front of her.
“Now what?” I asked.
“We must wait, and he understands he must not leave the room,” Elsa added. My parents looked uneasy at the door they just came through. “Kappa will patrol outside, if he sees her, he will fight her off. But she will be much more aggressive and try much harder to get Zack,” Elsa explained.
“We can’t do anything else?” I asked, and she regretfully shook her head.
“Not until morning,” K added. This was so going to be the longest night of my family’s life.
“Would anyone like another drink?” Elsa asked, and everyone said yes to that.
“Ryder, if you have any homework try to work on it son,” My Appa said as we all sat down in the kitchen.
“First time I will say yes to that,” I replied dropping onto the chair whilst letting out a huff. This was already extremely exhausting both mentally and physically. I couldn’t help but question what this meant for my own mental health. Did I really have what the doctors said I had?
“If you want to eat Mrs Park feel free,” Elsa said cleaning everyone’s cups. My Eomma started pacing from the kitchen to the shop and back again. This went on for hours, in mostly quiet except for Elsa and K talking about how they would trap the demon and take her back to Japan. They were going to force her into a cursed object, a small Japanese jewellery box that’s owner died in a tragic accident. To do this they were going to use chanting, salt, and 4 tiny religious statues called Jizo statues that were used to protect children and babies. Elsa said they she would take off the protection spell keeping out demons on the shop and study, lure 8-feet-tall into through the shop into the study, sadly using my little brother as bait, but right before she could get Zack our parents would grab him, leave the jewellery box open on the ground and run into the garden where Kappa would come in with one of them and cast the protection spell stopping her from breaking out the ceiling. Finally, me, Elsa, K and Kappa would close in all holding a statue would close in on her pushing her to possess the box trapping her. It was like what the Ghostbusters did, but without special effects and dangerous equipment. We did have some fancy equipment though. Appa gave Zack his phone, and because he’s a kid that was born after the internet and smartphones were unified in tech matrimony he knows how to use the phone perfectly. Even better than Appa could. If he got scared, we told him to call us, but sadly Elsa said she may be able to manipulate that even.
“That looks right, son. Your teacher should give you a good grade for it,” My Appa said after he looked over geography homework.
“He better do, and he better let me use google maps in class because my eyes are killing me from looking at those little names and labels in that textbook,” I huffed shutting my heavy geography textbook then I rubbed my eyes. “What time is it?” I asked rubbing my neck.
“Eight fifty-seven,” My Eomma replied pacing back into the room. “How do we know he is not dead?” She demanded.
“We would hear her breaking in, and the alarm on the windows and doors would go off,” Elsa replied.
“She is also sneakier with her methods of catching her prey. It is not crash through doors, fight anyone who stands in her way and snatch the child in a bloody and traumatic way with her,” K added.
“But being a demon means she is still very dangerous,” Elsa said, the more they talked about her the more my Eomma rubbed my temples and gripped at her hair.
“Every other horror movie can tell you that,” I muttered checking my phone, in case I got a text or call from Zack. Spookily enough though he called on facetime just I unlocked the phone seeing that it was nearly 9:30.
“You okay Zack?” I asked him seeing that he was hiding inside his sleeping back with tears in his eyes.
“I hear her again Ryder! I’m scared!” He whimpered. I heard the demon growling ‘po po po’ somehow through the phone coming from outside the study. Elsa said she could hear it too but my parents were just asking with panicked voices what he was hearing. Then Zack started crying when there was a loud banging noise from the other side of the shutters making it echo through the whole building.
“I heard that!” Appa said then K turned the phone in my hand so that she could see it.
“Keep hold of that parchment I gave you Zack, and pray to Buddha!” She told him. She then began to pray herself. Zack clutched the paper and the pendant in both of his hands as the banging got louder. Our parents took the phone from me and began comforting him in Korean and I got up looking at Elsa for her to tell me what to do.
“We may need to help Kappa, follow me,” She then set off up the stairs swiftly with me climbing up the steps three at a time. She then reached up to the ceiling and opened the small square attic door which allowed a metal ladder to slide down and click into place at the floor. She climbed up first like a squirrel up a tree and switched on the light as I climbed up too. The banging was louder now and so was her voice.
“Is she gonna break the glass?” I asked quickly as she walked over to a locked and bolted door and began unlocking it.
“She may do, and if the glass won’t kill him, she will!” She told me then opened the door to reveal the roof over the study. Kappa was standing between us and her ready to fight. Elsa yanked me onto the roof and shut the door locking it behind her in a hurry.
I started at the demon with a mouth like a dead fish as she began to levitate in the air moving being crouched over and looking down at the shutters to standing straight and glaring down at my us. Kappa let out a hiss then he ran at her and jumped. She dodged left, Kappa landed on all fours then ran around to strike her from behind, and she floated up, before suddenly diving down, and with her long bony hands, reached out to grab Kappa. He retracted back into his shell and slide along the shutters. The sound went through me as he slid towards me and Elsa who took out a glass bottle with a cross on the front of it. She then started to chant a prayer in Japanese over and over again as Kappa popped out of his shell.
“You know any Buddhist prayers?!” Elsa suddenly asked me, but my mind was racing so much I couldn’t answer and instead just shook my head no. “Then start asking for Buddha to protect us!”
I then started to do just that while holding my pendant. Please, please, Buddha, if you are real, protect my brother from this evil demonic child predator and make her go back to wherever it was in Japan she was being held! My brother doesn’t deserve to die! It isn’t his fault I have this newfound ability to see creatures! This went on for a few moments until she vanished again. Before I had the chance to ask what next Elsa told me to get back inside, Kappa pushing at my legs slightly impatiently and the three of us rushed back down into the shop.
“What is happening in there?!” Elsa asked. I could hear my Eomma wailing in Korean at Zack to ‘stop and listen, that voice isn’t me’. I leaned over her shoulder frowning slightly as I stared at the phone to see what was happening. Zack was near the garden doors still holding the phone at an awkward angle so we could see up his nose.
“ZACK!” I shouted as loud as I could not caring if I made everyone in the room jump in shock. Thankfully it also caused him to stop and look down at the phone again, looking like a frightened confused deer. “Don’t go near the doors!” I told him and he backed up then rushed back to the blanket fort hiding under his sleeping bag.
“I’m scared, Ryder!” He sobbed, his voice shaking like a leaf in a storm.
“I know buddy, you know what Grandfather used to do when he was scared?” I asked him and he shook his head. “He said he used to pray to Buddha. Since that lady is scared of Buddha, praying to Buddha might help,” I suggested then turned to K. “Right?” I asked and she nodded telling him about the statue of Buddha. Usually forcing someone to pray I’d say was wrong, but as a demon woman was threatening his life who was afraid of that deity, it can’t hurt to try.
“O-Okay…” He stuttered then he bowed and started praying, Elsa, K and even our Eomma started to pray. She was raised Buddhist, unlike Appa who was raised Christian, but she didn’t practice much. I clutched onto my pendant again and shut my eyes praying too. The video buffered and audio stuttered as the ‘Po Po Po’ got louder again.
This lasted for hours, Appa was pacing around checking on Zack through the facetime and going into the shop looking at the door to the study with worry. It was a long night, and this horrible cycle happened a few more times and during the brief breaks at about 1 am, Zack somehow fell asleep. I had to put my Appa’s phone on charge or it’d die meaning we wouldn’t be there if Zack needed us. Kappa came in and out of the kitchen a few times from outside and he told Elsa that Hachishakusama damaged the barrier in a few places but he had repaired it, but she had damaged the roof in a few places which he strangely seemed more worried about. She wasn’t able to get in though, and we seemed to be surviving.
Even though we were all extremely tired, we finally got to the morning. When the sun rose, everything seemed to become calmer. We were calmer, and the fact that we could now go back into the study and not be caged in the shop was strangely liberating. Elsa said we weren’t out of the woods yet though.
K led us back into the study and right away Zack ran out to hug Eomma. He wasn’t crying, he looked too exhausted. Appa crouched to his level to give him a tight hug then he checked him for any sign of harm. I crouched too and smiled trying to look as friendly as I could because I realised that her pretending to be me and Eomma had confused him and terrified him. I know she was a demon that stole children, but to pretend to be his own Mother and Brother was pretty fucked up. It made me think about how all the kids she had taken felt. I didn’t want Zack to feel that again, I thought then clenched both my fists when he sheepishly turned to me then pulled him into a warm big brother hug, the type that lets him know he will be okay and will be safe then I spoke.
“Zack, the hardest part is over, and I promise we’re all gonna stop her from ever hurting you again, but we all need to work together to do that, okay?” I told him firmly and he nodded. Then I took the time to explain the plan to him, and to mine and my parents surprise I remembered every little detail.
“We must move the bowls, and the fort sadly and take the newspaper down,” K said then everyone except for Zack and our Eomma got to work doing that as quickly as possible in the low morning light. Eventually, we got to the point where all that was left to do was lift the protection spell, but before we did that we gathered again to speak. I like I was being watched. It was like how I felt when I first saw her from my kitchen.
Zack was holding onto Eomma’s leg hiding his face in her clothes as K came over with her shoulder bag. She took out the jewellery box and held it carefully in both hands. It looked handmade with cherry blossoms on the top of the deep rich glossy wood lid. The hinges and lock we golden, and it looked good as new, but that could be because the owner didn’t get to use it much and no one would use it because it was cursed. A cursed object is an ideal object for a threatened demon to hid in, right?
She gave that to my Eomma, then she took out two small stone statues of a bald person in robes with their hands together like they were praying. They looked a little worn away and greenish like they had been kept out in a garden. She handed one to Elsa and one to me, then took out two more handing one to Kappa then keeping one to herself. When I looked closer at the face of the statue, I couldn’t help but think it was kind of adorable and really happy looking. I suppose that made sense since demons were scary and dangerous looking.
“Jizo statues?” My Appa questioned and K nodded.
“Yes, they are more modern than traditional statues, those are too valuable but these with Buddha’s help we will trap her in that box using them,” She explained. “How is it you know about them, Mr Park?”
“I travel to Japan a lot for work, they protect children,” He replied and K nodded.
“Amongst other things, they will help protect Zack,” She added then we turned towards Zack. “Are you ready?” She asked him, and he did nod still clinging to Eomma. That was when I felt a light breeze behind me and I saw that from where the toy cars were left, one of them started to roll towards him. It stopped at his foot and I stopped to see Hanz stood near the box, and realised he sent the car towards him.
I smiled at his little gesture and although my parents both look astounded by it, Zack just picked up the car and began to start driving it along an imaginary road while he made car engine noises. Hanz then disappeared, probably because he was still afraid of 8-Feet-Tall.
Eomma took Zack to the middle of the room and told him to sit there and be ready to hold onto Appa when he picks him up. K and I both hid on the second floor near the tops of the staircases and Elsa went back into the shop leaving the door open and I assume to unlock the shop door before hiding herself somewhere. Finally, Kappa went outside with his statue after telling Appa that the door would open for them once they got near it. He needs to close it as quickly as his powers would let him. My parents then also hid away behind the bookcases, Eomma the west side with me, and my Appa with K on the east side. It was K’s idea to balance out the blood relatives of Zack to not make her too suspicious. Eomma had had a look of steely determination in her eyes as she held the box. I saw Appa looking towards the shady archway under the staircase ready to run to get Zack. K and I looked at each other, she gave me an encouraging smile, and in return, I pointed to the Jizo statue I had then gave her a thumbs up.
“Here we go!” I heard Elsa call before everything went quiet. From the shop, I heard the shop bell ring followed by the door being violently opened making a banging noise as it hit the wall. Then I heard the faint sound of ‘Po Po Po’ that made my nervous as I held the statue in my hiding place. I kept reminding myself to focus though. The sound of Zack playing faded and she got gradually louder moving through the shop, down the hall and into the study. It suddenly stopped and I peeped out and saw her eyes locked on my brother. I looked at K who gave me a thumbs-up as she came out of her hiding place. She still stood out of 8-Feet-Tall’s sight meaning she was getting ready to rush down the stairs. I saw her slowly begin to float towards Zack raising her arms and reaching out to grab him. She was not going to get him.
“NOW!” I shouted in Korean then my parents ran out from hiding, ducked under her arms before she could realise what was going on. When she saw Appa pick up Zack she didn’t see Eomma smoothly put the box open on the ground. She flew after them still reaching out and aggressively making her ‘Po’ noise. Like Kappa said the doors to the garden opened letting them out, and he jumped out from the side, ready to fight again holding his Jizo statue in both his hands with stiff arms.
He began a chant like the one K used before, and it made 8-Feet-Tall back up into the middle of the room. Elsa came into the room shutting the door behind her. The demon flew at her but then Elsa held up her Jizo statue and began to chant in Japanese which made her jolt back, spin around, then fly back to the middle of the room. She looked up at the uncovered glass ceiling but flinched, hunching her back a little holding her hands up to shield her face like it something was pushing down on her slowly. That had to be the protection spell doing that, and when she looked desperately that was when K and I moved in closer holding our statues out. I held the base of it with one hand and the body with the other. K began her to chant, her voice sounding gritty with aggression and determination. She probably thought I was the weakest since I wasn’t chanting and because I was a new Creature Seer. Well, if she did, she thought wrong.
“GET IN THAT BOX AND STAY THERE YOU DEMON! NOW!” I seethed through gritted teeth in Japanese then presented my Grandfather’s pendant. She began to flinch back and crouched down; it was like she was shrinking! “NOW!” I repeated then she finally rushed into the box disappearing like a cloud of mist. The lid slammed shut after she and K dropped down onto her knees, the pain she must have felt against the marble made me flinch. She locked the box still speaking her chant like her life depended on it as she wrapped her left arm around it then stood up still holding the Jizo statue in her right hand. Her legs were wobbly as she strode towards her bag on the table that had been pushed to one corner of the room.
“Ryder, stay on K’s left side,” Elsa told me as she kept moving so she was still in front of K, and therefore North of the demon in the box. I nodded and did so seeing K was keeping the statue she had to the right of the box. Kappa stayed behind her also still chanting. “Stay close! We need to go outside!” She added as we moved through the study, down the hall awkwardly crushing up against K until we got into the shop. We stopped as Elsa quickly unlocked and opened the shop door, the box rattling in K’s arm when the bell rang. It was trying to break out and it probably knew we were leaving the shop. “OPEN THE DOOR!” Elsa then shouted in Japanese as we got out of the shop to see a black van with four Japanese people, three men who all resembled K and a younger woman. K stopped again letting the woman take the statue and stay on her right side but she still kept chanting and held the box in both hands. Elsa handed her statue to the oldest looking man who opened the van door standing out of the way to let him get in with the statue. I let one of the other men who I think may have been her son take my statue, and the other man took Kappa’s statue letting him jump up on to the top of the van and being to cast some kind of spell on it, maybe to again help stop the demon from breaking out like he did in the shop.
He soon rushed back into the shop telling Elsa that he was going to burn some sage, waddling slightly as he ran. She beckoned me to do the same, and I saw the man who took my statue get in the driver’s seat of the van, as well as the woman and the man who took Kappa’s statue got in the van, so K was between him and the other guy. They all sat like that chanting together in Japanese, the box again was rattling and you could hear her the echoing of ‘Po Po Po’. I felt like it was echoing in my very skull and once again I gripped at my hair taking shake breaths with my eyes shut tight as the ‘pos’ pound against the inside of my brain. The chanting though got louder and soon drown out the demon noises until finally, they all stopped. I looked up to see everyone looking at the now still box.
“We should move, I will contact you when we are in Japan,” K said to Elsa then the van door was slid shut and they drove away. I was stood watching with my mouth parted at how abrupt and quickly they left.
“Well, that was…abrupt, she seemed really in the zone,” I said as we watched the van get smaller as they drove away.
“When Hayashi Katsumi wants to do something, she will move earth and heaven if she has to,” Elsa said, I think she meant move heaven and earth, but she was right, K, or Katsumi, was a very determined person, and I was very grateful for it. “Now come,” we then rushed back in the shop, Elsa locking the door behind us. “It is not wise for Zack to leave until we know for sure she has been trapped again.”
“Is there a chance she may come back here?!” I questioned as we strode through the shop.
“She got here once, she may get here again,” Elsa replied opening the door for us to go back into the study where Kappa was burning sage. My family were sat together at the table they must have moved along with the chairs. My parents look calmer, and when Zack saw me, he jumped off his chair shouting my name. I dropped to my knees holding my arms out to pull him into a hug. I clung onto him as he sobbed a little on my shoulder, my own eyes filling with tears.
“It’s okay, she’s gone now, and you were great!” I comforted, my voice sounding like I was going backwards through puberty.
“Please tell me that thing won’t come back,” Appa asked Elsa sounding like he’d collapse at any second into a deep sleep.
“I cannot say for sure, but we have good chance of winning, Zack needs to wait until K calls to say they trap her again,” Elsa replied and my Eomma groaned.
“It is a good thing we don’t have plans,” Eomma muttered from the table rubbing her forehead. Elsa pursed her lips slightly then took a deep breath before she spoke.
“You can leave too, just be careful and have your phones close in case we need you,” she told my parents. “You can make food in kitchen too,” She then went to help Kappa clean up the sage. Appa beckoned me and Zack to sit with them. Zack was sleepy and ended up sitting on my lap hugging me as he dozed off.
“How long does it take to fly to Japan?” I asked him.
“The quickest is about twelve hours, but it can be much longer,” He replied.
“They will not stop until they get to Toyko, it may even take less time for them,” Elsa added as she sat back down on the last chair. “I am sorry I cannot do more for you.”
“You have done so much for us Ms Lenek, we are very grateful for that,” Appa thanked, but Eomma looked like she was thinking about something she wanted to bring up.
“If there are any questions you all have, I can answer them. Please do not be scared to ask,” Elsa said. I didn’t have anything to ask, but I knew my parents did.
“Umm,” My Appa began looking at Eomma. “We do have some,” Then Eomma looked up at her.
“Why did you keep calling us, Blind Humans?” she asked with bitterness. Elsa frowned for a second but realisation dawned on her face.
“Not what you think I promise. It is not meant to be offensive Mrs Park. We use the term to talk about humans who don’t see what we do, you do not see all the creatures both good and bad. You are shielded from it like they have a hand covering their eyes from it like a mother would to her child when there is something horrible, but instead of it being a mother and child, it is the hand of those on the other side and humans. Sometimes fate intervenes and that hand is ripped away showing Blind Humans all those horrible things, but Creature Seers are there to help and protect as best we can,” Elsa explained. Anyone with common sense could understand what it sounds. It kinda sounded like she called my parents ignorant and even like a racist slur. “I do understand what it sounds like, and why you don’t like it, but it is not meant to be offensive,” she added. Eomma nodded. It was good that Elsa got it, and took the time to explain. She was a sensitive and considerate person.
“Okay, you explained everything else about this before so we have no more questions,” Appa replied.
“Good, if you ever do have more question do not worry about asking,” Elsa reassured. Appa smiled thankfully and I smiled too. Eomma, however, looked like she was deep in thought about something.
“Mrs Park?” Eomma broke from her thought to look at Elsa. “Is something else troubling you?” She looked from Elsa, to Appa, to me then back again. She hesitated.
“Eomma?” I questioned as she looked at me again. “What’s wrong?”
“Is it possible that some of the problems he has are because of his, abilities?” She asked something which I wondered before.
“There have been Creature Seers who thought they were insane, or that they were hallucinating and even that they were possessed, so it is possible that some of his mental health problems may be his abilities before he knew what they were, but I do not know for sure,” Elsa explained.
“Why are you bringing this up Eomma?” I asked, I was going to do it myself but it was odd that she suddenly brought it up.
“Ryder, when you were a baby, we were not in the best position-”
“Honey,” Appa began.
“No, he needs to be told this,” My Eomma stopped then turned to me again. “We were very young when we had you, still in school, and we were still living in California,”
“When you were moving around a lot right?” I asked and she nodded.
“We had many problems with you, but we also have a lot of problems getting help. There were nice people, but there were people that wouldn’t help us. We went to more appointments than I can count, I spent so long on hold hoping to speak with doctors and psychologists, we took you to so many places trying to get help, we did not know anything about these things, and we did not always focus on you as much as we could because of work and school, and,” - she started to tear up - “There are times when I felt like I should have done more! I should have asked more! I should have pushed for them to do more! Instead, I just accepted it when I shouldn’t have!” She then burst into tears holding head in her hands as she cried. Appa wrapped his arms around her and comforted her instantly. I just sat there in silence processing her words. I remembered a little as a kid going to the doctors a lot, and for being dragged to the principal’s office for a lot of my behaviour in elementary school. Could that have partly been my abilities? Damn, what the hell did people back when mental health wasn’t understood go through and how bad were they treated by society?
“Mrs Park, Mi Young,” Elsa began taking hold of both her hands with her own. “Going off what you just told me, it sounds like you were in a very difficult place, and that you were brushed off by those who should have helped you. I am not doctor or psychologist or a mother, but I am someone who is good a reading people and I see nothing but a person who did their absolute best for their son and gives him all the love in God’s world,”
“But…the medicine he has been taking all these years, what if it did permanent damage?!” Eomma asked, and I felt worry flood my mind. What if it did?! What if that made with my abilities made me crazy dangerous?!
“Then you must take him back and demand they do a proper assessment and get him proper help he needs,” Elsa stressed, squeezing my mother’s hands.
“You won’t be alone either this time,” Appa began as Eomma wiped her eyes and frowned at him. “I can take the time off work this time, it won’t be too much to ask me, and I will do more too. He’s my son too,” Appa said smiling at me at the end with pride. I smiled became sniffing tears that appeared again in my eyes then spoke.
“Eomma please don’t blame yourself for all, this,” I said gesturing with a hand to everything around us. “You can’t control how my mind works, and you can’t control who gods and goddesses on the other side decided to randomly pick to have the ability to see supernatural mythological creatures that try to take kids and can look like low budget teenage mutant ninja turtles,” I rambled and when I finished, a small white piece of material was thrown past my face making me jerk back in my chair. I looked around frowning at where it suddenly came from and saw Kappa glaring at me. “Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood,” I said in Japanese. He huffed then waddled off and everyone else chuckled. “Here, don’t cry Eomma,” I said pushing the handkerchief closer to her. She thanked me and Elsa then wiped her eyes.
“I will make drinks,” Elsa then got up and left. Eomma calmed down and I rocked Zack back and forth softly to relieve my legs that were falling asleep.
“I will see about calling the doctor soon, it is a place we can start from,” Eomma said folding the handkerchief in front of her.
“I will call the doctor, right now we need to hug our boys,” Appa said then they both stood up and strode over to me and Zack. Appa knelt muttering a funny complaint about his knees getting old and Eomma stood on the other side. She took off my hat and ruffled my hair affectionately stroking it softly.
“We love you so much,” She whispered in Korean, her voice untightening from emotion.
“I love you too, you are the best parents ever, and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees,” I replied and they both laughed again.
“Who’s fighting?” Zack yawned rubbing his small brown eyes with his tiny hands.
“Nobody Zack, everyone is ok,” I told him and he nodded then jumped off me and went over to the bag where his iPad was.
“Ah, Zack no screen time until after breakfast,” Appa said getting up off the floor to follow him.
“You can cook in the kitchen if you like!” Elsa called as she came back into the study briefly to tell us.
“Thank you, Elsa,” Eomma replied then looked at me. “Scrambled eggs?” She asked and I nodded. “Scrambled eggs?” She asked Zack and Appa who both nodded too. “Scrambled eggs Elsa?” Elsa smiled and nodded saying thank you. Eomma followed her making small talk as they went. I was left with my thoughts that went to my Grandfather’s pendant. I wasn’t sure if we would have done it if I didn’t do that last show of it. Maybe having an item that belonged to another close blood family member helped fight her off. Thank God, Buddha, whoever, that it worked.
“Cup of tea Ryder?” Elsa asked sitting down next to me with two cups.
“Yeah, thanks,” I said absentmindedly taking hold of the mug handle.
“How are you now dear?” She asked taking a sip of her tea.
“Umm, pass,” I chuckled.
“On a scale of one to five, one being terrible, five be wonderful,” Elsa added.
“Two, and a half,” I shrugged.
“Right down the centre,” She said nodding.
“Down the middle?” I questioned and she shrugged pursing her lips before she drank again, me doing the same. “I just hope they trap her again soon,” I sighed swilling the tea in the mug slightly.
“Hmm,” She began thoughtfully then look up at the ceiling.
“What?” I asked tilting my head before I looked up seeing the morning sunshine coming through the glass.
“I still have no idea how she got to America like the notes say she is not able to leave Japan,” She stated.
“Maybe she learnt to leave? Creatures can change right?” I asked.
“True,” She nodded. “But it does not sit right with me, and it is something we should note down because it could be a bad sign,” I gulped at what that could be.
“Eggs!” Eomma called from the shop making me and Elsa look in that direction seeing Zack run off with Appa following.
“I will do it after eggs,” Elsa told me and I nodded. “Come on Creature Seer,” She smiled then we got up to follow the yummy smell of eggs and toast. We stayed there in the study, relaxing as best we could until Elsa got a call from K saying that they had trapped her, and that night I slept the most soundly in my whole life even with a whole tornado of scenarios that may happen to me now I was a Creature Seer.