Sometimes, spirits chase their lovers down and haunt them until their passion is fulfilled.
Japanese folklore was teeming with vivid and intense stories of yurei and onryo, sad and vengeful spirits who died with deep desires unfulfilled, who haunted the living and made their lives a living hell. They had a prominent place in many great works of art and literature. The Tale of Genji. The legendary painting of the ghost of Oyuki. And Aoyama Shigeharu had taken an interest in such things, when he was a younger man. He’d learned that sometimes, spirits came for their loved ones.
Now, he dreamt of her, night after night.
He dreamt every night that Yamazaki Asami had won everything.
He had a nightmare that the fateful altercation at the stairs in his house went very differently. Asami crept up on Shigehiko and stunned him from behind, her face twisted with rage and triumph. And she left him for dead on the stairs.
She spirited Aoyama away, took him as her captive. She killed the man who had been her previous pet in the burlap sack, put him down with a lethal injection like a dog that had outlived his use. The man who made the fateful decision to cheat on her, long before Shigeharu Aoyama even knew her name. The man who made her believe in love again after years of sexual abuse and then threw it all in her face.
Asami had her revenge on him, and now she was done with him. She put him down, just like she killed Aoyama’s beloved beagle. Aoyama still felt a shock of grief when he thought about it. She pledged to love Aoyama and no one else. And she captured, bound, and tortured him until he became the next man to live in her burlap sack.
He struggled in vain, arms shackled to the ceiling. She had injected him with something that felt like fire and acid in his veins. He lurched about, gurgling like his predecessor had in the sack, but now the burlap sack was folded in the corner of the room. She had taken him out to play.
Asami sat on the floor on the far end of the room, her sleek black hair hung like a curtain over that pale oval face, the haunting face that stole his senses, ensnaring his soul until he fell into her trap. Her lips were like the brush of a pink cherry blossom. At the sound of his struggles, a slow smile spread over them. She looked up, he shuddered. And those eyes lit up with an insane smile.
Asami slowly approached him, heels clacking on the floor, her gait graceful like the ballerina she used to be.
“Everybody is the same. Everybody. Everybody. Words create lies. Pain reveals the truth.”
Aoyama looked down. She was holding a bunch of silver needles in her hand. Their sharp points glittered in the darkness. Slowly, gently, tenderly, she pushed them up under his eyes and into his abdomen.
“Deeper, deeper, deeper,” she breathed.
She seemed to think that penetrating him was as intimate as the time they made love, that fleeting moment when he breached her with his cock and she gasped in pleasure spiked with pain. But Aoyama had always imagined he would be the one on top, the one doing the penetrating, holding her, soothing her, as she moaned in pleasure sparked with pain.
Pain, pain, pain.
“Asami, stop!” he shouted.
Being an old-fashioned gentleman, he was used to ordering women around. And it was a hard lesson to unlearn, despite everything this girl had put him through.
And a girl she was to him, not a woman, despite the fact she was an adult. She was closer in age to his son than to him. The trauma had stunted her growth. And he learned the hard way that she took a girlish, almost childlike delight in his suffering. He should have known better than to pursue her in the first place.
Her eyes flashed.
“I’ll decide when it’s time to stop,” she said, slapping him lightly across the face.
She fished out a piece of barbed wire.
“This wire can cut flesh and bone so easily.”
And those eyes never left his as she carefully sawed off his left foot. At the sound of his screams, his rage, agony, and terror, she grinned like a shark, teeth glinting like the needles in his skin.
“You have so many others. I’ve only got you,” she muttered, petulant and pouting like a child, “even though I gave you all of me you won’t be mine alone.”
His screams turned to howls, his commands and demands melted into desperate pleas for mercy. He promised to return her love, to love only her, until the end of time, if only she would stop. But Asami didn’t believe him. She would show him no mercy at all.
“Words create lies. Only pain can be trusted,” she said flatly. “You only realize what kind of man you are when you feel pain. When you have a very agonizing experience.”
In a hazy part of his brain, Aoyama wondered when she was going to stop visiting his dreams. He wondered when she was going to get bored with him and kill him like her last boyfriend. There had been other men before Aoyama, there might be others in the future. She went through men like they were candy. She hyperfixated on her victims, and then she was done. Wasn’t she?
His fear seemed to fill her with tenderness. She gave him a gentle smile, one which confused him to no end. Girls and women were supposed to dream of men who could take charge of them and take care of them, not the other way around. She stared deeply into his eyes. One by one, Asami gently plucked the needles from his body and he gasped, eyes widening in relief.
“I want to be loved,” she said softly.
She gathered him in her arms, seating him across her lap. A hand stole down his back, all the way to his buttocks, petting him like he was a dog. She could have given him a spanking in this position. The touch was suggestive, soothing and possessive. It was oddly comforting, and he felt himself relaxing on her lap, his head light from the loss of his foot.
“I want to be loved by you, but you never really saw me. You never really thought what I wanted. You only ever saw what you wanted to see.”
She was young and strong, while he was older and far more frail than he liked to admit. If he weren’t in so much pain, he would have been hard, he would have humped her leg like the dog he was. He was becoming complicit in his own degradation, and they both knew it. And the knowledge seemed to please her.
“You were always very busy,” she murmured, “sorry for being jealous. You were the first one to support me, warmly wrapping me, trying to understand me...”
She broke off and flipped him over, brushing a kiss across his brow, and then his lips. And then it was over. Aoyama could feel the sudden change in her mood by the way she stiffened against him. He braced himself, fully expecting more pain.
The pain never came.
She stood up and stepped out of the room for a moment. She seemed lost in her thoughts, humming an old Japanese love song she was surely too young to know. But she had an old soul. He recalled that was one of the things that had drawn him to her the most.
When she was out of sight, Aoyama’s son Shigehiko and his friend Yasuhisa Yoshikawa slunk out of the shadows, almost like they were actors who had been waiting for their cue a long time.
“Is she gone?” Aoyama wheezed. “Yoshikawa, IS SHE GONE?!”
“Hush, not a sound,” Yoshikawa whispered back. “We’re going to get you out of here.”
And they stole him out of the dark room, bundling him up in a car. The vehicle started and they left, Aoyama terrified that Asami would hear them. He was beyond relieved to find his son alive, but he was worried. A part of him felt guilty for betraying her, for betraying their mutual love. He had lied to her about the audition. He had made her think he loved only her. And he thought he did but, however unknowingly, he had cheated on her by loving other people, even his dead wife and his son and his best friend. By trying to escape, he was betraying her as surely as her last boyfriend. And if she caught him the punishment would be very painful, especially because she had just been so tender with him.
And he would deserve it.
“Run away and save yourselves. She’s coming for me, I can feel it!” he babbled.
They arrived at Yoshikawa's house, Shigehiko opening the door for him.
“Don’t worry father,” he said soothingly, “you’re safe now!”
Aoyama knew better. She was coming for him and she would never, ever stop. She was coming for him and he had to be ready. He stumbled and staggered to the kitchen on his hands and one remaining foot. He found a pair of scissors in a drawer and clenched it tightly in his fist. She was coming for him. And he waited for her in the foyer.
Sure enough, Asami burst through the door clutching her needles, her eyes wild, face twisted in betrayal and rage. She ran straight at him, her flowing hair streaming out behind her in a wild mop. She had no words, she needed none. Only a long, inarticulate scream.
They faced each other.
Aoyama stabbed her in the solar plexus with the pair of scissors. Deeper, deeper, deeper than the needles she put in his eyes, until the blood seeping from her heart bubbled like the blood gushing from his severed foot. Asami collapsed and died on the spot. She didn’t put up much of a fight. She died with Aoyama’s name on her lips. Shigehiko and Yoshikawa dragged the body into the basement and took care of it. But later that night, he heard someone tap on the window.
She was watching him through the glass. Asami had returned in the form of a ghost, her beauty luminous in the moonlight, she was smiling and there was seemingly no madness on her face. She was clad in white and looked like Asami, his Asami, the gentle, heartbroken girl he had fallen in love with. The girl he thought she was. The girl who still lurked somewhere in the maelstrom of hatred and madness. And Aoyama knew he would never know peace.
You were always very busy. Sorry for being jealous. You were the first one to support me, warmly wrapping me, trying to understand me...I think I’ve been waiting for your call all my life.
He was all alone, he was awake, and his eyes finally opened.
Aoyama was slowly on the road to recovery after Asami’s death. It had taken years, but here he was. He would never be the same again, but he was alive. And he was taking it day by day.
She had been too good to be true. He was ashamed he hadn’t seen through her. A part of him was ashamed he hadn’t been the one to kill her. He was such a pathetic fool. An old man past his prime and foolish in love. An old man with old-fashioned views who didn’t understand women or girls or the younger generation at all. She had threatened to hurt his son, and he couldn’t even protect his son. Shigehiko had saved himself. He kicked her down the stairs, breaking her neck.
Aoyama was slowly but surely learning to manage without a foot. He had long given up trying to marry again. Asami had claimed him and he belonged to her even if he was alive and she was dead. Shigehiko and Yoshikawa were there for him. He didn’t know what he would do without them. And life went on.
But there were nights, nights like this one, when he could have sworn he heard the clack of Asami’s heels on the floor. And he had the same dream, night after night.
She was dead. Asami was a restless, vengeful spirit who had been wronged in life, who had died with many desires unfulfilled. His heart ached for her. For both of them, and what they could have had. Maybe in another world, they would have been soulmates. The morning she disappeared, he had been going to ask her to marry him.
She had died with so many unfulfilled wishes, she was sure to come back as a ghost. A dangerous, vengeful spirit, like the legendary Yamamura Sadako or Saeki Kayako.
Sadako, an intersex woman and a rape victim. Kayako, a domestic violence victim who had been murdered by her husband, along with her son and pet cat.
Asami, who had been physically and sexually abused by her father, cheated on by her boyfriend, and lied to by Aoyama.
They were all vengeful spirits, capable of doing great harm to the living.
Sometimes, he wondered if on some level, they wanted to do to others what had been done to them. He wondered if they had come to associate love with pain.
Perhaps they understood each other’s pain. He had heard horror stories of a monster named Sadakaya, formed from the combined energies of Yamamura Sadako and Saeki Kayako. He shuddered to think what would happen if Asami’s spirit entangled with those of the other two, and they banded together. Three women who had been wronged by the men in their lives, becoming one, coming together in death. Three women to haunt his nightmares.
He fought everyday to exorcise her from his mind, to stop her chasing him in his dreams. He had stabbed her many times with the scissors, she had died many times in his nightmares, but still she was not gone from his life. The things she had done would stay with him forever.
Even like this, he was still hers. He was still her dog, and he would die a dog’s death.
Sometimes, spirits chase their lovers down and haunt them until their passion is fulfilled.
And somewhere among the spirits, Asami was watching him, waiting for him. Haunting him and hunting him. It was a long time before he could fall asleep again.