The Moonlit Corridor

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 10 (v.1) - Specter in blue

Submitted: August 22, 2019

Reads: 24

Comments: 1

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Submitted: August 22, 2019

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Lost in contemplation, Sung Ji stood as motionless as a finely etched statue atop Chiang Vu Tien’s toll bridge. The quiet and stillness, save for the intermittent chirping and droning of crickets and cicadas in the distance, reminded him of the meditation veranda at his Master’s mountain training center. It was a place that, as a young student, he could forget for awhile the arduous daily training and duties that kept his body constantly aching. Always there at night, he thought of it as a magical place where he could dream of grand adventures and far away places. Now grown and a long way from that pavilion, he was experiencing one of those grand adventures and far away places that he once could only dream of.

He had come to the bridge just before nightfall and after speaking briefly to the toll man bade him farewell as the man, after wishing him Heaven’s protection, departed at dusk. The samurai, having thoroughly investigated the mystery of the deaths attributed to the haunted bridge, at the suggestion of his new found ally, Kwai, was determined to spend the night at the scene of the ghostly appearances. The Chinese seer appeared to know more about the curse than he had until now revealed, but Sung Ji was accustomed to such secretive and eccentric behavior from mystics and shamans. Kwai was an exception. Sung Ji trusted him and believed that if he was keeping anything to himself he had a good reason for doing so.

The samurai had walked the length of the bridge three times in the four hours since the sun had set. Each time he approached the city side where the guardhouse stood he couldn’t help but marvel at the size of the building. It was three levels high with more than twenty rooms, and had been built at Chiang’s request to house the first toll keeper and his family. The present toll man informed Sung Ji that no one used the house now. Those who had in the past, actually contributed to the rumors of the sightings and vacated the place after having more than enough unpleasant experiences. Once abandoned by Chiang’s hirelings the house, in spite of the high wall surrounding it, was often used by vagabonds who spread even more fantastic stories of haunting melodies, unnatural mists and other strange happenings. As he stared at the building, the fact that such a grand house was constructed in the first place attested to Chiang’s consideration toward those whom he employed. He was wealthy, but was willing to share it, and evidently took good care of his people.

Sung Ji took in a deep breath. The air was cool, with just the hint of a lightly moving breeze. A thin fog had formed on the surface of the water at twilight, gradually rising and increasing in density after dark. Stars winked above in the night sky and a bright full moon offered subdued light, which did little to dispel the gloom. But Sung Ji liked that, and at the moment was enjoying the solitude. He had just turned to walk back to the opposite side of the bridge when he abruptly stopped, overcome by a sudden, mounting uneasiness. Feeling as if he was being watched, he momentarily detected the subtle scent of jasmine gently carried on the night winds. As the aroma gradually intensified, his ears, attuned to the slightest of sounds, detected the delicate, nearly inaudible touching of falling leaves beneath the trees a few yards away. Abruptly he heard the sound of a flute, almost indistinguishable from the moaning of the wind and twittering of the leaves as they moved along the ground.

It was a sad sonata, carried on the breeze with the sweet smell of jasmine. Within moments the flute became louder, no longer resonating from afar, but in fact appeared to be coming from behind him. Turning slowly, he was gripped by an unearthly fear as he beheld a blue transparent form taking shape within the rising mist. He strained his keen vision to better see what initially seemed to be a trick of the eyes. Just a few feet away, that blue wisp of smoke was gradually surrounded by iridescent specks, like fireflies. At first a few and then more, gently joining together while languidly swirling in the gray fog. Slowly the blue became a mist within the mist, became heavier, thicker and centralized just above the wooden planks. As he watched, transfixed, the blue hued vapor gradually assumed the slender shape of a longhaired maiden playing a flute.

The girl had her back to him, seemingly oblivious to his presence, albeit something told him she knew quite well he was there. So captivated by the vision, any thought of the curse had until now eluded him. ‘Too late,’ he told himself. He had seen the specter and was too spellbound to move. As he quietly observed the fog rise and swirl about the wraithlike form, she suddenly began to rotate with it, turning slowly until finally facing the immobile samurai, mesmerized by her beauty. He blinked, and the angelic vision was abruptly gone. The shock of her disappearance was short lived, however, as he felt an intense cold at his back. Turning apprehensively, he was shocked to find the phantom’s transparent form a few inches away, her blue, spectral eyes staring directly into his. Startled into movement, he backed away and his left hand instinctively reached for his long sword. He blinked again and once more the ghostly maiden was gone. Turning his back again, quickly and with a hint of purpose, he found the apparition once more directly behind him, her transparent face just inches from his. He gasped, just before he managed to yell… “Tora-ka’ (Go back)!” in his native Korean language.

The blue mist dispelled as if by an explosion, without a sound, leaving the stunned samurai suddenly alone in the dark. The smell of jasmine gradually subsided, and the melancholy sound of her flute trailed off in the distance, echoing slightly as if from far away, soon followed by a heavy silence. The incident was over and done with so quickly he found himself wondering if the phenomenon had actually occurred. Just how much time passed after the appearance of the apparition before he managed to gather his thoughts he was uncertain. But he was certain of one thing; the specter did not appear threatening. She seemed somber, melancholy, curious, and he sensed an intense loneliness about her and a sense of helplessness. She did reveal herself, but did not attack him.

He was shaken, like any person would be after facing something otherworldly, but he didn’t sense danger like he would have if facing a deadly adversary. Momentarily he decided to return to Kwai’s place. Perhaps the shaman could help him evaluate what he had, or imagined he had just experienced. With that thought in mind he set out in that direction, oblivious of the wraith in blue, floating silent and serene a few inches above the wooden surface of the bridge in the darkness a few yards away, watching him intently.

Not long after Sung Ji departed, a lone rider arrived deep in the night. It was an inebriated Miyamoto, an almost empty jug of rice wine in one hand, mounted upon yet another stolen horse. Following his latest escapades, the outlaw had decided to leave the city under the cover of darkness. The authorities there, he surmised, were more organized and capable than he had imagined. Such a metropolis was no place for an criminal like himself who preferred bullying others and taking his needs by stealth or force from those too defenseless to resist. Precariously seated on the horse, he was pleased to discover the gate blocking access to the bridge was unsecured, not that it would have mattered. He would have forced it open if necessary. Miyamoto had broken many locks in his long lawless career, but here and now it was not a locked gate that would delay his departure. It was the frightened horse upon which he rode. As he approached the bridge the animal balked and halted, then attempted to turn away. Miyamoto pulled back forcefully on the reins, dissuading the animal from turning. Still resisting, it pressed down aggressively with its forelegs, and pushing off began to slowly back up. Losing patience, the drunken outlaw shouted curses as he dug his heels into the horse’s sides. Taking the last drink of wine he bounced the container off the animal’s head and struck its left rear flank several times with an open hand, to no avail. Not wishing to cripple the stubborn beast he dismounted and, pulling on the reins, walked the animal onto the bridge, muttering curses and complaining as he went. “What is it with this bridge?” he questioned. “No creature wants to cross it…”

He managed to go only a few yards before the horse began to violently resist, neighing and snorting, its breath escaping in clouds from flared nostrils as it twisted its head this way and that in an attempt to pull the reins free from Miyamoto’s grip. Finally doing so, it raised up on its back legs, causing the drunk, unsteady Japanese to fall backward. He landed heavily on his backside accompanied by a loud ‘thud’. The sound startled the already frightened beast all the more. Neighing loudly and fearfully it turned then and bolted into the night, leaving the mortified outlaw, his mouth agape, sitting alone on the bridge staring wide eyed and speechless at the animal’s retreat. Immediately a cemetery-like silence descended over the bridge, as an icy breeze arose to stir fallen leaves that clicked and twittered as they passed over the oak surface upon which Miyamoto sat.

He struggled to gather his befuddled thoughts, as much as he could in his present drunken stupor, when an oppressive feeling of dread settled over him like a funeral pall. ‘What now’, he managed to think as the breeze picked up, this time bringing with it a more intense chill. Then, like a sudden clap of thunder, the breeze became a gust of wind that almost knocked him completely over. As he struggled to stand he became aware of the pungent, overpowering sickly sweet aroma of jasmine. The extreme odor violently assailed his nostrils, making him instantly nauseous as he shivered, his body convulsing and teeth chattering.

Just as suddenly as it had become a gale the night wind subsided and an isolated blue mist appeared abruptly a few feet in front of him. Within that vapor his eyes perceived a human form taking shape. Startled, yet composed enough to draw his blade, Miyamoto stared in stunned disbelief as he realized the form was transparent, but solidifying as the mist about it morphed from blue to pink to rose to deep crimson red. The form within the vapor was that of a young maiden, one whose features he recognized, but couldn’t readily recall from where or when. Once the apparition knew he was aware of her presence her angelic, child-like face mutated into a monstrous, demonic countenance distorted by extreme rage. Sad eyes became full of malice, protruded violently, turning bright red as her perfectly formed lips parted and her mouth enlarged to three times its size. Her pristine white teeth elongated, becoming carnivorous fangs. Her long, cascading velvet strands of black hair joined to form numerous tentacles that seemed to come alive, gyrating, twisting and then reaching out forward as the tips turned red and burst into flame. Suddenly and without warning the specter floating in the red mist, accompanied by a horrific primal scream, launched itself at the fear stricken outlaw, exploding into a red cloud of dust-like particles as it collided with, and simultaneously passed through him.

As the ghostly scream lingered momentarily before becoming an echoing wail, Miyamoto felt as though his insides and very soul were being pulled and ripped apart. His head pounded painfully as the impact spun him in a circle, nearly causing him to lose balance. Feeling as if he would vomit, the terrified brigand jerked his head this way and that, turning about, his eyes darting in all directions in search of the phantom. To his confused astonishment he found himself completely alone, frightened, dazed and wretched. The terrifying wraith had vanished. At that moment his trembling legs gave way, knees buckled and he dropped like a heavy rice sack to the wooden planks, vomiting voraciously. His head throbbed as incomplete thoughts and disconnected words spun through his wine-addled mind and blurred into nothingness. “This can’t be happening,” he heard himself murmur. The vision was gone, but not before leaving an intense, unforgettable and horrifying impression on the outlaw. ‘Perhaps it never happened’, he reasoned. ‘Maybe it was just in my mind’… Even as that thought occurred to him, although he wasn’t all that intelligent, he was smart enough to know that if indeed it was in his head, it was a bad place for it to be.


© Copyright 2019 C Wm Bird. All rights reserved.

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