Namiko Yoshikawa / Gojaku Peak / Jakobe Pass / 1976 / 18:00:03
"Spiriting away" refers to children who suddenly go missing for no apparent reason, who cannot be located however hard one searches for them, and are thought to have been taken away to the Other World by supernatural beings.
Sometimes these people never return, but some are found one day, in places far away from where they went missing, high-up areas that are impossible to reach by oneself, or in the mountains where people rarely go.
The time for which people vanish varies from a few days to, in some cases, several decades.
Those who do return are usually in a state of shock when they are found, and when asked why they were spirited away or to where they vanished can only provide vague answers.
The sound of the fire watchtower's siren peals.
--Where am I?
When she realises what's going on, the girl is walking down a quiet mountain path, her red backpack still on her back.
The evening sun, a brilliant reddish-purple, illuminates the thick, leafy mountain trees.
The girl takes a step forward, as though trying to keep to her own black shadow that stretches out in front of her.
--Why do I feel so sad when I hear the siren?
The girl, suddenly feeling helpless, is seized with fear as to how she got wherever she is.
She desperately tries to retrace her memories, but they crumble one by one, like the memory of a dream from which one has just awoken.
The sound of the watchtower siren continues.
--Did someone vanish again?
The echo of the siren through the trees on the mountain brings back memories of her vanished mother.
The villagers had teamed up to search the mountain, but her mother never came back.
She would never be able to forget the image of the light from the countless torches the villagers took with them into the pitch black mountain as they searched.
Maybe her mother had confused the torches for something else. Maybe she was still searching for the light even now.
--The light on top of the mountain - that's right, that's what I came here to look for.
The girl remembers the strange light she saw at Gojaku Peak the evening before on her way home from school.
The odd light had flown as though tracing the ridges of the mountain.
Feeling as though it was connected to her mother's disappearance, the girl had come here all by herself.
Until roughly ten years ago, people working at the mine on Gojaku Peak would still have been using this pass.
Now that the mine has closed due to resource depletion the road is lonely, unused.
She has heard that recently, an abandoned hunting dog has created a pack that attacks people who go into the mountains.
Since a child would never be allowed to go into the mountains alone, she has kept it a secret from her family that she has come here.
She thinks that perhaps she had been so absent-minded due to worry and fatigue.
The gloomy evening sun dyes the mountain's surface indigo. Darkness begins to enshroud the area.
A cool night breeze blows along with the wind.
In response the girl's body begins to shiver faintly, and she hears the clatter of a book inside her backpack.
--My book is due back today.
The girl suddenly remembers that she still has the book she borrowed from the library.
If the book is late back they will be mad. She won't be allowed to borrow books anymore. If she goes now, her teacher might still be at school.
She should come back tomorrow. It's getting late.
Worried about being alone and thinking of a scolding from the teacher, she decides to go back.
The moment she turns on her heel, she hears the rustling of grass parting from behind.
She can hear panting.
A prickly chill crawls up her spine, and the girl freezes on the spot.
--A wild dog!!
Her heart hammers like an alarm bell, so much so that she is worried it might be audible.
I have to get out of here now, she thinks, but her body won't listen.
She hears the dry sound of branches snapping by her shaking legs.
In the blink of an eye the girl sets off running, as though freed from a spell.
It chases after her as she runs.
Fear attacks her whole body as she races.
The bare legs sticking out from under her skirt are scratched by the foliage, and still she runs.
Her heart pounds so hard it feels like it's going to explode, ringing in her ears.
It hurts to breathe, and she feels as though there is a red fog before her.
She has no idea where she is going, or for how long she has been running.
As she flees desperately, she catches sight of a collapsed stone statue, the way forward blocked.
(What do I do...!?)
Within a second's hesitation, she feels it come right up behind her.
She cowers in apprehension and fear.
The ground beneath her feet shakes violently, and the world seems to twist.
Just before she loses consciousness, her eyes meet with its - and then the girl falls into the darkness.
--Where am I?
When she awakens, everything is dark.
For a while, her memories in turmoil, all she can do is stare at the darkness before her.
Having been lying on the hard concrete ground, the girl's body is chilled through.
--Maybe I fell down an opening of an abandoned mine shaft.
She gropes around in the darkness, feeling a wall. The wall is just more cold concrete.
Suddenly she remembers being chased by something, and her body tenses.
She feels as though she saw something just before she fell into the hole, but can't remember what.
She can't sense its presence any longer, anyway, and her nerves evaporate.
But she looks up at the exit in despair, so high up that however far she extends her arm she will never be able to reach it.
--There's no way I can climb up.
She hugs her knees to her chest and sighs.
She tries grabbing onto a ledge in the concrete wall and pulling herself up.
Each time she does, her thin arms are unable to support her body and she falls back to the bottom of the hole.
"Help me! Someone, help! Heeeelp!"
She calls out for assistance loudly, but even though she screams until her throat is hoarse no one seems to be coming.
She searches through her backpack to see if anything is inside.
Finding the triangle she uses for music lessons, she tries sounding it in place of her dry voice.
All it does is reverberate off the cold walls with a metallic clang.
She tries climbing the walls over and over. Each attempt ends the same way.
The girl is at a loss.
Above her head, everything is dark.
She hears the faint sound of rain, and feels a dampness in the air around her.
Suddenly, the girl feels a thirst like none she has ever felt before.
She puts her mouth to a gap in the wall through which rainwater seeps.
The water is strangely sweet, seeming to spread all throughout her body.
Along with soothing her throat, a strange sense of calm blooms within her.
The girl lies back down on the cold, dark ground, and her mind is swallowed by the darkness.
--I have to get away...
In her dream, the girl is running down the mountain path once more.
The presence behind her steadily gets closer.
From its panting and the sound of grass being pushed apart, even though she can't see it she knows that it is a wild dog.
In her chaotic dreams, the scenery the girl sees changes.
Sometimes she sees a girl wearing a kimono in the scenery as it passes by.
Glancing at her, her skin is so white that it rises out of the darkness.
The girl shakes out her glossy black hair and looks towards her, trying to tell her something.
She is incredibly beautiful.
Navy flowers bloom all over the black fabric of her kimono. In this village, there are only a few people who would wear such a high-quality kimono.
(She must be the Kajiros' daughter... I've never seen her before.)
Suddenly, a thought crosses the girl's mind - could the siren have been searching for this girl?
Sometimes, she catches glimpses of a funeral procession crossing through the rice fields.
People in black carry a small, child-sized coffin on their shoulders, passing through the graveyard marked with Mana crosses in the fields.
For some reason, the girl feels an odd conviction and a sense of loss.
The scenes pass her by until she can no longer tell them apart.
Dreams and reality intermingle, until she can no longer tell how many hours, days have passed.
The girl thinks it strange, being able to survive simply on drops of water.
--But at this rate, I'm probably going to die eventually.
For whatever reason, the thought doesn't scare her.
She can't grasp the image of death, of a world without her, as reality.
She better understands the more painful, sad sensations of hunger and loneliness.
But now, strangely, while she still feels the hunger she doesn't feel lonely anymore.
An odd sensation of calm, like being held by her mother, envelops the girl.
In the darkness she continues seeing things, no longer knowing what is real and what is a dream.
At some point, the girl wakes up in the darkness again.
Being cut off from the world for so long, she can't remember where she is, or even who she is.
Looking up, she sees the reddish-purple evening sun through an opening above.
The siren rings out faintly.
As she hears the sound, her chest seems to constrict.
It feels as though someone is calling to her.
--Time to go home.
Her mind still hazy, she clings to the wall and repeats the actions that have failed her so many times already.
She reaches out her arms and wraps her legs around protrusions in the wall. In unison, she moves her limbs up, up.
Her body feels light.
She climbs from the bottom of the crevice with surprising ease.
Nothing about this feels strange to her.
Beckoned by someone's call, she runs on and on, fixated on it.
As she leaves the abandoned shaft that turns on to the mountain path that leads towards the village, she catches sight of a familiar figure up ahead.
A girl the same age as her is running along, wearing a red backpack.
Feeling a sudden familiarity, she faces the girl before her and tries to call out to her but, as she suspects, no sound comes out.
As she desperately chases after the girl, she catches sight of a stone statue out of the corner of her eye.
--I've seen that somewhere...
Suddenly she feels an intense dizziness.
A second later, the ground begins to shake violently.
The girl watches as her other self vanishes into the red mist.
--That thing I saw when I fell into the darkness...
The girl turns around, book clamped firmly between her teeth, and scampers away on all fours.
The elementary school I went to is very old, and I remember there being lots of "seven mysteries"-type ghost stories about it.
I will write about the absolute scariest of the bunch here.
Long ago, a girl from the fifth grade apparently went missing in the mountains.
Everyone searched and searched, but couldn't find her, and deciding that she was probably "spirited away" the search was ended.
Right after that, a huge earthquake hit and many people died in a landslide.
As such, the chances of the girl being found alive were almost zero.
Several years later, one evening, the teacher in charge of the library was sorting through returned books as usual.
Suddenly, a dirty book fell to the floor in front of her, and the surprised teacher looked up towards the corner of the ceiling.
There she saw an old woman with unkempt hair wearing dirty, blood-caked children's clothing, clinging to the ceiling on all fours.
Suddenly the old woman shouted something meaningless like "Paraizou ni mauzu" and fell down.
Then she began to twist inside out, her joints making a terrible popping sound, until she was curled up like a woodlouse.
The clothes she was wearing are said to have been the exact same as what the girl who went missing was wearing when she vanished.
But however you looked at her, the old woman must have been at least eighty years old.
The teacher, having watched from beginning to end, apparently went mad afterwards.
Then, one day, she ran away, calling out the same words the old lady had shouted, and went missing.
Apparently, even though all of her joints are broken, the old woman lives in a special hospital somewhere.
[Interview with a former graduate]