The Goblin of Adachigahara (cont.)
(see previous page for audio)After the priest had finished his supper the old woman sat down by the fire-place, and they talked together for a long time. The pilgrim thought to himself that he had been very lucky to come across such a kind, hospitable old woman. At last the wood gave out and, as the fire died slowly down, he began to shiver with cold just as he had done when he arrived.
"I see you are cold," said the old woman; "I will go out and gather some wood, for we have used it all. You must stay and take care of the house while I am gone."
"No, no," said the pilgrim, "let me go instead, for you are old, and I cannot think of letting you go out to get wood for me this cold night!"
The old woman shook her head and said: "You must stay quietly here, for you are my guest." Then she left him and went out.
In a minute she came back and said: "You must sit where you are and not move, and, whatever happens, don't go near or look into the inner room. Now mind what I tell you!"
"If you tell me not to go near the back room, of course I won't," said the priest, rather bewildered.
The old woman then went out again, and the priest was left alone. The fire had died out, and the only light in the hut was that of a dim lantern. For the first time that night, he began to feel that he was in a weird place, and the old woman's words, "Whatever you do don't peep into the back room," aroused his curiosity and his fear.
What hidden thing could be in that room that she did not wish him to see? For some time the remembrance of his promise to the old woman kept him still, but at last he could no longer resist his curiosity to peep into the forbidden place.
He got up and began to move slowly towards the back room. Then the thought that the old woman would be very angry with him if he disobeyed her made him come back to his place by the fireside.
As the minutes went slowly by and the old woman did not return, he began to feel more and more frightened, and to wonder what dreadful secret was in the room behind him. He must find out.
"She will not know that I have looked unless I tell her. I will just have a peep before she comes back," said the man to himself.
With these words he got up on his feet (for he had been sitting all this time in Japanese fashion with his feet under him) and stealthily crept towards the forbidden spot. With trembling hands he pushed back the sliding door and looked in. What he saw froze the blood in his veins.
The room was full of dead men's bones, and the walls were splashed and the floor was covered with human blood. In one corner skull upon skull rose to the ceiling, in another was a heap of arm bones, in another a heap of leg bones. The sickening smell made him faint. He fell backwards with horror, and for some time lay in a heap with fright on the floor, a pitiful sight. He trembled all over and his teeth chattered, and he could hardly crawl away from the dreadful spot.
"How horrible!" he cried out. "What awful den have I come to in my travels? May Buddha help me or I am lost. Is it possible that that kind old woman is really the cannibal goblin? When she comes back, she will show herself in her true character and eat me up at one mouthful!"
With these words, his strength came back to him and, snatching up his hat and staff, he rushed out of the house as fast as his legs could carry him. Out into the night he ran, his one thought to get as far as he could from the goblin's haunt. He had not gone far when he heard steps behind him and a voice crying: "Stop! Stop!"
He ran on, redoubling his speed, pretending not to hear. As he ran, he heard the steps behind him come nearer and nearer, and at last he recognized the old woman's voice which grew louder and louder as she came nearer. "Stop! stop, you wicked man, why did you look into the forbidden room?"
The priest quite forgot how tired he was, and his feet flew over the ground faster than ever. Fear gave him strength, for he knew that if the goblin caught him he would soon be one of her victims. With all his heart he repeated the prayer to Buddha: "Namu Amida Butsu, Namu Amida Butsu."
And after him rushed the dreadful old hag, her hair flying in the wind, and her face changing with rage into the demon that she was. In her hand she carried a large blood-stained knife, and she still shrieked after him, "Stop! Stop!"
At last, when the priest felt he could run no more, the dawn broke and, with the darkness of night, the goblin vanished, and he was safe. The priest now knew that he had met the Goblin of Adachigahara, the story of whom he had often heard but never believed to be true.
He felt that he owed his wonderful escape to the protection of Buddha to whom he had prayed for help, so he took out his rosary and, bowing his head as the sun rose, he said his prayers and made his thanksgiving earnestly. He then set forward for another part of the country, only too glad to leave the haunted plain behind him.
Next: The Ogre of Rashomon