Back in the days of my youth I was rather mercurial in terms of jobs and whereabouts. I had a multitude of jobs and had traveled to a lot of countries. Being a bit of a thrill seeker, I sought jobs that didn't really have much of a future, they just seemed fun. One of the most notable examples would be my job as a guide in Japan near Mount Fuji.

I could speak some broken Japanese and got along well with my coworkers. Being the staff of a fancy resort we had the privilege of borrowing one of its old boats on weekends to cruise on Saiko Lake, along the banks of the infamous Aokigahara. We would laugh at the rumors that plagued the surrounding residents and granted it attention there because it was kind of silly and we didn't really believe in all that folklore. Sure, the sight of the ominous forest at dusk was a little spooky, but that was not a big deal. Besides, Saiko Lake was beautiful; cruising along its clear waters and feeling that cool breeze on your face was enchanting. As we frequented our visits, the duration of each visit got longer and longer spanning its way into the late hours past midnight.

On our return journey of one such visit, I was supposed to be cleaning up. It was around 2 a.m. In the thrill of savoring our speedy cruiser we had exhausted it of its power and could only afford a single light source. As I looked at the shores of the cursed forest, I felt a chill; I laughed a little, dismissing the thought of being watched. I knew my alarmist mind could easily conjure up such feelings, given the atmosphere. Anything three yards off the deck was cloaked in darkness, you could barely hear a distant cricket somewhere beyond the splashing and monotonous hum of the engine.

I was almost done, when I heard a thump, albeit faint, against the hull. I curiously looked over, only to find nothing. I proceeded with my job, only to be interrupted by yet another bump, this time a little more pronounced. I looked back, to see a pair of hands grasping the edge of the boat. I froze; I heard of and even ridiculed the rumors. Never had I imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd ever see something like this; I was not ready for this. The garbage bag fell from my hand and I stood there, my legs shaking. I couldn't move. It looked as if someone was hanging off the ledge of the cruiser. The hands, as I could infer from the sparing lighting, had creased skin and long overgrown fingernails. Every attempt at reasoning with myself failed, because I knew something like that was beyond logic. The boat was doing eight knots, there's no possible way some unfortunate guy who fell into the water was trying to help himself up or that it would’ve be a prank by my companions because most were asleep, and others at the control room downstairs under the deck; moreover, to go there they’d have to go right by me.

PicsArt 11-03-11.51.07

Hanging on...

“Screw logic, I gotta get out of here right now!” was my initial thought. But I had to get past that thing, to get to where the others were. I braced myself. The plan was to quickly skim by that thing and run as fast as I could downstairs. I weighed out my chances, and dashed.

With my eyes on those grisly fingers the whole time, I tiptoed all through my spree, all the while dreading the possibility of that “thing” pulling itself aboard. Luckily, the hands remained still the whole time; I was safely past it. Crowning my fortune, I made the mistake of slowing down, thinking I had made it, and all that was left was to call my friends and deal with whatever that “thing” was. But I was wrong...dead wrong. Those hands scuttled their way along the ledge, clasping the edge, burrowing its nails in with every grab. It seemed as though the “thing” or whatever it was that was hanging off the ledge knew where I was going and was attempting to intercept me. The initial alarm that ensued inside of me reawakened and I turned around to begin a sprint for my life. I had only taken a few steps, when something landed in front of me, something that was projected from behind. With my speed impeded, I examined it for a moment, when it grinned-a human head.

The long hair hinted it was a female, also obscuring most of the face. The mouth adorned an imperfect set of relatively large, decayed teeth, spanning ear to ear. An eye as well was exposed. It was almost human; but the scleroses was markedly yellow, and the pupil floated lazily without focus. The flaky skin only strengthened the speculation that it was in fact that “thing”. The boat was still moving, the water splashed and the engine hummed, and beyond all that- scrape scrape… The hands were working their way...

I had reached my limit; my legs gave away and I expelled whatever contents I had in my stomach as I knelt, turning away from that grotesque object. I wanted it all to end, desperately hoping that it was a just a nightmare; I’d wake up in my apartment to find the alarm clock screeching at the fact that it’s 8 am...My head felt a blunt whiz, my vision grew mottled with dark patches and all my muscles deadened. As I felt a sudden whirling sensation, it occurred to me that these symptoms are what precede a blackout. That’s when fear tightened its grip on me yet again, pumping adrenaline along my veins. I didn’t want to be at the mercy of that “thing”. I staggered up, and with what seemed more like a struggle than any gait, made for the control room.

I was hospitalized for a month afterward. Unsurprisingly, my coworkers found nothing there. But I knew… The shock and dread that ensued left me unwilling to continue my job and hesitant to ride a boat for a whole year. I left Japan for good; hoping I could run away… Yet, that “thing” did manage to follow me...I had a bad fever once, and just one scene flashed in my head- the head was on the floor ragged and gruesome as ever and an obscure figure, just inches from me… kneeling down. At my feet were a pair of hands, with long nails and crinkled skin. Maybe I had missed something, huh?