I remember when my family moved to Japan. It was quite a change from America and kind of rough on my six-year-old self. By the time we were fully moved in, and my 1st grade transcripts were filled out, it was late spring, weeks away from summer break and too late for me to make any friends.

The kids had already separated into their groups, and I was alone. One glum and overcast summer day, I put on some rain boots and decided to kick around my red ball. It was the only thing to do since I had already exceeded my two hour gaming limit. As I kicked the ball around the yard it began to rain. I paid no mind because what harm can a little mud do? I eventually kicked the ball as hard as I could and it rolled off into the Chinese junipers at the other end of the lawn. I sighed and ran after it.

Upon approaching the trees I heard a continuous, loud rubbing sound – like coarse wood on plastic. A tad scared, I watched and waited for something to happen. After maybe five minutes of constant waiting, I took a step forward but was stopped when a young boy my age had stepped out from the trees.

Juniperus chinensis Spartan 1 E Wiegand 800

His skin was a light gray, and pupils dilated.

“Hello!” I waved.

“Hello, I’m Kenji,” he said calmly, holding one hand out to shake while the other was preoccupied with holding my ball.

“I’m Kana,” I smiled and shook his hand firmly.

“Is this yours?” he asked politely.

“Yeah, thanks! Do you wanna play with me?” I asked eagerly.

“Yes,” he said with a more happy expression on his face.

My hands grazed against his. They were oddly cold – like freezing. I didn’t care much then, for I didn’t know what the cold hands and color of his skin meant. We must’ve kicked that ball around for hours, smiling, laughing. It was very fun. I told my mom all about it and it kind of worried her. A kid coming from a tree in our sealed off backyard? She told my dad and they hired someone to repair any holes in the fence. Instead of holes they found something that made my mother vomit right on sight, something so bad my dad had shielded my eyes by holding my face into his belly. It was a boy’s body. No older than five years old. He had gray, cold skin – the color of rot, death, and decay. His name turned out to be Kenji Matsuyama, the name of a boy who had gone missing just before we bought the house during the winter.