The next night of the new moon, Kit sat in darkness atop a stone edifice, shintai near the shrine at the crossroads. He waited for the road god, Chimata-no-kami to appear. It was he who planted the shintai centuries before to protect travelers from epidemics and evil spirits. From his perch, Kit searched from one crisscross in the road to the other, knowing the beast from Momoko’s terrible tale should travel through this forest and approach at the demon’s hour. Kit had less than one hour to wait.
The pungent scent of pine burned his nose. He woke to whispered words and found the wizened face of Chimata-no-kami bending close to his ear. Kit looked up to find a will-o-the wisp disappear between the dense foliage beyond. He slid from the shintai and hurried toward the light. As he did, he slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a thin square of rice paper that fit in the palm of his hand. He tore a fingertip size hole in the paper and dropped the torn piece to the ground. He then tucked the remaining paper piece safely inside his empty pocket.
As he followed, the light slowly disappeared until darkness surrounded him, like a living thing with tentacles ready to suffocate and strangle him. It was then he heard them creeping through the thick underbrush, coming from all sides.
He breathed in horror, “Kumo!”
Kit slipped his hand into his pants pocket and felt for the remaining rice paper sheets. He pull one free and folded the crisp sheet into the shape of a wasp. Then he set the creation in a clump of leaves near his feet. He drew out a second square and smoothed the creases into a lantern that he held and blew. He whispered, “Ju-Fu!” His breath entered through the base of the lantern, turning scarlet as it filled the insides. One last puff sent the lantern afloat just above his fingertips.
At his feet, the buzzing wasp came to life. He knew by the pulse of her heart beat when she lifted from the ground and flew toward the tree limbs above. The place where others of her kind hid. Within moments, the air-filled with more buzzing wasps as they headed in the four sacred directions: North, South, East and West. Kit knew that each female would first strike the half human, half spider Kumos sending poison through their veins that would paralyze them. The wasps would ding holes to bury each dupe and then lay their eggs on top so that the newly hatched larva could feed on their immobilized victims.
Kit cringed at the thought of such suffering. But if the Kumo had reached him first, their venom would have melted his insides to syrup that they would hungrily slurp down their gullet.
Drawing in a deep breath, he took out the folded square of paper with the torn hole in its middle. He held the open knot to his eye and saw the place where the torn out piece still lay. Then he shifted and ran on four paws toward the crossroad. When he stopped, he stood beside the shintai once again. He frowned knowing Momoko’s monster must have sensed his presence and that was why it sent the Kumo. Kit’s next approach would need greater stealth in order to destroy it.
Copyright 2014 by Ledia Runnels