“Mom, I’m so bored.” Dave sat on the wooden back porch of the Toriyama’s house, feet dangling. A well-kept stone garden with small walkways filled the backyard, a tall wooden fence making it a world unto itself. Or so he’d been told.
“Honey, quiet! They’ll hear you.” His Mom rushed on stockinged feet to close the distance between them. “You’re being terribly rude.”
His face bunched up, his boredom turning to annoyance. “When you said we were going to Japan on vacation, you never said it’d be like this!” He waved his arms around at everything around them. He’d thought they were going to be in Tokyo or maybe Kyoto not in the mountains in the middle of boring nowhere.
“I’m sorry, sweetie. But we couldn’t have come otherwise. Airfare and hotel would have been too much. When Betty said she knew some people we could stay with who wanted to learn more about the US, it was the only way we could even think to make it.” She reached out to touch his arm, but he pulled away. “We’ll go to Tokyo on the last day. I have the bus and train schedules all set thanks to Mrs. Toriyama.”
“One day there and over a week here. Yeah, joy.” He turned away from her crossing his arms. How was he supposed to find all the manga and anime he wanted to buy at Mandarake with only one day to look through it all? Joey had told him the main store was several stories tall all crammed full of awesome stuff.
“Honey, I’m trying my best.” She lowered her voice. “Why don’t you go take a walk and cool off? I’d hate for the Toriyama’s to see you like this.” The sentence dripped with disapproval.
“Fine.” Dave stood up and tromped through to the front of the house wishing his shoes weren’t in the foyer. Maybe he wouldn’t take them off when he got back. Traipsing on the tatami with them on, that would show his Mom.
A smirk planted on his face, Dave put on his shoes and went outside. Taking the path to the gate, he let himself out onto the one lane paved road beyond. Everywhere he looked, there was green. That or the flat cuts into the side of the mountains for rice paddy fields. Boring!
Shoving his hands in his pockets and staring only at the ground, he took the road randomly to the right. It was hot and humid with only the sound of insects for company. The street slanted up. The fields were soon gone, and towering trees grew overhead draping cool shadows over him. Old Shinto shrines or stone statues of babies with faded red scarves peeked at him from the foliage.
He was about to turn around when he noticed the road split a few feet ahead. One side continued on and up, while the other looked to go straight into the granite of the mountain. Maybe it was a tunnel. That would be cool to see. Might as well make the trip up here be worth something.
Jogging up the street, he did spot a yawing maw of darkness. The vegetation had retaken the cut cliff, but not the tunnel itself. A rusted chain was strung across the entrance with a faded sign showing a red circle with a bar through it and some kanji. It didn’t take a genius to figure out it meant for people not to go in there.
Still, curious, Dave walked up to the chain and looked inside. At first, all he saw was darkness then a pinprick of light flared deep inside. A breeze blew through smelling of damp. He saw the flare again and figured the other end was blocked with plants. But there was another end. The tunnel hadn’t caved in. Could even be a shortcut back.
There might be some adventure in Japan after all.
The chain rattled as if in warning as he slipped past it into the tunnel.
His steps echoed around him as he moved forward. The light slowly fell behind him, the flickering one at the far end growing more inviting.
About halfway goosebumps peppered his arms and neck as the air turned suddenly cold. Though he was alone, he could feel someone’s gaze on him from the dark. It was creepy. Suddenly the idea of being bored at the Toriyama’s didn’t seem half bad. He could try his hand at making paper cranes again. Maybe even make up with his Mom.
Dave turned around to go back. That part of the tunnel was now pitch black. He tried to go back anyway but within a couple of feet ran into a granite wall. That wasn’t right. He’d just come through there!
The sound of laughter rose up behind him. He realized he could see the wall, flickering light lighting up the area. Dave turned around.
There were things there. A huge umbrella with a giant mouth and tongue hopping on a human leg. A red colored demon with one horn wearing only a fur loincloth. One was an actual human, or so he thought until the woman her head detached from its body to float above the others tied back to the body by dripping entrails. They were holding torches staring him up and down and walking up close.
Shaking, Dave plastered himself back against the wall. “St, stay away from me! Let me go back!”
A green man with a turtle’s mouth and scaly skin shook its head and spoke in heavily accented English. “The sign is out there for a reason, boy. Once you cross into Yomi, you cannot leave unless we let you.”
“And we’ve not had foreign food or something interesting happen here in quite some time.” The sight of sharp and yellowed teeth flashed all around. “So that won’t be happening.”
Dave’s hair curling scream echoed off the walls of the tunnel as they fell upon him.