Saturday, September 18, 2010

Down the Road –Chapter 5

After returning Kerberos to the demon world, Nakajima hoisted Yumiko onto his back and approached the stone burial chamber of Shirasagi Mound. However, after peering into the small room through the kumazasa overgrowth, he could not hold back disappointment. The burial chamber was dug vertically into the ground with an opening about 90 centimeters wide and tall, but the walls of the chamber itself were only a few meters long at most. It was just tall enough for Nakajima to stand in if he hunched over. It seemed awfully small for the entryway to such a huge Kofun tomb. Was Izanami really here?

Don't panic, this sort of burial chambers must have some sort of trick or secret passage, or something! Trying to reassure himself, Nakajima lowered himself into the chamber.

The room’s cold air was stagnant even as its basalt walls, damp with humidity, glistened. Nakajima gently lowered Yumiko onto the ground. A frog that had been watching this strange intruder from one of the corners of the chamber croaked and jumped forward in surprise. Sitting down on the stone floor, Nakajima entered a trance and tried to make a connection with Izanami, but he had very little experience doing this sort of thing. Perhaps because of his anxiety, but the picture in his mind's eye did not change; the only thing that happened as he sat on the ground was the passage of time. Nakajima furrowed his brow in frustration.

"I can't feel anything, even though I must be much closer to Izanami than I was before. Izanami, answer me--how can I find you?"

As if in response to his whispered question, the entire burial chamber started shuddering. The stones in the walls started to groan, and a bit of dirt fell from the ceiling. Coughing, Nakajima unconsciously pulled Yumiko's corpse closer to him.

"Izanami, answer me, so I can revive Yumiko!" As if he were chanting a spell, Nakajima murmured the same words over and over.

The earthquake soon subsided. As if it were trying to ask something, the frog's croaking became louder. Nakajima turned and looked in its direction; what he saw made his eyes glimmer with excitement. The earthquake had created a gap between the stones in the wall that rendered the crimson paint on their edges clearly visible. Approaching the divide between the flagstones, Nakajima could feel cold air flowing through the reddish crack. Twisting his fingers into the gap, Nakajima dislodged the stones one by one, revealing a crawlspace large enough for a person to enter. The crawlspace sloped slightly downward, deep into the earth.

The pit was shrouded in darkness, but Nakajima did not hesitate. He tore his shirt and used the strips to tie Yumiko and his handheld computer to his body. Nakajima got down on his stomach and put his feet into the hole. Under his palms, a cold, smooth feeling like marble gave lie to the fact that the structure was man-made. Hunkered down on all fours so that he would not slip, Nakajima started climbing down the shaft carefully, into the inky blackness below.

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