There’s a locket in my possession. I don’t know what to do with it. I have no clue about its owner or the reason behind its significance, yet an inexplicable understanding tells me it holds some sort of relevance.
This sentiment seems to be affirmed by Cerby, the hellhound companion that walks beside me, a constant reminder of this strange place. As if it’s all a terrible lie.
Our journey leads us down the tracks toward a beacon on the horizon—an omnipresent guide into the unknown.
A peculiar feeling creeps into me, crawling under my skin like a parasite. I sense eyes on me—watchful, hidden. Each time I try to dredge up memories from my life, to recall anything about who I was or what brought me here, a new distraction appears.
It’s Cerby who first alerts me to the new presence. The hellhound’s ears prick up, standing rigid, and a low growl emits from his throat. It sounds like the hum of a chainsaw idling, waiting to roar to life.
Following Cerby’s gaze, I see a figure emerging from a small thicket of trees about 20 yards to my right. This entity, whether human or something else, glides over the rails toward us.
My heart pounds, but I’m not scared. Instead, a sense of unease washes over me. The figure, shrouded in a black robe and hood, reminds me of the Reaper—a specter often associated with death and the unknown.
I stop walking. Cerby, however, advances a step further, positioning himself protectively between me and the stranger.
“Who are you?” I ask, my voice echoing into the uncanny silence around us.
“Fallen petals return to the branch. I am a ghost. Behold the summer grass. All that remains of a warrior’s dreams,” says the hooded figure.
I blink. “Excuse me?”
I can’t see its face. The hood shrouds it completely, preserving its anonymity. The figure emits a volcanic smell, and the threads of its robe dangle, gossamer threads swaying gently in the dusk.
“Life’s journey ends, scattered and broken. Yet the cherry blossoms still blush in the morning sun. Even a mirage shimmering in the hot, barren desert harbors a beauty of its own,” the figure says, its voice sounding stilted and mechanical but oddly precise.
Shaking my head, I try to piece together what’s happening. I come to a sudden realization that this figure is speaking in poems. Puzzled, I turn to Cerby, looking for some clue or explanation.
“What do you think, boy?” I ask the hellhound, my eyes darting back to the cloaked entity.
Cerby whines in response, tilting his head to one side. He’s no longer growling or baring his teeth, but he hasn’t lunged at the hooded figure either.
A long, bony finger, pale as death itself, juts out from beneath the figure’s flared sleeve and points past a rusted water tower, to the glowing beacon in the distance.
“Dewdrop slips into the silent sea. Evening sun disappears beyond the mountains. In the heart of the lotus, the dust of the world is forgotten. Beneath the cherry blossoms, the samurai finds his rest.”
A synapse fires in my brain. These verses, they’re Japanese death poems. I remember a book I once read, a collection of such verses. It shared how, for many years, Japanese monks and samurai would honor the ritual of composing a poem right before their death. Some penned their sentiments as a Haiku, while others chose more free-form structures. I remember my fascination with the unique finality of this art form.
I realize that I should pay close attention to this figure’s poetic pronouncements.
Deciding to probe further, I ask the figure, “What’s at the beacon?”
If it continues to respond with only poems, deciphering its clues could prove challenging.
“A vessel rests in the heart of darkness. Journey’s end, beneath the patient sun. A mirror reflects, shadows dance. Where silence and whispers become one,” it says in its rhythmic cadence.
I ponder over the line—“Where silence and whispers become one.” It’s simple yet profound, inducing a flutter of anticipation within me. Although I could be misinterpreting its message entirely, I choose to believe that this hooded figure is hinting that I must continue my journey toward the beacon. It implies that my “journey’s end” lies “beneath the patient sun.” I’ve observed how the sun here seems to be setting at an unnaturally slow pace. This entity’s utterance seems to confirm that strange phenomenon.
The hooded figure then turns and strides toward the tree line.
Cerby watches its departure, his head turning to keep the figure in sight. However, he makes no move to chase it or bark at it.
As the figure reaches the trees, it seems to melt into the growing darkness, leaving us alone again.