From the Journal of Thadeus Belmont

as discovered by Kris Brazell

August 30th, 1894

The bank had received a most unusual request, and so I called upon the home of my friend and client, Lucas Chandler.

Instead of the housekeeper, the door was answered by Lucas’ brother whom I had only met once or twice since his arrival. I

had heard that he was a doctor, and that he had a young son who was sickly; but, beyond that, I knew very little.

“Is Ms. Blake off today?” I inquired.

“She is upstairs tending to my son,” he answered standing aside to allow me to enter.

Attempting to be cordial, I asked, “Is your wife home?”

“No, she is not.”

The finality in his tone precluded any question that she would simply arrive shortly from shopping or visiting with friends, and

so I decided to dispense with any polite trivialities.

The doctor led me through the foyer and into the library. The heavy curtains were drawn shut such that the only illumination

came from faint gaslight in sconces along the walls. He indicated a chair for me as he sat opposite in a heavy wingback and

crossed his legs. As he leaned back, his face sank into the shadows. Beside him was a small occasional table with a plate of

crackers and a wedge of cheese. He picked up a knife that seemed larger than necessary for slicing cheese, and cut a slice

free and delicately placed it upon a cracker. As I attempted to make myself comfortable in the clearly inferior chair, he popped

the entire cracker into his mouth. He uncouthly offered me nothing. He chewed slowly and swallowed, leaving me to sit in

silence before asking as to the nature of my visit.

I wasn’t quite sure how to begin, so I simply said, “We received the initial request for the account transfer, but it is highly

unusual for the transferring party to not be present.”

“My attorneys are completing the necessary paperwork. All of the signatures and legal requirements will be presented as

soon as they are finished.”

“Yes, but I’ve known Lucas for a long time, and for him to simply abandon all of his responsibilities and leave with no word

as to his whereabouts is quite out of character.”
“He always felt he lacked in some way for not having the same adventurous spirit as father. I believe he felt that he should

go experience the world, and with me returning home, it provided the perfect opportunity.”

“Even so, do you suppose I might see his room in the off chance that he left some word for me?” I asked.

There was more silence while he ate another cracker. Finally, he said, “You may not. And I find the unspoken question most…

distasteful.”

I am not a man to be easily intimidated, but I certainly felt out of my element sitting across from this man whose eyes I could

feel on me but could not see.

Suddenly, a muffled scream pierced the uncomfortable quiet. I leapt to my feet and turned toward the door. “What was

that?” I attempted to demand, but the words came out in a gasp of exhaled wind. It sounded like a man’s scream, but through

the walls, it was difficult to determine.

“Sit down!” the doctor’s voice thundered in the confines of the library. He sounded as if he was speaking to a petulant child.

Turning back, the man had not moved a muscle. I felt sweat begin to bead upon my brow. I withdrew my pocket kerchief and

dabbed my forehead.

He said nothing further, but the glare coming from the shadow of his face indicated I would be wise to do what the words

had stated.

I took my seat once more while attempting to think of a delicate way of extricating myself from this house.

“… And I’ll tell you a tale,” he said as if continuing a conversation with a friend while sharing cigars and brandy. “I do not like

clich├ęs, and so I’ll spare you the one about the cat and curiosity. But the origin of the story is actually quite interesting. The

story is several centuries old and has mostly been forgotten to time. One thing to remember is that the Japanese are quite fond

of anthropomorphizing.

“On the outskirts of the province of Inaba, in the home of the local daimyo, or feudal lord, there was a long hallway that was

forbidden to everyone but the master of the house. There was much speculation as to the contents of the room at the end of

the hall; some said the master’s treasure while others said forbidden objects brought back from the master’s travels.

“In the master’s house one warm summer day, a cat gave birth to a litter of kittens. It was quite exhausting for the cat and

so afterward she slept while the kittens nursed. Upon waking, she found that half her litter was gone, but her master was sitting

cross legged on the floor beside her.

“The master gently stroked her fur and said, ‘I am sorry little cat, but some of your kittens were too weak and they now play

in the tall grass of the heavenly plains. But rest now and you can raise the rest of your children to be healthy and strong.’

“The cat was very sad to have lost some of her kittens, but she knew this was also the way of the world and that she would

love her remaining kittens all the more.

“Later that evening, the master came to check on her. He said, ‘I know this day has been difficult. Tonight, regardless of

what you see or hear, stay with your beautiful kittens.’ The master then petted the cat with affection before retiring to bed

himself.

“Several hours later, after the moon was high, something awakened the cat. She wasn’t sure what it had been, but her ears

were perked. She listened intently and soon heard a noise in the house with which she was not accustomed. Looking beneath

her, she checked her kittens who were all sleeping soundly. She quietly arose from her bed and began searching the house for

the disturbance.

“She finally heard the unusual noise again; it was coming from the forbidden hallway. She peered into the darkness that

stretched down the length of the hall. The only light came from the moonlight that pierced the three open windows spaced at

even intervals. That pale white light from the moon did little to dispel the shadows, it simply made the hall seem colder than it

should have been on a summer night. Long silk curtains blew on a faint breeze.

“The cat knew the hallway was forbidden, and heeding her master’s words from earlier, decided to go back to her kittens.

But as she began to turn, the noise came once more. She thought that maybe she should venture just a little further.

“She slowly stepped into the darkness. As she progressed towards the first square of moonlight on the floor, the curtains

flared outward. As the fluttering curtains receded, three weasels stood before the cat. A pool of blood seeped around them.

The small creatures all wielded sharp blades in each paw. Within the shadows behind the triplets, the cat could just see a pair

of human legs lying on the floor and kicking weakly as blood splattered across the hall. The cat realized that these were the

Kamaitachi. She arched her back and prepared to fight to keep them away from her kittens.

“The first sickle weasel stepped forward, leaving a red print on the wood, and said, ‘Do not fear little cat, for there are far

worse things in this world than us.’

“The curtains blew, and the sickle weasels and the thrashing severed legs were gone.

“It had transpired so quickly that the cat was not certain she had actually witnessed anything at all. She then heard the

strange noise again. Beginning to feel brave, she stepped forward.

“Upon nearing the second window, the breeze caught the curtains again. In the sharp moonlight, a woman stood cradling a

bundle in her arms. The cat noticed a rustling beneath the woman’s dress that seemed as if there was something other than

two legs within. She cautiously neared the woman, trying to smell the air around her. The woman giggled and the tip of a furry

black arachnid leg peeked out from beneath the hem of her dress.

“‘I would ask if you would like to hold my baby, but that obviously just will not do will it?’ The woman laughed again and

several small spiders fell from the bundle and skittered across the floor. The cat recalled the stories of the Joro-gumo, the

spider woman who wraps her victims within her webs before poisoning and eating them. The cat prepared to fight once more

to keep this demon away from her kittens.

“But the woman stepped forward on her spider legs and said, ‘Do not fear little cat, for there are far worse things in this

world than me.’

“And with those words, the Joro-gumo vanished on the wind.

“The cat again heard the faint noise that had initially awakened her. Now she was sure it came from the end of the hall.

She was over halfway there, and no harm had actually befallen. She was nervous, but she decided to push on.

“Upon reaching the third window, the curtains rustled and twirled in the breeze. When they settled, a beautiful woman stood

in the moonlight. The cat cocked her head in curiosity. She could see no danger in the well-dressed woman before her.

“‘You are neither a man, nor are you rich. So what am I to do with you?’ the woman asked.”

And here, the man paused in his story. “This one might require explanation for someone not familiar with Japanese

folklore. The Futakuchi-Onna is a demon that seeks out and seduces miserly men.”

He was silent for a moment and I could tell he was staring at me to see if I grasped the implication. I did not appreciate his

boorishness and so refused to give him any reaction.

He then resumed his explanation. “She seems perfect to the frugal man since she barely eats anything and so costs him

nothing in food expenses. But during the night, the province’s food stores disappear. Of course, no one thinks that one person

could consume so much food, and thus the townspeople naturally blame the thefts on bandits or traitors.

“On their wedding night, the beautiful woman tells her husband to take her from behind. And as he thrusts, seeking to

spend his seed, the only thing from which he is readily willing to part, the hair on the back of her head splits to the side. The

parting hair reveals a fleshy gaping maw that looks like an engorged vagina ringed with sharp teeth. The hair shoots forth like

tentacles, entrapping the bewildered man and pulling him towards those gnashing teeth. The demon then devours her

husband for being so stingy with the woman he claims to love.

“And so the cat stood before this beautiful woman. The woman turned, her hair waving outwards as if underwater, to show

the ever hungry mouth. The cat hissed. Her claws shot out. She would keep this creature from her kittens.

“But from the woman’s turned head, the cat heard the Futakuchi-Onna speak, ‘Fear not little cat, for there are far worse

things in this world than me.’

“The woman’s hair blew with the curtains on the breeze and then she was gone.

“In the stillness of the night, the sound came again. The cat was sure it had come from the end of the hall. She cautiously

proceeded out of the moonlight and into the shadows. As she approached the doorway, her glowing golden eyes saw that it

stood open.

She entered the room, peering from one side to the other. The room held no treasure, no art, no gloriously forbidden

contraband; it was nothing but a small room with no adornments save a plain wooden table and chair situated in the middle of

the room.

“At the table was just a man, the cat’s master. There was a bowl in front of him. He chewed and swallowed something and

then reached into the bowl. His hand emerged holding a small mewling kitten. It cried as the master tossed it into his mouth. It

was silenced by a sudden movement of the master’s jaw.

“The master then looked up and saw the cat in the doorway. ‘Oh, little cat, if only you had heeded my words.’ He sounded

truly sorrowful. ‘You could have basked away the days watching over your brood and seen them grow to adulthood. You only

needed to briefly mourn half your litter so that you could protect the other half and see them safe. And yet, here you are’

“The cat was shocked and scared. She needed to get back to her babies. Her claws scratched on the floor as she tried to

turn and run. Her master seized a knife from beside the bowl while flinging the table aside. The table splintered and the bowl

of the few remaining kittens smashed against the wall. The master was upon the cat before she could escape. He snatched

the cat up by her nape and held her before his face.

“‘Everyone has a side they do not wish to be seen. Everyone, no matter how briefly, wishes to unleash what they are truly

capable of. That is why this room is forbidden; it houses my demons, my other self,’ he said.

“The cat lashed out with a clawed paw. A small trickle of blood ran down the master’s face as the knife shimmered in the

master’s hand and slit the cat’s throat.”

We sat in further silence before I realized that that was the conclusion of his story. The doctor leaned forward in his chair,

his gleaming eyes emerged from the shadows.

“So you see,” he said, “it wasn’t the curiosity of that long shadowed hallway that killed the cat. It was just the man at the end

of it.”

The knife in his hand shifted as if his grip on it had tightened.

“Yes, well, I’ve taken up enough of your time. I’ll await the signed forms from your attorneys,” I stammered.

I left him sitting there and saw myself out.

The man was clearly insane. I looked back at the house and contemplated whether I should get the authorities involved.

But if it turned out that the man was merely eccentric, once the family’s accounts were all transferred into his name, he could

easily ruin me.

I am not proud of my cowardice. I am fairly certain that once I was off the premises, the man butchered his brother and my

friend.

February 1st, 1897

The streets run rampant with madness and chaos. The screams of the dying fill the air and drive needles into my brain.

I should have set fire to that house and burned it to the ground… along with everyone inside.