by Katharine Coley
The air grows colder and colder the further the samurai walks into the remains of the lost kingdom of Yamatai. The sky glows an unnatural dark blue color, an unnatural stillness to the surrounding area. The overgrown vegetation that fit over the ancient buildings are in a state between life and death, a color between lively green and brown decay. Architecture that is beyond anything he has ever seen but marks the beginnings of Japanese design. It is completely unknown, a mystery that he is about is about to uncover. It accelerates his heart, his expression with wonder as he draws closer to the ruins.
The samurai goes up to one of the buildings, going inside. The air around him grows thin, making it harder to breath as he steps inside. The interior is all in disarray, a wooden table tipped over, broken bowls and stray pieces of cloth scattered. He leans down to pick up a piece of pottery, his eyes growing wide, his expression brightens with awe and curiosity. An artifact from Yamatai… He smiles, even if he feels a cold chill run down his spine, has the distinct feeling that he is being watched. From behind, he can feel something’s icy stare, an intensity that he is being stalked. His instincts tell him he is not alone, making his smile grow even more.
He turns around, and to his disappointment the samurai cannot see anything there. He puts the pottery piece somewhere secure under his armor, then steps out of the house to continue the exploration. He wanders to another building, though this time feeling a cold gust of wind blow past him. As it did, it feels as if his skin is about to be frozen over, an intense pain over him as he hears a faint, inhuman hiss in his ear. He pauses long enough to comprehend the feeling, looking down at his hand, still feeling as if ice is sticking to it.
His expression is bright with excitement as he continues to enter the next house, exploring it more to gather more artifacts. This time he grabs this time a little piece of cloth, a ripped piece from a kimono. It is hard to tell, but he thinks it belongs to a woman’s dress. It would explain how a woman’s shrieks echo in his ears the moment he touches.
The voice is speaking in an ancient form of Japanese, his heart skipping a beat at the beautiful language. To hear it spoken, so fluently…
He could spend all his time going from building to building, just collecting and taking his time, but there is one place he needs to go, as soon as possible. He looks up in the distance, where the distorted view of an ancient castle stood. The castle of the kingdom’s greatest ruler, Queen Himiko. A legendary figure who the samurai has admired since he’s first heard of her tale, a shaman queen who uses her godly like powers to keep her people safe. So powerful, so mysterious…he has to know, has to know what remains of her secrets!
Unable to keep his excitement contained, he rushes as fast as he can to the castle. Air grows thinner with each step, his body grows colder, and the woman’s voice grows to many voices, growing louder in his ears the further he goes. It motivates him more, makes him run faster and faster towards the palace walls, get through the broken stone and slip onto the grounds.
The moment his feet step onto royal grounds, the voices cease, the painfully cold sensation on his skin vanishing to replace with a numb feeling. Even the thinning air does not make him dizzy or out of breath. He doesn’t even seem to notice the sensation as he admires the castle in awe. Beautiful…the most enchanting thing he’s ever seen, such a grand structure that is as powerful as a ruler’s home, but the same godly awe that a temple has. A place of great spiritual and mortal power, one who’s aura spread around him as its grand power absorbed him.
Ancient. Godly. Evil.
In one of the highest windows, a white, glowing aura catches his eye. It grows brighter the longer he stares at it, his heart skipping a beat as sees a figure take form, one that appears to be a woman. His eyes grow wide, his heart and soul drawn to the force.
“Come to me. Your queen commands you.”
His heart stops at the voice in his head, the sound of elegance and authority. The samurai’s legs carry him to the castle, to go inside, and the moment he does the figure vanishes from form the window. The door to the castle is barricaded from the outside, and with all his strength, he goes to remove as much as he can out of the way. Boulders and furniture that should have been kept inside, he does not question why it is there, but gets it out of his way. Finally, he gets through, and is able to open the door enough to slip himself inside.
The entry hall of the castle is barren, an empty room with decaying wooden floors and walls. His vision blurs, the interior changes to where sunlight comes into the room with well kept floors, a pleasant aroma of flowers in the air. Then it changes into ruins again, then a second later it is restored, over and over again to the point he can’t process anything he sees.
He places his hand to his head as a headache starts to form, and in the ruins the glowing figure returns. In the samurai’s other version of reality, it is a woman dressed in a bright, royal kimono. He watches her approach him, from ghost to queen, back and forth, his eyes meeting hers as they go from empty white to soft brown.
Beautiful… The samurai stares, completely enamored, as Queen Himiko finally comes face to face with him. Such radiance, such power. She slowly lifts her hand to caress his cheek, freezing cold that it causes frostbite. She speaks to him, in an ancient tongue that he cannot understand. His vision distorts once more, from ghost, to woman, to the remains of something inhuman.
And then to nothing at all.
Author: Katharine Coley
Year: Senior (now graduated fall 2019)
Major: History & English