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The Bell

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The pigs were disappearing, and strange tracks had been found near all the pens at the farm. Ushida didn’t know what to make of it. Why hadn’t his dogs alerted him when a marauding animal came near the livestock? He went to ask the other farmers in Kalihi Valley for help. “I going trap ‘um, this thing! Going dig one pit, cover ‘um, kill it! Can come try help me?”

Ushida went home after the meeting and told his wife, Hatsuko, “Lock all the doors and windows, stay inside. Me and the boys going hunting.”

Hatsuko agreed, but looked at him worriedly, their two young daughters clutching at her skirt. “Daddy, you going be OK?” asked Ushida’s daughter Suzu, coming to him for a hug. The little bell bracelet he had made for her softly tinkled coron-coron on her wrist.

Ushida kissed the top of her head, smelling the sweet baby-smell. “Yes, honey. You go sleep. Listen Mommy. Daddy and the boys going find out what taking our pigs.”

Suzu nodded, her big eyes shining. “Good night, Daddy. I love you.”

The moon gave plenty of light to Ushida and the other farmers as they lay in wait near the pit they had dug. The area was baited with large slabs of pork and some chicken; the air was pungent with blood-smell. All of Ushida’s livestock was housed in their barn, so whatever creature was taking them would have to come to this meat if it was hungry. Sudden movement by the patch of kiawe trees near the kitchen caught everyone’s attention. A large, sinewy, sleek form slinked into sight, followed by two smaller forms. An unearthly trio wove in and out of the shadows, and was finally illuminated by moonlight. There, to the amazement of Ushida and the others, were three gigantic cats the size of human beings obake-neko! The large one was obviously an adult, the two smaller ones offspring? Ushida felt repulsed by the unnatural sight. So these are the demons taking our livestock! Come, come closer that’s it …. the two smaller creatures, oblivious to their surroundings, were romping closer and closer to the pit. They realized their mistake too late, and wailed like little girls as they tumbled in, followed by the adult, who was just a moment too late to save them.

Guns raised, the farmers surrounded the pit. There, looking up at them with glowing yellow-green eyes was a trio of smoke-grey obake-neko, cats the size of human beings. The two little ones trembled and whimpered as the large one covered them with her body the best she could, baring her teeth, growling and hissing viciously at the men who wanted to hurt her children. Then, Ushida heard another sound, soft, underneath the commotion “coron-coron …. coron-coron.” Squinting in disbelief, he crouched down, and saw, tied around the paw of one of the smaller beasts, the same bell bracelet he had made for Suzu. No. No no no cannot be! But what if

“Guys, go home, I going take care this. They on my land, this my kill.” Reluctantly, muttering protestations, the other farmers left, leaving Ushida with the otherworldly creatures. Letting down a ladder, Ushida watched as the three crept out and stood there, staring sadly at him.

“Go …. all of you, just go. Don’t come back. Never come back, or I going have to shoot you. Suzu, be good to your mommy. Go just GO.” The tears began to well up in Ushida’s eyes, blurring his vision as the large cat and one of the smaller slowly crept away, pausing now and then to look back at him. Suzu lingered, and came up to him, pawing at his trousers. Ushida dropped his hunting rifle and knelt in the cold, dewy grass to hug his obake-neko daughter and smell her sweet baby-smell one last time. Suzu mewed her last words to her father. “Good bye, Daddy I love you.” “Coron-coron coron-coron …”

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