Festival for the Demons
Tokyo had been abandoned for many years, and the lights had dimmed to almost nothingness. Maybe people became complacent upon seeing that. The old stories became less and less common, and less believed. They began to scoff at the idea of demons inhabiting Tokyo, and sweeping their children into a terrible game of hide and seek in the night to keep those lights shining bright. People began to stop spreading the tale, and stopped running away.
Ten years, then twenty, and the villages outside the city began to fill with people again. Because that was untouched land. Crops grew well. There was little damage, little pollution. The perfect place to start their lives anew –
Except for the demons that still lived within the heart of Tokyo, waiting for children to come close again, so they could revitalise those lights. They had only scraps of children for the last twenty years: children forgotten by the rest of the world, and never attributed to those tales that had surrounded them before. It was foolish, the demons whispered amongst themselves. But that foolishness would help them eventually, if they were patient.
And they could live for many more years before the lack of sustenance would drain their energy. So they waited. And eventually the towns began to fill up again. Oshira-sama stepped down from his town and put on his mask and the body of the last child that had won their little game, and stepped out. The body was frail, battered viciously by the wind of the new outside, but it was still a child and preserved all those years for this very purpose.
And he started calling the children to play in the city again. They came, naively and willingly, not knowing what awaited them. They put on masks like he bid – those old traditions that it seemed the humans had taken to one of their own festivals. And they crept through the small gap in the gates of the city and walked in with the most frightening masks they could produce.
Oshira-sama followed them in his little girl body, listening to them talk about "Obon" and "Halloween" and "what a cook haunted house it is" and finding himself growing more and more amused. They thought it was a game. The fear of children they'd played with in the time that had passed had not been bred in them. They ran about as if it were a festival – and even tried to take Kimotori's wheel.
Oshira-sama laughed heartily at the sight, especially when Kimotori's three arms and four legs, all red, grabbed his wheel and spun it. There was the screams of the children, when that one who'd grabbed at the wheel had his limbs torn and splayed on the dusty streets.
Now the real game of hide and seek began.
The remaining children scattered. Kimotori grabbed the bleeding, limbless one and dragged him to the battery tower. The first of many more who would power their city lights again, and create their paradise. Oshira-sama, still dressed the part of the child, followed. He watched the lights grew a little brighter – enough for their brethren to stir in excitement and trample on to the streets. And they scattered after the children who were running in all directions, wild with fear. The rest of them would produce far greater energy through that fear.
He watched the Aburatori twins wander off, one pulling the cart slowly and the other lounging leisurely atop it. He watched Kotori scramble up a building with her eight legs. He watched Chitori wrap his favourite tarp around himself before creeping off into the darkness – and Oshira-sama laughed and followed happily, white dress of his child body flapping around his knees.
He watched as Chitori caught up with a fleeing pair and spooked them, causing them to scream and scatter. Chitori followed one, and Oshira-sama followed Chitori. He wasn't a player after all. He was the king who took the prize and that was all.
Chitori finally caught his prey, swooping him up in the tarp and dragging the bundle up the battery tower, bones banging on each step. And then he unwrapped his parcel and the boy had cracked his skull at some point. Intentional of course, because those lesser demons didn't need a body to possess and the battery tower didn't need a life. And then they fitted him in place and leached power from him.
The streets brightened further, and Oshira-sama caught up to Kotori who was spinning her webs along the eastern streets and catching her prey in it. One child had brought a pumpkin with a candle and was trying to burn herself free – but Kotori was not a spider and her webs weren't spider webs. They were only spider-like. The fire did nothing but tickle her and add to the glorious light. One child, two child – and the one Chitori sent screaming stumbled into that web as well, giving Kotori three.
She wrapped them lovingly in cocoons that covered and blocked everything and dragged them, one by one, up the tower. The light grew even brighter.
And then Oshira-sama left her recreating her silk and scaled down the tower to catch up to the Aburatori twins, who'd cornered the remaining two children. They'd heard all the other screams and were at the peak of terror – but the Aburatori twins had heard the screams well. And they knew one of those two had to win.
Oshira-sama stepped in between them. 'Close your eyes and count to ten,' he said cheerfully, voice mimicking the girl whose body he wore.
The twins parted. The two remaining children scattered and the twins picked the one heading away from the battery tower and took up chase again. Oshira-sama followed the other one. The winner had been decided after all – and, sure enough, the both of them heard the scream of the last captured one as the lights brightened to the intensity they'd been twenty years ago.
'Help,' the last boy whimpered, clutching his plastic scythe as though it would be of some use still. But it wouldn't. Nor would real scythes. It might cut down the body he wore, but not his spirit: not his true form. 'If this is a bad Halloween joke from someone, quit it already.'
'It's a game,' Oshira-sama said in his human, girl, voice. 'The game of hide and seek.' He lifted his hands up, unhooking the elastic that held the mask behind his ears. 'Now count to ten…' The mask fell, and his eyes, his real eyes and not the body he'd been wearing till just moments before, bore through the boy's mask and gorged out his soul. '…and let's play again!'