I remember it clearly. It was the fifth of January in 1942. The day of my 13th birthday. Mom, Dad, Uncle Jiro, Aunt Muru, Grandma Akira, Grandpa Saburo, and I were going to the eating room at 7:00 P.M., the time when my older sister Yukiko said her special recipe for my birthday would be finished. Instead a wonderful array of food on the table, I saw my sister lying on the floor in a sea of her own blood with a huge gash in the front of her throat. Grandma fainted, and I threw up. Then I saw writing on the wall. Very strange writing. Not just because it was written in blood. However, I knew it was Japanese. I then recognized it from the old scrolls in the basement of the family dojo attached to our house. Grandpa read the writing and I could see the horror in his light brown eyes. I looked at the wall again and recognized a part of the writing: "Iga-kyo." School of Iga. My head flashed back to all of Grandpa's stories of the brutal hatred between the Kouga and the Iga. I used to have nightmares of being one of the 20 ninjas who fought to the death to decide the next Tokugawa Shogun. However, Grandpa always comforted me that the feud was dead and would never reoccur in this time of great modernization and expansion. Now, at 90 years of age, I understand that 1.) Modernization and expansion will never destroy things established in old Japan 2.) Grandpa was hiding a dark secret. A secret much darker than the fact the feud had a 0.001% chance of restarting. A secret that destroyed my image of him as a gentle, funny old man and changed it into that of a demon.
A week after the murder of Yukiko, my family and I had the wake part of her funeral. On that day, instead of wearing Western clothing, we wore our traditional white robes in the tradition of an ancient Japanese wake. All of the people (in their robes, too) attending the funeral crowded around the brown, wooden coffin that encased my sister's corpse. As I inspected the crowd around us, I spotted many of my ninjutsu classmates and Yukiko's school friends. Even though they were all from different backgrounds, they were weeping in unison like newborns. There was no reason to blame them though. My sister was perhaps the kindest person in my life. My sister was like a second mother. She cared for me along with Mom from the time I was born. She also made most of the family meals. However, what stood out most about her in my mind were her ninjutsu skills and, not to mention, being the only girl in the class. During ninjustsu class, I would hear all the boys she went up against (including me. As a matter of fact, I still have a scar on my scalp) scream with agony. Yet she always helped them get back up from the floor. She would always bandage their wounds. Thus making her equally hated and loved by the class.
Finally, we put our incense into the urn in front of the dark grey family gravestone while the old priest chanted a section from a sutra. After that, the priest gave the envelope of condolence money to Mom. I never understood the concept of condolence money. It's useless since money can't replace a loved one. Thus the wake was done. Then my family went to the funeral home to spend one final night with Yukiko before she was cremated.
The next day, my family and I walked solemnly to the crematorium room in the same clothes as yesterday. Today was the actual funeral. We witnessed as the coffin was slid into the chamber. This was the final goodbye. The final time would actually be when we pick her bones from her ashes, but I don't think looking at a pile of ash counts as being with the person.
We returned to the room two hours later to pick the bones from the ashes. As I used my chopsticks to sort the bone form the ash, I tried not to gag. This pile of ash was once my beloved sister. But before I knew it, the last bone was picked and we left the funeral home and were on our way to our personal, less depressing home.
The next day, I went to the family gravestone. It was covered with beautiful pink and yellow flowers. I still find it mind-blowing how one person can impact several people's lives. After I noticed and stared at the beautiful contrast that the bright flower had against the dark grey gravestone for five minutes, I looked around the graveyard. It was empty except for one man. He looked like he was in his 40's. He also wore a suit that the salary men wore. He also had a clean-cut haircut common of salary men. What were most noticeable, however, were the severe burns on his face and hands. It looked as if an artist put blotches of burned-skin colored paint in random places. When he started to look in my direction, I quickly looked away. He then simply walked away form the graveyard.
That was a close one, I thought to myself.
Little did I know who that man was or how finding out who he was would be the first step of finding out the demon my grandpa was. And how he created a demon.
The next morning, after I read the newspaper and had coffee with my family, I went to the graveyard again. As I looked upon Yukiko's grave, I speculated who killed her (and could potentially kill me and my entire family). I imagined a man who looked somewhat reptilian. A man who laughed at my pain. A man who just didn't care whatsoever about the suffering of others. As I looked around after that scary thought, I saw the burned salary man in front of the gravestone of his loved ones. I looked away until he left the graveyard once again. After he left, my eyes followed him. He got into his black just outside the black fence of the cemetery and drove off. The man scared me to death. I still have nightmares about him. It wasn't only his horrific burns that terrified me. It was that look in his eye. There was no good emotion at all in that look. It was as if divinity brewed all of the bad emotions into a giant cauldron and filled his eye sockets with the brew. And his facial expression never changed. His lips never broke into a smile or frown. I once saw him frown later in my life, but I'll tell you about that later…
Anyways, out of sheer curiosity, I walked over to the salary man's gravestone. It looked just like my family gravestone. It was dark grey. It even had the same shape. The only difference was a very large one: his gravestone had way more names than our gravestone. I read the gravestone. Chills went down my spine. The surname on all the names was "Iga."