The soaking leaves slash at my skin as I tumble through the dark. I don't know how long I've been running, but my vision is blurred and I feel dizzy. Close behind me, I can hear pursuit. Grunting, crashing... frustration. A flash of lightning reveals a small house through the branches. The lights are on. I either keep running or take my chances with it. I make the final push to its rotting front door and fall into the hall.
It's silent. I need to hide. Any moment now it will walk through that door and see me standing here. I rush into the kitchen. No luck. The doors on the cabinets have either rotted away or been torn off. I desperately weigh up my chances. I can hear it on the porch, where I was only moments before.
I turn towards the living area. It's dark. The wallpaper is rotting and the flowers on the coffee table wilted long ago. On the other side, in the corner behind the sagging sofa, I see a large wardrobe. I stumble over the furniture to get to it, yank open the door and shut myself in.
I can hear the muffled noises of the forest. The rain hitting the millions of leaves that coat the valley, thunder rumbling from far away. A crimson sky soaks the world in an unnatural red light, seeping into everything.
This wardrobe smells damp. Like a branch in the rain. Its paintwork is faded and yellowing. Eyes wide, I open a crack in the door. My shallow breaths are too loud. It'll hear me.
The shibito has entered the kitchen.
It walks past the rusty sink and into the living room.
It turns on the TV, crying out in anger when it is greeted by static. From far away it might look human. I'm close enough to see the blood dripping from its eyes and mouth, I hear it wheezing.
My hands are cold and sweaty, my shoulders painfully tight. The scythe in its hand searches for me, a long, curved blade waving slowly back and forth. I feel sick. It turns towards the wardrobe, staggers slowly towards me. I lean back, holding my breath. Its clothes are in rags, stained and filthy.
At that moment, when I am sure that it will open the door and find me standing here, hands clutched to my chest, an old song starts to break through the static on the TV. The shibito puts the weapon on the coffee table and turns around. It walks back over to the screen.
The song gets clearer. The lyrics and melody can be heard through the static, voices singing from another world. A place where people aren't hunted. A place where people don't have to cower in wardrobes, where people don't have to flee from attackers.
A place where people are free.
For a second I am transported to another time. My mother, standing in the sunlit kitchen by the sink with my father, giggles childishly as he tries to get her to dance to the music on the radio. Watching them I laughed.
Now my mother stands alone by the TV. Awkwardly shuffling as she responds to the music. Clothes stained and hands dirty. A child distracted.
I open the wardrobe door. Slowly. Quietly.
I inch my way along the floor, towards the coffee table where I pick up the scythe from beside the flowers. The wooden blade is still warm from where my mother was holding it. Her back is turned away from me. I crawl towards her, blade ready. A tear runs down by filthy cheek.