The Nermia Horror
"Amazons, and Musk, and Jusenkyo—dire stories of Loo Fa and the other Harpies—may reproduce themselves in the brain of superstition—but they were there before. They are transcripts, types—the archetypes are in us all, and eternal in their monstrous dominion. How else should the recital of that which we know in a waking sense to be false come to affect us at all? Is it that we naturally conceive terror from such beings, considered in their capacity of being able to inflict upon us bodily injury? O, least of all! These terrors are of older standing. They date beyond our modern world—or without their laws, they would have been the same. . . . That the kind of fear here treated is purely spiritual—that it is strong in proportion as it is objectless on earth, that it predominates in the period of our sinless infancy—they are the difficulties the solution of which might afford some probable insight into our ante-mundane condition, and a peep at least into the shadow land of pre-existence."
—Tofu Ono: "Amazons and Other Night-Fears"
When a traveller in north central Tokyo takes the wrong fork in Juuban, sometimes they end up in an unexpected place. They will come upon the land most cursed by the Clan Hibiki, a lonely and curious district with long shadows and dark designs. Going further on, the wooden walls press closer and closer against the slim pathway of the road, giving them a feeling of impending dread of pains and shadows yet to come. The trees of the frequent city parks seem too large, and there are wild weeds, brambles, and grasses that have grown to attain a luxuriance not often found in settled regions. At the same time in the windows of the houses, potted plants appear singularly few and barren; while the tightly packed houses wear a surprisingly uniform aspect of age, squalor, and dilapidation. Without knowing why, one hesitates to ask directions from the gnarled, solitary figures spied now and then on crumbling doorsteps or on the uneven rock filled streets. Those figures are so silent and furtive that one feels somehow confronted by forbidden things, with which it would be better to have nothing to do. When a rise in the road brings the larger estates into view above the simpler homes, the feeling of strange uneasiness is increased. The estates are too rounded and symmetrical to give a sense of comfort and naturalness, and sometimes the sky silhouettes with especial clearness the queer circles these estates form around a broken down huge estate that a cloud of miasma forms around its towers.
Potholes and rocks of problematical depth and size are scattered on the stony road, and the crude chain link fences always seem of dubious safety. When the road dips again there are stretches of the marshy ditches that one instinctively dislikes, and indeed almost fears at evening when indiscernible shadows chatter and glowing red eyes come out in abnormal profusion to dance to the raucous, creepily insistent rhythms of stridently piping bull-frogs. The thin, shining line of the Furinkan High school upper tower has an oddly serpent-like suggestion as it winds close to the feet of the domed hills among which it rises.
As the school draws nearer, one heeds its broken walls more than its grand clock tower. Those walls loom up so darkly and precipitously that one wishes they would keep their distance, but there is no entrance that will allow any escape from them. Across a blood stained court yard one sees a small figure huddled between a tree and the vertical slope of high school walls, and wonders at the cluster of rotting clothes and equipment bespeaking an earlier battle of some unknown magnitude. It is not reassuring to see, on a closer glance, that most of the windows are broken and falling to ruin, and that the beyond the school one broken-steepled church now harbors' one slovenly mercantile establishment of the hamlet. One dreads to trust the tenebrous doors of the school, yet there is no way to avoid it. Once inside, it is hard to prevent the impression of a faint, malign odor about rusting lockers, as of the massed mold and decay of centuries. Fluorescent lights crackle on and off with a humming noise reminiscent of some insane woman's cackle, almost driving one mad all on its own. It is always a relief to get clear of the place, and to follow the narrow road around the district and across the level country beyond till it rejoins the road into Tomboki. Afterward one sometimes learns that one has been through Nerima.
Outsiders visit Nermia as seldom as possible, and since a certain season of horror all the signboards pointing toward it have been taken down. The scenery, judged by any ordinary aesthetic canon, is more than commonly beautiful; yet there is no influx of artists or summer tourists. Two years ago, when talk of sorcerers-blood, panties-worship, and strange martial artists was not laughed at, it was the custom to give reasons for avoiding the locality. In our sensible age—since the Nermia horror of 1998 was hushed up by those who had the town's and the world's welfare at heart—people shun it without knowing exactly why. Perhaps one reason—though it cannot apply to uninformed strangers—is that the natives are now repellently decayed, having gone far along that path of retrogression so common in many of Japans backwaters. They have come to form a race by themselves, steeped in perversion and brutishness, with the well-defined mental and physical stigmata of degeneracy and inbreeding. The average of their intelligence is woefully low, whilst their annals reek of overt viciousness and of half-hidden murders, incests, and deeds of almost unnamable violence and perversity. The old gentry, representing the two or three armigerous families which came from Tokyo in 1692, have kept somewhat above the general level of decay; though many branches are sunk into the sordid populace so deeply that only their names remain as a key to the origin they disgrace. Some of the Kuno's and Tendo's still send their eldest daughters to Todai and Nekomi, though those seldom return to the moldering gambrel roofs under which they and their ancestors were born.
No one, even those who have the facts concerning the recent horror, can say just what is the matter with Nermia; though local legends speak of unhallowed cooking and conclaves of the fiancée's, amidst which they called forbidden shapes of old ghouls and gnomes out of the great rounded hills, and made wild orgiastic prayers that were answered by loud cracking's and rumblings from the ground below. In 1987 the Doctor Tofu Ono, newly come to the Nermia city council in nermia, preached a memorable sermon on the close presence of Happosai and his imps; in which he said:
"It must be allow'd, that these Blasphemies of an infernal Troll of Daemons are Matters of too common Knowledge to be deny'd; the cursed Voices of Happosai and Herb, of Ryouga and Akane, being heard now from under Ground by above a Score of credible Witnesses now living. I myself did not more than a day ago catch a very plain Discourse of an evil voice, The vile "hotcha' in the yard behind my clinic; wherein there were a Rattling and Rolling, Groaning, Screeching, and Hissing, such as no Things of this Earth cou'd raise up, and which must needs have come from those Caves from which he escaped, and only he could unbar.
Mr. Ono disappeared soon after delivering this speech; but the text, printed in Springfield, is still extant. Noises in the hills continued to be reported from year to year, and still form a puzzle to geologists and physiographers.
Other traditions tell of foul odors near the darkness-crowning circles of stone around the Tendo Dojo, and of rushing hairy presences, once thought to be food, to be heard faintly at certain hours from stated points at the bottom of the great Koi pond; while still others try to explain the Devil's Hochta bag—a bleak, blasted carryall that drifts across the rooftops with naught a single person holding it. Then too, the natives are mortally afraid of the numerous cats which grow vocal on warm nights. It is vowed that the birds are psychopomps lying in wait for the souls of the dying, and that they time their eerie cries in unison with the sufferer's struggling breath. If they can catch the fleeing soul when it leaves the body, they instantly flutter away chittering in demoniac laughter; but if they fail, they subside gradually into a disappointed silence.
These tales, of course, are obsolete and ridiculous; because they come down from very old times. Nermia is indeed ridiculously old—older by far than any of the communities within thirty miles of it. South of the village one may still spy the cellar walls and chimney of the ancient Kuno manor, which was built before 1700; whilst the ruins of the Okonomiyaki shop which appears more worn, form the most modern piece of architecture to be seen. Industry did not flourish here, and the twentieth-century construction movement proved short-lived. Deposits of skulls and bones, found within the Kuno manor and around the sizeable table-like rock on in its front courtyard, sustain the popular belief that such spots were once the dwelling place of Kodachi; even though many ethnologists, disregarding the absurd improbability of such a theory, persist in believing the remains left there are Caucasian.
It was in the township of Nermia, in a large and partly inhabited dojo set in the circle of estates, that Ranma Saotome at . on Sunday, the second of February, 1983. This date was recalled because it was Candlemas, which people in Nermia curiously observe under another name; and because the noises in the hills had sounded, and all the cats of the countryside had yowled persistently, throughout the night before. Less worthy of notice was the fact that the mother was one of the decadent Kuno's, a somewhat deformed, mentally unattractive redheaded woman of forty-five, her family an aged and half-insane father about whom the most frightful tales of tropical insanity had been whispered in his youth. Nodoka Kuno had a long dead husband, but according to the custom of the region made no attempt to enforce a contract the particulars were the seppuku of her child; concerning the other side of whose ancestry the residents of nermia might—and did—speculate as widely as they chose. On the contrary, she seemed strangely proud of the dark haired, feminine-looking boy who formed such a contrast to her own sickly and wild-eyed mania, and was heard to mutter many curious prophecies about his unusual powers and tremendous ability in the Art.
Nodoka was one who would be apt to mutter such things, for she was a lone creature given to wandering amidst thunderstorms in the town, with a silk wrapped bundle and trying to read the great odorous books which her father had inherited through two centuries of Kunos, and which were fast falling to pieces with age and worm-holes. She had never been to school, but was filled with disjointed scraps of ancient lore that Grandfather Kuno had taught her. The remote farmhouse had always been feared because of Kodachi' s reputation for black magic, and the unexplained death by violence of Grandfather Tenma Kuno when Nodoka was twelve years old had not helped to make the place popular. Isolated among strange influences, Nodoka was fond of wild and grandiose day-dreams and singular obsessions about grandchildren; nor was her leisure much taken up by household cares in a home from which all standards of order and cleanliness had long since disappeared. Indeed even the structure itself had fallen, after a disastrous attempt to wed her son off to the witch of the Tendo family.
There was a hideous screaming which echoed above even the hill noises and the cats' yowling on the night Ranma arrived, but no known doctor or Amazon presided at his coming. Neighbors knew nothing of him till a week afterward, when the Panda drove his Ranma through the Tendo Dojo wall and into a Nermia stop sign, Ranma cursing incoherently to the group of loungers at out in the road. There seemed to be a change in the air—an added element of furtiveness and incipient violence in the clouded brain which subtly transformed everyone's view of the dojo from an object to a subject of fear—though they was not one to be perturbed by any common event.
"I dun't keer what folks think—ef Nodoka's's boy look's like a girl, he wouldn't look like nothin' ye expeck. Ye needn't think the only folks is the folks hereabaouts. Nodoka's read some, an' has seed some things the most o' ye only tell abaout. I calc'late her man was as no good as a husban' as ye kin find this side of Tomboki; an' ef ye knowed as much abaout the districts as I dew, ye wouldn't ast no better place nor her'n. Let me tell ye suthin'—some day yew folks'll hear a child o' Nodoka's a-callin' its father's name on the top o' the school towah!"
The only persons who saw Ranma during the first month of his life in nermia were the Tendo family ,of the abborent Tendo's, and Yuriko okami, an elderly lady who spent every morning properly cleaning her porch. Youriko's understanding if the boy was frankly one of curiosity, and her subsequent tales did justice to her observations. Ukyou Kounji came to later along about the same time as a pair of Amazons of which one claimed to be the wife of said boy. This marked the beginning of a course of Fiancée battles on the part of Akane Tendo, Ukyou Kounji and Shampoo of the amazons. Which ended in 2001, when the Nermia horror came and went; yet at no time did the ramshackle Tendo dojo barn seem overcrowded with residents. There came a period when people were curious enough to steal up and count the fiancée's who battled there on the Dojo floor next to the old Tendo manor. Usually they could never find more than ten or twelve amours, blood lusting-looking specimens. Evidently some blight or distemper, perhaps sprung from the unwholesome childhood or the diseased father and curses of the filthy panda, caused a heavy toll amongst the frenzied women. Odd wounds or sores, having something of the aspect of incisions, seemed to afflict the them all
In the spring after Ranma's arrival Nodoka resumed her customary rambles in the town, bearing in her disproportioned arms the silk bundle. Public interest in the Tendo's and Saotomes subsided after most of the city folk had seen the him fight, and paid the price for it in yen to the Tendo's and no one bothered to comment on the swift development of construction that that the newcomer seemed every day to require. Ranma's powers were indeed phenomenal, for within three months of his arival he had attained a size and muscular power not usually found in grown masters of the martial arts. His motions and even his vocal sounds skewed a restraint and deliberateness highly peculiar in a modern teen, and no one was really unprepared when, at seven months, he began attract numerous rivals, all of whom he eventually bested, no matter what their respective power or ability was.
It was somewhat after this time—on Hallowe'en—that a great blaze was seen at midnight on the top of the school tower where an old table now stands amidst its tumulus of ancient bones. Considerable talk was started when Ukari Amosha—of the twisted amosha's—mentioned having seen the boy running sturdily up the road to the school ahead of his mother about an hour before the blaze was remarked. Ukari was rounding up a stray kitten, but she nearly forgot her mission when she fleetingly spied the two figures in the dim light of street lamps. They darted almost noiselessly through the town, and the astonished watcher seemed to think they were entirely unclothed. Afterward she could not be sure about the boy, who may have had some kind of a fringed belt and a pair of dark trunks or trousers on.
The next January gossips were mildly interested in the fact that "Nodoka's's black haired baka", as Akane was known to call him, had commenced to start to refuse contact with his finacee's sometimes pushing them back hard until they left him alone, His speech was somewhat remarkable both because of its difference from the ordinary accents of the region, and because it displayed an innocence around women of which many monks might well be proud. The boy was not talkative, yet when he spoke he seemed to reflect some elusive element wholly unpossessed by Nermia and its denizens. The strangeness did not reside in what he said, or even in the simple idioms he used; but seemed vaguely linked with his intonation or with the internal organs that produced the spoken sounds. His facial aspect, too, was remarkable for its maturity; for though he shared his mother's and grandfather's chinlessness, his firm and precociously shaped nose united with the expression of his large, dark, almost Latin eyes to give him an air of quasi-adulthood and well-nigh preternatural intelligence. He was, however, exceedingly skittish of women despite his constant attractions by them; there being something almost tomboyish or animalistic about his thick and often abusing fiancé's. He was soon disliked even more decidedly than his mother and grandsire, and all conjectures about him were spiced with references to the bygone perversions of the ancient demon Happosai, and how the their homes once shook when he shrieked the dreadful name of Yog-Sothoth in the midst of a circle of estates with a great book open in his arms before him. Cats abhorred the boy, and he was always obliged to take various defensive measures against their yowling menace.
To be continued
A/N : Only so much of this I can do in a sitting. Kinda disturbing this one with Kuno being Ranma's cousin, and Nodoka being Kodachi's aunt. Ahh well, that is Nermia for you