“It’s up here!” He called out, making you grunt as you readjust the heavy pack weighing you down, your boots already slick from snow. The equipment was too heavy for him to carry, and while part of you knows that, you back is demanding a pound of flesh for the torture it’s been forced to endure.
But you push on. “It better be JC, or I’m gonna smack the crap out of you…”
“Yeah, seriously.” Jessica mutters from your left. You look at the curly haired scientist and just heave a sigh, smiling. She is the main reason you’ve come all the way out here… not some story about a haunted village, or ghosts lurking in possessed dolls, but her.
Jessica is tall, perhaps five and a half feet, with long brown hair and a button nose you just want to kiss. She’s wearing a thick sweater that hides her tanned skin, her Hispanic heritage making it easy for her to tan nearly anywhere. You curse your Irish roots, and your inability to go beyond a toasty red color should you be exposed to too much sun.
You stand an even five feet, which makes you hope Jessica likes short girls. As well as girls. You haven’t exactly jumped that hurdle yet, which makes it all the more depressing that you left the main city of Tokyo and drove all the way out to this little shit-hole village on some random story JC had received about moving dolls in some remote village on the island of Shikoku. Hell the barge that would bring you back to mainland wasn’t set to come back for three freaking days! You were stuck out in some country-ass country now!
You crest the hill, taking in deep gulps of air as you look down at the village below you, the clear sky allowing for a good viewing distance. The village was devoid of any sign of modern technology, the houses made of brick and straw. The roads weren’t paved and the people didn’t look happy. Off to the side was a sign, where a small greeting was scrawled, welcoming you to Nagoro.
“Nagoro,” you say slowly, switching to English as you look at Jessica. “Have you heard of this place?”
“No, never.” She said before switching back to Japanese, to address JC, who was taking a long pull off of his puffer, the climb having done havoc on his weak lungs. “Why are we here JC?”
He held his breath for some time before letting it out slowly, turning his head to look at Jessica, his spiky blonde hair striking when compared to the rest of his average Japanese physique. “I told you, I have a source that says the dolls of Nagoro are moving on their own.”
“And who is this source?” You ask, setting the bag of expensive camera equipment down at your feet, prompting Jessica to do the same.
“They mailed me a letter, saying that if I wanted to get a good story, I should come to Nagoro, where, and I quote, ‘the dolls live, and the people fear’.” He said, smiling. He opened his puffy orange jacket and slid his medicine in, pulling out a bottle to shake loose a few pills to help ease the aching that you know he is feeling from being in the mountain air.
“Where are we staying?” Jessica asked, looking around. “I mean, I don’t see a lot of people. Nor do I see any store signs, or even an inn.”
“You won’t find such things in Nagoro,” crackled a reedy voice, causing all three of us to jump. Looking to an embankment of snow, a man in a wide brimmed straw hat opens his eyes and looks over at us. His skin is pale white, like alabaster, and his clothes are threadbare. Yet he didn’t look cold, just… uncomfortable.
“Ah, so sorry sir,” JC says, bowing slightly. “We didn’t see you there. Did we disturb you?”
“You woke me from my slumber, you damn kids. More to be expected I suppose, seeing as we keep getting tourists looking to see Tsukimi’s masterpieces.” The man stood, shaking off the snow that had gathered around him.
A string of Buddhist prayer beads fell from around his neck, clacking together woodenly as he moved. His clothing was simple, if not rustic; brown pants with socks and sandals, with a long sleeved black shirt that opened down to his waist, with a tattered white shirt beneath it. He had on gloves and, as he squatted down back into the snowdrift he had apparently been dozing in, he picked up a fishing rod and six fish on a line, packed in the ice.
“The name is Naki, and if you’d like you can come to my home and share dinner with me.” He said, walking out of the snowdrift and into the middle of our ranks. “Just be careful where you step in this village. There are dolls everywhere, some of the deceased.”
“Does that make a difference?” You ask, earning a sour look from the man.
“Of course it does!” He exclaims, shaking his head. The beads clatter and clank as he moves. “The ones representing the dead are anchors for their spirits to roam this world, for their ghosts to haunt this village.”
“Is that why the dolls are moving?” JC asked excitedly.
Naki fell silent before looking over his shoulder. “Is that what you came to see? Moving dolls?”
“Yes sir,” Jessica said, sounding as sweet as could be. “We came because we are film students, and we’re making a documentary about the haunted locales of Japan.”
“You should go to Aokigahara, have better luck finding restless spirits there.” Naki said, slowly walking down the trail, fishing pole with ice brushed blue fish hanging from the end of the pole.
“The Suicide Forest is overrated!” You say, earning a look from JC. “What? You know it is. Besides, we had to choose a location and someone else chose that forest right off the bat.”
“Oh,” Naki said, turning and smiling woodenly. “Welcome to Nagoro then.”