August 2nd 2016: Little mistakes, big trouble
The Laughing Yokai
, by Russell Hemmell

He had travelled for months. By train, by car, on foot. Under heavy rain. Snow, ice and scorching sun had just slowed him down, but never stopped his journey. Not did affection.

“Stop chasing dreams, Kieran. Demons do not exist. This Japanese yokai is just a legend. If you love me, you’ll stop.”

He decided he did not love her, after all. Yokai did exist, and the Jinmenju was the most amazing of them. Beautiful, oh so beautiful. And he knew – finding it would have changed his life forever. He bode her farewell, and continued his quest for that fantastic tree whose fruits have gleeful girl faces. They don’t talk. But laugh they do, and put joy in your heart. You listen to their heavenly music. You rest under those gentle leaves and feel their caress. Sometimes you fall in love for their almond-shaped, golden eyes, and never go away.

More travels, more restless days, more sleepless nights. To the remotest corners of planet Earth, and further. Memories of beloved faces eroded by time, washed away with winter rains. With that idea, that painful feeling always in his heart, like a lover’s kiss that never fades.

One night his journey took him into the middle of a dark forest. Huge canopies moonlight could not penetrate. Gnarled woods and murky swamps on his path, making him stumble and shudder.

He sat down resting under a tree. Different from the others. Lithe. Of a moving perfection.

A weird feeling began creeping in. The eerie sensation of being watched. And screeching sounds of branches in motion. The tree was alive.

“Is that you, the uncanny creature I was searching for? Show me your fruits, I beg you, and let’s laugh together.”

“I can laugh, mortal, but I doubt you will.” The tree replied. “You bumped into the wrong yokai. Welcome to Jobokko’s forest, mass grave for derelict souls.”

The yokai’s canopies swayed and attack, entangling him into a lover embrace. A root emerged from the mud and plunged deep into his throat, whilst tears of blood slowly dripped on the ground.


Russell Hemmell is a statistician and social scientist from the U.K, who is passionate about astrophysics and speculative fiction. Find his stories in, Not One of Us, SQ Mag, Strangelet and others.

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