Rice Paddy

I never understood mother before. We never talked to each other and she always kept her thoughts to herself. But ever since I met those twins, she�s been acting stranger than ever. I was really worried about her in 1946. She had a fearful look in her eyes when she saw me. Her hands trembled in her lap. She hasn�t really been eating or sleeping much either. She looked like a corpse by the time it was New Year�s Day. My mother wandered around the house, but did not make any sort of eye contact with me. I had never seen her eyes look so hollow and dead before in my life. I almost want to poke her to see if she�s still with me on this planet. Her mumbling has also gotten a worse. She sometimes bites her thumbs while doing so. I don�t even think she�s touched her flowers since before Christmas. Even those looked like they have more life in them than she did. I kept asking her what was wrong, but she would lock herself in her room just to avoid me.

One morning on winter break, I gathered up my courage and knocked on her door once again.

�Mother!� I called. �What�s wrong? Did I disobey you somehow? I�m really sorry if I did!� I could hear her foot tapping against the tatami floor nervously on the other side.

�What�s wrong?� I asked again. She responded with silence this time. I took slow steps backwards fearing that I wouldn�t get answer just like yesterday. She hadn�t even opened the door to get any of her meals that I left by the door. This looked like another bust for me, but then, the door opened up a crack. I looked and saw a golden-brown eye staring back at me. I nearly jumped at this change.

�Mother?� I asked. �What�s wrong? Are you feeling okay? Did I do something wrong?�

�I don�t want you to see these girls again!� she said in a whisper. I gave her a puzzled look.

�What? Why?� I asked.

�They will drag you down into their Hell!� she cried. �I don�t want you to go through what I have seen!� I blinked at her, still lost.

�What are you talking about?� I asked. The door slid wide open and she fell straight to my feet. She grabbed onto my ankles as she panted. I could feel her trembling at my feet as drew her head upwards towards me. She looked as if she was about to cry before me. Something about this told me this was dead serious.

�Mother?� I called. She looked up at me with her lips trembling.

�Mama! Mama! Mama! Mama!� she cried over and over again. I put my hands on her shoulders in an attempt to calm her down.

�What about Grandma?� I asked.

�Their family dragged her in!� Mother blurted out in a high-pitched wail. Despite my words trailing off into the nothingness, my eyes had many questions for her. She sat up back onto her knees.

�Oh dear,� she said. �Oh dear, I�ve said too much.� I still couldn�t think of anything to say. My mother bit her lower lip.

�Iwao-kun,� she mumbled as she looked down at her lap. �Promise that you won�t panic after I tell you this story.� I blinked. She squeezed my ankles even tighter.

�Promise me!� she cried. �Promise me, damn it! Promise me!� I shrugged a little bit at her.

�Alright,� I said. �I�ll stay calm. Just, what�s going on with you? Why should I avoid them?�

�Years ago, your grandmother ran away from home when she was only sixteen,� Mother began in a steady voice. �After six weeks, she wandered around the woods, half-naked and starving. By sundown on one summer day, she wished for death or someone to take her away.�

�And someone took her away?� I asked. My mother pressed her lips together.

�He came and took her away,� she said.

�He?� I asked. �Who?� Mother opened her mouth to speak, but froze in place. Her body broke down into trembling again. My eyes widened at her open mouth and hands grabbing my ankles to the point that her nails started to dig in.

�Mother?� I asked. �Mother, what�s wrong?� She suddenly let go of my ankles and grabbed onto her head.


�Ahhh!� she cried. �My head! It�s aching!�

�Mother?� I asked again. She crowded into a ball while she cried out in pain.

�I�m sorry! I�m sorry! I�m sorry!� she cried whimpering in pain. I reached out to touch her on the shoulder.

�Go away!� she said. I drew back my hand and my face grew pale.

�Mother�� I mumbled.

�Get� help�� she whimpered. �Go! GO!� I raced out of the house into the snow to the doctor�s house down the street. I pounded on the door along with my beating heart.

�Doctor Akai!� I cried. �Doctor Akai! Help! My mother�s in serious pain! Come help!� I backed up when the door slid open. The old village doctor straightened up his black glasses as he rubbed his eyes. He was the rock of our village at the time. Everyone always came to him for anything. Whether it was a health issue or personal advice, Doctor Akai always helped out.

�What do you want, boy?� he asked. �This better be good from waking me up from a good nap!�

�It�s my mother!� I yelled. �She�s in serious pain!� The old man really woke up this time and paused at my words. His eyes opened wide as he rushed right past me to my house. I raced after him in confusion.

�Wait for me!� I cried. I left deep foot prints in my wake. Doctor Akai stayed in my mother�s room for about twenty minutes. I listened to them through the door. They spoke in hushed tones as I tried to make out what they were saying.

�It�s starting again,� I heard her whisper. �I don�t know how to keep him away from them. I knew this occur really soon, but I didn�t want it to.� I heard her break down into sobs. �I�m scared. I don�t know what to do.�

�Shhh,� the doctor whispered. �You rest now. Take your time with telling him the truth.�

�But he�s too young!� she whimpered. �I don�t know how he�ll take it.� I couldn�t hear the rest of it, but I had a guess that they were talking about Eda Juriko and Haruka. Why didn�t she want me to see them again? What made her break down like that, and what about grandma Mimiko?

From that point on, I decided to find out as much as I could about those fox twins. My mission took me five years onto the thin line between light and darkness. It would take me longer to try and crawl back to the closest thing called light.