Join our amazing community of book lovers and get the latest stories doing the rounds.

We respect your privacy and promise no spam. We’ll send you occasional writing tips and advice. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Magic Realism

How Kitsuhira’s Disappearance Unleashed the Pandemic

Google+ Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

It was a dawn as icy as the chill Arata felt in his heart. Five years had passed since he last saw his sister, but the memory of Kitsuhira’s melodic laughter and gaze exploding with joy still shook Arata’s soul. He remembered that night with the perfection of detail that is only etched in our memory when we experience something unforeseen and atrocious… something that changes our lives in a flash, forever and with no way back.

The Takahashi were a middle-class wolf family who lived on Shikoku Island, in the middle of Mount Ishizuchi. There, they owned an elegant cave with everything they needed: a marble fireplace, a refrigerator built with blocks of white rocks, bedrooms decorated with tiger skins, and a window to watch the prey passing nearby, so they could calculate the time to go hunting. Father, mother, and the twins Arata and Kitsuhira got along very well and lived together in harmony. There were no fights between them, rather jokes and a peaceful atmosphere prevailed in the cave.

When brother and sister Takahashi turned seven, their parents allowed them to participate for the first time in the annual wolf meeting organized by the leaders of the island. At this meeting, which always lasted three days, the wolf-parents would gather around a large campfire and resolve the most important issues of the herd. Meanwhile, the wolf-women would practice the Kotodama ritual, a traditional Japanese belief that “words are creators of the universe”. The she-wolves deeply believed that sacred sounds could magically affect the spirit, body and soul. As for the wolf-children, they gathered in the nearby forest and spent most of their time running and playing. However, when night fell, the youngsters would sit around a giant cedar tree, and exchange their knowledge about mysteries of terror and ghosts – subjects that the adults could not explain to them, and which they were forbidden to talk about.

That day, Kitsuhira was restless and kept talking about a place Genji, a 16-year-old wolf friend, had mentioned earlier. When the sun went down and darkness came, the young wolves sat in a wheel near the cedar tree and began to share stories. At Kitsuhira’s request, Genji shared with the children a story his grandmother told him about a place called The Labyrinth Hospital, where unimaginably creepy things occurred. According to Genji’s grandmother, the doctors who worked there drugged their patients, pretending to give them normal medications. In reality, they wanted to render them unconscious in order to perform surgeries and remove their organs, which they would then sell for millions of yen on the black market. As the operations were very dangerous and removed vital organs such as the lungs and brain, most of the patients died when they regained consciousness. Years went by and the doctors seemed unstoppable in their shady practices, not even God himself would enter the Labyrinth Hospital. However, after a while, the souls of the dead decided to take justice into their own hands. They returned from the underworld and began to chase the doctors away, making them pay for their crimes. All kinds of paranormal phenomena were happening, such as objects flying, doors shutting deafeningly, windows exploding into a thousand pieces, people committing suicide, and so on. So much unexplainable and uncanny commotion ended up scaring away all the medical workers. The Labyrinth Hospital became known as the most cursed place in Japan, and was soon sealed off and abandoned.

This horror story, told by Genji in a creepy voice and a low, metallic tone, terrified the children – wolves, but also incited a lot of curiosity in them. Kitsuhira was the most interested, and could not hold the urge to find out if the story was true. She proposed the following challenge – all the children who dared would go to visit the Cursed Hospital, and prove their bravery by staying overnight in that dreadful place. The challenge did not suit several wolves, who withdrew, saying that their parents would worry if they did not return to sleep. In the end, only five young wolves accepted: Kitsuhira, Genji, Arata and the Watanabe brothers. The group left on their way to the hospital, located two kilometers away from the forest where they stayed.

As soon as they arrived, they immediately realized that something was very wrong in there. They could smell an unbearable odor of rotting flesh, and no lights were functional. The barred gate was triple-locked, and the wolves had to leap high into the air to get through it. Given the complete darkness, the group had to turn on flashlights that they had cautiously brought in their backpacks.

Soon, they began to make out the figures and shadows inside the mansion. There were human skeletons, some dressed in doctors’ robes, others in patients’ uniforms. There were jars with formaldehyde, in them were human hearts, ears, eyes and brains.

The group of wolves was advancing through the whole place in a pack, without separating, but to tell the truth Arata was so scared, that he was worried he would pee his pants because of the fear he felt. He just wanted to go back to where they had come from, and forget about the existence of the Cursed Hospital forever. However, his sister seemed to be having fun and enjoying the adventure. She was the one leading the whole group and before Arata had time to protest, Kitsuhira had already chosen the dormitory where they were going to spend the night. It looked like a library, probably the place where they kept the medical records of all the patients. The wolves put some blankets on the floor, which they had found in the abandoned rooms, and set out to sleep. When they turned off the flashlights, absolute darkness reigned. At first Arata was shivering, but then the closeness of the other four wolves reassured him, because he could feel their scent and the warmth of their fur. Finally, controlling his breathing, and thinking positive thoughts, he managed to fall asleep.

At dawn, Arata heard the loudest and highest pitched howl he had ever experienced in his entire life. It was Genji screaming and crying in despair. It turned out that he had been searching for Kitsuhira for several minutes, but it was obvious that the she had completely disappeared. Arata felt his heart clench so tight from anguish and worry, it was going to blast like an atomic bomb. He tried to keep a cold head in order to best organize the search for his sister. The four wolves turned the place up and down, spent the whole day in the Cursed Hospital looking for Kitsuhira, but found not a trace of her footprints. Finally, resigned, they sat down to deliberate what to do. Together, they came to the conclusion that Kitsuhira had been kidnapped, or had fallen into some tunnel-hole with no way out, and surely after so many hours it would not be possible to find her. So, they presumed Kitsuhira dead and ended the search. There was no end to Arata’s sadness that day, the wolf boy swore he was going to die of anguish on the way back to the forest. But he did not.

Although five years had passed since that traumatic experience, the wolf boy remembered it in detail every time he saw a new dawn. Anyway, now his family had other problems, some of them very serious. The death of his sister had divided them, they began to fight often, and they were no longer the united and loving family they used to be. They no longer lived in the comfortable cave, because Arata’s father was not able to hunt, he lost all his sense of smell and instincts after Kitsuhira’s death. They became beggars, living off the scraps of food left for them by the other wolves.

Such was the Takahashi’s existence, gray and hopeless, up until the Kozana pandemic struck. Suddenly, several wolves began to fall ill, first with a high fever, then convulsions that shook their entire body, until they bled to death from the nose and mouth, suffering great pain. Doctors discovered that a new virus, called Kozana, was attacking the wolf community throughout Japan. The wolf president decided to close the borders, and prohibit all movement to and from other countries. Sick wolves were locked up in special centers, while healthy wolves were observed by cameras, and were required to wear masks, always keeping the mandatory social distance of two meters. Throughout Japan, fear and suspicion reigned as to who carried the virus, and how to continue living without becoming infected. Then, a story began to circulate about a terrible She-Wolf Queen, who lived on Minami Torishima, the farthest island of Japan. They said that she was a very evil Queen, and that she was so angry with the whole species of wolves, that she commanded the cleverest doctors to a laboratory and paid them a lot of money, to create a virus that would infect and destroy everyone except her, because she was the only one with the antidote against Kozana.

When Arata heard the story, suddenly his heart leapt with hope. If there was a she-wolf who knew how to stop the virus, because she herself ordered it produced, then surely more doses of the antidote could be released, and save all the infected in Japan. Since Kitsuhira’s death, Arata felt that he no longer had anything to lose in this world, and that had given him a heroic fearlessness, an unbreakable courage.

Without telling his parents so as not to alarm them, Arata decided to leave the next day for the palace of the Evil Queen. He embarked on a perilous week-long journey to the most remote island in Japan. When he finally reached his destination, soldiers stopped him at the palace gate and would not let him advance. They told him that the Queen does not accept visitors, under any circumstances.

Arata decided to stand there at the gate, until the vicious she-wolf decided to see him. He knew that there were cameras recording his every move, and so he settled under the porch, waiting patiently. On the third day sleeping on the floor without eating or drinking anything, the Queen decided to receive him.

When he entered the palace, Arata felt strange without really knowing the reason behind it. The scent of the rooms seemed familiar to him, and he saw the same tiger skins in the corridors that they used to have in the cave where he lived with his family. Finally he saw her, the Queen’s back was turned when he entered. She was a beautiful she-wolf, with shiny gray fur, majestic bearing and a very tall stature. Arata greeted her with great respect, getting down on his knees. He explained that he came to procure the antidote against the Kozana virus, which was killing all the wolves in Japan.

The Queen finished listening in silence, then stood still for several minutes. When she finally turned to look him in the eye, Arata froze like a marble statue – it was Kitsuhira, his sister! The wolf burst into tears with emotion, unable to say a word. Kitsuhira had recognized him too, in fact she knew very well who he was from the moment he arrived at the entrance on the first day. She had let so much time pass before seeing him because her heart had turned to stone and she no longer felt compassion even for her own brother. However, seeing him weeping, kneeling in front of her, something triggered in her heart and Kitsuhira broke out in tears. She wept and wept beside Arata, but then began to shout:

– “Why did you abandon me to death in Cursed Hospital? How could you surrender and quit looking for me?”

Arata assured that they searched for her all day long, and after so many hours without any trace, they claimed she would be dead. He never wanted to give up on her, and never forgot her. Then, together they put the pieces of the puzzle and it became clear. Kitsuhira said that while she was snooping around that night in the Labyrinth Hospital, she discovered a secret door that led to a subway tunnel. She went in there and stayed locked in until dawn, not knowing how to get out, nor being able to find her way back. She heard the voice of her brother and the other wolves searching for her, but she could not produce a howl, because the cold night in the tunnel had left her hoarse.

When the group stopped looking for her and left, Kitsuhira found the exit by following the voices of the ghosts, who guided her to the entrance. The souls in pain also told her about a virus, which existed in the Hospital, arising from the contamination of human organs stored there, without respect for the rules of hygiene that exist in a real medical center. The virus could become deadly for the entire wolf race if it was worked on in a laboratory, making it resistant to drugs.

Kitsuhira left for Minami Torishima, where no one knew her, and with her strong character and intelligence, she soon became the leader of the local wolf herd. When she was named the Queen of the island, she decided to set in motion her revenge against the group of wolves that abandoned her, and against the whole race in general, which she hated. She hired some scientists to turn Kozana into the most resistant virus in the world, and sent them to the island where her parents lived, to infect everyone.

As she recounted her vindictive plan, big tears fell down her cheeks. Kitsuhira felt very remorseful. The hard shell that enveloped the Queen’s heart, blocking it, finally melted. In her brother’s arms, Kitsuhira felt again that she belonged to a family, and that she was dearly loved.

The next morning, the Wolf Queen called her team of doctors and ordered them to produce millions of antidotes, to be applied to the infected wolves, in order to stop the pandemic.

This is how family love cured all of Japan, saving it from the most deadly pandemic ever seen in its islands.


Image by Petra from Pixabay

Anna Jozefowicz (ARGENTINA)

Anna Józefowicz was born in Poland, but has lived more than half of her life in Latin America. For many years, she worked for the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on diplomatic missions. She has written a collection of poems entitled "Between Moons", short stories, reportages and academic articles published in Spain, Poland and France. In 2019, she participated in the International Poetry Festival organized by Verbum Publishing House. In 2020, Verbum published her first novel: "The Five Senses of a Communist Childhood" in Spain.

Write A Comment