The mass disappearances of entire tribes and villages in central Africa and the string of occurrences of extensive property damage allegedly inflicted by multiple instances of ball lightning in rapid sequence have more in common than a cursory comparison reveals. More exactly, one could accurately assert that the fault for causing both of these peculiar phenomena rests entirely upon me. I am writing this in the hope that, should I perish in my endeavor to reverse the havoc I have released unto the Earth, someone will chance upon this document and succeed where I failed; otherwise, I intend to publicize this confession and explanation the world at large as an apology and a warning not to tread the same path of deadly curiosity as I have.
For years, before this undesirable state of affairs arose, I was a corporate wage-slave – a pencil pusher, you might say – and I lived as a man without dreams or ambitions. Having dropped out of college following several semesters filled with classes that were somehow simultaneously boring and stressful, I rapidly consumed what meager savings there were in my bank account. With no viable job opportunities in sight, I resorted to calling an old high school friend of mine out of desperation; as it happened, he had recently been promoted to some stratospheric managerial position in his company, and he thankfully recalled that he owed me a favor or two. Thus, I secured a job doing some nebulous task involving reviewing and signing documents that were meaningless forests of legalese and jargon. I hated it, but I had no realistic alternative.
I spent several miserable years in this position, earning barely enough money to keep my stomach full and my utilities active. The television was my lord and savior, its numbing glow saving me from reflecting on my circumstances or further wallowing in negativity. Abruptly, however, an envelope greeted me from my chronically empty mailbox one afternoon. A fortune had apparently been left for me by some distant, eccentric relative of mine; a scholar of the occult, his will claimed that he remotely observed my pathetic state, and, out of familial concern and consideration for his own advanced age, decided to bequeath his wealth onto me. Of course, the details – particularly that note about remote observation – scarcely crossed my mind, as flooded with joy, relief, and ecstasy as I was. I submitted a 2-week notice to that dreadful corporation the very same day that I confirmed the validity of that grimly glorious letter.
Once my newfound riches had been secured in my bank account, I immediately went out and purchased a high-quality handheld video camera. For ages, I’ve had this dream of wandering about the Earth, keeping a digital catalogue of the locations and people I encounter. The suffocation and poor wages of my previous employment restricted me from doing much of anything outside of trudging through oceans of impenetrable papers; it certainly didn’t pay well enough for me to buy luxury items like camcorders. Regardless, after obtaining an artificial eye to complement my own – in addition to warmer clothing, as a mass of cold air was hovering around the city at the time – I began taking frequent walks throughout the area, wandering to and fro and recording everything along the way.
I quickly encountered problems. Firstly, my ancient desktop computer – it had fallen into disuse from an absence of drive or motivation on my part while employed – lacked the necessary storage space to retain all of the footage I was recording. I managed to solve that following several days of browsing poorly-written forum posts, poring over technical guides, and ordering new hardware components; I ended up owning a much nicer computer accompanied by a cluster of storage disks arranged in what guides called a RAID. While its exact functionality eludes me even now, I never did have trouble with any failing components or a lack of space for my footage.
Secondly, many of the people whom I passed on my wanderings didn’t care for being recorded on camera, even indirectly. On a few occasions, I scarcely avoided being assaulted over the matter. Thus, after some admittedly difficult adjustments to my sleeping schedule, I began taking my walks in the loneliest hours of the morning. I remember feeling distinctly grateful that I could sleep whenever I chose rather than being shoehorned into sleeping schedule based upon my working schedule. I also found myself deeply moved rather often by the serene solitude of the post-midnight world.
It was after several weeks of increasingly long walks through the city, the surrounding suburban neighborhoods, and the outlying countryside when I realized that I had traversed essentially all of the nearby territory that could be reached and returned from within a single night of walking. Despite this, my desire to explore and document remained unsatisfied, so I made what, in retrospect, might have been a rash decision: I bought a plane ticket to travel to Japan. As arbitrary as it probably seems to you, it made sense to me because I, when I was much younger, watched a ridiculously large amount of anime. Thus, I always had this fanciful image of Japan being a colorful, wacky, and generally exciting place; this image faded as I aged, but, now that I had plenty of free resources and was in need of a new locale for exploration, I concluded that Japan would be my next destination.
I’ll omit the specifics of traveling, finding housing, and struggling with the language, as they aren’t relevant to this report. Instead, I’ll resume from when I had finally managed to settle into a surprisingly small room in an apartment complex. I, as before, began taking walks in the wee hours of the morning, capturing the sights and experiences both with my eyes and the eye of my camera. While it certainly wasn’t the madhouse of moe and anime that my youthful self had imagined, there was still a beauty to it, analogous to the serenity I felt in my city back home. It truly is a shame that more people aren’t aware of this wonder and tranquility that even our industrialized society offers to those who seek it.
On one evening in particular, however, I encountered a small group of teenagers talking in excited whispers amongst themselves while carrying what looked like the box of some board game with them. As I was feeling especially bold and outgoing that night for no nameable reason, I approached them and greeted them with what I hoped was a disarming smile. They were initially guarded, but I apparently conveyed my honesty when I expounded upon who I was, what I was doing, and my curiosity about them to them. They introduced themselves as Hideki, Tsubaki, and Kensuke, and they explained that they had gotten ahold of a “spirit board” and intended to try summoning ghosts with it, and they courteously invited me to join them and observe anything that might occur. In spite of my skepticism regarding ghosts and the like, I agreed to join them.
After taking a shortcut through what I’m certain was a red light district and navigating a maze of back alleyways, we arrived at the front gate of a fence which encircled one of the largest houses I had seen in Japan thus far – although it was only slightly above average by US standards. Once inside, the teenagers made quick work of setting up the board, as well as shutting off all of the other lights and lighting a circle of candles around it, and burning several sticks of incense. I watched silently, thankful for my camera’s night vision setting, as they sat around the board. Kensuke extracted a sheet of paper from his pocket and began reading a chant of some sort in archaic Japanese. Once he finished, a draft of air flowed past us, flickering the candles, and a glowing string of characters appeared on the board, reading as follows (in Japanese, of course):
WHO ARE YOU
Despite my skepticism, my skin crawled with goosebumps at the sight of the fiery text, and the teenagers exchanged frightened whispers and glances for a moment. Eventually, Kensuke replied aloud:
“We are [FULL NAMES REDACTED], and, if we may, we wish to speak with the spirit of [NAME REDACTED], oh honorable spirits.”
Another breath of wind; the characters on the board changed:
WE DO NOT ACT BY THE WHIMS OF THE LIVING
“Please, oh great spirits, he was our dear brother, and he died before his time. Would you allow him to come and speak with us, for however short a time?”
HE CANNOT COME TO YOU
Here, there was a brief pause, as the three deliberated about what to do next. Before any of them could speak, a gust stronger than those before it swept through the room, extinguishing a few of the candles.
YOU CAN GO TO HIM
At this, a fierce rumbling shook the house. The sound of dishes smashing echoed out of a nearby room, and one of the windows in the main room shattered. The teenagers threw themselves prostrate against the floor, and I stood staring at the luminescent board, rooted in place out of fear and awe. The rumbling slowly diminished, and one last string of characters lit up on the board:
Cautiously, we stepped outside into the fenced-in yard. A dimly glowing ellipse about two meters in height and one meter in width stood off to the left of the house, level with the ground. The border of it was a brilliant electric blue, but the center was a mixture of grays and browns; the colors were blurred, as though looking through old, clouded glass. With difficulty, I tore my eyes away from the portal and stepped back inside to examine the board. It had gone dark, and the incense and candles had both been snuffed out with it. I stepped back outside and joined the teenagers, who were clustered anxiously around the rip in space. Hideki shakily suggested trying to walk through it, since their brother who had passed away might be waiting on the other side. I distractedly swapped out the battery and memory card of my camera with the spares I had brought with me while they discussed the prospects of walking through the doorway. I proposed that I travel in alone, as I was older and had no close living relatives; meanwhile, I would have a rope secured around my waist so that they could pull me back through if need be. After a moment, the teenagers agreed, and Kensuke ran to the nearby supply shed to get rope while Tsubaki and Hideki went inside to clean up the broken plates and window.
It was around 2 A.M. when the teenagers finished up their chores and had retrieved the rope. By a stroke of luck (or, perhaps, misfortune), the supply shed had an incredible length of rope – at least 300 meters in length – and we secured one end to a nearby Japanese maple tree and the other end around my waist. The others promised that they’d wait by the tree so that they could pull me back together should I need help. I thanked them graciously, and made them promise not to blame themselves should something happen to me. They wished me luck as I walked up to the portal. I tried to push my hand through it and encountered no resistance despite its glassy appearance. I hesitated, then closed my eyes and stepped into it.
Immediately upon crossing the threshold, the portal winked shut behind me, cleanly severing the rope. Immense dread unlike any I had experienced flooded me. Glancing desperately around the landscape, I couldn’t locate a single trace of the gateway that had brought me here; I was trapped. Panic and fear rocked my mind, and several minutes passed before I composed myself enough to examine in more detail the place that now contained me.
The sky – if it could be called such – bore no clouds or familiar color, instead a featureless bituminous gray. What faint illumination there was originated from a copper sun that hung at the zenith; its weakly luminosity was such that I could stare directly at it without discomfort. My feet sunk slightly in the ground, a black substance with a consistency similar to clay. Gazing toward the horizon, I noted that the terrain rolled outward in hills; I espied colossal mountains in the distance, along with massive formations that jaggedly extended sideways into the air without any visible support. No wind brushed past me, and nothing living or otherwise reminiscent of my home reality greeted my eyes during this brief survey of my surroundings. Wherever this locale was, it certainly wasn’t anywhere on Earth that I knew.
Though my uneasiness remained unabated, my desire to explore – coupled with an instinct to avoid lingering in the flat, open field into which I had stepped – compelled me to begin walking toward one of the large mountains in the distance. I could nearly feel the impressions my shoes left in the black clay, and I feared that some unspeakable monster that dwelled herein would follow my footprints. Closer examination unveiled that the footprints swiftly filled back up after I lifted my foot from them. That behavior still puzzles me, but at the time the knowledge that my trail erased itself brought a degree of relief to my taxed mind.
There was a certain fascination to the lengthy trek; on several occasions, I scaled a low hill and nearly tumbled into a gaping hole in the terrain that the mound had obscured. Further inspection revealed that, rather than some endless pit, the interior of the opening contained another level of terrain nearly identical to that which surrounded me; that is, it was as though there were another “floor” of this place beneath my current layer. Of course, I had neither the means nor the intention of exploring down there, as simply glancing into the hole left me dizzy from the height of the drop. Additionally, were I to descend downward, not only would I lack any manner of returning to the current level, but the light source would be obscured, and the mere thought of groping about in the murky bowels of this wasteland without benefit of sight… no, rather, it was unthinkable.
As the landmark grew closer, I noticed that I hadn’t felt hungry or thirsty at all since passing through the portal, nor had the distance covered on foot fatigued me. Again, though bizarre and inexplicable, the properties of the clay void proved exceedingly fortunate; survival without them would have been a crapshoot, considering how ill-prepared I was. As I reflected on this, my ears picked up on a faint, distant sound. I assured myself that I had imagined it, but that delusion fell away when the noise recurred. The most unnerving aspect of it, outside of it being the sole source of sound in this landscape, was its familiarity: It sounded as though someone were intermittently but desperately pounding on a door or wall.