Spring. The sakura gone and the trees all new green. The wistaria blooming in the garden, tiny flowers shaking in the unsettled air. It's an uneasy time of year: the weather thunderous, undependable; window frames rattling loudly in sudden gusts of wind; things changing all around you, seen and unseen. Humans get skittish at this time of year, youkai even more so, and our house can be an uncomfortable place until the rainy season starts: when it becomes uncomfortable in quite different ways.
That was one reason why I was in my grandfather's study. It's always quiet there no matter the season: the only place where the sense of him is as strong as when I was a kid. I'd gone there to look for the big classical Japanese dictionary, hoping for help with one of my third year kobun texts. It was a fat heavy book and I had a hard time getting it out of its cardboard slip-case. A couple of pieces of manuscript paper were stuck under the front cover and they must have swollen a bit over time. My grandfather died a dozen years ago and I'm sure no one's used his dictionary since then.
The pages were written all over in his small neat script. Notes for a story, I figured. But no- more like a prose poem. There was no title and it lacked the old-fashioned introduction he usually started his tales with.
A night in the fifth month. As you lie in bed unable to sleep for the young man's restlessness in your heart, the green storm of spring comes to buffet the walls of your house and shake the trees of the garden. The pale tender leaves tremble and turn their faces away. The branches thrash like mad things, bending as far as the earth. The clouds overhead run like startled pheasants, and far away in the deep hills the woods groan as he romps through them. In his wake he leaves the waving forests of new green, the waving grasses of the hillside, the stomping and squealing of beasts about their springtide ruttings: chicks pecking through eggshells, spindly foals dropped from mares, and all the newly flowering ground-bursting bud-unfolding energy of a world turned back towards the sun.
If you are a young man and your heart is not at ease, the green storm of spring finds his way to you as well. He slips through cracks in the shutters, however narrow; glides down corridors, however much they twist; slides under the fusuma, however snugly they fit, and pounces upon you where you wait in the burrow of your futon. A dozen fingers pluck at your hair and stroke your face like an insistent child- Wake up! Wake up! Fanning breath lies across your shouldersk like an encircling arm and touches the back of your neck in an unwanted kiss. The mannerless fellow flips aside the skirt of your night robe and slides down the length of you, though you turn to your other side to hide from him. Tickling, indecent, not to be evaded, his long cool body winds itself into places too narrow for even mosquitoes or gnats to find.
He comes from the foaming seas and the roaring skies, and what he seeks is the salty warmth, the strong pulsing energy, of your young man's blood- the blood that grows so disordered in the trumpeting disquiet of spring. If he finds you he won't let you go. He envelops you completely and takes you away into the booming darkness. You fly the wild skies on his twisting rippling back until the thunderstone dashes you from it, and you fall the many many leagues back down to your bed. You lie exhausted, aching, in the wake of the green storm's passing. He gives you a backwards glance as he goes- white face like a slice of moon above a robe black as the night. And he smiles at you, all the stars in his mouth, and his eyes are silver as moonbeams and his hair floats about him like the white haze of spring.
Oh young man, be calm, be purposed and still in your soul. Look down from the sky and up from the earth: do not let your eyes turn left or right seeking images among the shifting new leaves or patterns in the thick waving grass. Be as a block of stone or the pavement in the streets, lest the green storm of spring come and take your peaceful nights from you forever.
After a long time I got up and went down the corridor and around to the room at the back. My 'father' was out on the verandah, hunched over a hibachi toasting mochi. Oguro and Ojiro were perched on the railing, drooling a little as they watched. (Did you know birds drool? They do if they're youkai birds.)
Eventually he looked up at me.
I didn't say anything. I couldn't think of anything to say.
"Why're you looking at me like that?"
"No reason." I came and hunkered down on the other side. I rolled the pages up tight and shoved them into the glowing coals. When they'd burned down to a few centimetres I flicked the last bit through the grating.
"Wazzat?" Aoarashi said around the mochi in his mouth.
I took the fork from him and prodded the thin grey sheets into ashes.
Poem from my youth, one source of the above:
last night after mama kissed me
a fine sorcerer rode by all in a cloak
just over the apartments
but out where the stars were
And he threw down bits of leaves and silver
on the taxi-drivers and their drunk old fares
But down in the lot
two rackety coons where the trucks come in
winked at him burglary winks
and he smiled all the stars
in his hat.
Then he saw me alive and window-white
and he flickered the blue television rooms
and said with his peacock's eye and his beard
falling away like beads and alleys
would I ride
would I ride
come out through the glass
and not ask why
will I, will
over the islands
under the hill
where the children lie
but when I would follow
mama's kiss hurt on my cheek
as dark as night where the buildings stop
he grinned all the stars in his mouth
and glimmered the streets and the cars
over the new houses and the near farms
and the place where old cars are piled.
over the markets and trucks,
and last year
and old battlefields where many boys followed,
over wagons and stone
and the farthest Chinaman's roof.
Then he blew on his long reed fingers
and danced the old, old dance
with the children there.