A California Ghost Story
retold by S.E. Schlosser
When the samurai warrior Kane first came to California from Tokyo, be brought his new wife, the beautiful Ishi. She was an ideal wife: gentle, attentive, and a wonderful cook. Kane was the envy of his new neighbors. But he was a proud man. When a wealthy family moved into the neighborhood, Kane cast his eye upon their lovely daughter, Aiko, and desired her. In his mind Ishi was second best. So Kane plotted to rid himself of his wife so he could woo and win the fair Aiko.
On a stormy night on the way home from a great banquet, Kane pushed Ishi over the cliff and into the bay. No one heard her scream though the howling wind. No one suspected foul play when Kane came rushing back to the banquet hall, shouting for help because his poor wife had slipped and fallen over the cliff.
Kane acted the part of the bereaved husband to perfection. He gave Ishi a splendid funeral. It wasn’t until he was alone in his house that Kane relaxed and drank to his success.
Outside, the wind whipped against the house, making the walls rattle and shake. A stray breeze swept through the sleeping-room with a whisper: “Vengeance. Vengeance.”
Kane sat up and blinked as a dark figure stepped into the room. Its long tangled black hair hung over the dirty, bloodstained kimono. Its face was crushed and broken, with one eyeball hanging from the socket. The ghost of Ishi reached out a broken hand toward her husband, smiling through the shattered remains of her teeth. “Vengeance,” she whispered, “Vengeance.”
Kane screamed in terror, leapt out of the window, and ran to a neighbor’s house. Mistaking his fear for grief the neighbors took him in and insisted he stay with them during the first weeks of his bereavement.
A month passed as Kane waited for Ishi’s ghost to reappear, but she’d vanished. Relieved, Kane decided it was safe to bring Aiko and her family to see his home. As he escorted Aiko’s parents around the garden, he felt a hand on his arm. Kane turned around and found himself facing a beautiful Ishi, who kissed him and whispered in his ear: “Vengeance.” Laughing, Ishi danced away, waving to Aiko and her parents as she passed. Aiko glared after her in jealous rage.
Fearing that Aiko might end the betrothal, Kane pressed forward with his suit, arranging for a grand engagement feast to prove his devotion. Friends, neighbors, and family came to the banquet hall to laugh and toast over food and wine.
Kane was very please with his success. But when he looked across the hall, he saw the ghost of beautiful young Ishi walk into the room and stand demurely in the corner. He paused mid-sentence and stared in horror as she laughed and began to change. Her body twisted and broke before Kane’s eyes, her face collapsing inward and bleeding, her black hair tangling, her eyeball popping out of its socket.
“Vengeance,” she whispered.
“No! No!” Kane shouted.
Around him, Akio, her parents, and the guests stared. None of them could see the ghost. As Ishi drifted out of the door Kane followed, vowing she would haunt him no more.
The ghost drifted along the cliff path with Kane running after her, shouting and cursing. Suddenly the ghost stopped at the place where Kane had pushed her. She turned to face Kane and started to grow, her crushed body bloody and dirty, her eyeball swaying, her shattered teething gleaming in the moonlight.
“Vengeance!” she screamed and lunged at Kane. The samurai stepped backward, face contorting in fear. His foot slipped suddenly on the loose earth, and he plunged backward over the edge of the cliff, his body fatally smashing into the rocks far below.
That same night a terrible storm beat against Kane’s house. Lightning hit the roof and the house burned to the ground. Neighbors claimed they could hear a voice in the wind saying one word, over and over: “Vengeance.”