Shinkyo Bridge. Part Eight. Horror Fiction
Gen watched in knock-kneed terror as the invincible hannya played with its newest victim. Musashi was pinned beneath the she-devil’s bulk, its unnatural strength immobilizing his arms. Though bruised and battered, Musashi refused to give up, his teeth gritted in determination.
He started as the bundle Musashi dropped when Tokoemon attacked him began to move. The loathsome demon’s hand wriggled free of its wrappings and began to scuttle toward its owner, its talons clattering on the wooden walkway as it went.
In his borrowed kimono Gen realized how much the samurai looked like his late son. The same height, the same strong shoulders, the same firm jaw line. Kenta would be about as old as him, he thought to himself.
In that moment, with that thought, his fear was drowned out by a towering rage. Tears filled his eyes, obscuring his vision. He no longer cared what happened to him, only that this man who reminded him so strongly of his son lived.
Gen stepped out onto the bridge, gripping his knife tightly. He caught up to the hand and planted his sandaled foot atop it, grinding its fingers beneath his heel.
“I watched my son die at your hands, demon! I’ll not stand idle and witness it twice!”
He plunged the knife down through the back of the severed hand, the tip of his blade rebounding off the wood beneath.
* * *
A keening wail ripped from the demon’s throat, deafening Musashi. Its eyes dimmed for a moment as the pain from its severed hand broke its concentration, its hold over the samurai gone.
“Men are not your toys, monster,” Musashi spat, snapping his head forward. He let out a bark of pain as his forehead connected with the demon’s long, protruding nose, flattening it in a spray of green ichor.
The hannya reared back in surprise and blinding agony, its grip on Musashi’s wrists lost as it reflexively clutched at its bleeding face.
The samurai swept his wakazashi from its scabbard and reversed it into a backhand grip. He planted its chiseled point at the base of the demon’s chin and drove upward with all his might, not stopping until it was buried to the hilt. The hannya didn’t even have time to scream, its last breath coming out in a gasping rattle.
Its skull transfixed, the demon fell aside, its form gradually fading back into the shadows from whence it came.
Woozy from the impact to the head, Musashi felt around his seated form and collected his swords, successfully sheathing them on the third try. A pair of hands caught hold of his arms and helped haul him to his feet. He looked over see Gen’s worried, moon-white face. Gen leant Musashi his shoulder and together the two staggered off the bridge. They were greeted by looks of stunned awe from the villagers waiting for them. The people of Tachibana broke into wild cheers as the hannya’s death finally sunk in.
Gen’s wife pushed through the crowd, her eyes red from unshed tears and worry. She ran to help her husband carry Musashi, taking his other shoulder.
A loud creaking silenced the villager’s jubilant applause. They all looked at the empty bridge, breath held in fear that the demon would return. Instead they saw the bridge changing before their eyes. Wooden boards turned gray and warped out of true. Ornamental stone lanterns sprouted tufts of lichen and began to crumble. The support beams holding up Shinkyo Bridge became pitted and rotten. With a thundering crash the entire structure collapsed, throwing a great cloud of wood-dust high into the air.
“What happened?” Musashi asked in a slurred voice, his eyes having trouble focusing.
“The demon sustained ShinkyoBridge for centuries,” Gen said as they limped toward the inn. “Without the demon, time has return and aged it. How did you know to give it a fake bundle instead of the hand?”
“Didn’t,” Musashi said simply. “Force of habit. Decoys, remember?”
Gen smiled at the dazed samurai. “Let’s get you to your room and I’ll cook those rabbits for you.”
They continued onward in silence for a few moments more before Musashi spoke again. “Gen?”
“Could you cook something else?”
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