Book One of The Twins of Kashal series
This book is not only a mystery but it sets the stage for the next three Twins of Kashal books, identify who is who in both the 15th century and in current time. By understanding the role of each character, Book Two – The Mt. Kurama Mystery become even more entertaining.
This book is ready to be published
Tashi Jones was a character in the original Twins of Kashal books. In 2021 I decided to take him out and give him his own Mystery novel. In doing so I needed to identify all the characters in the Twins novels in a more profound way.
Story: Tashi is a Private Detective, and also a photographer. For years he has been fascinated with a certain crypt at Namu Ku, an ancient cemetery on Mt. Kurama, outside of Kyoto, Japan. One day while there, the crypt mysteriously opens and inside he finds the bodies of the 15th century Royal Twins, sitting perfectly preserved with their severed heads in their hands. They are looking at a book on a table between them. Tashi steals the book, and back home discovers it’s the story of the Twins of Kashal. In reality, the current Hawaiian twins, who just arrived in Kyoto, are the reincarnated Royal Twins. Their father, Kozo Kasai, hires Tashi to find a precious mask. It he has something to do with the whole Twins of Kashal story and the mystery of who now did what then. Tashi Jones
Read the Full First Episode Here
Standing under the massive wooden torii gate about to enter the cemetery, I paused to take in the remarkable beauty of this sacred resting place. Although mostly left untouched, the gardens appeared to be impeccably landscaped, with pagoda sitting areas, lotus ponds and moss-covered stone pathways. The cemetery stood in quiet grace as a natural refuge, a sanctuary ten miles from Kyoto’s urban sprawl. The reason I returned once a year for the past ten years to this historical Japanese cemetery near the village of Namu Ku, was to visit one large stone crypt in particular; a most intriguing and fascinating structure located at the very far end of the cemetery, a good half mile uphill climb from the car park.
The crypt’s design is classical 15th century Japanese. Its modest two-level pagoda eaves were carved right out of the granite mountainside, securely cradled as it proudly juts out from its perch overlooking Lake Biwa in the distance, facing East into the shrouded early morning sun.
As I entered the ancient cemetery that morning, a lone raven swept down from the trees and landed in the path in front of me, chattering away. This curious bird had become my friend and companion on my yearly treks up the mountain. I scattered a half bag of breadcrumbs on the ground, comforted by her presence. “It’s strange that after all these years I’ve never given you a name,” I said to her. “Ki-kaa,” the raven answered back.
“Ki-kaa? I don’t think so.” I smiled as I took a deep breath, inhaling the rich aroma of ancient forest air. As usual, there wasn’t anyone else there. It was so quiet, I imagined I could hear the whisperings of the spirits, buried so long ago. As was my custom, I sent them a silent prayer and asked permission that I might enter.
Answering for a thousand ghosts, the raven squawked and flew down the path, inviting me to follow.
I secured the backpack in which I carried my new digital camera, extra lenses, and a lightweight tripod; all I needed for my rigorous trek to the higher level. In my pocket was my iPhone, for the inspirational shots I inevitably took along the way.
My name is Tashi Jones. I’m a detective; a free-lance private eye, regularly hired for silly domestic surveillance cases by an eccentric man by the name of Satori, a publisher who doesn’t know one thing about being a detective. The middle-aged man inherited his father’s once thriving publishing and detective businesses. Satori Investigations is a very minor part of Satori Publishing and something he holds onto merely for his personal entertainment.
I’m also an amateur photographer, an advocation I’d be better at, if only I had a rich patron. I’m fascinated with graves and have taken thousands of photos of mostly ancient tombs and crypts.
Kyoto’s ninety million yearly tourists love to buy photos of the colorful city. Photographers take pictures of the temples, gardens and red torii gates but nobody besides me takes photos of crypts, and no one buys them. I find them hauntingly exquisite and eerily beautiful, wondering why most people don’t share my fascination with the art.
Why I’m obsessed with taking these photos is beyond my own knowing. I get by being a detective, live a very modest life and work on my Aikido skills three or four nights a week, earning two black belts.
Beginning around ten years ago, I‘d stop my car at every cemetery, get out and walk around and take photos. I found that early mornings, with the mist on the tombstones, offered a surreal look for the best graveyard photo. I ended up visiting every cemetery from Kyoto to Kobe, even some as far north as Tokyo. My computer is filled with thousands of wonderful photos I wish for people to see.
Some might think that visiting cemeteries would be a bit morbid, especially if you don’t know anyone who’s buried there. I don’t think about the dead people below. I’m mostly a connoisseur, an admirer of graveyard art and architecture; a photo image collector. Everything about ancient burial sites fascinates me; including the setting, the landscaping, the wild moss, and the shadows caused by the variations of weather.
Of all the burial tombs I’ve visited, only two have stirred my raw emotions. One is the crypt of a powerful late 15th , early 16th century Shogun named Tashinami, in the ancient Buddhist cemetery in Koyasan, and the other is this one at Namu Ku, on Mt. Kurama. The only reason I know about this crypt in the first place, is because ten years ago, when I was full of youthful energy, I decided to hike to the very far top end of this cemetery, just for the heck of it. I was totally intrigue with this crypt from the moment I first saw it; piqued by the grandeur of the structure and the name above the door,
The Royal Twins of Kashal
3-21 1499 – 3-28 1522
The word Royal had to refer to the family of the Emperor of Japan at that time. I wasn’t a detective then, though this was one of the reasons I chose my profession. I always loved solving mysteries, so I figured why not get paid? That would come later. After my first visit to the crypt at Namu Ku, I wanted to find out what the word Kashal meant. There was no such Japanese name in my google search.
As the years went by, after I decided to be a private investigator, although this wasn’t an official detective case, certainly not a paying one, finding out who these Riyal Twins were and what Kashal meant, was the most fascinating and probably most unsolvable question I ever had. There was no historical record of “royal twins” from 1499 to 1522.
Regardless, I kept asking myself, why would the Emperor of Japan bury his children in an architecturally stunning crypt, built at a remote location, which nobody would visit, on the side of a mountain, far from the traditional Kyoto Royal Palace burial site? This was a puzzling question I had to find the answer to, even though I knew the answer wouldn’t satisfy my curiosity. I wanted to see what was inside. For ten years, I continued to harbor a burning desire to know the crypts entombed secret. I somehow figured it would make a fascinating story. Maybe even a book Satori would publish.
No matter how many crypts I visited or pictures I took over the years, I always kept thinking about the Royal Twins of Kashal. Who were they? How did they die at the same time? Why were they buried together in such an elegant crypt? Why so far away from the Palace? Neither access to the Royal Library, nor countless hours of googling helped. And yet the crypt was there with their names engraved in it. I couldn’t accept that no historical records existed.
Often villagers keep ancient stories alive. I spent many hours in the village of Namu Ku and interviewed just about every old timer. It proved to be another dead-end. No one knew anything about these twins, Kashal, or that this crypt even existed. It was almost like it existed in an alternate reality. But nothing stopped me. I kept looking for the one clue I wasn’t seeing, which is why I took a yearly drive to Namu Ku on the Spring Equinox, for further on-site investigation.
I’m a bit silly and maybe superstitious when it comes to rituals or even obscure clues, but I could hardly wait for March 21st, the day chiseled on the crypt, to arrive. I don’t know why, but I decided that the 3-21 was the day of their birth, not the day of their death. I had no doubt that 1489 was the year of their death.
I would leave my home in Kyoto at six in the morning on that day and would sit for hours on the bench just outside the crypts iron gate, paying homage to twins whom I knew nothing about, but felt a connection to. I’d always check the door and I scoured every inch of the surrounding area. I even dug holes looking for a key to get in. I developed a weird notion that maybe the twins were my past life family. I couldn’t place myself as the Emperor but possibly a brother or dear friend. I wished that my fantasies were true.
This year, last night, I had a dream. In it a voice too persistent to be ignored came into my head. The voice was saying, “Come to the crypt now, Tashi.”
I tried to attach the voice to someone but couldn’t tell if it was masculine or feminine. It sounded like a younger voice, maybe one of the twins was speaking to me from their grave. It was only a dream and I had to take it with a grain of salt, but the voice in my head insisted that I go to the crypt today, Wednesday, March 14th, a week before the Spring Equinox.
So, I decide to alter my ritual and follow this clue, as illogical as it was. Anyway, we were between cases, and I had nothing better to do.
The icy spring chill at seven o’clock air was both exhilarating and exacerbating at the same time. I shivered, and then zipped my light-weight thermal jacket up to my chin and began my walk. A wave of reverence took my mind off the cold as I began my trek past moss-covered tombstones where the graves and tombs dated back to the Minamoto Dynasty. I respectively bowed my head to thousand-year-old Samurai graves honorably moss covered, guarded by an old-growth forest, colorful flowering peach and cherry trees, and countless shrubs and flowers.
At the first clearing, I paused and scanned the morning sky. I wasn’t sure if it would rain today or not. I snapped several pictures of the fog which hugged the ground, giving the headstones the illusion of floating on a vapor mist. I continued down the cobblestone path, wondering if the voices in my dream last night portended the sign I had been waiting for. Would this year’s premature visit finally offer a clue about the crypt and the twins inside? An odd wave of anxiety sent a shiver down my spine. Was it a foreboding sign?
As I moved farther on, to my left I walked past a newer 20th century section, where an occasional newer grave was adorned with fresh flowers, fruits, soda pop and incense sticks. And to my right, older tombstones dotted the area leading to the steep mountainside. These carved lava and cement stones looked like crowded teeth jammed in a dragon’s mouth, pushing at each other for one more inch of space.
Continuing up the moss-coated path, through what was once formal landscaped gardens, the wildness of nature had taken command. I was awed by the way Mother Earth protects the ancient beauty with her lichen, plume, spoon and pincushion mosses, maidenhair, royal and licorice ferns; the star, wild strawberry and dog wood flowers, to name a few. What a spectacular natural garden this is, I thought.
When I reached a vantage point where curtains of fog ascended the steep cliffs, as if ghosts were ascending the mountain, cloaked in gossamer veils, I quickly set up my tripod and took a series of photos. Turning the camera around, I pointed it up the mountain through the gracefully draping clouds to where I could just barely see the crypt of my intrigue and fascination, tucked deep in a granite grotto some seven hundred feet above sea level. That was a classic Japanese shot, I thought to myself as I folded up the tripod, stuck it back in my pack and continued my invigorating climb. The raven, as always, led the way.
It took another fifteen minutes or so to round the last curve, not far from my destination. From there it was a short walk over a faded red, slightly arched bridge that was shrouded in its own personal fog, and onto the uneven stone path, which led to the crypt.
Once there I stopped to catch my breath and rested on the granite bench beneath an ancient and very rare juniper tree, around fifty feet from the crypt. I wondered why I was the only one interested with this crypt and the bodies housed within. It was far off the beaten path, I knew, but it deserved to be included in a Mt. Kurama tourist guidebook. Even though I had at least a hundred on file, I took a few more photos of the crypt.
The higher altitude morning chill reminded me I needed to keep moving, so I stood up. The wind was whipping up the mist. Mountain hawk-eagles were circling high in the sky. My raven found her place on one of the crypt’s roof eaves. I slowly walked maybe ten feet towards the courtyard gate
It seems more elegant to me every year, I thought to myself as I looked at the awesome ancient architecture. Its construction was larger than any of the other crypts on the mountain; its main twin front eaves’ high points rose at least sixteen feet above ground. The twelve feet wide, green-tiled roof, designed with a layered motif, went back about twenty feet before it appeared to disappear into the mountain rock.
Close to where the roof met the mountain was an unexpected large glass pyramid. I often wondered if they even made glass in Japan in the 15th century. None-the-less, the pyramid stopped the ragged mountain from totally devouring the front end of the building.
Another juniper, which had long ago embraced the sides and roof of the tomb, now held the site in tender compassion, as if to protect it from any harm. The two ancient junipers, and the mountain itself, were the guardians of this precious vault. Shrouding the tomb was a velvet camouflage of green moss, inviting apparently only two to join in their vigil: me, the photographer feeling a bit anxious for who knows what reason, and my raven, glistening blacker than black against the foggy gray background, perched high above on the left front peak of the crypt, staring back down on me.
I looked up at her, projected my thought into her benevolent black eyes: Do you know why I’m here today, a week early? She dipped her beak and answered with a tiny “ki -kaaaa,” as the wind suddenly stopped. At the same instant, all other sounds stopped too. I sensed danger, took a deep breath, and instinctively assumed hanmi no kamae, the Aikido protective half-body stance, as an unnatural chill was quickly seeping into my bones.
I had to remind myself that I was a professional, a second degree blackbelt, who could accept anything nature and graveyards had to offer. While obviously spooked, I did my best to remind myself that strangeness and dark sensations were quite normal in cemeteries, especially one as old as this. And then, despite the cold that stiffened my fingers, and my creepier-than-normal feelings, I set up my tripod. I sensed that because of the shift to this spooky energy with a full sky of darkening clouds, the hawk-eagles circling closer, my raven’s knowing silence . . . that maybe with these gloomy lurking shadows and the sudden light drizzle, the stage was set for a most ideal photo shoot. I did my light adjustments and was ready.
Breathing deeply, letting the thick damp fill my lungs, I exhaled warm air on my fingers and like a wild animal, my ears perked up. I held my breath.
I could faintly hear footsteps on the stone steps, echoing clip-clop. I’m coming. Turning around, I was somewhat shocked to see a hunched-over figure; a person wearing a brown cloak with a hood covering the head, coming toward me. The gnarled, bent over being, arm and cane shaking, slowly clambered over the arched bridge. How did he get all the way up here? He looks like he’s a hundred years old. From my higher vantage point, I watched as the old man approached. I imagined each step an effort to remain outside one of the ancient graves he now walked past. Maybe he’s a ghost, I mused. Maybe he just walked out of one of those graves.
As he came closer, I noticed his rusty brown color cloak was finely woven. A very large hat mostly covered his eyes, shadowing his face, emphasizing his long white beard, which to my amazement turned to shades of green before it almost touched the ground. I had never seen such a long beard. Although the thought was impossible, I knew he had to be an infamous mountain tengu. They were known to be long dead arrogant samurai, reborn as dogs or ravens, who could shape-shift into old monks with long noses; tricksters ready to haunt whoever ventured into their territory. Me. Holy shit.
While I was wondering if he really was a tengu, I was surprised to see a swarm of little blue butterflies hovering around his head. A cold shiver ran through every part of my body as this theatrical figure, right out of a butoh play, walked up to me. He stopped ten feet away and began to speak. I strained my ears to listen to the creaky words that disturbed the mountain silence. “The one with the key,” he mumbled as I pushed the audio button on my camera. “will not set you free.”
“What? Is that a warning? I’m just here to take a few pictures,” I said to him, as the old geezer came closer.
When he was within five feet of me, I could see that his cloak was embroidered with butterflies; most likely woven from the finest silk. With my camera aimed, I was ready to take the man’s picture, but I couldn’t get my finger to push the button. It was like I was momentarily paralyzed. He opened his mouth and while saying “He’ll do what’s not right. Watch the bird in its flight,” the equivalent kanji symbols began floating out of his mouth. Kanji coming out of his mouth! Am I dreaming?
As the old man said these words my raven began to squawk loudly. The old man took another step forward. His face was difficult to make out. Between the brim covering his eyes and his white mustache, was a long bulbous nose. I bent down to look in his eyes and was immediately entranced by the stardust flowing from his jet-black lenses, and then, without warning, quicker than I would ever have believed possible, the man hauled off and whacked me on the side of my head with his cane, sending me flying to the ground!
Click. Click. Click. My now working finger instinctively pushed the camera button before my head hit the cold, wet stone. The last words I heard were, ‘My words are quite clear. You are not to be here.”
Regaining consciousness, I reached up and touched the side of my throbbing head, feeling a tender lump. I was sore all over, a bit confused, shocked and chilled to the bone, since it rained some while I was out. I carefully stood up, knowing I didn’t have the luxury of remaining dizzy and dazed. I needed to confront my assailant, if he was anywhere nearby. While recovering my wits, I wasn’t sure if ten seconds, ten minutes, or an hour had passed. I can’t believe that old man whacked me over the head. With all my Aikido training, I should have been able to dodge him. How could he have been that fast? How could one swing of his cane knock me out?
I looked around for the old man. He was gone. I checked the time. I had lost about a half hour. My raven was still on the eave, squawking wildly. When I glanced up at her, she immediately stopped. She then flew down and landed on the top step, in front of the heavy stone doors. There was an odd shadow at the door. Is it open? I had probably looked at that door a hundred times. What was that shadow?
I shook my head, wondering if I had a concussion or was hallucinating. I told myself that I was fine, and then slowly approached the iron gate to get a closer look. The crypt door appeared to be just slightly opened. The raven flew over to a branch of the juniper and watched intently, nodding her head as I prepared to enter the crypt’s small courtyard. The temperature seemed to have dropped another ten degrees.
What if the old dude is in the crypt waiting to whack me again? I thought. “Hello! Are you in there?” I called into the courtyard. Silence. I cautiously opened the old iron gate, walked into the courtyard, and stood eight feet away from the usually finely sealed iron-framed double crypt doors, made of stone. I looked up at the simple yet intricately carved kanji calligraphy, which had stimulated my imagination for the past ten years.
The Royal Twins of Kashal
3-21 1499 – 3-28 1522
Dead leaves and branches crunched beneath my feet as I crossed the small courtyard, and then climbed up three stone steps to the small landing. The heavy stone doors obviously were no longer locked, so I pulled one of them towards me with both hands, and then cautiously peered in.
A pair of intense blue-green dragon eyes took me by surprise, causing me to jump back. I regained my balance, keeping myself from stumbling down the stairs. I took a deep breath and peered inside the door once more. What had startled me was an elaborate gate-keeper dragon, embroidered on a noren curtain, which passively blocked the way. Okay, you can calm down, I thought to myself. I gently moved the curtain aside and stepped into the antechamber.
The first thing I noticed was the smell. My nostrils were greeted with the heavenly smell of angels, a sweet etheric scent that instantly dissipated my fears. The sensation was like I’d suddenly ascended ten miles up into the Himalayas, into a sacred temple at Shambala, where everything was pure and holy. I took a few steps forward and stopped. I closed my eyes, focusing for a moment on my breathing, adjusting to the rarefied, perfumed, atmosphere.
When I reopened my eyes, I looked down at the red illuminated forked tongue I was standing on. Following this tongue, I was led down a step and into the snarling open mouth of an awesomely fierce-looking blue/green dragon. Now in the main room, I looked up for the source of light. I was surprised to see a large pyramid skylight, which capped the main interior of the crypt. This light enabled me to see the full tile mosaic dragon, which covered the entire floor of the main interior chamber. I followed the dragon’s legs to its five-taloned claws up the walls, which were also covered with cryptic symbols. Because everything I had seen so far was made with superior craftsmanship, possibly impossible to duplicate in present time, I had to kept reminding myself to breathe. I studied the wall symbols without recognition. My gaze progressed to the rear of the crypt.
It was then that I saw them. The reason for the crypt.
My fascination was crypts and tombstones extended to the symbols and references of death: crosses, skulls, crossbones, and such. I had pretty much gotten over being spooked by what I saw in cemeteries. But there in front of me was something I could never have imagined or prepared myself for. My heart skipped a beat, and I felt my breath rush out of my body as my head started reeling. I slumped against the wall, refusing with all my might the urge to faint. Even though I wanted not to look, my eyes opened even wider.
On a large, elevated stone slab at the back end of the crypt, two figures sat on exquisitely carved throne-like red velvet cushioned chairs, opposite each other. I inched across the dragon moving closer to the bodies.
There poised, facing each other as if they were just about to have tea, sat two well-dressed torsos, without heads.
A force drew me towards them, up one of the two steps, on my knees, eye-level with the heads, which sat perfectly balanced in their upturned hands. My mind was doing its best to convince me that I wasn’t outside on the ground still knocked out, dreaming this. Dream or not, what I was seeing was two perfectly preserved bodies holding two perfectly preserved heads, sitting where five-hundred-year-old bones should be. This is impossible!
My logical mind then concluded that I wasn’t dreaming, but they had to be wax carvings; professionally crafted manikins like in Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. How could they be real? How could they be authentic impeccably preserved corpses, sitting there in an immortal state of perpetual perfection? As I moved closer to study the girl’s face, her flesh had a fresh luminescence, which appeared to be angelically alive. That wouldn’t be the case if she was made of wax. My mind was reeling with being blown.
The bodies were wearing the clothing of royalty: fine layers of exquisite silk, embroidered with exotic-colored flowers. Someone had taken considerable effort in dressing these Royal Twins and placing them just so.
As I carefully continued examining the bodies and severed heads, the young man and young woman, twenty-three-years-old as inscribed above the door, I couldn’t help but notice that, although the blood at the neck had long ago dried, their faces and hands were eerily pink, as if they were well nourished, in the best of health, and alive! Their eyes were wide open, and both sat serenely with Mona Lisa smiles which, I probably just imagined, seemed to broaden the longer that I lingered there.
I followed their gaze to the large leather-bound book which sat on the small, also intricately carved, wooden table between them. The book’s cover was embossed with a five-taloned, blue/green dragon; just like the one inlaid on the floor. Standing over the book, I took a picture. The title was “The Royal Twins – A Living Story.”
Still dealing with my blown mind, I closed my eyes to just be with the serenity of the crypt. The silence was as profound as the heavenly scent. The ancient book and the disjointed heads with lovely faces both overwhelmed my senses. I realized in that moment; I was in a most holy place, which I never seriously considered cemeteries to be. Peaceful, serene, hauntingly beautiful yes, but not holy. To me they were photographically captivating depositories for the dearly departed. Where they went next was probably holy, but not the site of their decaying bodies.
Except for ones with open walls, I had never entered a crypt before. I couldn’t help but think that no other crypt interior on earth would be this mind-blowing. Who wouldn’t be moved by this other-worldly beauty of the exterior and the interior or even the loveliness of the headless bodies? Opening my eyes, I was compelled to take pictures with my tripod and Canon but instead decided on my iPhone. I stepped back several feet, focusing on the two severed heads staring directly at the book. I snapped off several shots.
I then felt compelled to touch the book. As my hands were about three inches away, I could feel Ki Energy intensely radiating out from it. Although I was concerned it might crumble in my hands, that didn’t stop me from touching the rich embossed leather. Hesitating, thinking maybe I shouldn’t, I went ahead and cautiously picked it up.
At that very moment a huge wave, like a golden tsunami, rushed through my whole body. It sucked the air out of my lungs, causing my whole body to spasm. I gasped for air. At the same time, a high-pitched tone raced through my brain. It was painful and blissful all in one quick wave.
And then it was over. With the book clenched to my chest, I experienced an overwhelming sense of peace. But only for a second . . . until my raven swooped into the crypt loudly squawking, “Leave! Leave! Leave!” She frantically pecked on my sleeve, and then started darted back and forth between me and the crypt doors. Suddenly, I intuited what all her commotion was about. Yes, leave! Now! Although I couldn’t actually see the entrance door, from the altar, a shock of danger shot up my spine and knowing there wasn’t a second to lose, the book still secured near my heart, I ran toward the front of the crypt. With the raven leading the way, I catapulted out the door just in time, barely escaping my entombment. Safely outside, I turned to hear the chillingly hollow “ka-chunk,” as the doors locked, sealing the crypt for maybe another five hundred years.
I ran back and then sat on the stone bench, collecting my breath. I almost died. I thought as I looked at the book now on my lap. Was that a dream or did it really happen? I wanted to think not but I knew it did. I have proof, right here in my hands. At that moment an iridescent blue butterfly landed on the book, assuring me that I was now out of danger.
I looked for my raven, who was now perched on a branch of the nearby juniper. Thank you, I said to her, for coming in and warning me. You saved my life. She nodded knowingly as the blue butterfly left the book and gently brushed by my cheek before disappearing into the woods.
“Ka-kaaaaa,” the raven squawked a kindly you’re welcomed. I thought about what the old tengu had said before he whacked me. “The one with the key is the one who’s not free,” made absolutely no sense but “The time is not right. Watch the bird in its flight,” halfway did. I wondered how he could have possibly known the raven would fly into the crypt to warn me, and I also had no idea what he meant by the time is not right. Would return to the crypt again when the time was right? With this ancient book in my arms, I felt there was a big mystery that was waiting to be solved, by the detective Tashi Jones.
I descended the steep mountain path back to my car, lost in thought. This continued as I sat in my car staring out at nothing. I felt the bumps and bruises on both sides of my head. Finally, snapping my mind into present-time reality, I turned the key and headed down the curving road, back to Kyoto. My mind was cluttered with thoughts: Were all the years of coming here a set-up for this moment? If so a set-up for what? What just happened? They were holding their heads in their hands. Did that raven actually yell leave in English? I stole a 500-year-old book.
I glanced into the rear-view mirror. No way he, the one with the key who wouldn’t free me, would be following me. The repercussions of my actions began to come clear. I had never considered myself a thief. Was I now a grave robber? Did these ten years of visitations prove my worthiness to possess this book? What is this book? I hadn’t even taken a moment to open it. Maybe it’s cursed! Did that old man open the crypt for me?
It started to rain heavily. Driving home was a mesmerizing blur and I had to fight to remain conscious. I dared to look over and marvel at my uncharacteristic boldness. A tomb thief. I was oddly satisfied with myself. I reached over and touched the book and could feel the ancient energy. I hoped it was worth all the danger. I breathed in a feeling of gratitude, that I was spared an agonizing death.
Turning into my driveway, I was relieved to finally be home, wishing there was someone besides my parrot Jo-Jo to greet me, to show the book and share the story of my bizarre morning at the ancient cemetery. Although what I had gone through seemed to fill the day, it was a little past noon.
“Where you been? Where you been?” Jo-Jo started in as soon as I walked in the door. For a parrot, Jo-Jo possessed an exceptionally large English vocabulary which, after she first flew in the window two years ago, prompted me to bone up on mine, if for no other reason than to speak with my bird. How is it that I know two birds who speak English?
“I told you I was going to the crypt, Jo-Jo,” I answered as if I were speaking to a nagging wife. I carefully set the ancient leather-bound book on my coffee table, and then went to the mirror. My face looks like I’ve been in a fight. As much as my mind wants to think this isn’t real, this proves it.
“Whatcha got? Whatcha got?”
“A book, Jo-Jo. I found it between two young headless people. I guess I’m a tomb robber now.
“A good robber. A bird saved my life. But you’re my best bird. I took some pictures. I’m going to look at them now.”
“Oh . . . I forgot to eat breakfast. Thanks. How ‘bout you Jo-Jo? Hungry?” I sprinkled some bird-feed in the cage and pulled an ahi nori wrap out of the refrigerator for myself, taking a quick bite. I brewed some coffee while devouring the rest of the wrap.
With a cup of hot java in hand, I sat down at my computer. I pulled my Canon out of its case and uploaded the pictures. Once the photo program came up, I clicked to the first picture, which was the only one I got of the crypt before the old man whacked me. Not bad. The second picture was very strange. I didn’t remember anything after the whack on my head but being true to my profession I must have instinctively snapped three pictures on my way down. All three were askew. The old man wasn’t in the shots, or at least it didn’t look that way. But something was. What am I looking at? This is wild. What is it?
I sat back in my chair, took a sip of coffee, and then leaned forward to get a better view. What is it? I enabled the audio to hear what the man said. He spoke in riddles. “The one in the key is the one who’s not free.” This still makes no sense. I listened to the second one, “The time is not right. Watch the bird in its flight.” Why did she fly in at the last possible minute? If he had the key, why did he open the door for me? Did he want me to go in? Why? Especially if the time wasn’t right. Right for what? And how could he possibly know the raven would fly in to warn me? Who was that old man? Was he not free? What did he mean by I was not to be there? What’s this all about?
“Whatcha doing?” Jo-Jo interrupted.
“Shush . . . looking, Jo-Jo. Trying to get a good look at this guy,” I answered. The bird cocked her head. What’s this? It sort of looks like a normal person. Couldn’t be. I know I was pointing it in his direction. He was an old man . . . a very ugly old man. I looked closer. This doesn’t make sense. Looks like how I might look, thirty years from now. How could that be? I’m not seeing the gnarly old man but someone else who looks normal like me. Hmmm. This is all far out.
“Whatcha doing?” Jo-Jo squawked again.
“I apparently took a picture of an ugly man, but this doesn’t look like an ugly man. Maybe mid-fifties.
“Polly want a cracker?”
“Jo-Jo, quit interrupting. I’m trying to concentrate.”
It was too confusing to try to figure out, so I saved those pictures and then uploaded from my iPhone. There were some wonderful shots of tombstones shrouded with fog from my climb up the mountain. And then the photos I took inside the crypt. Some were of the blue dragon floor. Amazing tile floor. Beautiful with the light reflecting off the tiles. I didn’t really notice these crystals and gemstones . . . like the Taj Mahal. Did they do such fine inlaid stonework back in ancient Japan? That dragon has five claws. Hummm. I googled ‘How many claws does a Japanese dragon have?’ I read that the five-claw dragon is an Imperial Dragon, and the dragons with three and four claws are of less importance. An Imperial Dragon!
I gasped as the next photo loaded on the screen. There they were, just like I’d seen them. Two headless bodies, the Royal Twins, looking at the book; the same book that was now sitting on the table next to me.
“Breathe,” I mumbled out loud.
“Breathe,” Jo-Jo mimicked back.
I poured myself another cup of coffee and draped a sheet over Jo-Jo’s cage.
“Nap time Jo-Jo.”
“Polly want a cracker.”
“Jo-Jo! Shut up and go to sleep.”
I then headed for the bathroom to enjoy a long hot shower. I rubbed aloe vera lotion all over my beaten face and returned to my front room, sat on my couch, pulling the book onto my lap. I stared at it for the longest time, looking into the face of that menacing dragon snarling at me from its ancient leather cover. It scared the heck out of me. The last time I tried to open this book, I was almost buried alive. I was apprehensive to lift the cover. What will happen if there’s a deadly curse attached? Maybe the ceiling will fall down and crush me. This couch will burst into flames. The cover dragon will come alive and eat me. I’m just a quiet guy, I thought to myself. Things like this don’t happen in my life—old men hitting me, headless bodies in ancient crypts, me stealing this book .
I took a deep breath and decided to open it no matter how scared I was. At that very moment I was distracted by a movement at my window. The raven, my raven, the same raven that followed me up Mt. Kurama I’m sure, was at my window, staring at me. Is she trying to warn me to not open this book? I looked away; my mind flooded with way too many confusing thoughts. I looked back at the raven. She seemed to be smiling, maybe even giggling. Feeling oddly comforted, I nodded back to her and looked down at the ancient dragon cover in front of me, and slowly turned to the first page.
Nothing happened! I took a large breath in relief. Looking at the first page, I got my next surprise. It was blank. I turned page after page. Nothing. Finally, about five pages in, there were words scribed in elegant kanji, script. It said, “Stop! Proceed only at your own risk. The following words will change your life forever.”
What would happen if I turned the next page? I thought to myself. I’d better not. How could this book be talking to me? How could a book change my life forever? I was confused. Regardless, I began reading, “Grandfather Koichi sat alone in his greenhouse, steeped in an ancient stillness, tying and trimming one of his favorite bonsai plants. A barn cat slept on his lap, purring in rhythm with the soft rush of Hawaiian trade winds filtering through the trees, all adding peaceful harmony to Grandfather’s waking meditation.”
As I read into the night, the raven never moved from my windowsill. It was as though she was there to encourage me to keep reading, though I didn’t need much encouragement. I had never experienced a book like “The Living Story.” It excited me, confused me, inspired me and completely overwhelmed my senses. The ancient calligraphy seemed to contain volumes in each kanji character, as if the symbols were holographic representatives of entire thoughts. In this way I was able to absorb what would normally be contained in several novels, in only a few hours. The story was contemporary, historical, futuristic, cosmic, and what seemed to be, complete fantasy – and yet I believed it.
I wondered how a story-taking place in the 21st century could be contained in a book that had been sealed in a crypt for what I calculated to be over 500 years. How were the bodies so well preserved? Strangely, the story itself answered many of my questions. I stopped often to think about the Twins, and about time; time as we know it, and the concept of no time; of life on other planets and travel to other dimensions. And still I wondered what I had to do with all this.
Eventually I fell asleep, exhausted from the flood of information I’d absorbed. In a dream, the raven’s voice woke me, whispering in my head, “There’s more to the story.”
I bolted up. I immediately opened the book, which I had left lying on the bed next to me. I went to the last written page. Words appeared and then faded back into the blank page from which they came. “The story continues. Take me to your publisher now.”
That was too weird. I looked at the clock. Five a.m. I had tossed and turned for two hours. Had I even slept? So many thoughts were racing through my head. There’s no way I can sleep now. I had so many questions. Was the raven really talking in my head and how did she know to fly in at the last second to save my life? How does she know there’s more to the story? Who was that old man on the mountain and where did he come from? Why would the book tell me to take it to my publisher? How could it possibly be writing itself? I couldn’t answer any of my questions.
It was now 6 a.m. What time does Satori come to work? Should I call Aiko? I don’t have her number. Nuts. I’ll have to wait until she gets to the office . . . and until after she’s delivered d his morning espresso. How in the hell am I going to explain this book to him?
After a hot shower, I fed Jojo and fried some eggs with butter and spinach. I was surprised that I had slept at all. My stressful anticipation kept me going. After washing my plate, I hand-scanned one page after the other, immediately saving the book to my hard drive. Finally, “The Living Story” was safely stored in my computer. And in an external hard drive. Now I was ready to see Satori.
I left my flat before eight and headed to the Kyoto downtown district. Walking past a park a single blue butterfly flew over my head, reminding me of signs and omens. New day sunlight blazed through the brisk spring air, illuminating the lawns and streets. A slight breeze blew cherry blossoms from the rows of trees, dressing Kyoto in a most lovely shade of pink. I instinctively stopped to take a picture, capturing the annual beauty Kyoto was famous for.
I settled in at a coffee house and contemplated how I would approach Satori, the cantankerous owner of Satori Publishing and Private Investigations. Fueled by massive cups of coffee, my inner dialog wouldn’t stop. Just because I heard a voice in my head doesn’t mean I have to make a fool of myself. He won’t be interested. I didn’t even write it. I wonder who did. Satori is going to kick me out before I even get started. He’s so weird. I don’t know if I’ll ever figure him out. That’s it! He’s weird. He’s going to like it! He likes off the wall things. That’ll be my approach . . . just telling the truth about this story is way off the chart. OK. I’ll do it. He’s going to love it.
I found myself chuckling as I thought about Satori. Always wealthy from his late father’s hard work and investments, he inherited one of the most successful Publishing House in Japan. Because he didn’t possess his father’s business skills, since he died twenty-five-years-ago, the business has been struggling to make ends meet. Nevertheless, Satori didn’t really care. With more money than he could spend in five lifetimes, he considered the business his playground. The Satori Investigations part of his business had died years ago, until I showed up. I was pitching my tombstone and crypt coffee table photography book and said I’d make a good detective; that I would be his guy to investigate whatever needed investigating. I won’t even begin to mention the crazy cases he gave me.
It was anyone’s guess why this eccentric man would decide to publish one book and not the other. Some of Japan’s best writers had been thrown out of his office, “Trash! Get out and never come back,” he’d yell at them, mischievously laughing as they grabbed their manuscripts, bowing, bowing, bowing lower each time as they scurried away. He loved all that was bizarre, gleefully publishing terribly written books about hookers, bikers, tattoo artists and circus midgets – and surprisingly my well-written photo journal of tombstones and crypts. Satori maintained a certain standard – if it was so outlandish that no publisher in the world would dare publish it, he would. It was the same with the detective cases he accepted. If no one would take the case, he would. As I sat in the coffee shop, I kept wondering if “this book I stole would fit Satori’s standards. It referred to another planet called Kashal, it wasn’t science fiction, and it was writing itself. That alone should get his attention, I figured.
It was a little past eight when I called Satori’s secretary, Aiko, to set up a ten o’clock meeting with Satori. What am I going to do with myself for two hours? I decided to drink more coffee, and then on second thought, I decided not to. I had enough in me to last two days, or at least the rest of the morning. With my laptop on the coffeehouse table, I began Googling everything I could think of that related to what I had read, starting with “K” words: Kashal, Kipa, and Kozo Kosai. The fact that one of the riches men in Japan was in this book was of great interested to me.
Ten o’clock finally arrived. I was shaking. Must be all that coffee I drank; I couldn’t possibly be nervous, I told myself. I floated into the waiting room in a latte stupor, without a clue as to what I would say. At least I’m here, I thought. I can wing it.
“Hi Tashi,” Aiko said in a perky voice smiling at me. It’s a good thing she likes me, I smiled back, or I wouldn’t have gotten in to see him. “What happened to your face? Bar fight?”
“Yeah, I got in an argument about the best brand of caskets to buy,” I joked back, instantly self-conscious about what I just said. I liked this girl and wanted to date her, maybe get married and have a bunch of photo babies. In a matter of seconds, I decided that I didn’t want to start a relationship based on stupid remarks and lies. I’d better tell her the truth. “A gnarly old man whacked me with his cane.”
“Okay,” she responded with a questioning look. Maybe you should hang around people your own age. Hey, what’s that? Looks like an old book. Leather bound. Excuse me one second.” She pushed a button and spoke into her headset, “Tashi’s here.”
“Aiko . . .” My infatuation for Aiko was quickly settling me down. My thoughts went from worrying about Satori’s reaction to if this was a good time to finally ask her out. “I was wondering if you’d like . . .”
“Excuse me, I . . .” She was listening to Satori, and then clicked the intercom to off. “He said . . .” Aiko slipped into a well-practiced Satori voice imitation, “Tell the crypt guy I have no graves for him to dig today.” She whispered to me, “He thinks that’s funny.” She went back to his voice, “He has five minutes. Send him in.”
“Five minutes?” I exclaimed, and then thought, if he had no work for me, why did he agree to see me? He’s bored and wants to be entertained. What can I do in five minutes to convince him to publish a book that’s writing itself as we speak? “This book deserves more than five minutes.” I took a deep breath. Focus. I’m a trained Aikido black belt. I can do this. It’s just like sparing . . . he’ll attack me for showing him a book that isn’t about biker babes or such. “Look at this?” I showed her the embossed dragon on the cover.
“Wow? It looks ancient. It’s obviously not something you wrote. Where did you get it? “
“I’ll tell you later. I’m not sure how to present it to him. This book is different than anything either one of us has seen before.”
“I’ve never seen a book that looks like that. Tell him you found it in a crypt or some crazy thing like that. You know how Satori is. Say something nutty. Jump on the fart rug. He just wants to be entertained. You’d better go in now, Tashi”
I took another deep breath, shared a hopeful smile with Aiko, and entered “Satori’s Zoo.”
A half-year had passed since my last visit to the zoo, the outward manifestation of Satori’s eccentric mind. After five steps into his large office, a huge flying dragon, which swung above most people’s heads, banged into my forehead. It’s going to get better, I convinced myself as I rubbed my head as I looked up at the monster. Apparently triggered from a button on Satori’s desk, the realistic looking dragon arched back, belching real fire out of her mouth, causing me jump back to the door. looked for something my mind could comprehend. Above the fireplace mantle hung a framed leather jacket. Holy shit!
I took a deep breath and scanned the room. I was looking for something normal that my mind could comprehend. Above the fireplace mantle hung a framed leather jacket. Hell’s Angels, Detroit Chapter. Ride Hard. Die Free. On the wall next to it was his collection of fifty hand grenades. Who collects hand grenades? On the other side of the fireplace was a large painting of Roman midgets carrying what looked to me like the Ark of the Covenant. Odd? The floor to high ceiling shelves were packed with thousands of books, which Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy and the rest of the Disney gang helped to constrain from falling to the floor. The room was filled with the oddest assortment of kitschy nicknacks; bowling trophy’s, baseball players with bobbling heads, a real-life looking cobra, a bust of Elvis, flashing neon lights but mostly dragons. There were dragon lamps, dragon drapes, and a huge round dragon rug. Commanding it all was the old dragon himself, Satori, sitting on his high-back swiveling throne, cigarette smoke drifting out of his nostrils, just like a scaly dragon. He was engrossed in a comic book, too entranced to even look up. Not a good sign.
I ducked under the mobile obstacle and took another step forward. A loud flatulence sound startled me, coming from a gag device hidden under the dragon carpet. Pbbbbbbbbbbb . . . “I beg your pardon?” Satori chuckled without looking up.
I sniffed the air. I had to give the old man credit for knowing how a well-placed fart eases tension, although all it did for me was entirely erase any memory of my last twenty-five years on the planet. However, without eye contact or any of the customary formal greetings, knowing that I was wasting precious time, I plunged in, “Satori, I didn’t come here looking for detective work. I have a book I want you to publish.”
Satori looked up at me and stared for an awkward five seconds or so. And then he continued reading his comic book and smoking his cigarette. He has five minutes for me and he’s reading a damn comic book? What’s that? He now has a motorcycle in his office. Directly behind his throne sat a Harley ‘Fat Boy,’ complete with a life-size, anatomically correct, real-life-looking Japanese robot biker babe in a red and white polka-dotted bikini. She suddenly sprang to life, waving at me. Satori pushed another secret button and she spoke. “Hey, big boy. Wanna ride on the wild side?” Oh brother. He’s lost it. Still reading the comic, Satori quietly chuckled.
I know he’s not laughing at the comic. He’s laughing at my reaction to all his crap. He’s playing with me. I must take charge. “Satori. Did you hear me? I have a book here I want you to publish.”
“I‘m hot and sexy. You want to play with me?” the robot babe said.
“Isn’t she cute,” he said, turning around, looking at her adoringly. “I already published your book. Never made one yen on it,” he finally responded, still looking at his girl. “Why are you here? You should be out counting all the tombstones in Japan. What are you up to? Fifteen million? If someone gave you a dollar for every grave you visited, you’d be able to buy her sister.”
“I’d rather date your secretary,” I couldn’t help but say. “You need to look at this book. It’s 500-years-old and I obviously didn’t write it,”
“Well, who did?” Satori turned around and glanced at me.
“It’s writing itself.”
“That’s a new one. Your five minutes is up. Get the hell out of here.” He barked.
Aikido, I reminded myself. He’s attacking. Move out of the way and counter with the truth. “I found it in a crypt on Mt. Kurama!”
“That got my attention,” Satori responded. “I knew you were a grave robber. You break into tombs, steal things and panhandling them for spare change. This could be a best seller. The crypt boy with his midget biker babe girlfriend Minerva search for gold in the graves of Nazi generals. This could be good. I can see it now. The grave robber is a giant from Samoa with tattoos all over his face and his big bombed midget babe has purple dreadlocks. He drives a Hummer with a huge earth drill in front.” Satori sat up, snuffed out his cigarette, knitted his fingers together and switched gears, addressing me as if I were a potential accepted author. “Okay, you got my attention. I’ll be serious. Finally, you wrote your memoirs, and you want me to publish them. Let me guess the title. Confessions of a Tomb Robber?”
“Satori, no! I told you I didn’t write this book,” I replied, wondering if it was possible to get through to him. “Look. This story has nothing to do with me being a tomb robber . . . well, it sort of does . . . but not really. No midget biker babes but there are headless bodies. You know that crypt I go to every year, the one at Namu Ku?”
“No. You’re starting to bore me.”
“Listen to me. You’re the one who’s bored and boring, not me. See these bruises? A gnarly old man, a mountain tengu . . . have you ever seen a real life tengu? hit me over the head with his cane . . .”
This is getting better by the minute, Satori thought, now willing to listen to my wild story. “A tengu hit you with his cane, did he?”
“Right here.” I pointed to the side of my face. “Just yesterday! I’m telling you, Satori . . . it’s true. I’ve told you that I go to this crypt I go to every year. It’s been sealed for over 500 years. When I woke up from being whacked out by this old geezer, he’s gone, and the sealed crypt was open.”
“I see. Are you sure this old man wasn’t an ugly janitor who mistook you for trash?”
“Satori! Stop already! I’m serious.”
“Humm, uh, yeah. Right. Listen, while I usually like a good graveyard story, this one . . .” he stopped mid-sentence, turned slowly in his squeaky chair and looked towards the robot babe. His gaze softened and he almost looked relaxed. He pushed a button and she said, “I love you, daddy.”
“Oh brother,” I said.
Satori’s expression twisted back into his usual frown when he turned back and growled, “You’re past your five minutes, crypt boy. Wrap it up.”
I decided to ignore his stupid time constraints and continued, “There in the back of this 15th century crypt were two bodies sitting straight up. 500-years-old bodies. Perfect in every way! They weren’t skeletons! There was no decay! They were as fresh as if they were there having a tea party! Perfectly preserved bodies!”
“Did they offer you tea?” And then again, Satori turned. He was inappropriately displaying his abnormal fixation with his robotoid love doll. “I wonder if the same company made them. She is perfect in every way.”
“What’s the matter with you!” I blurted out. This was unnerving me, and I had to get control of this meeting again. “Satori! She’s a manufactured robot. Get a grip. I was seeing two 100% human bodies! Real flesh and bones. They were holding their severed heads in their hands! Are you listening! They were 500-year-old perfectly preserved headless bodies!” With no decay. None!!” I stepped back and yelled while jumping up and down on the fart rug, Pbbbbbbb. Pbbbbbbbb. Pbbbbbbbbb.
Then, as if the biker babe and fart rug drama never happened, he calmly asked, “Why were they holding their heads?”
I calmed myself down a bit, leaned on his desk and looked him square in the eyes, slowly proceeding, “I don’t know. All I know is their heads were on in their laps, their eyes were open, and they were looking at this book. It was on the table between them. This book.” I pointed to the book still tucked under my arm.
Sitting up, he perked up, “You took that book out of a crypt? I was right, you are a grave robber.”
“I had no choice. The crypt door was about to slam shut. I was almost buried alive if not for the raven.”
“Well, that would have been a relief.”
My focus suddenly went past the babe to the window behind her. “That raven,” I almost shouted, pointing at the window. “Right when the doors were about to close on me, she flew in and squawked ‘Leave! Leave! Leave! That raven saved my life!” I kept pointed to the raven sitting on the sill outside. How I knew it was the same raven I can’t say. It didn’t make any sense. I was suddenly aware of layers upon disjointed layers of thoughts flooding my already confused mind.
Satori had to stand up to see over his romantic interest. “That damn birds is here all the time. You know they all look alike. Go away,” he shouted. The silence following that yelling hung like gun smoke in the room for a few seconds.
I picked up where I left off. “They don’t all look alike. That’s my raven. Could be our raven. Anyway, I got out at the last possible second. I then drove home and started reading it. This all happened yesterday. I spent most of the night reading it.” I paused, realizing he was actually listening. “It’s the most fantastic book, Satori. When I woke up this morning, there were words for you, written in it.”
“For me? What did it say?”
“You ready for this? It said, ‘Take me to your publisher now.’”
“Take me to your publisher?” Satori started to chuckle, and then began laughing so hard he hit the Harley’s handle bars, knocking the biker babe off. “What the hell?” she said as he stood up and placed her carefully back on the seat. “Did she just say, ‘what the hell?’ He shook his head, more amused than I’ve ever seen him. When he finished wiping his eyes, he said, “I’ve heard it all now. This is the richest pitch yet. So, okay, you got my attention. Let me see this book you’ve purloined.”
I carefully set the thick leather book on top of Satori’s opened comic book. He sat back down and to my surprise picked it up. He ran his hand over the richly carved leather cover and began thumbing through the hand-lettered pages. “Interesting. Old style Japanese calligraphy. Never seen anything like this. Interesting.” And then, as if ignoring the significance of what he ‘d just said, he continued, “There are no photos. I want to see the headless bodies. The gnarly old tengu. Some 15th century geisha babes. And maybe a few samurai midgets. You know my standards.”
“Satori, you just have to trust me on this one. Look at this book! I found inside a locked crypt. I only had enough time to grab it and run, and then it told me to bring it to you. You’ve never seen anything like this.”
He stood up looking down at the book. I wondered what he was thinking as he continued staring at it for several minutes. Finally, he looked up at me and said, “You’ve got the wrong publisher. A historical novel? Totally not my style. You’ve wasted too much of my time. Get out!” he shouted, waving his arms toward the door. The raven outside his window started squawking “Leave! Leave! Leave!” With its fervent pecking at the window glass, Satori was distracted. And even more so, when his biker babe started repeating as if there was a glitch in her wiring, “Read it, daddy. Read it, daddy. Read it, daddy. Read it, daddy.”
“What the hell?” And then the wildest thing happened. Satori turned and stared at the raven, who immediately stopped pecking. He pushed a button and his girl said, “I love you, daddy.” She waved and smiled and stopped talking. He calmly sat back down and turned in his chair around to face the raven. He sat staring at the motionless bird for several minutes. And then, turning to me, he said with a pleasant voice, “This book told you to bring it to me to read?”
“Satori. Are you alright? That was all pretty strange what just happened.” When he didn’t answer, I started in: “Yes. Bring me to your publisher was freshly written in it. That’s you. I agree with your girlfriend. You should read it.”
“Who are you to tell me what I should do?” He’d shifted back to his contrary self again.
“Let me rephrase. You need to read this book.” When he frowned, I continued, “I respect your taste in literature.” I lied. “And it’s true there’s no 500-year-old geisha babes or samurai dwarfs in this story.” I thought about it. “Not that I’ve seen so far. But nobody in it is normal.”
“Everyone’s abnormal? Teenage twins? . . .” Satori leaned back, squeeeeeeeeak. “How’s that abnormal?”
“Twins with no heads?” I began. “Royal Twins who are reborn every 500 years to save the world? Galactic twins from some planet called Kashal. They are helped by their immortal grandfather, a Princess babe, a black giant from Ethiopia and . . . now I remember . . . a samurai dwarf, you’ll like him . . .”
“You just made up the samurai dwarf part, right?”
“No. His name is Basho. The black giant is Kinju, and the beautiful babe is Izami. They are all immortal, too.”
Satori leaned back in his chair and rubbed his chin pensively, “Go on. What about this dragon?” pointing to the cover. “Is it a book about dragons or not?”
“Sort of. It talks about the twins being sucked into a dragon’s mouth.” I was filling in blanks now. “I scanned ahead and their grandfather morphs into a dragon and fights with his evil brother, also a dragon.” The squeaking from Satori’s chair told me he was engaged. “The evil brother is a megalomaniac named Kudram, who had originally stole five Crystal Spheres, but they escaped and hid around the world. The Hawaiian twins must go through all sorts of dangerous adventures to find them . . . well, I guess that will happen.”
“Where did they go? When they were sucked into the dragon’s mouth?”
“They went back in time.”
Satori leaned forward. “What makes you think I’ll believe you?”
I reached into my pack and grabbed my laptop, turned it on and said the words, “Headless twins.” I laid it down on top of his comic. “Look at this.”
“PhotoShop,” he concluded as he studied the photo of the Royal Twins. “I need more proof than this.”
“You have to believe me,” I stammered as I closed the laptop and put it away. “You need to publish this book.”
“Why?” He turned back to the window. The raven wasn’t there, and then back around to face me. “You didn’t write it. Nobody will buy a book written by Anonymous. I’m still going to pass.”
I wasn’t handling this too well. I had to find another trump card. “You can find a name to put on it. That’s not a problem. The thing is . . . this story happens in present time . . . right here in Kyoto. The Hawaiian twins’ father is Kozo Kosai, the guy who owns Nippon Electronic Telecommunications.”
“Kozo Kosai? I know him,” Satori responded, surprised. Well, that’s interesting. Kozo Kosai does own NET,” Satori answered with an odd look on his face. “That’s written in this book? You found a book in a crypt, and it talks about Kozo Kosai? I do know he has twins, who live in Hawaii. This story’s beginning to register on my very strange meter.”
“Great! Then you’re going to publish it, right?”
“Before I read it?” Satori grinned at me while standing up. “Why don’t you leave it here and come back next week. I’ll try to get to it.”
My god, am I really going to leave it here with this wacko guy? Does he have any idea what he has? “Could you please try to get to it today, it’s really important,” I stated with urgency.
“Do you see this stack of comics?” He pointed, and then looked at my book, and up at me. “I am curious. Why did you lie about finding a 500-year-old book that has real life living now in Kyoto characters in it?” Satori asked in all seriousness. “It was a good pitch, authentic looking cover, but just admit you wrote it and I’ll decide if it’s worth publishing.” He shook my hand and bowed. The politeness was very abnormal coming from Satori.
“I didn’t lie,” I answered after coming up from the returned bow. I wondered why he was suddenly being so accommodating. “Maybe you can figure it out who wrote it. I don’t know. It wasn’t me. I do suspect that by the time whoever prints it, there’ll be named below the title. If you reject it, I’ll just go somewhere else.” Turning, happy with my departing challenge, avoiding the fart rug and flying dragon mobile, I left his office, knowing that leaving the book with Satori had to be the right thing to do.
Glancing back, I noticed that Satori had turned and was staring at the raven, who had returned to her perch on the windowsill. I detected, imagined, a ka-kaaa, “good job,” coming from the throat of the iridescent bird. The biker babe remained silent after waving me goodbye. Satori fidgeted in his squeaking chair. At this point I knew I had piqued his interest.
“Go away, raven. Go back to Po,” Satori yelled at the bird, loud enough to be heard at Aiko’s desk.
I live down a side street in the Gion District of downtown Kyoto, famous for geisha girls and tea houses. My little second story apartment was first built in 1823 and has probably been renovated a hundred times, most recently before I moved in, five years ago. It has many old touches, like the exposed log beams in the high ceiling, and all the modern conveniences I need. Although Gion is a tourist destination, my neighborhood is quiet. I like that there’s a carport to park my 4Runner and it’s an easy fifteen-minute walk to Satori Publishing. After I arrived back home, I turned on my computer to see if any part of “The Living Story” had changed while I was in Satori’s Zoo.
I read the words: “I took a deep breath and scanned the room. I was looking for something normal that my mind could comprehend. Above the fireplace mantle hung a framed leather jacket. Hell’s Angels, Detroit Chapter. Ride Hard. Die Free. On the wall next to it was his collection of fifty hand grenades. Who collects hand grenades? On the other side of the fireplace was a large painting of Roman midgets carrying what looked to me like the Ark of the Covenant.”
That was me in his office, what was it? Two hours ago? I stood there thinking. Hand grenades? Roman midgets? A humanoid robot babe who took my side and told Satori to ‘read it?’ Strange. I paused to think about all the odd happenings in his office.
And why my hand was directed to open the book to where a new subtitle said “The Tashi Jones Mystery” continued. What the hell? I turned back several pages to discover that the under that subtitle were six chapters, telling the story of what had happened to me the day before and up until now. How could this be? I don’t remember telling anyone this story . . . but here it is . . . me telling the story. It’s accurate. It’s true. It’s exactly how I would tell it. How is this happening?
I was in shock. Complete and utter shock. I couldn’t read any more than those six chapters. I went to my bed and laid down. My inner dialog continued: This can’t be . . . I’m writing my story in this book, but I’m not. It’s like my diary that an invisible hand is transcribing. Maybe I’m hallucinating. Overly tired. Drank too much coffee. What did I get? Two hours sleep last night. I must take a nap. Maybe I can piece this all together after I get some sleep. I can’t think straight. I closed the curtains and forced my eyes closed. I was soon lost in a dream:
Dressed in a Samurai uniform, one more elegant than all the other Samurais, I walked out of the tomb of Tashinami in the Koyasan cemetery. One thousand Samurai soldiers bowed down to me. I mounted my black stallion, prancing down the ranks, inspecting the ranks. I was the most important commander. A raven landed on my shoulder. “Hop on,” it said. I shrank into a tiny man and after jumping on the raven’s back, I wrapped my arms around its neck. I was now the regular Tashi. We flew high into the sky above Kyoto, across all of Japan through the greatest halls and temples, and then back to my loft, where the raven turned into Jo-Jo, who turned into the old man at the crypt, saying, “Set the man with the key free.” And then the boy Royal Twin, with his head now attached, grabs the regular sized me and says, “Tashi, you have your own living story to tell . . . about us, not them.”
I woke, startled with the reality of this crazy lucid dream. My own Living Story . . . the Tashi Jones Mystery?
“Free me. Free me,” The parrot squawked from his cage in the living room. Am I still dreaming? The multi-layers of bizarreness were beginning to thicken. Why did Jo-Jo just say that? He says a lot strange things, but why say such a thing right while I was having a dream with her in it saying “Set the man with the key free?”
I checked the clock. Three thirty in the afternoon. I slept for three hours! I need someone to talk to besides my bird. Aiko.
At this point I had no concept of what was real or not real. I went back to my computer and scanned down reading chapters of the current twins. Freaky. Absolutely unbelievable. I called up Satori’s office. Seeing the caller ID, Aiko answered the phone, “Satori’s Zoo and nut house. Enter at your own risk. Hi Tashi.”
“Hi Aiko . . . listen . . . I need to talk to someone. Can we meet somewhere?”
“Oh, Tashi. How sweet. You’re finally asking me out. Dinner and a movie?”
“Well, I guess . . . maybe . . . but . . . not just yet.” I allowed an uncomfortable few seconds to pass. “I just woke up from a nap. I had the wildest dream. I need . . . a friend to talk to and well . . . I called you.”
“Were you dreaming of me?”
“Not this time. I want to tell you what’s going on. Not over the phone. Anyway, can you meet me tonight?”
“I can’t. Sorry. I have plans. But I’m free tomorrow night. Can you wait that long?”
“Guess I’ll have too. Kinda sounds like a date. Is Satori reading my book?”
“Maybe. He hasn’t left his office all day. Where do you want to take me?”
“It’s gotta be some place that’s quiet, where we can talk. Ive been talking to JoJo, but my bird just doesn’t understand. Maybe you will. Would you be offended if we go to that quiet little noodle house near your office. Tomorrow at six?”
“The Noodle House? I’m sure I’ll see you before then, at work tomorrow. Anyway, I’ll go right from work tomorrow. At six. It’s a date.” Aiko answered, giggling as she hung up.