Using characters taken from the film “The Blair Witch Project” and the anime “Vampire Princess Miyu” (plus an in-joke reference to “Please Save My Earth”)
* * *
The end of the strange doings in Burkittsville, Maryland—events that have been gathered under the collective name “the Blair Witch”—began in October of 1994, with the disappearance of 3 students from nearby Montgomery College. Angie Donahue, the mother of one of the disappeared students, was not only convinced that some supernatural force claimed her daughter and friends; she was convinced that the force had to be stopped lest it endanger more lives. She put ads in any paper she could think of asking for an exorcist or spiritualist to deal with the problem. She even asked people with overseas contacts to run the ads wherever they could around the world. This included teachers at Montgomery College. Letters were sent--at least, she was told they were sent--by instructors in Slavic, Arabic and Asian languages. Only one answer was ever received, to an ad that had appeared in a Japanese magazine called "Boo".
The woman stretched out on the bed in a very unladylike manner. Japanese women of the old school had propriety hammered into them since birth, including proper and improper sleeping positions. Even when they were asleep, they were not allowed to reflect badly on their family upbringing. Men could afford to lie spread-eagled on their futons, but that simply would not do for any properly trained woman.
Properly trained; it makes us sound like circus animals. No matter, she thought. She had been cramped and cooped and restrained so much in the flight from Tokyo to London that she needed to work out the tightness and sore spots. So it was indecorous; this time, decorum could go to hell.
She lit a cigarette, then stared at the smoke drifting up to the high ceiling of the old Victorian-era hotel room. She reflected on one of the many oddities of Japan's language: that smoking a cigarette used the same verb as drinking.
You once told me that blood for you was like air and food for the rest of us. No matter how many years you've been on this earth, she thought, you're still a child. You forgot the way we've built our world. There's blood everywhere; for you, it's a matter of finding and taking. But the rest of us can't just take food; we have to buy it. That means money, which means jobs. She reached into her purse and pulled out for the tenth time since she received it the letter from Montgomery College, Maryland, United States of America. She reread it, put it back in her purse and crushed out the cigarette. Even a job in America.
Professor Nam Shu Kim waited at Dulles International Airport for the flight from London. In their correspondence, the spiritualist said that she preferred to fly from Japan to London and then across the Atlantic to Washington, DC. That way, if there were a problem at American Customs, she wouldn't be stranded on the West Coast. Considering the tools of her trade, and that she had never dealt with Customs or international travel before, it was a sensible choice. A sensible exorcist seemed at first to Professor Kim like a contradiction. He'd only met one or two before leaving Japan for the United States, but he had spoken with older colleagues who had dealt with many Japanese spiritualists. They had been either charlatans or—rarely—sincere people with not enough education and too much time on their hands. He'd even read of one who insisted that demons orbited the earth in flying saucers, biding their time before the big attack. However, once he got this reply, a few long-distance phone calls convinced the professor that this offer was serious.
"I’ve known her for several years," the legal advisor for an international conglomerate in Tokyo assured him, "and as far as these things go, she has a good reputation. Mind you, I don't say that I believe in ghosts and demons and such. But if I did, I would call this woman."
Outside the customs gate were dozens of people with signs similar to his, hailing loved ones or business associates in a dozen different alphabets. His sign held Chinese characters, spelling the name Se Himiko-san.
The professor really didn’t know what to expect. Perhaps he had been expecting some old crone. The lady who approached him, and identified herself as Himiko, was definitely not a crone. She was young, tall, strikingly beautiful, with a long face that seemed to add to her height, short brown hair and a beauty spot under her left eye. But it was her bearing as well as her looks that struck Professor Kim. This was no naïve rustic; she seemed sophisticated enough to be at home in a Manhattan penthouse. She was carrying only a shoulder bag, and asked to be taken to her hotel. They would go to Burkittsville, Maryland the next day. Tonight, she said, she had to wait for someone at the hotel. Professor Kim immediately envied that someone.
She was driven to a luxury hotel near Embassy Row. She ordered room service, watched a television movie she did not understand at all, reread Professor Kim's letters, and waited. Nothing happened. Before going to sleep, she went to the window, which looked out over a busy street. The street curved to make room for a statue of some old general on a horse, from some American war or other. She realized that she didn't feel the least bit like a tourist. She wasn't interested in the monuments and museums in the American capitol. She was here to do a job.
Miyu and Larva materialized the following morning, as Himiko prepared to meet Professor Kim for breakfast. At least they were polite enough to wait until Himiko had showered, dressed and added a slight touch of makeup. When she came out of the bathroom, there they were. Larva of course was his usual self, a Shinma hidden behind a baleful cloak and an expressionless mask. Miyu has dressed for the occasion in blue denim jeans and a Hello Kitty sweatshirt. A pair of sunglasses hid her golden eyes, and a pair of Nikes was on her feet. Because she would be out in public, she stood upon the ground, instead of floating just above it. But the left side of her head still had a long thin red ribbon woven into an intricate pattern in her hair. Himiko knew that, under the blue jeans and Nikes, another ribbon was wrapped around Miyu's right ankle.
"Where did you get those clothes?" Himiko asked half-heartedly. She knew that Miyu wouldn't answer unless she wanted to. Apparently she didn't want to. She simply looked at Larva, who faded from view.
They met Professor Kim in the hotel restaurant. Himiko had mentioned nothing about a child, but introduced Miyu as her "apprentice". The restaurant had a buffet, but they ordered from the menu; rather, Himiko ordered a fruit plate for Miyu and eggs and coffee for herself. The professor and the exorcist traded small talk about the flight, the weather in Kyoto and other small subjects. When the plates arrived, Miyu said her first sentence: “It’s autumn, but the watermelon isn’t over yet?”
The professor raised an eyebrow, and nodded. "It was probably raised in South America," he said between bites of his stack of pancakes. "We Americans have gotten used to having whatever we want, whenever we want it--even out of season."
Himiko reflexively started to light a cigarette, but the professor warned her off; the restaurant was a No Smoking area. "Perhaps we're all like that,” she said. “I knew that there would be no miso soup on the menu, and today I really miss it."
"Oh, it's here in Washington," the professor smiled. "You just have to know where to look for it."
As they left the restaurant, the kitchen staff was clearing away the breakfast buffet and setting up for lunch. The buffet’s new centerpiece was a large slab of roast beef, still pink and bloody at the center. Miyu stopped to stare at the hunk of meat, which made Himiko nervous, until Miyu said a single word: “Yabanjin”. Barbarians. Then she turned and walked out of the hotel as if nothing was amiss.
The drive took three hours. Professor Kim continued his breakfast small talk, eventually asking opaque questions about Himiko’s past experiences as a spiritualist. Perhaps he was fishing for some sensational tale of a supernatural encounter. Himiko, for her part, answered as pleasantly as she could, considering that her soul felt as if it were being crushed by a rock. She always felt this oppressive atmosphere now, whenever she was with Miyu, just from knowing that their lives were linked but not knowing how.
I asked for nothing, she thought, and that seems to be what you’ve given me. I still grow old, even though you have been frozen in your fourteenth year. Frozen like your parents in that cube of glass. But I’m growing old; then I’ll die. Then what? Why won’t you just come out and tell me what you’ve done to me?
But Miyu sat silently beside her on the back seat of the car. Himiko spoke about her first case in Kyoto: a series of murdered women. The police blamed a serial killer, and Himiko wasn’t about to correct them. So she spun her cover story once again for the professor.
They arrived in the small town of Burkittsville just before noon. It seemed to Himiko like a Hollywood movie version of a small town; it was too perfect. There were no tall buildings, and some of the short ones were obviously built two centuries ago. They stopped in front of one of the newer buildings, the office of the sheriff.
As soon as Miyu walked into the office, Sheriff Ron Cravens lost any attempt at composure. "That's the limit," he said, getting to his feet. That took half a minute, given his bulk. "I've seen this stuff more times than I care to, but I will not force a child to sit through it. I don't know how you conduct your business, lady, but..."
Professor Kim raised a hand to cut the sheriff off. He told Himiko the gist of the sheriff's rant. Himiko glanced at the child, who said nothing, and spoke to the professor, who considered what she said and then translated it. "Sheriff, she says that the girl is in fact her colleague. That the two of them have seen things that you cannot imagine. You don't need to worry about the child watching the films."
The sheriff stood still, arms folded in defiance. After a few seconds, the child stood up and walked toward the door.
Himiko was on her feet at once, reaching for her. "Miyu!"
It took Mrs. Donahue to break the deadlock. She grabbed the sheriff's arm. "Let her stay," she said, barely above a whisper. The sheriff pulled his arm away from the woman, but sat back down at his desk. He clearly hated the idea, but there wasn't much that he could do.
Just then, Professor Moorhouse arrived, Montgomery College’s professor of the area’s folklore. He too did a double take at seeing Miyu in the room, but Mrs. Donahue explained the situation. When all the parties were gathered in the office, including private eye Buck Buchanan, Montgomery College Professor William Barnes and searcher Dottie Fulcher, Professor Moorhouse began the history of the Blair Witch.
“It all started in 1785, when several children of the town of Blair accused a woman named Elly Kedward of luring them into her home to draw blood from them. Kedward was found guilty of witchcraft, banished from the village during a particularly harsh winter and presumably died. By midwinter all of Kedward's accusers, among half of the town's children, had vanished without a trace. Fearing a curse, the townspeople fled Blair and vowed never to utter Elly Kedward's name again.”
Himiko asked something of Professor Kim, who asked Professor Moorhouse, “The children who disappeared included both those who did and those who did not accuse Kedward of witchcraft?”
“That’s, er, correct, as far as we can tell. The woman had no defenders, but some of those who disappeared did not go on record as accusing her of anything.
“Much of what we know about the whole business comes from a book, “The Blair Witch Cult”, published in 1809. This uncommonly rare book, considered fiction by most scholars of local history, tells of an entire town cursed by an outcast witch. The College has one original copy of "The Blair Witch Cult" which is badly damaged, with little of the writing still legible. I’ve transcribed excerpts from parts of the book that can still be read.” Professor Moorhouse then proceeded to give each person in the room several sheets of papers, including Miyu and Himiko, who understood no English. He then read from his own copy:
“It was testifi'd, That at the Examination of the Prisoner Kedward before the Magistrates, the Bewitched was extreamly tortured. She was indicted for Bewitching of several Children in the Neighbourhood, the Indictment being drawn up, according to the Form in...pleading, Not Guilty...
“That the Shape of the Prisoner did oftentimes very grievously Pinch them, Cloak them, Bite them, Prick them with Pins and Bleed them...
“That it was Elly Kedward, or her Shape, that grieviously tormented them, by Biting, Pricking, Pinching and Choaking them.
“This poor Child is Bewitched ; and you have a Neighbour living not far off, who is a Witch.
“...but besides this, a Jury of Women found a preternatural Teat upon her Body : But upon second search, within 3 or 4 hours, there was no such thing to be seen.
“...a dog's teat had sprouted from her leg. She controlled the animals of the forest. Even the trees seemed to do her bidding.”
At this point just about everyone was glancing at Miyu, yet trying not to be caught glancing at her. Perhaps they thought it was unseemly for a child to hear of such matters. Himiko knew better than to look. Besides, the sunglasses would reveal nothing of what Miyu was thinking.
Professor Moorhouse continued: “...that she had seen the prisoner at...and that it was this Kedward, who persuaded her to be a Witch. She confessed, that the Devil had Relations with Kedward and...was the Shape of the Prisoner, which was whipped with Iron Rods, to compel her thereunto.
“. . .about Sun Rise, he was in his Chamber assaulted by the Shape of this Prisoner : which look'd on him, grinn'd at him, and very much hurt him with a Blow on the side. . .and. . .Shape walked in the Room where he was, and a Book strangely flew out of his Hand, into the. . . six or eight Foot from him.
“. . .he wak'd on a Night, and saw plainly a Woman between the Cradle and the Bed-side, which look'd upon him. He rose, and it vanished : tho' he found the doors all fast. . .he saw the same Woman, in the same Garb again ; and said, In God's Name, what do you come for? He went. . .The Child in the Cradle gave a great Screech, and the Woman disappeared. Blood was. . .
“. . .with the doors shut about him, he saw a black Thing jump in at the window, and come and stand before him. The Body was like that of a Monkey, the Feet like a Horse, but the face much like a Man. The Day after, upon inspection, Hair of Horse lay in. . .
“. . .did in the holes of the said old Wall, find several Poppets, made up of Sticks and Rags and Hogs-bristles, with headless. . .”
Perhaps the professor found this disjointed narrative to be convincing, or he had forgotten that he knew of later details that the guests did not. In any event, when he stopped his reading, and was met with a stony silence from Himiko and Miyu, he cleared his throat and continued.
“The next occurrence took place in 1825, one year after Burkittsville was founded on the site of what used to be Blair. Eleven witnesses testified to seeing a pale woman's hand reach up and pull ten-year-old Eileen Treacle into Tappy East Creek. Her body was never recovered, and for thirteen days after the drowning the creek was clogged with oily bundles of sticks."
Himiko and Professor Kim exchanged a few more whispered sentences; she obviously wanted a point clarified. Professor Kim turned to Professor Moorhouse. "If all that they saw was the arm, how did they know it was a woman?"
"The, er, the record seems to be silent on that point. Still, I suppose one could tell from the shape, the musculature, presence or absence of hair..."
Professor Kim relayed the answer to Himiko, who seemed clearly annoyed.
"I, er, suppose that you, you assume that they jumped to a conclusion because of the Blair Witch legends..." Professor Moorhouse's voice trailed off.
Professor Kim glanced at Himiko and the child before speaking. "Many times these stories of spirits who live in rivers and steal children, they are what you call 'old woman tales.'"
"I think you mean old wives' tales."
Neither Kim nor Himiko acknowledged the sheriff’s correction. "They are usually created by mothers who do not want their children to play on slippery riverbanks. Many countries have such stories. In Japan these river spirits are called "kappa". They are part human, part turtle, and have a shell on their heads as well as on their backs. They are always supposed to be evil monsters to frighten children."
"But there were eleven witnesses," Professor Moorhouse interjected.
"There may have been fifty witnesses, or none at all. You're a historian, Professor Moorhouse, and you should know that such accounts, even first-hand, may not be completely reliable."
"Told you." Himiko didn't need a translation; Sheriff Craven's attitude about this case had been obvious from the start. "Trying to make a case out of a bedtime story..."
Himiko interrupted with a few rapid-fire sentences to Professor Kim. "Excuse me," he translated, "but she does not feel that the account is worthless. Merely that she must see what the creek has to say, rather than believe everything the legend tells us. She will begin by looking for your kappa. But for now, we wish to hear the rest of the story."
The sheriff snorted but said nothing further. Professor Moorhouse continued.
“In 1886 eight-year-old Robin Weaver was reported missing and search parties were dispatched. Although Weaver returned, one of the search parties did not. Their bodies were found weeks later at Coffin Rock tied together at the arms and legs and completely disemboweled.
“Then comes the modern era. Starting with Emily Hollands in November 1940 and going up to May of 1941, a total of seven children are abducted from the area surrounding Burkittsville. After the last disappearance, an old hermit named Rustin Parr walks into a local market and tells the people there that he is "finally finished." Police hike for four hours to his secluded house in the woods, where they find the bodies of the seven missing children in the cellar. Each child has been ritualistically murdered and disemboweled. Parr admits to everything in detail, telling authorities that he did it for "an old woman ghost" who occupied the woods near his house. He is quickly convicted and hanged.
"That brings us up to the most recent case. Montgomery College students Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, and Michael Williams arrive in Burkittsville to interview locals about the legend of the Blair Witch for a class project. It’s not a history class. They are students of filmmaking, and the class is about making a documentary. This was October 20, 1994. Heather interviews Mary Brown, an old and quite insane woman who has lived in the area all her life. Mary claims to have seen the Blair Witch one day near Tappy Creek in the form of a hairy, half-human, half-animal beast."
At this, Miyu asked her only question of the session:
"Nani-iro deshita ka? Majo no ke, nani iro?"
Professor Kim translated: "What color was the witch's hair?"
Professor Moorhouse’ eyes showed his utter confusion at the unexpected question. Had they been able to see Miyu’s unnerving golden eyes, they could have read her expression as well. It would have reflected her feelings of total contempt.
“In the early morning Heather interviews two fishermen who tell the filmmakers that Coffin Rock is less than twenty minutes from town and easily accessible by an old logging trail. The filmmakers hike into Black Hills Forest shortly thereafter and are never seen again.
“The first APB is issued. Josh's car is found later in the day parked on Black Rock Road. The Maryland State Police launch their search of the Black Hills area, an operation that lasts ten days and includes up to one hundred men aided by dogs, helicopters, and even a fly over by a Department of Defense satellite.”
“Why such measures?” Himiko asked, with Professor Kim translating. “Is there some sort of government secret near the area?”
“As if I’d tell a damn Jap about government secrets! No, goddammit, I’ve held my tongue long enough!” The sheriff shook loose Bill Barnes’s hand, which he tried to use to restrain the sheriff. “Some of my people died in the Pacific. We got a monument in this town to brave men who were killed by Japs in the war. And just the thought that I’m in the same room with one…”
Dottie Fulcher, one of those who’d searched for the students, stood up. “You’re right, Sheriff,” she said quietly and a bit sadly, “a lot of families here in town lost good people in that war. I expect those two girls lost family in the war as well. But this isn’t about them.”
The sheriff muttered something, then fell silent. Buck Buchanan, the detective, picked up the narrative.
“The search was called off after 33,000 man hours failed to find a trace
of the filmmakers or any of their gear. Heather's mother here, Angie Donahue,
began a personal search for her daughter and her two companions.
"The latest developments came a year later. Students from the University of Maryland's Anthropology Department, on an unrelated expedition searching for tribal burial sites, discover a duffel bag containing film cans, DAT tapes, video-cassettes, a Hi-8 video camera, Heather's journal and a CP-16 film camera buried under the foundation of a 100 year-old cabin. When the evidence is examined, Burkittsville Sheriff Ron Cravens here announced that the 11 rolls of black and white film and 10 Hi-8 video tapes are indeed the property of Heather Donahue and her crew.
“After an initial study of the bag's contents, select pieces of film footage are shown to the families. According to Mrs. Angie Donahue, there were several unusual events on the film but nothing conclusive. Still, the victims’ families questioned the thoroughness of the analysis and demanded another look.”
Mrs. Donahue interrupted. “We were finally shown a second group of film clips that the sheriff considered to be faked. We had to go public with our criticism, and at first Sheriff Cravens restricted all access to the evidence. The department announced that the evidence is inconclusive, but he won’t let the families see the film for two more years, until October of 1997.”
Professor Barnes turned off the lights and began screening the images. Himiko could understand the sheriff’s reticence as to whether a child should see some of these images, of young adults slowly being terrorized by forces they could neither explain nor understand. Fortunately, she thought, Miyu is no typical child.
When it was at last over, Buck Buchanan simply added, “The footage of the children's last days was turned over to the families.”
Although it was well after noon when they approached the creek, the clouds lay in a broad band between them and the sun. The air carried an Atlantic chill.
Professor Kim drove as close to the spot as he could. "I have some things for you," he told Himiko as he stopped the car by the side of the road. "Here is a cellular telephone; this slip of paper has my beeper number." He then gave Himiko a small device that looked like a pager. "There is probably no way that you'll be able to tell me where you are, but this is a locator. After you call me, turn this on. It will give off a signal so that I can find you. Don't forget to turn it on."
"Do you also think there is something dangerous here?"
The professor shook his head. "I couldn't tell you about the old legends, but something did happen to those three students. Take care." With that he drove back to Burkittsville, perhaps driving a little bit too fast.
No sooner had he left than Larva faded into view. Miyu ran happily to his side. "These people are foolish, aren't they?" she asked Himiko.
"Why are they foolish?" Himiko asked.
"These things happened a long time apart, and in very different ways, yet they think it was all done by one witch."
"I know that you don't believe it. I also know that you wouldn't have followed me around the world unless it perhaps was a Shinma."
There it was; the word. Miyu glanced up at Larva, as if afraid the word had hurt his feelings. But the mask that concealed his face was unchanged. Himiko glanced at her watch, then at the sky.
"Let's find the creek," she said.
The three of them walked for half an hour under bare-limbed November trees. The ground was covered with sodden leaves that did not crackle as they moved, but slushed to either side.
Finally they came to Tappy East Creek. It was barely big enough to be called a river; certainly it was big enough for children to fall into and possibly drown. It must have looked peaceful and pleasant in the summer, almost hidden under green leaves. At this time of year, though, the creek was as desolate as the rest of the landscape.
"There!" Miyu pointed to a tree that had fallen across the creek to form a bridge. "Something happened there, long ago."
Miyu floated through the air to a spot just above the log-bridge, halfway between the banks. She flattened one hand and held it just above the surface of the creek. The water beneath her hand began to glow, as if from a light source beneath the surface.
Himiko didn't hesitate. She pulled an iron dagger from her travel bag. Then she walked out onto the log-bridge until she was standing next to Miyu. In the car she had already slipped iron rings onto the index and middle fingers of her left hand. Now she stuck the left arm out straight, rubbing the fingers together until the rings gave off a chiming noise that echoed for a mile. Himiko began a rhythmic monotone chant. This was the darani, a rite known only to a few initiates into the most esoteric side of Buddhism.
As Himiko chanted, the glow beneath the water grew brighter. Then the water became more and more agitated, as if that small part of the creek were starting to boil.
Something was coming. Himiko could sense it. But she also knew that she had to carry on with the chanting; she could not stop in order to warn Miyu.
Suddenly, as it looked as if the creek would burst into flame, a pale, slim hand shot out of the glowing water and grabbed at Miyu.
Miyu was just an instant quicker, however. She rose up into the air, out of the hand's reach, and loosened the red ribbon from her hair. As quickly as the hand had struck, she threw the end of the ribbon at the hand. It looped around the wrist, holding it fast.
As soon as it did so, a strangled cry seemed to come from the air all around them. As they watched, the body attached to the hand vaulted out of the water and landed on a tree branch twelve feet above the creek.
It seemed to be a kappa in the classic style. Its skin was green and leathery; at least, such skin as they could see for the gigantic shell that encased its body. It also wore a shell on its head, like a straw hat, pulled low to cover its eyes. When it raised its webbed hand to push the shell back on its head, they saw a lump of a face, drawn and mottled.
With a flick of her wrist, Miyu retrieved the ribbon. At once the kappa jumped down to the forest floor and, with a weird cackling laugh, started to run through the forest. It was more of a wobble than a run, with the shell lurching from side to side, but it was remarkably swift. It was out of sight in a moment.
Without a word Miyu, Larva and Himiko followed the kappa’s trail. Miyu glided through the air just ahead of Himiko, but never more than a pace or two in front. Larva floated a few paces before them both, taking the point in case of an ambush. The trail of leaves and clots of earth kicked up by the kappa was easy to read. They kept to it for a few minutes until, at one point, Miyu broke away from the path.
“What are you doing, Miyu?”
“This path would take us to Coffin Rock, and then further into the woods. It wants us to become lost, to wander for days like those others. It wants us to succumb to fear.”
Himiko thought for a minute. “So it wants to hunt us as much as we want to hunt it. We won’t waste time.” She looked at the map from the sheriff’s office and tried to find their position relative to Tappy East Creek. “We won’t play its games, Miyu. We’ll go directly to its lair: Rustin Parr’s house.”
“Why do you think it lives there?”
“According to the films, that’s the last place the college students saw.”
As soon as they entered the cabin, they knew Himiko’s instincts were right. The space inside the cabin seemed infinitely larger than the cabin itself. Smoke swirled around the floor, obscuring the source of red lights that seemed to illuminate the room from below. The forest sounds of outside were gone, replaced by a child’s laughter.
Larva hovered in the doorway, standing by the two young women and blocking any escape. Miyu floated a few inches up and into the room. “We summon you! Show yourself!”
With a grotesque cackle a figure seemed to come out of the shadows, or perhaps from out of nowhere. It reminded Himiko of museum exhibits of prehistoric people, or of old Japanese sketches of the barbarian gaijin. This thing was both vaguely and explicitly a woman, or had been at one time. Matted fur grew all over her body, but so did nipples which stuck out through the hair, long and dark and diseased-looking. Some were on her stomach, some on her thighs. Her pubic hair grew down past her knees, and gave her the impression of having two tails, for the lips of her sex were wide apart, gaping red and obscene.
“Don’t you like me?” it asked, teasing like a coquette. “This is the shape my magic won me. If you keep on chasing me you’ll look like this too; forever and ever.”
Revulsion passed through Himiko, but she let it pass. She knew now that, whatever this monster, they had it trapped. It had spoken to them in Japanese, the only language she and Miyu knew.
Miyu realized the same thing, and she raised both hands above her head. “I summon you to return to the Dark! I know you. You are not kappa, you are not witch. You are the Shinma called…”
Before Miyu could say the name, the monstrosity leapt at her, roaring like a panther. In the instant before she would have grabbed Miyu, Larva appeared between them, shielding the vampire with his body. This made the monster scream and back away. Miyu, as if she had never been interrupted, spoke the name:
The grotesque woman vanished at once, and was replaced by a worse spectacle: a body disemboweled, as Rustin Parr’s victims had been disemboweled. This was worse, however, for the thing still lived. The eyes hung by nerve threads from their sockets, but they could still see. The swollen and diseased tongue lolled out of a lower jaw that had been shattered to pieces, yet could still laugh, as it did now, with hideous mockery.
“So you know my name. You come too late. Do you know how I draw my power? Not like you, little mosquito. I drink no blood. It means nothing to me. But it means everything to these pathetic little humans. It terrifies them to lose their blood, to lose their lives. And I live off of their terror. I discovered this barbaric land centuries ago, when superstitious fools threw an old woman out of the village and into the snow. She had never done any wrong to anyone, but some children at play decided that she would become their monster.
“But their parents believed the childish games, driving the old woman named Elly Kedward from their midst, hoping that she would die. And so she did, but not at once. I promised her vengeance against the village of Blair: against those who lied, against those who banished her because of the lies, and against those who knew the truth but kept silent out of shame.
“I found that I could put a man—or, better yet, a child—through every kind of hell there was. The terror was exquisite, and it fed me, but there was more. I learned that, once the living saw the bodies of the dead, butchered like the pigs they are, I could grow strong from the terror of the living as well as the terror of the dying. So I returned here whenever the Shinma walked the earth. I was here, halfway around the world, working poor little Rustin Parr like a puppet, when you cast the Shinma into the Dark. The terrors of that feast have kept me alive from then until recently. Then there were those three students, too stupid to be afraid at first. But once I got them started, they fed me. Oh, how they fed me!”
“Enough! It’s over now.”
“You expect to send me back—for doing what you yourself have done? Vampires use people as livestock, no less than Shinma. You’re no different from me.”
Miyu bristled at the comparison. "I make a trade! I offer something for something--eternal life in exchange for blood. For your punishment you should be driven into a wilderness, with nobody to terrorize. You should be made to starve, trying to frighten rocks and trees. As it is, you have stayed too long in this world."
Himiko had witnessed this before: Miyu and Larva sending renegade Shinma back into the Dark. She knew better than to interfere, and backed slowly away.
Miyu’s hands moved through the air in a slight, undetectable pattern. An orb suddenly appeared, glowing with blue fire from within. Vespa recognized it, immediately shifting its shape to a cloud of vapor that spun around the room, searching for a way out. But before Miyu could do anything, a spear of light shot out of the mist, blasting the blue orb and missing Miyu by inches.
She seemed hardly fazed by the attack, merely stating one word: “Persistent”.
Vespa took his rotting corpse shape again, just in front of Himiko, grabbing her jaw with his skeletal hand. The empty sockets stared into Himiko’s eyes. “I will not go back! Your terror will give me the strength to fight.”
Himiko had been reaching into her bag when Vespa rematerialized. Now she felt for the blade of the iron knife. Not taking her eyes off of the ghastly face a few inches from her own, she said, in as level a voice as she could manage: “You will get no terror from me. I feel nothing, except that you will join the other Shinma!” In an instant, she pulled out the iron knife and drove the point of it into the top of Vespa’s skull.
As soon as she did so, Vespa let out a scream that could only be called unearthly. It was the scream of a demon who lived on terror, but for the first time was feeling the terror of knowing it did not have the upper hand.
With a gesture from Larva the walls and the roof of the cabin literally blew apart, revealing the demon and his attackers in the pale light of late afternoon. But no sooner did the rude wood of the walls fly out than they flew back, fencing Vespa in. As soon as this happened, Larva inscribed a circle in the air, glowing with a red fire. So did the name of Vespa, which now burned into the wood of his pen, written in the script of the Ancients.
With a final gesture, Miyu cast another blue fireball into the pen with Vespa, where it exploded this time. Now there was nothing left of the Shinma who had become the various forms of the Blair Witch. There was also nothing left of Rustin Parr’s cabin, except for a hard wooden platform raised up a few inches off the ground.
Beneath the platform, they saw a bundle. It contained some of the clothing of the three most recent victims, including Heather Donahue's knit cap. They all smelled of mud and mildew.
"We should bring these back," Himiko said. She reached into her purse, took out the cellular phone, dialed the pager number and activated the locator.
As soon as she was done, Miyu asked, "Why?"
"Why should we take back the clothes?"
"People feel that they should always have something to remember."
Either she truly didn't understand or she was being perverse, trying to frustrate Himiko. If it was the latter, it was working; the spiritualist practically threw the telephone back in the bag. "Perhaps you wouldn't understand," she said testily.
"You will help me understand."
"You will, someday. I can wait." Miyu began to float up into the air. Himiko now noticed that Larva had already drifted up and was waiting on the limb of a tree. Miyu rose up to Larva, then put her arms around his neck. In any two people the gesture might have seemed sensuous, but these were not people. Larva remained still as a statue, then began to cover Miyu with his cloak. The vampire princess had just enough time to say "Bye bye..."
and they were gone, leaving Himiko Se alone under the gray sky and bare
branches of a Maryland autumn.