The Difference by E. F. Crabtree
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“Come on, it’s this way,” my friend Kichiro said, leading me away from the bar he always took dates, (was this a date? She wasn't sure.)We wandered away from the crowds of Gion, towards Miyagawacho, which the guidebooks described as a “must-see” geisha neighborhood. The dark cobblestone streets grew narrower, and each wooden machiya building we passed started to blur together.
“If we’re lucky, we’ll see some tonight,” he whispered excitedly, like a fanboy. “A geisha with her maiko.”
“Err, what’s the difference?” I asked. I had been to a museum earlier that had many beautiful kimonos, but all the new information was just swimming around in my head.
“Seriously? There’s a ton of differences,” he said, then trailed off before he dove into an explanation. He loved acting like a tour guide for English teachers in his area.
Suddenly, on the path ahead a pair of women seemingly appeared out of the inky darkness, one older and one younger, carefully dressed in traditional Japanese finery.
Could that be them? I wondered.
The older one, dressed more simply than the other, looked on proudly at the younger maiko, dressed more regally and covering her face with her sleeves. Slowly, the maiko lowered her floor-length sleeves, which revealed her face. As she lowered her sleeves further, her jaw followed along with it, wider and wider, until it was inhumanely lower. Finally, it unhinged with a sickening CRACK. Her older companion nodded approvingly.
Every instinct in my body told me to run, but I stared ahead, like I was hypnotized, as the younger one slid towards me. Her green silken furisode extended until it was impossibly long behind her, trailing behind her body like a train trails a wedding dress. Before I knew it, she was right in front of me. The silken scales of her form coiled against mine, her body much colder than I anticipated, but her eyes, her eyes were warm. She peered deeply into my face, her brown eyes became all I could see.
a sea of brown,
I was falling down into them.
She held me but I was falling further inside myself. Squeezing me closer, it was uncomfortably so but not unbearable. She’s put some kind of spell over me, I thought, dreamily. I don’t mind. This wasn’t so bad.
Tighter and tighter she squeezed, deeper and deeper into her eyes I fell, until I heard a loud SNAP! from my neck.
I hit the wet ground with a dull thud, which I heard but could not feel. Why couldn’t I feel it? Her eyes, now a beady black, finally left mine as she moved towards my sneaker-clad feet. The warmth I felt dissipated, and felt completely numb inside. I couldn’t feel what she was doing, but she moved my body little by little. Like she was struggling to get into a sleeping bag, for what seemed like an eternity My eyes began to glaze, but the geisha and Kichiro were just standing there, watching. This was the evening’s entertainment. Finally, her unhinged jaw passed over my head, and I could see no more.
The last sound I heard was my friend Kichiro chuckling as he said, “Geisha prefer to eat their prey in pieces, while maiko just swallow it whole.”
At least neither of them like to play with their food, I thought sardonically, wishing I could say it aloud as my last words.
E.F. Crabtree is an artist and writer based in Buffalo, NY, but used to work in Japan. She co-founded Kyoto Cryptids, a literature and arts magazine about Kyoto, Japan, with her friends. The magazine, along with more of her work, can be found at: https://kyotocryptids.gumroad.com/
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Linda Gould hosts the Kaidankai, a weekly blog and podcast of fiction read out loud that explores the entire world of ghosts and the supernatural. The stories are touching, scary, gruesome, funny, and heartwarming. New episodes every Wednesday.