A lone jungle crow in a copse of larch trees loosed a resonant caw, somehow embellishing the silence that followed the ringing of the temple’s gong. I breathed quietly, studying the shadows. It was going be dark in an hour. I had to get this over with and find shelter, fast.
“Let’s go!” I screamed, hunched over the barrel of the Mossberg.
Nothing. The bird called out again. I squinted at the treetops. It was perched on the highest branch of the tallest larch, swaying in the gentle wind. He cocked his head and danced a little two-step jig. Cau-cau-cau, it said.
I waved the barrel of the shotgun at it and sneered. “Fuckoff fuckoff fuckoff,” I said, mocking his a throaty, hollow voice.
Cau-cau, it retorted.
I shook my head, walking past the shamoji world headquarters. Next door I found a little pastry shop. I stuck my nose in the door.
“Bring out your dead,” I said in a sing-song voice.
No response. A tray of not so fresh mitarashi dango was lying on the counter. I licked my lips. I shrugged and plucked one of the sweet, sticky balls of dough off its wooden skewer. I checked the room for zombies again, then popped it in my mouth.
“Hrm, not bad,” I said aloud. “A little tough, but palatable. Definitely palatable.”
After another quick glance over my shoulder, I set the Mossberg on the counter and grabbed a couple of skewers. It’d been a while since I ate. The last thing I had was some fucking root from somewhere in the middle of the forest. I filled my mouth with the pastries faster than I could swallow them, then shuffled over to a refrigerator and snatched a cold bottle of green tea.
Cau-cau-cau, the crow called from outside.
“Shuffup,” I said, my mouth packed with the sweet dough. I upended the bottle and drank.
“Ugh,” I garbled, gulping the tea. Once my mouth was clear I walked outside and lobbed the half-empty bottle of tea at the crow. “Shut yer beak!” I yelled. The bottle sailed wide of his perch, then vanished into a field of rice with a thump. The crow chattered in response.
“Hilarious,” I said. I looked around for something else to throw.
Cau! Cau! it screeched.
“Yeah, yeah, ” I said, scooping up a handful of gravel.
Cau! Cau! Cau! Cau! Cau! Cau! Cau! Cau! the crow bellowed.
“What the fuck is wrong with—”
Suddenly I felt a breath of hot air on my neck and smelled the stench of putrid flesh wafting from behind. Uh oh.
I spun around. There, towering over me was a giant, bloodied stump of a man, larger than any Japanese I’d ever seen. His flesh hung in ribbons from his waist. Clumps of oatmeal-like fat peeked through his numerous wounds. He wore nothing, save a swath of thick, blood-stained underwear. Like a giant diaper. Like something a fucking sumo wrestler would wear.
“Oh crap,” I said weakly.
I shifted my gaze past the sumo zombie to the countertop in the pastry shop where my Mossberg was resting. Idiot.
The crow called out: Cau! Cau! Cau!
I scowled at the bird. “Shut up you fu—”
Something eclipsed the sun. I saw a flash of light, my jaw bobbled, and the little Japanese town rolled sideways.