It’s hot this August. Not so much in degrees of Fahrenheit but the humidity presses down like a wet blanket. It’s not supposed to be like this in Hokkaido, but there you are. Blame it on global weirding. Nobody this year has said to me, “My, what a typical summer we’re having!” Nobody has the willpower to do much of anything except moan, “Hoooooot,” followed up by an occasional “Huuuuumid.” People can’t even bear the thought of an exclamation point.
On the main island of Japan, though, this kind of weather is a normal year – maybe even a little chilly. They beat the heat in various ways down there – pretty little fans, cotton robes, watermelon and shaved ice, but the tradition that concerns me today is the tradition of ghost stories.
That shiver down your spine? Japanese associate it with cooling pleasure, and it’s amazing how a scary story under the stars can give you the goosebumps.
The kind of story that really gets me is the kind where everything is normal . . . until suddenly it’s not. Stephen King is really good at this – that beautiful red car, Christine, is such a good car . . . until she’s revving her engine and flashing her lights like Herbie the Lovebug gone mad. Or that good puppy, Cujo, who gets rabies and traps a mom and her son in a tiny economy car for days. Brrrr.
Oh, and all of those stories where something comes out of your TV set, reaches through the static-y analog snow and . . . you know. I’ve only watched about 23 seconds of the Japanese horror film, The Ring, but when the ghost with the creepy black hair poked her head out of the screen? I immediately left my friend’s living room and found a place with no TV. It didn’t help much . . . evil comes out of the most normal things, so I was eyeing the dresser, the mirror and the futon with dread for half the night.
Anyway, this month, I’ll be writing with a goal in mind. I’ve got ghosts, who have to be more than plot points, and actually be something you don’t want to mess with. Even better, I have an evil scientist, who just wants to make things nicer for the world, if only the world would listen up and do things his way.
And if the ghosts and the evil unleashed don’t do it for me, I’ve got February 1899 in New York. Maybe visualizing the great blizzard will be enough to keep me cool this August.
How will you keep cool and keep writing this August? (And my apologies to the southern hemi folks – feel free to chime in with stories of the Frozen South to remind us northerners that yes, there will be a winter again.)
(BTW, if you want to read more about Okiku, here’s her Wikipedia page. Bancho Sarayashiki)