Michaeline: Chills and Thrills for August

Japanese ghost next to a stone well.

Okiku was just a normal girl, a serving maid, who foiled her lecherous master’s plans — so he threw her down a well. Ever after, her voice could be heard coming from the cold, dank depths of the well . . . . (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

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)

7 thoughts on “Michaeline: Chills and Thrills for August

    • LOL, Hokkaido has heating covered. Go live in Tokyo in winter, and you’ll need a parka to sit in your living room. But AC? Not so much. We usually only need it for about two days a year. This year, though, it’s a steam bath. Maybe I could use a good dehumdifier and a tall glass of lemonade.

      Glad to hear somewhere is enjoying a temperate summer so far. (But, maybe I’m the only one sweating over a hot keyboard.)

  1. I don’t mind dry heat so much, but humidity is horrible.The first couple of days in New York were scorchio, but luckily the weather broke to pleasantly warm by the time RWA came around. And now we’re back in London, where it’s verging on chilly.

    I like the idea of a nice, shivery ghost story to cool you down. Have you read Richard Adams’ The Girl in a Swing? I haven’t read it in years, but it’s a great example of a story where everything starts out perfectly normal, then there’s just a hint of something not quite right, and then…

    • Not to mention The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. I read that in high school, and I never want to read it again. It was horrible enough the first time.

      I was scorchio in NY, too, at first, and then just toastio. When I got home and got out of the airport in San Francisco, where it was a beautiful and balmy 68, I almost wept with happiness. No AC for us out here by the coast!

      • LOL, yes, I think we had to read The Lottery in high school. It might have more literary merit now that we’re adults who write, but in high school? I wondered why we were made to read such a thing. Fight the power?

        A Girl in a Swing sounds really good — I put it on my wishlist. (-: You know what the second hit on the search was? A 1955 movie called The Girl in the Red Velvet Swing — about Evelyn Nesbit who was caught in a love triangle with an architect called Stanford White and a millionaire. Just slightly before my era, I believe. (Nope, looked it up, just after my era.) Ray Milland and Joan Collins! Oh my, I think I have to watch this during vacation . . . .

  2. Not particularly hot here in sunny California, as Kay mentioned, though the areas that are currently on fire are assuredly toasty. Those days when it does get hot in my neighborhood are the ones that cause me to look forward to going into the office where it is air conditioned. Otherwise, it’s iced coffee to keep cool. No shivery scary stories for me though, I got my fill of those when I was younger. Now it’s happily-ever-after, no matter the weather.

    • Ugh, all that smoke. I hope you are keeping out of the worst of it.

      One of the great things about happily-ever-afters is that there’s a whole subgenre about getting away to island paradises where there are not only hot men, but cold drinks and vast stretches of cool water. Mmmmmm. I love a little bit of escapism. How Stella Got Her Groove Back.

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