Part II – ‘The theatre has come to town’
(Full story here)
Hirani was used to the snow, and the coldness it brought. The cool air coming off the sea whistled through the town, hardening the people who called it home. But life was good there. People were friendly and looked out for one another. With much of the town’s income coming from fishing, there was a strong sense of community and mindfulness to help each another when they could. It was this sense of community that also encouraged superstition within the small town. If someone was sick, it was because someone had put a curse on them, someone who was jealous of their success. If there was a fire in town, or an accident of some sort, it was due to a traveller who’d been spotted lurking about with evil intent. As nice as the people of Hirani were, they had a tendency to not take on their own responsibility. Scapegoats were currency for the inhabitants there.
As many cleared their doorways of the snowfall from the previous evening, the town awoke to a beautiful scene. In the town square, a travelling Kabuki theatre had arrived under the cloak of darkness. Its colourful caravan had occupied much of the square, and was busy alerting the town of its presence; putting up posters and talking to the locals. They had yet to acquire a performing space for their shows, and the owner of the theatre was busy speaking to the officials to secure a premise. There was a surprised, though pleasant, feeling all around to discover the trope in their small town that morning. It usually came around in the dying months of the year, but for some reason, had returned early. Everyone enjoyed the shows, and many came from far and wide to see the performances. It would be a good time for Hirani, and its traders.
Enko was just as excited as anyone else when she learnt of the theatre. She’d left early that day for an appointment with a businessman who had returned to Hirani for the month. He was throwing a small gathering at his home just on the outskirts of town. She’d stopped to see her friend Unoko, to whom she was borrowing a Kimono from.
“Did you see?” she said, stepping into the house and sliding the door shut behind her. Her face was fresh in the snowing morning, her eyes alive with excitement.
“See what?” Unoko asked, taking Enko’s small umbrella.
“The theatre is back, they’ve arrived in the night.” She replied, taking off her geta sandals and sliding on the slippers before her before going through to main room.
“Why have they returned so soon, and not informed us!?” Unoko replied, concern across her face. The Kimono hung by the side, the beautiful white fabric flowing down to the floor like a snowy waterfall.
“Who cares, this will be great. And good business for us.” Enko said. Unoko looked worried though. She was known for her preparation, and did not like surprises.
“Is your kimono able to be salvaged?” Unoko asked her, cautiously. Enko’s eyebrows narrowed, the smile slipping momentarily.
“I just don’t believe what happened to it. It’s cleaned the same way each time. But now, Jiji said she can’t get the colour back, it’s ruined Unoko. And without it, I’m fucked.” She said, looking away.
“Well, we can share mine until we get you a new one, I’m happy to move some events around. No need for drama, it will work itself out. You could ask Tomoryō for one of hers, she has so many and some are just lovely!” Unoko replied. Poor Unoko, so sweet and naïve. Enko spun around to her, a fresh spirit in her face.
“She was there that night you know, the last time I wore it. I remember now seeing her in the Silent Storm.” Enko said, her words hurrying off her tongue.
“Lots of people were there, it was spring festival.” Unoko said, looking bemused.
“Yes, but she bumped into me as we were leaving. Do you not remember? I nearly dropped the blossoms I had. She’s cursed me, I just know it.” Enko said, now slightly animated.
“I don’t know. She’s always so nice Enko. I don’t believe she’s a witch like they say. I remember she helped me with my…” but she was cut off.
“It’s her Unoko, I just know it. I will go to Miyata later to get an omamori now, but we need to teach her a lesson too.” Enko said, her eyes filling with mischief.
“If it is her, is it wise to be messing around with her?” Unoko suggested, but it was lost on Enko now. Her mind was busy scheming. Which in a way was harmless, until she proposed;
“We should kill her.” Enko said suddenly, her face serious. It was true that Enko was a beautiful geisha, if not a lttle immature, but in that moment she looked quite horrid. Unoko couldn’t believe what she’d said, she looked to her windows noticing some were ajar.
“What!” she said, in disbelief, hurrying over to close the shutter.
“Kill her, well not really us. We’ll let some else do the messy bit. But we’re doing the right thing, for us and everyone. No one wants that witch putting curses and the like on everyone all the time!” she said.
“Enko, you’re crazy. No. I won’t be a part of this. You can borrow my Kimono, keep it if you like. I will sort another out, but this…this is madness.” She said, clearly distressed by the suggestion. Enko studied her for a moment, and turned towards the kimono.
“Okay. I was only joking you know.” She said, not looking at her friend. Unoko let the silence hang a little.
“Good, though I didn’t find it funny.” She replied. Enko turned and smiled.
“Oh Unoko, lighten up. I was fooling around. No, she’ll get what’s coming to her before long anyway.” She joked. Unoko still looked suspicious, but let it go.
“Do you have time for some tea?” She suggested.
“Of course.” She said, smiling. “I will take your offer of the Kimono though, I’ve always liked yours. She said, stroking the material tenderly, smiling to herself.
Masao watched as some of the scenery was inspected in the morning sun. Though made to be robust for its travelling nature, it was a practice to check all the scenery at each new stop. He smoked a cigarette as the huge screens were moved one by one and checked over He had driven in the night, and was tired, though he knew it would be a long day ahead preparing. He watched as one of the men moved a huge decorative mirror from the truck. He was dressed differently from the rest of the workers, only slightly, but Masao noticed. He noticed everything this man did, because he knew he should not be trusted.
They had picked him up a few towns ago, much as they had last year in this region. He remembered him, and was unhappy about his arrival again. He was a man for hire, good at carpentry and strong. The company needed men like him to move and repair the things that were in constant need of maintenance. It had been years since anything had been bought anew. The company were paid just enough to get by on, many of them doing the job for the love of Kabuki more than the wage. Masao was different, he was stuck. His father owned the theatre group, and he’d been working in it since her was a boy. As soon as his father died, Masao planned to quit; not caring at all for taking over the travelling circus. He’d had enough of moving around and performance egos.
He watched as the man inspected the mirror, polishing the glass slightly with a rag before moving away and heading off down one of the alleyways. Slipping away unnoticed. But Masao had noticed, and decided to follow him and see where his suspicious friend was headed.