The Bakeneko: A Lawson Vampire Short Story by Jon F. Merz – Part Twenty-One

The Bakeneko: A Lawson Vampire Short Story
By Jon F. Merz

Part Twenty-One

I stood and looked over my shoulder at Higashi.  He shook his head, and then walked out on the verandah to light a cigarette.  I joined him.

“Giant cats,” he said after taking a long drag on the butt.

“The world is a crazy place.  Full of strange things.”

He blew out a trail of smoke.  “Cats in Japanese history…we’ve always believed they had magical abilities.  Split-tail cats, shape-shifting cats…you name it, we’ve got them embedded in our culture.  But I never thought I’d see it become a reality.”

“Maybe you could just write it up as something else.”

“Like what?”

I shrugged.  “A bear attack?”

Higashi eyed me.  “That would be lying.”

“Think of it more as keeping a secret that people don’t want to know about anyway.”

He took another drag on his cigarette.  “What about you?  What will you tell the parents of the Canadian man who was murdered?”

I looked out into the night.  The rain continued to fall.  “We understand bears back home a whole lot better than we understand shape-shifting cats.  It’s probably a lot easier to just let them think one thing over the other.”

Higashi nodded.  “That seems to be the case with a lot these days.”

“Oh?”

Higashi smiled and sucked on his cigarette.  “You’ll be leaving soon?”

“Nothing more for me to do here.”

Higashi finished his butt, turned, and shook my hand.  “In that case, it’s been a pleasure meeting you.  I’d better get back to the station and summon some help to get this cleaned up.”  He started to walk down the gravel path.  “Oh, by the way…”. He looked back at me.  “Be sure to say hello to your colleague.”

“My colleague?”

“Yes, the nice man from the Canadian embassy who came here two days ago.  Just before you arrived.  Mister Anderson, I think his name was.”  His smile deepened.  “But I’m sure you know all about him.  Don’t you, Lawson-san?”

I started to say something, but then Higashi merely waved, turned, and walked back down the path.  Back to his world.

And soon enough, I’d be back in mine.

THE END

Note: if you’ve enjoyed THE BAKENEKO, please be sure to check out the other Lawson adventures here!

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The Bakeneko: A Lawson Vampire Short Story by Jon F. Merz – Part Twenty

The Bakeneko: A Lawson Vampire Short Story
By Jon F. Merz

Part Twenty

I walked over to the white cat and squatted down next to it.It looked like Kiyoko had donned a cat Halloween costume.She looked up at me and smiled as blood ran from her mouth and stained her whiskers.

“Lawson-san.So…you see me as I am…at last.”

I nodded.“But I don’t know what you are.”

“And yet you don’t seem surprised.Perhaps…” Her voice trailed off as she tried to gather the strength.“Perhaps…you are more accustomed to oddities of nature than I thought?”

I glanced around.Higashi stood by the entrance of the house, surveying the scene, a look of disbelief on his face. 

I looked back at Kiyoko quickly and let my fangs extend for the briefest of moments before retracting them again.Her eyes widened and then she merely smiled.

“I wondered.”

I nodded.“I’ve seen many things but nothing like you.”

“We came from India through China and Korea many centuries ago.Japan offered us the isolation we needed.But our numbers have dwindled.Our birth rates plummeted.I never knew why.There are few of us left.The change only begins once you are older.In recent years, more of my kind started falling victim to psychotic episodes.Instead of growing into our abilities, they caused members of my race to lash out and start killing.”She looked over at the striped cat.“That is what befell Saigo.At first it was only blood that he craved.And then tonight…”Her voice trailed off.“Well, you saw the results of his handiwork.I tried to bargain with him.Help him.But he saw it as a threat and attacked me instead.”She glanced down.“And he did a marvelous job of ensuring I won’t live much longer.”

“What can I do?”

She smiled.“Let me die with dignity.I am old anyway…and should have shuffled along years ago.But I was kept here by my promise to look after Saigo.”

“What are you called?”

Kaibyo,” said Kiyoko.“And in the case of my family line, bakeneko…shapeshifters of the cat species.Maybe you’ve heard of werewolves?”

“Maybe.”

“We were always better,” she said with a smile and a sigh.“Now…at last, my time has come.Thank you for listening.”

A paw reached out and covered my hand.It felt warm to the touch and as I looked back up, Kiyoko’s eyes rolled back and she shifted completely into the form of a cat.I watched as her body shrank to half its size, amid the pool of blood and gore, her white fur stained a dark crimson brown.

She was gone.

Click here to go to Part Twenty-One!

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The Bakeneko: A Lawson Vampire Short Story by Jon F. Merz – Part Nineteen

The Bakeneko: A Lawson Vampire Short Story
By Jon F. Merz

Part Nineteen

As I approached, the light from within threw shadows up against the shoji screens and I paused in mid-step.  There was an image of one creature standing on its hind legs swiping at another creature also stood on its hind legs.

Not one cat.

But two.

I kicked my way through the front door and before me stood the two cats locked in battle.  They circled and swiped the air with vicious claws that looked like they could disembowel a man with one glancing blow.  The cat on the left was covered in white fur tinged with silver while the cat on the right was striped like a tiger.  It was also showing blood on its coat.  Was this the creature that I’d shot in the forest?

I didn’t have time to think because they leapt and crashed all around the house, tearing it apart completely.  Both of them snarled, swiped, and bit at the other.  Spittle and blood stained the air and every wall as the battle increased. 

And then striped cat caught the white one across its belly with a single horrible swipe.  The white cat fell away with a howl that made my ears cringe.

The striped cat then turned to me and hissed.  I saw a mouth full of fangs that dripped with blood.  Its eyes bore into mine and then it leapt right at me.

I fired.

And kept shooting until the magazine was empty and I heard the click of the hammer falling on an empty chamber. 

The striped cat sprawled on the floor, bleeding from all the gunshot wounds.  I watched as its lungs heaved and then finally stopped.

Click here to go to Part Twenty!

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The Bakeneko: A Lawson Vampire Short Story by Jon F. Merz – Part Eighteen

The Bakeneko: A Lawson Vampire Short Story
By Jon F. Merz

Part Eighteen

Higashi whispered over the din of rain and wind.  “If it’s heading back to the town…”. His voice trailed off but I got his meaning.  A wounded creature heading back to town would be even more dangerous.

“We’ll find it,” I said.

Going downhill was tougher because of the slippery footing underneath.  The tracks themselves started looking strange as well.  I didn’t know if the water was affecting them or if something else was happening.

Lycans, for example, could shapeshift as they moved.  But was this creature capable of that also?

And if so, how?

The trail led us down the side of the mountain, with Higashi still taking point.  He must have thought he had to since he had the flashlight.  I followed behind, turning every couple of steps to make sure nothing snuck up on us from behind.  I’d done enough tracking to know you could loop around in a big wide circle and set an ambush for anyone tracking you.

But then we reached the spot where I’d entered the woods earlier today and stepped out on the Kiyoko’s road.  The tracks vanished.

Higashi stopped and looked back at me.  “What now?”

“We split up?”

He sighed.  “I was afraid you were going to say that.”

I smirked.  “Yeah, I’m not exactly crazy about it, either.  But what choice do we have?  If we want to make sure this thing doesn’t hurt anyone else, we’re going to have to be quick.”

Higashi nodded.  “All right then.  But be careful.”

He broke away to my left, creeping down a smaller path behind another house.  I watched his flashlight beam bounce around for a few seconds and then I moved off down the road.  I drew abreast of Kiyoko’s house and stopped.  There was a light on in one of the windows.  At this time of night?  I frowned.  Maybe she couldn’t sleep?

I crept up the gravel path toward her door.

My footsteps ground the stones together and I froze.

I heard voices coming from inside the house, but they weren’t speaking Japanese.  It sounded like some sort of sing-song Asiatic tongue that I couldn’t understand.  And I’d been exposed to plenty of them.

Then I heard something I could only describe as a horrendous hiss sound followed by a shriek and howl.

I aimed my pistol up at the house as I dashed forward. 

Click here to go to Part Nineteen!

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The Danger of Hyperbole & Trump’s Criminality

So yesterday, Donald Trump used the word “lynching” to describe the completely legal procedure of impeachment that is now taking place in the House of Representatives. As is the norm with Trump, the use of hyperbole has been a constant since he announced his run for the White House. Everything is at the extreme when it comes to his word choices (that is, those words that aren’t some bizarre aberration of English like “hamberder” and “covefe”) Hyperbole, in Trump’s case, has largely been attributed to his personality. As a real estate “developer,” he was known for using extreme verbiage to describe his projects and ventures and ratings and pretty much every aspect of his life, usually without having anything near factual to back it up.

But is the use of hyperbole simply the mechanics of a narcissist? Or is there something more to the habit than is recognizable through a superficial examination only?

Hyperbole as defined is a statement that uses extreme exaggeration to make a point or show emphasis. Claims like “I only hire the best and the brightest,” “I’m a very stable genius,” and negative statements about his foes along the lines of “everything is a disaster,” or “shithole countries,” or “crime-infested cities,” are just a few of the many times that Trump uses this tactic. The frequent use of hyperbole is an interesting way to phrase things because it projects certain assumptions on the part of the target audience. “I’m a very stable genius,” for example, presupposes that anyone else – or in this case a political opponent – is not that smart at all. A “crime-infested city” represented by a Democrat presupposes that a city represented by a Republican is the opposite. In other words, even when the fact do not support the hyperbole, the presupposition of the comment sneaks into the subconscious minds of those who are susceptible to it in the first place, and acts as a reinforcement for exactly what Trump wants to instill there.

Worse, there is yet another aspect to hyperbole that makes it even more nefarious: when everything is hyperbole, nothing is. In other words, when Trump chooses to use the word “lynching” to describe the impeachment process – that is, taking an extremely horrific act and placing it on the same level as a legal proceeding – he is effectively reducing the criminality of his actions in the minds of his supporters. How? By equating impeachment with lynching, Trump pairs an extreme with a non-extreme, to the point that everything becomes an extreme, which then nullifies that extremity itself. When everything is awful or terrible or horrific then everything becomes that. So obstruction of justice becomes collusion become quid-pro-quo becomes witch hunt becomes treason becomes whistle blower becomes porn star payoffs becomes…

When everything is on the same level, there is no longer anything egregious; there is no longer any sort of extreme. In the minds of those this tactic works on, there’s no breaking point, no red line that shouldn’t be crossed. If all of his crimes aren’t even seen as crimes but as simply acts of a president, then where is the criminality? Where is the outrage? There is none because Trump has effectively leveled all of his criminal acts such that no ONE act stands out as particularly awful. No ONE act stands out as the straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back. He has effectively reduced his crimes to the point that everything looks like “just another part of this witch hunt.” And his supporters will insist he did nothing wrong, that this is all a scheme cooked up by the Deep State or the Democrats or the Clintons.

Trump uses hyperbole often in grandiose terms, but his overall strategy may be far more insidious than simple narcissistic projection. He is effectively reducing the impact of each and every new revelation that comes out about his criminality to the point that, in the minds of his supporters, those acts simply no longer register. And if they do, they aren’t worth prosecuting because no ONE act is worse than the other. The appearance is that they are all the acts of a president engaged in the business of the Oval Office while being pursued by Democrats who haven’t gotten over the fact that Hillary lost in 2016.

So as egregious and nauseating as Trump’s use of “lynching” was yesterday, the act wasn’t merely that of a deranged narcissist playing the victim card; there is more to what he does than meets the eye. Watch when he uses hyperbole in the future as a way of framing things, because there’s usually a point to it. Even if it’s not immediately identifiable.

 

Cartoon by Jerry Holbert all rights reserved