According to the letter, a man by the name of Yoshi Ando had gotten a strange sort of disease: his wife reported that it started a few weeks ago when he started speaking absolute gibberish, even during sleep he wouldn’t stop mumbling and never slept well. They’d seen many doctors who couldn’t find any reason for this illness but ‘stress’. He’d tried all sorts of medicinal treatments, homeopathic remedies, none of which helped. Also, his appetite had increased to enormous proportions, consuming ten bowls of rice for each meal. She was afraid about what could be happening to him and had turned to a monastery for support and they’d recommended the Underground Assembly and that had led to my receiving the missive.
The Ando’s lived in an apartment complex, modern-sized and fairly upscale. The wife buzzed me in. She was in her late twenties, but the make-up couldn’t quite cover the heavy bags on a tired, worried face.
“Oh,” She said, visibly taken aback when she saw me.
“Subaru Kanda. Are you Mrs. Ando?” I said.
“Yeah. Where’s your husband?” I ploughed right through the obvious hesitation.
“Oh. He’s, um, he’s in the bedroom.”
She invited me in, flicking uneasy glances my way as she led me towards the bedroom. I could hear the mumbling coming from one of the rooms inside.
“How long has he been like this?”
“Two, maybe three weeks,” She said. “I – I’ve lost count.” She shuffled forward and knocked on the bedroom door.
“Honey? The, uh, the practitioner is here?” She opened the door to a dark bedroom. “Please, come in.”
Yoshi Ando was sitting up in the bed with his pyjamas. The bedroom was Western-style, with an actual bed and carpet on the floor. I inspected the man’s eyes, skin color as he went off like a mental patient and his wife hovered by the door wringing her hands. His mouth moved continuously in a long stream of nonsense and saliva dribbled lightly from the side of his mouth. His fists were clenched white and I could see panic and desperation in his eyes.
“Looks like someone cursed him,” I said, ignoring the horrified gasp. Mr. Ando’s temp was a little high but he was conscious and alert. So, a low-grade curse that was meant to harm and torment, but not outright kill. Unfortunately, these curses usually didn’t have a resolving date or a clear goal to achieve so the victim could be afflicted for years. Decades. It was the kind of curse with a cruelty to it that wasn’t immediately apparent and allowed the culprit to hide behind plausible deniability.
“Did he insult anyone lately?” I asked, checking his heart rate. “Anything he did wrong before this? Rob a bank, sabotaging someone’s work, kick a dog?”
“No, I…” Her eyes darted about, fearful, “no, I don’t think so.”
I tilted his head forward and back, and poked at the soft areas of his belly, the man’s murmuring was like this low-grade drilling in my ear. It squeaked higher when I found a sensitive spot, but didn’t pause for even a minute.
“Okay, we need to get moving.”
“We need to get to the nearest river. Sir, can you walk?” Mr. Ando kept mumbling, looking down, and shook his head. “Okay, grab an arm please, ma’am.”