Midnight, one night before the eve of the Autumnal Equinox

The moon is full tonight. I feel my muscles burning in her light. My passion fueled, I move through the hills, jogging between the piles of fog moving in from the coast. Then I smell it. Blood: the draught of Life.

Oh, I feel my doubled heart surging in my chest, the ends of my fingers flexing wide, bloodlust engorging my loins, my thighs aching in a surge of power… Where is that precious fragrance coming from?

Ugh!  No, this is my life, mine to feed. We are not us; I am not you, old man. I am jiga, my own Self.

Chaparral and grasslands erode under my feet; I drop onto all fours to speed my path to the source of the delicious, luxuriant effervescence. Oh, how good to be feral, unbound by the shackles of one body, one space in time, one… It is here!

Through the trees, such trees rising from the grassland, familiar clusters and groves, a savannah, this tree, right here… I stop—the hair on the nape of my neck standing high, my nostrils flare wide, drinking in the heady allure. Oh, it is a “she” I smell.

In the glade, kneeling unclothed in a pool, brightly illuminated by the Harvest moon, her perfect ripe body, old enough to resist and give me a fight, young enough to be charged with pleasure and blood, oh ferrous joy and ecstasy! My vision flares, invested in awakened bloodlust, it flashes, blue cast, green-tinged on the edges. My entire body shivers with anticipation and unbridled desire as I slowly, painstakingly, disciplined and controlled while intensifying with every subtle pressing to the ground as each of my hands and feet settle, roll and rise again on the earth.

Yes, yes, I thank you for the discipline of my body, all those years of whirling around, feinting sword strikes but rarely allowing me my pound of flesh—so, you be quiet now, jiga, let me hunt my prey! It is my night, my moon, my right…

The female bathes her breasts and her flat, firm belly, her hips cradling the moon’s power in her body. She bathes her chest and her throat, oh her throat… I nearly lose my edge. Oh, Hutash, do not take this precious sustenance from my grasp.

I pause; every sinewy fiber of my body contracts, ready to ambush. I want just the right moment, as she is only a half-leap from where I crouch.

She looks up, the flash of instant, primal, feral fear in her lovely green eyes.

AH! Glorious tender flesh tearing under my fingers, her skin and meat freed from her throat, her ferrous essence slathering my mouth—oh blessed are you, Moon goddess, shine upon my feast tonight.


Twilight, Eve of the Autumnal Equinox

The Cambrians’ sensei had said the victim was on her moon time and bathing alone, some distance from the village. Sera Sensei looked at Los Arboles’ own Moon lodge, inside the village perimeter, still set apart but protected. The Cambrians made errors in their community planning. Still, the loss of a valuable, vibrant female was profound. So many people had perished over the past half-century in the great die-offs when the End of Oil came about. Hutash had rebalanced her numbers, set things back in their proper proportions, though terrible for humans to experience, to be sure. But now, every life was sacred.


Winter, A year ago

Daughter, your Aikido is strong.

Hai, sensei.

You have learned the skill your grandmother shared with O Sensei, to disappear during an attack and reappear behind your opponents, to be in two places at once. Like her, your Ki is very powerful indeed. Still, there are things you must face before you can become stronger than your grandmother, stronger than any budokan and sensei along the Central Coast.

Is it important to be so great? Sera listened to her father, but she did not understand.

No, of course not. Nothing is certain in this world; change is the only constant. And change is your destiny, if you can face jiga’s harvest…

Hai, Sensei. But Sera did not want yet to fully comprehend what her father meant.

I doubt, Father.

You should, but then again, there is no room for doubt in the heart of Budo.


Twilight, Equinox Eve

“It is here.”

My hair stood on end at Sera Sensei’s softly spoken words.

“Here, Sensei?”

Sera stood and I bowed, standing after her. She moved to the door of the small shrine and looked out beyond the grove of restored ancient oaks, oaks our people had spent generations restoring after the End of Oil.

“I’ll wake the Yudansha,” I offered. The Guardians and teachers would be helpful defending the village against this savage evil. If It was here…

Sera’s hand lifted, “Iie, no. I will watch for it tonight. Sleep tonight, rest and be ready, Doshu.”

Without looking at me, she descended the steps from the shrine, heading to the clearing on the eastern perimeter of Los Arboles. I felt safe and guilty too. Had I done something that offended her, that she would not want me to accompany her? I knew better than to doubt myself. Sera Sensei was the greatest warrior along the coast, legendary, greater even than her own father, whose glorious seppuku was told at every turning time of the earth around the sun by all the People.

It may be a dark time, but what an honor to live here, now, Doshu to the mysterious Sera Sensei. I moved to the back of the dojo and rolled out my bed to sleep, obeying my sensei. But I left an abalone with almond oil lit on the top step for Sera Sensei, just in case.


Morning, Autumnal Equinox              

My body shivers with heightened desire. These people amongst the trees are very familiar to me. Their skin is painted blue, spirals and expressive lines on their arms, shoulders and faces. Yes, I know, from the older world. Don’t mock me.

Their ancestors…an island chiefdom between cold seas and a wide channel.

Uff! You make my mind engage, diminishing my rightful bloodlust. Curses upon you, old man.

Ah well, at least I’ve sated myself for a few hours more with the moon woman and her offspring. I want someone to walk within, so I can see these blue-pictured humans up closer.

This one appears a good candidate, separate from the others, watering the plants, no weapons, but still too far from the shadows. Wait for the fog to roll and settle…hiding him from the others…


Twilight, Eve Autumnal Equinox                               

Sera had sent five daisho to keep watch for the Cambrians. But we knew It was already here. Sera Sensei said It was waiting somewhere in the copse of low willows by the creek on the eastern edge of the village.

I kept watch with her there. I watched the trees while Sera walked along the road that led to the bridge over the creek before turning south toward Cambria through the hills. I saw nothing in the trees and watched Sera as she noticed a man moving near the edge of the willows beside the road. Dense fog roiled near the gap in the foliage. Sera moved slowly in the man’s direction, one eye on the trees.

I realized, suddenly noticing my sensei’s hand on her sword, that It had been in the trees by the road a moment before but now was not. I moved closer to the trees in front of me, my hand ready to draw my own sword. I peered intently into the trees, but nothing was there. I moved toward Sera Sensei.

As Sera moved toward the man on the road, I recognized him as Hiro Yatsuma’s Uncle Jorge. He walked without his usual limp until he looked at Sera and stopped. He began to limp, a little more than usual. Odd.

He hurried past her, and I caught up to her. We watched him leave the road toward the edge of the oak grove. She moved back to the willows behind us, walking up to them. It wasn’t there any longer. She paced back and forth to be sure, then moved back to the middle of the field and sat seiza, adjusting her swords in her belt. Swiftly, I did the same a pace behind her.

We would wait for It to return.


Spring, A Year Ago

The whirl and rush of air between the loose cuffs of their hakama pants crackling at the ends of their movements broke the silence between father and daughter.

“We carry life and death over our shoulders, the power of action between them in our hands. The kami spirit in our swords mediates the whole; that is our budo.”

Sera allowed her father’s words to echo in her ears but then melt away. He was not letting up for an old man. Today was an auspicious day, but a day of life and death, a day of kami and a day of her right-action to speak loudly to the cherry blossoms that filled the pre-dawn air of the dojo with a mocking sweetness. She couldn’t help but feel these things and hear his words from the night before, but his attack was ferocious, and she could not allow herself the moments of thought to disrupt her Ki as she defended with all her skill.

Her father knelt on the edge of the mat facing the sunrise. She glanced up as her hand went to her long sword. Beyond the cherry trees was a field and the grove of willows that lived near the creek. As her eyes flashed upon that place, her father’s last words to her echoed: A guardian lives with violence so that others will not. Tomorrow your path begins, but on the other side of the Sun, your destiny will lie in wait.

Again, Sera let his words go, as she must let all of him go.

His blade flashed, and hers finished, his action completed as a cherry blossom rose from the dojo step.


Dawn, Autumnal Equinox

Sera arrived at the small  ‘ap of Hiro and Miko Yatsuma. Her movements were artful, running with fluid speed like a waterfall spilling from rock to rock.

I was already there with another Guardian. Sera noticed the blood trail leading from the door between our feet.

“It goes into the tule reeds over the embankment,” I said in a low voice. “It’s Miko.”

Sera looked around the crowd, her eyes scanning for someone.

“A witness saw a cat, big one dragging her body. She was already dead.”

“Where is Miko’s Uncle?”

I blinked, confused. “He lives on the other side of the village.”

Sera didn’t say anything, but I suddenly understood.

“It was no cat,” I answered.

“Hai,” Sera said, moving in the direction of the reeds.

Two more Guardians arrived, one taking up a position at the door of the ‘ap and the other trailing Sera Sensei and me to the embankment.

Sera paced back and forth at the reeds, slowly, mindfully placing each foot upon the soft ground. It had been there but wasn’t now.

“Find Jorge Yatsuma. Watch him and don’t lose sight of him,” Sera told the Guardian beside me.

Sera directed me, “The body will be upstream, near the misogi pool. Take two guardians and recover the body; send one to find Hiro at once.”

Sera Sensei returned to the dojo. I knew there would be no killings once Jorge was followed and Hiro found.


Midday, Autumnal Equinox               

At midday, instead of the jubilant acorn harvest, a funeral pyre was lit for poor Miko Yatsuma’s body. Los Arboles was in mourning. Jorge Yatsuma stood at the edge of the crowd, arms folded. A short distance away was the Guardian who had been following him all morning.

Sera Sensei stood by Hiro Yatsuma near the pyre. Carlota Salazar, the village sage, lit the pyre with Hiro and Sera together. I saw Sera’s eyes were on Jorge Yatsuma, watching him intently.

“Sisters and brothers,” Carlota began. “While it would be appropriate to set aside our labors and grieve today, I am certain the tree nation will not wait for the harvest to be suspended. Please, let’s harvest the trees’ bounty together in a distinguished way. Perhaps doing this silently in honor of our daughter, making our prayers with our offerings, we can sing her spirit to the star people under the moon tonight.”

Carlota looked directly at Sera and at me when she spoke, then turned to the Nashima family and asked them to harvest on the Yatsuma’s behalf.

Carlota’s words were to prevent what she suspected would happen next. As Guardians, we live on the razor edge between life and death, with the duty to die for the people, their lives precious but ours disposable for that purpose. It’s what gave us our power. And that power comes with strict duty and loyalty.

After the ceremony, the villagers went to the granaries. The Guardians kept watch at the grove and at the village perimeter. Sera, two other senior shihan, and I returned to the dojo.

Every bone in my body wanted to offer myself to Sera Sensei for seppuku. Though it was legitimately my teacher’s failure to prevent the death of Miko, I could not bear to allow her to accept the blame. My devotion to duty ran deep, as did that of the other two shihan, who would each offer their wakizashi blade to cover the shame of their Doshu and their teacher. But they would wait for me to offer first. I did not, knowing the wisdom of Carlota’s words and the pensive expression on my sensei’s face.

Sera Sensei directed us to sit seiza; we were grateful for the gesture. She lit incense on the shrine to O Sensei and sat seiza zazen in meditation. We sat zazen behind Sera Sensei, waiting for her to explain what we all suspected, that the greatest challenge to her as Sensei was about to begin. The greatness of her teachings so far was not her destiny, a determined fate that was far greater. We knew this was a legendary moment, and it especially terrified me.

Outside the dojo, the village gathered the acorns. Delicate spirals of smoke from the burning incense placed all around the grove mingled with the oak and sage, carrying the mourning prayers and the weight of their offerings to the wind.


Twilight, Autumnal Equinox

I keep this body’s head lowered, my gait hurried as I glance over my shoulder. The sword warrior following me emerges from the cut in the hill behind me. That woman, I know her now, and I have to control myself and silence the old man within as I pass her. Avoiding her eyes helps me. I feel so exposed I flinch. Uff, I don’t like to flinch. Move faster, get to the trees!


I watched as Jorge crossed to the side of the path opposite Sera, quickening his steps as he passed her. Something in his eyes caught our attention.

It was a flash; his eyes changed color, yellow with red around the outside. I thought perhaps I saw an illusion, a trick of the conscience, but Sera Sensei recognized it as quickly as it had appeared and was gone. To Sera that look seemed familiar.

Sera lifted her hand, and the Guardian trailing behind and I fell into position behind her as she followed Jorge. Her eyes never left him, boring through his back, making whomever he really was understand without doubt that she was in charge, and there was nothing he could do to change that. My comrade and I exchanged glances. Sera Sensei was powerful, but I had never before witnessed her like this, a moment of pure unbridled aggression.

Beyond the grove and the harvest’s concluding activities, we flanked Jorge. As we all approached the opening in the willows by the creek on the east side of the village, two Guardians blocking the path ahead stepped aside, making it clear to Jorge, or whomever he was, what was expected of him. Jorge hurried into the shadows, trailed by Sera Sensei and then me, the Guardians resuming their guard in the middle of the path.

Inside the trees I moved my hand to my katana long sword, my gait shifting from walking to gliding forward, poised to defend should Sera Sensei direct. The evening marine layer had reached the creek bottoms first, and Sera disappeared into the swirling mist. For the first time that day, and in my entire life, I felt profoundly distressed.

When the howl came out of the dense fog, my body quivered. The sound was bone-rattling like the terror provoked by a sudden powerful earthquake. An instant later there was movement in the fog before me. With a flash, my katana was drawn, and I dove into the fog, my strike strong and direct.

My strike found nothing but air, and my hand was light, empty, my sword removed before I could react. The ground was cold against my back, and I had no recollection of how I had fallen. Sera Sensei looked down at me, her grip firm around my sword hand, my katana itself lightly grasped in her other hand at her side.

“Today is not the day of your glorious death, Doshu.”

Hai,” was all I could manage.

Sera helped me onto my feet and presented my sword to me graciously, blade parallel to the ground, edge toward herself. I bowed quickly, accepting the blade, waiting until she stepped back before straightening.

Already moving toward the Guardians in the path, she said over her shoulder. “Jorge Yamatsu is in need of assistance at the bridge.”

The man I helped back to the village was not the same man I had followed to the bridge. The limp was back, and he was terrified, mumbling incoherently in Spanish and Japanese. His hand clutched his throat, and I had to coax him like a goat past the dojo.


Dark Falls, Equinox

The Guardians stood in positions around the perimeter of the village, and one at each door of the people’s homes, all warriors within sight of each other.

I went inside the tea house behind the dojo while Sera sat seiza, facing the east, the dojo’s shoji screens open to the night air. I followed my instructions diligently. But I confess, that night I did not understand them.


Night, the turning of the earth around the sun

When the screams startled me, Sera Sensei was already gone from the dojo. I set the tea ceremony down on the step and grabbed my swords, running. When I reached the path to turn in the direction of the screams, something darker than the shadows struck me, sending me sprawling backwards into the high grass. Sera Sensei flashed in the moonlight a moment later, both swords drawn, raised to strike as she flew across the ground in pursuit.



This woman is familiar to me; I know her.

I pace with her as she faces my direction in the field. I know she cannot see me, but she knows exactly where I am. She paces back and forth like a jaguar, her swords in her hands at her sides. I can smell no blood in her, only fire and smoke.

I feel angry, foolish for almost having been caught and for being detected before I could make a meal of that weak and pathetic male whose body I used. I don’t like this witch, but the old man within tells me I cannot strike at her… Why do I listen to you, old fool? I will take her for my sustenance. Why do you have power now to deny me?!  It makes me spit, makes no sense!

Back and forth we pace, facing each other; she never takes her fierce eyes from me. How will I repay her boldness?  How can I make her pay very dearly indeed? My body ripples with bloodlust once more…


I brought the tray with the tea ceremony. Several shihan came behind me with the brazier and the utensils. We set out the materials Sera Sensei had requested. She had remained sitting seiza zazen since chasing the dark beast into the forest. A dense pile of marine layer moved ominously into the sky over the village behind them.

I was directed to sit a few paces behind her. Sera Sensei prepared the brazier and began the precise movements to make the ceremonial tea. Her swords were placed carefully behind her. I knew better than to question her; a tea ceremony and its requirement for warriors to abandon their swords was strictly obeyed, but the wisdom of this now…

When the tea was ready, Sera Sensei bowed toward the forest and drew back the sleeve of her gi jacket. Using a tanto, she cut her arm and let her blood flow openly. She wiped the blade with a cloth and placed it behind her. I was alarmed but kept my place. Nothing this day or yesterday had been normal or proper.


Uff! The witch is taunting me…oh see! Her succulent essence drains wastefully from her arm. Arrogance! I pace back and forth, the scent flaring in my nostrils, then stop and lie down again, facing her. She waits for me, her silence and immobility mocking me.

Finally, I cannot stand it any longer. The moon is high overhead. I wait only for the fog to hide my approach.

Now, now is the time for the kill. I drop on all fours and rush forward, bloodlust rising in my throat.


The Creature exploded from the roiling blackness of the darkened mist. Its maw gaped, froth and hate spilling from the fangs that flashed in the moonlight. Its clawed fingers splayed, closing toward Sera Sensei’s throat.

Sera’s hand rose, her face snapping upright.


Her kiai was like the crack of a whip striking the beast in the face. “It” stopped a hair’s breadth from her hand.

The beast paced side to side—one, two, three steps, turning back the other direction—one, two, three steps, turning…it’s hot, foul breath rising on the night chill like smoke. Hatred seethed in its snout; saliva fell hissing, a hot splatter onto the grass.

“Tea.” Sera said.

She poured a cupful by the bamboo dipper, turning the cup three turns to face the Creature.

No. I refuse.

“You know that you cannot refuse.”

You would steal my freedom.

“You were not born to be free.”

I am feral. I am all-powerful. I AM Free!

Sera lifted her bleeding arm and over the beast’s cup, squeezed.

The Creature howled in frustrated lust, jaws snapping convulsively as the blood dripped in a slow, thready drizzle into the tea.

Iie! I will not yield my freedom! I am feral!


I am your death wish, buke!

The Creature howled, its entire body shuddering and quaking in paroxysms of bloodlust. Its voice made the hair on my neck and arms stand on end. I had to steel my nerves to endure the fear the sound of Its voice induced.

You are disgraced…


… I have beaten you twice!


That girl’s death is your responsibility, Guardian.

“Indeed. Drink.”

The beast lunged at Sera, its face stopping nose to nose with her. Saliva fell from the shuddering maw, steaming as it spattered onto the kettle and the brazier’s charcoal.



Sera lifted the bloodied tea to the Creature.


The marine fog enveloped the pair locked in confrontation, hiding them from me. I wanted to move my hand to my swords but could not. My hands were as lead on my thighs, the gravity of the sun herself pressing my palms to my hakama.

Trust in one’s elder comes at a price—internal calm...


Inside the fog, the buke, the warrior duo maintained their motionless combat.

I do know you…

“And I know you, Jiga Sensei.”

Sera watched the Creature’s eyes flash, yellow in the center, red rimming the outside. Her own vision flashed simultaneously, blue and green rimming it.

I am not you!

“End this, Jiga Sensei. You are jiga, and I am one.”

The Creature’s lips curled back to fully expose rows of serrated teeth, fangs, fire, destruction, superheated plasma: the history of humanity’s violence. The blood-curdling kiai shriek swallowed in on itself.

“Drink, Jiga Sensei.”

The Creature could take the scent of the familiar blood no longer; its name had been spoken aloud, before witnesses, no less. Honor-bound by tradition, by millennia upon millennia of coexistence between human lust and divine human spark It, jiga, the Beast possessed no choice but to obey Sensei's command.

Sera drank the tea from the cup as the mist swirled away from her, leaving her sitting seiza in the frosted grass.


My body tensed, finally able to apprehend what befell her and the Creature.

As she drank, dark tendrils like smoke curled from the cup and slid into her nostrils, absorbed into her skin.

She replaced the cup on the tray.

She straightened the collar of her gi jacket, smoothing it discreetly left from her shoulder down to the right, stopping at her obi belt.

She bowed low toward the placid forest.

I quickly fell to the grass in formal rei. When I finally straightened, Sera Sensei was bowing to me. Trembling, I returned the rei and felt a shiver of cold breath fall heavy on the back of my neck in that moment, when Sera Sensei’s eyes looked up…and flashed. 

 Christopher CK Page


Christopher “CK” Page wrangled a creative writing degree from an unsuspecting Californian university, authored & published speculative fiction stories, along with several novels, among other shenanigans. CK writes from overpopulated, under-watered California with a brilliant Mate and some Beasts (adorable knuckleheads of felus domesticus)—there are some grown-up Offspring somewhere—“Call yer father!”  

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  1. There are so many great lines to love in this piece. Lengthy, but worth the read.

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