The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923
Janie gripped her bed tightly as the ground shook, her eyes still shut firmly against the night.
“Tasukete! Tasukete!” she screamed in Japanese. Help! Help!
Her heart thudded against her ribs, but was drowned out by the rumblings of the earth.
“Tasukete! Tasukete!” she screamed louder.
She needs to get help, but the air hangs heavy with the smoke from all the fires. Hers is just one of many.
It seems like forever, but finally the earth finds her peace.
Janie slowly uncurled her fingers. She splayed her hands and closed them several times to alleviate the cramps sending bolts of pain up her arms. A deep breath only resulted in coughing.
The air’s so thick, she can write on it. She needs water. When she pulls some of out the well, it’s cloudy. She can’t drink that, but she can use it to put out the fire.
After several trips to the well and lots of hard work, the fire’s out. Her house is badly scorched, but she’s one of the lucky ones. It hasn’t collapsed and is still habitable.
With a cleansing breath, she entered into a deeper sleep. For a few moments, she had peace.
Then Janie curled into a tight ball, wrapping her hands around her head to protect it, but does no good.
Too many kicks. Too many punches. There’s no way she can defend herself. Her hand is wet, but it isn’t raining. Blood. It must be blood. Her blood. Surely the men will see this and stop. But they don’t. They keep kicking. Keep punching. Blood trickles out of her mouth.
Then they stop. It hurts too much to move. She’s not sure she can. How many pieces are her bones in? She lifts her eyes up and sees the most beautiful sight—a police officer.
He grabs her hair. She whimpers as he pulls her head up. He takes out his pistol and places it above her right ear.
Janie bolted upright and covered her ears to muffle the sound of gunfire. Her entire body trembled, her breathing and heartbeat matching the frenetic rhythm. Tears poured down her face. She wrapped her arms around her, hugging tightly as she rocked back and forth.
Who was sending these nightmares? Did they come from her subconscious or the demon? Was it using them to drive her insane? She wouldn’t let that happen. It was just a nightmare. She’d been having them for years.
Why did they feel so much worse this week? It had to be the demon.
“Vade retro Satana,” she screamed as she grabbed her mother’s Bible from the night stand. She held it up with both hands. “Vade retro Satana!” She took several deep breaths, letting the oxygen strengthen her. She turned on the lamp.
With trembling hands, she placed the Bible next to her on the bed and picked up the rosary beads. After reciting several Hail Marys, her hands stop shaking. She kissed the crucifix before laying the beads on top of the lavender pouch.
She stood up and resisted the urge to check her head to make sure it was whole. Her right hand itched. She needed to hold a paint brush, but she didn’t want to move the mysterious canvas. Maybe a pencil would do. She opened her nightstand drawer and pulled out a sketch pad and a pack of Prismacolor verithin colored pencils. She rarely sketched in black, preferring the bold pigment Prismacolor offered. What color should she start with? She closed her eyes and grabbed a pencil.
Poppy red. Red was a great color. Just holding it made her heart pump harder, her blood rush faster. She sat down. Now for the next question, what should she draw? She closed her eyes.
Below her rests her body in a pool of her own blood. It wasn’t enough to murder her. Her nose and eyeballs are gone. Even her breasts have been carved out. Her thighs are covered in cuts. The rest of her is thankfully covered by her kimono.
She tried to open her eyes, but they were glued shut.
She floats higher. Below a once a thriving city has been reduced to kindling for the fires still pouring smoke into the air. What could the Emperor have done to merit such an angry response from the gods? A bell tolls.
Her eyes flew open. It was obvious what she should draw. A Japanese dream required a Japanese temple. Rather than draw the entire complex, she would focus on one part, the pagoda. She still held the poppy red pencil, as if she had known what she was going to draw.
Her hand deftly flew across the paper, and a pagoda quickly emerged. She only paused long enough to grab the black pencil for the eaves and roof, five in all surrounding the building. At least blood didn’t drip from this temple.
She put the black pencil back. The pagoda wasn’t finished. It needed a finial on top. She grabbed terra cotta. It wasn’t exactly right, but orange or lemon yellow would have ruined the drawing.
A small square gave the finial a sturdy base and connected it to the temple. A smaller dome rested on the center of that. A long spike sprung up, the stem for her to build the rest of the finial around. On top of the dome a flower sprouted, its petals reaching for heaven. Next came nine floating rings, each surrounding the stem and none of them touching. Above that was a bush-like structure, the same width as the rings, but only half their total height. Above that were two spheres.
The drawing wasn’t finished. There was too much blank space at the top. She put back the terra cotta pencil and held the drawing at arms length. It needed a sky, a nice sunny day with maybe a few white puffy clouds and two or three birds.
As she reached for ultramarine blue, her alarm went off. The drawing would have to wait. She wasn’t about to be late two times in a row.
Janie's Past Lives