Library of Congress image.
The novella that became Cold Saké is rooted in a dark November evening in New England as the sun was setting—a scene out of Washington Irving. I had taken on the project of writing a short story for a contest and Yamabuki, who turned out to be the story’s protagonist, was still forming in my consciousness.
It was especially dark, a night of the new moon, as I headed out of the office and, on what turned out to be a particularly lonely evening, drove down the two lane tree lined road toward Boston.
I wrote close to a thousand words to describe the seductive eeriness of that night, which finally was distilled down to . . .
The dusk carried rain. The rider knew it, the horse sensed it, the sky foretold it. Behind her, what remained of the day clung to an unsettled horizon of dirty orange, jade green, and deepening blue. Ahead of her, the rutted road cut a swath where the forest snaked its way northeastward—an unlucky direction.
The idea of a haunted house is universal. Such stories are found in antiquity and retold in modern dress, such as in the film Alien. I drew inspiration from two sources for this story. Kazuo Miyagawa’s 1954 film Ugetsu, and the 1805 novel The Manuscript Found in Saragossa (aka, The Saragossa Manuscript) by Jan Potocki.
In each of the stories there is a section where the main character finds a forlorn place, but once the night full sets in, a female (two! in the case of Potocki) appear with the intent to sexually seduce the main character—a male. Inasmuch as Yamabuki is female, she is not as susceptible to the seduction of a female, even a seemingly lovely one, and in Yamabuki’s case the night turns far worse (more like Alien) for the main character than for the male characters in the other two stories.
However, the end has a slightly different twist—more in keeping with one of a woman warrior.
Whether New England, Deep Space, Spain, or Japan, the story of the abandoned house that is not abandoned captures the imagination, and like in Cold Saké,
Not all vengeance is exacted by the living.