a rip in reality

This morning was chilly, but the skies were clear and the sun shined brightly on the yellow and green of the trees. I hit the snooze on my alarm clock a few too many times, rolled out of bed, and made my way to school. Luckily, today’s classes were at Kawakami Elementary, which my house is within eyesight of. I walked down the street, absorbing the stillness of the morning and listening to the clack of my shoes echo between the old wooden houses lining the street. I could see myself walking in the circular mirror set up at the bend at the end of the street. Ohio.

As I neared the school, I heard something strange, something I’ve never heard in my time here in Japan, and really something I don’t think I’ve ever heard anywhere come to think of it. It was sort of a deep cooing sound, followed by a quick loud “SCREEEEEP!” I  thought maybe a pig had been slaughtered. I leaned over the fence bordering the river and peered down below to see if I could see anything. Nothing. It was early and I was running late, so I dismissed the noise and carried on to work.

8 hours later, I walked back down that road to my house. School was fulfilling. I finished teaching two classes material that had taken 3 lessons to go over, and I was proud at how quickly they had learned the material. Random thoughts circled around in my head, but then, again, cutting through my thoughts, was the noise. It was different this time. Longer. Scarier. Varied. It was changing. What the hell was going on.

As I neared my house, I saw a small ambulance-like van and two people I had never seen before folding some sort of canvas blanket. The noise continued, and I realized, it was getting louder. SCEEE JEEEEJEEEEJEEEEJEEE HOOOOHOOOOO HAAAAAA!!! JEEEEEJEEEEEEYIIIIIIIIIIIPAPAPAPA PAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!! It sounded…..human.

And then I realized: it was coming from directly behind my house.

Initially, I  came to the conclusion that one of my old neighbors had gone full-force crazy in their senility. The truck outside was a paddywagon to take them away to wherever it was that crazy old people go in Japan, and the canvas those people were folding was some sort of makeshift straight jacket. This theory was dismissed after hearing the noise again, however; these wooops and hajihahaha’s were too full of power and vitality to be coming from a senile old fogey. No, this fogey was not senile: they were possessed.

I climbed the ramp up to my house to see if my neighbors and the local shinto priest needed any help with their exorcism. The very least I could do would be to fan the priest and bring him snacks as he did his work. I cut behind my house, but there were was no exorcism.

Instead, four huge monkeys looked me in the eyes, started to hoot and holller, and crazily threw their bodies up the mountainface in my backyard. They became a blur in their movements, but their bright pink faces and asses made them easy to spot. They stayed up there for at least a few hours yelling out their voodoo calls. I’d seen all sorts of monkeys, chimps, and baboons in Africa and South Asia, but never had I ever an animal call that sounded so much like a human. They really did sound like crazy people and they transformed our neighborhood into a nuthouse. Like the screaming deer (not sure if I mentioned this before or not, but Nara is notorious for its screaming deer. Literally, they scream, and they’re everywhere), their calls are uncanny, but after some time you can allow yourself to just listen to the noises as-is. I couldn’t help but think how we probably used to be like these things before civilization was born, and that we probably have a lot of this in us behind all of our language, restraint, and conformity to societal conventions.

Anyway, this was my first encounter with monkeys in Kawakami, and I imagine that my morning walks to work will be just that much more interesting now that I know there are monkeys in the hills.

Here’s a pic of one of the buggers. (Japanese Macaque) . This one is relaxing in a natural hotspring, a famous pastime for both humans and monkeys in Japan. This is actually not at all a rare photo, they do this every day when its cold.

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