Some years ago
“Haruo – bring me the files for the October issue, will you?”
“Yes, Tanaka-san,” the nineteen year old boy said as he picked up the collection of folders from his desk and walked into the office of the Fashion Editor of the leading fashion magazine. Which one it was doesn’t really matter – suffice to say it was a leading one. Suki Tanaka was standing behind her desk, wearing a long sleeved top and long skirt made of a beige hound’s-tooth pattern, a brown roll neck sweater under the top and a silk scarf tied round her neck under that, and light brown leather boots.
“The files you requested,” he said with a bow as he handed them over. With his flaxen hair, thin body, and wearing a powder blue suit and white t-shirt, he looked like he should fit in, but somehow, he never quite met the standards she wanted.
“Hmmm – unacceptable. You will accompany me home tonight to work on this with me.”
As Suki looked at him, Haruo bowed his head and said “as you wish.”
“Excellent – be ready for seven…”
Returning to his desk, Haruo frowned and looked at the document lying face up. It was a report in the local paper of unusual events in the area. “Poppycock,” he said to himself as he read of one find – paintings that seemed to date from the time of the Samurai, which seemed to depict a man who could change his form into any woman, and roamed the country doing good or harm as he saw fit. They apparently depicted the women left in various forms of restraint – something that Haruo readily admitted excited him.
He then read of an inscription found on vellum near the drawings, which the author claimed was linked. “Oh come on – like reading something like this really worked,” Haruo laughed as he read out loud the inscription.
“Katachi no chenjā, katachi no chenjā, torikkusutā to dorobō to jackanape. Sā, kono ningen no katachi o otozurete, koko ni anata no ie o tate, kesshite arukimawaru koto wa arimasen!”
“What utter nonsense,” he said to himself before he suddenly started to feel faint, and stood up. Shaking his head from side to side, he stood up and walked to the door of Suki’s office, putting his hand on the door frame as he looked in.
“Haruo – what do you want now,” Suki said as she looked over – and then stared at the young man, before closing her eyes and falling to the floor. Haruo was feeling strange, as if he was shrinking and growing at the same time, but he also felt empowered, different…
Eventually, he walked over and looked out of the large glass windows – only to find himself looking at his boss! He turned and saw Suki lying unconscious on the floor, and then at his reflection, the way he looked just like her, and was dressed just like her…
“What the…” Looking again at the unconscious editor, Haruo panicked and knelt next to her, taking the scarf from round her neck and pushing it into her mouth, before he picked up a roll of yellow packing tape and secured her wrists together in front of her, as well as her ankles.
There was a store cupboard in the office, and Haruo picked up his boss, surprised at how strong he was as he carried her in, sat her against the wall, and locked the door. Breathing heavily, he looked round and down, unsure of how he felt – save for the exhilaration of what he had just done. Picking up Suki’s handbag, he put it over his shoulder, and walked out of the office.
“I will be at home for the rest of the evening,” he said, surprised to hear Suki’s voice, “if there are any calls, tell them I will answer tomorrow. You may have the rest of the day off.”
“Yyyyyesss of course,” the secretary said as Haruo walked to the lifts, beginning to enjoy the feeling of being a woman as he walked in, and rode the car down to the car park. Stepping out, he saw Suki’s Daimler, smiling as he got behind the wheel, but her handbag to the side, and started to drive off.
Stepping into the penthouse apartment, Haruo looked round, placing the car keys and the handbag on the small table before he walked further in, the heels of the boots – no, of her boots sinking into the plush carpet. “I could never afford anything like this,” he said quietly as he looked round.
“Of course you could, Suki darling – on your wage?”
Haruo turned sharply to look at the woman who had just come in, wearing a taupe dress coat with a thin brown belt around her waist, and matching leather boots. She had a green woollen hat over her brown hair, and a brown tartan shawl tied over her shoulders.
“Hey – no word of greeting for your darling Ikuko?”
“Sorry – it has been a tiring day,” Haruo said, as Ikuko walked forward, but her hands round Suki’s head, and gently kissed her – Haruo responding after he had got over the initial surprise.
“That was nice,” he said in Suki’s voice, and then noticed the way Ikuko was looking at him.
“You’re not Suki – who are you,” she said, and then she stared at the other woman as her eyes turned yellow, and she tipped her head to one side. A fog seemed to pass over her eyes as she gasped, Haruo just catching her as she fell forward, and then lifting her and carrying her to the long couch in the main room.
As he looked on, he felt his body changing again, and walked quickly to the bathroom – only to see in the mirror Ikuko’s reflection. This time, he smiled as he turned himself round, and walked to the bedroom.
It was as he opened the wardrobe door and looked through Suki’s dresses that he saw the box, and opened it to find lengths of purple silk rope. He had often wondered what it would be like to really tie a woman up, and the opportunity was there…
Walking back in, he removed Ikuko’s hat and scarf, then rolled her onto her stomach, taking her arms behind her back and crossing her wrists. He tried to remember how he had seen someone do this in films, and then wrapped the rope around and between the young woman’s arms, forcing them together before he tied the ends off.
Taking a second length of the rope, he crossed and bound Ikuko’s ankles tightly together, then pulled her ankles back and tied them to her wrists. Taking her shawl, he rolled it up and used it as a cleave gag, before he stepped back.
“I tied her up – I need to make this look like a robbery,” he said quietly as he walked into the bedroom, emptying jewels into a pillowcase before he stuffed that into the handbag, and left the apartment…
Looking round to make sure nobody else was there, Haruo quickly crossed the road and opened the door to his apartment block, taking the stairs two at a time before he opened the door to his own flat and walked in. As he closed the door, he felt a strange feeling, like warm water flowing down him, and as he looked in the mirror he was himself again.
“What – what happened,” he said to himself as he walked to the room, wondering what he was going to do the next day.
As he walked into the office, Haruo looked in to see Suki and Ikuko standing by the editor’s desk.
“Is something wrong,” he asked as he looked at them.
“We were robbed last night – I remember talking to you, and then woke up taped up in my cupboard. Did you see anything?”
“No – I took the corrected proofs to the printer, and when I returned you had gone for the night. Are you both all right?”
“We are,” Ikuko said, “thank you.” Haruo returned to his desk, and looked at the article again, before getting back to work.
“Hello Haruo – how are you tonight?”
Haruo looked at Junko, his neighbour, as he unlocked his front door. She was a younger woman, and today was wearing a white coat over yellow blouse and tartan culottes, with knee length white leather boots.
“Very well thank you – would you care to join me for some tea,” he said quietly. He had carried a torch for the young woman for some time, but his natural shyness had stopped him from saying anything before – well, before the events of yesterday.
“I’d love to,” Junko said as she came in, looking round as Haruo closed the door.
“Please, make yourself comfortable,” he said as he indicated a low seat, and made his way into the kitchen. As the water heated, he looked back in as she sat down, her legs crossed as she looked round. When he returned, carefully carrying a tray with the pot and cups, he set it down, and then sat beside her.
“I’m glad you invited me,” Junko said, “I have been wanting to get to know you for a while now. You work in the fashion press, don’t you?”
“I do – an assistant,” Haruo said as he handed her a cup, “but I am learning how to do research, and to ask questions.”
“Oh – what are you researching at the moment?”
“Tell me first,” Haruo said, “what do you do? As a profession?”
“Oh – I teach in a junior school,” Junko said, “but one day, I hope to be a writer.”
“I am sure you are a very good writer,” Haruo said with a smile, “what are you writing at the moment?”
“A crime story – a woman finds herself held hostage in her own house.”
“And it goes well?”
“I am actually a little stuck – I want to describe how the woman feels when the men have made sure she cannot stop them, but I have never experienced anything like that before.” She smiled as she sipped her tea, and said “of course, if I was to experience that…”
“You wish for someone to take you hostage?”
“No,” Junko said with a smile, “but to act it out… Haruo, I feel I can trust you. Will you help me?”
“If I can be of service, of course I will help.”
“Good,” Junko said as she put her cup down, and took his hand, “come with me.”
“Where to…” Junko did not answer, but Haruo barely had time to get his door keys before she took him into her own flat, and left him in the main room as she went to fetch something.
“What do you want me to do,” he said as Junko put a clear Perspex box on the low table, and then carried a high-backed chair in and placed it in the centre of the floor.
“Tie me to the chair, then make sure I cannot talk – I can then feel how it truly feels.”
“Are you sure,” Haruo said in a hushed, shocked tone.
“I am sure,” Junko said as she sat down, “start by taking my arms round the chair back, tie my wrists together, then tie them to the chair back.”
Haruo took a deep breath, and then took Junko’s arms around the chair back, having selected a length of white rope from the box. He doubled the rope over, and then tied her wrists firmly together, before tying the ends to the chair back.
“Is that too tight,” he whispered quietly. Junko shook her head, biting her lower lips as she said “no – but I cannot move my wrists now. Please, take more rope, and tie my ankles to the front legs of the chair.”
“Together or apart?”
“Apart,” Junko said as she watched the young man take more ropes, and bind her ankles to the front legs, taking the rope round the leg and the cross beam to hold them in place. He then took a longer length of rope, tied it to where the back met the seat, and wrapped it round the seat back and her upper body. Haruo made sure not to touch her if possible, but when he had finished she was firmly secured.
“Are you sure this is the first time you have done this,” Junko said as she looked at him. “Haruo?”
“I have – never done this before,” he said, putting the memory of last night into the back of his mind. “How does it feel?”
“Snug,” Junko said with a smile. “Now, can you keep me quiet?”
“How would you like to be kept quiet?”
“There is a white wool scarf in there – use that, and then leave me alone for a few minutes. There are cold drinks in the refrigerator in the kitchen.”
“Open wide then,” Haruo whispered, and as Junko did this he pulled the scarf between her lips, tying the ends at the base of her neck as she closed her lips over the thick band.
“Fnkkuuu,” she said as Haruo looked at her, and then walked to the kitchen, shaking his head as he started to feel warm. He found a bottle of Coke, but as he opened it he heard the front door open and close, and then an older female voice saying “JUNKO!”
As he looked in, an older woman turned and looked at him. She was wearing a hooded light taupe jacket, with a matching waistcoat over a white open necked blouse, and a matching long skirt with brown leather boots on her legs. A large black cross hung around her neck, as she said “Did you do this? Are you robbing her?”
“No – she asked me to do this,” Haruo said quietly, “I swear…”
“LIAR! I’m calling the police.”
“NO!” Haruo grabbed the woman’s arm, and as she looked at him he felt the warmth from the previous night returning, her eyes open and staring before she fainted. He looked at her as he lowered her to the floor, and then at his arms, clad in the same way as Junko said “Whshshppnnn?”
“Nothing,” Haruo said in the second woman’s voice, “are you doing research for that book?”
“Ysss – cnnucmbckckltrrr?”
“Well – maybe your friend will do me as well. In your bedroom?”
“Ucnsskhhmmm,” Junko mumbled, “ffutlmmwhtsslkkk.”
“Of course I will,” Haruo said as he came in, smiling at Junko as he collected some ropes and a long blue scarf, and then took them into the bedroom, placing them on the bed before she lifted the unconscious woman and placed her on the bed. Stroking her cheek, he then crossed her wrists behind her back, and started to bind her.
A short while later, he looked at her, her arms held to her sides with ropes and her wrists behind her back, ne rankles bound tightly together, and a band of rope round her skirt above her knees, the scarf sitting between her lips and tied round her head, before he felt the sensation like warm water again, and looked at himself in the mirror. Walking in, he looked at Junko and said “who is she anyway?”
“Mssstrrr – ssshllrht?”
“She is – but she may tell you she fainted when I looked at her. It’s part of her story, so don’t worry…”
A week later
Haruo sat in the café, looking at his notes as the steam from his coffee gently rose from the cup. Since he had got to know his neighbour, they had agreed to go out on a date – a nice feeling. But he had also been studying the drawings that the inscription he had read out were found with – and some of the stories and legends down the years.
“A changeling spirit – I wonder how it works if I don’t panic, if I plan to do it,” he said as he looked round, and then saw a woman in her forties at the counter. She was wearing a checked short jacket with wide lapels, a white and blue striped scarf tied like a cravat round her neck, a long hound’s-tooth patterned skirt and straight black leather boots.
As he watched her place the order, he noted her voice, her style – and then packed his things away and left the store, waiting until she left before he followed her. He had no idea why he was doing this, or what he would do – only the voice in him saying to follow her.
She walked into a door at a car park, Haruo following but getting closer, as she fished into her black handbag and took out a set of car keys. Unlocking a red Toyota, she suddenly turned around and saw Haruo standing there.
“Can I help you,” she said, and then she looked closer as his eyes seemed to turn yellow, and his body started to blur, to shift, to change…
As she watched, Haruo seemed to grow a few inches in height, his chest filling out and his hair growing longer and darker, but it was his clothes, which changed from the bomber jacket, sneakers, jeans and shirt into – her clothes?
She shook her head as the yellow eyes continued to stare at her, to overpower her, to make her feel so sleepy…
Haruo picked her up as she fell into his – well, her arms, before he managed to open the trunk of her car and put her inside. Picking up her handbag and keys, he looked round and closed the boot, then looked at her home address.
“All right then – let’s get you home, and see what happens after that,” he said quietly as he got behind the wheel, and drove off…
The garage door opened automatically as s/he drove up, and parked the car inside, turning the engine off as the door slid closed behind him. Haruo was in one of the more salubrious parts of town, a single storey house on a quiet street. Getting out of the car, he looked round, and then used a set of keys from the handbag to open a side door, walking into a kitchen and then a large open plan room.
Picking up the mail, he put it on a low table, and then walked into the master bedroom, opening the doors of a wardrobe and taking out four long silk scarves. Laying them on the bed, he smiled as he went to the bathroom, and looked in the cabinets, taking out a roll of white medical tape.
Putting that on the bed as well, and struggling to contain his excitement, he went back to the garage, opening the trunk of the car and picking the still unconscious woman up. He carried her into the bedroom, smiling as he laid her down, and then removed her jacket, pulling it to the sides and slipping it down her arms, before he used two of the scarves to tie her wrists to the headboard, her arms spread above her head.
Gently, he removed her scarf, not quite believing he was doing this, then folded it and eased her mouth open before he pushed the scarf in, taking care to make sure it did not obstruct her breathing. Tearing a strip of tape from the white roll, he eased her lips together, and then covered them before binding her ankles to the foot of the bed, her legs apart.
She started to breathe in and out through her nose as Haruo watched her, and then turned round, starting to search through her furniture for jewellery. He knew morally this was wrong, but as he looked at it, she was stealing from himself - and the feeling it was giving him was exquisite.
She had some fine items as well, as Haruo put the items into a handbag, and then looked round again, wondering if he should do anything more. Something inside me, however, warned him that was wrong, it was inappropriate. So he smiled as he put the handbag over his shoulder, and walked out of the front door, waving to some of the neighbours as he made his way to the local train station.
He didn’t see the man watching him, or following him as he walked along…
“Of course I’d love to go for a meal tonight Junko,” Haruo said into the telephone, “I’ll see you in an hour.”
As he put the handset down, he looked at the handbag, wondering what he was going to do, when he heard the knock on the front door. Stuffing it into a drawer, he went and looked through the spyhole.
A man was standing outside, wearing a black jacket and jeans. Wondering what was the problem, Haruo opened the door with the security chain on, and said “can I help you?”
“I am here to help you,” the man said quietly.
“In what way?”
“Because I saw what happened in the car park.”
Haruo stared at him, before saying “I don’t…”
“I’m not the police,” the man said quietly, “I’m like you.”
“How do you…”
“I read the incantation, many years ago. Let me in – we need to talk.”
Haruo looked at him, seeing the faint yellow tinge in his eyes, and opened the door, standing to the side as he came in. “Look,” he said as he closed the door, “whatever you think…”
“It excited you, taking her place, binding her, robbing her, didn’t it?”
Haruo nodded as the man said “of course it did – it is a mischievous spirit that inhabits us, grants us our wishes our desires. Do not fear- contact this man, he will dispose fairly of what you took.” He handed Haruo a card, before saying “let me tell you my story – see if it sounds familiar.
“This would have been in about 1976 – I lived in Tokyo, and worked as an assistant in an old bookstore. It was a good job, if boring – and then one day I found the book of old tales, and read the rhyme out loud.
“I thought nothing of it, and started to head home. I had to pass a record store on the way, and as I did so one of the girls who worked there came out as well. A beautiful young lady – long black hair, thin, wearing an orange silk long sleeved mini dress with a butterfly on the front, light tights, and burgundy red laced up long boots. I smiled at her, she smiled at me, and we got talking.
“It was when we reached my car that something happened – I started to feel faint, and hot, but as I looked at her…”
“She could not take her eyes off you, before she fainted,” Haruo said quietly. The man nodded as he sat forward, his hands together.
“It felt to me like my body was changing – but it was only when I looked at my arms, saw the red silk, and then saw I had breasts that I realised I had somehow become her. I panicked – opening my car, I saw a roll of black tape, so I lifted her into the back, used the tape to secure her wrists together in front of her, her ankles side by side, and covered her mouth with several strips. I closed the door, got into the car, and drove to her address – I checked her identity card.”
“And when you got there?”
“Somehow, I got her in without anyone seeing, and laid her on the low couch in her home. I then had a look round, but was scared she might see me, so I left her there. I walked down the street, but started to feel faint, so I walked into a side alley, felt as if warm water was running over me, and...”
“You were yourself again,” Haruo said. “The girl?”
“I met her the next door. She remembered us talking, and me walking off, but nothing until she woke up in her room, bound and gagged. With you?”
“The same thing,” Haruo whispered. “But are we the only ones?”
“No – I was approached a few days later by a woman, who explained what had happened, and brought me into the circle. And now, I do the same to you – just as one day, you will for someone else. You will hear the call, and you will help them.”
“But there is this girl I love…”
“I am married, with children – it becomes your secret, your release. But I also want your help.”
“To translate the rhyme, put it in stories across the world – grow our fellowship…”