Weary from a long day of traveling, and too poor to spend a night at the inn, I spotted a lonely cove that promised a quiet night’s sleep. Blades of grass tickled my ankles as the soft sand, still warm from the blistering heat of the afternoon, massaged the tired muscles in my feet. A gentle breeze that smelled of salt and seaweed seasoned the rice ball that I pulled from my bag. It was all I had left. Tomorrow, I would wake hungry. I would remain hungry.
But tonight, I lay in the sand, the cool light of the moon soothing my tired soul, the warmth of the sand absorbing the tension from my shoulders and back.
I saw her before I heard her. She glowed in the moonlight. Or rather, the moonlight glowed through her. Emaciated, she glided along the sand that I had just trudged through, grasping at her baby, pressing it against her dry breasts. But there was no movement. It was simply a small lump that had once been hungry, but would never eat again.
I realized too late that this woman was not of this world, but was still haunted by such worldly emotions as agony, torment, grief, fear. The agony of starvation. The torment of being too poor to feed her baby. The grief of that child’s death. Fear that nothing would ever change.
I know this woman. No, not her name, not her particular situation. But I know her and hundreds like her. Before her, exist the ghosts of millions who died because they were simply too poor to find food to eat. Behind her, millions more will follow. She is me and I am her. Hungry, hopeless, forgotten.
Are we destined to endure this misery even in death?
I saw her before I heard her. But it is her sobbing that torments me to this day.
Linda A. Gould
Linda A. Gould is an American who has lived in Japan for more than 20 years. She incorporates Japanese themes, legends and culture in her fiction. She is a published author; the editor of White Enso, a journal for creative work inspired by Japan; and host of the Kaidankai a podcast on Spreaker and Spotify that features supernatural tales from around the world. Follow her on Instagram at whiteensojapan and Twitter @WhiteEnso.
The Ekphrastic Review
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