The Japanese gates, or toriis , are a common sight in Japan. They are used to mark the entrance to a holy shrine. All except one. The Black Torii, as it has become known in urban legends, marks the entrance to something else. As in all traditional religious faiths, anything different is considered sinister. However, there is no proof of anything sinister. People so far tend to lose track of where it is...or it keeps moving. Still, I had to discover the truth. Ever since hearing about the Black Torii I was obsessed with finding it.
The urban legend says, those who walk through the Black Torii are never seen the same again. This sentence can be taken many different ways. Does the gate change what you look like or who you are? I am a realist in all respects, but I do believe in an experience changing who you are. Curiosity is either a powerful force or I am just weak, but I was not kidding about becoming obsessed. I sought a better version of myself, a new way of living with my body and mind. It was a broader conflict than me of course, but at least I had the metal to find a solution for myself.
All the sightings of the Torii came from one town near a lake. I soon found this village, surrounded by rice fields that took the lake water and used it nourish the plants. It was a natural and elegant system and the town thrived. I have been all over Asia and seen many splendid sights, but this one had a unique charm. Not so forced into its beauty like those greeting card tourist destinations. Its beauty was natural and powerful.
I began by asking the locals if they knew where the Black Torii was, but they just shook their head and waved a finger at me. As if they were my mother trying to discipline me for doing something wrong. At first I thought I had made a mistake or the locals were just being cagey. Maybe they wanted to keep this curiosity hidden. Maybe it was all just a big joke, but something deep inside me said it wasn't. The Torii was real; I just had to find it. I hoped I would find it soon as well. It had been a long and arduous journey up to this point.
However, I was losing strength and patience to continue my search. Weeks had passed and I was no closer than when I started. A began to grow angry and bitter. Towards the locals and the jerk who created the legend. I began believing it was all a legend even though every fibre of my being said it wasn't. I fought myself once more, inner conflict over inner conflict. Mentally and spiritually I was being destroyed with two parts of my being. My physical pangs for sleep and nourishment began to be dulled by alcohol at the nearest bar. A bamboo shack with a strong farmer-type behind the counter. He served me drinks that looked like lime-green vodka, but much stronger. I drank it like a thirsty man drinks water. Amazing how it solved a lot of my problems that drink, even if it was only temporary. I became rowdy and aggressive towards the locals.
That's when one of the locals, in an attempt to appease my anger, offered to take me fishing. I was to leave the village the next day and I realized I haven't taken part in anything else but a frantic search for something that wasn't real. I calmed down and accepted the offer gratefully. Perhaps fishing would take my mind off it and at the same time I needed to be sober before leaving, didn't want to take the wrong bus.
The fisherman was young, but he looked so much older. Years of hard work had payed their toll on him. As we sailed out onto the flat, featureless lake it began to cloud over. The land became dark and grim, but the water stayed still and all I was concerned with was my fishing rod. Together we caught a lot of fish and smiled happily as we did. The clouds parted and a warm sun graced our backs. The village looked beautiful in the evening sun and we began to catch even more fish. It was truly a pleasure. The man began to tell me of his time growing up, how he started out as a dying child abandoned on a road by terrible parents. Found eating rice while he sat in the rice fields. The town looked after him in a way, giving him a home at times, but mainly a shack to sleep in. He was put to work fishing and for twenty years that is exactly what he did.
As the evening drew to a close I watched the lure of the fishing rod bob softly then move around a large pole. The pole was the thick and dark, jutting out of the lake. I looked up to see we were sailing through a torii, the Black Torii.
My jaw dropped. It had appeared above me. I looked at the fisherman. He didn't seem to notice the Torii. When I pointed it out he didn't listen. He ignored me flat out. He eventually looked at me and his eyes widened. He sailed the boat back and rushed out. I tried catching up with him, tried to stop him, but I couldn't touch him. It was as if he was the air. My hand just passed right through.
He told the others I had disappeared, even though I was standing right by them. They couldn't see me. I looked back at the Torii in the lake. It was no longer there. It had moved and I was trapped. Trapped in existence between reality and spiritual world. The Black Torii was real and now I pay for seeking it so long only to give up in the end. The townspeople looked shocked at first, but accepted it almost as quickly as they heard. The townspeople knew that this is what the Torii did...this is why they tried to ward me off seeking it.
I sat down on the grass, eyes wide, staring at the lake. I prayed for home. I prayed to find my way back to reality, a way to live my life onward. I prayed for safety and peace of mind. I prayed for hours, through the day and through the night. I prayed more than have in my entire life, but still found myself existing in another world. I had found where I belonged. Nowhere.
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