White Tiger, Golden Dragon
Fog wraps the street in cotton, thick enough
To hide the mist that slips in along the river.
The foreign exchange student, fresh from America,
Does not yet know the dangers of this island.
His housemother, a wrinkled old hag,
Has warned him about the Gaki
He has not listened. He thinks they only feed
On perfume and music. He is almost right.
At the corner he sees a woman standing alone,
The heavy silk of her kimono gleaming scarlet
And strangely dry in the dampness of the night.
Her black hair falls in an ebony curtain to her ankles.
His mangled attempt at a greeting
Comes out “Oh, hi, you gauze mouse.”
She turns to regard him with obsidian eyes,
Her moon-broad face blank and uncomprehending.
He tries again in English. She does not
Speak his language, but then that does not matter.
Words cannot sate the hunger that rages
Inside her. She moves towards him.
He reminds himself that his friends call him Tiger
For his skill at charming women. He puts on
His most winsome smile. She drifts closer.
Tiger congratulates himself on this victory.
When she kisses him, the lights go out
And he cannot quite seem to catch his breath.
By the time he decides to scream, it is too late
And he has no breath left all to do it with.
Satisfied at last, the Gaki
lets the warm corpse
Slide from her hands. She melts back into the mist
Going home to digest the stolen soul. As in myth,
The white tiger is no match for the golden dragon.
Illustration by Amanda Burkinshaw