R. E. Taylor
My grandmother owned a small antique shop down on Cedar Rd, right across from the chocolate shop where I spent most of my time when I was kid but once I turned 12 things changed when my grandmother simply disappeared without a trace.
The police searched for 4 months but to no avail...she was gone and the thing was that she left without closing and locking her store up.
I was one of the first people in the store after she disappeared. There was a ton of dust covering everything. Most of what she sold was purchased from estate auctions all over the state but, despite her efforts, very few things sold. Allegheny Heights was just not the kind of town to be interested in old things so the few sales that she made were to people who were just passing through and saw a quaint little shop and decided to stop in. Thank God for her pension or else she would have most likely starved to death.
Whenever I was out of school for the summer my mom and dad gave me the job of doing an inventory of everything that was in the store. I hated the job 1I could usually find some freaky things that grandma would let me take home so even though I hated the job I poems
/love'>loved going through everything she had collected.
So, when she disappeared I got the job of doing a complete inventory of her shop. Of course there were a huge number of ivory, silver and even a few gold thimbles, antique cameras and some paintings by artists no one ever heard of. Yeah, they were beautiful pictures but not really anything anyone would buy. I finally made it to the backroom where she kept the big stuff and her pottery. There were antique appliances, old Grecian statues and one thing that caught my attention...a huge Chinese ginger jar. It was beautiful without a chip in the porcelain and it was inscribed with Chinese characters surrounded by naked mermaids. Grandma put a price tag on it for $12,000 saying that it was more than 1,000 years old. The strange thing was that it had a gold amulet dangling from the lid. I decided to grab both and take them to my bedroom. It took all I had to move it. It was over three feet across and weighed what I thought was a ton but I rolled it as best I could.
When I got home my mom and dad were out at their jobs so I rolled it up the one step in the front of the house. I always complained that I wanted a bedroom on the second or even third floor of a house but at that moment I was so happy that we had a single floor house I could barely contain my pleasure. It actually got a lot easier to roll once I got it into the house and finally into my bedroom. I took it and stood it in the corner of the room. Luckily the lid never came off and there was no discernible damage to it so I covered it up with one of my blankets and went back to the shop to finish the job of counting things.
I got back home about 8:30 and, after quickly eating my dinner, I rushed into my room, closed the door and locked it behind me. I did not want anyone to know about the jar until I was ready to show them.
“What are you doing in there ?” I heard my mom yell from the living room.
I had to think quickly so I pretended to be on the phone. I knew that she had walked from the living room to a spot near my room. “I am working on something with a friend of mine,” I said.
“Working on what,” she asked.
“We have a game tomorrow down at the youth center and we are planning our strategy so we'll win,” I replied. She knew that I played baseball so that sounded like a perfectly good lie that I knew would work.
“Okay,” she replied. “I won't see you when you wake up so good luck with the game.” I knew that excuse would work. Hell, her and dad never went to my games so they wouldn't ever know that I was lying.
I walked over and pulled the blanket off of the jar. It was so shiny and perfect I could not believe it. The lid was on tight. No matter how much I tried it just wouldn't move. I tried heat, vasoline, hair oil and I even went down to the kitchen and tried cooking oil but nothing I tried worked. Finally I grabbed it with a rubber glove my mom used to clean the bathroom with and twisted as hard as I could. I heard a grinding noise as the lid moved just a bit...just enough to let me know that it was working. The more I tried the louder the grinding got until it was so loud that I was sure that mom and dad could hear me but it was moving farther and farther until it came off in my hand.
My heart was beating so loud and pounding so hard that it felt like it was going to come out of my chest. My breathing was heavy as if the air was full of water and I was drowning. I knew that it was not true but my mind could not tell my body that.
I sat down on my bed. My body was shaking. It was almost orgasmic but since I was only 12, didn't like girls and was a virgin. I am using that description not going by my lack experiences. Yes, it was orgasmic. It took almost an hour for all of the excitement to leave my body. I still had the lid in my hand. The inside was covered with mother of pearl and the rainbows that came from it was absolutely beautiful but there was a symbol painted inside. Another Chinese symbol. I had to get them translated and see what this jar was used for.
The next morning I did rubbings of the symbols and took them to a college down in Pittsburgh. I had heard from some of my friends that they taught Mandarin there so they might be able to translate it for me. I went into one of the buildings and saw the name Dr. Lin May Chou...professor of Chinese culture and language. I found his office and when I got there my luck was fantastic...he was sitting behind his desk grading papers or something.
“Doctor Chou,” I asked in a voice that was nervous and yet interested.
He looked at me and smiled. “Yes boy, I am Doctor Chou,” he said with a smile on his face. “How may I help you?” I took the rubbings out of my pocket and handed them to him. He got a stern look on his face as his eyes darted back and forth over the symbols. “Boy, where did you get these?”
I got them from a ginger jar I found in my grandma's shop,” I said. “They are all over the thing surrounded by naked mermaids.”
His face turned white as he looked at the rubbings. “This is the name of Rakshasa, an ancient Chinese demon,” he said. “My guess is that the ginger jar is not a ginger jar at all.” I looked confused...after all I had seen many of these in grandma's shop. This one was bigger but no different from the others. “I think it is some kind of burial jar. They used them back in China to bury the spirits of those who did evil...even more so when the spirit was a demon which is what Rakshasa was...one of the worst there was.”
“Why ?” I asked. “What did he do?”
“He did everything he could to disrupt funerals, torture and steal souls both living and dead and so much more,” he said. “Basically he was a total badass!” Then he asked me if I could bring the jar to his office.
“I had a hard time getting it home,” I said. “I don't think I could get it down here by myself.” He assured me that would be no problem. He would get a few of his graduate students go to my house and pick the vase up. I told him when my parents were working and set up a time to send the students over.
“When you get home,” he said in a very strict voice. “Do not look inside the jar, just put the lid back on and seal it as tight as it was when you found it.” I didn't ask why. He was way too serious to answer any questions I may have so I promised and started leaving for home but before I left I told him that I wanted to be there when he opened it. He reluctantly agreed and I left.
I got home a while later and the jar was still right where I left it. Everything looked the same but for one thing...there was a strange glow coming from the opening of the jar. I was a kind of blue but yet not blue. It looked almost as if someone mixed a deep black with navy blue.
Yeah, I was curious...how could I not be? I was a boy and that had to have been the strangest thing I had ever seen but instead of looking I placed the lid gently on top and pressed down to seal it to the rim of the jar. When I finished that I twisted and pulled on it to make sure that it was sealed tight. It was.
That night I didn't get much sleep. I kept dreaming about Rakshasa. In my dreams he would dig up the graves of the newly dead and hide the bodies many miles away so that they could never be found or I would see him going into childrens hospitals, leaning over the children and sucking their souls right out of their young bodies....leaving them for the nurses to find on their next rounds. No matter what the dreams were they came to me every time I closed my eyes and they were as realistic as if I were there watching what he was doing and everything he did was worse that the thing before and all of them combined made a story that ever Wes Craven could not conjure up.
I woke up sometime around seven and before my eyes were fully opened I looked at the jar and then around my room. On my mirror were scratched the words ???????. Now, I could never read Chinese other than to order General Tao's Chicken but some how I knew what those words said and they said, “I want my diamond.” I just looked at it for a moment and then thought it best to write them down so I could show the professor when I got to his office.
My folks left around 8:30 and the students showed up some time around ten so it was safe for them to take the jar and haul it back to the university. I'd be damned if they were going to leave me so as they were closing the back of the truck I ran and jumped in the front seat.
“You aren't supposed to go with us,” one of them yelled.
I was determined that if the jar was going so was I. “That jar isn't going anywhere if I can't go with it,” I yelled right back at him.
“The professor...,” he started.
“The professor said that I could be there when that thing was opened and I want to make sure I am,” I yelled.
Now, I am not sure if I won the argument or if he just gave up because he mumbled something, got in the car and we started off for Pittsburgh. It wasn't that far of a distance but it felt longer because they didn't speak and they had some hokey religion program that promised salvation for anyone willing to give the pastor $1,000 and it sounded like he was promising sainthood for a donation of $2,500. It was all a crock of shit. I knew it...pretty much everyone on the planet knew it but the moron driving the truck took it as gospel.
We finally got to the university and I walked with the guys as they carried the jar inside. Dr. Chou was there waiting. He was dressed in a white lab coat with some kind of velvet gloves which I assumed was to keep his body acid from touching the surface.
“I did some more research on those rubbings,” he said. “It is definitely a jar that the ancients thought would hold the spirit of Rakshasa. It got lost some time around 900 years ago and ended up in a couple independent collections over the year. There were always stories but nothing was ever proven and no one was allowed to study the jar until now thanks to you.” Then he looked at me and asked me if I had looked inside. Of course I said no since I hadn't and I didn't tell him about the message or the glow from inside the jar...at least not then.
They put the jar on a low table. The students started making their own rubbings and measurements of the cap, the circumference and the weight. Then Dr. Chou started playing around the lid. It was holding tight and the tighter it was the more he tried to force it open. Both he and his students were groaning hard and breathing harder that people should but it didn't move.
“Move away,” I said as I walked up to the jar. They all backed away and I put my hands on both sides of the lid and gently squeezed as I turned the lid right for a few millimeters and then to the left and it came off easy...very easy. I stood there holding it as the other just glared at me for knowing how to do it. But that didn't seem to stop them. As soon as the lid was off they all gathered around but not too close to see what was hidden inside. Dr. Chou was the first one to actually look inside.
“Give me a flashlight,” he yelled. One of the students brought one for him. He lit it and he stuck his head almost all of the way inside before he had any kind of reaction. When he finally had one we watched him back away and I was sure that he did some kind of dance but he said he didn't but the way his feet were moving it could only have been a dance. It took his like 15 minutes to calm down but when he did we heard all about what he had seen.
“Doctor, what was it, what did you see,” I asked with a burst of adrenaline.
“Canopic jars,” he said with a voice still straining from the excitement. “It has a half a dozen of them in there. I saw them I saw them all. They were jade...the deepest green jade I had ever seen and the lids were carved in the shape of different dragon heads. One was just freshly carved it looked like...maybe some time in the last couple of years.”
“My grandma has had that thing for five years I think,” I said. “I just know she never put it out for sale and no one was allowed to touch it.”
The doctor went back over to the jar and started removing the canopic jars one by one, setting them on a nearby table for more research on what their engravings said and why they were in a ginger jar in the first place. Then, while he was removing the last jar he let out a yell so loud it almost shattered the jar. “I found it,” he yelled. “I found it!”
“Found what,” I asked.
“I had heard about it since I was a freshman in college. I always thought that it was just a legend but now it is here in my lab. I cannot believe my pure luck,” he was yelling as he ran around the room while bouncing off of the walls. Then he did something I'd never expect....he ran over and gave me a kiss on the cheek.
“What is it,” I yelled back as I backed away from him.
He reached into the jar and felt around for a second before he pulled it back out and when he did he was holding a large diamond that was blacker than even the midnight sky out in the desert. Smiling he said as he held it out, “This has got to be the Diamond of the Gods. It is said to hold all of the powers of the Chinese gods when the ancient peoples turned against them.”
“Doctor,” I said in a very nervous voice. “There was a message on my mirror this morning that said "I want my diamond.”
Suddenly his face turned white...whiter than even the clouds outside. “When you opened the jar did you see anything strange,” he asked.
“Not when I opened it,” I said.
“When then, boy,” he yelled at me. “When did you see it?”
I stood there for a minute. Yes, I was getting more and more scared with every second that passed. “When I went to close it,” I said nearly in tears. “There was a glow and a mist that came out of the top and disappeared. I thought it was just dust from the jar being so old.”
“Glowing dust,” he asked. It was easy to see that he was getting angry with me.
“I didn't know,” I said. “I never opened anything like that before."
“Do you know what you did,” he asked. “Do you?” I just stood there shaking but I managed to shake my head enough to let him know the answer. I didn't know what I had done. “You released Rakshasa. You let the stealer of souls out into the world.”
Just then the ginger jar shattered and the canopic jars flew across the lab. No one was near it and no one could explain how or why the jar broke as we were all too busy trying to keep the canopic jars from breaking. We gathered all six of them and placed them on one of the smaller tables and wrapped them in bubble wrap just to make sure that they were safe.
We didn't notice at the time but a door in the far wall slowly opened. Now, I knew that door had a squeak in the hinges. I had come through that door earlier but now it was totally silent. The doctor and his assistant were busy picking up the shards of the ginger jar while I was looking at the carvings in the canopic jars. They were beautiful to say the least and for a young boy the images were just too fantastic for words. I just stood there and stared for probably 15 minutes.
In a split second a figured appeared out of empty space. It was ghastly to look at. It had ruby red hair surrounding an oriental face. Horns protruded into the air and each sent a sulfuric smoke into the air. Its hands were burnt so badly that it was hard to call them hands they were more like paws with claws that measured at least 6 inches in length. Its eyes,..I will never forget those eyes. They were glowing green...the same green as the canopic jars but they were transparent. Standing there I could see right into the back of his skull. The funny thing was...he didn't have a mouth...at least not one that I could see and that, despite everything else, was the freakiest thing about this creature.
“Can you see that,” I asked in a strangely calm voice. I know I should have been freaking out...you know... running around, yelling, but I didn't feel that. Everyone in the room looked at me as if I was crazy and pretty much in unison they all asked me what in the hell I was talking about. I pointed and said, “Right there! You can't see that....thing standing there?”
Dr Chou told me that there was nothing in the room but I knew better, I could see it, Whatever it was it walked by me without even looking at me. “What are you doing ?” I asked as it walked farther and farther from me and towards the table where Dr. Chou and the others were working. “What are you doing ?” I asked again in a firmer voice and again it just ignored me but Dr. Chou shouted back to me that he was looking at that diamond he found in the jar.
When he said that I could see the creature's ears perk up so, at that moment, I knew who it was and what it was after. “Rakshasa,” I yelled as loud as I could and as I did it turned slightly and its eyes locked onto mine for just a second before it turned back to Dr. Chou. I saw in its eyes that it was the creature who was locked in the jar for 1,000 years...it was the demon and it wanted that stone.
“Boy, will you be quiet for just a moment,” Dr. Chou yelled back at me. "I have to be extremely careful with these artifacts. I will be just a few minutes and then I will talk to you."
As soon as he finished talking Rakshara stood directly behind him, He wasn't in the posture he was when he walked in. It was almost looking at a cat stalking a bird. It was like watching a cougar hunt a small mouse and the mouse didn't know it was behind him.
“Dr. Chou,” I yelled but as I did Rakshara raised his hand and just one of his claws touched Dr. Chou on the shoulder and I watched him fall, gasping for breath and finally withering into dust and the creature just smiled and it was almost as if I heard it laughing.
“No,” I screamed as I ran over to the doctor. He was just a pile of dust. No skin, no muscles, no bones...just a pile of dust.
I looked up and saw Rakshasa reaching toward the table. I guessed that he was going to steal the diamond and take all of the powers locked inside of it. I also knew one thing : since all of the students had taken off when Chou collapsed,. I had to be the one to get the diamond and I had to do it fast.
It seemed as if it didn't notice me any longer, if it even noticed me at all. I was able to move around without it looking at me to see where I was or what I was doing so I slowly walked up to the table. He had just reached for the diamond when I stepped between it and the diamond, snatching it from the tabe and running across the room with it. It was then that he started watching me.
It started toward me at a pace a lot faster than it was using when it walked in. It was growling loud and that kind of sounded like a bear who was protecting its cubs and its mouth was fully open. For the first time I got to see into its mouth. Yeah, there were long sharp teeth on the edges but the rest of its upper mouth was filled with barbs that looked a lot like a collection of the sewing needles my grandma used to sew with. Its eyes, I will never forget his eyes, they weren't the color that I had seen earlier...they were glowing brightly and the color was something that I could not comprehend. It was truly terrifying.
I just stood there holding the rock. It was a lot warmer than it was when I picked it up and it kept heating up until it was burning the flesh from my hand but, even through the pain, I kept my hand wrapped tightly around it. Rashasa was no more than ten feet away from me when the pain got to be too much for me. By now I could smell my flesh burning so I opened my hand and the diamond )fell to the floor shattering into a lot of pieces when it hit the hardwood floor. As it did Rashasa screamed in pain and he back off.
At the same time I looked and saw the canopic jars shaking. They made such a loud noise that I fell to the floor with my hands covering my ears but that didn't help. The noise was so loud that even through my hands I was sure that my brain was going to explode. I could feel blood flowing from my ears and nose. The noise got louder and louder until I heard a number of small explosions. I counted six in all. Then I heard something strange...six voices in different languages and they were all yelling at the creature.
I looked and I saw someone who looked like the pictures in my history book when we were studying ancient China. Another was dressed like a Greek soldier and yet another looked like someone who had stepped out of 12th Century Britain. The last figure I saw was a woman dressed in modern day clothes. She looked familiar but I wasn't sure who she was.
“Demon,” the British man said. “Turn and face us.” He stood still except that he had pulled his sword and was holding it before him. The rest did the same, except for the modern woman who just put on a show of her bravery. “You have kept us too long,” he continued.
It turned toward them and started running right at them. It was growling louder than it was when it was after me. It seemed to have one thing on its mind and that was to kill everyone in the room.
The British man stepped forward and shoved his sword into the chest of the creature. He twisted the blade while the others used their weapons to slash and stab the creature. Rakshasa swung its claws back and forth trying to slice his enemies and its bites were so powerful that I could feel them way across the room. But its claws and teeth never found a target despite several attacks. While he was trying the British man stabbed again and again, each time deeper and more powerful. Finally the creature fell onto the floor and after one more growl he turned into dust and was blown away in a breeze.
I crawled out of my hiding place and ran over and kicked the last bits of dust across the room.
The British man came of and offered me his sword. “You were brave, son,” he said. 'Not many men would have been able to do what you did. Live your life
with honor and you will be as a brave of a man as you are a boy.” I looked at the sword and it looked very familiar. I thought about it a minute before I looked at the sword and then at the man.
“Your majesty,” I said. “Are you?”
“Yes,” he replied/
“And is this?
“Yes boy, you are holding my sword,” he said. “It has served me well and I want you to have it to protect you and help you be brave throughout your life.” He walked back over to me and touched the sword. He smiled and talking to the sword. “Excaliber, protect this boy as you have me.” Then he just turned and walked away. I knew at that moment who I was talking to. I had met King Arthur of Camelot.
One by one each of the six faded away until was standing there facing the woman. She walked to me and said, “You do not know me, do you?” I told her that I had never seen her in my life. She was young and dressed like a woman right out of World War 2. She had an accent that I had heard all of my life.
I looked closer at her and saw into her eyes. “Grandma,” I said as she wrapped her arms around me. Then she whispered in my ear telling me that, yes, she was my grandma and that she was going to a much better place now that she had been saved. I knew I should have been sad
but I actually felt happy. Then she told me one other thing before she too faded away.
I took the ginger jar home that day. I made sure that the lid was always kept far away from the jar. I had it for about a week before I talked to my mom and dad and told them everything that happened and what Grandma had told me. We took it to the post office, packed it up and sent it to a museum in Hong Kong. Of course, the lid was sent separately. We didn't want to take any chances.
Me, I still run that little store my grandma owned. It is doing well and I always keep a picture of my grandma on a shelf behind me. That way I know that she will be there if I need her.
Oh yeah, I forgot about Excaliber. I still have it after all these years. It is stored in a velvet lined box in my bedroom and when I have a son...he will get Excaliber when I die and I just hope that it does as good for him as it did for me.
© Robert Taylor 2012