5: The Song the Marsh Demon Sang

Harit Kunna
One day, the weather was so nice
That I poked just my eyes and mouth
Out from the marsh; and from the direction of the beach
I found I could clearly hear human voices.
I saw that two young men were coming;
The one in front was like a hero,
Equipped with a hero’s trappings,
As beautiful as a god, but the one behind
Had an unpleasant look and an unhealthy face.
Along they went, talking between themselves,
But as they passed in front of my marsh,
Just as they were right in front of me,
The unpleasant-looking one stopped dead and held his nose.

“Argh, what a stink! What foul marsh,
What revolting bog are we passing? How filthy!
What could make such a horrible smell?”
He said.

Just to hear this,
I was so enraged I hardly knew where I was.
I leapt up from the mud. Where I leapt
The ground cracked,
The ground was torn apart.
Baring my fangs, I plunged toward them,
But the one in front saw me in time,
Turned round like a fish flipping over,
Ducked around the unhealthy looking one
And got clean away.
The other one lasted for a couple of seconds
Before I caught up with him and swallowed him head first.

So, I chased the first man,
Which took every atom of strength I had,
Until we arrived at a human village, a big one.
And there coming right at me
Was old Grandma Fire,
Apehuchi the hearth goddess in six red robes
Tied up with a sash; in six red robes, a coat
And a red cane she ran up to me, saying:

“What’s this? What’s this? What are you up to,
Barging into a village? Off you go! Off you go!”

And she waved her red cane, her metal cane,
And struck me with it, and flames shot up from it
And fell on me like rain.
But I didn’t care at all,
Clashing my fangs I continued my pursuit
I chased that man round and round the village in circles.
Where I ran,
The earth itself cracked,
The earth itself was torn apart.
The village was in an turmoil
Men pulling their wives along by the hand,
Men pulling their children along,
People crying and yelling and running away
Milling about like boiling water.
But I didn’t care at all.
Raising a blizzard of earth
The old fire goddess rushed at me again
And terrible flames filled the air around me,
And meanwhile that man
Rushed into a house, and rushed back out again.
When I looked I saw,
He was fitting a little wormwood arrow to a little wormwood bow
And grinning widely he took aim at me
Which I found rather amusing:
“With a little arrow like that, how will he do any damage?”
I said to myself, and clashing my fangs
I was about to swallow him head first,
When he shot me through the throat.

And from that point
I remember nothing.
When I regained consciousness,
I found myself between the ears of a great dragon.
The villagers were gathered, and the one I had chased
Was giving orders in a loud voice,
To cut my corpse into shreds,
To carry the remains away,
To burn them to ashes,
To scatter the ashes among the mountain rocks.
Then I realized for the first time, that was no ordinary man;
What I thought was an ordinary youth was actually
Okikirmui, the godlike hero.
Because a terrible and evil god, a demon, myself,
Had dwelt too near a human village,
Okikirmui, thinking of the good of the village, had punished me
Had tricked me into pursuing him, had killed me with his wormwood arrows.
And then I realized that the man I swallowed
The sickly man, who I had thought was a human being,
Was actually Okikirmui’s excrement, which he had formed into a man
And then led to me.
Because I was an evil spirit,
I have been taken to the awful land of Hell
And in the world of humans there is no danger now
No lurking threat.
Although I was a terrible demon,
The cunning of just one man defeated me
And now I die a pointless death, a horrible death.

So said the Marsh Demon.