Kaori was swimming through a maze of coral. She was chasing after something, she didn't know what exactly but she knew that whatever it was she had to catch it. Yet no matter how fast she swam her quarry always managed to remain ahead of her and she never managed to see anything of it besides a flicker of motion and a swirl of bubbles as it disappeared around a corner.
As she persisted she noticed that the coral structures around her seemed to be changing, taking on bizarre shapes and colours that seemed strangely unnatural somehow, as if they had formed on some other planet than Earth. She only caught fleeting glimpses of them but they were enough to fill her with a deep sense of utter dread.
Suddenly the strange, alien corals disappeared as she found herself engulfed in darkness. She stopped swimming and looked around frantically, seeking some way out of the inky blackness. The dread feeling became one of utter terror as she realised that she was not alone.
Something loomed out of the darkness before her. Two huge yellow eyes glowed like demonic headlights above a huge mouth filled with needle-like teeth…
"Kaori wake up!" Tadashi exclaimed as he shook her shoulder. His face was twisted with fear and worry as his fiancée thrashed about from side to side, clearly in the grip of a terrifying dream. It broke his heart to see her in such a state.
She awoke with a gasp and her eyes snapped open. "Tadashi!" she cried as she wrapped her arms around him and hugged him as if her life depended on it. He hugged her back, gently stroking her hair and whispering soothing words of comfort into her ear.
"There, there. It's all right, you're safe" he said tenderly.
After a few moments she calmed down and her panicked breathing returned to normal. Only when he was sure she was at ease did he let go of her and move back slightly so they could talk.
"Kaori are you okay?" Tadashi asked as he brushed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes.
"I'm fine" she replied. "I just had this awful dream. I'm sorry I disturbed you."
"You have nothing to apologise for" he said softly. "I want to know if anything troubles you so I can help you with it."
She smiled. "Thank you."
He propped himself up on one elbow. "Would you like to talk about your dream?"
Tadashi listened intently as Kaori described her nightmare to him. When she had finished he nodded.
"I see. That thing you saw yesterday must have bothered you more than I thought."
"I guess so" she replied.
"I think I know something that'll take your mind off it" he said. "Tomorrow why don't we go on a tour around the island, just the two of us? Sunshine, fresh air, beautiful scenery. I'm sure you would feel better after that."
"That sounds wonderful Tadashi" Kaori agreed. "But for now, could you just hold me?"
"Of course." He put an arm around her and they snuggled up together. Just a few moments later both of them were again sleeping peacefully.
Tadashi and Kaori got up bright and early the following morning, eager to make the most of the day. To Tadashi's relief his fiancée seemed to have fully gotten over her bad dream. Still there was no reason to alter their plans, especially as the weather was perfect for a day out. It was just as beautiful as the previous day had been, with the same clear blue sky, warm but not overly so and with a light breeze.
After a light breakfast they talked about what transport they should use. Tadashi held up a brochure.
"What about this? We can rent bicycles and gear for up to five days."
"That's a wonderful idea" Kaori agreed. "The air here is so clean and fresh. With bicycles we won't cause any pollution and we can fully enjoy the scenery."
"Exactly what I was thinking" said Tadashi.
Soon afterwards they went down to the bike rental shop and rented two mountain bikes plus helmets, tool kits, bike locks, pumps and inner tubes. Kaori chose a blue bike and a black helmet while Tadashi opted for a green bike and a white helmet.
"Where would you like to go first?" Kaori asked as they wheeled their bikes outside the shop.
Tadashi studied a map of Okinawa he had brought with him. "Hmm, there are a lot of places recommended in that guidebook but you have to figure that all of them will be packed with tourists. Why don't we go this way instead?" He pointed to the map and traced a route with his finger.
"Are you sure that will be all right?" Kaori asked.
"It will be okay" he reassured her. "My uncle has been there before and he told me all about it. It's perfectly safe and the scenery is just as good as any tourist spot. We'll have it entirely to ourselves."
She nodded. "Okay. Lead the way Tadashi."
A few hours later the two of them were cycling leisurely through the Okinawan countryside on a narrow country road. All around them was lush forest, the trees covered in bright green leaves. The high twittering of birdsong filled the air.
"It's so beautiful here" said Kaori as she looked around in wonder at the forest.
"It certainly is. Remind me to thank my uncle" Tadashi agreed. "And we're still pretty close to the coastline. I'm sure it'll be even nicer when we get further inland."
Kaori giggled. "You really don't like the sea do you Tadashi?"
He shrugged. "I know it's kind of silly but there's something about it that's always made me feel uneasy. I don't know why."
"It's okay" she reassured him. "Everyone has something that bothers them for some reason they can't really explain."
"Thanks" he replied. Just then he saw something and brought his bike to a sudden halt. Kaori also stopped just a second behind him.
"What's wrong Tadashi?" she asked.
"Look over there" he said as he pointed off to the side. Kaori looked curiously. There was a break in the tree-line through which she could see a series of small buildings not far away.
"That's strange" said Tadashi as he took out the map and studied it closely. "My uncle didn't say anything about there being a village here. I can't even find it on the map." He got off his bike, propped it against a tree and walked out of the trees to get a better look. Kaori followed him.
They could now see that it was a small village on the edge of the sea. The buildings were mostly small one-story houses made of wood with black stone fences, sliding paper doors and wooden gates. The streets were completely empty, without a single sign of life.
Kaori noticed that the roofs were thatched. This village must be very old she thought. After 1889, when ordinary people were allowed to use red tiles for their roofs, everyone rushed to use them. The village must have been abandoned before then.
"Let's go and explore it" said Tadashi.
"Eh?" She turned to look at him in surprise. "Tadashi are you sure that's a good idea?"
He chuckled. "You worry too much Kaori" he replied. "It's just an empty old village. I'm sure it will be fine. Besides we have our bikes with us so we can get out quickly if we need to. At the first sign of trouble we'll leave."
Despite her agreement Kaori couldn't help feeling a strong sense of foreboding as they wheeled their bikes out of the trees and down the narrow dirt road that led to the abandoned village.