Dr Yamamoto paced his office. His eyes constantly checking and rechecking the clock above the door. His last appointment had been over an hour ago. He wasn’t one to stay late and any other day he’d be on the monorail, heading home to his wife and a hot meal.
Not tonight. Tonight she was coming. The new client.
He’d seen her only twice but even that was enough. To all external appearances, she looked a perfectly normal woman. She was maybe a little demure and overly polite, but the same could be said of most of his patients. No, what unnerved him most were her eyes. Pale and with an almost vacant expression, they peered at him over the top of that white surgical mask she used to cover her face, never removing even when he asked to examine her. He couldn’t recall a time when she’d ever looked him in the eye and that concerned him. What was she trying to hide?
Enough, he thought. Some tea would settle his nerves. He made for the intercom on the desk and hesitated when he remembered that his nurse had already left. He was the only one in the office.
Damned out of hours patients.
He checked the clock again. There was a little time before her appointment and he really needed that tea.
She’d arrived early, startling him as he returned with his tea. He hadn’t even heard her enter the office.
Now, she sat opposite him. Her cooling tea, untouched, on the corner of his desk. He frowned at it before turning his attention back to her.
‘Miss…’ He glanced at his notes. ‘Miss Matsuzaki, what is it that I can do for you?’
She didn’t look at him. Her attention was fixed on the surgical scissors she’d taken from his desk. She twirled them, the ring-handle around her thumb.
‘I have these scars…my husband…’ she gestured at the mask. He understood.
‘And you want me to fix your face? Remove the scars?’
‘I’ll need to assess them. Can you please remove the mask?’
He moved to the seat beside her, reaching out for the mask.
She pulled back.
‘Do you think I’m beautiful?’ She asked.
He stopped for a moment. It wasn’t unknown for plastic surgeons to fall foul of sexual harassment claims and he was starting to wish he’d insisted on the nurse staying. But, on the other hand, sometimes a patient needed a little reassurance.
‘Of course you’re beautiful,’ He told her. ‘But, if there is anything that you don’t like about your appearance, we can fix it.’
The mask fell from her face.
Her mouth was a mass of scars. Deep cuts crisscrossed her thin lips. Two lateral cuts, the deepest of all, radiated out from the corners of her mouth terminating at her cheekbones. She smiled a grotesque smile.
‘Do you think I’m beautiful now?’
The scissors gleamed in her hand.
K is for Kuchisake-Onna
Kuchisake-Onna is part urban legend and part morality tale from Japan. It is the legend of a beautiful woman, disfigured and murdered by her husband after her infidelity. Her jealous ghost is said to haunt the streets of Tokyo and other Japanese cities asking those walking alone: ‘Do you think I’m beautiful?’ Those who answer no are killed by her sharpened scissors but a worse fate awaits those who give the affirmative. Kuchisake-Onna lowers her surgical mask, revealing her mutilated face and asks again: ‘Do you think I’m beautiful now?’ A negative answer again results in death but an affirmative is welcomed by the spirit carving the same smile into the face of her victims.