Our friends and neighbors cared for Mother so she could properly rest after childbirth. Women arrived with freshly prepared food and helped with household chores. They chattered happily in muffled voices while moving quickly through the house. They brought champuru, a popular dish made from tofu and vegetables that typically included roasted carrots, wild greens and boiled spinach. Turmeric, a spice that kept everyone’s liver strong and highly functioning, was sautéed with the vegetables. Someone was sure to bring stir-fried bitter melon, a food excellent for heart function. Although there were a variety of foods, the portions were small in keeping with our motto hara hachibu, that we fill the belly only eighty percent for good health so that we are never entirely full. It is important to remain a little bit hungry, our people say, just as we must always remain a little bit hungry for knowledge and wisdom.

            As the helpers scurried about, a crow’s call sounded just at the moment a dark, mysterious crone emerged at the entrance of our home. Unknown to the family and hidden inside a black shroud, the old woman stood motionless with a wooden box in her hands. The sunny day turned gloomy without warning, and Great-Grandmother, uneasy about this visitor, quickly rose to greet her. Great-Grandmother instinctively recoiled from the sinister energy exuding from the old woman. When their eyes met, she saw thin yellow pupils that were vertical slits inside dark almond eyes protruding from a face of scaly skin. Great-Grandmother had encountered such a being long ago and knew she was a Dark Sorceress. The dark one carried characteristics of another race in her blood.

            Great-Grandmother kept the dark woman at bay and asked, “What brings you here today?”

            The woman extended a wooden gift box and answered, “I have traveled from the South, having heard of the birth of a great child.” 

The villagers overheard and felt a chill in their spines.

            “I feel a closeness to the child,” hissed the stranger. “I knew her in another time.”