Minato Tanaka was sick and tired of all the health ordinances that had been brought forth by the government, but no other annoyed him as much as having to wear a surgical mask everywhere. He didn’t care for it. Made him uncomfortable and though it didn’t suppress his ability to breathe he relentlessly complained it did to the point that no friends wanted to hang around him too much these days.
After lying to his wife about his whereabouts he made his way to a sleazy night club where exotic dancers masterfully performed their abilities on the pole for a majority of male audiences. Again, what a turn off it was for him to see his favorite dancers covering their faces with those stupid masks. When one of the dancers got close enough, he snatched forward snapping the mask off her face “C’mon sweetheart don’t hide your pretty face from me.” He was immediately thrown out having broken the one rule about the place. Never put your hands on any of the girls. Another stupid rule, he thought.
Half buzzed he walked the dark filthy streets and took the train that would bring him home. It was already past three in the morning. That’s when he saw her, through the window near the back of the train wearing an expensive looking suit that wrapped around her slender form, her long black hair fell smoothly over her shoulders, but what most intrigued him were her large almond shaped eyes that peered at him from above her mask that covered her nose and mouth, still he thought she must be beautiful and ached to reach over and rip the mask right off to admire her beauty.
He purposely boarded the same cabin and leered at her from a distance. “You seem familiar,” he told the woman. With the cabin being empty except for the two of them, it was easy to have a clear sense of what they were saying. “Have we met before?”
The woman spoke in a soft clear voice. “Perhaps, do you come here often?”
Minato laughed. “As a matter of fact, I am a regular,” he was almost certain he recognized her. Perhaps, he thought, she might be one of the dancers on her way home off for the night otherwise what would she be doing out here so late? If only he could get close enough to snatch her face mask. “Say, maybe you and I can get to know each other some more.”
She didn’t reply. Only peered at him curiously.
“Oh what, you worried abut the virus? Don’t worry I don’t need to wear a mask because I’m vaccinated,” he lied.
“Won’t your wife mind?”
Minato glanced at the ring on his finger and cursed himself internally.
“Oh this? I almost forgot about this. I wear it just a sentimental gesture. I’m actually separated from my wife.”
The eerie swishing of the train chugging forward was the only sound between them.
“Do you think…” She started, when the train suddenly stopped. The doors whooshed open and onward a pair of homeless men stumbled on fighting. In the commotion Minato became distracted and when he turned back the woman was gone.
This wasn’t his stop, still he lurched out onto the train platform. On the last step of the automated stairway leading to the surface he saw her slender legs climbing up. Minato rushed after her. Outside, around the far corner he caught a glimpse of her dark hair under the streetlight. He sprinted to catch her. Through another sharp turn and another. Always almost losing her each time he finally managed to catch up. She seemed to have stopped by an intersection across the train tracks.
“Hey babe, you trying to get away from me? let’s go somewhere we can get to know each other better.”
The woman looked him in the eyes. “Do you think…I’m pretty?”
“I think you’re gorgeous.” He reached out to her face and gently un-looped the mask’s elastic bands from behind her ears. The mask didn’t slide off. It stuck onto her face, he gave it a fast pull and it came off with a slight rippling sound. Minato’s body reacted as though he was hit by lighting. His arms and legs spasmed and he revolted backwards making him land hard on his posterior and sending the nerves on his legs on a frenzy. The woman’s mouth was slit from ear to ear set in a perpetuate macabre smile. The dried blood was what kept the mask from sliding off her face and now the wound spewed fresh blood that dripped from her chin. She opened her mouth to reveal a mouthful of sharp teeth covered in saliva and blood. And still her voice came out sweet and clear.
“You think I’m pretty.” She stepped closer. Minato’s legs did not react to his commands. He dragged himself backwards as the woman reached into her pocket and took out a silver scalpel.
“Let me make you pretty like me.”
“Get away from me you disfigured whore!”
The woman stopped and her face contorted into an expression of hurt and anger and began to sob.
“Freak!” Minato kept yelling. The woman looked at him with anger in her eyes.
“You say I’m freak. I’ll show you a freak!” She lurched forward at incredible speed as Minato screamed into the night. He felt a coldness passing right through him. Then silence.
He opened his eyes and found himself alone. Patting his body in search for the mortal wound. Nothing. For a moment he thought it all to be a product of a hallucination. What the heck was in that sake they gave him? He rose to his feet and looked around. The street sign read “Kawabata-dori Street” only a couple blocks from his house. Perturbated still, he made his way home. His wife was asleep, and he made his way into the bathroom to relieve himself. Not wanting to turn on the bright overhead lights he settled by the dim brightness of a small nightlight plugged in next to the mirror over the sink. He splashed some water onto his face and looked himself in the mirror and felt a strange sensation overcome him. Slow, tingling at first, then the burning spreading to his face, and finally the pain. In the mirror he witnessed as a thin red line spread from the sides of his mouth to his ears.
“Now you’re pretty like me,” her voice whispered clear through the darkness. Minato opened his mouth to scream and in doing so the flesh ripped open making his jaw drop lower than humanely possible. The blood flowed freely, and he continued to scream and gargle in an agonizing manner. When his wife came into the bathroom, she too began to scream.
kuchisake-onna's name means "slit-mouth woman" in Japanese.
In Japanese mythology it is the ghost of a woman who was married to a samurai. She cheated on him, and when he found out, he killed her by cutting her face from the ends of her mouth to her cheeks. People believe she wanders the streets at night with a surgeon's mask and asks people “Do you think I'm pretty?” If you say no, she will mutilate your face, but if you say yes, she will take off her mask her and she’ll ask the same question. If you say no, you will be mutilated and if you say yes, she will cut your face either way to make you look “pretty” like her.