The team was hunkered down in our hyper classified bunker located somewhere in the Tokyo metropolis. The second shift, in the form of Fred and George, had just arrived to take over for Tony and I. Fred looked much the worse for wear, with red-rimmed eyes, a sloppy shave, and a general air of defeat.
“Are you sure you can work today?” I asked, “You look like you haven't slept in days.”
“I haven't,” said Fred, “My girlfriend is convinced my apartment is haunted. She wakes me up ten times per night to check on the noises. Hell, when a small quake comes, she screams like a baby.”
“Haunted? What makes her think the apartment is haunted?”
“It started when the toilet went crazy; it started raising and lowering the lid randomly. I tried to tell her that it was probably broken, but ever since that night every little noise or shake sets her off.”
For those not familiar with Japan, the high-technology toilets are a common item here. They range from simple heated seat models to bum washing machines that blow dry your privates. If anything was ripe for haunting, it would be a Japanese toilet. Add in the fact that Japanese folklore has many types of ghosts associated with toilets, and you have a recipe for terror.
“So,” I said, “It looks like you have an Onryo in your Toire.”
“What's an Onryo?” asked Fred.
“An Onryo is a vengeful ghost,” I said. “There are several types, from Hanako-san, to the Akaname monster, to Aka
Manto, to Reiko Kashima. Those are just the most popular.”
“I don't believe in that crap,” said Fred.
“It doesn't matter what you believe,” I replied, “What matters is what she believes. I believe that you won't get a decent night's sleep until you solve this problem.”
“How can I get rid of an imaginary ghost?” asked Fred.
“With an imaginary exorcism, of course!” I replied. “We can perform a Toire Exorcism to rid your home of this vengeful spirit.”
“What's a Toire Exorcism?” asked Fred.
“Toire is the Japanese word for toilet and exorcism is the casting out of spirits. This'll be great!”
Whether it was due to his sleep addled mind, or the conviction in my voice, Fred reluctantly agreed to invite us over to perform the exorcism.
“Now to prepare for the exorcism, you need to make a shopping trip,” I said.
“Shopping? What do I need to shop for?” said Fred.
“We have to sell this to your girlfriend,” I replied. “We have to show you went to a lot of trouble to cleanse the apartment of evil spirits.”
“OK,” said Fred, pulling out a clipboard, “Tell me what you need.”
“Twelve beers to start, better get the Yebisu tall boys. Hell, make it 24. Then you'll have to get some Holy Water…”
“Wait,” interrupted Fred, “Where am I supposed to get Holy Water in Tokyo?”
“There are lots of churches in Tokyo,” I said. “Ride the Marunouchi line to Yotsuya, exit the station and turn right. You'll see St. Ignatius Church. There are Holy Water bowls. Take a bit of Holy Water for the ceremony. While you're at it, try to get the priest to bless the beer.”
Later that night, Tony and I congregated at Fred's apartment. George couldn't make it, but he wished us the best in our endeavors.
Fred had a standard Japanese style apartment, tiny but well appointed. Fred had added western style furniture, meaning he didn't have to sit on the floor to eat, watch TV, or sleep. Instead of tatami mats, it had wood patterned linoleum strips for the flooring in the common areas and carpeting in the bedrooms.
Fred introduced us to his current girlfriend, Joy. She was an Aussie ex-pat working as an English teacher at one of the innumerable English schools located in Tokyo.
“I'm glad to finally meet Fred's co-workers,” Joy said. “He's so secretive about his work. Won't tell me where he works, or who he works with. Do you all really work for a Top Secret government project?”
“Not at all,” I replied. Tony gave Fred the stinkeye behind Joy's back. We don't talk about work, ever.
“We don't have any secrets,” I said, “You can visit us any time.” Fred looked like he was about to interrupt as I continued, “Fred didn't want you to meet us because we're assholes. We chased away his previous three girlfriends. Naturally, he's reluctant to have us mingle.”
“Fred,” she said, looking back and forth between Fred and us, “I didn't know you had other girlfriends here before me.” It looked like Fred and Joy were going to have a “talk” after we left.
“Fred,” I said, anxious to change the subject, “Did you obtain the blessed beer and Holy Water?”
“I got the Holy Water,” Fred said, “but getting the priest to bless the beer was impossible. I never thought a man of God would lose his temper like that. If I were Catholic, he would have excommunicated me. I was lucky to get out of there intact. Luckily, I got the Holy Water before asking for the beer blessing.”
“That's OK,” I said, “We'll just have to double up on the amount of beer we drink to complete the exorcism. That's why I asked for the tallboy cans.”
“So,” interjected Tony, “did someone mention beer?”
A few minutes' later, chilled cans (well, a “tinny” in Joy's case) of Yebisu beer in hand, we inspected the door of the haunted toire. I flipped on the light switch that was mounted on the outside of the toilet room. Japanese homes keep the bathing room separate from the toilet, a much better design in my mind. As the light switch clicked, we could hear the spectral sounds of the toilet activating. Motioning for everybody to step back, I quickly pulled the door open. The toilet lid was cycling itself up and down.
“OK,” I said, “This might take a while; it looks like you have a severe spirit infestation.
“First, we need to replenish our beer supply. Joy! Fresh beers all around.”
Joy, who had backed into the farthest corner of the hallway, raced with alacrity to the kitchen to get fresh beers. I closed the door to the toilet to keep the spirits locked in.
A few steps down the hallway brought me to the bag of tools I had brought. As I pulled out equipment, Joy handed me a beer. “What's that?” she asked, pointing to a yellow electronic device.
“Electronic spirit level,” I responded, channeling my best Ghostbusters voice. I continued pulling out a Fluke Multimeter, some hand tools, and various other items.
We gathered outside the toilet door again as Joy handed fresh beers to Fred and Tony. Fred tried to demure, but at my insistence that drinking beer was part of the cleansing ritual, he accepted another.
Holding the level in front of me as if warding off a vampire, I opened the door again. The toilet seat was still cycling up and down. Motioning the others back, I slipped inside the toilet room and examined the setup. The toilet seat was one of those high tech devices common in Japanese homes. The seat, heated, of course, was plugged into a wall outlet. An electronic panel mounted on the wall controlled the various functions of the toilet.
Reaching down to the outlet, I unplugged the toilet seat. This halted the random cycling of the seat. I tried plugging it in again to see if a reset cleared the glitch, but the seat immediately started cycling again. I pulled the plug again. Leaving the meter on the top of the toilet tank, I backed out of the toilet room.
“Well,” I said, “I've managed to get the spirit to quiet down by blocking it with the spirit level. But the exorcism isn't complete.” I drained the last of my second beer and handed the empty to Joy.
Joy had crept closer, encouraged by the silence of the toilet. “What else do you need to do?” she asked.
“Fred,” I responded, “I'm going to need the Holy Water and a fresh beer. I will have to step into that devil's den and complete the exorcism.”
“Are you sure you'll be safe?” asked Tony in his best afraid-for-a-friend voice. I thought he was laying it on too thick, but a glance at Joy showed she was eating up the performance. Tony has the kind of face that lets him get away with huge lies.
“Fear has never stopped me before,” I replied.
Fred arrived with the small vial of Holy Water and a fresh beer. Cracking the top of the beer, I pretended to examine the Holy Water. Beer in left hand, Holy Water in my right, I made the sign of the cross with the Holy Water and muttered the only Latin phrase I could recall from a misspent youth, “Omnia Vincent Amore!”
I entered the toilet, shutting the door behind me and took a seat on the closed toilet lid. Draining half the beer in a gulp, I popped the control panel off the wall. As I suspected, the remote was a wireless device. It contained a multitude of buttons, as well as a small LCD screen. The screen was blank, indicating a lack of power. Examining the back revealed a small panel locked down with a Philips screw. Unscrewing the panel revealed a pair of AA batteries. Removing the batteries took only seconds. I pulled a fresh set of batteries from my shirt pocket and inserted them into the remote. The old batteries went back into my pocket.
I examined the front of the remote as I sipped my beer. The LCD panel was now active. Unfortunately, my lack of Japanese skills made me feel like a chimpanzee in the pilot's seat of the Space Shuttle. A few tentative pokes showed the remote was responding to the controls, but I had no idea of what settings I was changing. Hopefully, Fred would be spared a boiling water douche.
I put the remote back on the wall holder, ensuring it was firmly mounted. Plugging in the toilet seat showed no unusual movements.
Standing up as I finished the beer, I decided to bless the newly cleansed (spiritually speaking) toilet with my urine. Pressing the open button on the remote caused the lid and seat to lift normally. After a three (or was it four?) beer piss, the flushing button on the remote was also tested. I thoughtfully pressed the button to lower the lid and seat again.
Needing a strong finish, I decided to amp up my performance. Gathering all the tools up, I unlocked the door. Still facing the toilet, I backed out of the toilet while intoning in my deepest voice, “My Father plays Domino's better than your Father!” I finished off with a flourish, spraying the Holy Water around.
“This house is clean,” I whispered, channeling my best Poltergeist imitation.
Fred stuck his head into the toilet. Encouraged by the lack of strange phenomena, he announced, “It's stopped making those noises! Joy come and check it out.”
Joy was closer than before, encouraged by our performance. She was also obviously in need of a bathroom; legs squeezed together and dancing up and down. I guess the beer went through her faster than expected.
Joy quickly entered the toilet lifted the lid, and turned around. Her hands were on her slacks' waistband when she noticed us watching her. “Shut the damned door!” she shouted, “I have to pee.”
“Sorry,” I replied, “It's a necessary part of the process. We will now intone the Lord's Prayer while you use the facilities. This will ensure the spirit won't come back.”
Lips pursed together tightly; Joy considered her options. She could give us a quick glimpse or pee her pants. She jerked her pants down and sat as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, the lid had closed behind her before she could sit. She had to stand again, pants around her ankles, turn around, bend over, and lift the lid. She sat back down quickly as we recited the prayer.
“..forgive us our trespasses,” I couldn't continue despite my best efforts to control the laughter. We finished the prayer in a cascade of giggles and laughs as Joy's face got redder and redder.
As Fred shut the door, we could hear her mumbling, “He's right, they are assholes.”
We gathered in the living room and graciously accepted the last of the beer from Fred. As we drank, I put my tools and accouterments away. We heard the bathroom door open, but Joy did not rejoin us. Fred exited and went to the bedroom. When he came back, he said simply, “Joy's packing.”
Tony and I finished our beers and stood to leave. It looked like Fred would soon be looking for girlfriend number four. Oh well, nobody ever said exorcisms were easy.
“Sorry, Fred,” I said, “Once she started asking about our work, she had to go. It was either this or exile to Monster Island. Look at the bright side,” I said as we exited the door, “This exorcism was great. We got rid of two demons for the price of one!”