sada locks his car and turns away, leaving it parked on the shoulder of the highway. He crosses the low ditch and begins climbing upward, following a stream. It's early autumn; these days, the sun stays low and cool, rolling along the horizon for hours. Most of the leaves on the ground are last year's—dried and bleached out, the same dull white as bones.
     Walking under the trees, he breathes in, then exhales, the air cool in his throat. He has a sweater tied around his waist, a canteen on his hip, an energy bar in his pocket. In his hands, he carries only his fishing pole.
     A year ago was the first, the only time that he's been to this place. An engineer where he works told him it resembled Japan, and that drew Asada here, stirred his curiosity. His family had moved to the States when he was fourteen, and now he is forty-four; while he doesn't recognize the similarity in this landscape, he hopes it might startle memories from inside him. He has put off his return all spring, all summer. He had to come before his hesitation stretched out into the first snowfall, before the trip was delayed into next year.
     His breathing is already coming faster; he slows, but does not stop. This slope climbs for miles, even beyond the timberline, far beyond his destination. He is hiking to where an old stone mill, gutted and abandoned, sits beside the stream, where the remnants of a dam still collect a shallow pool. The stillness there is only disturbed by the gentle slapping of leaves; aspens circle the water.
     The year before, standing beside the pool, he had seen what he believed was a shadow on the stone wall of the mill. It folded, though, then spread, and he could not see what might have cast it. Climbing along the wall, twisting higher, the shadow moved as if it held weight and was expanding, growing arms and legs. Asada's chest had gone cold. He had fled down the mountainside, stumbling, not looking back. This time, he won't run. He'll stay. He has not been surprised for a very long time, and he feels a desire to be shaken.
     The bank is rough and torn where, months ago, the swollen stream ran. He crosses the stream, trying to follow the clearest path, and fish dart from stone to stone, abandoning the shadows along the edges. Bending, he tightens the laces of his leather boat shoes, the most casual footwear he owns. He wonders if this would be easier with hiking boots, and whether people often hike alone. Perhaps it's usually done in groups, or in couples. He tries to imagine a woman walking beside him.
     There is a movement in his peripheral vision, to his right. A deer, standing only twenty feet away, raises its head and stares. It's a doe, slightly darker than the the leaves on the ground, ears out like funnels, light showing through them so Asada can see the red veins forking there. He can smell her, also, sweet and rank, tight in his nostrils. Lifting his fishing pole, he points it like a gun; the cork grip presses against his cheek as he sights down the round, metal ferrules, straight at the deer. She only snorts at him, unimpressed. She walks away slowly, her white tail switching back and forth.
     Asada also walks on, in the other direction. He is disappointed in the deer, for not running, and of himself, somehow, for not making her afraid. This is not a marked trail; he is probably the only person for miles. He wonders how she became so accustomed to people.
     Again, as he climbs, he thinks of women. At the computer company where he works, there are several he's friendly with, yet the ones he's pursued have rarely wanted to know him better. White women realize he's not as exotic as he looks, while Japanese women consider him slow to assimilate, to adapt to life in the States. None of these women work in his department, so they cannot understand, cannot know how it affects a person, translating technical correspondence. He uses Japanese words that most Japanese would not know, English words that Americans would never encounter. Together, these two groups of words are like a third language—one beset by redundancy, with two words for every single thing, with almost no one to share it.
     Tree branches cross like latticework overhead. He holds his fishing pole in front of him, clearing spiderwebs. Today, he doesn't mind being by himself. He doesn't want to explain his expectations to anyone and, besides, he feels things are more likely to happen if he's alone. The bushes thicken. Parting them with his hands, he looks down just in time to avoid stepping on a dead bird. A crow or raven, its black feathers still shiny while its eyes crawl. Asada holds his breath. After a moment, he hears a car on the highway, distant now, somewhere below. He leaves the dead bird behind.
     He has been walking under the trees, in the shadows, for over an hour when he steps into the clearing. The side of the mill facing the pool is lit by the sun. The white stone wall looks cold and bright; the three windows—two low, one above—are squares of darkness. For a moment, it seems that the mill has moved closer to the water, and then he realizes it's the breadth of the pool that's changed.
     The pool is all reflections. The tips of the aspens bend inward, stretching there. Birds dart low across the surface, doubling in the water, folding their wings to plummet, opening them to rise. Asada stands near the low dam, where all the earth has been washed from between the white stones. He looks into the mottled gray trunks of the aspens, at their bright yellow leaves in the sun. Behind the mill, a broken fence stretches, wooden rails down in some places; further along, a whole section has collapsed.
     He notices that there's no lure on the end of his line, not even a hook. It doesn't matter. He casts out his bare leader and the pool ripples and settles. Little trout rise, curious, holding themselves steady in the clear water. He watches until they lose interest, and then he reels in the line. A breeze rolls down the mountain and the aspens' round leaves slap and clatter. Asada shivers, sweat drying inside his clothes. His legs and feet are sore from the hike.
     Then, it begins. Ten feet from where he stands, where the pool drops off into slightly deeper water and he can no longer see the bottom. It's as if something is rising from below—an indistinct shape, its edges finding clarity, different shades verging on colors. A round face, almost, a darker body, flickering, trailing off. Asada's heart accelerates, his scalp tightens. A cloud's reflection slides across the pool, blurring the surface, and the image does not return. He looks up, then, toward the mill—it seems a dark shape moves in one of the low windows, as if someone was standing there and has slipped behind the wall, beyond where he can see.
     Asada unties the sweater from his waist and sets it on the ground, in case he has to move quickly. He reminds himself that he is more curious than afraid. Attempting to appear calm, he again casts out his line; this time, the trout don't even bother to pretend they're interested. He looks away from the pool, squinting into the aspens, the shadows between them. What he thought were natural marks are actually letters, he realizes, initials and words that people have carved into the trunks. Between the stones at his feet, he now notices cigarette butts; they don't appear to be especially old.
     The second time the figure rises, the reflection is in a different place—across the pool, nearer the opposite bank, surfacing between the trunks of trees. Asada looks away, at the mill. The lower windows are empty. He looks up, to the window above.
     It is the figure of a woman, standing thin and dark. Steady, unmoving, hands held out in front. It is difficult to make out the face's expression, to tell if the features are Asian or otherwise. The long hair is tangled, hanging across the face. The dress is loose, or perhaps it's a kimono; it hangs as if wet. The figure appears to have just climbed out of the water.
     And then—it's difficult to tell if the figure moved, or how, or which direction—the window is empty. Asada almost calls out, but he does not. There are rules, he feels; calling out might simplify the situation, and that is not what he desires. Waiting, trying to remain patient, he wonders if someone standing in the trees, somewhere further up the slope, might cast their image into the pool so it was reflected upward, so it appeared in the window. No, he decides—if that were the case, the figure would have been upside down.
     Asada sets his fishing pole on the ground. Wading, tripping through the bushes, breaking low branches in his hands, he heads around the back of the mill. The wooden door has a lock attached to it, but the hasp has been torn from the wall. The bottom of the door is sunken into the ground; he manages to bend the top enough to wedge his way through.
     There is no one else inside. Above, there is the sky, no roof at all. There is no remnant of a second floor, either—not even a ledge beneath the upper window, twenty feet above. No place anyone could stand. Asada steps over crushed, faded beer cans, over the ashes of an old fire. A trickle of water enters under one wall, slips away beneath another. Standing at one of the low windows, he looks out across the pond, to where his fishing pole rests, next to his sweater, which is folded on the white stones. He bends his neck and looks up the smooth wall, at the high window. If he wants the figure to return, he decides, it would be best to return outside, to stand where he had been, to concentrate on the pool's reflections. He crosses to the door and forces his way back through.
     The air has turned cooler. He puts on his sweater, eats the energy bar, drinks water from his canteen. He holds his fishing pole like a sword, slicing it through the air. Now it is dusk, and the spaces between the aspens are difficult to see; above, the yellow leaves are pale, unlit. Shadows extend darkly across the pond, threatening to seal off all reflection. He wants there to be every chance, but soon he will be unable to see; he'll have to follow the stream through the darkness, its sound, all the way down to where his car waits.
     The black shape comes through the water like a seal, cutting smoothly beneath and not quite breaking the surface. No reflections remain, only shadows. Asada looks upward, toward the mill. The figure has returned, and the face is now more distinct; the hair is thrown back, the features clearly Asian. The arms are still held out. The edges of the shoulders begin to shiver, as if the solidity cannot be maintained, as if the whole thing might dissipate, blow away.
     And then it begins to climb through the window. Asada expects it to leap into the pool from that height, but it does not. And it does not swing a leg over the sill, but slides through headfirst. As it comes, it changes, turning fluid, seeping beyond itself. Shadowy, it twists like smoke, rolling down the stone wall, leaving wet marks in its wake, loosing tentacles and spinning them back to the center. At the bottom, the mass unfolds, never settling; it slides across the ground, into the thick bushes.
     Asada stands, holding his breath. He will not turn his back. He will not run. His ribs flex inside his chest, their cage rattling its hinges. His senses of taste and smell, his touch and hearing and sight, they are all whittled sharp. In a moment, the head rises above the line of bushes, on the other side of the pool, just visible against the dusk. Wavering, becoming solid, the body appears in sections, as if ascending a hidden flight of stairs. Then, feet still hidden in the underbrush, the figure starts up the slope. The legs seem to move slowly, yet the body slides smoothly along, its speed increasing. As it heads into the trees, the shadows thicken behind it.
     Asada steps quickly, his feet kicking the white stones so they skitter across each other and splash into the pool. When he reaches the aspens, he hesitates, then begins running between them, up the slope, in the direction the figure disappeared. His fishing pole rattles through low branches, snaps in half across a tree trunk; he stumbles, drops it, the line tangling and snapping, the whole thing dragging behind him and finally letting go.
     He arrives in a clearing, the ground still slanted, where trees have fallen. Rotten and hollowed trunks cross each other; dried grass pokes up between them. Asada feels that he is close. He breathes deeply, bending over, his hands on his knees. And then, inside a round knothole of one of the fallen trees, he sees what looks like fabric. Dark and wrinkled, yet not a shadow.
     He steps closer, and pushes his finger gently through the knothole. As soon as he touches the cloth, a high-pitched screaming sounds from the fallen tree. Asada stumbles backward, falling to the ground. The quiet returns, and yet, through it, there is the faint sound of scratching, of movements within the log. Asada stands, and moves carefully to the hollow end. He squints against the falling darkness.
     In a moment, a tangle of black hair begins to emerge. It is a girl, he realizes, a young woman. Loose bark falls from her hair; there's dirt smudged on the pale skin of her face. Her features are delicate, beautiful. Slowly, she crawls from the log and stands, five feet from Asada. Her kimono is soaking wet, and so long it hides her feet. She brushes her hair from her face with long, pale fingers, and tries to smile; her expression is frightened.
     “Tadasu-san,” she says, her voice low and melodious. “Watashi ga dareka wakaranai no ne?”
     “No, I don't recognize you,” he says.
     “Tadasu-san ga nihon wo detekara 30-nen mo tatsu mono ne.”
     “Thirty years?” Asada hesitates, realizing that he is answering her in English. It is the language that comes first to him; she seems to understand.
     “Why did you run away?” he says. “Who are you?”
     “Sugu ni koe wo kakerare nakkatta,” she says. “Tadasu-san ni watashi no iukoto ga wakatte moraenai to omotta no.”
     “You were right,” he says. “I don't understand.”
     “Yumi yo,” she says. “Itoko no.”
     “Why did you come to me?” he says, but she does not answer him, not right away. Instead, she begins to tell him her story. It has been thirty years since he's seen his cousin, Yumi, and then she was a baby. That was in Japan; she stayed behind, and she is still there, she tells him now. Her body is there, but it is in a place where no one will ever find it. It is in a forest, far from any town, where no one would expect her to be. She rests in a shallow ravine, and leaves have settled on her, icy floodwaters have washed her clean. Over a year has passed since she died. Silt has thickened around her; roots have taken hold, stretched straight through her. It is wonderful.
     As she talks, Asada watches her carefully, trying to understand. Her voice is like a song, surrounding him, like nothing he's ever heard. He wants to reach out and touch her, but he doesn't dare; he fears she'll sink into the ground, or rise and dissipate through the trees' branches. When he'd stuck his finger through the knothole, her body felt solid. Pieces of bark still hang from her hair.
     She is saying that no one in Japan knows that she is missing. She had fallen out of contact with her family—she is ashamed to tell him the details, not that they matter. She is happy now.
     “Why did you come to me?” he says again.
     “Anata ga watashi ni tottemo aitagatteta kara,” she says.
Asada believes this—she has shown herself to him because he had wanted to see her, had needed it, more than anyone else. And he does not pull away when Yumi steps closer. As she leans against him, there is no sound, no change in sensation. The only light is from the moon. Asada turns a slow circle, his eyes searching in every direction. His arms close around himself. He is alone.