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Blood sickness
Blood Sickness of the White Sands Village is a short story by Junji Ito. It is the fifth chapter of The Story of the Mysterious Tunnel , volume 14 of the Horror World of Junji Ito series.

Synopsis

A young doctor sets up a practice in a most peculiar village where the inhabitants periodically bleed all over their bodies.

Plot

Dr. Furuhata has just moved to the remote White Sands Village, whose last doctor passed away ten years ago. There is no path from the road to the village, which is itself broken down and badly maintained. All the inhabitants look pale and sickly, including the village chief, and Furuhata believes he's witnessed a mysterious tremor in the trees. Despite his concerns, the chief informs him that none of his people want the village to be developed further, also appearing oblivious to the tremor Furuhata noticed.

As he orients himself with the village, Furuhata is introduced to Shizu Kikugami, the local nurse. Although she is ostensibly a young woman, she too resembles a skeletal corpse. The village's only water supply is from a well that sometimes turns red; despite this, the chief assures Furuhata that the water is fine to drink. He returns home for the night as a violent windstorm kicks up; Furuhata spends the evening reviewing the village's medical records. Before seeing Kikugami off for the night, he learns that there is a lot of inbreeding in the village due to its isolation; as a result, everyone has type AB blood, and most have hereditary anemia.

The next day, Furuhata opens the clinic for business, noting that the patients remain sickly and lethargic despite following their treatment plans to the letter. He discovers that he can't hear a man's heartbeat, only to be interrupted when Kikugami brings in a young girl who is copiously bleeding from all over her body. Her older sister asks him to bandage up the girl, while Kikugami informs him that it is very common for the villagers to start bleeding like this. Despite being assured that the bleeding always stops eventually, Furuhata arranges to take a sample of the girl's blood in the morning, concerned that he may be dealing with a dangerous new disease.

Later, Furuhata takes a walk through the village, noticing several mosquitoes flying through the air. He comes across a tree that had been uprooted in last night's windstorm, with a large amount of blood underneath its base and in the hole where its roots were. Unable to imagine anyone surviving that kind of blood loss, and noting that he didn't see anyone come to his clinic with the injuries they would have suffered from being hit by the tree, he decides that it must have been a wild bear. That night, he discusses the villagers' strange afflictions with his colleague, Professor Shibata; fascinated, the latter asks Furuhata to send him a blood sample for testing. Grateful for Shibata's help, Furuhata hangs up, unaware that the girl from earlier is watching him through his window...

The next day, Furuhata is visited by the older sister of the little bleeding girl; she asks to have her blood sampled instead, as her little sister had already eaten breakfast. Furuhata has Kikugami take the sample and sends it to his colleagues for analysis.

Two weeks later, Furuhata is still baffled by the oddities of White Sands Village. He has been receiving daily visits from Ryo Sunagami, the young woman whose blood he took for testing. Recently, Sunagami has been looking a lot healthier, despite not changing her habits or diet; she tells Furuhata that young people recover from the bleeding more quickly, but they'll inevitably bleed again and become pale and corpse-like once more. She admits that she doesn't mind the bleeding, preferring her "pale" look to her current appearance.

That night, Furuhata is unable to sleep, so he goes to the well for a drink. He notes that he still can't get used to the water; it tastes as if it's been mixed with blood. In an effort to soothe his growing unease, he goes for a walk in the woods, noting that the characteristic tremors have become much more distinct, accompanied by a strange sound somewhere ahead of him. Suddenly, Sunagami walks up behind him, explaining that she's going to make a wish at the village shrine. Accepting the invitation to accompany her, Sunagami mentally notes that the sounds and tremors appear to be coming from directly below the shrine.

Sunagami explains that local legend tells that the shrine once accepted blood sacrifices from young women; when she has enough blood in her body, she goes there to make wishes. She promptly cuts her wrist, wishing to spend the rest of her life with Dr. Furuhata. A stunned Furuhata tries to stop her, but she faints and begins hemorrhaging from her entire body. Although she should have died from the blood loss, she survives - albeit returned to a corpse-like state - and returns to the village alone.

Noticing that the ground absorbed Sunagami's blood very quickly, Furuhata returns with a shovel and begins digging under the shrine grounds. He finds a network of what appear to be roots...until they start bleeding from a scratch made by the shovel blade. After watching the pool coagulate, Furuhata takes a sample back to his clinic, discovering that it's human blood, type AB. To his bewilderment and horror, he realizes that there's a massive network of blood vessels under the shrine grounds, and they're absorbing the blood of the villagers.

The next day, Furuhata brings his findings to the village chief, who dismisses them as a vivid dream he'd suffered. The doctor insists that he can prove it, but the chief tells him that he has business to attend to. On his way back from the chief's house, Furuhata notices another villager bleeding profusely - just like before, the ground rapidly absorbs the blood. On a hunch, he digs up the ground in front of him (to the confusion of nearby villagers) and finds another mass of oversized veins under the sand. This time, he can see that their pulse has been causing the tremors he's felt ever since he came to the village.

When the villagers (including the newly-arrived chief) doubt his claims, Furuhata grabs a nearby rock with intent to prove himself. The chief's pleas of not doing anything drastic fall on deaf ears as Furuhata stabs the rock into the vein, causing blood to shoot out like a geyser. Furuhata's triumph is short-lived; the nearby villagers begin hemorrhaging rapidly to compensate for the vein's blood loss. Horrified, he ties the vein shut with his necktie and rushes back to his clinic, seeing the veins clearly through the white sand as people across the village bleed into them. Suddenly, Furuhata himself begins bleeding from every part of his body, quickly collapsing from blood loss.

A few days later, Professor Shibata arrives in White Sands Village along with a few other doctors, having finally gathered the results of Sunagami's blood test. When they arrive at the clinic, they briefly note Kikugami's anemic appearance when she goes to get the doctor, but their attention quickly shifts to Furuhata himself when he arrives: he has become a walking corpse like the villagers, with Sunagami clinging to him lovingly.