My next door neighbour is the landlord’s mother. Like most Korean ladies in their senior years she doesn’t like cats and I was told a few months ago not to let Soul out of my groundfloor window. Instead I take her for an hour each day to the mountainside next to my house. She is scared of strangers and so we go to the quiet grassy patch that is home to two buddhist style mound graves and overlooks the city. From there we can scramble up the wooded slope behind us. In earlier months it was a red world of dappled sunlight and raining leaves. These days even the big rocks have a carpet of thick white and brown which Soul sinks into as she gallops past my legs.

 For a little while it seemed as though we had these slopes to ourselves. I’d take up a flask of tea and my guitar and sing a very liberal interpretation of Folsom Prison Blues to the last of the dragonflies. This past month however, the slope has grown more popular.

 First I noticed an empty birdcage, tied to a tree in the middle of the woods. Then an ‘off the path’ hiker came meandering down into our territory, much to Soul’s miaow-filled distress. One afternoon I saw that, not far from the unofficial ‘entrance’ to the slope, some of the sticks and leaves that cover the earth had been disturbed, in a rough two metre circle. It wasn’t defined enough a shape to have an obvious purpose, but clearly either a human or another large animal had moved the surface of the forest floor. In the same place as this clearing there then appeared an empty hamster cage, also tied to a tree. 

 One day, as Soul played around the tombs, I looked up to see that we were being watched, by another black and white cat sitting on a rock up where Soul and I walk. It felt like a mirror themed déjà vu. She was gone by the time we climbed up to where she’d been sat, watching us instead from the undergrowth far away.

 The next find was a pig’s head. Again near the ‘circle clearing’, it was positioned snout up, and coming out of an orange plastic bag. And for some reason I wasn’t even very surprised. I read a little about Korean Shamanism when I first arrived here and found out that pig heads are often used in ‘good fortune’ ceremonies. I concluded then, pretty logically, that some modern shamans had chosen the same hidden yet accessible woodland for their night time magical rituals as I had our walks. 

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 It was a few days later that I discovered a message written in sticks on the grassy patch near the tombs… I took a photo and showed a Korean friend who couldn’t decipher it, and I think the sticks had already been muddled.

I wasn’t too perturbed by the stick message or the pigs head (the empty bird and hamster cages stuck me as more sinister), but when there was a loud rustling in the same area not long afterwards I stood, heart beating and still, until out of a pile of leaves jumped a black and white kitten. Realising their size difference Soul took chase after it, over branches and leaves and, not trusting her intentions, I chased after Soul. I got there first and took Soul to a different part of the mountain that day.

We’ve been watched by black and white kittens since, from a distance, the head has disappeared (I don’t miss it), and there hasn’t been anymore indecipherable messages yet. A friend suggested that perhaps I could go to a different place to walk the cat. I answered, true or not, that ‘we were there first’. But I realised that actually I just quite like being part of this motley collection of oddities, all drawn to the same small fragment of a big mountain. 

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