Beneath the Acolyte’s hands, the fenceposts squirm in happy recognition. Old granite, worn smooth by the brush of countless fives of fingertips that count them as a rosary down the path from the temple to the cemetery, they nuzzle against his palm.
The Acolyte gazes upon the tombstones in the forest. Under his caress, the newer marble ones are chilled, still too new and bearing others’ names. But the ancient ones? They sing with a life beneath their lichen skins. The kanji on their faces has long since fallen away or filled in with time, allowing them to take on new personalities in their invidual growths and leanings.
Old Man, Happy Traveler, the Lovers.
In Shingon Buddhism, a tsukumogami is an object that has reached its 100th birthday, thus becoming alive and self-aware.
Smelling the cedars, the Acolyte sighs. His body will never live to be one-hundred.
He may never grow a soul.