Scrap Writing (9.30.2015)

More writing scraps to discard!

I may re-purpose this piece into a fully fledged short story, but for now I’ll leave this.

 


Scrap Writing

                Lady fingers and a hasty blonde ego pushed milk, cheese, and eggs across Vanessa’s belt line.  Vanessa smiled with her courtesy, scanned with her habit, but her eyes followed a snowflake down hairs as nightly and drawn as her own.

                A young raven woman swayed between handmade, wood-made homes; wandering through a world that longed for the electricity in its past. She held her hands up to the clouds as they fell down around her.  And then Little Sister looked over her shoulder: through the iris emeralds that had watched Vanessa grow tall and cynical; and she smiled to Vanessa from the grave.

                The sky wisps had heralded snow and a shivering shellacking; as did her phone’s meteorological report.  The posthumous would forever tease her with bygone happiness, but she could, at the least, capture fragments of her favorite memories falling past the window panes.

                Anticipation for the night nearly ruined it though as she picked up the carton of eggs to bag it, but pink hairs barged into her vision as Lylette entered her space to intercept the damaged goods.

                “This one has a broken egg.  Can you get another?”

                Vanessa scurried off to the refrigerator and flipped through the last six cartons, but at the end of the day the lot had been picked through and the imperfect batches remained.  She shuffled eggs around to make a good eighteen and hurried back with apologies and bows.

                The lady looked ready to vent over minutia, but she left without spoiling Vanessa’s evening.

                “Thank you”, Vanessa said, “I have bad eyes.”

                “I think they’d work better if you used them.”

                Vanessa would more easily manage this grocery store than execute its functions, but she lacked ambition for the real world.  She lived in her mind, and she’d likely land the homeless shelter if not for Lylette’s hand tugging on her leash once in a while.

                “What were you thinking about anyway?” and Vanessa talked of snow, but not sister, and Lylette looked out the window and wondered.  “It’s cold, but I don’t see anything.”

                Vanessa sifted through applications on her phone and showed Lylette her Weather App.  A physicist by name of “Lazy Hazy” pointed to west-moving cold fronts and said, “Like, a nine-five chance of snow, dudes”, before kicking back airs that were bad for his brain; and left Lylette wondering how someone so high could engineer radar and computer programs to extrapolate the weather.

                “How does he predict the weather anyhow?”

                “Calculus”, Vanessa said, and just like that Lylette lost all interest.

                Lylette knew math and snow from her window sill: always threatening to pile over her; but Vanessa had to chase down her numbers.  Other kids played; she went the library with her pencils and scribbled all over their excess text books.  “Math is fun”, she had said, and thus her days of sociopathy began.

                Vanessa and Lylette chatted idly about non-math things till they were told to close the store.  “I’ll leave the eggs to you, calc girl”, and Vanessa moved all the good eggs into fresh plastic cartons that she labeled as mixed batches.  The six cracked shells she put into a cardboard container and took with her as she and Lylette checked out.

                “Are those the cracked eggs?”

                “Yeah.”

                Childhood treasures grew into her vices and values, and any meat had been a treasure.

                When they got back to their apartment, Lylette dibbed the hot water, while Vanessa took over the kitchen.

                Two sloppy yolks she threw away.  The intact four she scrambled and cooked extra brown -just in case-, and chopped them up on her spatula.

                Sesame oil in a wok; brown and red rice from the day past; Vanessa waited till heat left a mark on her rice before tossing it around.  She opened two cans of sliced pineapple and poured the juice into the fry.

                Chop, sort, slice; she pushed her pineapples off her cutting board.

                Too much liquid; she cranked up her heat.  Crack, crack, sizzle bop: better than brass to her midnight ear, but she turned on some ZUNpets anyway.

                The best food was timed with a work-weary appetite, and she had her fillings ready in the cold.

                Onion, pepper, mushrooms and squash -yellow stuff and zucchini green too- diced and sautéed early in the day.  She tossed them in… tossed the egg in… tossed in peas, corn, and a whole bag of kale ‘n greens from her frozen stores.  She laid her pepper blanket red, black, and thick; pinched her salt; and stirred the spicy season in with tamari, tamari, tamari.

                She never got enough tamari in.  She threw half a cup in -maybe two-thirds-, too much for sure as she tossed and turned till dryness and fluid mediated an accord.  Vanessa served up two bowls in time for Lyllette, and one bite later Lylette said, “Needs more tamari”, but that didn’t stop her feasting.

                Fried rice spun nicely in a microwave, but fresh off the burner they shoveled it in.  The mushrooms and eggs bounced around so spongy and soft and carried the sweetness of the pineapple.  The rice didn’t muddle or mush and it fluffed up in her mouth.  The chaotic dispersal of carrots and onions and pepper gave each bite a different chew; and the greens and squash extended the soft texture of the dish without dumping in more rice, more carbs.

                A peppery heat soothed her icy breaths, and she settled into winter and whiskey under a blanket as she closed her eyes and whispered, “PSHUU!”

End


So there’s this little anime called Wakakozake.  The episodes are two minutes long, and they follow an Office Lady after work as she eats out by herself.  She talks about the food, makes you hungry, and goes, “PSHUU!” when she feels happy.

It’s silly, it’s cute, it’s kind of pointless; I like it.

I wanted to cap this piece off already, and Wakakozake came to mind so I just gave Vanessa her “PSHUU!” moment.

On that note, I don’t think I’ve written a cooking sequence before!  I deviate from my usually slow prose style, but hey, cooking is fun and energetic!

Let me know how I did!  Like something?  Hate something?  Say so!

Also… I used “ZUNpets” in a writing piece…

ZUNpets…

Have some ZUNpets.


Speaking of Touhou, I listened to some Touhou arrangements while writing, because I always listen to Touhou music while writing, and this particular arrangement stood out to me:

Alice Magica Spei by circle: Secret Messenger

If Yuki Kajiura ever arranged Touhou, I wager it would sound a lot like this.

I adore this music.

I also listened to KOKIA, who I learned about over at OtakuLounge.

Tatta Hitotsu No Omoi by KOKIA

I normally don’t listen to Japanese music because I don’t understand the words, but this song relaxes my usual tension; and Japanese phonetics have a way of melting into the sounds.

I let the auto-play on Youtube take me to some other KOKIA songs.   Vocalized music in general has a very low success rate with me, but I found myself liking about 3 out of 5 KOKIA songs, with the rest fairing no less than a neutral response.


I’m going to start my re-watch of School-Live!  I prefer to watch something twice over before critiquing it, as the first viewing will carry too much emotional reaction.

I liken it to studying an NFL game.

  • Enjoy the first time around for “what” it is and what happens.
  • Go in deeper the second time around, study the film, and seek out “why”.

I’m still debating whether to write a review separately, or combine a review and critique together and format my discussions into increasingly deeper layers of analysis and spoilers.  That way, if someone not familiar with School-Live! reads it, he/she can stop at a given point and say, “alright, I’m interested, I’ll stop here, watch it, and come back”, while maintaining interest to those who have seen School-Live!

Then again I feel like there are reviews everywhere for every show ever, so I may stick to a pure critique.

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‘Nessa and ‘Lily

A short little fantasy-adventuring fiction sketch.  Not a complete story.

Scribbles and bits, so to speak.

‘Nessa and ‘Lily

                Vanessa’s life measured poorly by standard of purse strings and estates, but she liked her life.  Many would not respect her occupation by calling it as such, but meandering through the world, taking on quests, collecting bounties, plundering ruins, and foraging through hard times when others could only pray… pumped a joyous cancer through her heart and blood that could no longer be boiled beside soup pots or tempered by the work of an anvil.

                She was a mercenary in league with herself: an Adventurer.

                It was not a better life or even a wholly different life so much as a trade: offering up stability and consistency to gain a capricious mind.  Money still dictated her strategy; sex lured her fancy; vanity became her impetus.  She just exercised her coins on the move: earned them city to city, helping one woebegone city-bound civilian after the other.

                When fortunes blessed her with loot and gold, she stayed at inns beneath cotton or silk sheets.

                For now, she slept by the guard of bark and leaf; rain swept, rain soaked and awaiting the sight of game.

                Vanessa had spent two gold coins on a peck of blueberries and a peck of almonds, but her favorites tasted tame and familiar after the thirtieth snack.  She sought the luxuries found in predation: the superior health of venison cooked fireside and the empowered elegance promised by muscle.  She was scrawny and bony, especially for her height.  Constant traveling toned something lithe and pretty out of her, but unless she stripped down to her physique, others adventurers scoffed at her request for partnerships.

                Meat allured her idealized self, but a deer or rabbit would not simply walk into her shelter.  She’d rather flop about the mud; let her mind root itself and share thoughts with Mother Nature; but every moment lazed only reinforced that brittle image; and so she rose from her soggy perch to trod into the fog.

                While she searched for prey, she dittied a rhyme for her bored mind:

                Gray, gray, everywhere gray;

                White wash water flushes the day,

                Precipitous, monotonous nimbus ahead,

                From this rising mist they fled:

                My meat, my prey, my reason for fire,

                A meal for wet bones, for soaking silks.

                Somewhere I cannot see

                Someone is watching me

                Boot prints stood by a tree not far from her place of rest.  Said boots could not fit a bigger man, and she fancied the idea of a cute admirer: someone small enough of body and ego to push down and tame.  His reason for hiding, watching, was his shy courage; clinging to a flower he savored for her.

                Just the thought burst a laugh from her.  “Some luck that would be!” and she unbuckled the strap that secured her sword to its sheath.

                Boots and gloves; leathered and steeled; protected her movements to the elbows and knees.  Her leather cuirass mounted shoulder plates to keep her sword-arm safe, and her belt draped chainmail over her skirt to the sides and rear.  A misguided arrow would not easily take her skin, but a competent intent could slip a knife through to her heart or slit her sleep.

                She kept three lunging strides between herself and every tree thick enough to hide a body; honed sights on shrubbery and keened herself for a crossbow bolt; but the ambush came on the heels of a frail and inexperienced woman, who sprung from a tree directly ahead of Vanessa’s sight, and she watched the gal trip and fall face-first into the mud.

                Defeat permeated this lady of rags, who dirtied the mud by her presence, and brandished a stick too rotted to break skin.  She rose and stared; two ruby irises dulled by death’s door; and tried to make a threat.

                “Give me a coin… or something to eat…” and a habitual mannerism followed with an automated “please”, enticing Vanessa to snicker and giggle as her would-be-assailant amended her threat with, “or else…”

                “I don’t have any money”, Vanessa said, “spent it.”

                The haggard soul tilted and peered round Vanessa’s belt for a container of food.  The pouch on Vanessa’s right side allured her eyes; moved her lips; but her debts finally caught up to her and forfeited her struggle.  She sunk to her knees, fell onto her back.  Her eyes gazed skyward but there were no sights or sounds in this world left for her; the characteristics of her physical shell were just a happenstance of her final moments.

                In so many cities Vanessa witnessed this suicide: a mental fatigue for the constant crediting of pride; asking, begging, pleading for a morsel to sustain upon.  She offered hope and resources to those she could, and sometimes they accepted.

                Vanessa’s stores did not swell any longer, but she approached the girl and asked her to stand.

                “Why?”

                “I give charity to help others; not indulge myself with false heroism.  If you have any dignity then we’re equals, regardless of what our clothes might say about us.”

                The girl stood, and held out her hands.  Vanessa clasped bony fingers, touched skins too stained for this monsoon to cleanse.  She willed the airs to whirl round, to violently brush water against mud and blood till everything particulate had been raised into her levitating stream; and a flick of her wrist sent the wash water to the side, back into gravity’s care.

                Vanessa put her palm over palm, and deposited a handful of nuts and berries.  She ate, but the bafflement on her face questioned the substance cracking between her teeth.  “Where did you get those?  You didn’t reach into a pocket.”

                Vanessa opened her empty hand and another mouthful of trail snacks stole onto her grasp through the cover of black wisps.  “You can conjure food?” she asked, and she grabbed and swallowed this phenomenon as quickly as she questioned it.

                “I can phase things out of existence; recall them when I choose.”

                “You could steal a lot of stuff that way.”

                “I could, but I don’t.”

                Vanessa did not have to explain honor, for this girl kept it within her silence; allowed it to forfeit her life in lieu of begging, and then refuse a fourth handful of nuts and berries.  “I have more”, Vanessa said, but she did not care.

                Through staining filths, a few hairs hued true to their pink pigmentation.  It was a lightly, joyous chromatism that shimmered in adulation, and marked her in hatred.  There was no town where a pink haired girl could hide from gossip and spittle, and her sharp incisors ensured an enemy within in every populace to rile up the crowd.

                An accident, a crime, or just a season of bad weather; one scared fool would correlate trouble to her pink hair, and then the world’s fortunes became her responsibility.

                Vanessa was less human than this girl, but her clothes did not split to the whim of glass shanks and steeled edges.  How would she have fared if her long black hairs and violet sights swapped colors?

                “What’s your name?”

                “Lylette.”

                “I’m searching for deer, fish, berries… anything to eat, really… would you like to come with me, Lylette?”

                Whether Vanessa staked her invitation upon sagacity or pity, she could not discern; but she suspected a selfish motive within the act; for Lylette’s quiet consent realized the image she always desired for herself: not a stronger, more beautiful person, but someone who traveled in company.

End

I welcome all critique; even negative.

Just be polite :).

Under the Cherry Blossoms

I wrote a little over 3000 words (about a 5-minute read) for this short story, in roughly three, two-hour sessions with a lot of very useless and wasted sessions in between. Hopefully, I figure out one day what makes me tick, because I’ve seen some very productive hours… just… rarely…

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the story!


 

Under the Cherry Blossoms

            Taiga hated cherry blossoms.  They surrounded her family’s shrine, filled out the courtyard and stood sentry over every stoned and tiled path.  The Ice Dragon’s blessing granted each tree the strength to bloom in winter, and flowers that shed their petals and selves daily.  She brushed floral bits from her hair, her shoulder, picked off the remnants resting on her katana’s guard and emptied her sash.  Taiga could not even see ground, and she learnt her footing by sinking her step into the soft earth and stumbling back onto the stones.  Pink prevailed this setting and conquered every visitor’s time, often losing their purpose and their tithes amidst this trance.

            Taiga tired of this aesthetic years ago: resisted the temptation to lie and let the flowers bury her.  She loved pink, her pink memories of her pink childhood, but she reviled the pain of walking into the patio view, and seeing a four-year-old girl hanging her legs over the lisp.  That girl always waited there, with the same ink black hair, the same skin that envied human bloods and irises just as red, just as affiliated with pain; already willing to surrender to cherry blossoms.

            Taiga looked left, the girl looked down.  She walked forward, terrified, and nearly unscathed until she passed the mite at her leg, and that mite called out, “Mama” and Taiga took off running down halls overrun by dust.

            The family residence nested itself deep into the shrine where it backed into the foot of a sudden peak.  Taiga ran where she could, weaving inefficient paths till her honed lungs finally experienced a little tire, and she settled for the comfort of her bedroom.

            Taiga slid open the door and saw a second futon laid out beside hers, with a stack of folded blankets sized right for a tiny girl, and she took off running again till she nearly toppled her sister.

            “Kanako, is this your doing!?” Taiga demanded, and of what else.

            “Yes”, she said, speaking calmly and more strongly than this ronin could.  They shared sisterly halves by their appearances, but Taiga had the vampire heritage, the hot head and a love for physical excruciation.  Kanako stayed with her humanity, her calm, her books and spiritual strength.  Taiga hated to admit it, but her sister chose the better path, and she regularly took refuge in Kanako to debunk the world’s puzzling moralities.  Though now, Kanako had placed her into a terrible place.

            “I can’t stay in the same room as Kanna.”

            “Try”, and before Taiga could protest, Kanako directed her to the supply room, “Get a bucket of water and a rag.  It’s been some time since the floors have reflected the sun.  So much dust…”

            Taiga obeyed, and when she had in hand a day’s work, Kanako dictated her schedule in full.

            “I’ll take Kanna to town… cheer her up.  You won’t run into her while you clean, so you can meditate in peace.  When I return we can take a bath together, and talk.”

            “But how do I meditate while-“

            “Just think.  About anything, really…  It’s good for your mind and your emotions.”

            Kanako started off and then turned again, “Think!”

            And with a sigh, Taiga pushed her rag into her bucket of water, rung it damp and then thought.

            Dust, dust, so much monotonous dust…  Taiga ran down the hall pushing her cloth, and in just one sprint she found her device already speckled with gray matter.  She finished her course: running back down the hall on a parallel path, back and forth till she could see the dim sun on these floorboards.

            One hall down, some dozens more to go, and she had to change cloths and even sometimes the water.

            Dust, dust, how could there be so much dust?  It grew out of floor and walls.  It just had to.  It was a problem inherent to high quality polished wood, shrines, and shrines made with high quality polished wood.

            Supposedly, dust contributed to her father’s end.  He did not fair strongly like most vampires, and he resided within kindness, within pacifism.  Taiga never knew him, but mother always recalled him to remind about the dangers of dust.  The subtle wheezing that seemed troubling, yet innocuous, and then suddenly a bloody coughs and bloody hell took a life.

            He smiled, when he died.  Vampires had such poor fortunes when it came to children.  A frisky couple between a vampire and another could yield no children, even after ten or twenty years.  To simply leave her to continue the dwindling lineages and hopes of his people had been enough to die smiling.

            Taiga had sex just once: her first, her last, and out came little Kanna.

            Anger seized her.  She sloppily rushed to exert her legs and angst, but guilt sent her back over those floorboards.  Father would probably be so happy to have grandchildren already.

            If he were here, if he or mother were here, Taiga would have left Kanna to become her parents’ child.  And then Kanna would be doomed to have no parents of her own.

            Kanna was probably doomed to have no mother anyway.

            That thought stayed with her till every last floorboard saw the sun off to its distant recluse on the other side of the world.  The sky lights themselves cluttered with flowers, but she’d brush them away some other time, when Kanako was busy.

            Her sister returned, managed somehow to hide Kanna from Taiga and the two sisters met in the hall.  “Oh, um…” Taiga mumbled, remembering her family contribution, and she handed a pouch of coins to her sister.  Her escort job placed her close to a criminal with a nice bounty on his head, and so she brought back more money than usual.

            “Who did you capture?”

            “Killed, actually…  That mage that assassinated that Alendrian prince.”

            “And you received silver?  No gold coins?”

            “Apparently, freezing him, shattering him, and leaving no identifiable traces can affect bounty rewards.  Who knew?”

            Kanako shook her head and handed the money back to her sister.  “My silk sells well.  Purchase what luxuries you like.  Buy Kanna a gift, perhaps.”

            “And how would I give it to her?”

            “…by hand…”

            Kanako sighed, put her bangs and her cheek bone into her palm.  Taiga put her money away as per instruction and met her sister in the changing room to the bath.

            The Nakada family built their shrine beside Nasu Peak for its natural spring.  Water flowed under the mountain and found its way through the ground till a pressure of water rose upon itself and spilled over rocks.  The pools filled and fell into the next: four in all, with the high two reserved for rinsing and the lower two intended for all the dirt and maligned feelings Nakada accumulated over the day.

            Taiga invoked a spell, warming the fount, and then she occupied a bathing pool across from her sister.  They could share a space, but Kanako made her pool unbearably hot.  “Isn’t that bad for your skin?” but the spirit required indulgence and nourishment as much as the flesh; or so Kanako said.  Priestesses could excuse any practice by saying spirituality this or spirituality that.  She imported expensive soaps claiming to invoke some divine favor upon the skin, but it just looked like colored, scented soap.

            Taiga washed herself, simply, effectively, quickly.  When she set down her bar of soap, she noticed petals stuck to its surface, and then in her palm.  Petals fluttered over the stakes on the wind, flapping about surface to surface and then tumbling into her bath waters, peppering the night blue surface with that pink that shined despite an aging, waning moon.

            Perhaps the contrast deceived her, but Taiga saw the petals separately from the environment, as though they burned onto her image quite after her vision made sight.  They glowed, every one of them, perhaps with the Ice Dragon’s inner light, his wisdom, or more likely just his magic.  Taiga would more readily believe the scientific answer, but faith took over her eyes again and again, cruelly returning every blossom to the shrine’s courtyard, guiding her down the aisle so she could see Kanna waiting for her, and each time she hid within her own suffered mentality.

            “Let me run away”, she said again and again to herself, trying to afford a victim’s reprieve, but she had shoved her problems onto Kanako for four years now.  Taiga wanted to combat this challenge when it still cried for her breast, when Kanako had to shush and rock that baby of hers and Kanako had to try and play mother to a niece.  When her resolve found enough threads to patch a bandage, Kanna would change.  Kanna crawled after her, and then walked after her, and now the little girl waited for her.  In a year’s time, Kanna would have the legs to run, and then she’d see that her mother didn’t just avoid her: she ran from her, and Kanako would have to pick up all the tears and limbs lying under the flowers.

            Taiga had been a victim.  Now she murdered her sister and daughter a little each day; with a poison much like mercury.  She hated it.  She didn’t know how to distinguish her passions from Kanna, but Taiga loved her sister.  Even if Taiga exiled herself, gave up Kanna, Kanako would have to compete with her ghost and her memory.

            “Taiga…  Taiga”, and on the third call Kanako shook her trance.  “I’m heading up”, she said, referencing the rinsing pools.  Taiga followed and assumed a pool for herself: desiring to linger; but Kanako hurled a bucket of rinse water onto her head.

            “That’s too hot you witch!”

            “You seemed lost.”

            “I was thinking!” and while Kanako verbally lauded the miracle, she crushed any ideas for healing slowly.

            “And will your thoughts materialize action?  Or will they become your next reason to wait another year?”

            Taiga sunk into her waters, hoping to hide.  Kanako sunk into her waters, hoping to drown.

            “Taiga…  I’m tired of babysitting your feelings.  I can forgive some months, maybe a year remaining distant, but four years now.  I don’t care if you’re still hurting.  Move on.”

            Taiga couldn’t answer.  She felt like a wolf, trapped in a corner by a bear too big and too advantaged to possibly retaliate against.  She snarled, wanted to snarl, if only to feel like her fate remained in her own control, but she had burned away her days, and now her final minutes whittled down to the moment she had avoided since birthing Kanna.

            “Kanako…  How do I move on?  Every time I search myself, I find my wounds bleeding still.  It’s so hard to separate Kanna from him.”  Kanako paused, and if she required more than an instant to resolve mental matters, then Taiga had proposed a difficult circumstance indeed; not difficult in solution, but difficult because her little sister was such a terrible, limiting instrument.  “What would you do?” Taiga asked, wondering, what Kanako could do if she could just rely on herself.

            “I would raise Kanna; love her, even if it means breaking and committing suicide some time after Kanna takes over the shrine.”

            “Is that even possible?”

            “Choice; execution.  Nothing more; nothing less.  Though I can’t imagine myself suffering in such a parenthood.  Even if he was the father of my daughter, she would have to commit her own offenses against me to consider abandoning her.  I’d kill him on the spot if I saw him again; but I won’t neglect her, not for what he did.

            If you have to: lie.  Claim no relation between your daughter and him.  It could work, but your unwillingness to cope, your desire to evade pain bound you to this predicament.”

            Taiga just had to run through a sword.  A simple task, if the sword were real and not metaphorical.

            “Will you help me?”

            “I’ve been helping all day.  I’m going to give Kanna a bath, and send her to your room.  Wait for her, don’t send her away, and don’t run away.  You don’t have to love her.  Just let her close.”

            Taiga conceded and left the bath, dressed into a robe, then returned to her room.  She half expected to find Kanna waiting for Kanako, but her sister had the foresight to make Kanna play elsewhere.

            Taiga dressed into tomorrow’s kimono, lit a lamp, and waited till she heard her sister’s words ushering these little footsteps down the hall.  When the door opened, Taiga allowed herself a glance at the little girl staring back at her anxiously, but only a glance.

            If she stared into those eyes, and saw him, she might tear down the walls and a dozen cherry blossom trees too.

            Through her peripherals, her ears, she tracked Kanna to the other futon: heard her daughter sit down.  Taiga gave her sister that look asking what to do.  Should she give greeting?  Welcome?  She had only instincts, and they told her to bristle.  Covering herself in quills kept sane human interactions away: filtered those conversations not palpable to her sword.  Kanako oft made fun of her barbed personality.  “Hedgehog Ronin”, that sister liked to call her when speaking to others.  Taiga only knew how to break things: how to solve those problems she could punch in the face.

            Much like a hedgehog, Taiga had a soft underbelly, and she hated to expose it.

            “Anyway, I’ll leave you two alone”, and Taiga shot that look to Kanako again.  “You don’t have to do anything.  Doing nothing might be best, knowing you”, and she excused herself.

            Taiga took the advice to heart and tried going to straight to sleep with her back turned.  She raised her quills, readied her combative demeanors, and suddenly deflated as eight hours cleaning caught up to her.

            She was tired, she was hungry, and probably, all according to plan.

            “Clever witch”, she thought, and a few more curses for her sister until she heard munching.

            Taiga sat up and looked to her daughter, who wrestled with the tough, dried out sinew of a cow between her hands and her teeth.  “Jerky?” she asked, and Kanna nodded.  “Can I have some?” and Kanna nodded, though she was too preoccupied to offer one by hand.  Taiga reached out like she was grabbing a stick out of a fire, and jumped back once she secured some food for herself.

            She sheered her jerky with a single pull of her jaw, mangled and devoured it, then popped the remaining piece into her mouth.  Kanna seemed quite awed by this feat, and tried to mimic, but she couldn’t tear the meat even using both hands and all her teeth.  She was awfully weak and uncoordinated for a four­-year-old.

            “Um… here”, and Taiga reached into the bowl, a little less cautious than before, and tore chunks into strips into pieces.  This just let Kanna pop the whole thing into her mouth, and she popped her jaw open and closed like a dog, chewing and chewing and wondering why this delicious meat wouldn’t dissolve.

            Taiga kept grabbing pieces until she was sitting in arms reach and munching away like the miniature in front of her.  They made eye contact: her daughter staring and chewing and looking up to her.  Taiga chewed, stared down and wondered where all that rage she feared had gone.  She saw only herself: that small stupid self that liked to sit in mother’s lap while eating and listening to adult conversations flying over her head.

            Maybe she could carry on as normal and let Kanna close just as her sister had said.  Complications would arise, but this wasn’t the guillotine she feared.

            Taiga felt the heat of the spring as her body’s metabolism caught up with her food.  She used her room’s hook to open the sky light; to just let a little of that cool tundra air inside; and a plume of blossom petals spilled over her.

            She grimaced, annoyed.  Kanna smiled, elated.

            “Do you like flowers?” Taiga asked, and Kanna nodded.

            “I hate them.  I used to love them, even after I learned magic and realized each blossom budded, bloomed, and shed itself according to a timer.  I invited someone to share that love with me, and he took a lot of precious things from me, and our family.  I hate him.  I think of him when I see cherry blossoms, and so I hate the flowers.”

            Probably, she spoke too frankly for her daughter to understand, but all her subtext, her emotional connotations, her feelings had been soaked up, and Kanna looked at her with eyes filled with pity, sorry, and desire.  “Hey, maybe with your help, I can love flowers again too”, and Kanna brimmed from lip corner to lip corner.

            “Now it’s too cold”, she grumbled and she closed the sky light.  “I’m going to sleep, eat what you like” and Kanna kept nom-nom-nomming while she lay down to sleep.  She watched her daughter master the dog’s method of eating.  She watched her daughter struggle with the folded blankets.  She watched her daughter give up and crawl over to her.

            Taiga wanted to protest as Kanna crawled into her futon and snuggled into her bosom, but her lips had no airs on which to speak.  She kept mouthing things, trying to ward off all the silly pink blushes and exasperations on her face, but in the end, Taiga surrendered to cherry blossoms, snuffed out the lamp, and pulled her blankets over them both.

            It was an awkward night.  Taiga received a sneeze right into her clothes.  She learned to put her arm around her daughter’s back, and when to take it away so Kanna could crawl over to the bowl and return with jerky in her mouth.  She remembered how hungry she used to be as a kid: how vampires couldn’t keep their appetites away from meat and how she so loved to gnaw and chew and satisfy predation.

            Taiga remembered how one day she told a man how happily she looked forward to a life spent with him, and with their children.  She genuinely wanted Kanna that day, and she would learn to see Kanna, without seeing him.

            The hungry mite eventually, finally settled down enough to start snoring, and Taiga closed her eyes for the last time.

            Cherry blossom petals fell across the blackness, returning her faith to the aisle of trees.  She saw a day when she returned home; refreshed to see home.  There, on the patio, waited a girl of her likeness, who smiled, who jumped up and ran into her with a hug.

            And Taiga would grin: all bright and cocky and happy; surrounded by the pink flowers she loved once again.

End


Critique of any kind of is welcome. Like something? Dislike something? Say so! Just be nice :).

Edit: Simplified the Title. If I expanded Taiga’s character into a novel, I would probably title it after one of her nicknames like Hedgehog Ronin or Tsundere Ronin or some like. “Under the Cherry Blossoms” I feel simply, and succinctly represents this short story.

Edit (4/10/2014): Did a revision. Nothing major. Cut a few words, rephrased like two sentences. Should read a little smoother at some parts.

Edit (9/25/2015): Another wave of edits: mostly just correcting where I used colons versus semi-colons.  I also changed the name of Taiga’s daughter to Kanna.

Stitched Angel

My first literary short story!  Enjoy!

*Edited and revised as of June 3, 2014.

 

Jason Hwang

Fiction Short Story

November 17, 2012

4,199 words

 

 

 

Stitched Angel

 

            Violet, azure, and jade danced their eternal waltz on black and navy stages. Warped their theatre, rippled and refracted their image; a sky-born ocean, held to the heavens by envy and hope. As wispy dress hems chafed one another, their luminescence scraped off the aurora and fell through the water, joining a duller world of air and dark silhouettes. Black forms transcended menial darkness into branches, leaves, or stone as these droplets of light fell by, only to revert when jealous dirt and earth swallowed the light whole.

            Gazing upon this spectacle, Sora couldn’t help but wonder if he dreamed, but if he dreamed, then he had dreamed for years after losing his life. Dreams did not flow coherently with the passage of time, nor did dead people dream. Dead people just wandered this beautiful existence, forever entranced by this never-ending night, by infinite aurora. He just wished he could appreciate the depth of his vision as others did.

            Sora had no left eye, no counter or compliment to his right eye’s opinions. His only sight spoke of beauty and hope. Would his missing eye tell him the same? Could he descend deeper into this trance with two eyes? Or did demons of apathy and despair hide behind the veil of his eye-patch. He shouldn’t seek to know, he shouldn’t disturb an already comfortable existence. Perhaps his trance had deepened too far already, for his empty eye left a vacancy in his soul, a missing piece of himself required to feel complete.

            The lost link pulled at him, tugged him along the rugged ground as it had for all his after-life. Sometimes, he felt lured… toyed with… the victim of a higher power that delighted in teasing this poor young man. Years of fruitless pursuit conjured an expectance of failure. Years of endless walking had toughened his heels and hardened his small body till the sensations of touch fled to the fringes of this trance.

            He should give up. He should settle anywhere the fruit trees grew, or where spring water pooled. Sora had grown accustomed to half-blindness, but so too had he acclimated to the longing, to the search, that he no longer knew how to stop. He’d find his eye upon a single point along infinity. Logic, sense, and all odds stood against him, but that human yearning forwarded his legs toward the glint of promise.

            A fool he was. A fool clinging to faith instead of reason, but a fool he’d rather be, because God could only make miracles for fools. So to her, this fool pled a simple prayer.

            “Please show me a sign. Herald my journey’s end so that I may finally rest…”

            A droplet fell from the sky, a simple luminescence of white and green no different from the thousand other rains that fell, but Sora followed this one light with his eye. Small, pure; an angel falling from heaven, falling from grace, falling into the crooked wooden claws of dark demons, splitting over their branches and breaking into pieces for the lowly and outcast dirt to claim as its own; a droplet of prophecy passed, falling fatefully upon its fruition where a white feather lay.

            Sora’s vision of the feather lasted as briefly as the droplet, but he had quick memory and feet. Thoughts and estimates guided him toward his quarry. He could recognize the powdery caress of soft dirt, the jagged hilt of a buried stone, or the sinewy skin of a leaf. Sora’s feet had conquered nothing else in life or death, so when gentle fibers tickled at his toes, he knew where his feather lay.

            He plucked that feather and held it to the first light to fall his way. White, bristling hairs attached to a thin stem that could break to wind alone. Simple: this beauty… and oh so fragile. Just how did humans find beauty, find love in things so easily broken? Over the course of eternity Sora would lose the feather for sure and then cry for his loss, but he’d rather break his heart than leave it an arid basin, and so he pocketed this feather, joining it with a needle as his only treasures.

            The missing eye tugged at him once again, and Sora renewed his amble. The feather made a wonderful distraction, but that’s all it was, a brief and finite interruption in eternity.

            He sighed.

            “I’ll never rest”, he thought again and again, “I’ll never rest.”

            The rope around his soul slackened.

            All the weights of longing and apathy and despair slipped off his shoulders along with the noose. Disbelief numbed his legs. The eye he sought drew nearer to him; fate was bringing to him his weights that he may discard them!

            One silhouette disturbed the Nether’s sacred monotony of stillness and silence. Aside from the ocean sky, the world after death remained motionless, inanimate. Any vision or sight could be confused for a painting on a wall; a borderless image that he could manipulate through himself to many ends. Sora could alter his vantage, observe a scene through the various illuminations that fell from the sky, or even move the silhouettes with his hands, but never would this painting have life. Death’s decree froze this world into instances of image, but life now sprang before him and defied everything he knew of this Netherworld.

            Sora took a step back from the unknown, and the shadow stopped. The two waited until the rain finally shed a few lights to dispel their misplaced fear. Where imagination once placed a demon or other nightmare, he now saw a girl more petite than himself.

            The girl held up a pale rose and caught the next raindrop in its petal frills. The flower absorbed the water’s light and glowed with its white color.

            So many pale blonde strands overflowed the crown of her head till they spilled over her shoulders, racing the tattered fabric of her white gown down her sides until they settled at her waist. Her fair skin ran just as softly, just as smoothly, except for the stitches. They grabbed the eyes, those stitches, and just as strongly invoked the mind. The black threads rounded high up her arms and legs, revealing where her limbs had been sewn on and at one time, torn off. The only implication more disturbing wrought a stitch-line about her neck.

            Just as he studied her, two eyes gazed back, and when Sora gathered the courage to look at them he saw two different eyes. Her left eye reflected the shining rose off a dark brown mirror, but that blue iridescence in her right eye belonged to him.

            “Ah…” was the best his feeble tongue could muster, but she understand. The girl pointed at her blue eye and spoke.

            “Is this yours?”

            Sora nodded, and without hesitation her fingers reached for the eye to pluck it out. He thought of this girl lying in pieces on the ground. With his eye, she became whole. He did not wish to take that from her, and so he ran to her and grabbed her wrist.

            “You can keep it.”

            “Really?” she asked, wide-eyed as though the nature and essence of people were defied by his generosity. She thanked him, studied him and searched his form; eyes roaming aimlessly before locking onto Sora’s pocket.

            “…Feather?”

            Sora withdrew the feather and held it up.

            “Is this yours?”

            She nodded and offered her rose in trade. In her other hand, two pieces of white flesh brimmed with feathers like the one Sora found. A few fallow regions contrasted a beautiful pattern, but with the feather received she rejuvenated her plume, even if just a little.

            “Are those wings?”

            “Pieces.”

            She separated the two pieces and held them up to show off their dismemberment. Putting them closer together, Sora could see where they should’ve come together as one. Instead, she held segments of a jigsaw puzzle.

            “Would you like me to put them together?”

            “Can you?”

            Sora showed the girl his needle. In the Netherworld, no tool or instrument could compare to this simple strip of metal. A pointy tip on one end, a loop on the other, and just enough girth in between to pierce flesh, hide, and cloth alike without bending or breaking. With a needle, Sora could reattach body parts or patch together pieces of fabric to make or mend clothes. With a needle, Sora was both doctor and tailor.

            Thread was simple enough to find. Amongst every crop of trees Sora could always find the harrowing fingers of a spindle tree. Those branches kept splitting into smaller and smaller limbs, intertwining fine woods into a web spanning all three spectrums of dimension. Hell’s widow could not spin a more diabolical weave, a weave made more confusing by the threads of black silk hanging from each twig end.

            This nightmarish product of Nature and Nether lay in Sora’s wake, and a moment’s backtrack found him a spindle tree. Its silk fell low to the ground, and he merely had to close his grip in its web to pull away a fistful of threads.

            Sora changed venues to friendlier oaks and sat at its base. The girl sat on her knees before him and watched as he pulled thread through the needle loop and tied a knot at the end. “You are quite skilled”, she said, though Sora had to wonder if she sincerely possessed any frame of reference. He certainly didn’t.

            “Did you use a needle often in life?”

            “No.”

            “How did you live?” and he found the question strange to interpret. “What did you do in life?” or “What were you in life”, would have observed the extra-personal distance expected by the proper language he adopted in life. Sora dwelled upon occupation, status, existences, and she made him to think on his feelings.

            “Sorrowful.”

            “Why sorrowful?”

            “Because I lived penniless; haunting alleys and trash.”

            The girl’s head bowed, apologizing through silence. Seeing her take on his lively grief, he quickly continued his sentence and tried to fool him and her of a happiness found in death.

            “It’s all right though! At least I am here now in the Netherworld. It’s rather beautiful here.”

            Curiosity replaced her sorrow. She opened her mouth, but after “Um…” her tongue got lost, stumbling over a name she didn’t know. “Sora” he told her, “Sora…” he trailed off before admitting that he forgot his last name, if ever he had one. A single name satisfied her though, and she smiled while repeating his call.

            “Sora… Sora… I love your name. Simple sound, but beautiful.”

            And he loved her voice and words. How sad that it took years after death to finally receive a compliment, to know some feature of his deserved admiration

            “Sora, how did you get here? To the Netherworld?”

            He hoped her words would not venture on death. Sora could not envision a cessation more pitiful than his life, but he shared it. From that face, that innocent expression, he could not possibly hide; he could not lie. Those wondering, childish eyes would just reach into his soul, reach into his truth.

            “I died for a piece of food.   I found a morsel of cake on the streets. I’ve never had cake, so I eagerly took my find into an alley to savor, but a man, a much bigger man saw me. I really, really wanted to know the sweet taste of cake, so I refused to give it to him.”

            Sora paused, yielding the focus to precisely position the two pieces of wing together and make that crucial first pierce.

            “The man beat me and took my food, and then he continued beating me until my flesh and pain swelled unto agony. I died in that alley, unable to move, unable to scream. I could only whimper as my body withered over days.”

            A pitiable death she agreed, “But how did you get here, to the Nether?”

            Sora thought he answered, only to realize his error. She wanted to know why he walked under an ocean sky instead of Heaven’s sun. “Well, when I stood at the gates to Heaven, a crowd told me I was born a mongrel, lived a mongrel, and died a mongrel, and that Heaven has no place for a mongrel. I suddenly fell into darkness and wound up here.”

            “…How cruel”, she whispered twice over and let the horror still her. She sat quietly, content to watch him delicately weave the thread between two halves until they bound together whole. Sora offered her the completed fragment, but she did not accept it.

            “Is something wrong?”

            Her eyes evaded his, even with the advantage of duality. Her lips moved, but only a deaf ear could hear her words.

            “What’s your name?”

            “…Saylene.”

            “That’s a pretty name! Say, anything on your mind?”

            “Will you help me find the rest of my wings? I want to fly.”

            “Okay.”

            Saylene turned around and started off toward the first piece, following the hope that tugged her soul along. High up her back, mounted behind the shoulder blades, two bloody stumps marked what she lost and sought to reclaim.

            Fortune gifted her more generously than it had Sora. Feathers and the rare white flesh cropped up with the passing of hours and sometimes minutes. When Saylene discovered matching segments, they stopped while Sora sewed them together. Up hills and peaks they scaled, down slopes and the cheeks of mountains they descended. By lakes and rivers only heard, through the ghoulish grasps of forest trees they trekked. Despite years committed to searching for his eye, he felt he traveled more following this girl, that he had explored more of the Netherworld in her company than he had ever accomplished alone. Sense couldn’t explain it. Had his trance deepened with love, so drunk that the passage of time eluded him? Or had Saylene’s presence finally awoken him from years of sleep-walking? Feelings and emotions forgotten… love, infatuation, caring… revived by her light.

            It was curiosity though that leapt furthest from the mind-bound grave, spinning conjecture and theory as he tried to wrap his head around Saylene’s past. He could fancy a guess to her nature. Wings only blessed angels, but why did an angel walk under an ocean sky instead of Heaven’s sun?

            “Ah… Saylene?”

            “Yes?”

            “You’re an angel, aren’t you?”

            Saylene did not stop or slow. She answered without looking back.

            “I was the Angel of Love, but I’ve lost both my wings and love. I’m just a girl fallen from heaven now.”

            Fallen or not, a measure of reverence permeated his body with warmth and respect for this holy being before him, but also deepened his confusion. He hoped that he did not venture unto sacrilege as he asked, “But why are you fallen?”

            “Mm… I guess Heaven doesn’t need love anymore, so I was cast out.”

            “By God?”

            “By people.”

            “You mean humans?”

            Saylene nodded.

            With but one eye and mind, Sora could not comprehend such a ludicrous Heaven. A heaven where humans could throw out an angel, a heaven that did not need love… “How is that even possible?” Surely, the superior power and grace of angels could rule over humanity, but Saylene told a tale of Heaven nothing like the warmth Sora believed in.

            “I was thrown down a pit, an endless hole whose walls writhe with the evils of all beings. Demons embodying the wickedness of the spectators above grabbed at me, pierced my body, infested and wriggled through my veins and organs and tore me apart from the inside. Whomever the demons slay and eat, divine or mortal, they find themselves here in the nether as I did. To my fortune, an old woman was kind enough to sew what she found of me together.”

            Suddenly the death Sora suffered appeared quite generous and satisfactory. He wanted to console Saylene, offer his condolences and whatever support he could muster, but a vision cut him out of reality.

            For a brief moment, Sora saw through the darkness and witnessed Saylene’s agony. Warped, mutated monsters of illogical design grabbed at her with hands, claws, and tentacles, holding her up like game trophy. Terror held her eyes wide, tears streamed down her face. She begged for salvation or at the least a merciful death, but fear and choking grasps curtailed her voice.   The mutilation and horrification of her body filled his mind’s sight with vitriolic imagery, but gore held only a blunted edge to symbolism.

            No matter how hard he tried to cast it from his mind, Sora could not stop the echoing sights of Saylene’s wings being pierced and broken. Blood trickled between the feathers as unholy appendages gouged her angelic gift, defiling her until finally the demons tore the wings from her back one at a time, stealing each into the darkness slowly, taunting her feeble struggles to save her precious light. And always, always the scene ended with the cheers of people, of human beings. No remorse, no empathy, just delighted celebration that the soles of human feet could shove angelhood into the dirt, that not even divinity could withstand human conquest, human ambition, human ruination.

            Sora felt guilty for being human, for belonging to those that would see this angel’s soul raped for entertainment. “I’m sorry,” he said, unable to shake a sense that the vision he saw originated not from some foreign entity or a connection to Saylene’s soul through his loaned eye, but from recollecting his own contribution to that writhing mass of human folly. Sora could not deny the envy he felt in life, the desire to join those who lived with full bellies and in warm homes. In death, he might have envied Saylene’s beautiful wings had Heaven taken him in.

            Saylene took Sora’s hands into her own, and through this simple touch he felt her undeserved forgiveness. “I saw what they did to you,” he said, “I saw from the envy in my heart, my darkness in that pit, and I can’t help but wonder if I could have been one of them.”

            Saylene just shook her head.

            “No. You gave me your eye. You would make me whole before yourself. You are much kinder than I.” To be praised higher than an angel, even a fallen one, warmed Sora’s cheeks with humility and happiness, but still he wrestled with shame, a need to be punished for those who would go free after their crimes. “Those were my kin…” he tried to argue, but one did not match grace with an angel.

            “Silly Sora. Cruelty beckons to anyone weak enough to savor its cheap satisfactions. That could have been angels laughing at me, or angels and gods and humans in company. It really doesn’t matter.”

            “Angels can be evil?”

            “Anything capable of choice can decide to live harmoniously or wickedly. God could commit evils if she willed it, and she’d be as fallible as if you or I chose the same.”

            Her palm stroked Sora’s cheek as she smiled for him. “I have darkness too, darkness that resides in that pit. My spite, my contempt delighted in destroying the divinity and higher purpose humans ascribe to me… My covetous nature tried to take and hoard my wings, never to share a feather. Divinity does not grant moral impunity. I hope if ever I erred, you would have courage enough to correct me.”

            Sora could have used a few eternities to contemplate Saylene’s words, but she pulled him along by the hand. “Let’s keep going,” she insisted, “just a few more pieces… a few more feathers and I’ll fly under an ocean sky.” Sora had many questions, questions about a Heaven that didn’t need love, but he held them, he held them and forgot them while treading the Netherworld, while stitching pieces of wings together, while watching the smile and warmth return to Saylene’s complexion as her wings neared completion.

            The end of longing began in a clearing, an absence of silhouettes separating forest and mountain. Where rain fell here, the light penetrated the surface and dissipated into sinking mist. Somewhere beneath this strange surface both flat and clear, the final feather glowed white and gentle.

            Saylene took a step forward, and Sora grabbed her out of fear that she’d sink with the rain.

            “Silly Sora. It’s just water. A lake.”

            Silly Sora let her go, and she plodded forth through shallow water. She bent down and plucked her feather from the shoals, returning to dry land and completing her plume. Even with black threads weaving through the white sheens like a shattered pane, Sora still found glory in those severed wings.

            “It’s done!”

            “Not quite,” she said, turning her back to him and holding the rose high above to shine over her back. Sora wielded his needle for one last feat, sewing and restoring each wing as slowly as they had been undone until two broken, but proud wings spread wide as her outstretched arms. Sora admired his handiwork for the few seconds before reality crashed down upon him.

            “Sora, you can sew them on now.”

            “I already have.”

            Saylene looked over her shoulder, touched her feathers. “I can’t feel them.” She closed her eyes tight, tried with all her might to beat her flight muscles, but aside from a paltry bounce they did not move, they did not fly.

            Saylene bolted forth, thrashing through water before leaping into the air on mortal feet, but rather than sail on divine wind she crashed thunderously into the lake. Sora chased after her, wading in knee deep before finding the sullen wreck of a broken girl.

            “I can’t feel my wings… I can’t fly…” she sobbed till her voice choked and she settled for the comfort of Sora’s arms. “I wanted to fly under an ocean sky… I wanted to carry you with me and see the auroras together…” Sora held her close to his bosom, and as her sorrow bled over his chest, he realized the nature of Saylene’s suffering.

            She accepted her fall from Heaven, losing her position by God, but she agonized about the loss of her wings. Tendrils had eaten her from the inside out, decapitated her head and limbs by bursting out from under her skin, yet only the theft of her wings tormented her. Sora blamed his kin for committing sacrilege against a divine being, for usurping Heaven, but these were just crimes against the vanity of his faith.

            Saylene loved her wings. She loved to fly and feel the wind flowing through her hair and feathers. A simple happiness had been broken. A fundamental wrong had been scarred onto her heart. No matter how he tried to elevate her, Saylene’s feelings were mortal. She suffered pain and cried tears as he did.

            Sora cast off his reverence for Saylene and threw away holiness and sacredness. To worship her, to idolize her and obey the ease of faith and fear left her alone and isolated in this Netherworld. He discarded humility and summoned the courage to stand as her equal, to say “You can lean on me, you can cry on my shoulder”, to love her as a person and not as an angel.

            Sora lifted her face and gently kissed her lips, flushing away her tears for the heat of embarrassing surprise.

            “You… you kissed me!”

            “Uh, sorry… It felt like the right thing to do.”

            Saylene burst out laughing, bellowing and cackling and sounding so very human. “Silly Sora…” she said many times before pushing him along towards the shore.

            Halfway there she stopped and looked out over the lake’s crest with wandering and wondering eyes.

            “Wait here.”

            She ran back out into the depths and dived under the surface. She did not resurface for a minute, two minutes, three… Sora held up the rose, but the lake’s core just looked like a black abyss, even under lantern.

            Saylene eventually returned, looking horribly pale as she coughed up two lungs worth of water. As she forced herself breathe, she held up an eyeball in her fingers: a little white sphere glossed by veils of water and light. Its iris matched Saylene’s brown eye. “Now we can both be whole,” she said and reached to pluck Sora’s eye from her socket once more, but stopped.

            “Take off your eye patch.”

            Sora took it off, and tried his best not to wince or squirm as Saylene pushed her eye into his vacant socket.

            “And with this,” she said, “we can always find each other, no matter where we are.”

            Vision that once gazed without partner now felt the depth of company and the deeper understanding afforded by difference. With her eye, he fell deeper into this Netherworld trance. Sora still felt the tug of his eye on his soul, but he did not mind being tied to her for all eternity.

            “Let’s go,” she said, taking him by the hand.

            “Where?”

            “It doesn’t matter…”

            They were together, in company, in friendship. Free of mortality, free of divinity, safe from a Heaven that did not need love.

            They walked under an ocean sky, entranced by this never-ending night.