Someone once told Makino that women in grief are more beautiful. So I must be the most beautiful woman in the world right now
after reading Midway Relics and Dying Breeds and In the Sight of Akresa back-to-back, it would have been too much to ask to read another perfect free tor short right away. this one is perfectly fine, but doesn’t have the density-of-story as midway or the “i will kill your heart” shock of akresa.
it’s definitely still a sorrowful tale, which i love, but it’s a more measured, meditative grief-study than the sudden gut-punch of akresa. it is about a japanese woman named makino, who was a beautiful young model when she married the older tetsuyato, with whom she had many happy years. now, she is becoming older, watching the new generation of young lovelies begin their journeys of love’s pleasures, while tetsuyato lies in a hospital, dangerously ill.
The man she loves is dying, snowfall is filling her ears, and she is going to come apart unless somebody saves him.
makino has always loved fairy tales and fantasy, and has felt a connection to the yōkai; supernatural beings in japanese folklore. one day, while bathing in the hot springs, she is approached by one of the yōkai, but not one of the good ones, as you can see from this picture:
this is the kappa, whose rap sheet includes killing children, raping women, eating people, and trying to get at people’s shirikodama, which you can read about in all its squeamish hilarity here.
but if monsterporn has taught me one thing, it is that even the most fearsome devils have a soft side. and this one has been in love with makino ever since he saved her from drowning when she was a little girl.
Your hips are pale like the moon, yet move like the curves of ink on parchment. Your eyes are broken and delicate and your hands are empty.” It drifts closer. “Your hair is hair I’ve kissed before; I do not forget the hair of women I love.
hard to resist a smooth talker…
memories are revisited, bargains are struck, consequences ensue.
it’s a lovely and placid story that has a truly haunting quality to it, and if i hadn’t just read two of the finest stories ever, i probably would have liked this one more. my own fault for being a free tor short glutton.
read it for yourself here: