Excerpt: ‘White Lady’ by Tina Isaacs

The last story in Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories is a very interesting tale about a Singaporean mortician.

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‘White Lady’ by Tina Isaacs

Excerpt:

“What made you choose this life? It’s so…” he raised his eyes to the ceiling as he fumbled for a word, which wouldn’t come across as condescending, “…macabre.” Despite efforts, he couldn’t hold back the shudders that racked his spine.

Timothy suspended a pen over his note pad. He glanced at the fine-boned lady as she silently went about her task. She had the weathered face of someone who’d experienced her share of grief, and her skin was as sallow as the body which lay under the white shroud before her—or so he imagined.

She slowly laid out an array of equipment and materials on the three-tiered trolley beside her. On the top tray of the trolley, he eyed a row of brown glass bottles, silver canisters and various steel tools that she’d lined with painstaking care.

“I supposed you could say the profession chose me, rather than the other way around.” Her almond-shaped eyes crinkled at the corners as she paused in her task and looked up at Timothy. “The womenfolk in my family have always been White Ladies, you see. My mother, my grandmother, and her mother before her.”

He smiled and nodded to encourage the undertaker’s narration, his pen rushing furiously in an attempt to get it all, verbatim, despite the digital recorder he’d placed on the gurney in front of her.

“Techniques on how to prepare bodies after death were passed down the generations… Of course, the way we’ve handled things has changed over the years, but the premise is the same,” she said, her smile soft. “You see, many believe the way we prepare the body for the afterlife stems from the manifestation of society’s desire for some kind of continuity after death. It’s like a show of respect to those passing into the next realm, on the belief that we’ll be shown the same respect when we die. And this is especially true for the Chinese.”

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Tina Isaacs’ Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

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Excerpt: ‘Untouchable’ by Sheenah Freitas

Here’s an excerpt from returning contributor, Sheenah Freitas’ Nepalese fantasy piece.

Note: this is a flash story so the excerpt is shorter than others we’ve posted.

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‘Untouchable’ by Sheenah Freitas

Excerpt:

In her earliest memory, she wanted to be a Kumari—they were one of the beautiful girls in Nepal worshipped for being the reincarnation of the great goddess Taleju. She believed she could feel power and wisdom exuding from those young girls. Young and old always clamored around the Kumari hoping for some sort of advice or just to be in the presence of a god. They thought the Kumari buzzed with divine energy.

She always wanted to be closer. She wanted to touch their feet, to be intimate with a god herself. But she was too afraid of what she might actually feel. What if she felt nothing at all? Or what if she did feel something? What would that do to her? Would she denounce her faith as a Buddhist and convert to Hinduism?

Despite everything, she lacked the courage to meet them.

But now, she thinks she will never see one.

She is dying.

Sheenah Freitas’ Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

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Excerpt: ‘The Last Train to Begunkodor’ by Nidhi Singh

For the first time in The Insignia Series, we have a fantasy story set in India. Nidhi Singh’s ‘The Last Train from Begunkodor’ is a wonderful ghost tale full of intrigue.

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‘The Last Train to Begunkodor’ by Nidhi Singh

Excerpt:

For all I suck at my cigarette, I find no joy, no soothing sting as the smoke whirls in. I turn it in my fingers, it is not damp or anything, but the stench and relish of tobacco is missing from my mouth and lungs. I am incredibly thirsty, but the boiling, sticky water from the train’s tap does not slake my drought. I glance again at the tattered piece of newspaper that had woken me, by rustling against my cold cheek in the night breeze as I’d hunched, catlike, in a long stupor I can’t recall since when, on the crown branch of a Junglee Badam tree.

It had announced the coming of a train to Begunkodor. I knew I must get on this train. Why, I didn’t know.

I rode the first bullock cart—perched between the swaying humpbacked beast’s horns—out to Purulia to board the 1283 Superfast Express. I lay for a while on the train’s ribbed roof, swung some from its shuttered windows, and then hung out with the atrabilious engine crew. I finally calmed down from all the rattling and lurching and found an empty wooden bench next to the latrines to puff at a cigarette I’d eased from a sleeping Naga sadhu’s robes. I have always been this uneasy and restless. I roam the marshes, string myself to floating mists, crawl through the sludge and entangled roots in the gaping depths, but find no rest. My memory betrays me and I don’t even remember what I look like— let alone know where I come from or where I am going. But this place Begunkodor beckons, and I am sucked like dark matter into the black funnel of its screaming, lonely torment.

Nidhi Singh’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

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Excerpt: ‘Birds of Heaven’ by EK Gonzales

‘Birds of Heaven’ is a sweet literary piece by Filipino author, EK Gonzales.

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‘Birds of Heaven’ by EK Gonzales

Maria sent the birds of heaven to every part of the world. At any given minute, someone wanted to give up and disappear. To each one, Maria sent out one of her birds.

Birds of every size and color left the aviary, singing of hope and love. Many returned with joyful melodies of people saved. Others came back with mournful tunes, of those for whom they were too late.

For each person saved, the birds burst into a wonderful orchestra, filling heaven with sweet music. For each person lost, the aviary darkened for a time, a sadness that all of heaven saw and felt.

For each person lost, Maria’s heart was pricked and filled with pain.

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EK Gonzales’ Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

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Excerpt: ‘The Fireflies of Todaiji’ by Russell Hemmell

Here’s a beautiful Japanese sci-fi piece by new contributor Russell Hemmell. The first story in Part II, our literary section.

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‘The Fireflies of Todaiji’ by Russell Hemmell

They strolled along Sinus Iridum’s walking area, luscious and green—the dome’s borders looming in the distance. Artificiality nonetheless, it’s an awesome place, Chandra thought.

“Thanks for having me here.” Yumiko said with a timid smile. “Would you honour me and visit my home?”

“Certainly. When?”

“For the Todaji. There’s no better occasion to be in New Hokkaido.”

“Todaji? What’s that?”

“It’s the main event of the year. We celebrate the coming of spring and the cherry blossoms.”

“I’m not sure I understand, Yumiko.”

“What’s not to understand? It’s a water festival, and in Japan they regularly hold it.”

“See? At least two things in your sentence that don’t add up. This is not Japan, it’s not even Earth. And, water is at a premium everywhere on the Moon. Can’t believe things are that different in your settlement,” Chandra said.

“No, but…”

“Don’t you think that at least people like us, born and bred on the lunar surface—or under, depending on where your home is—should start building our own culture?”

Yumiko stared at her with a dismayed face. “I like traditions. I like festivals.”

“Of a place you have never seen, and of a language you can’t even write any longer.”

“I still speak Japanese.”

“If you were there now, they would treat you as an alien—and this is what you are, Yumiko. A human alien from the Satellite.”

Her friend lowered her head, remaining silent for a moment. “So you’re not coming.”

Chandra thought about it. “Is it dangerous? You know I’m still recovering from my training injuries of last term.”

“No danger. And it’s only a few hours from Russell Bay.”

“I’ll come.”

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Russell Hemmell’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

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Excerpt: ‘Jentayu’s Tear’ by Anna Tan

‘Jentayu’s Tear’ is a wonderful story based on a Malaysian folktale. Enjoy!

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‘Jentayu’s Tear’ by Anna Tan

The men screamed and pointed as he transformed back to his true form. His golden feathers blazed in the sun, his horn burning with pure fire; hot white, deep black, flickering blue. He spread his wings and took to the air, the force of each beat of his wings driving the little men to the ground.

“Fight me, Jentayu!” he screamed his challenge into the air.

Lighting flashed across the sky—and there she was before him. Her sleek blue-white feathers gleamed in the rain that now poured, her crest glinting like a diamond crown. For a moment, he caught his breath, mesmerized. He’d forgotten how beautiful she was. How graceful in flight, how tender in speech, how she’d been his closest companion for thousands of years as they ruled the Bird Kingdom together. But the rain was chilling him, dousing his fire, and this would not do.

“It’s not so easy to kill me, Jentayu,” he sneered.

“I’m not trying to kill you. It’s enough for me to just stop you from carrying out your
nefarious plans.”

“Nefarious! Hah. Maybe you should go back to school and learn how to use your words properly.”

“I said exactly what I wanted to say, Garuda.”

Another beat of his wings. The earth shook and he smiled. “We’ll see how you handle that.”

“Handle what? The earth shaking?”

“No. That.”

Jentayu wheeled in horror as the skies erupted in fire and brimstone. The eruption of the volcano filled her senses with searing heat, billowing smoke and the scent of wet ash. In retaliation, she called upon the waves. Two feet. Three. Five. Seven feet high they rose, water against fire. There was nothing she could do to help Merong Mahawangsa and his men now. They would have to survive on their own.

She pressed her apologies into his mind, directing the men to find safer ground far away from the battle. Away from the Garuda’s butchery.

“Would you really kill me, my brother?”

“I will destroy anyone who stands in my way—including you, Jentayu!”

And then they crashed against each other, hissing and snarling. Claw raking bloody claw. Beak scoring beak. Mighty wing buffeting mighty wing.

It broke her heart. Where they’d once touched tenderly, as brother with sister, as friends forged in the fight together, they now lashed out at each other. There was death on his claws, and deep sadness in her heart. She knew all his weaknesses. Had once protected them, as he had done hers.

But that was why she had walked away before, wasn’t it? Away from his delusions of grandeur, of conquering the world and being Emperor of All Earth—instead of being God’s emissary and protector of birds. She couldn’t just walk away now.

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Anna Tan’s Author Page

Insignia: Asian Fantasy Stories Page (Insignia Vol.4.)

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AVAILABLE FROM:

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