Excerpt: ‘Towards the Light’ by Aislinn Batstone

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This story, Towards the Light, was kind of my inspiration for the Insignia anthology. I often write Japanese stories, and was excited when my critique partner and friend, Aislinn Batstone, wrote this cool sci-fi/literary story set in Japan. I didn’t want anyone else to publish it! So I twisted the arms of a few other writers I knew with an interest in Japan and/or diverse fiction, and here we are with a little book together. 🙂

Aislinn is a great short story writer and always has interesting themes in her stories. I hope you enjoy this excerpt from Towards the Light.

Towards the Light

 Japan, AD2513

 “Why are you always so clumsy?” Kimiya’s father had retrieved a crumpled piece of paper that had dropped on the floor from his school bag. Kimiya hung his head. That had once been an intricate origami toy. He’d disappointed his father again. Sometimes Kimiya made his father laugh, but not nearly as often as he made him yell by dropping things, breaking things, serving cold tea or putting holes in expensive tatami flooring. It was just the way he was. His cousin Yoshi seemed like a better son in every way.

Kimiya and Yoshi had two things in common: their age, fourteen, and the fact that they had each lost their mother. Otherwise, they couldn’t have been more different. Yoshi liked to go to the factory with Kawaguchi and watch the pods being put together. He got on well with the factory workers and Kimiya’s father took him seriously. Yoshi was some kind of genius when it came to engineering and he was already lined up for an apprenticeship at Nippoddu when he left school.

Kimiya couldn’t care less about pod technology. As long as you got where you wanted to go, who cared how you got there? He enjoyed seeing his dad excited about ‘technological innovations’ and ‘internal design features’ but after a while he always started daydreaming. If he ever saw a pod crash he might rescue a pretty girl, maybe Reiko from school. She’d look at him with those deep brown eyes, and maybe they would kiss. When he asked his dad if the pods ever crashed, his dad proudly said, “No. The navigational technology is far too sophisticated.”

Kawaguchi took the boys to the factory every Friday afternoon after school. Yoshi was picking up more and more understanding of the design and manufacture of pods. Kimiya didn’t understand how pods stayed up in the air, but he loved to stay up late and watch them from the apartment windows. They glided so fast that their red and blue light trails crisscrossed the night.

Before long Yoshi was given his own project working on Nippoddu’s patented interior surround sound system. He attended meetings every other week with senior members of company management. Kimiya’s future was uncertain. He loved art but he found technical drawing so boring that even his greatest pleasure had become a way to disappoint his father.

 ~*~

 Aislinn Batstone was exposed to Japanese culture and language early by her mother, a Japanese language teacher, and lived in Japan for a year as a teenager. She left with some understanding of the distinctly Japanese aesthetic and worldview.

Aislinn’s short fiction has been published around the world and web including by the Stringybark Stories series in Australia, Five Stop Story in the UK, and with Plan B Mystery magazine in the USA. She publishes romantic fiction with supernatural elements under the pen name Aislinn Gilbert.

Aislinn lives in Sydney with her husband and two young children.

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Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories is now available from:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon JP

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

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Add on Goodreads

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Read More Excerpts

Megumi’s Quest by Joyce Chng

The Bakeneko by Holly Kench

Restoration by Chris Ward

Kitsune by Heather Jensen

Moon Shadow by Kelly Matsuura

Sanctuary by Chris White

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Excerpt: ‘Restoration’ by Chris Ward

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Chris Ward’s story, Restoration, is a beautiful adult literary piece; one of my favorites in the Insignia anthology.  I’ve become a big fan of Chris’ writing and believe he can write anything! He doesn’t typically write Asian or Japanese fiction, but you’ll see from this sample that he has an excellent voice for it.

Restoration

Masato was changed when he returned. Fourteen years away and I could barely recognise his face through the skin withered and creased with age, but the biggest change was in his eyes. The boy of eighteen with the bright, carefree look about him had become a man hardened and dulled through years of war. I felt like no time had passed at all, but as he lay beside me that first night I felt I was clutching something hollow, something empty, a shell that if I squeezed too tight would collapse in upon itself and disappear.

Glad enough just to have my husband home at long last, even though the spinster talk barely ceased–after all, I wasn’t alone in seeing Masato as some kind of walking wraith, haunted and scarred by the far distant war that had decimated the population of our village–I still had hopes of creating some sort of real life for us. We had married young, of course, marriage forced on us by Masato’s recruitment, but I was only thirty-three and I knew of women who had given birth at a similar age. The risks were higher, of course, but risks and guarantees were two different things. I had spent sixteen lifeless years waiting for my husband to return, so risk was better than no possibility at all.

Masato refused to talk about the war at first. Old scars crisscrossed his skin like the lines on a Go board, and as I lay beside him I traced my fingers over them, fearing the stories behind each one. Masato would lie on his back with his eyes fixed on some image between us and the ceiling that only he could see, and I knew from the flushes and shivers of his skin that he was reliving those dark days over again. When I touched him on those nights it was like touching a dying animal; I could feel the residual heat in his body but the life had already gone.

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Chris Ward is a native of Cornwall, England, but currently lives and works in Nagano, Japan. He is the author of The Tube Riders Trilogy, The Man Who Built the World and Head of Words, as well as numerous short stories and collections.

He spends his time snowboarding, writing, playing guitar in his rock band, Steampunk Unicorn, and generally having too much to say about just about everything.

Like Chris Ward (Fiction Writer) on Facebook for regular updates, or follow Chris’s blog at: www.amillionmilesfromanywhere.blogspot.jp

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Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories is now available from:

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Amazon JP

Smashwords

Barnes & Noble

~*~

Add on Goodreads

~*~

Read More Excerpts

Megumi’s Quest by Joyce Chng

The Bakeneko by Holly Kench

Towards the Light by Aislinn Batstone

Kitsune by Heather Jensen

Sanctuary by Chris White

Moon Shadow by Kelly Matsuura