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: ‘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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Excerpt: ‘I Found Love in an Urn Full of Ashes’ by Joyce Chng

This Chinese demon-world story is just as exciting as the title! Written by the amazing Joyce Chng, who’s stories have appeared now in all 4 Insignia Series anthologies.

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‘I Found Love in an Urn Full of Ashes’ by Joyce Chng

The entire cave kingdom gathered for the wedding ceremony. The bats escorted the foxes, the deer, the spiders, the snakes and even the lowest toads to the Great Hall, chittering away as they flew above the heads of the guests, guiding and scolding them at the same time. The snake women hid their smiles behind their long sleeves, their eyes shining with speculation. The spider women clustered together, weaving their silk idly. I had already received their tribute of the best-spun spider silk robes, a wedding gift for my bride. The foxes readied their cymbals and pipes to greet my bride when she appeared.

Fu Xi even procured a Taoist priest spirit for the wedding. He would prevent my bride from fleeing. Ideally, the matchmaker should be here, but she had already fled the kingdom. Humans are such fragile creatures, easily frightened and unaccustomed to our ways. My new bride would be human too, albeit now in spirit form. I hoped she would not frighten so easily.

At the right moment, when the stars aligned and the moon crossed the aegis, the Taoist priest broke the seal of the urn and whispered the words that would free the spirit within, the spirit of my bride.

Wisps of white smoke swirled out of the broken urn, forming the shape of a slender human figure. At first, the figure seemed to be kneeling, before unfolding like a cloth puppet. Features sharpened. The watching animals gasped.

I stared. The eyes of the white figure opened. They were luminous. Beside me, Fu Xi shrank a little.

The spirit of the young scholar shook his head and looked around, bemusedly. “Where the hell am I?”

“You are now married,” intoned the Taoist priest who then dissipated because his job was done. The words lingered in the suddenly cold air of the Great Hall. Some of the snake women turned pale, as if they were about to faint. The band of fox musicians started playing a wedding song. With a glare from Fu Xi, they stopped, the song tapering into a few discordant notes. Someone blew an out-of-tune pipe and descended immediately into an embarrassed silence.

“I—” I looked at my right wrist and baulked. Red thread glowed between it and the young scholar’s hand. He looked at me in amazement.

The young man, his eyes like a phoenix’s, his lips full and mobile, began to laugh merrily. “Looks like I am now married to you, lord.” He wasn’t afraid of me.

He wasn’t afraid of me.

~~~

Joyce Chng’s Author Page

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

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AVAILABLE FROM:

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HAPPY RELEASE DAY!!

It’s finally here!

‘Insignia: Southeast Asian Fantasy’ is now available for just $1.99!

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Buy Links:

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(Coming soon to Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and more).

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Visit the Insignia Vol.3. Page here

Want to write for our next anthology? See our Submissions Page here

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Other titles in The Insignia Series:

Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories

Insignia: Chinese Fantasy Stories

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