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
“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.
Insignia: Japanese Fantasy Stories is now available from:
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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