Monday, April 23, 2007

International Pixel-stained Technopeasant Day

So, you've all heard the infamous debate about webscabs by now, haven't you? It has to do with the upcoming SFWA elections and a rather inflammatory and inaccurate LiveJournal post made by Dr. Howard Hendrix, the outgoing vice president of SFWA. You can get the complete story here, courtesy of Jo Walton's LJ.

Now, as you can see, Jo is a wonderfully brilliant person, and has taken Dr. Hendrix's hurtful comments about giving away work for free, and turned them into International Pixel-stained Technopeasant Day! I enjoy being a peasant! =)

To celebrate, I'm posting below the text of an unfinished short story, "Oni no Yukino". The title is a Japanese phrase, taken from Japanese mythology, and means "Yukino's Demon". I never finished the story, and I'm not sure that I ever will. I'm writing different (and what I think are better) things now, but I suppose if enough people like it, perhaps I'll finish it. Please feel free to tell me it sucks. =) You can view links to other free work on Jo's blog, as well as in the comments on this post from John Scalzi.

And now, without further ado, "Oni no Yukino". (I have no idea how to do LJ-style cuts in Blogger, so I'm just pasting the damn text in. )

--------------------------------------------

Oni no Yukino

Jenny Rae Rappaport

Yukino summoned the demon when she knew her husband was having an affair. She waited until Shiho and Suzuka were asleep on their futons, curled in half moons around their stuffed bears. They smelled sweet from their baths, and the water waited in the tub. Yukino sat on a stool and scrubbed her own body clean, before immersing herself in the steaming water. The heat from it flowed underneath her skin, calming her. She reached to one side and picked up the canister of salt that waited on the tile floor; with a reckless abandon she sprinkled it over the water, until it formed misty clouds of white around her legs. It was a twisted form of misogi, but it was what she had been taught.

Afterwards, Yukino wrapped her dripping hair in a towel, and made her naked way into the main room of the apartment. She seated herself with her legs under the kotatsu, continuing to draw heat into her body. With one hand she picked up a pin, and used it to dig into the flesh of the other. Dripping blood down her palm, she drew a ragged circle around each breast, and then connected them with a line which she extended vertically down her abdomen. Quietly she spoke the incantation aloud, taking care not to awaken her daughters.

Aka-oni and Ao-oni, please remember this humble servant in this time of need.”

She sucked the blood off of her hand, drawing its iron saltiness into her mouth.

Aka-oni and Ao-oni, please grant this humble servant aid against her enemies. Aka-oni and Ao-oni, please hear this humble servant’s words.”

She licked her lips, and sucked at her hand again. Carefully she felt for the heat in her body, forming it into a small, tight ball at the center of her stomach, before she grasped it with her power.

Aka-oni and Ao-oni, I ask for an oni. I ask for Oni no Yukino!”

She lashed out with the power, using the blazing heat that seeped through her pores, as she called upon the Guardians of Hell. It flowed from her limbs, her eyes, her hair; she shone with an otherworldly radiance of black light.

The oni came in a rush, blossoming out of the air in front of her. Its horns caught the last glints of the light as it left Yukino’s body, and its skin was pale, pale blue.

Saishyou,” it said.

“You do not need to call me ‘mistress’,” Yukino replied.

“But I am yours to command, saishyou.”

“You may call me Yukino then. Now, we have many things to plan. And of course, you’ll be wanting to find some source of sustenance, but you shouldn’t overeat, as I have someone quite delectable for you.”

“Yukino, I must tell you something.”

“Yes, Oni?”

“I will only be yours until Setsubun. The incantation cannot hold me after then.”

“Damn. We’ll make do then. Two weeks should be enough.”

“Enough?”

“Enough time to kill her. To eat her soul.”

***

Oni no Yukino stared at Yukino, taking in the small lines at the corners of her eyes, and the slight tremble of her lower lip. There were traces of dried blood on her body; small streaks of brown that barely indicated where the summoning lines had been. She shivered suddenly, breaking her eyes away from his.

“Yukino?”

She fumbled with her injured hand, trying to use it to leverage herself off of the floor.

“Yukino.” Oni no Yukino bent towards her, extending one hand of blue mist. She looked at it dubiously, the indecision flickering in her eyes. “Yukino, I will not hurt you. I cannot. And I do not want to.”

She took his hand, allowing herself to be drawn to her feet.

“You’re the first oni I’ve ever summoned. My master only let us observe him—we were not allowed to practice on our own. And it’s been a long time.” She peered at him from underneath her eyelashes; a surprisingly seductive gesture from a frightened woman. “You’re nice.”

“We are not all nice.”

“I know.”

She wrapped herself in a robe that lay on the sofa.

“My husband’s name is Hiro. He won’t be home until later tonight.”

“Is he a salaryman?”

“A manager at an electronics firm. I want you to follow him tomorrow. And the day after tomorrow, and the day after that too. Until you find her.”

“Her? I still do not know who we are speaking about.”

“His woman.”

Yukino was wrapping a bandage around her hand, deftly twisting the gauze in and out. Oni no Yukino stared at her again, calculating. She wanted death, not revenge, and it looked like her fear was beginning to ebb. This was bad, very bad. He hadn’t killed since…well since the geisha matter, and that was a long time ago. Supped on souls, occasionally. Completely killed, no. A demon did have to eat every so often.

“And you want me to kill her?”

“Of course.”

“Yukino, saishyou, I do not think—“

“You do not need to think!”

“But—“

Oni, you are mine. You will do as I say.” Her voice began to take on a shrill quality, as it rose in volume. “Two weeks. My two weeks. My blood, my binding.”

“Yes, saishyou.”

“Stop that.”

“Yes, Yukino.”

She lowered her voice. “And Oni, please do remember.”

“Yes?”

“My daughters. Do not go near them. At all.”

“Are they gifted, too?”

Oni.” It was as if steel was laced throughout her voice. “Remember.”

He nodded.

“You know what to do.”

He nodded again, bowing his head until his horns touched his chest.

“Go.”

He left.

#

Hiro Tanaka was a portly man with a stomach that strained at the buttons of his suit jacket. He had been fairly easy to follow these past few days, going about his daily routine; back and forth on the train, the office, the bar with his colleagues. No woman at all. Oni no Yukino had begun to think that Yukino was the slightest bit crazed.

But now the man was at a love hotel, grunting and thrusting amid the florid sheets, his stomach gleaming with sweat. The woman writhed beneath him, screaming, shouting. The girl, really.

"Kanae, Kanae, Kanae," Hiro said in time to the movement of his hips.

Kanae responded by making noises similar to a deranged squirrel in heat. Not that Oni no Yukino had seen many deranged squirrels, but he had an imagination.

"Kanae!" Hiro said one last time, groaning as he collapsed on top of her.

"Tanaka-san," she said.

Hiro mumbled something incoherent into her breast.

"Tanaka-san, you are very heavy, and my mother—"

"Mother?" Hiro asked.

"My mother expects me home for dinner."

Hiro rolled off her then, and she scrambled off the bed and began putting her school uniform on. She was young, very young—very bad, thought Oni no Yukino. He interlaced his pale blue fingers, and watched her dress while he floated near the ceiling.

Hiro was nothing more than a lump of flesh on the bed, but the girl. Now there was something to her that he couldn't quite place. Maybe she did it for the money that she was discreetly removing from Hiro's wallet, but that didn't seem like the entire answer. She was attractive enough; nubile, one might say. Dark hair, porcelain skin, purple contacts. Sixteen, maybe seventeen.

It would be a true pity to eat her soul.

Tasty. No, not tasty. Oni no Yukino mentally shook himself. Thinking like that wouldn't help him change.

Best to follow the girl for now—she was leaving.

#

Kanae had been aware of the oni from the minute she entered the hotel room. The fact that Tanaka-san was oblivious to it only made the secret that much sweeter.


19 comments:

Irina said...

Ooh! Finish it! Please!

Patrick McNamara said...

Most of the free stuff is stuff that just isn't worth paying for. A lot of it isn't professional but amateur works. Professor Hendrix can complain all he wants about the way technology is changing things but he can't change it. It's just become too big. If he doesn't want to adapt then he'll just be forgotten. Those who adapt will succeed.

People will always be willing to pay for the good stuff. But the reason people pay is changing. They don't want to pay because they have to but because they want to. They are willing to support the artists they like but wanting to pay what they think it's worth, not what they're told it's worth. It's a different psychology.

I don't see what the bath at the beginning has to do with the story. That part could easily be cut. And deamons (and baths for that matter) are common concepts in Japanese animation.

The story reminded me a little of Jigoku Shoujo, aka Hell Girl, a recent anime series. Anime has it's own funny way when it comes to new technology and copyright. By allowing fansubbers to break copyright it has helped grow an overseas market. But that is an extensive argument of it's own.

Jenny Rappaport said...

An oni isn't quite a demon, it's more like an ogre, actually. And the bath serves the process of misogi, which is ritual purification according to Shinto traditions.

Please remember that the story is not finished, and isn't posted for critique--I've got a writer's group for that, and they've already seen this, over a year ago. =) It was for a contest we ran called Codexian Idol.

Bernita said...

I wish you would finish it.

Anonymous said...

I liked it. I just wondered if the title might be more appropriate as Yukino no Oni? As 'no' is a possessive particle, it could then mean "Yukino's Oni" rather than "Oni's Yukino". But perhaps you prefered the ambiguity?

Jenny Rappaport said...

I actually based the title off Japanese myths that call the oni "Oni no Main Character Name"; basically, whoever summons it. I think that's pretty correct, but my Japanese is rusty. Yukino no Oni doesn't look correct to me.

Like, if I was going to say "my oni is skilled", it'd be "watashi no oni ga jyouzo desu."

Sam said...

Cool!! I'll chime in the crowd and beg for an ending. Or else I'll imagine all sorts of horrible things.
:-)
So, I'll be a webscab and post a free story too. I was rather disappointed when I read the whole story, however, I did enjoy reading Mr. Hendrix's rebuttal over at Galleycat. He has a nice sense of humor, actually.

eric said...

Oooh, those webscabs make me so mad! When will technopeasants like Harry Turtledove, Mercedes Lackey, Larry Niven, and David Weber (all of whom have works available for free download from the Baen Free Library) stop wasting their time on the internet and try to become real authors?

And I'll stop now, since that's probably over my weekly recommended dosage of sarcasm, and it's only Monday.

-Eric

Conduit said...

I was just getting sucked into this as it ended, so yep, +1 for finishing it from me. My mind's eye was seeing it as a Hayao Miyazaki movie.

I have a couple of short stories on my blog. In fact I got a request from a zine editor after posting one of them on a crit blog. So what if it's just self promotion? If you want anyone to take notice of your writing then you have to put it out there. It's becoming common practice in the music business to offer free downloads to promote new bands and albums. Why shouldn't publishing be the same?

Jenny Rappaport said...

Conduit, I love that! A Hayao Miyazaki movie with deranged squirrel sex! =)

Conduit said...

Given how mental the average Miyazaki movie is, deranged squirrel sex mightn't be that odd a fit. He has tree-hopping cat-busses, dragon-slaying paper-dolls, stink-gods made of pooh who turn out to be river-spirits - why not randy, maladjusted squirrels?

Tryst said...

RE Mr. Hendrix:

And I suppose next they'll be saying that youtube is undercutting the movie industry? :P

I think he's getting a bit too big for his boots.

And the story is really interesting, Japanese stuff is always so exotic to me, do finish it! :)

Michele Lee said...

Lovely! And wow, woman, your list of clients is very impressive!

My story is up here, if anyone is interested. I've been reading a lot of the posted stories. There's some great stuff out there :)

Rae said...

I'm definitely in the "please finish this" camp.

Patrick McNamara said...

Conduit said...
"Given how mental the average Miyazaki movie is, deranged squirrel sex mightn't be that odd a fit. He has tree-hopping cat-busses, dragon-slaying paper-dolls, stink-gods made of pooh who turn out to be river-spirits - why not randy, maladjusted squirrels? "

Don't forget Pom Poko: racoons with giant testicles.

Anthea said...

I may just chime in on the Oni no Yukino/ Yukino no Oni part. 'No' is the possessive particle, and you would expect the construction OWNER no OWNED OBJECT in everyday speech. So it does read as "The Demon's Yukino" in that way.

But 'no' can also be used to turn a noun into an adverb: i.e. 'Oni no Yukino' can also be read as "The Demon Yukino." As 'no' was also used between last name/first name in premodern Japan, it can also be read as "Yukino of the demons."

I suspect the titles of myths you refer to imply that "Oni no NAME" is "NAME, of the demons" or "NAME, the demon-summoner," not that the name of the demon summoned is Oni no NAME. In other words, "Oni no Yukino" does refer to Yukino and not the oni she summons.

I would be interested in seeing your sources- I love Japanese myths.

Jenny Rappaport said...

Anthea, I used mostly internet sources, but I'll see if I can dig up some links in my bookmarks.

WandererInGray said...

That was very neat! I was disappointed when I got to the end.

Kimberly Pauley said...

I vote for finishing it :)