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| Lessons can come from the strangest places...|
This is actually one of my older stories, written maybe a year or so ago... It is based on a long story or 'novel' of sorts that I have at least planned out and am kinda-sorta writing. There is, of course, a problem -- for the storyline shifted from Fantasy to Not-Fantasy at one point, and probably shouldn't be in here... This is why I'm only posting little pieces of it here and there, if that.
Once, when she was a young girl, Kajiko had found a moth in her drinking water. She had watched carefully as the tiny insect struggled to keep balanced on the surface, and as its wings became more and more saturated with liquid.
She’d never paid attention to the creatures before. In fact, she had been quick to brush them carelessly away when she’d felt the fluttering of wings brushing against her face, or heard them tapping rhythmically against the paper panels of her bedside lantern, which had a glowing light that seduced them there. The tower was small and rectangular, a space that was nearly impossible to escape. They tried, however… and noisily so. It was such a hassle to rescue them; she’d carefully have to blow out the candle, and then reach down through the top and scoop up each one in turn.
However, watching the creature struggle in the water-filled drinking bowl filled her with remorse. She had not put it in there, no one in their right mind would want to… but even so, she was the one who had left her water out in the open as she ran back to the sleeping quarters. The door, she had remembered, in her haste was left askew, and if someone should stumble upon it and find the panel open…
The truth was that Kajiko wouldn’t have been punished at all. The first person to come upon that blemish would simply clear it up, and probably without a second thought. If she had been at home her mother would have scolded her in that loving firmness that Kajiko could still remember at the corners of her mind… or rather, in her chest, a swelling in her lungs that she knew was affection. But her mother was gone; everyone was gone except for the quiet people of this monastery that never raised their voices to her and never made her get up and pray in the morning – if she wanted to sleep in, all she would be sacrificing was her breakfast.
That was why Kajiko had filled her bowl with water that morning. It was not the hard, soupy rice gruel that had become her diet in this place, but it was something to fill her stomach until the evening meal. That was also why Kajiko rushed to the open door in something near panic – if they would not punish her, she would simply end up punishing herself. That ritualistic silence would be mistaken for anger, a brief glance from one of the priests would be taken in disappointment. Kajiko would be overwhelmed with guilt, laden with failure. She was younger, and different from the rest… and all she wanted to do was belong somewhere. Letting in a draft wasn’t a good way to pull that off.
And, in her brief absence, the moth had somehow gotten into the bowl. Its wings spread against the placid surface, weighted down by the very liquid that soaked them. When she’d first looked upon it, it was white and still powdery in places… but then it was slick, clear, the only remains of color skimming against the surface like a layer of metallic oil.
Stifling a sniffle, although she still didn’t know yet why, the child carefully dipped her hand into the bowl to retrieve the creature. The moth was still trembling with life and sending desperate little ripples vibrating from all around it like some pitiful sort of sonar. That motion gave her hope, told her that she could save it and then perhaps dry it out in the sun like the long bolts of fabric that were laid out every week after a vigorous cleaning.
However, at the moment her fingers dipped into the water a whirlwind of backflow came in her wake, pushing the insect not into her palm as she’d wanted, but deep into the bottom of the bowl and back again, sliding up against the ceramic and sticking there. Kajiko felt an invisible hand grip her lungs and squeeze…. Did she do that? Did she really…?
Every time she put her hand in, even when carefully attempting to lift it from where it was plastered, the water seemed to get ahead of her, each time reclaiming its victim and sweeping it away with the current. Her features became more and more stricken, her heart more and more heavy every time the moth circled wildly at the bottom of the bowl.
And then, with a hiss of frustration she finally sat back on her heels and thought about it. It took what seemed to be an eternity to clear her mind, and then, at last, with a touch of apprehension, she tentatively let one fingertip grace the surface, carefully moving it toward the still form that floated there. It was not to grab, to clutch… but rather to work with the current and let it brush the creature into her flesh, where its long papery wings gripped with gentle vehemence.
Slowly, breathlessly... She drew it up and out of the bowl and laid it neatly on her palm. It was barely recognizable in its sticky clear shroud, a small clump of gel and nothing more. With her heart drumming heavily in her constricted chest, Kajiko tried to spread out the wings with her free hand.
The moth tore at her touch.
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