I Must Have Wandered, by Mary Ellen Gambutti

#japan #memoir #realistic #short stories #womenauthors

On a sunny late June 1962 morning Mom directed me to return to school for my cordovan oxfords. I had forgotten to change into them on the last day of school, and wore my black indoor uniform loafers home on the bus. “Go get them!” she shouted. I was ten at the finish of fifth grade, a cautious child. To leave Washington Heights, our military housing complex, alone, on foot, was a daunting prospect. But I obeyed Mom and hiked to the main gate carrying nothing, not even my dependent’s identification card. A Japanese guard waved ‘bye,’ asked no questions as I entered Tokyo streets, to feel my way to Sacred Heart campus.

Beyond the sentry at my left was Meiji Park. I gathered my recollection of the school bus route, past the commuter rail station, and into the modern business district of Shibuya. Perhaps it was a Monday–maybe I’d been out of school a week—the sidewalks filled with boys in school uniform shirts and jackets, businessmen, department store shoppers in kimonos or skirts and blouses, pedestrians young and elderly; people I had come to trust during the first year my Air Force family lived in Japan.

City bustle around me, I rested briefly against a building, my head in a whirl. I exchanged smiles and bows, then made my way across a wide, busy intersection among the throng. With vague memory of the way, I began to ascend a narrow street into Hiroo, where homes rested along the road to my destination. Relieved to see the massive tori gate on my right, I walked under it and entered Sacred Heart school grounds.

My mission urgent, I turned up the stone driveway to the main building. Free of my uniform navy jumper and white blouse, and instead wearing sneakers, summer shirt and shorts, I felt out of place. Up the marble steps and into the halls of my all-girls school, I passed a few nuns, but they didn’t seem to notice me. In the cloakroom, that place where the daily business of shoe change and outerwear hanging was conducted under the demands of silence, I pulled the culprit shoes from my cubby. Without hesitation, I returned to the hall and exited into the drive, past the silent tea house and stone lantern, then under the tori—but what next? I should have turned left to descend through Hiroo, but did I?

I must have wandered; have no recollection of how long, or how I ended up in the village of Shinjuku opposite Washington Heights, the other side of Meiji Park. But when I found myself in front of a familiar shop, face to face with my American playmate, Kathy, and her mother, Mrs. Meadow, I was relieved.

“How did you get here? Are you alone?” Mrs. Meadow looked concerned. Kathy smiled in surprised.

I was tired, and gave in to self-pity. “My mother made me walk to school for my shoes.” I clutched them in my arms.

Mrs. Meadow, always friendly when I played with Kathy in their home, didn’t smile this time, but pointed to her car. “You can ride home with us.” I gladly accepted her offer of a small icy bottle of Pepsi, and rolled into the backseat of her Chevy.

I let the front screen door slam behind me, and held the shoes out to my mother. “Mrs. Meadow brought me home,” I told her, but said nothing about the journey.

“Put them in your closet,” was all I recall she said. She must have been relieved to see me, but I’ll never know.

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The Crystal Dragon, Part 11: Train Station, by Edward King

#adventure #china #short stories #stories

There are many thieves in the train but I am not a thief.

There are always many trains coming and going, and many people, and much hustle and bustle, and they use this to their advantage, as a distraction. And though my clothes are dirty and my beard is long, though my eyes are weary and my cap is worn, I am simply a traveler and I would never cause another person pain just for my own gain. I am a decent man.

It is summer now, and so the stations are more hot and dusty and chaotic. The cafes, once something of a refuge from the crowds, have been overrun—the tables are all full and even the spaces on the floor are taken, and I’ve heard that by the afternoon there isn’t any tea left at all; although this is hard for me to verify as I don’t touch the stuff.

Summer is also the time when I begin my travels in earnest. In June I will leave Xi’an and take a train to the coast, to Guangzhou where I once had relatives; but I have not been for a long time. I will look them up, I think, but I should not torture myself with old family history as they will want me to. Perhaps I will not look them up.

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Wired Phoenix by Gary Hewitt

#creepy #fiction #flashfiction #halloween #phoenix #short stories

The evisceration was almost complete. Samways pointed to the corpse. Two employees hastened towards the cadaver.

“He’ll do. Bring it back to the lab.”

* * * *

John Fernandez enjoyed the warmth of the light. The previous agony had long vanished. He remembered his team never had a chance. The ambush was brief and savage. His last memory was of a bullet shattering his skull.

The worst thing was waiting for death. The torment knowing you’ll never see your family and friends and the fear of what comes next.

This was nice, peaceful and so many old faces from his past. Sylvie. He remembered falling in love when he was eight. She looked the same now as back then. He remembered how she fell ill when she reached nine.

Poppy. His first dog. How he cried when he passed. The canine hurtled towards him, yelping after a long delayed reunion. The light was his. The feeling was beyond bliss.

The image disintegrated into painful pixels. His vision changed into ones and zeroes. His thoughts turned to binary and paradise darkened.

Impossible. He was dead. His brain cells decorated the crust of the desert. He wanted to go back to the light.

* * * *

Brilliant. The process connecting the new hardware to the host was messy, yet had been an outstanding success. Inserting the necessary wires to recover the neural pathways had been tricky. They were almost ready.

“Simon, run the program.”

He pressed Enter yet the cadaver remained lifeless.

“Shit. We should have had something happen.”

Samways was interrupted by a dreadful scream. His glass of water fell and shards splattered onto the parquet floor. His team looked for guidance. He thanked God he insisted on restraints.

“It’s fine, just residual feedback. He should calm down once we’ve got him accustomed properly.”

The screaming stopped. John Fernandez began to breathe.

Samways flipped open his notepad and began to write. He had stepped beyond genetic engineering. John was the world’s first android and his property.

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