Yūrei

Kawanabe Kyōsai’s “Boatman and Funayūrei”. An example of a funayūrei rendered as an umibōzu-like yokai.

Taketoki Washizu had been Captain of the freighter Tsukimi for almost a year. It had been a year to the day when the Tsukimi’s former master Noriyasu Odagura had perished at sea, swept from the desk of this very ship during a storm. The official board of inquiry determined his death to be a tragic accident, yet every last member of the crew suspected murder.

By rights, the Tsukimi should have been Washizu’s in the first place, or so said his wife Asaji. Ever ambitious for her husband, she kept harping on Taketoki how he had been cheated, that Nippon Supply, the company that owned the Tsukimi, should have promoted Taketoki instead of Noriyasu. She was almost fanatical that Noriyasu had used his family connections and influence with Nippon’s upper management to unjustly gain command of the freighter.

For the longest time, Taketoki didn’t want to believe it. He and Noriyasu had been friends since childhood and he was happy to be Noriyasu’s First Mate.

But Asaji kept after him, hounding him, saying she had a cousin in the CEO’s office, how she’d seen memos about Noriyasu and Taketoki, that even though Taketoki had more experience, Noriyasu was favored.

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The Fall of the Saints

photo prompt

© A Mixed Bag

The Milan Cathedral, a once majestic landmark, was in ruins. He never thought to visit this ancient structure, anathema to his own nature, an artifact to a once vast empire. He looked up at the Saint and the Priest. The Priest was struggling to keep the Saint integrated, but his powers were weakening, his prayers growing more faint each second. He was the last Priest. The revolution had effectively crushed their dominance. She was the last Saint, and the reluctant Magician’s target. He had no wish to harm her, but their hold on the world must be completely broken.

He began his magical rite to the horror of the Priest. An unexpected look of serenity appeared on the Saint’s visage. She knew her time was done.

The spell completed, the Priest collapsed, exhausted, and the Saint vanished from her holy vestibule in the cathedral. With her passing, so did the age of religion pass. It had taken Prospero long centuries to accomplish his task, but he had finally restored the age of mysticism across the world. Now his daughter Miranda would be free of Sainthood and return to rule as the Duchess of Milan.

This tale was written in response to the Sunday Photo Fiction – March 19th 2017 challenge hosted by Al Forbes. The idea is to use the photo prompt above to write a short piece of flash fiction no more than 200 words. Mine comes in at 194, and I confess, it was only around 140 words in its first draft. I was delighted to discover I had more “room” to add details to my mythic story.

The minute I saw the photo prompt, something reminded me of William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest”. I’ve never seen it performed or read it, but there was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation which began with the character Data (played by Brent Spiner) performing in the play on the holodeck as the character Prospero. Data, being a very literal person, had trouble understanding the character and Shakespeare’s symbolism. Captain Picard (played by Patrick Stewart), explained it this way:

“Well, Data, Shakespeare was witnessing the end of the Renaissance and the birth of the modern era, and Prospero finds himself in a world where his powers are no longer needed. So, we see him here about to perform one final creative act before giving up his art forever.”

I thought it would be interesting to reverse things, and have the modern era and the church attempting to perform its one last creative act in the face of Prospero, who was determined to end its reign. In the play, Miranda is Prospero’s daughter, and in addition to being a magician, Prospero is the Duke of Milan. In the play, he was attempting to restore his daughter to her rightful place. In my story, he succeeds.

To read more stories inspired by this prompt, to go InLinkz.com.