Writing

Snow White Writing : Rei (A Short Story)

Snow White Writing is a weekly writing segment where I write about my writing journey and share some of my works as well.

Rei is a short story born from my fascination with Japanese mythology, and my determination to find loopholes inside the rules my Creative Writing lecturer has laid out (If you’re reading this, sorry Miss!). I wrote this for an assignment during my first semester of my first year in university for my Creative Writing module.

NOTE: This work belongs to me. Please do not steal, copy, etc. Sharing (please inform me when you do so) is fine as long as you link back to this WordPress and include my name. Also, definitions were taken from pages found on Google.

This story can also be found on ANNTIDOTE.


REI

Thomas cannot keep still. He paces around the immaculate kitchen where the stench of sodium hypochlorite lingers, going from one end to the other. He feels the unwavering stare burning through the layers separating them—just as real as when his wrinkled fingers stung after being in contact with chemicals for far too long. It has become solid, resting upon his shoulders, reminding him that his failures are accumulating to a mountain. Neatly-trimmed nails dig into the flesh of palms; the air conditioner is blasting throughout the apartment but sweat continues pooling around the pits of his arms. No sound has exited Rei’s beautifully red lips. No touch aside his own has connected with the delicacies or the fine treasures he continues to scamper all over for. Does the Goddess not approve of his choices? Is hunger a disconnected factor? What can he do? What should he do? What must he do?

Thomas is desperately trying to appease Rei.

His right foot freezes mid-step as the grandfather clock strikes one. A new hour. Swiftly, he turns around and opens the freezer. The stained brown package sits unopened in its container. He has obtained yet another delicacy today.

“Pardon my intrusion, Rei-kyou[1],” he calls out before entering the dim room. Even though it’s just a suffix, the language sounds false on his tongue. It’s as far as his mastery extends because despite the fact that accents are difficult habits to modify, he is, of course, still embarrassed by his lack of perfection. Thomas should’ve learnt Japanese before even thinking that he has a chance to call a being like Rei into his worthless presence, but the past is the past. He cannot fix what is gone, although he also believes the divine being in front of him will forgive that.

“I have brought your lunch, Rei-kyou.”

With a barely audible clink, he sets the lacquered tray down on the low wooden table, head bowed all the while. Even so, he cannot resist sneaking glimpses. The shadows aren’t covering Rei’s hands as they peek out of the sleeves of her flaxen silk susohiki[2]. They’re so pale that they seem to glow under the faintest light, making her more ethereal than ever.

“From the very depths of my soul, I hope that this meal suits your tastes…”

And, the anxiety creeps back. Thomas removes himself from the room and settles beside the door. He would prefer to stay inside, but Rei doesn’t like it. The first time he tried to remain, she wordlessly rejected his presence with a slender finger pointed at the door. Thomas doesn’t understand why—especially when he finds an untouched tray every time he returns.

Calloused hands fiddle with each other while thin lips press into a thinner line, causing them to vanish almost entirely. Having no experience in taking the life of a man, he had spent a long night on the streets yesterday, combing pavement to pavement just to find the right kind of person. A woman would’ve been easier but he knows that Rei likes boys—Goddesses like her particularly love beautiful ones that have just transitioned into manhood. Unfortunately, Thomas is neither young nor handsome—but he is dedicated. He will do everything within his power to please Rei and the fruits of his latest effort now lay before her. It isn’t as fresh as he’d like it to be, but it’s the thought that matters, right?

Suddenly, the clock strikes two and Thomas starts. He hadn’t notice time passing so fleetingly. Instantly, he gets onto his feet and knocks thrice on the door, each spaced exactly two seconds between the other.

“Pardon my intrusion again, Rei-kyou.”

The disappointment in Thomas’ eyes could fill an entire miso soup bowl. Rei had once again rejected his efforts.

“I deeply apologize for my inadequacy, Rei-kyou. Please forgive me,” he murmurs, close to tears as he picks up the full tray and leaves. He fears his Goddess’ discontentment. He fears she would leave him. Thomas had worked so hard to be heard. How would his wish ever be granted if he can’t make Rei happy? She came all the way to his home and to simply give him what he desires without getting anything in return, makes him feel ashamed of himself. Thomas believes that give-and-take should be an equal thing.

The uneaten meal goes back into the fridge. He’ll dispose of it properly later. There’s still dinner—another chance for him to redeem himself. The final chance of the day for him to redeem himself.

‘But…Is she angry because I soiled my hands?’ His complexion turns ashen. ‘Does she only accept gifts touched by the pure?’

Shakily, Thomas rakes his hair back. His brown pupils dart around while his socked feet creates odd circles on the daisy-white ceramic tiles. He doesn’t pay attention to where he’s going and the loud clang of the aluminium bucket falling over frightens him.

“No, no, no,” he whimpers, rushing to right it. He thinks about yesterday, he thinks about last night. He shouldn’t have killed that young man. His Goddess won’t forgive the sins of a man she has been called by. Rei won’t help someone tainted.

Thomas rummages through the cabinets underneath the sink and produces a nondescript plastic bottle. With a quick twist, the cap comes undone; achromatic liquid falls. The smell of chemicals grows pungent again while sweat begins to reform on the man’s skin. He unceremoniously drops an old toothbrush into the bucket.

“It’s still there. The red’s still there. I can’t let it stay—can’t let it stain. No, no, no!”

Hunching forward like Quasimodo, Thomas begins to scrub, stretching to reach crevices others normally won’t cast a second glance at. He pays no heed to the stings; he doesn’t hear the clock striking when a new hour arrives. Thomas is a bad boy. He hadn’t made sure that no foreign blood touched him or his home. Rei isn’t going to forgive him until the red completely dies away. Rei isn’t going to want or do anything related to him until he returns the canvas to its blank slate.

The invisible bloodstains don’t stop or start at the kitchen. They begin from the alleyway where Thomas subdued the young man who looked no older than his early twenties, to the labyrinthine passages he took to conceal their forms from unwanted eyes. Thomas hadn’t used anything aside from chloroform to render the stranger unconscious and he hadn’t cut him open until they were midway to his apartment. He spent the remainder of the night scattering the useless limbs away from his residential area, occasionally making sure that the desired parts remained chilled in the small portable cooler. He wore gloves and common slippers the entire time.

“Get it out, get it out,” Thomas chants under his breath, a new mantra to aid his concentration. His nose nearly kisses the cold tiles as he gradually crawls towards the corridor where wood replaces glazed ceramics. He doesn’t even realize that Rei’s door is open until his head knocks into it. Momentarily, he stares at it, blinking in confusion. He swears that he had shut it before he left with the tray. Peeking into the room, Thomas finds Rei in the exact seiza[3] position he had discovered her in from the very day she appeared. He catches the slight movement of her lifting her head and immediately drops his task. His ankles press together while his hands form a triangle beneath his forehead—a saikeirei[4] that’s certainly suitable for his Goddess.

“I’m ridding the apartment of its impurities right now, Rei-kyou. Forgive me if the noise or the stench offends you.”

Shutting the door once more, Thomas continues on with his duty. Once he reaches the main entrance of his home, he will have to attend to the cleansing of his body before even thinking about what he should do for Rei’s dinner. He prays that he doesn’t disappoint her any further.

~*~

Like a silk curtain, silence befalls the area after the twelfth strike of the grandfather clock. The giant pearl hangs high in the sky, wisps of clouds accompanying it instead of twinkling diamonds. A door opens without any visible hands. For a second, Rei flinches at the odour and a frown mars her delicate features. It may be faint to humans but she hates the tang of it. She despises all the machinery that has and continues to develop around her once-beautiful country. Day by day, the trees decrease and her kind are forced to scatter, abandoning their homes. Rei hasn’t seen her brother since she gained her third tail. She lost contact with their sister when she gained her fifth. Out of the three of them, only she continues to reside in the very place she first settled in.

‘At least those foolish creatures remain the same.’

Brushing her long onyx locks behind her shoulder, she continues her way towards the direction of another room, the skirt of her attire casually trailing behind her. There’s a circular pattern to things in life and for Rei, this circle will never go out of shape. Once a month, she will venture out from the wooden coffins—the forest that is her home. She will find a man because she favours them, and she will lure them with her smiles. It’s such an easy job that she hardly needs to lift a finger. Men are the easiest to trick. They’re like new-born minnows, attracted by what they see and too stupid to retreat before they’re caught.

The corners of Rei’s lips curl up as she halts before a plain door. Thomas isn’t the kind of man who attracts a long stare or a second glance. He isn’t the kind of man who can even hope to attain a beauty like her, but he’s the kind of man who will do everything and anything without question, especially for her. It’s just good fortune that Rei chose to answer his calls. After all, she’s hungry—has been hungry for a near-month—and as much as the heart of a newly-turned-man tempted her, she chose to wait. She settled on being patient and ignored the siren’s call of the human liver Thomas had brought for her dinner as well.

Stepping into Thomas’ room, Rei almost runs her fingers through his unassuming dark hair the moment she stands beside his bed. He had tried so hard to please her, believing that it’s his sole duty and arriving at conclusions that amuses her greatly. She hasn’t found a man like him in almost a decade—though, it is insulting that he thinks that his subpar manners and non-existential Japanese would please her.

With a firm tug, the largely-golden maru obi[5] unravels from its perch and lands on the ground. Soon, the layers of her susohiki joins it. Rei doesn’t want her beautiful clothes to get dirty. Climbing into the bed, Rei’s stygian eyes become half-lidded while cream fur erupts from her skin. Her nails elongate into claws, her teeth grow into fangs and her form warps.

‘Foolish human…’

There’s nothing more delicious than the heart of a naïve fool.


[1]  Kyou (卿) – Japanese suffix for “Lord”, “Lady” or “Dame”.

[2]  Susohiki (須曽引き) [also known as Hikizuri (引きずり)] – a type of kimono usually worn by geisha stage performers of the traditional Japanese dance. It’s longer than the usual kimono as the skirt is supposed to trail along the floor.

[3]  Seiza (正座) – literally “proper sitting”, one of the traditional formal ways of sitting in Japan.

[4]  Saikeirei (最敬礼) – a form of bowing in Japan that conveys profound respect or regret. Outside of religious uses, it’s almost entirely reserved for dramatic apologies or audiences with the emperor.

[5]  Maru Obi (丸帯) – the most formal obi. It’s about 30-35 centimetres wide and 360-450 centimetres long, fully patterned and often embroidered with metal-coated yarn and foilwork. Most popular during the Taishō- and Meiji-periods, though mostly worn by geishas, maikos and such nowadays. It can also be used as a part of a bride’s outfit.

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