Four Trees for a Name
by Zach Hauptman
Firsts are powerful. They’re seeds devouring the last of their nutrients to grow towards sunlight. They follow patterns laid out by the lines of the universe–a riot of roots that grow into flowers, the first thorn on a blackberry bush precisely placed, even when the thorn pierces a thumb.
But firsts are deceptive. Energy undirected can kill. Split cells become cancerous.
The Fair Folk devour firsts, are made of energy in potentia. Follow their promises on the lines laid out exactly and reap the benefits. Step off the path and never find your way home again.
This is why humans are such fascinating creatures. Potential energy is converted to action, breaking patterns and putting them back together. Creative energy is the peculiar synthesis of habit and creation. Beneath the bark of our defenses, the fae, like mistletoe, seem young and soft but are deadly and pointed towards the heart.
* * *
In the earliest memories, all you knew was the pair of iron shears hung with red ribbon above your crib, a mobile that you watched turn in air currents. And then you closed your eyes and slept.
* * *
This is what happened the first time you met a fairy.
You were six, and finally allowed to sit on your own horse at the Golden Gate Park Carousel. Your hands were sticky from the bar of pink popcorn your mothers bought, and you left fingerprints on the mane of your caramel-colored horse. The only things you knew about fairies were what you learned from Peter Pan, and even then you knew better than to believe technicolor lies.
The horse was one of the ones that didn’t move, so you could watch the dingy carousel glass and line of children waiting for their turn without getting sick and falling off. Somewhere on the third rotation, you saw, in a space between older children, something broken with glassine skin and wings that sputtered and flapped at the wrong angles.
With the bravery of a small child, you climbed down from your horse. Probably it was a good thing that the carousel was coming to a stop then, because even now you’re not sure you wouldn’t have just taken a leap of faith off the platform. Maybe your mothers called to you, but you had eyes for cotton candy blue dandelion hair and wings with edges that stuck out at 90 degree angles but somehow still managed to fly just far enough ahead of you that you had to run a little to catch up across the expanse of pavement. It settled beneath a tree, the sweep of dirt and grass extending out to lap at the edge of the sidewalk.
“I want to play with you,” it said, and it had too many teeth. “Tell me your name.”
When your mothers swept you into their arms, two steps into the span of dirt and just before the line of flat-capped yellow mushrooms curved into an uneven oval, the fairy hissed and bared silver needle fangs. It sounded too loud, as though you’d left the sounds of shrieking kids at the carousel far away.
At school the next day, the wind whipped your hair into knots so tight your mothers had to cut them out, and the scrape on your leg from where you fell off the swings looked like a hemicircle of too sharp teeth.
The iron nail sat beside your backpack the next day and, though your mothers never said anything, you pocketed it and hugged them both.
Nikii Davidson is a horticulure student at CCSF. “I am an adventurer who loves to find new gardens to spend my time in…”
Chiao En Huang studies Graphic Design in CCSF. Currently, Chiao works at speciality coffee shop SPRO. “Obviously, [to] create is one of my biggest hobbies. I also do a lot of painting and drawing. Line (geometric) and color are two really big inspiration for me.” More work can be viewed at Chiao En Huang’s website: www.chiaondesign.com.
A Simple Task
by Dana Wagner
Call me Kobayashi.
That’s what the short, clean-cut Japanese man in the dark suit had said when he’d given me the small package. If his name had actually been Kobayashi, he wouldn’t have said it the way he had, but as I walked through the afternoon crowd in the Ginza district with the brown-paper-covered parcel under my arm, I was still wondering why he’d picked that as his cipher … and why he’d picked a cipher at all, an obviously fabricated pseudonym that had been completely unnecessary since I was highly unlikely to ever see him again. It seemed pointless, a deception merely for the sake of itself. Maybe that had been the point, simply to impress upon me how little I knew. You do not know my name, he was saying, you do not know anything about me, and there is very little of this you will ever understand.
Not that I needed much reminding. As a foreigner living in Tokyo, I felt uncertain and unwelcome even on the best of days. The man allowed into the party solely because he could score something everyone there wanted, tolerated and even spoken to, but with whom no one wanted any kind of personal connection. The Japanese would smile, buy you business meals, make small talk, get drunk with you, and play at being your guides through their complex society while they sought to exploit your knowledge of western markets, but they would never, ever let you in or do anything to give you any illusions about being truly trusted or included. They barely let each other into their inner lives, and they weren’t about to shake off centuries of xenophobia and emotional repression for a nondescript American businessman like me. I was no stranger to being the painfully self-aware stranger in their midst. So why was it eating at me that this Japanese man of indeterminate age, whom I had never seen before and would hope never to see again, had bothered to give me a transparently fake name?
Because he had bothered. That was the thing about the Japanese I dealt with in my business interactions, whether inside or outside the office. They never bothered with anything gratuitous. If they had to suck it up and place a veneer of hospitality on top of their forced relationships with the corporate emissaries of the West, they would, but they weren’t going to put anything more into it than necessary. Everything they did and shared with a gaijin like me was a deliberate choice and had a desired purpose. Often it was immediately clear to me what it was, sometimes it wouldn’t become clear until much later, and sometimes I would never figure it out. But always I knew it was there. There was always something. If this squat Japanese man who’d pushed the package towards me across his desk had told me to call him Kobayashi, then there had been a reason, and I was focused on trying to puzzle out what it had been.