Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.
I’m now sharing excerpts from a middle grade historical fantasy short story called “The Search for Shoki,” which I wrote for a contest last year. It’s set in 737 Japan, during the last year of a smallpox epidemic which started in 735 and killed one-third of the population.
Umiko Hamasaki and Mizuki, daughter of her household’s senior lady-in-waiting, are on a mission to find friendly yokai who’ll lead them to Shoki, a great slayer of disease demons. At the beach, they encountered friendly shojo, an orangutan-like race of yokai, who gave them twenty bottles of wine. Though shojo wine can cure diseases, the girls need to stay on the road and find Shoki.
Sculpture of Baku, Copyright Momotarou2012
Umiko had never ventured inside the forest. Everyone in her family, her tutors, and many of the servants had terrified her away from it with tales of horror about yokai lurking among the trees, in caves, underground, and in the skies. Some of these yokai were cannibals who loved feasting on humans daring to disturb their homes, particularly when those humans were children. It was better to be safe than sorry.
All too soon, the light gave way to darkness, and thick clusters of branches blocked out the sky. Umiko looked straight ahead as she rode Ayumu through the dark forest. The wheels of the cart rolled over many dead leaves, stones, bark, and broken branches, and the crunching sounds were amplified in the silence.
Umiko held Ayumu’s neck more tightly when a monstrous creature appeared in front of her. It had the body of a bear, the head of a lion, the tail of an ox, the eyes of a rhinoceros, the trunk and tusks of an elephant, and the legs of a tiger. The creature stopped and sniffed the air before gobbling up a thick white mist with a crazed curving shape.
The ten lines end here. A few more are below.
“That’s Baku,” Mizuki said. “He’ll protect us. A baku never hurts humans.”