Book Smugglers Publishing Subversive Fairy Tales

In Her Head, In Her Eyes by Yukimi Ogawa

In Her Head, In Her Eyes

In Her Head, In Her Eyes by Yukimi Ogawa
Published 10/21/2014 | 5,426 Words

Trills of silver, quiver of gold.

Pot Head, they called her. Heavy-head, they teased her. In a noble house of dye masters, Island-born Hase is an outcast, ridiculed by her fellow servants and employers – all because of the smooth, reflective sphere that covers her head. Little does the household know that Hase has a mission and a purpose, carried behind her pot-covered head, in her impenetrable eyes.


Trills of silver, trills of blue.

She wanted to watch on. She wanted to remember them, wanted to make them her own. But soon, too soon, she was pulled up, back into the air, where she had to fight for breath, fight to be on her feet.


She hit the hard workshop floor, heavy head first. Though her head was protected, she cried out anyway. Slowly, she raised herself up and tried to stare at them, all of them standing around the stale pot of indigo dye in which they had just tried to drown her. Most of them kept laughing at her, but a few seemed to sense her unseen gaze and backed off warily.

Then, a voice from the entrance to the workshop. “What is going on in here?”

The bullies scattered instantly at the voice’s calm authority. Everyone knew who commanded that voice, just as everyone knew he was the only person who would dare stand up for the strange new servant. Drenched in old dye, the servant girl shifted and dipped her heavy head, busied herself squeezing her sleeves. Slowly the owner of the voice walked in, frowning. “Hase. I told you to come or call for me when in trouble. Are you all right?”

Hase bowed as low as she could, unbalanced with the substantial weight atop her head. “Yes. I appreciate our young master’s concern.”

The young man—the third noble son of the family of artisan dyers—knelt before her. “Hase,” he said. “You must tell them they’ll be in trouble if they do anything to you. Use my name. Who were they?” He was the only person in the entire house who called her by her real name and not Pot Head.

“Again, I appreciate my master’s concern,” Hase said, “but in truth, I am fine. And here, my robe—now it’s dyed in indigo and looks pretty!”

Still kneeling, the young man grinned. “You smiled. At last!”

Hase hurriedly composed herself and looked down. Suddenly she was aware of how her robe was clinging to her skin, how the blue-black pungent water was running down her dark hair, down her torso, how quickly the dye was starting to cool off. “Young master, this is not a place for a noble. I must tidy myself up now.”

“Yes. Be sure to keep yourself dry.”

Hase bowed again, watching the young man leave before standing and rushing abruptly to the servants’ quarters in search of solitude and warmth.


No one knew why Hase wore a pot on her head. No one in the noble house, in the region, had even seen the materials from which the pot was made. It must be some sort of iron, people would whisper, marveling at the reflective surface shining brightly as a mirror in the space where her eyes should be. No one had ever seen Hase’s eyes, or anything behind the pot’s smooth countenance—only her nose and mouth were visible below its cold protective edge.

Since her arrival at the house, many had tried to rip the pot from her head but to no avail. The pot, so closely fitted to Hase’s skull, would not, could not come off. Yet others tried to crack it open to reveal the girl beneath, but no tool could do it any damage. Eventually, they all gave up.

The only thing anyone knew about Hase for certain was that she came from the Island—a fabled place, far away from their shores. Even nobles, such as the ones who owned this fine home, were not rich enough to travel to the Island. How pot-covered Hase ended up here, people could only speculate.

Beyond the metallic pot concealing her head, Hase appeared perfectly plain, which only added to the mystery surrounding her. The people of Hase’s Island were rumored to be great beauties, with skin and hair and eyes of all colors: hues of flowers and jewels, of stars and sunsets. Some, it was rumored, even bore patterns on their skin—not tattooed or painted on, but opalescent designs born from the womb. It was common knowledge that everyone from the Island was beautiful, inspiring poetry and art, stories and dreams.

Only look at Hase. She had ordinary skin just like everyone else, not a single shocking color or pattern to be seen. Her hair was thick, beautiful and dark as a crow’s wing, but perfectly ordinary. So no one in the household, neither noble nor servant, believed her claim as to her birthplace—no one, that is, save the family’s third son.


A few nights after her arrival at the house, Sai visited Hase’s makeshift cot inside the storehouse. At first she shied away, thinking he had come to take advantage of her. But he waved his hand dismissively and sat down by the door, leaving it fully open. There was no light inside, for no fire was allowed in the storehouse; only moonlight illuminated the room, spilling through the door and reflecting off her potted head.

Sai gestured towards the moon. “Look at how beautiful the moon is here, without all the lights of the house. Don’t be greedy and keep it all to yourself!”

Slowly, Hase closed the distance to the door where he was, her thin blanket wrapped tightly around her body. She peered at him cautiously, the starry night reflecting in the cool metal of her gaze. “We have a pond of the color of moonlight,” she said quietly.

“On your Island? Where they say everyone is beautiful?”

“There is no such place where everyone is beautiful. People always try to find the flaws and imperfections in all things. On my Island, there are other plain things. As plain as Hase appears here.” She bowed her spherical heavy head and clutched her blanket tighter around her.

“And the pot…”

“It has nothing to do with Hase’s Island, master.” Hase gave her head a little shake.

The young man nodded. He seemed as though he had more things he wanted to ask, but said no more and looked on at the moon.


Unlike the younger servants, the adults didn’t quite bully Hase, though no one seemed to like her much. They knew a certain amount of money had been exchanged for her service, enough of a sum to make them believe that she must be from the Island and that she genuinely must want to work under the dye masters. Still, among the servants, any kindness towards Hase remained to be seen. For when Hase, dripping with old indigo dye and shivering, finally made her way to the servants’ quarters to ask for towels, she found little sympathy. The elder dye master, Hase’s superior, simply wrinkled her nose and dropped the towels at Hase’s feet. “For once, just have a bath. I can’t let you serve at the meeting tonight in that state, and we can’t spare a hand.”

“What meeting?”

“You don’t notice anything, do you?” the woman sighed. “The eldest and the middle brothers’ wives and other relatives are coming to visit.”

Hase tilted her heavy head to one side in question. “What about the third brother’s wife?”

“You know he doesn’t have a wife yet,” the dye master snorted. “If he did we’d all have stopped him before he went into that storehouse your first night to have you.”

Hase stared blankly at the dye master, smooth impassive metal reflecting the older woman’s sneer, until the dye master shooed her away.


Hase didn’t have much time to enjoy the bath. Soon the relatives started to arrive, and she was herded along with the other servants, bustling tea and refreshments to the family. All the relatives openly stared at Hase and the smooth pot covering her head, mouths agape at her strangeness. Pot Head, they whispered behind her back, quickly picking up the servants’ name for her. The wives of the first and second brothers took great delight in her peculiar appearance, laughing at her gleaming helmet of metal. The elder wife quickly tired of the game and Hase’s calm, and exclaimed, “Why, I hate her face!”

“But she doesn’t have a face!” The younger wife laughed even harder than before.

“I hate that she doesn’t. We are laughing at her and she should be angry, or embarrassed at the very least! Look at her, with her stupid mouth, her tiny nose.” The elder wife gestured rudely at Hase, trying to engage the servant. “The only parts of her face you can see, and she has no reaction.”

Hase bowed as gracefully as she could in the style of her fellow servants, the movement awkward in many ways. The angle of her neck and back were tilted just wrong, the speed with which she retreated to the more comfortable upright position to alleviate the weight of her head a little too fast. The jerky movements only fueled the younger wife’s amusement, her laughter renewed with malicious glee.

“Oh Pot Head, heavy-head, just try not to get in our way!” The younger wife pushed Hase by the pot on her head, cackling harder still when Hase fell to the wooden floor with a dull thud, potted-head first.

Slowly, slowly, Hase dragged herself up onto her feet, as she heard the two wives walk away, laughing and laughing.


Both wives and their husbands were young and relatively newly-wed, and the two women measured themselves against each other in every regard. They compared their wedding gifts and the favor of their new parents-in-law; they compared their best robes, their skills in music and poetry. Every day and every night, the wives would compare their positions, while their men drank sake, the women tea, and a steady barrage of refreshments flew from the kitchens into their mouths.

All the while, Hase lurked in the background, her domed, impassive head missing not a single detail. From the hallways and the corners of each room, Hase stole glimpses of the fine embroidery of the women’s robes, fascinated by the expensive, exquisite artifacts that shimmered in the wives’ hands.

One day, the elder wife caught Hase staring at her robe and sneered, her venomous glare focused on Hase’s reflective helmet. Hase shivered, transfixed by the wife’s disdain, unable to look or move away.


“Here.” Sai handed her a bundle. “Of all the gifts the women brought, these were the only things my relatives weren’t much keen on. I’m sure you can have it.”

Hase opened the bundle, and found two spindles of fine gold and silver threads. She turned the spools in her hands, feeling the fine filigree of each thread, and sighed. “These must be expensive enough that someone may like to save for later use. Is it certain that Hase can have it?”

“We are dye masters here, not artisans trained for embroidery or even weaving.” Sai smiled at Hase encouragingly. “But you like patterns, I’ve heard? That’s why you’ve come all the way here, isn’t it?”

“Yes.” She nodded, a slow, languid inclination of her masked head. “On my Island, we need more colors, more patterns. Patterns, especially, to be reflected on the beloved children of the Island. I must study.”

“You mean you can decide what colors and patterns your babies will bear?” Sai leaned forward eagerly.

“No, sir. We create new patterns, we discover more colors, but our goddess alone can decide. We all wish to please our goddess.”

Sai frowned, confused. Hase almost smiled at that.

After a moment of silence, she said quietly, “These look as though they represent the young wives themselves. They are so different and yet, they go so well with each other.”

Sai, leaning in closer to hear her better, laughed. “Are you being sarcastic?”

“No, sir! They are lovely, those two.”

She had said this a little louder, but still, the third son did not lean back. She knew what that meant. And though everything was awkward with her heavy pot, the hard wooden ground, the thin futon, this time Hase smiled. The pot weighed her down, pinned her to the floor, as if Sai’s eyes intent on her covered face weren’t enough to affix her there already.

When she was alone again, Hase pulled the spindles Sai had given her out from the folds of her sleeves. She placed them on the ground beside her futon, then changed her mind and put them on the pillow and carefully laid her heavy head beside them. The two colors filled her reflected sight, shimmering and twining in cruel beauty, fueling rather than smothering her desire.


The next day, Hase walked dreamily through rows of freshly-dyed cloths fluttering and drying in the wind. Some bore glue for patterns to be washed away later, and some still had strings marking the fabric for simpler patterns. A few plain cloths with no patters at all fluttered alongside these elaborate designs, forming a small sea of color and texture upon which Hase and her metal potted head were afloat. Her helmet swiveled in wonder, slowly, taking in all of the colors and styles. She had to memorize all these patterns, for the dye masters would never teach her how to make them. The blues. The whites. Everything in between. But just then she heard a voice, interrupting her quiet study. “You seem to have had a very good time last night.”

Startled, Hase spun around, searching for the source of the voice though she already knew its owner. She walked on in between the waves of cloths, currents and bubbles, seaweeds of patterns, towards the voice. At the end of the last row, she found her.

Hase bowed as well as she could, and asked: “Was that statement aimed at me, mistress?”

Trills of blue, a line of silver. For a moment, the older of the two wives—the one Hase called in her mind Silver—looked away from her. “Why did you come here? What is it you want from us?”

“I came to learn about dyeing”

“Oh did you? So seducing our brother-in-law was part of your plan?”

Hase shook her head; that was all she could do.

“With a face like yours it must be so easy to lie, isn’t it? Are you even really from that Island everybody’s talking about? Does it even exist? Did you think looking ordinary would make us feel you’re one of us, or did you think we’d be too easy to deceive, so you didn’t bother mocking those colors and patterns of the Island’s people?” The elder wife’s anger and spite burned in her eyes.

Involuntarily, Hase raised her hand during Silver’s tirade, resting it gently on a nearby cloth and marveling at its fine knots and textures. She tried to imagine the pattern the knots might make eventually, and failed. “My patterns, I guess, are in my head.”

Silver frowned. “In your head? What are you talking about?”

Hase stroked the cloth again, trying to coax the pattern into life. “Yes, in my head. I’m the head pattern designer of my clan, as I have told the great mistress here.” She recalled Sai’s mother in her finest robes, her eyes cold as she assessed Hase and her claims. “I have to extract the patterns from my head, and to do that, I need to know more ways to express the patterns, of course!” Hase’s voice rose in pitch, in eagerness and fervor. Her potted head glittered in the sunlight. “But, but the people in this region, especially the dye masters wouldn’t allow the dye or dyeing methods out of the region. We—my aunts and other guardians and I, of course, of course—had to promise I wouldn’t take any—any!—indigo from this place when we arranged my apprenticeship here! But nobody can prevent me from taking these blues and whites and everything else with me inside my head! And…what is the matter?”

Silver had backed away from Hase, the hate in her eyes faded, replaced by wariness and fear at Hase’s rambling outburst.

At Silver’s discomfort, Hase immediately reverted to her usual quiet demeanor. “Forgive me, I shouldn’t have kept our young mistress standing here, listening to Hase’s useless babblings! Did I answer the question well enough?”

Silver shook her head. “I…no. Not at all. Now, there are only more questions than before.”

“Forgive me, mistress. Please, pardon my rudeness!”

“Don’t.” Silver raised a hand towards Hase, who had just taken one step closer to her. “Come no closer. And don’t you dare look at me like that.”

“Like what, mistress?”

But Silver just waved her hand and walked away in a flutter of silk, leaving Hase standing amid the sea of patterned cloth, her face as smooth and impassive as ever.


Sai’s words were always gentle. Hase felt as though she could fall asleep listening to him.

“Is it true,” the young man asked, waking her up out from her reverie, “that on the Island, some people change their colors as they grow old? I heard that from one of the relatives; they’d heard that somewhere along the trip here.”

Hase inclined her potted head. “Some do, yes. I know a person whose eyes changed from light green to viridian, yellow, and eventually brown, like leaves. They crumbled in the end, and the person went blind.”

“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”

“That person knew what was going to happen and worked hard to prepare for it. It’s not that bad, when things are predictable like that.”

After a while he sighed. “I cannot imagine the life of your people.”

“There is no need, sir.”

“But I want to. I want to know more about you.”

Hase turned from Sai and remained silent, playing with the twines of silver and gold spindles he had given her.


In her eyes she wove her patterns of gold and silver. With the occasional blue that punctuated the new design, she shaped hearts and veins.

But just before she could wholly grasp the new pattern, her heavy head was yanked back as another pair of hands held onto her shoulders. Her shoulders ached under the hands’ vice-like grip, pain blossoming in sharp edges, radiating from her chest. Despite the physical ache, Hase only felt the most the bitter edge of frustration at losing the pattern she had been imagining, weaving in her eyes.

Below her, Hase could see a large basin of water as the pair of hands holding her shoulders yanked her further backwards, and the other hands pulling at the pot on her head went the other direction. She coughed, writhed in agony, and heard a young servant’s voice. “Mistress, if we go any further she might be sick, or even, she might die. I wouldn’t be able to explain to our masters what happened, if asked.”

“Tell them you punished her because she had stolen the gold and silver threads.” Silver’s calm voice. “If she dies, it’s an accident.”

Hase would have preferred drowning in the dye pot, especially now with the new indigo being brewed, the bubbles from fermentation slowly blooming like a nebula over the dark liquid. But that would spoil the new dye. Through the pain she imagined the dye’s warmth, the smell, explosion of stars as the liquid rushed into her head. Hase shivered.

Behind her, the younger of the wives burst out laughing, her voice full of gold dust. “Then let me do it! I want to choke her with my own hands!”

Silver glowered at Gold. “Are you stupid? We cannot do it ourselves. We are going to say that the servant did it to impress us, of their own will. Be careful not to get your robe wet or touch anything that could prove we were here.”

At that, the servant boy’s hands loosened a little from Hase’s shoulders. Hase whimpered, as she heard Gold make a frustrated noise.

“Anyway.” Silver came around to where Hase could see her, and crouched down to flash the two spindles of thread. “These are confiscated. You don’t need them, anyway, do you? Because the patterns are all in your head, like you said.”

“No! Please, I need them! They are my inspiration!”

Silver smiled her cold, cold smile. Hase tried to reach out for the spindles, but the servant boy pulled her back. She heard Gold laughing again, saw Silver tuck the spindles into her sleeve.


Hase could feel her aunts’ frustration. She wasn’t making enough progress. Seeing the color of indigo change in impossible gradation, learning simple knots that revealed unexpected patterns weren’t enough yet for her to create new, satisfying designs. She needed inspiration, and it seemed as though the people here were determined to snatch away that inspiration just when she thought she had found it.

Until one night, at the far end of the house, where she found the three young nobles.

She watched as they tangled and disentangled, making new patterns for her every second. The thin curtain of organdy, which they must have chosen so that they would be seen, provided her with even more inspiration, as it swayed and added a sheen to their passion. Patterns, patterns, patterns.

“What is it that we don’t have and the pot girl does?” Silver’s cool voice carried through the night as she gracefully moved to ride atop the man.

“The pot hides her face and let me see my own lovely self on it,” Sai said breezily. Gold sighed with pleasure behind them.

“And also,” he said, pushing up a little to grab at Silver’s buttocks, “she is from an Island full of treasures. Why not make her a slave of mine, let her serve as a liaison between us and the Island?”

“Did you say ‘us’?” Gold crawled up from behind Sai and kissed him upside down.

“Besides.” Sai lay fully down again and reached out to touch Gold now. “She looks ordinary, I mean, apart from that pot, but who knows what her children will look like? I know her aunts have the colors, because she told me, because she trusts me, so why not her children?”

“So then you can sell them?”

“Or we could give them to the high generals or perhaps even the Emperor!”

The three all laughed. Then Silver said, while Gold’s laughing voice was still trilling in the air: “How did you make her trust you? She doesn’t have a face, it’s hard to tell what she thinks. Even if you’re good at putting up with your own face staring back at you.”

“Oh, that was easy. Just being kind to her is more than enough. Treat her as a woman, as no one else does around here. And she’s yours.”

Gold laughed. Sai chuckled. Silver grinned and licked her lips as she cast her glance upward. “Really? If that’s true, you must be a very, very undemanding person, aren’t you, Pot Head?”

Sai followed Silver’s eyes. Hase, previously hidden in the dimness of the corridor behind the sheer curtain, stepped into the light and moaned softly, her sigh swaying the cotton organdy in front of her. Sai bolted upright, pushing Silver off him. “Hase!”

Silver let out a laugh, a trilling of cold, cruel bells. “Oh, Sai, didn’t you know she uses this path to get to that stupid cot of hers in the storehouse? You should have paid more attention! If you intended to fool her long enough so that she would take you to that stupid Island, that is!”

Sai looked embarrassed, seemed to be searching for the right words. But soon he gave up, knowing there were no right words to save face with Hase. He looked at her mouth, her smooth, potted head and spoke. “Yes, I was using you, but you had to know this. Why else would I, a man with a rank, place special favor upon an odd girl like you if it weren’t to use you?”

None of the three could read Hase’s face, of course, with that mirrored helmet of hers. But they could see her trembling. Silver and Gold looked pleased. Sai still looked a little embarrassed, a little uncertain, despite his declaration.

“So why don’t we make a child here?” Gold said.

Taking that as invitation, Hase stepped over the threshold, pushing the organdy fabric out of the way. “But why? Why are you so interested in me?” she asked.

Sai frowned. “No, I told you, I’m more interested in your…”

But Hase wasn’t listening to him. She crouched down, not to face him, but to face Silver beside him. “You are like a cold fire that seeks to burn me out.”

Silver’s grin became wider. “Of course, I hate you, your pot, your behavior, your strangeness—”

“Am I? Am I strange enough? Everybody says I’m plain, with my ordinary hair, my ordinary skin, my plain colors. Everybody’s disappointed!”

She turned to Sai. “And to you, yes, I don’t mind having your genes. We always need more variations.”

Hase moved on her hands and knees, scampering towards Gold. “Oh, I love the way you laugh. Like gold dust exploding and filling the space. Laugh! Laugh, laugh, laugh at me!”

By then, even Gold was frowning with discomfort, and the silence drew out between the four.

“You are disgusting,” Silver spat, breaking the quiet.

“Yes!” Hase turned around to her. “Yes, I’m disgusting! I love being bullied! I love being punished! Bully me! Punish me! You like it too, don’t you!”

The three nobles slowly backed away from Hase. She swiveled her heavy smooth head back and forth between Silver and Gold—Sai was no use now for her, not paying enough attention to her and therefore, misunderstanding her. Of course, in retrospect, all the questions he had asked her were about the Island, not Hase herself. Gold was nicely cruel, but she was more like a small child, always looking for a new toy. She’d probably tire of Hase sooner or later. So she looked at Silver, whose hateful stare almost choked Hase, like a flood of warm indigo dye.

Trills of silver, quiver of gold.

“Aunts,” Hase whispered, grinning impossibly wide, resembling a huge-headed, one-eye monster. “I finally found what I needed. My offering to our goddess!”

Silver scrambled back further on her hands and buttocks, eyes shining with fear. Her terror made a sharp pang run through Hase, a shiver that wove new patterns, a shiver that pierced colorful stitches over her bright darkness, her white-out canvas.

Silver winced at her reflection on the mirror of Hase’s helmet as the strange servant girl drew closer. What Silver didn’t, couldn’t know was that it was a mirror both outside and inside alike. The inner mirror was always connected to the server, where her aunts received and observed every pattern Hase formed. The outer mirror projected and transferred information from the outside world to Hase’s brain, in the place of her long-crumbled eyes. Pains and hurts, both physical and psychological, inspired Hase more than anything; they had known that much through years of observation. That was why her aunts had sent her to this strangely feudal place—as much for the pain as for the rare colors and dyes that weren’t allowed to be exported.

“I’m the head designer of the clan, you see,” Hase said, smiling her eyeless, reflective smile. “We need more patterns, colors, shapes to satisfy our goddess. Favor of our goddess means wealth, and wealth means we will be able to afford a more expensive, lighter-smaller-better helmet for me. But if you prefer me in this heavy old thing, if you’d bully me more in this thing, I want to keep wearing it forever!”

Hase’s breath came in quick pants of arousal and excitement, while Silver’s breathing turned ragged with terror. Hase could hear Gold making strange noises, like choking, like gagging, like she was about to vomit. No noise, no move could be heard from Sai. Has he fainted? Hase queried halfheartedly. Useless youngest boy.

“What do you want?” Silver choked out.

Hase shifted into a seiza position. “I want you inside my helmet.” She thought for a split second, and then, waved her hands in excited denial. “Not you, but the copy of your mental map, so that you’d keep on inspiring me.” She stopped her hands and placed them on her chest, and crooned, “Yes, those eyes. I want your eyes, spiteful, hateful, always on me. Don’t worry, it won’t hurt you!”

“I don’t understand.” Silver backed away further, frantically looking for an exit. “If I let you do that, you will leave us alone?”

Hase’s cheeks and lips were enough to tell Silver that the pot headed girl was disappointed. “I thought you wanted to keep me around, to hate me, to laugh at me. But yes, if you let me have your copy, I’d simply go home with it. And I’ll send you treasures with the patterns you inspired, if you’d like that.”

Quietly, slowly, as to not startle Hase into excitement again, Silver shifted to sit cross-legged. “Do send them, then. You are going to be rich, right? Why not us, too?” Silver’s eyes turned calculating, momentarily forgetting her fear.

Hase grinned wide again. Behind them Gold started to sob. “Sister, no! What if she’s lying about not hurting you?”

“I am not!” Hase whipped her large head back, wobbling slightly, making Gold jump. “It’s just like…drawing a picture of her! Surely you’ve been drawn a portrait before? A beautiful person like you? Did it hurt you, ever?”

“N-no, but…”

“I’m all right,” Silver said. “She looks much more interested in being hurt, rather than hurting people, anyway.”

Hase nodded eagerly.

Silver said, “All the beautiful things sent from her are mine, then.”


Hase slowly lifted the helmet, the mirror in front of her eyes.

Gold couldn’t see what her sister-in-law saw, but she saw Silver’s incomprehension as she took in whatever lay beyond the girl’s helmet, and began to scream. Silver screamed on, and on, until she lost all her breath, until her throat started to bleed.

Until her sanity was lost.


Apathy seized Sai after Pot Head disappeared, people concluded. As for the two young wives, no one could determine what caused their sad turn of situation. The older one kept her eyes open unseeing, her lips slightly parted but always unspeaking—and when she saw something beautiful, anything remotely beautiful, she’d start to scream anew. The family decided to keep her in a white-walled room with plain white doors, where she was always dressed in coarse linen robes without design, color or pattern. The younger wife fared a little better than her sister-in-law, but not by much. She wouldn’t leave Silver’s side, sometimes crying loudly like a small girl, sometimes giggling hysterically, especially when anyone ever tried to detach her from her sister. But she took care of Silver and of herself without problem, so people decided to keep her in the white room, too.

People laughed at Sai and despised him for his laziness. They treated the women as if they didn’t exist, and the first and the second brothers of the house remarried. The white room became a small fish bone stuck in the household’s throat; it hurts and you want to get rid of it, but it might hurt even worse if you try to force it out.


There are things people don’t forget. Things like the way the people of the house mistreated the strange woman from the Island with her heavy, potted head. Things like how, eventually, the hired woman disappeared, and all those close her were driven to madness. No one wanted to go near the family after that.

Slowly, the once prosperous house decayed.


It happened on a crisp autumn day, the clouds high, the air thin, the cold enfolding the quiet, decaying house. It arrived, alone, bearing nothing. It walked through the people who gazed, who gaped. Without searching or asking or even hesitating, it walked into the house, towards the white room. And it opened the white doors.

It was a child.

Its hair was indigo, its eyes the color of young leaves. Its face—every surface of its skin—bore intricate patterns, woven with silver, gold, and every shade of indigo. It was a thing of beauty framed in the whiteness of the room.

No one had to ask; the two women recognized it as soon as they saw it. It was Hase’s creation.

“I have come, to be yours,” the child said.

The women started to scream.


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  • May
    October 22, 2014 at 1:41 pm


  • Catherine
    October 23, 2014 at 5:03 pm

    That was confusing but still managed to be frightening. I’m not quite sure how much I liked it.

  • Alison
    October 27, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    I agree with Catherine. The writing itself was beautiful and the descriptions vivid, but I found it difficult to follow. Ultimately, I didn’t connect with the story. I’m not sure how much of that was due to culture gap and /or lack of appreciation for this particular style of fairytale.

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  • Angelina Lin
    September 19, 2015 at 10:04 am

    Personally I loved this story, having a perfect balance between the build up towards the climax and beautiful language which shapes the vivid imagery. Perhaps it is unfortunate for Western readers as this story greatly relates to the Eastern and more specifically Japanese culture with the ideas of the Island and creation of women’s clothing which is strenuously designed with unique patterns using dyed silks, and because the author herself is Japanese too. Short and sweet; every word is precisely exercised to its strengths. Would love to read a longer novel by same author.

  • Lilibeth
    June 6, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    I enjoyed it as well. I didn’t think that I would initially because I thought it was some contrived retelling of Cinderella but oh, how wrong I was! I loved the prose and the seamless incorporation of dark, visceral aspects. I can appreciate how the story relates to Eastern fairytales and that was one of the things that ultimately kept me reading. The fact that it wasn’t like any of the fairy tales I’ve read before. I hope to read more by this author and other Asian inspirations.

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