I hugged her. She needed it.
She clung to me fiercely, and something shifted inside. She wasn’t the wrong redhead any more, not an underage replacement for the one I’d spent so much time wanting to screw or strangle or both. Suddenly I hated there, whatever it was, and whoever had made her live nameless and afraid. I wanted to destroy what had hurt her, protect her from being hurt again, and…
Huh. I wanted to be a hero. For the first time, maybe really the first time, it wasn’t about me.
Ji, ta, shizen. A phrase that mattered to my cranky old sensei, that I’d just memorized to keep him teaching me new things. Self, others, nature. Caring about more than yourself. Caring for more than yourself.
Turns out I’d been alone long before I got here.
No, the unnamed sensei is not really a riff on Obata-kaiso, even though that’s one of his best-known expressions; it just worked here, as part of the organic story-discovery process usually described as “pantsing”.
This whole thing started with a can-you-even-parody-this-genre title, and I had no idea where it was going, or if it was going anywhere at all. It quickly developed into an experiment at better managing a balance of dialogue and narrative, something I’ve struggled with ever since my 11th-grade English-class short story ended up turning into a long string of loosely-connected puns. Usually I end up just doing one or the other.
When a new character walked onto the set and forced a conclusion, I started going back and filing off the rough spots, but there are still some tone shifts, and I’m not sure there aren’t still some parts where necessary supporting narrative only exists in my head.
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