Translated by Toshiya Kamei
A threadlike pale light wrapped around your body, melted, and dispersed into the morning air. Cocooned by the sun’s rays seeping into the stable, you caressed my mane as you hummed a tune. Then you replenished the water bucket, swept away wilted hay smeared with dung and urine, and brushed my back and belly with great care. I snuggled my muzzle against your chest to show my gratitude. You covered my ears with your hands and showed me you understood my gesture.
You had no name.
You talked to me while you carried water in the bucket and combed your hair with your fingers. You chatted away about the change of seasons, the weather, and yourself. I didn’t know the human language. Still, your eyes, your smiles, and your hands caressing my hide told me your stories.
Your beauty dazzled. You came into the world as a gemlike baby and blossomed into a young woman. You had no name because your father refused to give you one. Nobody would know how to call you because you had no name. Hence, you wouldn’t go anywhere. That was your father’s intention.
His ruse did the trick. You stayed put and didn’t go anywhere.
You couldn’t do anything without a name. When other children ran outside to play and joined their parents to work in the fields, nobody knew how to call you. The villagers didn’t know what to do with you. Soon you became invisible to them. It was easy for them to pretend you didn’t exist rather than to stop and think about you. Their life advanced at a regular pace while you remained invisible. Once you rode me into town to buy groceries. Tied in front of the market, I watched a young man talk with you by the apples, but he failed to get your name. When he asked your name, you gazed down at your feet. The young man made an awkward apology and clicked his tongue in frustration. He quickly walked away from you. While you rubbed your father’s shoulders, you felt like asking him why you had no name. But you lost the words to ask such a question.
Years ago you found me lying wounded in the forest. Fatigue weighed me, leaving me no strength to get up. My throat parched with thirst. I lay sideways and breathed hard through my nostrils. You ran toward me, called me, and poured water into my mouth. A few hours later, I staggered up, and you led me to the stable.
At first, your father welcomed me with open arms. I was young and useful to him. I worked for your father. I worked hard, toiled in the fields, and carried back-breaking loads. Every day you looked after me. I fell in love with you.
I noticed your gaze upon me had intensified. Your kind gaze sizzled on my skin. My protruding rib cage, hair, and profile reflected in your moist, dark eyes. I raised my muzzle out of the feed bucket and gazed back at you.
We mated. We searched each other night and day. Your pale limbs and my chestnut limbs tangled. Smells of sweat, feed, and dung mixed together. After several nights, your father flung open the stable door. When he caught you in a compromising position with a beast, fury seized him. He grabbed an axe and swung it down on my back. Bubbles of blood spewed out of my mouth. I convulsed and fell to the ground. I would never get up again.
You let out a primal scream and held my wound. But your small hands failed to stop the seemingly endless bleeding. Blood flooded the stable floor. Even the sea of blood couldn’t contain your father’s fury. He wrapped a rope around my neck, dragged me outside, and hung my lifeless body from a tree in the yard. He whipped me until my skin broke. His rage. Your screams. My tongue hung far out of my mouth. My eyes rolled into white and remained still. After a while, your father cut my head off. You embraced my severed head. Your face became smeared with my blood and a mixture of your tears, mucous, and saliva.
Out of the blue, my head floated up into the air. My sagging tongue went back to its original place and a light flickered up in my eyes again.
My head rose skyward. You rose with me as you hung onto me. Your father ran and tried to grab your ankle but in vain. However hard he tried, he had no means to call you back.
Fusako Ohki is a Japanese writer from Tokyo. She obtained her master’s degree in Japanese literature from Hosei University. Her short story collection is forthcoming in 2021.
Toshiya Kamei holds an MFA in Literary Translation from the University of Arkansas. His translations have appeared in such venues as Clarkesworld, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Strange Horizons.