1000-folds

A Thousand Folds

In this feverish fugue, inspired by the real-life story of Sadako Sasaki, the fulfillment of desire intersects with the dissolution of the self.

Dearest Seori of House Yunawon,

Have you been sleeping well? I’m writing this just as I have been stirred to waking by the most mysterious yet magnificent of dreams. Something tells me that I must pen it to paper immediately. It will be rooted within words that way. 

My memory has been a fickle vine lately. It grips onto surfaces at random; If I cannot trust my own memory, I can at least be assured by the fact that yours will not fail. Your letters will come soaring through the skies to calm me, that I know and trust. Your penmanship, etched with such grace and sophistication, is something I cannot un-remember. Even till the end of time, when all of its granules have run out, my memory will still cling to your writings, your words. 

Now, where was I? Oh yes, this dream — this visitation. Yes, there was someone in this dream, apart from myself. They came to me in a robe of wisteria petals, surrounded by pink and purple butterflies. 

Who are you, I had asked. 

They replied in a voice that was so rich, it was as if a river of silk had flowed forth to caress my toes and the spaces in between them. 

I apologize for such an unconventional call; you must understand that circumstances only allow for such visitations between Fae and human

There was a moment of silence — at least in that timeless dreamscape it felt like a moment — before they continued: What is it that you desire the most? 

You were there in an instant. It was longing pulled from the tides of memory. It was a construction — so real and yet so surreal — pieced together from the correspondence we shared, built from that tiny photograph you had sent me many seasons ago. It was how I imagined you had grown since then. How I saw you: Your arms wrapped around my waist. I felt warmth and tenderness that was fleeting yet forever. 

The Fae smiled, if they could smile. 

So this is your desire. Remember this: under a full moon, a thousand silver cranes will reveal your destiny. However, a word must never leave your lips until the deed is done. Only then, what you so wish for will come true.

I gasped as an amethyst lake of butterflies enveloped us. You fizzled into a lilac cloud of mist. The Fae started to ascend, drifting away into light that obfuscated their features. The last thing I remembered before falling into the plasm of darkness was the sweet smell of wisteria blooms.

What do you make of this dream? Do you believe in destiny, Seori? Perhaps I do. Life seems to always be more than just a sequence of mere coincidences. 

Seori, tell me. What should I do? My heart wants me to believe. My heart wishes to fold a thousand cranes just to see you. 

With well wishes,

Ruri of House Sesongnam

***

My sweet summer Seori,

It has been days since you wrote back, and I am deeply sorry that I could not get back to you as soon as I wished. A great ill has befallen me since I had gone out of my room for the first time this fall. I had intended to go to the nearest market, or I heard from my neighbours and visiting relatives that there was a merchant who stocked the specific paper I sought. 

True to their word, the shop had sheets upon sheets of opalescent silver that thin they made my veins look like the thick branches of a willow tree. I had pulled all my squirreled savings when the merchant confided that I was the very first person to request such paper. Since I was purchasing the entire spool of silver, he charged me a price much lower than what I had expected. 

Think of it as a gift, he pleaded, and as a favor.  

I promised him so and left with a cart stocked to the brim. 

Although they appeared like steel, the silver sheets were feather-light. As I made my way through the marketplace, I could sense everyone’s eyes on my purchase. What could I possibly be doing with that much paper — in that color? It was at my very own doorstep, however, that I suddenly felt the earth pulling me like a lodestone to the north. The sky started to spin like azure yarn unspooling. 

When I came to, the family’s physician said it was vertigo. I must have overexerted myself in the marketplace. What was I doing making such a bulk purchase? (I was too tired to bring up that the silver sheets weighed nothing at all.) Perhaps I was not accustomed to the autumnal air. They did observe that this year had an unusual change in temperature. I was not to leave the house at all until I had recovered fully. No — I was not to leave my room at all. 

That did not faze me, considering that my first objective had been achieved. 

Now these sheets of silver lay in my room. In the past two days, before the drafting of this letter, I started the process of folding. Although my body was weak and often confined to the bed, my fingers and eyes could still function. The hours lost me until I realized that I ought to have written to you. You perhaps might be wondering. 

From a rough estimation, I think I have folded about two hundred and sixty or so cranes. My hands are quite the sight for these efforts; they are faintly peppered with cuts. The paper is so fine that it could easily poke one’s eye out if they are not careful. 

Caressing and addressing each crease and each fold into wing-tip and tail has been quite a process — an art form that relies on exactitude and crispness. It appears tedious, but I believe the experience to be a complete opposite of monotony! The intricate lattices of lines give rise to something quite dazzling. Sometimes I feel like my mind is growing stronger as I fold and fold. I start to remember things as if they were like stained glass to the windows of my mind; crystallised and painted in the most vibrant hues. 

I think of you the most. You are all I ever think about.

Many folds away,

Ruri

***

To Seori who has my heart,

I know you must be full of worry and anger. My dear, you are at liberty to chide me. You might have even assumed some sort of burden for my state of illness. 

You have no fault to account for. It was my choice to go out to the marketplace. It was my plan to fold the paper cranes. No matter how many cuts start to appear on my palms. No matter if the lids of my eyes start to waver against fatigue like ingots of lead. I decided to do it. Even if it kills me. Yes, even so. 

But if perchance I die, my death is not because of you. It is for you. Truly, everything I do, I do for you. I can speak to no one. I can only transcribe my thoughts to you, and hope that the couriers will fulfil their duties in relaying my words. Please accept this truth at the very least. 

Please think of it as a gift. Please await it. I am at the midway mark. I can see myself standing on this bridge of woven moonlight and sky-song. A bridge above the rippling sunsets and the afterglow of retired constellations. I can see the stars. Do you see them too? They are — oh — so bright and beckoning. I see — I think I see — a constellation up there. It is an arrow.

Always and forever yours,

Ruri

***

Seori,

There has not been word from you in a week. Did you receive my letter? I wait patiently for the couriers each and every day but none ever has anything for me. Perhaps this tired and weary body is simply impatient. The physician says I should sleep more. I do, but my limbs still are slow. My memory comes and goes like spouts of rain in a year of drought. The medicine is packed with bitterness. It makes me sag with drowsiness too. 

I want to get better. So that I can finally go out and travel to wherever you are. Oh… there is someone at the door. I think I hear the voice of the courier. Perhaps it is a delivery. I hope to hear from you soon. Please write back.

Sincerely,

Ruri

***

My beloved Seori,

Please say something. Anything. Are you mad at me? Are you upset? Are you unhappy? I know my body is not well, but it is what it is. You knew that I have always been a fragile one. Your silence is agony. It is unbearable compared to the bloody coughs that assail my lungs. I would rather live with the numbness in my knees than to have your silence. I have tears welling up in my eyes, not from the blade-like edges of silver paper, but from this absence. Without your letters, a chasm has blossomed in my memory. 

Please. I need you. I have nothing but old letters and a jar full of silver cranes (it was the jar that arrived at my doorstep; it is useful to my project… but it is not you). 

According to the calendar, the full moon is only a couple of nights away. I have only about two hundred cranes or so left to fold. I know I can do this, even though each careful crease seems to take a year out of me. Even though it can be quite the lonely process, with me and my thoughts. Your words used to occupy that space in my head. Now there are only shadows. And a moth. It has been roosting on the ceiling for a week or so. It is no bother to me at all. I am not afraid of such creatures. 

Did you know that a moth is said to represent the soul of a departed loved one that watches over you? It is unmoving but I can tell — I don’t know how, it’s just a feeling — that the moth is watching over me. Like my silver cranes. Each origami crane is a plane folded with all my wrinkles. All my thoughts of you, all my hopes and dreams tucked into its beak and plume. Such is the price for perfection. 

I dreamed of a lavender sky last night. I wonder what shade of sky I will dream of tonight. I wonder if you too are gazing at the same sky. 

Dreaming,

Ruri

***

Dear Seori,

A hundred more cranes to go. Once I tear today’s date off, it will be exactly one night to the full moon. I promise you, I will make this wish happen. 

Do write back. 

I miss you. 

So much.

Ruri.

***

Seori,

I finished it! 

A thousand cranes perched inside the glass jar. Any minute now, the moon will be upon us in her radiant beauty. 

Please, wait for me! I am coming! I promise! I will be there!

Your R

***

Seori can you hear me? can you hear? 

you wont believe it the second the first moonbeam hit the jar it started to tremble the silver cranes started fluttering they were flying as if they were real cranes 

they were beautiful you should’ve seen it a myriad of pearly wings flocking towards the stars then the last silver crane grew until it was as tall as me if not taller it told me to climb onto its back at least it seemed as if it was talking to me and i could understand it 

am i dreaming is this all real is it just a dream where is the queen with the lilac butterflies if this be a dream where are they the skies are a kaleidoscope of stars the winds shift and swirl in an inky indigo 

i see the arrow it is illuminating i can’t hear anything not even the cranes’ wings oh the arrow’s getting bigger and bigger everything is silent like a sea of tranquillity i don’t know where i’m going i don’t know where the arrow where the cranes are leading me to but i think i know i think —


[Learn more about Sadako Sasaki.]

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Andy Winter

Andy Winter

Andy Winter (they/them/she/her) is a non-binary transfemme ice goddess living in the warm tropics of Singapore. Their works have appeared in Stellium, Strange Horizons, EnbyLife and beestung amongst others. Find them chilling at https://whispersinwinter.wordpress.com/

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