We are proud to showcase an exceprt from T. Cook’s latest novel, SPINNING SILK, available now.
A brilliant weaver; a conscience stricken gardener; and a journey through deadly ancestral secrets..
An orphan’s weaving genius ignites the envy of her peers, the possessiveness of her mill, and the hopes of an unborn nation.
Furi knows she was born to create, but the fabric of her life otherwise weaves mysteries. These things are more than they appear:
Shin, the gardener, with his unlikely power over life and death;
A mysterious illness with a selective death route;
Kitsuke artist Madame Sato who would fashion Furi into a reincarnation of her own dead daughter;
A superstitious overlord with a fist of iron;
The princess of a figurehead emperor, who has strange loyalties to a humble gardener; and
The vaporous rumor of war with no apparent aggressor.
Spinning Silk is a light novel with a second generation twist on Japan’s traditional Tanabata tale.
LEGENDS SPEAK OF the language of the bones. They tell how all we ever do or say or think is etched like script on a tablet in the dark cavities of our own mortal frames. Mysteries of life and death and love, which cannot be understood by mortal minds, are known, deep down in the marrow. My life, my work, and all of my doings combine into a puzzle of impossible reckoning, but my bones know it, and if you incline toward me, your own frame may hear and answer the song of its telling.
It was a white night, clear and luminous, as only the first night following heavy rains can be. The thrumming song of the cicadas and the percussion of the bullfrogs rose above the sound of our movements between the furrows.
“Careful with that one,” Shin whispered and I started when his giant hand covered mine. He lifted a heavy leaf and revealed a large orb spider crouched below. “You were about to disturb one of my best workers.”
I released a quiet gasp, and peered upward, studying Shin’s eyes. How had he even noticed the spider? Shin seemed to know the placement of every mysterious thing. His movements were quick, yet perceiving. He was gentle, distant, and exquisitely restrained. Here was a man of no rank, no wealth, and yet, somehow…Again, I remembered Tatsuo’s suspicions of his immortality, and I could not look away from him.
When we finished in the garden, I sank low into a parting bow, but before I retreated a step, Shin’s hand caught my shoulder. “I can’t let you go inside like that.”
I glanced down at my cotton robe. “Damp earth stained the hem and the area where I had knelt on the ground. I had also managed to soil my hands and knees and could not return directly to the house.
“It will be hard to wash the robe and yourself without anyone’s notice.”
I instantly understood he was right.
“Wash at the spring, and I’ll take your clothing and return it clean.”
I nodded, and followed him to the spring deep inside the garden. Shadows of the sculpted trees cast strange shapes across Shin’s face, hiding his eyes, but I could feel his gaze upon me notwithstanding. Surrounding the milky mineral pool, my mother-of-pearl tile work shone under the moonlight like lightning, and seemed to ignite me with an electric current that I was sure I couldn’t long withstand.
“Your work?” Shin said.
I gave a shy nod.
“I bathe here in your mother-of-pearl bath often.” A small smile touched his lips. “You’ve ruined me for scrubbing over a bucket for the rest of my life.”
I smiled at this. It seemed to me that my ambition to attract the gods had been realized after all, but I had never imagined myself bathing among them, and the thought of it froze the breath in my lungs.
The pool was small and deep, fed by an underground current. It was unsuitable for drinking, but although not quite warm, it made quite a good home bath.
I stole a last glance at Shin, who stood silently by. There was wisdom, and not seduction motivating the bath proposal, I knew. And yet, Shin was a man unlike any I had ever seen, and we were alone.
Had the time now come? Would he make his request of me now? If so, I told myself I was prepared to answer him. I ducked behind a juniper, shivered as I dropped my soiled garments, then slipped into the pool, gasping as I submerged my warm skin up to the neck. My gaze searched to the pool’s edge, where Shin stood.
The poolside was vacant.
I scanned all around. Shin had disappeared.
I waited some minutes, scrubbing my knees and hands with a handful of green maple leaves, but Shin never reappeared.
I checked myself against the disappointment that gripped my stomach. Wasn’t Shin an immortal? Would he make an illicit request? I trembled with the realization that he wouldn’t. After all, it was against his character. His every action had always been protective—yes, towards me, but he had reserved an uneasy distance for himself and something made me uncertain it was for my sake alone.
Floating on my back, I peered into the night sky. The iridescent glow of the abalone shells lent the bath a dream like quality. I almost thought I could have been dreaming. Had my creative genius fabricated Shin? I had dreamt of him before, and recently, my dreams had been so vivid.
I closed my eyes against the real possibility of my own madness, blinked, and flinched. One shaku from my face, stretched between two low hanging branches of the nearby maple, spread the silken threads of an enormous spider’s web. In the center crouched an orb spider, identical to the one I had saved from Cook several weeks before. He seemed to watch me with the same intensity reserved for a flailing moth.
“Don’t look at me like that,” I said, speaking aloud. “I saved your life…or that of a family member. You owe me a debt of gratitude.” I paddled slowly backwards toward the pool’s edge. The spider’s eyes seemed to follow me. As I peered back, a mysterious voice flooded my mind with breathtaking force.
You did save me. And I will never forget it.
T. Cook’s SPINNING SILK ebook is now available on Amazon for $2.99
— Adam Weller (@swiff)