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The BaGua

And Other Stories

a short story collection

Leenna Naidoo


Copyright 2017 Leena Naidoo

Published by Learning To Surf Publishing



Cover design by Leennascreativebox

Stock photo from Pixabay

Other photos by Leenna Naidoo


Smashwords Edition 2017


Smashwords Edition, Licence Notes

Thank you for downloading this eBook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author, and may not be copied, reproduced or distributed for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you would like to share this book, please direct your friends to download their own copy at Smashwords.com. Thank you for your support.

Micro-Fiction

A Tanker’s Soul

Confessions of a Shape-shifter: All Aussie Family

Confessions of a Shape-shifter: Hawk-Eyed

Souls Provider

Substitute Ice-cream

What the Boy Didn’t Know

Flash Fiction

A Good Record: Transcript From The Voice-Recorder Of Prof. Len S. Clere

Badly Drawn Lines

Love Like Water

Martinus Meerkat Man

On Conveying Private Material and Persons In The Solar System

Out of Brambles

Play with ELFs

Split Infinite

Switch Twitch

Unalienable Right

Short Stories

Amusement

He would have been just as beautiful standing in a midden or a coal-pit. Beauty, in all its forms, was in his nature. As was deception. But like its very nature—like his very nature—you didn't notice it until it was too late.

Even the Faery Queen can meet her match.

The Bagua

She’s been searching for dragons and he’s been searching for a magical place. When these friends find the right BaGua, only the wondrous can happen.

A finalist in the #Sweeklove competition.


Acknowledgements

My great thanks to the editors of the magazines, which published my work, for taking a chance on a newbie writer who didn’t always know what she was doing; in particular to Dawn Vogel, Jeremy Zimmerman, Fran Eisenmann, and Jason Rennie. And not forgetting S.Shane Thomas for putting up my one-and-only Anunnaki character.

My immense thanks to beta-reader Elizabeth Aiko who gave me faith in stories I’d been led to believe were no good or lacked humour, the Critters over at Critters.org, and the following who always provide me with the support, belief and encouragement I need to keep writing and trying my best: Mum, Miranda, Rani and Suren, Lorraine, Cretia (for reading), Lisa (for listening), Kuban and Ramola, Sam T, and all of you who read my books and stories!

Lots of love

Leenna

September 2017



First Publication Information


On Conveying...Solar System © Leena Naidoo 2015. First publication: Mad Scientist Journal Winter 2016.

Out Of Brambles © Leena Naidoo. First Publication 2015: Cosmic Roots And Eldritch Shores March 2016.

Unalienable Right © Leena Naidoo 2015. First Publication: SciPhi Journal May 2016.

Confessions of a Shape-shifter: All Aussie Family © Leena Naidoo 2016. First publication: Sweek.com 2017

Confessions of a Shape-shifter: Hawk-Eyed © Leena Naidoo 2016. First publication: Sweek.com 2017

Souls Provider © Leena Naidoo 2016. First publication: Sweek.com 2017

Substitute Ice-cream © Leena Naidoo 2016. First publication: Sweek.com 2017

The BaGua © Leena Naidoo 2010. First publication: Sweek.com 2017

Badly Drawn Lines © Leena Naidoo 2015. First publication: LARCscifi.com 2017

Love Like Water © Leena Naidoo 2015. First publication: www.leennanaidoo.wordpress.com 2015

Split Infinite © Leena Naidoo 2015. First publication: Quantum Shorts.com 2015

Switch Twitch © Leena Naidoo 2015. First publication: Quantum Shorts.com 2015

Amusement © Leena Naidoo 2011. First publication: SeeThroughIt Magazine Mini 2015

Martinus Meerkat Man © Leena Naidoo 2010. First publication: SeeThroughIt Magazine 2015

Sci-fi



Looking down its long snooty nose with pursed lips, it said, “Come with me.”You don't argue with a talking kangaroo when you're a lone woman in the desert; but I wanted to.

Nostrils flaring in distaste, it bounced off a short way. Leaving my beer, I hurried over, swerving around scrubs the marsupial hopped over. I was smarter than it, wasn't I?

“Now what?”

Snooty gripped my wrists with his paws, and it was all Beam me up, Snooty.

It wasn't what I'd expected, but I'd expected more than some old Trekkie rip-off.

The room—board or council, whatever—was another matter. Distinguished kangaroos murmured in the transparent chamber. The Earth hung like a giant mobile in the testosterone-filled air, or the roo equivalent.

The tallest kangaroo turned to me; his light brown eyes unwelcoming to a bedraggled geologist. “Ms Sharman, we care a lot,” said the leader, his voice authoritative.

“That's nice.”

“We care a lot about that environment. We care even more for our...creations. We won't tolerate their destruction.”

Confounded, I stared up at the pointing red kangaroo. “What?”

“Those new minerals you have discovered,” began Snooty, “they belong to us.”

“But...” My brain kicked in. This wasn't a fieldie matter. “You'll have to talk with our legal department and cultural officer,” I explained. “They're the ones who handle compensation claims.” All I wanted was my cold beer—a geologist's unalienable right to brewed sustenance.

The leader spoke again. “I don't think you understand, Ms Sharman. We own the intellectual patent of that mineral in this galaxy. It helps with the development of our creations.”

I tried my blank look again, thankful I wasn't on the WALKMM legal team.

The leader continued. “You see, Ms Sharman, where your species plants flags on newly discovered lands, we plant life, replicas of ourselves, and minerals; gently edging worlds into acceptable realms of intelligence and productivity.”

The mood in the room had gone cold. Like Snooty's long stare. “Look, I'm just the local geo—”

“And we care a lot about our creations. So much so...” The leader leaned closer, staring at me down that barrel of a nose. “...that we are prepared to destroy all our assets here to prevent little upstarts stealing them.”

There was a murmur of approval around the room.

“And your...'world', will be quite destroyed in the process.”

His fiery brown eyes bore into mine.

“Ah. Hmm...Well, I understand.” I did too. You don't argue with kangaroos in the outback, never mind on their spaceship or whatever.

I cleared my throat. “I'm sure we can come to a...a solution.”

“We are glad to see you care enough.”

I was dismissed. Snooty beamed me down to my beer.

I swigged at my unalienable right, watching my field-report explode in my campfire. You don't argue over intergalactic intellectual property when the fall-out would leave your work extinct.

It's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it. Whatever.

###

This story first appeared in SciPhi Journal in 2016 (editor Jason Rennie) with an illustration by Cat Leonard.


fantasy



The young whale lay hidden under the olivine-coloured water. An eye rolled at the tanker sliding by. While the whale knew the Indian Ocean was big enough for all, the tanker did not and stuck to an erratic course plotted by GPS and echo-sounders. The young whale also knew that was no way to live. What was the fun in never exploring, in letting life slide by, in working alone the life-long day...?Whales are ever kind-hearted and big on interventions. And an intervention was exactly what the old reddish-brown tanker needed.

The young whale decided on the only proper course of action: to sing a song of freedom and awaken the soul of the tanker. It opened its big heart and sang.

***

The stranded tanker remained beached for months. Each day without fail the young whale came to sing a song of freedom, a song of life, and a song of remembrance carried to the body of the tanker by the caressing waves. Until, one day, its pod and its instincts told it of other work to be done.

Each day the tanker fell further apart, even as its soul was birthed and nourished. Each day, small sea-life found more and more homes in it. Gradually the tanker became more of the sea and the earth, its soul growing in unexpected and nurturing ways.

The storm of the century proved the tanker’s next saviour. It washed the hull further out to sea, settling the tanker into a cosy channel not far from the breakers.

The tanker creaked its tired old hull and settled comfortably down with contentment. The kind whale had sung its soul into being, and the storm had given it the next great gift—the freedom to express itself as a nurturing soul and be one with life.

###

A never-before published micro-fiction written for the prompt ‘submerged’ and inspired by the Umhlanga and North coast in Durban, South Africa.


fantasy



“We have to climb up that?” I panted. That was what looked like an impossible stairway rising at about seventy-five degrees straight up into the cerulean sky. A stairway to heaven—or to nowhere.

He nodded.

“Why don't I just wait here,” I said, collapsing onto the warm stone stair and starting to dig out my water-bottle from my backpack, “...while you go on?”

“Chicken,” he teased, coming back down to sit next to me.

We sat in easy silence in the hot sun, a cool breeze making it surprisingly pleasant. Below us the valley dozed, the river only just visible as a glittering trail in the green corn and sunflower fields.

We’d already climbed a fair way; first from the road to this remote imposing temple, then from the courtyard up another steep staircase to the main shrine and sacred spring, all of which now lay quietly below us. It was the spring water we drank, slightly salty but still refreshing.

“It's good for you!” the keeper of the spring had told us. “It will bring you good fortune.”

Ken had translated for me. Despite being in China for over a year, I still hadn't mastered basic conversation. Numbers and my food, yes; conversation, no. Or symbols and writing.

Not for the first time, I wondered why I was continuing to stay in China. I’d come looking for something, believing a year would be enough. I hadn't yet found it, probably never would... Still, here I was sitting on another remote temple staircase. I’d stopped hoping already; stopped believing even. To continue searching had become my habit. At least it got me out into the countryside.

I was becoming a connoisseur of Chinese temples with their varied and harmonious shrines—many gods of many faiths happy enough to share the same mountain and followers. That's what really made them gods, not people.

“C'mon.” Ken tapped me on the shoulder, stood up and stretched. “I've got a good feeling about this place. At the very least, you'll be sure to find some narrow stone tunnel you can struggle through.”

He'd been quick to learn my weaknesses. Less than three weeks and he already knew I couldn't resist worn ancient stone steps nor buildings that were older than those back home in South Africa.

Shaking my head in amusement, I hefted my backpack and followed him up. It's best not to look too far up ahead or down. This wasn't the highest mountain in China but vertigo didn't know that.

I pondered about Ken again. He’d recently arrived in Yulin to work at the oil and gas sites as an environmentalist. We'd met in Central Square, so named because it was in the old city centre. I’d been reading whilst soaking up the sun. He’d been walking by. He probably would have continued on if I hadn't absentmindedly said voetsek to an annoying fly.

He'd laughed, backtracking. “You're South African!” His grin showed his delight.

“Ya. Are you?”

He wasn't; his cousin was. Ken was a New Zealander—the first intriguing fact I learned about him, with a new one following almost everyday.

“May I buy you a tea in exchange for some...skinner?”

Skinder,” I corrected him, as I considered his offer of gossip.

He was handsome, not cute. I could see he was genuine, not just putting on an act. I liked the way the light caught his clear eyes and made them dance.

“Sure,” I found myself saying out loud.

He smiled. “Great! Now, where would be the best place to find a cup of tea?”

We hit it off almost immediately. Ken didn't fit into the herd either like most of the other foreigners I'd met. They tended to bleat the same things, run around mindlessly annoying the locals with their drunken unfunny remarks and behaviour, looking with skewered judgemental eyes at everything they saw.

Ken was anything but a sheep. He had energy and magnetism which shone through even when he was down. It was so very strong that often I’d find myself just basking in it. He was curious, fair, and a fast learner. We laughed at the same absurdities, enjoyed the same music, believed similar things and debated everything else. He was inspiring, comforting, yet challenging to be around.

“Why are you here?” He was picking at fries as we sat in KFC.

“I'm teaching,” I replied, putting my cup of tea down.

“No, I mean, why are you really here—in Yulin?”

I hadn't yet learned just how uncanny he could be. I shifted uncomfortably, having grown accustomed to being on my guard around other foreigners in China, and mindful of Yulin running on tiny village rules for foreigners. So I said, “Oh, you know...new culture and all that.”

He wasn't buying it. Ken fixed me with those thoughtful eyes. “Fair's fair, I suppose. I should tell you my reason for being here.”

He’d surprised me again. “You know you don't have to. That's your own business.”

“I'm searching for a special BaGua—the YinYang symbol. It's said to be around here at one of the temples.”

“What's so special about it?”

“They say if you walk it, it will transform you and heal you.”

“You need to be healed?” I was intrigued.

He nodded slowly, then leaned in closer. “I have this block—a psychic block, or injury if you prefer. And that is the remedy.”

“Walking the BaGua?”

“Yeah.” His eyes didn't falter.

Tilting my head, I considered him. I'd heard stranger things having hung out with some alternative life-stylers back home. “All right,” I finally said.

He smiled again. “Good. Then you don't think I'm insane.”

“No, just a little strange.”

He grinned back.

It seemed only fair that I told him my real reason for being in China. “I'm searching for a dragon—a real live one.”

“Like Bruce Lee?”

“No, a real Lung that can change the weather and stuff.”

“Why?”

I shrugged, “Just.” I honestly didn't know why myself.

“So...We can help each other on our quests,” he smiled. “It'll be fun!”

And it was. I enjoyed taking him to the temples I knew in the city, from the famous Hong Xe Xia in the north to the one with the beautiful gardens in the south. Together we examined the architecture and paintings, inspected every BaGua we encountered, and asked countless questions of the obliging priests and keepers.

Afterwards was our time to discuss the temple visit over tea and move on to other topics. No wonder I fell in love with him though he never seemed anything more than affectionate to me. If he loved me he'd let me know in time, I reasoned. Meanwhile, I'd keep looking for dragons.

***

The stairway to the heavens led to a landing, which curved then rose further up to the levelled summit. The shrine was locked. I wished Wang Li, my friend who had told us of this little known temple and who had directed us here, could have accompanied us.

Ken walked around, taking it all in. Behind the shrine ran a narrow path, through brush and wild-flowers, leading to a bell—a massively gorgeous bronze one with two reptilian guards crowning it.


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