Size / / /

Tales of the Chinese Zodiac #9 of 12

dragon icon

In the Year of the Dragon, Kwong found a glittering scale by the well and brought it home to his wife, for it reminded him of the sea. No matter how he held the scale, or how dim the light, the scale shimmered and glowed like the sun dancing on the surface of the ocean: blue, green, and smelling of salt.

Lian, Kwong's wife, was delighted with the scale and hung it in the kitchen, where she could look at it all day while she worked. Lian began spending more and more time gazing at the scale. The bread burned and the rice cooked so long it became one white, gooey mass.

When Kwong called her to bed one night, she did not come. He found her sitting on a chair in front of the scale and staring at its surface.

"What do you see that entrances you so?" he asked her.

"A princess," Lian said. "A princess of the deep ocean, with long hair like tendrils of thick kelp and eyes pure white, like pearls, glowing in the smooth green skin of her face. She is wearing a flowing dress and near it, little silvery fish dance and sparkle in patterns. Also," Lian said, "she is my daughter."

Kwong grunted. He loved his wife, but did not care for this madness. That night he had suffered through a dinner of burnt fish and cold tea. Maybe he should have agreed to father a child for her, so she'd have something to do besides daydream.

The next day, Kwong awoke early and took the scale into town. He sold it to a man who collected oddities, and used the money to buy a new rice pot for his wife. He never should have picked up that old scale anyway, glittering or not.

When Kwong got home with his present, his wife was gone. He searched the yard, the bedroom, and the kitchen—twice—and was forced to admit that she just wasn't there. He wandered outside and once again found himself at the well. He peered over its edge and called "Hello" into the darkness.

After a long, lonely moment, his wife's voice floated up from the depths. "I'm sorry, Kwong, but I've returned to my first husband, the water dragon, and to our daughter. There's a bag of rice in the cupboard and some freshly picked vegetables in the basin. Have a good life!"

From this, Kwong learned a valuable lesson: never pick up strange ocean-scented objects, no matter how pretty, if you've married a woman who you found on a beach.


Jenn Reese photo


Jenn Reese has published stories in cool places like Polyphony 4, Flytrap, Strange Horizons, and various anthologies. She currently lives in Los Angeles, where she practices martial arts, plays strategy games, and laments the loss of Buffy. You can follow her adventures at her website. To contact her, send her email at jenn@sff.net. Her previous appearances in Strange Horizons can be found in our archive.
Current Issue
19 Oct 2020

Marbles 
I may be eyeless but I can see through the eyes of everyone and everything. My parents put cameras all over the house
Podcast: Ask Not What the Penguin Horde Can Do For You 
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Anaea Lay presents Noah Bogdonoff's “Ask Not What the Penguin Horde Can Do For You.”
Ask Not What the Penguin Horde Can Do For You 
We wear the masks long after penguins have been extinguished. By now we are hauntresses, hordes of extinction shuffling along the city streets under the excruciating weathers of this brutal world we’ve inherited. Individually, we are called pinguinos. It’s something to do; the world is depressed and none of us have jobs. Nights, we pull the masks off beak-first, breathing our first fresh breaths of the day. Then we strip out of our black and white sweatsuits. Then we pull out our vapes and get high. Some of the cool kids
Podcast: Marbles 
By: Aber O. Grand
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Aber O. Grand's “Marbles.”
Monday: Everyone on the Moon is Essential Personnel by Julian K. Jarboe 
Wednesday: Piranesi by Susanna Clarke 
Friday: A Tale of Truths by Berit Ellingsen 
Issue 12 Oct 2020
By: Elisabeth R. Moore
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Stephanie Jean
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 5 Oct 2020
By: J.L. Akagi
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Lesley Wheeler
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Lesley Wheeler
Issue 28 Sep 2020
By: Maggie Damken
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 21 Sep 2020
By: Aqdas Aftab
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: David Clink
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 14 Sep 2020
By: Fargo Tbakhi
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jenny Blackford
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 7 Sep 2020
By: Catherynne M. Valente
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Bethany Powell
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Bethany Powell
Issue 31 Aug 2020
By: R.B. Lemberg
By: Julia Rios
By: Sonya Taaffe
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: R.B. Lemberg
Podcast read by: Julia Rios
Podcast read by: Sonya Taaffe
Issue 24 Aug 2020
By: Leslie J. Anderson
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Leslie J. Anderson
Issue 17 Aug 2020
By: Emma Törzs
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Liz Adair
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 10 Aug 2020
By: Anya Johanna DeNiro
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Laura Cranehill
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Load More
%d bloggers like this: