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Tales of the Chinese Zodiac #8 of 12

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In the Year of the Rabbit, Peisun decided to paint her heart's desire on a stack of thin, tea-stained rice paper.

She plucked five long whiskers from a rabbit and bound them with a piece of string. She stole an ink stick from Old Kim's special stock, and rubbed it against a smooth river rock wet with her own tears. Then she dipped the tip of her brush in the small pool of black.

The first image was blurry. She forgot to hold the sleeve of her shirt with her left hand, and it smeared the image. A small, dark grey deer tried to jump from the page, but its two deformed legs couldn't bear its weight. It struggled as if trying to pull itself from a marsh, but failed. The page sucked it back in.

The next three pictures were also failures. Peisun tossed the sheets into the creek: a moon cake, a bowl of plums, a pheasant. Her hunger drove her desire, but her skill was not enough. She needed to dig deeper inside her heart, to find her true desire.

She sketched a mountain near the town where she grew up. It crumbled into dust when she tried to climb it. Her mother's comb broke in two. The cricket rubbed its legs, but no music came out.

Peisun's sheaf of pages thinned as she dropped her failed images into the water. The ink needed more moisture, and her tears fell readily onto the stone. When they struck, ink splashed onto the remaining piece of rice paper and formed a circle.

"Of course!" Peisun said, and she lifted the moon off the page and into the sky, where she stared at it until her heart was just as full.

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 Her previous appearances in Strange Horizons can be found in our archive.
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