It starts with dreams of pomegranate groves and the women who run through them

only to disappear into the night. Moonlight is full of deception and cruelty, bare bodies in softness.

Their laughter lingers, a wasp sting to the heart. At times, he thinks, the mirror reveals

what’s there to be seen, a moon on black water, but mostly it just hides the world from itself.

He’d chase them through dim hallways and sliding doors punctured by the light.

All the panels open to expose the residue of their lives spent moving room to room:

the wooden beams and groaning lintels blackened with soot and smoke, a hearth that smolders.

At the very spot where they have disappeared he grows the seed, dreams of even more groves

and doorways to slide open and slip through to grab at the moon, devour its light.

At some point, he knows, the dead outnumber the living; their faces, their lost lives,

veil all others; and the panels that open upon gardens and pomegranate groves

bathed in silver light, silent and unseen, will slide shut once again. But, for now, the shuffle

of feet on floorboards, the lust for life held in rough hands or a wrinkled face, are enough.

The emperor of shoji

Ryu Ando's writing has appeared in many speculative literature magazines, including Strange Horizons, Abyss & Apex, the Deadlands, and more. He has three poetry collections published with a...p press, The Operating System and Weasel Press. In Saitama or Los Angeles; online at: | Twitter @ryu_ando98