Friday, August 22, 2008

"Song of Momoki" - Act I


“Song of Momoki”
© 2008 by Charles Shaver. All rights reserved.


ACT I: Momoki the Marmoset in Hell

UNDER AN INDIFFERENT EYE: Wherein Momoki the Marmoset is Tortured for His Sins; A Deception is Revealed; Gogi and Szu Ri Begin a New Life; Shabar Leaves for the Land of the Bizo


On the bank of a creak so small it had no name came the grasshopper Gogi and his faithful love Szu Ri the Silk Moth. There they settled. Gogi went to work right off hollowing out a mound of mud. He cleared it of all grass, letting the sun’s face touch upon the mound and bake it until it hardened as clay. He dug out a two small holes in the mound’s side. In the smallest he placed a thin crystal Szu Ri had found just below the surface of the waters of the flowing creak. In the other hole he place bamboo that Szu Ri had thatched with a stick on one end. The stick served as a hinge and the thatched bamboo a door. Together the smallest creatures in all the world built for themselves a one-room home from the gifts of the land.

Gogi then set about clearing the land near their new home using skills he had once learned from a friend, a friend now departed and far gone yet far from forgotten. In this small patch of land he placed seeds he had harvested from plants growing wild nearby.

Day after day he tended to his land, humming in his garden, growing for himself and his Szu Ri food to be stored and eaten all throughout the year. Day after day, as the sun was setting on the far horizon, Gogi would come into his home, hug Szu Ri and complaining of the sun’s unrelenting stare.

Szu Ri set about making two things: one a thick blanket of silk to warm them in the cold months to come; the other a hat for Gogi made of thatched, dried grass to help block out the sun.

As the garden grew and the work lessened, Gogi began collecting pebbles to bring into the home and build a fireplace, all the while humming. It took him many months, but at the end of his work he had made a wonderful stone hearth with a chimney extending out a third small hole he had burrowed to let the smoke escape. It was a fine piece of craftsmanship and Szu Ri was quite proud of him.

The hat Szu Ri had made was finished in time for the garden to be harvested. She presented it to Gogi and he smiled.

“It’s beautiful,” said Gogi. “Thank you, Szu Ri.” And he grabbed her and held her in his arms.

Gogi wore the hat with pride the next day as he harvested from his garden, the white brim of the airy thatched had shading his face and eyes.

Soon the garden was bare and, wanting to be certain they would have food enough for the cold months, asked Szu Ri for a small strand of her silk. She gladly granted him this wish.

Gogi then made a hook from a dead, dried vine and lashed it to the end of the silk thread. As the shadows of the sun grew long and a chill entered the air, Gogi would spend his days by the creak fishing with the thread and hook. He spent his days happily fishing, humming lightly, smiling.

Szu Ri stored foods and constructed a bed and a few chairs she placed around the hearth.

One night, long after Gogi came in carrying two bugs he had caught using the hook and silk, as the two sat around a warming fire, drinking freshly brewed tea, Gogi once more began to hum as he smiled with contentment.

“Gogi,” asked Szu Ri, “what is that you hum?”

“Hmm?” For the first time he realized he was indeed humming. For a moment he feared appearing as a fool, but looked at Szu Ri and knew she could not think such things of him. “I-I guess I never realized I was ever humming. Now I know.”

“What song is that you hum?”

Gogi thought a moment, again never having thought on the matter before. “I suppose it’s a song of my own. I-I even have some words to go with it.”


Gogi shook his head. “I-I’d feel so very foolish.”

“Please, Gogi. Please share your song with me?” asked Szu Ri.

Gogi sighed. “N-not now Szu Ri, please. It’s a foolish thing.”

Szu Ri allowed the conversation to shift onto other matters and Gogi’s humming was all but forgotten.

As they lay in bed together that night, Gogi with his back to Szu Ri while she held him from behind, she said softly, gently, “Gogi, dear Gogi, making songs is not foolish. It is life in words.”
Gogi sighed.

“Has your song words?” she asked.

Gogi’s eyes opened. “Yes. But… it’s about… ” Gogi sighed again. Szu Ri could feel a great shock of nerves and fear go through his body as he said, “I-it’s about Momoki.”

Szu Ri’s heart welled with sadness for the loss of Momoki, especially for Gogi who had made such good friends with the marmoset. She said, “That’s a beautiful thing, Gogi, to honor him with a song.”

They lay together a long time in the silent, dark home they had built together. Before sleep drifted into them Gogi said, “I miss him, Szu Ri.”

Szu Ri kissed his cheek gently and they cuddled closer. Soon they were asleep.


Momoki screamed in terror and pain. Radiant Gui pressed forward with one long claw as the three baboons held the marmoset upside down. The claw sank into Momoki’s skin, slicing it finely as a butcher’s blade from the navel to the neck. Excruciating pain turned fire as the horse-demon slowly, intently peeled the skin from off Momoki’s form. Flesh and fur came free from bloody muscle. Momoki’s voice cracked with strain. He wanted desperately to close his eyes, to shut out the pain, but found no relief as his red eyes remained wide and glowing red.

High above, behind and over the shoulder of Radiant Gui, the Midnight Sun glowed back in crimson indifference. It watched. Momoki stared at it, wishing it would blink, wishing it would cringe at the sight of his agony. It remained staring. It remained unmoving. It stared on and Momoki found hatred in heart heart, welling up from his belly, gushing from his throat. For the first time Momoki could remember, he felt the power of anger, the lust of hatred. His eyes shifted to the semi-hidden face of Radiant Gui.

The horse-demon sniffed at the freshly peeled skin, looked at Momoki and belched whinny laughter. He tossed the flesh aside, saying, “Feast!”

The baboons let go of Momoki and he fell to the charcoal ground. They fought and tore at each other, struggling for a bite, a bit of the flesh. They ate it voraciously, fur and all, howling with banshee desire.

Momoki could not move. He remained lying on the ground, skinless. The charcoal of the ground clung to his moist, slick, bloody muscles. He remained staring at the horse-demon, seething.

“Good,” Radiant Gui said with laughter. “Hate me. That makes my task all the more enticing.”

The horse-demon laughed.

The baboons smacked their bloody lips. The flesh was gone, devoured completely and resting in their gold, silver and amethyst bellies.

Soon the soothing feeling of flesh returning to Momoki’s form came to him. He was able to move. He struggled to lift himself. His form was once more that of black, billowing smoke. Only the red glow of his eyes and hat stood out as features. He did not understand how a creature dead as he was could be stripped of flesh he did not have, but decided that the tortures of Hell could create its own possibilities.

He sighed with relief as his flesh form swelled complete.

The three baboons approached.

Momoki knew what was coming. He had experienced it perhaps a dozens time already. He wondered if he was meant to experience it for eternity.

The baboons pounced.

Momoki, under the guide of instinct, tried to escape though he knew he could not, would never be able to. But for a moment, just before the baboons had attained a firm hold, he felt the touch of hope before it fled in the face of terror as their paws held him.

The baboons turned Momoki upside down and held him up towards Radiant Gui.

The horse-demon’s claw pierced the darkness of the land. His face came near Momoki. Hot breath smelling of burning sulfur roiled out his nose and blasted Momoki’s form. The claw sank into him, under his skin, and sliced it like a butcher’s knife.

Momoki wished he could close his eyes. He stared at the Midnight Sun staring back, distant, indifferent.

Like the many times before, the horse-demon tore the mystic flesh from Momoki’s form and fed it to the howling baboons.

Again the flesh returned and soothed Momoki.

Again the baboons pounced.

Again, as he was suspended upside down before Radiant Gui, he stared at the Midnight Sun.

But now Radiant Gui stopped. He had heard something, a small voice. He leaned in to listen. He asked, “Marmoset, what is that you say?”

Momoki’s eyes shifted onto the horse-demon. Between pants he said, “At least… this is… for something…”

“What mean you by that?” asked Radiant Gui.

“My… new path… at least… I’ve that…”

Radiant Gui smirked, smiled, then burst forth with incredible laughter. The baboons, upset their feeding was interrupted, squeezed at Momoki though they joined their master by sending up howls of joy.

“You are but a fool,” Radiant Gui said. “A damned fool. A fool damned to Hell for his foolishness.”

Momoki said, “I do not understand.”

Radiant Gui laughed, saying, “No one is so blessed as to have a second chance and a second path! You have no purpose here beyond my plaything! You fool! You believed me? I’m a demon! I lie! Oh! How I love my purpose!”

The horse-demon and baboons laughed at the joke they had played upon the fool marmoset.

The betrayal well further hatred within Momoki. He cried out, “You bastard! I’ll kill you!”

The horse-demon and his baboons laughed louder, taking joy from Momoki’s anguish.

Radiant Gui said, “Good, marmoset. Hate me. Let the desire to murder me percolate, bubbling forth. Hatred is the strongest of all things.”

Momoki felt suddenly hollow. Only the hatred and anger remained. He stared at the Midnight Sun as Radiant Gui continued in his task of torturing him and feeding the baboons.


Zom Loa came into the legendary Peony Tea House. He watched as the house champion – some frog demi-goddess – fought twice and won both matches, including a fight against a Gifted One that was a fox.

The tea house bustled with activity. Zom Loa had heard the god Hanuman was present to watch the fights. Sweat and ales and wines and teas and incense hung on the air. It was hot in the tea house, but not many seemed to care. Not many took notice of his appearance. It appeared to Zom Loa that the Peony Tea House was a congregating place for many different peoples – including Gifted Ones and Gods.

He then huddled in a private booth at the back of the tea house, asking a passerby or two if they knew of anyone interested in making money as a hired guardian.

One such passerby sat down to listen to Zom Loa’s tale, of how he escaped from the mad King Aniabas, how he later heard rumors that the king had been dethroned, and how he was uncertain of the rumor’s truth.

“I am no fighter,” said the young man that sat across from him. He was barely out of his teen years and his face struggled to grow hair on his chin. His hair was sandy-blonde; his eyes wide, wild and green; he wore a light tunic of green and brown leather chaps. At his waist were crossed two daggers. Zom Loa wondered if the young man knew how to properly use the blades or – due to their prominence on his person – perhaps they were simple trappings of one that desired a rough life but had yet to live it.

“But,” said the young man, “you said this king demanded of you the tributes his father had placed in your hands to journey to the north, am I correct?”

Zom Loa nodded.

“Then perhaps paying him back would be the best matter,” said the young man.

Just then three large men, guards heavily laden with weapons and armor and each with a large chest in their arms, passed by their booth before disappearing behind a door at the back of the tea house. The young man watched. Zom Loa watched him, curious.

When he turned back round, Zom Loa asked, “What have you in mind?”

“This tea house makes much money. Most of it is stolen. The fights and games within this tea house are rigged.”

“How know you this?”

“Every place that hosts gambling is crooked, that is well-known,” explained the young man.

Zom Loa wondered at this. E said in a low voice, “Do you suggest we steal money from this tea house?”

The young man smiled, nodding.

Zom Loa looked to the back of the tea house at the door through which the three armed men had gone. He then looked at the young man. “What is your name?”

The young man smiled. “I am Roku and I am a Procurer of Things.”

Zom Loa wondered if the name was real, but Roku’s idea of paying the debt Aniabas claimed was strong. He said, “Roku, I am Zom Loa the Storyteller, but I have also been called Black Tentacle. Let us discuss our future together.”


In a land unmarked by history’s pen, in a land unscathed by woes of men, a land of farmers and free men was born a boy named Renorio. His life, like the land he was born into, was quite unremarkable. He had a mother. He had a father. He had two brothers – both older and wiser.

Renorio learned to crawl then walk as most children do, then learned to talk at a proper age. He had bright blonde hair and green eyes, as all of his people did. He loved the changes of the seasons, he loved to learn, he worked his father’s field when he was old enough. He was in every way a boy of the land and in no way stood out from the other children of the area.

So plain was he that nothing of note could be discerned other than, perhaps, on rare occasions he would grow quiet and watching as if waiting for something. This happened most often when the Summer became Fall or when a particularly strong storm approached or, as one of his brothers noticed on the occasion of their grandmother’s passing, at the hour of death. A few wispy gossiping murmurs were floated about that he could sense death, but was the rumor wasn’t strong and soon faded.

One day, while playing by an old oak – his brothers swimming in the nearby river and he wanting simply to lounge in the shade – Renorio found the carcass of a small bird beneath a wide branch extended parallel to the ground high above. He closed in on the dead bird, examining it. The small bird had not only fallen, but had fallen sharply upon the edge of a jagged stone and its breast had been broken wide with some of its flesh hanging loosely.

Renorio, filled with curiosity, picked up the carcass and began peeling the feathers and flesh from the bone. He wanted desperately to know what was inside – if anything.

His brothers, finished with their swim, came upon him and reprimanded him for playing with the dead bird.

Once home, his parents reprimanded Renorio, as well.

Rumors began again about the boy and his sense of death. He was not ostracized, though many an eye looked at him from out of its corner thereafter.

The boy grew into a young man. The incident was all but forgotten.

Then Renorio’s father died. He and his brothers were left to farm the land and tend to their mother.

More time passed and the mother died.

The brothers began to argue over the operation of the farm. The arguments escalated and regularly became fisticuffs. During once such fight, Renorio brought forth and brandished a knife, stabbing and killing one of his brothers.

The other brother fled and was never heard from again.

Renorio – as he had the day he had found the bird – obsessed over his brother’s dead body. Slowly he peeled the skin free from the carcass. Unknowing what else to do, the next day he treated, stretched and tanned his brother’s skin. He wove its pieces together and stored it in a small knapsack hidden within the log box outside his house.

He buried his brother and carried on with the farm, but soon word spread and fear finally ostracized him from the people of the region. Not knowing what else to do, he packed a sack of provisions in readiness to leave the farm behind. As he left, he turned to look at the only home he had ever known one last time. He stood, staring, until his eyes came to rest upon the log box. He went to it. Digging to the bottom he found the knapsack with his brother’s tanned skin. With it in his hand, he left his homelands forever.


Radiant Gui’s long claw pierced the form of Momoki, digging into it and causing him excruciating pain. The horse-demon peel back the flesh and tossed it to the side. The baboons dropped Momoki and ran to feast.

Radiant Gui sighed as the flesh began to reappear on Momoki. The horse-demon said, “I tire of this.”

He picked up Momoki with two claws and walked away. A set of double doors, crimson as the Midnight Sun and taller than the demon, appeared. Radiant Gui threw Momoki down before the doors. “There’s you chamber.”

Momoki picked himself up. “Is this where I live?”

Radiant Gui laughed. “You don’t live. But yes, it’s a chamber of your own. It’s the Chamber of Despair. That part of the lie was very true. I’ll return when I want to torture you some more.” Radiant Gui hesitated, then said, “And you won’t be alone.” He said this as though he regretted it, as though he had no choice over the matter and detested it.

Radiant Gui walked away.

Momoki pressed his black paws against the two red doors. They opened with some difficulty as they were so immense over his demure size. He stepped into the chamber and the doors closed behind him.

The chamber was bright and appeared as a courtyard. The ground was light tan like sand and three large weeping cherries were growing strongly. In the center was a wooden hut raised on stilts. The hut was open and airy and a cool breeze blew through it at all hours. In its center was a small tatami mat.

Momoki, eyeing the chamber, headed towards the mat. He then saw some creature, black as night with small bits of roiling smoke – akin to his own form – crawling across the courtyard. It was the form of a turtle and it was black with bright red, glowing streaks at the sides of its head.

“Twila?” Momoki asked.

Twila turned her head, searching, finding, crying out, “Momoki!”

Momoki ran to her side. He lay beside her, holding her close. They lay together in the center of the courtyard, cherry blossoms falling all about them, enjoying their closeness.

“Momoki, where have you been? Some demonic creature said you’d come, but when you didn’t I suspected he had lied.”

“I’m here, Twila. I’m here. And I wont ever leave your side again.”

She smiled and it went unseen through her new dark form.

Momoki held her.

“Is this Hell, Momoki?”

Momoki answered sadly, “Yes.”

Twila sighed. “I’ve waited here a long time for you.”

“I’m sorry, Twila, but I’m here now.”

“Where were you?”

Momoki thought of his tortures, of his purpose in Hell. He knew he could not tell her of his pain. “Please, Twila… please don’t ask.”

Twila nuzzled her head under Momoki’s chin. He kissed her lightly upon the head and she, had she been able, would have blushed as her head receded a small ways into her shell before it came back out and nuzzled his chin once more.

A horrifying thought came to Momoki. He asked, “Are Gogi and Szu Ri here?”

Twila shook her head. “No. I can only hope they are still alive and living a good life.”

Momoki sighed with relief. “I hope a good life for them as well, though I wish I could see Gogi once more. He was such a good friend. I miss him.”

As he lay with Twila, he felt his anger and hatred lift from his heart. He swelled with worth. He felt healed. He felt strong. He smiled an unseen smile and said, “Radiant Gui was wrong. Love is stronger.”

As they lay in the courtyard, Momoki could almost imagine himself in a beautiful field chasing after and playing with his old friend.


It was late in the day. Kalavata’s head came over the horizon as Gogi finished fishing. As darkness over came the world, the moon’s light dancing off the water as Gogi pulled in his line, he caught a glimpse of a glimmering shape down the creak’s bank some ways. Gogi turned to look and gasped.

There, in the thin light of night, Gogi could see a shimmering, silvery visage that appeared much like Momoki.

“Momoki!” cried Gogi. He ran excitedly down the bank, dropping his line. His hat flew from his head and landed on the muddy bank.

Szu Ri heard Gogi cry out. She came out of the house looking for him, but she could not find him. She heard him, however, crying out into the night. She lifted onto the air, wings flapping, searching for Gogi. She found him by the banks of the creak. She flew to his side.

“Gogi! What’s wrong?” Szu Ri asked.

Gogi, in hysterics, looked around. “Szu Ri! He was here! He was here!”

“Who was here?” she asked as she grabbed his trembling hand.

He held her. “Momoki! I saw Momoki! Though, he was as silver, thin and… like a mist.”

Szu Ri looked at Gogi with concern. “But Gogi, Momoki has died.”

Gogi began to tremble more, but now with fright as dreadful thoughts entered his head. “D-do you think I-I saw a g-ghost?”

Szu Ri held Gogi close. “Let’s get back to the house, Gogi.” She patted his hand.

As they walked back, Szu Ri’s concern grew. She knew Gogi was not one with a wild imagination, but she wondered if his heartbreak for his lost friend had driven him to seeing mirages.


Shabar placed his pack of provisions on the back of his mule. He had already outfitted the mule with a small carriage and placed some of his harvest on it.

He turned to Alia and she handed him a flask.

“I’ll be back in a few days, after I’ve sold our extra crops and traded for a few things.”

Alia sighed. “I know why you go, Shabar. Do not insult me with lies.”

Shabar sighed. “I have to know what happened to Albert, what’s happening with the Elephant Crusade.”

Alia nodded. “I’d like to know, as well, but I do not wish to lose you. I’m hoping this little trading trip will quell your desires. But come back to me.” At this she pointed a finger at him, adding emphasis on her words.

“I’ll come back,” he kissed her on the cheek. He then bent and hugged his son and kissed her belly where his second son was growing.

Before he left he told her, “Old Man Arnas knows I’m going. If you need help, go to him just beyond the hills in the next fields.”

Alia nodded.

Shabar pulled forth a crop and started his mule walking.

Alia watched him until Kalavata’s darkness overcame the land.


Sal Igo ran through the great, decorated halls of the Peony Tea House. He had been owner of the tea house for three decades and not once had there been such a large affront against him. People chased after him as he yelled, commanding them to aide him in discovering the whereabouts of the lost coffers. “Whoever did this,” he cried, “must be a master thief!”

The great commotion of he and his followers caused Wu Chan Chu to flick forth her tongue and pull back the door to her room. She stood and approached Sal Igo.

"What is it? What's the problem?" she asked.

"Oh, my champion!" he cried. "The coffers! The Peony's coffers have gone missing! We are broke! Someone has stolen all our money!"

Wu Chan Chu grunted, sighed, then looked at Comet Fox.

Comet Fox was aghast at the accusatory glare Wu Chan Chu gave him. He demanded, "What? Why are you looking at me?"


I hope you enjoyed Act I. Be sure to check back next Friday, the 28th, for Act II!

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