Deep Blue Yonder by Ryu Ando
Old Man Hideki, retired salaryman and master-builder of ships in glass bottles, lay there halfnaked on the tatami mats, his testicles hanging out like shriveled orbs floating atop sea-foam, and staring glassy-eyed at the ceiling. By the time Toru got into his father's room by punching holes through the shoji panels, it was too late. They pressed the old man's eyes shut and carted him away on a stretcher still clenching tweezers in one hand and a tiny white cloth sail in the other. But the smell of model glue couldn't mask the strange stench of brine. Perhaps it was the summer heat, blocking ebbing tides and unreliable moons that trapped the scent of stillborn ocean. Toru, however, was more confused by the look he saw on his father's face. Gentle morning light, quantum hammer, striking the mirror. But that face seemed less etched, younger even, than he'd ever seen it, and the crags around his father's mouth that had always pointed downward into dark valleys of anger and roiling menace were now gone. In their place was the trace of a smile: Forthcoming. Arisen. Toru didn't realize until later -- so much later in fact that it was at the end of his own life with his own son, a real son of Yamato rising in the east, now grown and staring into his fading eyes -- that the smell of brine accompanying Old Man Hideki had been real. And it promised great depths from which only the madai and ika and tako -- of late, just pieces of well-manicured flesh presented to him on miniature plates -- could have returned to tell of the tale that placates the soul and points it back to its placid blue surface.
Ryu Ando is an academic librarian who lives and works in Los Angeles. He specializes in digital libraries and Japanese literature and writes speculative fiction at night, right when others are heading to sleep. Accompanying photo by Orin Zebest