Wednesday, May 5, 2010

The Doningyo Continuum

An ironclad steamship sailed into the bay on a bright May morning when all the sakura cherry blossoms were in riot. At first the people and the emperor were thrown into a great panic. But this subsided when it was understood that all the sailors wanted was money. The emperor had the crew killed, chopped and fed to the goldfish and had the ship destroyed. He did not wish for his nation to be found by those more clever than himself.

During the dismantling of the steam boiler five men were killed and the emperor gave Kakakuri the mission of mastering the ways of steam. Kakakuri was a swordsmith who had been content to be largely ignored until then, strong willed and young, short sighted, with eyebrows that seemed to meet like ferrets stretching their forepaws towards each other. He was worshipful by nature because of his low station in life and prided himself on his intimacy with the ways of steel.

Steam was a cruel and suspicious goddess who answered his tentative and awkward caresses with white hot blasts that took away the skin of his shoulders and ears as the test of his sincerity and the chastisement of his clumsiness. Kakakuri learned and went from being the apprentice of steam to the lover . He cooly studied the plates of boiler steel and their rivets, scoffed at their crudity and improved them with the steel making methods of sword craft

By day he built great steam powered engines and balloons for the emperor. But at night he studied a golden pocket watch taken from the unfortunate ships captain. The sheer cleverness of its inner organs and ticking heart thrilled him. He began by building a clock powered by steam. And then a steam powered chicken that laid tiny clocks. He built a clock work steam powered hand that could make tea and bring it to him. Finally under a large glass dome, a clockwork village of tiny steam powered men and women who gave birth to steam powered babies. He gave the tiny village to the Emperors daughter for her birthday.

One day while chasing after her cat in the garden, the Emperors daughter was stung by a serpent on her left hand and her arm turned rotten. The Imperial surgeon had it removed. The Imperial Master of Steam, for now he was, made her a new, steam powered arm. The arm was stronger than any ten men and could draw a longbow so as to shoot an arrow through steel. A fearsome arm it was, but also so delicate that the princess, who had no skill before, could now paint like a master. In the greediness of her delight, she cunningly stabbed her other hand with a thorn, rubbed her feces in the wound and in time that arm turned rotten. At her request, the Imperial Steam Master made her a second steam powered arm. With these two arms she was as strong as a forest ape, but Kakakuri had secretly built a new skill into the steam powered, watch work hands. When she discovered this, she knew Kakakuri was in love. Her warm and vaporous touch was exquisitely sweet and sensuous so that she made a private game of making a lusty man helplessly spend himself with a moan just by walking with her and holding her hand. She could also play any musical instrument she was given. She took up the zither and played music with these special hands with which she gleefully tortured men’s ears with notes that incited a burning lust for her touch. As she performed these scandalous compositions, samurai and men of the court turned hard with need under the robes and slipped away to relieve themselves in the thighs of their grateful women. She counted it a poor performance when she could not clear the room of men and women both. Soon she was playing for her father the Emperor by the moon viewing pool, and the sounds filled him with forbidden longings.

One day while walking she managed to stab her foot with a thorn and soon her leg had turned gangrenous and rotten. The Imperial surgeon had it removed. The Imperial Steam Master gave her a steam powered leg. Hopping on the leg, with one foot behind her, she was the fastest runner in the land and with practice could cover leagues at a few jumps. One day she came down hard and contrived to have her other foot stabbed on a rusty nail. Soon that last mortal limb was rotten and had to be removed. The Imperial Steam master made her also another steam powered leg, so that now she had two steam powered legs and two steam powered arms. With these steam powered limbs she performed dances with silken scarves that made strong men crawl and beg for her touch.

One day a jealous woman poisoned the Princess’s food and she became terribly sick in her stomach. She was dying and the Imperial Surgeon only managed to save her long enough for the Steam Master to build her a steam powered torso. Now all that remained of what nature had given her was her head. But the Steam Master had built her so cunningly, so voluptuously that the Emperor was tormented with unnatural desire for his daughter. Stories spread around the court of how the steam powered body had changed her nature. The demon of steam had possessed this chaste creature and given her a ravenous appetite that exhausted battalions of gallants in her bed nightly.

Her mighty torso, her hot volcanic breasts filled her father with longing. As he haunted the kitchen of his palace and caressed the steel pots, and the conical funnels, whispering her name, his blood began to boil.

She is hardly my daughter, he told himself. She is no longer my daughter at all. That fateful afternoon he invited her into his bed chamber for tea and locked the door after her.

His morning concubine found him dead in his bed, nude, boiled like a lobster next to his grieving and bewildered clockwork child. She has killed the Emperor, said the Chief of the Daimyos and her head must be struck off. She was beheaded the next day and her head added to the rest of her in her grave in the garden along with her cat and its bowl. But her cat began to howl under the ground and her ghost haunted the palace halls at night, satisfying men in their dreams so that the women complained in their jealousy. In despair her headless metal remains were given over to the Steam Master.

He had a new head already prepared in his workshop, because unknown to any, he had loved the princess from the first time he had seen her in the garden and had copied her head in gold and silver to talk to him at night and tell him lascivious tales of passion. Now in her outcastness, he made her complete. She was a sentient subtraction between the flesh of woman and the storm clouds of summer, holding up a steel rod, fiercely pleasured by lightning, in thunder storms open mouthed, filling her boiler with rain. She slipped easily into his bed, copper girdled, hot, and unexpectedly happy.

She filled his nights with grateful steaming kisses and embraces and having been already boiled alive by the goddess of steam in his early experiments he had no fear or ignorance of her. She pitied his shining keloid scars as the heroic price he’d paid for her immortality. Each bolt and delicately tempered spring coil she dedicated to his pleasure. All the while he lovingly taught her the magic of steam mechanics, how to understand herself and make her own repairs against the day when he would be gone. In return, as they made the Wind and the Rain together, and as he poured his ecstatic seed into her orifice it emerged from her loving alchemy as a fragrant tea which prolonged his years beyond nature.

When he was old and full of years, and herself burnished and more beautiful than ever, having learned well her skill and how to embellish her copper and steel to please him, the old maker of samurai swords and then steam boilers and clockwork rabbits and then finally woman - began to die. She kissed him and drew his breath into herself and stored it in her hot internal geysers.

On his worktable she set about day and night, needing no sleep but could not build herself a man worthy to carry on his last breath. Defeated beyond hoping, she made a steam powered bird. She breathed his last breath into the bird and wound it with a key. She put the bird in a cage and the windup bird sang stories of the love adventures of her and the Master of Steam until she allowed the vapors within her to turn quietly cold and still.


  1. A steam powered nightingales song. Shades of Samurai Seven

  2. This is a masterpiece, Garce!

    I want to put it in the Coming Together book!


  3. Hi Ken,

    Kakakuri is a Japanese word for "gadget", one of those little knicky-knacky things Japanese folks like so much. I like the idea of a steam powered bird.


  4. Hi Lisabet!

    That's an interesting thought. Let's talk about that.


  5. I enjoyed the notion of Japan's closed society getting ahold of steam power and taking it in its own way. Very true to form.

    Nicely done.

  6. Wow. What an evocative, compelling piece. I feel very unfamiliar with steampunk in general and feel I actually have more of an idea of it now just from reading this. :) Thanks for sharing!


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