This story originally published in Antipodean SF


by C.W.Smoke

Visit Castle Smoke

Ed emptied his suitcase, absentmindedly cataloging the items as he removed each one. A shoebrush. Old photographs inside a cardboard box. A lint brush with a broken handle. An intricately wrought metal spaniel he'd bought for a paperweight long ago that had disappeared. Until now.

Looking like an emaciated Buddha on speed, the six-inch-tall jade statue stared back at him from the dresser top beside his bed. The figure looked smaller, more gaunt than when he'd bought it in that backwater shop. It had to be the lighting. Was Buddha grinning?

Well, Ed grinned right back because his good fortune had increased along with his waistline since he'd found the statue. Prosperity suited him. And he could analyze the statue later, after he returned, because he was finally going....on a real vacation after all these years.

He'd won the contest, and his prize was an all expenses paid, month long vacation for two to Burma at the finest hotel in Rangoon. After quick negotiation, he'd parleyed the second passage into extra cash for himself. Now, as a seeker of mystery and an Oriental art enthusiast, Ed was in jade heaven. After years of scrounging through second-hand Stateside outlets, he was going to the source. The Far East.

Unbidden images of rickshaws and temples came to him as he packed. A side trip to Tibet, a visit to the Temple of Bronze, perhaps. Smoke from burning incense tickled his olfactory nerve and produced a yearning to see the Jade Palace in Thailand, a return to his roots. He had traced his ancestry to the early Ming Dynasty, but he had never been outside the States, a fifth generation Chinese American whose forbears had laid steel rails across the continental divide.

Now the mysteries of The Orient would be his to explore first-hand. No intermediaries. No waiting. He was excited. The cab was due shortly. In minutes he would be off. He reached to close his suitcase, but he hesitated. He was forgetting something.

He touched his jacket pocket and felt the reassuring bulge of his passport and plane tickets. His eyes found the jade Buddha sitting complacently on the dresser.

Impulsively, he grabbed the statue. Then he laid it face up into his already stuffed suitcase. He looked down at the thin Buddha, and suddenly he was dizzy. He closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them, he was staring up at himself from inside his suitcase.

The mouth that no longer belonged to him spoke.

"I have waited long, Edward Lee, for a true descendant of my Keepers to appear. It is time for my next incarnation. You have done well, and you shall occupy a place of honor in my temple."

Ed watched helplessly as the suitcase lid closed and darkness enfolded him.

So it came to pass that Edward Lee got to experience his very own Oriental mystery. And remember, if you're ever in a Far Eastern Buddhist temple, and you see a skinny jade Buddha, don't touch.


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