In the ancient chronicle, Things Unseen in the Middle Kingdom and Therefore Anywhere Else, Shichirō had read of the Cursebreaker. When those afflicted by unbearable fates beseeched Heaven for aid in the right terms, a strange, pale-skinned woman might appear.
The Cursebreaker appears in the story “Cursebreaker: The Jikininki and the Japanese Jurist” by Kyla Ward, published in The New Hero Volume 1.
Listen to Kyla Ward reading a quote from “Cursebreaker”.
When seeking authors for The New Hero, the upcoming anthology of iconic hero stories from Stone Skin Press, I hoped I’d get a chance to include some protagonists better described as new-ish… In other words, heroes who had already appeared elsewhere, demonstrating that the real test of such a character is how compelling their later adventures are.
Kyla Ward’s Cursebreaker suffers from an unfortunate condition—trapped by the clutches of Fate, her spirit is susceptible to summoning. Once called from across the boundaries of time, she frees others, while remaining stuck herself.
In “Cursebreaker: The Jikininki and the Japanese Jurist”, she materializes in 16th century Japan. Her summoner, the earnest monk Shichiro, wants her to rid his isolated mountain monastery from a marauding creature, once a fellow brother, who has been despoiling its graveyard. But if there’s one thing she’s learned in her mystical travels, it’s that there’s always more to a curse than first appearances reveal.
With a fresh and original character and a fine-tuned sense of irony, Kyla Ward deftly combines humor, horror and pathos. She grounds her portrayal of a fantastic Japan with an evocative authenticity of detail. Her supernatural mystery delivers weird surprise in the Edogawa Rampo tradition. Those seeking a lesson in how to economically reintroduce a recurring hero through action should get out the highlighter and prepare to see how it’s done.
“The Cursebreaker began as a kind of exorcism,” says Kyla, “and continues as a personal challenge. Is there really such a thing as eternal doom? As a bonus, it allows me to revisit all the most fascinating corners of my historical research.”
Kyla Ward is a Sydney-based creative who works in many modes. Her novel Prismatic (co-authored as ‘Edwina Grey’) won an Aurealis Award for Horror. Her short fiction has appeared in Ticonderoga Online, Shadowed Realms, Gothic.net and in the Macabre anthology amongst others. Her short film, Bad Reception, screened at the 3rd international Vampire Film Festival and she is a member of the Theatre of Blood, which has also produced her work. Poetry, articles, rpgs, art; if you can scare people with it she probably has, to the extent of programming the horror stream at the 2010 Worldcon. To see some very strange things, try www.tabula-rasa.info.
All New Hero artwork by Gene Ha.
The Stone Skin Press Kickstarter and more information can be found here.