The Tail of Genji

artwork © 2020 by Lars Weiler

The Tail of Genji

by Aidan Doyle

            It’s not easy to rent an apartment in Tokyo if you’re a giant robot lizard.

            “We don’t have anything that meets your needs,” the rental agents would say.

            Genji had similar luck when it came to getting a job. They tried contacting an organization that worked with the visually impaired. “I want to be a seeing-eye lizard.”

            “I’m sorry, but we don’t have any vacancies,” the woman explained.

            “I won’t destroy any major landmarks,” they pleaded. “I only want to help.”

            “I’m sorry,” the woman repeated.

            A train company in Wakayama had made a cat their station master, but none of the Tokyo train companies wanted anything to do with a giant robot lizard. Genji tried to get a job as a pusher—one of the attendants who try to get as many people into crowded trains as possible—but it was difficult to fight against the negative media stereotypes.

            They eventually found a job as a bouncer at a club in Roppongi. It was the last kind of work they wanted to do, but at least they only had to look threatening and didn’t need to hurt anyone. They could also sleep in the undercover parking lot during the day.

            Their creator sighed when Genji called to tell him about their new job. “Come home, Genji. There’s always work here.”

            Their creator owned a hotel in Okinawa. Genji wanted to make their creator proud, but wanted to do it on their own terms. When Genji had moved to Tokyo they had an image of a machete engraved on their tail. They were going to cut their own path. “I’ll find another job,” Genji told their creator.

            After their afternoon nap, they would go walk for a walk across the Tokyo Gate Bridge and admire the view. Of course they didn’t want anyone to get hurt, but secretly part of them hoped someone would get in trouble so that Genji could rescue them.

            Genji’s presence on the bridge made people uncomfortable though. Eventually one of the security staff told them to leave. “If I see you here again, I’ll call in a terrorism alert.”

            Genji slunk away.

            To expand their social network, Genji signed up for tea ceremony classes, but was asked to leave after their tail knocked over other students’ teapots.

            They tried not to let their lack of success get them down. Once people got to know them, they would see Genji for the caring mechalizard they really were. They continued to go for walks near the Tokyo Gate Bridge, but stayed off the bridge itself.

            One afternoon, they encountered a crying man near the bridge. “Is everything all right?” Genji asked.

            The man stared up at him. “Maybe you can help me.”

            Genji’s central processing unit leaped in excitement. This was their chance. “Of course.”

            “I was posing a teddy bear for a photo and it fell over the side of the bridge and got stuck in the railing. Could you climb down and get it?”

            Genji stared at the bridge. What if they called in a terrorism alert and the self-defence force arrived? It wasn’t worth risking their life for a toy. “I’m not allowed on the bridge.”

            “I own a teddy bear travel agency,” the man explained. “People from all over the world send me their stuffed animals and I photograph them enjoying the sights of Tokyo. My client would be devastated if I lost her bear.”

            Genji didn’t want anyone to be devastated. Maybe the security guard who had warned them to stay away wouldn’t be working today. “I’ll help you.”

            Genji followed the man onto the bridge, nervously watching for the presence of security staff.

            A man in uniform stepped forward.

            Genji was ready to turn and flee, but the man intervened. “This robot lizard is with me,” he announced.

            The security guard scowled, but didn’t say anything.

            “I come here a lot,” the man explained. He showed Genji where the bear had fallen.

            Genji peered over the edge. Even for them, it looked a long drop to the water. They took a moment to allocate more memory to their Calm and Tranquility Unit. They could do this.

            They clambered over the railing. Someone shouted out, but Genji kept going. Hopefully, no one had reported a terrorist incident.

            They used their claws and tail to keep a tight grip and worked their way down the side of the bridge. Their terror buffer was near maximum capacity.

            They spotted a blue teddy bear caught in the railing. They wrapped their tail around a pylon and leaned forward to grasp the bear. They had it!

            They held the bear carefully, making sure not to damage it, and scrambled back over the safety barrier. They handed the bear to the man.

            He bowed repeatedly. “Thank you. Thank you.” 

            The security guard shouted at Genji for doing something so dangerous, but eventually let them go.

            The man thanked them again.

            “Would you would have any work for a giant robot lizard?” Genji asked.

            The man smiled. “Yes.”

            Genji had to allocate more memory to their Happiness Processor. 

            Genji spent the next week traveling around Tokyo accompanied by a dozen toy companions. They took an average of 542.4 photos a day. Giant robot lizard holding a bear in front of Tokyo Sky Tree. Giant robot lizard posing with a panda at Asakusa Shrine.

            They waited to see how the job turned out before telling their creator. The feedback from customers was unanimous. They wanted to see more of the giant robot lizard in their photos.

            “Playing with soft toys?” their creator scoffed when Genji called. “I wish you would do something more important.”

            “I want to read you an email we received yesterday from France,” Genji said.

            My eleven-year-old daughter loves anime so much. It’s her dream to visit Japan, but because of the cost of traveling with her illness, we haven’t been able to make it there yet. She wanted me to tell you how much the photos of her favorite bear enjoying Tokyo mean to her. She hopes she gets to meet Genji when she visits Japan. Thank you.

            Genji’s creator cleared his throat. “I’m proud of you, Genji.”

© 2020 by Aidan Doyle
1,100 words
March 20th, 2020

Aidan Doyle is an Australian writer and editor. He is the co-editor of the World Fantasy Award-nominated Sword and Sonnet and the author of The Writer’s Book of Doubt. His short stories have been published in places like Lightspeed, Strange Horizons and Fireside. He has visited more than 100 countries and his experiences include teaching English in Japan, interviewing ninjas in Bolivia, and going ten-pin bowling in North Korea.
Twitter: @aidan_doyle

Illustration by Lars Weiler.