art by Seth Alan Bareiss
Susumu Must Fold
by Tony Pi
When Susumu Nakashima entered the competition hall, the origami masters and their audience fell into stunned silence. He knew they were staring at the pinned sleeve that marked his lost arm, or the gloved right hand that remained. Some murmured while others chuckled. The press peppered him with question after question, but Susumu chose not to answer.
In the midst of his peers, Susumu voiced his only desire: "Let me fold."
The maglev accident five years ago had cost him more than his limb. The train wreck also stole his skill and, in turn, his joy. In mourning he had chosen self-exile, shunning the public eye, but his love for his art endured, driving him to search for a replacement hand. Yet none of the cyberneticists he found could give him back the digital dexterity he craved.
It took a scientist in London to give him hope.
Carrizo, the reigning champion, snarled. "Come to fight me for the crown, Nakashima? Have you mastered the art of folding paper with one hand, or with your feet?"
Susumu ignored Carrizo's taunt. He had tried both methods, of course. In his youth he had known a woman in Osaka born without arms who could perfect a paper swan with her toes alone. Alas, that talent wasn't his.
Instead, he smiled. "With no hands at all, Carrizo Sensei."
The ensuing uproar took the judges long to quell, but Susumu remained patient. When the crowd settled at last, he asked again for permission to compete.
Unorthodox, the judges said, but if the other competitors consented....
Carrizo stage-laughed. "We'll allow it, if only to humor him. Won't we?"
Five years and Susumu found he still despised the Argentinean. But the glory hound's hubris was exactly what he needed to speed him into the competition. And with the other contestants following Carrizo's lead, the judges nodded and gave Susumu a place.
Susumu bit and tugged his glove off his hand. The nanobot swarms on the tips of his fingers were invisible to the eye, though in his mind he likened them to four-pincered fortune-tellers.
The square sheet of washi before him was larger than he had practiced with in London, but nonetheless he pressed ahead. He touched the paper and issued a command to the swarms through his implant-link: Saturate the paper.
The army of fortune-tellers fell as an avalanche onto the surface of the sheet and crept into its fibers.
"Contestants! The Great Sphinx of Giza is your challenge, single sheet," the head judge said. "Ready, set, fold!"