Paper Birds

Fiction by Gary Mark Bernstein
Photography by Fino Tereno



In the Eighth Century A. D., word came to the Emperor of Japan of an artist working with folded paper who created works of astounding realism. The Emperor summoned the artist and commanded him to make realistic paper cranes for the palace. The artist begged to instead make trees and mountains and seas and lakes, but the Emperor insisted upon cranes.

The artist was taken to a room to work, and upon entering the room, he raised a hand to shield his eyes.

“You must shutter that window if I am to work.”

The guards complied, though they insisted the room would be warm and stuffy without the breeze. The artist worked until he had used all the paper they’d given him. When the two guards came to see how the work progressed, they were astounded by the realism.

A guard reported to the Emperor, while his partner remained in the stagnant room. The artist insisted they keep the window closed, but the emperor was coming. The guard rushed to let in the fresh air.

He stood speechless, pointing to the open window.

He found his voice: “They flew away!”

The Emperor rushed to the window to see, for a fleeting golden moment, each pale, moving flashing shape like that of a recurve bow in flight, disappear over the sunset gleaming hills of the horizon.

About the Artist

Fino Tereno is a photographer and documentary filmmaker.

About the Author

Born in ancient times. Without my being consulted, my mother moved me from Southern California to suburban Cleveland. Went to Ohio University where I studied with Daniel Keyes and Walter Tevis, who happened to be a couple of the greatest writers to ever do science fiction. I spent a  record long time as an undergraduate getting degrees in English and Creative Writing.

There is a long story about how I almost dated this girl I met early in my stay at Ohio University. I met here briefly at an art film viewing club, and by coincidence, I saw her the next day at the Union bar and grill. I was a day late since she’d just met this guy in the back room of the Union bar and grill, only a few minutes before I arrived, and she’s been with him ever since.

I often “fictionalize” my adventure with her and her family by pretending I asked the question, “They got any more like you at home?”

Because I did, in fact, after a time, meet her twin sister. We have been together more than 50 years, and I am starting to think the relationship is going to take.

We have one child, a son, who because of the way I raised him, is perfect and brilliant and successful in many ways…although, through a process I cannot comprehend, that amazing little boy is a middle-aged man.

I somehow passed in and out of many jobs or professions, until I became a dealer and used and collectible books and comic books for about 30 years.  This work involved my going the science fiction conventions where I befriended writers who were my youthful idols. 

To my surprise, I ended up with my own page Internet Movie Database.

I have done some writing all my life but almost never received recognition of any sort. I’m a co-author of Cthulurotica. My play Surface was chosen for the Festival of Life in Cork, Ireland. I have had about a hundred poems accepted by very small magazines, and a few short stories here and there.

I have saved enough money to retire and officially I am retired. I do not feel retired though because  I am active,  continuing to absorb literature and study it on my own, and doing my own little writing. I have always read more novels a week than most people.  Being retired, I can indulge my tendency to be a recluse. Having a wife and a Siberian Husky who attend me with great affection or devotion does not interfere with my being a recluse from most of the world.

Several times I’ve been asked for a brief autobiography, and every time I write one I feel like the recitation of the facts has failed to draw a picture of who I am or where I’ve been or what I have done. If I have created an illusion of having conveyed who I am, then this is enough to ask for.

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