[Void Galaxia] Chapter 9: Days Of Grey, Nights Of Neon

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My dorm VR server was dead.

      Or it may as well have been. Four hours to install a fucking game?

      Was this real?

      Didn’t it know I was already pissed off?

      Muttering, ‘fucking Martokras,’ under my breath, I switched to my game-card version of Moon Factory 7 and patched in. It functioned okay, no frazzled weirdness…until the background scenery starting flashing green and the NPCs walked on air like it was the floor.

      Okay, that definitely needed to be fixed. Another game?

      I scrolled through my cards – Harem Survival 4, Quarter-Life, Pluto 2270 etc. – and struggled to put colour to any of them. Too familiar. Played to death and beyond.

      What else?

      Dorm version of Moon Factory 7? Tomomi or Sachiko would probably be on, I could do some crater watching with them. But the lag would be pretty bad…half-filled in background, NPC buffering freeze…unless I detached the install?

      I checked the timer on Pluto 2280. Three hours and fifty-eight minutes left.

      Fuck. Four hours.

      Everyone knew dorm servers weren’t the fastest, but new games never took that long to install. One hour max.

      Kuso.

      I looked at my phone and saw it was already eleven.

      What was I gonna do for four hours?

      Forums?

      Vlogs?

      Sleep?

      Opening a new tab, I went to 100 More and scrolled down the main page. Apart from a video about what it would feel like to fall into the atmosphere of Jupiter, there was nothing of interest.

      And didn’t wanna look at my phone anyway.

      That’s what addicts did.

      I reached over and switched to Pluto 2280. The installation clock came back up, continuing from where it had left off. Three hours and fifty-four minutes.

      Okay, no phone, no internet.

      What else?

~~~

      Things to do [without a computerr]:

      Stare out the window.

      Read comics.

      Read Ryu’s anarchism book.

      Stare at the posters on the wall, dream of space travel.

      Wank over Asami/Tomomi.

      Go out, walk around…

      Shovel coins into the lap of that homeless guy

~~~

      I sat by the window, staring at the side-street below, that albatross book on anarchism half open on the bed next to me.

       There was nothing happening outside so I picked up the book again. Flicked to one of the middle chapters, a part of the book I’d never got to before. Jeff Fahey, what have you got for me tonight?

       ‘The key component of any true anarchist state is a lack of state.’

       It was the only line I could read before the words got complicated. Which was a bit weird as the first three chapters seemed more accessible, but this…

      ‘As soon as you create an ideal, you create adherents, and with adherents comes orthodoxy, and at that point the ideal becomes finite, to which the inevitable outcome is destruction; not necessarily the end, but an end. To quote Spinoza, ‘belief and comprehension of an idea occur at the same moment,’ so once the ideal is comprehended it can only be negated, and the final negation is, inexorably, destruction.’

       What was Fahey playing at? A thousand hundred long words suddenly. Kuso. Didn’t you say this was an easy read, Ryu?

       Maybe the translator added them in to give the subject more heft?

       Maybe Jeff Fahey only wrote in basics, too many basics, and the translator decided themselves that that was bullshit, the subject needed to be obtuse.

       Actually, how did translation work? Was it just copying or did it-…was there some kind of art to the thing?

       Why would they give these people prizes if it’s just copying?

       I put the book down for the thirteenth time and stared out of the window. There was a guy I half-recognised down there now, and a girl on the wall opposite – no patches in sight – and he was trying to pull her down onto his lap.

       I watched, hoping for sex, thinking of Asami

~~~

       Five minutes later, the guy had his hands up her shirt.

       I didn’t bother to hide myself. Just stared robotically, watching two drunk students I didn’t know attempt to have public sex. But it was too slow. Too performative. I tried to replace the two of them with myself and Asami, and the wall with a bathtub, but that wouldn’t stick either.

       Asami…Asami…she was probably in her room by now. Why didn’t I just…

~~~

      Ten minutes later, the guy had his hand up her skirt.

      She punched him in the chest, but it wasn’t real anger, cos she was laughing too. Most girls in high school played that game. Aya did it to me right before we fucked in the trees near Nikko.

       Asami would probably do it too, if I ever got close enough. She seemed like that kind of person.

       Asami…Asami…

      Closing my eyes, I tried to picture the two of us together. It wouldn’t stick. I got my phone and found the photo of her in a loose top, and tried again.

       Nothing.

       Fuck.

       I switched back to anarchism, trying to think through everything I’d read over the last few weeks and turn it into…something.

      What was there?

      Details, Keni-cat.

      I grabbed a pen and notepad off the desk and started scribbling:

       A map of the system…solutions.

       Hierarchy leads to inequality. Inequality leads to workers pissing in bottles and cringe sitcoms for the middle class.

      Solution: get rid of hierarchy.

      Set up collectives interlinked along horizontal power lines.

      Ryu’s idea, not mine. Or Fahey’s. Or Bakunin’s. Other Russians ending in IN.

      Problem: we’re wired into this current system, indoctrinated. Difficult to think differently. People are convinced anarchism means we’re going to take away their homes and porn collections.

      Bigger problem: sexy adventurist propaganda. Saori Takamoto’s tits. Jerry Shinada’s abs. In Collectives, we’d all have to wear dungarees and attempt farming. Reduced nationalism leads to nihilism, not love? Some people want to live in a country of two hundred million plus and pretend they’re integral to it. All the best castles were built by rich guys. Actors, directors and entrepreneurs deserve much, much more than everyone else. Tom Hanks is a nice granddad. So is Ken Watanabe. Kou Shibasaki is still single and she won’t fuck you if you take all her money away.

      Existing solutions: direct democracy, recycled + determinable tax, other things I don’t completely understand.

       Japan problems: Many.

      Working Class Estates: they look like shit. Dominated by the colour grey during daylight hours, and bright neon to encourage gambling at night. On overcast days, neon can start as early as 11am.

      Idea: failing a Spanish-style revolution, we crowd-source and build a housing estate for the working class, with good facilities and low rent.

      I could do it, with enough cash from other people. Asami could be my aide. We could stay in the same building, receiving gratitude every day, fucking at night with a clear conscience and a happy mind.

      That could work.

      I looked at the cover of the book.

      Did Jeff Fahey write about this too?

      In ridiculously long words, probably.

      My eyelids were starting to drop from politics overload, so I gave up on the scribbling and turned to the window again.

      The two drunk students were gone.

      I looked at the clock.

      Eleven forty-five.

      Still early.

      Still three hours and twelve minutes left on the installation.

      The door outside my room opened and then closed.

      Asami.

      I stood up, walked to the wall next to my door and listened.

      She was walking around her room, talking to someone…on the phone?

      Asami…Asami…

      No.

      She liked me, I knew it, but…what if she didn’t?

      No, forget it.

      I stretched my arms.

      Eleven fifty.

      Not even midnight.

      Still enough time to…do what?

      …

      Anarchism.

      Anarchism.

      Anarchism.

      No, too much theory.

      It gave me a fucking headache.

      I looked at the pile of coins on my desk.

      Ah, voluntarism.

      That sounded better.

      Assuming it meant what I thought it did.

      Direct charity?

~~~

      Twenty seven minutes later, give or take, I was in the ghost park, the same place I’d seen the homeless scientist guy the night before.

      Only this time he wasn’t there.

      No-one was.

      Just half-broken swings and residual neon from the conveni opposite.

      I sat down in the exact same place, a little Tupperware container full of coins in my pocket, and waited.

      In my head: Pluto. Yosh. Anarchism. Ryu lecturing me on the phone about lounging around like a koala instead of doing something productive.

      ‘Have you read that book I gave you?’

      ‘No.’

      ‘You should look at it.’

      ‘I read the first page. It’s boring.’

      ‘No…’

      ‘It is.’

      ‘Why?’

      ‘It just is.’

      ‘Were the words too hard?’

      ‘No, not really.’

      ‘Was it the ideas?’

      ‘No.’

      ‘Then…what?’

      ‘I don’t know. It’s just boring. Anarchism…politics…all of it.’

      ‘Jesus, Keni…’

      I picked up a leaf and wiped some of it on the ground, trying to get the dirt off.

      Okay, maybe Ryu wasn’t 100% wrong.

      It wasn’t boring, it was just dense.

      And some of the words were hard.

      Besides…that kind of book, wasn’t it bad to just let someone lecture ideas into you? Wasn’t it better to read a few lines then start thinking out your own way?

       I put the leaf on the ground and decided it was.

       Much better.

       Who was this Jeff Fahey to tell me what to do anyway?

       What had he ever done to fix things?

~~~

       An hour later and the homeless guy still wasn’t there.

       I stood up and stretched.

       He probably changed sleeping places every night.

       I’d probably never see him again.

       Fucker, can’t even stay still and let me help him.

       My hand became a fist.

       For some reason I was angry.

       I looked for something to punch, but there was nothing detestable close by. Nothing cloying. Vacant.

      Kuso…

      Time to head back then.

      Punch the VR machine.

~~~

      Back at the dorm, the common room was empty.

      No Asami.

      No Hide.

      No beer cans or Hey Muon menu screen to prove they’d ever been there.

      Were they figments of my imagination?

      The longest ever lasting case of immersion haze?

      Maybe.

      Navigating through the corridor without the lights, I stopped outside Asami’s room and briefly thought about knocking. But all I could think of to say to her was, ‘hi, are you a figment of my immersion haze?’

      Not a good line.

      I continued on into my own room and almost laughed when I saw the numbers left on the installation timer.

      Two hours and thirty-eight minutes.

      Basically a death crawl.

~~~

      Despite giving up on the game for the night and dragging the duvet over my head, I still couldn’t sleep.

      Pluto.

      NPCs without helmets.

      Full frontal strip-shows.

      Aliens with lasers.

      Black Alien.

      They were in my head and wouldn’t leave. I turned on my side and tried to think of the actual surface of Pluto, with no tents and no astronauts and no Martokras, but it wasn’t working.

      The Sir was stroking his neck outside the tent. Holding a giant metal beam, telling everyone it was time to construct a teleporter.

      I was in the shuttle, with the skeptic, both of us wrapped up in winter jackets.

      ‘Teleporter, now.’

      ‘We don’t know the science.’

      ‘Follow the instruction manual.’

      ‘It’s too theoretical.’

      ‘One hour then we’ll give it a test run. Move.’

      The other astronauts did as they were told, as did some of the black aliens from Alien, and soon enough there was a huge metal egg-timer with pulsing blue lights propped up against the side of the shuttle.

      Luckily, the skeptic was feeling mutinous and took my hand, leading me off to the shuttle cockpit. We settled in and launched without touching any buttons.

      ‘You want vegetarian or chicken?’

      ‘Don’t know.’

      ‘Or pesto pasta?’

      ‘We’re here.’

       She pointed out the window to the uniiversity campus below. Almost instantly, I felt sick.

      ‘The lecture starts in two minutes.’

      ‘I can’t.’

      ‘If we jump, we can get good seats.’

      Before I could say no again, one of the black aliens appeared behind me, saying co-operation was dull, and your chest is too tempting.

      The skeptic pulled a rail gun out of nowhere and told me to move.

      ‘I can’t.’

      ‘We’re gonna miss the lecture.’

      ‘Don’t shoot.’

      ‘Get outta the way.’

      My body didn’t move an inch.

      Using its tail, the alien scooped up the skeptic and hung her upside down in the air. After promising to attend the lecture on her behalf, it plunged its second mouth into her chest, biting little pieces of lung, breast and heart each time it went in.

      I stood there, a coward.

      A pocket of turbulence rocked the shuttle.

      The alien and the skeptic tumbled out of the cockpit

      A flash of purple.

      Then white.

      I opened my eyes and saw a shadowy figure hovering outside the window, its neon purple eyes the only part discernable.

      What…

      Did we just…

      The eyes pulsed at varying levels of brightness, like emergency hospital lights.

      My body stayed rigid, paralysed.

      Was this real?

      I waited for my own eyes to adapt and fill in the rest of the figure’s shape and, when they finally did, the purple vanished in an instant. As did the figure.

      The logical move was to get up and examine the street below, but my legs were still out of action, so I lay there, eyes fixed on the glass opposite, wondering if what I’d just seen was tangibly, physically real.

      And what I would do if it returned.

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