Immediate reaction to wholesale life change [as I walked from the room]
No memories, who cares? Did I ask enough questions? Details must be known. What exactly are they doing to my brain? Who will I turn into? Why was that guy pretending to be South-East Asian? Was that a Jamaican accent? Where’s Ryu? Why is he not calling back? No. Can’t do it, too insane. Wait for the games. Pay Yosh. Stay still. Live like I’ve always lived. Slug-like. Tsunashima. Wake up late, depressed, stable. Pluto 2270. Moon Factory 7. Occasional unii. Gods, that’s my life? Fuck all that. Move, get out. Leave Japan, unii, this. Leave all of it. Your life is a wreck, wreck. You don’t want to be here. You never did. You’ve wanted this fucking wormhole for years. Get the fuck out. Go.
Outside, the posters were all gone.
Position filled, clearly.
I felt a weird kind of peace walking back past the other departments, into the car park and onwards to Hiyoshi station. The branches of the ginkgo trees sensed it too, swaying with almost sentient rhythm. Didn’t know if I’d really go through with it, but just the idea that I could…
Liverpool…North Britain…fluent English and Japanese…gym muscles without doing any of the hard work…kuso…
The wreck came out in a daze, swaying, and Yosh followed him outside. Something strange was going on, all the posters had been picked up. ‘Fuck, those cleaners got some pace,’ Yosh muttered to himself, swatting at a not-in-the-way-at-all gingko branch.
I stood looking at a random poster on the train, a promotion for Pachinko VR in Shinjuku. A weird thought came. This could be the last time I’d ever look at one of these things using this face. No, scratch that. This could be the last time I’d ever see Pachinko machines. If that’s what I wanted…
Yosh sat down next to an old man and watched the wreck staring at the wall. Was he thinking about the pointless science lecture he just attended? Or the pending fucking debt he owed?
Better be the debt.
The narrow street outside Tsunashima station was empty. Somehow evening had come. I went into Matsuya on the corner and ate some spiced meat with rice. At least I thought that’s what it was. Couldn’t remember ordering…
Yosh followed the wreck out of the station and into Matsuya. Deciding it was time to reveal himself, Yosh stood in line behind the wreck and ordered. No recognition. Not a blink. He got his ticket and sat down opposite his target, staring right across the staff area in the middle. The wreck didn’t seem to notice him at all, even when he looked up.
What was this? A daydream?
I walked home across the main bridge, remembering the times I used to ride the bike alongside the river and all the way along the track to the stadium in Shin Yokohama. What else? Ha, the hostess, down by the steps. The phone call she’d got from that other guy, telling her to meet him down an alley in Jiyugaoka. Ha, Saori…that was her name. Saori the nineteen year old hostess.
Scanning back across the other side of the bridge, I pinpointed the exact spot where we’d sat. That might not happen again. Ever. Didn’t know much about Liverpool, but I knew it was cold, and the women were fierce. That’s what Nozu had said anyway. ‘They grab you like a rag doll, Keni. If you don’t satisfy them, they let you know.’
That wasn’t what it was like with Saori. Or with any Japanese girl. Was I ready to be a rag doll?
The wreck walked across the bridge and Yosh stayed about twenty yards behind. Tsunashima was a new area for him, though it felt pretty much the same as all the others. Conveni, love hotel, work zombies. The only real novelty was the river.
Out of boredom, Yosh glanced over the railings, noting that the water was appropriately murky. Lots of weeds at the sides too.
Back at the dorm block, I moved to shut the gate behind me, but Yosh was there. Like a teleporting ghoul. How?
He smirked, right hand lurking in his jacket pocket.
Was this real?
We stood in the hallway, staring at each other like mutes. I wondered briefly how he’d gotten past the night security guard downstairs, but then I remembered the mercurial old shit was snoring when I’d walked past.
Yosh finally spoke, asking me to say something as things were getting awkward. I told him I would have the games for him the next day, like I promised, and he smirked again, saying he’d be right there with me when the post came.
The wreck tried to close the gate, but Yosh had made up the distance between them. He put his hand out and stopped it, leaving the other hand in his pocket, on the handle of the knife. It was a bit awkward as the wreck just froze and Yosh himself wasn’t sure if there were extra security guards in this part of the dorm. How could he know that? He’d never been to one of these places before.
Finally, he reached his tolerance level for temple-like silence and asked the wreck to say something. Poor thing trembled a little, tried to tell Yosh he’d have the games tomorrow. Yosh smirked and said he’d be right there with him.
Yosh told me to go inside the dorm and introduce him to my houssemates. ‘They’re probably not here,’ I replied, even though I knew they would be. ‘Well, let’s have a look, teme,’ he said back, and helped me guide the key into the front door lock.
The wreck tried to stop Yosh meeting whichever attractive flat-mate he was hiding inside, so Yosh smirked again and told him to go in.
Asami and Hide were sitting in the common area, eating something out of a shared pot. She saw me and patted the space on the cushion next to her, but I shook my head and moved quickly to my room, telling Yosh to follow. Asami asked if I was alright, I told her I had things to do.
Yosh went into the common area and saw an average-looking girl with big tits sitting on the couch. Could be a time-filler later, he thought, letting the wreck lead him onwards to what was probably his wank cave.
In the room, I turned to Yosh and asked him what he was doing there.
‘But you told me to come back tomorrow.’
‘Changed my mind.’
‘Don’t stress, I’m not gonna do anything. Just a bit of joint relaxation time until the post arrives.’
We sat on the bed, his hand still in his jacket pocket. I asked if he wanted to take his jacket off, briefly thinking of lunging at him if he did, but he said no, better to keep it on.
I walked over to the window, keeping my face blank as I knew he could see me in the reflection.
‘Not gonna draw the curtains?’
‘Can see the guys opposite. No privacy.’
‘Okay, teme. Suit yourself.’
He looked around at the things in my room, at the VR server with game-cards piled next to it, the posters of alien planets, the sci-fi books on the shelf, and the little piles of coins on my desk that either looked like missile silos or silver spaceships. Muttering fucking coins pretty loudly, he picked up a larger one, tossing it in the air and catching it. Then laughed and looked at the posters again. ‘You only like space, teme?’
‘Feels like it.’
I sat back down on the bed and gestured to other things around the room, things that had no connection to sci-fi.
Following my trail, he picked up one of the books, the Fahey thing that Ryu kept prodding me with.
‘So you’re one of those anarchist nuts?’
He put the book back, replacing it with the Bjork biography I’d forgotten to take back to the library.
‘Sometimes. Not much.’
Whistling half a note, a weak one, he switched to the AKI camera on the top of the shelf.
‘You make movies?’
‘I never use it.’
He made a gah sound, running out of things to investigate.
‘So what do you like?’
‘Your shoulders don’t speak, teme.’
‘I…don’t know. I like different things at different times.’
‘And at this time?’
I’m going to change bodies.
Asami on her back, pulling me in.
Screaming Shailene Woodley.
Bright blue wormhole.
Did Tsukubashi really travel to the Ondōan system?
Was that the real Pluto 2280?
Why is the alien in Alien black?
‘Just space stuff, I guess.’
Yosh shook his head. ‘Kuso…’
‘Those kids in my shopp got more personality than you.’
I couldn’t think of anything else to say, so I stared at the poster of Triton’s surface on the wall and said nothing.
‘Kuso…it’s like talking to a stick. Why don’t you patch in to one of my games here? Least then I can relax a bit.’
‘No, I’m telling you, patch in. I want to feel relaxed.’
I looked at the VR server and the game-card for Moon Factory 7. It was tempting. The card would glitch, but the dorm version would be okay. Twenty minutes of station life and I’d probably forget a psycho was holding me hostage in my own bedroom. But the others would see my face and know something was wrong. They’d ask me straight, what’s up? And Yosh would be able to hear everything I said. No, better to sit this thing out. Safer for everyone.
‘You’re not moving.’
I reached over and took a book off the shelf. Purple Muon Station. An absurd sci-fi comedy Tomomi had recommended. ‘I’ll read this instead.’
‘Fine. Do that. I’ll go outside and talk to your inflatable flat-mate.’
‘Sorry?’ Yosh kept his hand in the pocket, clearly amused.
‘They’ll suspect something if you go out there. Might call the police.’
‘You mean they think I’m not your friend?’
Yosh tilted his head, as if that would tell him something extra about me.
‘Anyway, the girl is gay.’
Tilted it back the other way.
‘Better if we keep things in here, just me and you.’
‘Kasu…she’s really gay?’
‘Yes. Hundred per cent.’
‘She has a girlfriend, stays over sometimes. Green hair, very fierce, barely says anything.’
‘Green hair…kuso. She looked quite fun too.’ He stretched out his legs, letting the shoes hang over the edge by some distance. ‘Lot more fun than you.’
We sat on the bed until the end of time. Or that’s what it felt like.
He asked seven times if I was planning on calling up my brother to ask about the games. I told him each time, after clearing the dry anxiety from my throat, that I’d spoken to Ryu earlier and he’d promised the games were in the post and would definitely arrive the next day.
‘In the morning?’
‘Yeah…’ I answered, before remembering the experiment and adding, ‘but not here.’
‘At the unii.’
‘He always sends them there. I don’t know why.’
‘To where exactly?’
‘The Physics Department. Near there.’ I coughed, riding into the lie, half sure that he’d been following me ever since Jiyugaoka. ‘I went there earlier, to check if they’d come…by chance. But nothing.’
He looked left at the Triton poster, processing what I’d just said.
I looked with him.
A little after twelve, Yosh stretched out his neck, said he was getting tired. I asked if he was gonna go home.
‘Told you, teme, I’m staying until the games arrive.’
‘You’re gonna sleep here?’
‘Don’t get stressed about it. I’m a quiet guest. Very respectful.’ He grabbed one of the pillows and lay down on the floor, right hand still entrenched in his jacket pocket. ‘By the way, I sleep real light. And my hand always moves first…trained reflex. So, don’t, teme, okay?’
‘Yes. I won’t do anything.’
The things that wouldn’t leave my mind
[recollected at intervals between attempted sleep]
…Ryu. The games. Yosh. Yosh’s jacket. Me and Yosh wrestling on the floor. Who would win? Money. Ways to get it. People I knew with it. People who could get it on one hour’s notice. The alien. Void Galaxia. Captain Eto. Anarchism. Ryu again. Was he okay? Dead? Would he? What kind of person was capable of killing themselves? A psychological query: suicide: inherent, acquired? Attitudes towards death. When will I die? Yosh and his knife. Knife fights on filmn. Sato Mark 7. The Ondōan zealot. Beyond The Rabbit Hole. Could you run? Determination. A philosophy: if you are free, you allow others the same freedom. Was my freedom to run greater than Yosh’s freedom to chase? Mine has no end, Yosh’s has an end when I am dead or the debt is paid. Kuso, the knife. Money. The games. The unii. My lies. They weren’t at the unii. The science thing. The exchange. A new life. Would it kill me? Were scientists moral? Would Yosh intervene? Did I want this? Why is the alien in Alien black? What does it represent?
I turned and picked up the alarm clock.
Double-checked on my phone.
Were scientists moral?
Would Yosh intervene?
Why was the alien in Alien black?
Yosh was on the floor, facing the ceiling with his eyes closed.
I wanted to get up and step over him, get my notebook, a pen, write down some of these thoughts. Patch in to Moon Factory 7 one last time. Sneak into Asami’s room. Throw myself out the window. Research cutting-edge brain experiments at Japanese uniiversities.
Yosh opened one eye and looked right.
‘I’m not-…’ I started, more mumble than words.
He whistled out air, pulling his hand out from under the pillow and flashing the knife.
I nodded, mouthed okay, closed my eyes.
Pictured an open brain.