[Void Galaxia] Chapter 16: Surface Japanese


Stumbled dazed into the final chamber, gun in hand, ready to shoot anything that looked like it might shut this nightmare Tsukamoto-Scape down.

Topography was huge, elaborate, colourful, industrially dank.

Around five hundred cloning pods, all empty except one.

I walked towards it, gun elevated.

Glass of the pod was covered in condensation. Shape of a face edged through, but it was impossible to tell who it belonged to.

Behind me, a gun-man appeared.

Shit, it was him, COPENHAGEN.

‘Damn you, Keni,’ he slurred, bits of shredded ice hanging off his forehead. ‘You’ve really fucked up my plans here.’

‘And I’m gonna fuck them up even more.’

‘Not this time.’

Copenhagen raised his gun, but I knew from the news-types he’d always had trouble with his aim. Everything else in life, he’s decisive, they said, except when he fires a gun.

I shot blindly and hit the space tycoon on the shoulder.

Shot him again, sending him backwards through some pipes and badly-constructed electrical equipment.

Copenhagen landed hard, wheezed, began his death spiral.

I swaggered over, told him he’d been shot.

‘Yeah.’ Gargled blood. ‘Don’t suppose you know why my gun was faulty?’

‘It wasn’t.’

 ‘God…fucking props. Takes me back to my theatre days. I played Henry once, you know?’


‘Henry the…I don’t know, one of the numbers. Fourth maybe. Played him as a cripple, very bold.’

‘No idea what you’re saying.’

‘Jesus of Kensington…’


‘Fuck you, bricklayer.’

Copenhagen spluttered, died.

I went back over to the final cloning pod, but it was too late. Someone or something was coming out.

‘You…’ I mumbled.

Standing in front of me, clutching a manuscript, was a naked Tsukubashi.

‘Don’t shoot, I’m a poet,’ he said, holding up the pages.

‘Don’t care.’


Tsukubashi tried to hand the manuscript over, but I swatted it away and shot the Ondōan lover in the cheek.

He fell, bleeding puddles onto his words.

‘You gonna say something too?’ I asked.


I waited, rolling up the manuscript and lighting the tip.

‘Man, I’ve got….some kids to feed.’

‘Let them get their own damn food.’

‘You cruel bast-…’

‘Die, hippy.’

Tsukubashi spluttered, died.

I smoked the remaining pages of Within The Rabbit Hole and sat down on a swivel chair that I was pretty sure hadn’t been there earlier.

When I blinked, another pod opened.

And another.

And another.


A voice from above.


I looked up.

Shibasaki Kou sliding down a cable from above, an AK-Something slung over her shoulder, muzzle firing, mouth raging, eyes…


Everything turned orange.

Then grey.






  Shibasaki Kou flickered, lost the kill-tech, morphed into a giant alarm clock.

  Then a smaller clock.

  Then a phone.


      I opened one eye and stared at the numbers.

      Nothing happened.

      I blinked and tried again.

      Eight three eight.

      Two minutes until it started ringing again.

      I picked it up and brought it closer to my face, finally getting an idea as to how to turn it off. The beeping started up again and died almost immediately as I pressed the button. Half eight. One of the week days. Not weekend. Okay. I threw the covers off one of my legs and lay there, considering turning over and pushing against the mattress.

      I didn’t.

      There was a strange idea in my head…that I should watch Beyond The Rabbit Hole or one of the Alien filmns…

      Then a question: why is the alien in Alien black?


      I looked around the room, trying to anchor myself in some kind of reality. The eye of Katolon looked back at me from the far wall. For a second, I couldn’t read the letters around it…


      King Of The Red Ring.


      I looked at the books on the shelf and the same thing happened again.

      Hai – nu – lai – nu.


      Ra – yu – Bu – ra- du – be – ri.

      Ray Bradbury.

      For some reason, English didn’t read as easy as it usually did.

      I got up and tried reading the covers of the old VR-home games. After a few seconds of intensive eye straining, things phased back in, became normal again.

      Just to confirm, I picked up a pack with a veiny eyeball on its sleeve.

      Automatic Assassin – Marc Horne.


      Putting down the game, I rubbed my eyes.

      It was nothing…probably just tired.

      I climbed back into bed and pulled the duvet over my face.

      Another half hour, that’ll fix it.


      An hour and a half later, I woke up again.

      Yawned, stretched out my legs, arms, rolled off the bed in fourteen separate stages, hovered for a bit then Romero-walked to the bathroom. The floor was wet, probably from Charlie taking a shower and not pulling the curtain across properly [again].

      Silly bint, never learns.

      Picking up the purple toothbrush, I dabbed on some paste and started brushing. Far as I could remember there was no college today…though I wasn’t a hundred per cent sure…

      Come to think of it…what day was it?


      And yesterday…was I at the….

      I stared at the taps while brushing, wondering what I’d done the night before. Actually, more than that…what had I done the last week or so?

      A Chinese man popped into my head, holding one of those box knives.


      I looked up at the mirrror and he was there too.

      What the…

      The toothbrush dropped and my head flipped right, neck almost snapping a bone as I scanned like a lunatic for the Chinese man brushing his teeth with my toothbrush in my bathroom.

      Nothing. Empty.

      No one else there.



      It couldn’t…

      It was…

      There was a Chinese man in my housse, who could move at lightning speed.

      No, worse.

      There was a Chinese man who was a ghost and had died…died, killed, murdered, before we’d moved in.

      No, different…there was some kind of portal open between Liverpool and China, through which the two of us could observe each other.

      Yes, one of those.

      Bending down to pick up the toothbrush, I came back up slowly and washed the bristles under the tap before storing up enough resolve to look in the mirrror again.



      He was still there.

      I turned.

      There was no-one behind me.

      I turned back, blinking like a schizophrenic machine.

      Not there, not there, not there…

      Blinking stopped and squinting began.


      Not real.

      The mirrror wasn’t doing what I wanted it to.

      It was…

      The face looking back…



      It was me.

      I was…

      Somehow, my face was Chinese.


      I went downstairs, feeling the skin of my cheeks as I went.

      It’s a faulty mirrror, I thought. Has to be.

      Yet, on the flip side, there are some things in my head that seem a bit…

      No, not real.

      I’m Scouse…Mark…this is impossible.

      The others will prove it.


      They were all in the kitchen, which was also the living room. It was strange, it had always seemed small before, but now, walking in like this, it seemed gigantic.

      Anyway, there they all were.

      Dad, fat. Mum, a little fat. Billy, skinhead, nonsense Urdu tattoo, Charlie, chubby legs, hair grubby-wild like a cave troll.

      It was her that saw me first, coupled with a manic shriek.

      Billy couldn’t open his mouth.

      ‘Who the fuck are you?’ Dad said, too shocked to make it a shout.

      Mum was too busy watching something on GENTE+, offering a loosely muttered, ‘what?’

      ‘Dad…Mum, wait…’ My hands went up instinctively in the surrender pose. ‘Look…I don’t know, it’s-…I was brushing my teeth and I just looked up, in the mirrror, and it was right there. Like this. Looking back at me and-…’

      Something hit me on the head before I could add smiling.

      And the next line.



      I woke up tied to my favourite chair in the living room.

      Dad was standing in front of me, eyes mammoth, a mop handle gripped tight in his non-fighting hand.

      ‘Don’t know how you got here, but you better tell us straight quick what you’ve done with our Mark.’

      I looked around the room. Mum, Charlie, Billy, they all had a weapon of some sort.


      ‘Do I look like your fucking dad?’ he shouted back at me.

      My mouth stayed open, but no more words. Instead, I did a second survey of the living room, cataloguing the weapon types. For Billy, he was wielding the detachable head and neck part of the vacuum cleaner. Charlie had a frying pan. Mum was…

      ‘Where’s Mark, you little thief?’

      The mophead flew in front of my face, forcing a reflex WAH.

      ‘Why are you here?’

      ‘No, dad….it’s me. I’m Mark. But my face, it’s-…I don’t know, I need help…need you guys to-…’

      A swift backhand from mum, clipping me with her fingernail. In the other hand was a plug and wire combo…gripped like a fucking lasso.

      ‘Mum…that hurt.’

      ‘Shut up, you…’

      ‘My cheek.’



      After asking me a hundred or so times where Mark was, their weapon arms finally got tired and they sat down. ‘Okay,’ said Dad, perched on the arm of the sofa. ‘If you’re really Mark like you say you are…which you’re clearly not…there’s some things you should know about.’

      ‘Yeah, exactly…that’s what I’ve been trying to-…’

      ‘Shut up.’ Dad stood up again, pointing the handle part of the mop at me. ‘We ask questions, you answer. If they’re not good, we call the koban guys. Got it?’

      My brain told me it was fine, dad didn’t even know where the koban was, so I tried out one of those old sitcom sighs and nodded.

      ‘Okay then…’


      Despite my compliance, plus a ten minute break to make a quick cup of tea, the weapons stayed in hand and the interrogation started where I suspected it would, with them asking my date of birth.

      ‘December 29th, 2015,’ I replied, without blink or stutter.

      Dad: Could’ve looked that up. I want details…what time…which hospital, stuff like that…

      ‘Okay. Hospital…the Royal Liverpool…that’s easy. Other stuff…err, the time…I wasn’t really aware on site, at that moment, obviously, but I remember you said…Mum…you told me I’d come early. Eleven at night, I think. And I cried when I came out.’

      Counterpoint [from Mum] – Babies always cry.

      ‘Yeah, I know, but that’s what you said. Not my fault it’s generic. I mean, you cried, Mark, that’s literally what you said.’

      Prompt [from Dad] – what else?

      ‘More? I don’t know. It was caesarian? Somehow I flipped over and the doctor said it couldn’t happen naturally, I needed help.’

      Concession [from Dad] – yeah, that is true.

      Prompt [from Mum] – More.

      ‘Okay, what else…what else…wait, I know…you said I was an accident. Right? You didn’t plan for me, it just happened and…and you didn’t wanna get rid of me, even though I was the third and you guys didn’t really have the money…I mean, at that time, pre-communal, before the local clinics and…and you said Charlie was an accident too, she wasn’t a plan…planned…but you didn’t know what else to do so…’

      Incredulity [from Charlie, sister] – You don’t know that. How can you-…how the fuck do you know that?

      ‘Charlie, come on…it’s me, Mark.’

      Denial [from Charlie] – No, you’re not…it’s not you, you’re lying.

      Prompt [from Mum] – More.

      Echo [from Charlie] – You’re lying…

      Follow-up prompt [Mum] – Something from your childhood. School life.

      Dad –  And not typical things. Tell us something bad or weird that happened.

      ‘You want the bad parts? Okay, the worst one, off the top of my head. I got picked on in school…primary school…those kids, when I was eight and nine, remember, Mum? They used to have wrestling matches in the yard corner, and they forced me into it, that match with the big kid…Louse…Andrew Leece…he smacked my head against the ground and threw me over the railings. I was in hospital for two weeks, and Louse…he had to write me a card, a get well card…remember?’

      Concession [from Billy, brother] – Fuck, Louse. I remember him. That guy was a cunt.

      Prompt [from Mum] – Something earlier, something only you would know.

      ‘Okay, okay…earlier. Right. When I was five, when we first moved here, they put me in the wrong class at school…a whole year ahead…and the work was still too easy. Remember? They let me draw computerr game levels instead of the normal stuff…and I brought them all home, and you said…’

      Counter-point [from Dad] – I don’t remember that.

      ‘Yeah cos I never showed them to you. You were away, at a boat regatta or something…but Mum, I showed them to you, and you said I wouldn’t design computerr games when I was older, I would be something better, an artist or a writer…you said I was a genius.’

      Concession [from Mum] – Yes. I did. But…

      Whine [from Charlie] – you called him a genius? HIM?

      Acceptance [from Billy] – well, he’s smarter than us. Don’t know about genius though.

      ‘I’m not smarter, guys. Or a genius. I’m not anything.’

      Joke [from Billy] – Yeah, you are. You’re Chinese, mate.

      Enquiry [from Dad] – but if you’re really Mark then…what’s happened?

      ‘My face? I don’t know. I mean, it wasn’t like this yesterday…was it?’

      Response [from Billy and Dad] – No…no…

      ‘So, it’s happened today, whatever it is. Or last night maybe.’

      Enquiry [from Dad] – Is there anything else different?

      ‘Physically? I don’t know, I don’t think so. I might be a little taller…’

      Enquiry [from Billy] – You speak Chinese or…?

      ‘No. Zero. But…actually, I think I might be Japanese. The face.’

      Enquiry [from Dad] – how do you know?

      ‘I don’t. It’s just something inside, an instinct…and it’s saying, Japanese.’

      Silence and deliberation.

      ‘Can you untie me now?’

      Further deliberation.

      Protest [from Charlie, overheard] – No, he’s lying…his face, he’s not fucking Mark. Look at it…look. He’s lying.

      Rebuttal [from Dad] – but he’s got all the right answers, love.

      Additional [from Billy] – It’s definitely him, sis. Don’t know how, but it is.

      Threat [from Charlie] – You can’t, he’s lying, he’s a fucking-…look at him, he’s a thing. We can’t let it loose, it’ll do something to us.

      Dad: Charlie…

      Charlie: No. Fuck off. I’m not living with it, I’m not, I swear I’ll-…I swear to fucking God, you untie him and I’ll go, I’ll move out.

      Charlie ran out of the living room and footsteps were heard on the stairs.

      Shout [from Mum] – Charlie, love…

      ‘Mum, I’m sorry…’

      Mum: Shut up, Mar-…you…whoever you are. Just shut up.

      They grouped into a circle again and conferred.

      Decision [from Dad] – Son, I’m not sure what’s going on here, but we’re gonna run with our gut…or my gut…and untie you. But if we find out you’re lying…

      Additional [from Billy] – Just don’t be lying, kid. Alright?

      I nodded as much as my neck would allow.

      From my Stasi interrogation seat.

      Fucking lying…me


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