[Void Galaxia] Chapter 17: Note From Self To Self RE: Self

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Dad put down the mop and untied me.

      Billy threw his weapon on the sofa and trudged upstairs to get ready for work. As usual, he moaned as he went, saying that I owed him whatever the adventurists cut from his wage for being late.

      ‘That’s what you get for not working local.’

      ‘Oh, did they relocate your gymn then?’

      ‘Fuck off, that’s different.’

      ‘Ha, typical shit comeback, definitely our Mark.’

      He was right, but by the time I’d come up with a better one, he was already up the stairs. Well, plus point, at least he believed me now.

      Mum sat down and stared at the linoleum tiles, the plug and wire thing still fairly tight in her hands. I stayed distant, on my hostage chair, even though I really wanted to stand up and move my legs again.

      Dad stayed in front of me, like an old movie cut-out, eventually placing a fat hand on my shoulder. I looked at the knuckles, the wedding ring, then went back up and saw a Japanese man, middle-aged, fierce, glaring down as if his thoughts would set my face on fire.

      I blinked.

      The Japanese man was gone. It was dad again.

      ‘What’s going on, son?’

      ‘I don’t know. Really.’

      ‘Do you remember anything about last night? What time you slept? Any strange noises?’

      ‘No, nothing. Except…I think I went out. At some point.’

      ‘Yeah, I remember that part. But we didn’t hear you come back in, your mum or me. Where were you?’

      ‘Not sure…just out…drinking maybe. I don’t know.’

      ‘But you did come back…’

      ‘I must’ve, yeah. But when…’

      ‘What about day-time? The afternoon? Anything weird happen?’

      ‘Dad, I don’t know. It’s-…there’s nothing. No places, people…I can’t remember anything.’

      He shrugged, tightened his grip on my shoulder, told me we’d figure it all out soon enough then sat down properly on the sofa. There were no details on how exactly it would all be figured out. Just that it would be. Via the universe. The hand of a clumsy god. Muons and up quarks. Science. Something.

      Five minutes later, I stood up and told him I better go and get ready for college.

      ‘Son, wait…’

      ‘I have to, it’s almost twelve.’

      ‘No, no, think about it. You’re Japanese now…you can explain it to us, barely, but to them? Your classmates? The professors?’

      ‘But my classes, I’ll fall behind.’

      ‘Mark…’

      He stood up and took me out of the room, into the second, makeshift living room at the front, and told me it was probably best not to go out for a few days.

      ‘But…why not? I look Japanese…don’t know how to get rid of it, so I might as well just try and get on with things.’

      ‘That’s your frustration talking. And I understand, but…’

      ‘Nope.’

      ‘…if you try and-…okay, you’re right, I don’t understand. But let’s just try and slow things down a bit, okay? If you turned Japanese overnight, just like that, then there’s a chance that tomorrow morning you might change back again. With a bit of luck, we could get through all this without anyone else finding out.’

      ‘We…’

      ‘You just have to sit tight and wait…’ he added, looking out the window at the artisan repair shopps-stroke-cafes across the road.

      ‘But the classes…’

      ‘It’s only a few days.’

      ‘I know, but…I’ll be bored if I stay here.’

      He pointed outside, at LOGO-X Bicycle Repair + Coffee, at the pavement, at the roof garden higher up, and asked how many Japanese people I could see walking around this street.

      ‘But I’m Mark…I’m not really Japanese.’

      ‘That’s not what your face says.’

      ‘But I can prove it.’

      ‘Can you?’

      ‘Of course, like I just proved it to you and the others.’

      ‘Half-proved it. And that’s only because we’re family.’

      ‘What do you mean?’

      ‘You think any of our neighbours have the same concern for you that we do? Or your friends for that matter?’

      ‘My friends?’

      He shook his head, a little exaggerated. ‘Truth is…we want to believe you because we love you. They might not, because they don’t.’

      ‘What? My friends since school don’t like me?’

      ‘Yes, they like you, of course they do, they’re your friends, but like is not enough. To them, you’re a stranger coming up to them with a Japanese face, saying very bizarre things.’

      ‘Well, they won’t attack me with a mop. I know that much.’

      ‘Mark…’

      ‘Or tie me up.’

      He looked at my shoes, the green paint stain on the wooden floor. ‘Either way, friend or foe, it’s better not to take the risk. Not until we know more about what’s happening to you.’

      I looked back at him, still thinking, yeah, friends are the problem, you assaulted me and tied me to a chair. Seemingly reading my thoughts, he stayed with the stain.

      ‘You really don’t believe me, do you?’

      ‘What?’

      ‘Your eyes are stuck on the floor.’

      ‘Nonsense.’ He looked up, fixed a target on my forehead. ‘There was some dirt down there. I’ve been looking you in the eye for the last ten minutes.’

      ‘No, not just now, you looked down before, too. And out the window. Psychologically that means you don’t believe me.’

      ‘Mark…’

      ‘Ha, Mark…’

      He grabbed my arms and held them tight. ‘Son, listen to me. I know you’re not Japanese. I know you’re still our Mark. We just have to wait, that’s all. That’s all I’m saying, not anything else. Just wait to see what happens next. Okay?’

      It was hard to fully believe him…anyone could hold someone’s arms and look vaguely sincere…but I gave out a slightly robotic okay anyway.

      Satisfied, he patted me on the shoulder and said we could go back into the living room, stick some Doctor Who on.

      Half-smiling, I said, ‘no thanks, I’m gonna go upstairs, lie down for a bit.’

      ‘Okay, son.’

      I didn’t tell him I had no idea who or what Doctor Who was.

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Other discrepancies hidden from the family [a small list]…

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  • Pluto 2280, a VR game not due out for months that I somehow knew scenes of
  • The word Jiyugaoka, VR centres instead of plazas
  • The word Tsunashima
  • Japanese girl in a wet towel
  • Japanese guy in a shopp, a knife on the counter
  • A river not in Liverpool
  • Japanese man in a white coat, Japanese woman, South-East Asian guy with a Jamaican accent
  • Japanese brother, not Billy
  • Japanese child, walking to a lighthousse on Sado Island
  • In school, struggling to say vehicle in English
  • Why is the alien from Alien black?

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      I sat on the same large bed as before, a double, in my bedroom, staring at the Moon Factory 7 poster on the wall opposite.

      It was very strange, these things in my head. So strange that I’d written some notes down in a Blank Koala notepad I couldn’t remember buying.

      So far, the notepad had two pages of ideas and theories of why I was who I thought I was, and how it could be possible to remember two different things around the same age, plus the plausible mechanics of being able to remember something one second then blink and not remember it the next.

      The first thing written down was a comparison.

         My real memories

  • Put a year ahead at school.
  • Bullied – eight, nine and thirteen.
  • Trips to Cornwall [7 y.o.], Devon [9 y.o.], Edinburgh [12 y.o.], Alton Towers [14 + 16 y.o.]
  • What else?
  • Entered junior mastermind at school at nine, runner up at ten.
  • Broke ankle jumping off roof at 12.
  • Did badly in GCSE, scraped some A-levels, went to college…
  • Lost virginity to…oh Jesus…skip that.
  • Had sex in freezing cold Sefton Park with a girl called Efua, thought my dick was gonna drop off.
  • Work at the gymn near the Catholic Church, in the adventurist sector.

+

          Someone else’s Japanese memories

  • In top three of all students at primary.
  • Bullied smaller kid at twelve and thirteen. What happened to him?
  • Trips to Hiroshima [7 y.o.], Sado Island [11 y.o.], Kyushu tour [12 y.o.], Osaka/ Nara/ Kyoto [ 14, 15 +16], Taipei [17y.o.]
  • Fights with three other kids at secondary. Got sucker hit by a rock, but nothing broken.
  • Student at uniiversity, but didn’t go to lectures…patched into a lot of space VR, stayed up late
  • had rough sex in disabled toilets with a girl called Aya
  • sat on bed with a muscular guy, a knife lying on the floor

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      It didn’t make any kind of sense, at least none that I knew of.

      Both sets of memories seemed one hundred per cent true, yet at the same time, unfamiliar somehow, incomplete, like I’d half lived them. Drifted through them in a real-world immersion haze. But that was bullshit, how could my memories be unfamiliar? I wasn’t Japanese, I was British…Scouse. All that Japanese stuff was someone else’s shit not mine because…cos nothing else made any kind of logical sense. I mean, how could I have half lived my own life? How could I not be the person I knew for a fact I really was?

      I stared at the Akira poster on the wall to the left, imagined myself riding a jet bike in future Tokyo, then went back to the notes.

      The rest of the paper was filled with plans on what to do next. Wait was the most obvious one, but it was inactive. In fact, I had actually written down a brief analysis disputing it:

      ‘…if the original face change to Japanese was an active change then the idea that a re-active change could happen just as readily is illogical. To act can be done swiftly, to react would take longer. Example, a broken bone – to break requires a second, to heal requires weeks or months. Does this apply to face changes? Possibly. Whoever changed my face might’ve prepared a template of the desired Japanese face therefore giving him something to work towards. Problem – to affect a reverse change back to the original face, my face, he would had to have kept the template of the original. If he hadn’t then…

Unless I just gave him a photograph…would that work?’

      Other plans included going to college and explaining to them, simply, that I was the Japanese friend of myself, Mark, and my real self was sick at home and would it be possible for me, the Japanese friend, to continue in his place and bring back the notes from lectures?

      It wasn’t too far-fetched. I mean, it wasn’t like there were no Japanese people in Liverpool at all. I think there was even one on my course.

      But would they allow it?

      Another plan was going to the guys I knew at the gymn, people who knew other people, the kind of people who might’ve been responsible for doing this to me, and asking them what they knew. If I could corner the twat who did this, I could get him to change me back…

      But would he? If he did it in the first place then he must’ve had a reason. Money? A Japanese holo-girl? Or maybe it was coercion. They had someone he loved and if he didn’t do this to me, that person would get hurt.

      I tapped the back of the notepad, ignoring the lunatic howling like a wolf on the street outside.

      The final plan was a bit loose…just an idea to go down Bold Street or Matthew Street and hit some of the barrs, see what kind of action a Japanese face could get. I mean, looking at it in the mirrror, objectively, it was probably better than the old face…

      But girls here didn’t like Asian guys…did they?

      Clouds hijacked the sun and the room went dark.

      I closed my eyes.

      Almost instantly, the sun broke free and light returned.

      Easy as that.

      I turned over on my side, looked at the books on the shelf under Akira.

      Bley, Delaney, Le Guin, Chu. I went over and picked one out at random.

      The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury.

      I started reading and after about fifty minutes got to a story about astronauts landing on the Mars surface and going to a housse in the alien town, where one of the Martians takes them in, mollifies a bit, then locks them up in an insane asylum for the delusional. According to the Martian shrink, they couldn’t be Earthmen, and the only alternative state was madmen.

      Yeah, I thought, caustic. Must be mad.

      Despite a burgeoning sense of dread and nihilism, I trundled on.

      More humans, colonization, farmer riding a Martian highway. Nothing relevant or relaxing. But then I got to the end of the story and…there was something loose, tucked in; a folded-up piece of paper with For Mark written over it.

      I wasn’t sure if I was the right Mark, but opened it anyway.

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      A note, from Mark…

      ‘Hi mate…

      This is probably the weirdest thing I’ve ever had to write, and I’ve written sci-fi, really weird shit lol, but this is defo weirder.

      Actually, I don’t know if you’ll find this, maybe I hid it too well…was gonna leave it on the pillow, but my mum’s always in the room looking for porn holos hehe, and she would’ve seen it, and I can’t let her know about this…

      So I guess if you’re reading right now then you think you’re me, right? And wherever I am, I think I’m you. Don’t know if that’s right or not, they said all your old memories would be wiped and you’d think you were me or as close as you could be to thinking you were me, but don’t know really…does that make sense? Beats me, mate, but I do know one thing…I shouldn’t be writing this.

      Ok, I’m rambling, but the point is I couldn’t just leave cold without asking some things…and I know this is gonna confuse you, like if you really think you’re me then it’s really gonna fuck you up lol, sorry mate, but this is important to me.

      Basically, the bare bones reason why I did this…I mean, why I wanted to change and be someone else…you basically, a Japanese guy…is I don’t like myself. It is deeper than that, honest, but I’m writing a note, not a theory, right, so I’ve gotta be concise…so that’s the reason. Anyway, the one thing there, or here, that I was happy about, kinda, was my writing. See, I write stories…sci-fi or fantasy, stuff like that…and I’ve been writing for a few years now, but never really got anywhere with it…I don’t know, maybe they were just total shite lol, but they’re still what I’ve done, and I guess they’re a kind of reflection of me and what I’m about…

      So, the things I wanna ask…

      One, please have a look at my stuff and see what you think…it’s probably useless shit, but have a look, and if you can, try and sell it somewhere…I don’t know, agents or magazines or publishers, whatever. I know, I know, why didn’t I ever do it myself? Guess I just never had the guts to, right? I’m a coward, me…always too scared to do things like this, so maybe that’s another reason I opted for the forever exchange thing…

     Shit, this is sounding like a suicide note haha, I really hope my Mum doesn’t find this, her head will explode lol…

      Another thing…not really a request, but a warning, or an apology, I don’t know….but before I went for the surgery, the exchange thing [I’m writing this like an hour before I’ve gotta go there, so I guess it’s not really the past yet haha], I quit my course at the college. Don’t know if you can change it or not, but my advice is don’t go back, mate, it’s a shit course and you’re better off trying something else. And if you’re worried about something to do, you’ve still got the gymn [sorry, it’s adventurist run, sociopathic but better machines than our local one, sadly], and some money in the bank, so there’s a bit of cash there for you while you figure things out. Hope you’ve got some cash for me in Japan, maybe a fit girlfriend too, but I’m not pinning any hopes on it…if she were that fit, you wouldn’t have left hehe.

      Ok, don’t have much more space here…I always write way too much lol, sorry, mate. Guess I should say sorry for breaking the spell or whatever, but I just felt like it was something I had to do…the writing part of it, I mean. And please, try to do something with it, if you can…

Thanks brother…

Mark

P.S. I’ve been thinking…if you do read this and you have no memory of who you were before…I mean, if you really think you’re Mark….then you’re gonna think you’re nuts. Actually, maybe you have my memory of writing this…or do they take that out? Yeah, anyway don’t think about it too hard, it’ll only fuck with your head.

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      I read it four times, each time with greater confusion. I mean, it was madness. I never wrote this. Why would I write this?

      Somewhere outside, a car slammed on its brakes, and a woman screamed at the driver to get a fucking bike.

      Blowing out held-in-too-long breath, I folded the note back up and hid it between pages 56 and 57 of Bradbury’s Mad Martians book.

      Not me.

      Not important.

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