[Void Galaxia] Chapter 19: Science Says Sorry


      Asami the psychopath

      facing the chapel wall, jejune, sweaty, asking do I want to get up close

      watch anacondas pegging each other

      prod their tails

      No? Then I’m off, to Papua New Guinea, the suicide beach, with the book about the homeless man finding a deserted soviet, you stay here

      lost with Fahey in the car park

      no one repairing anything, fixated on

      white hole miniature, LEGO size

      basketball size

      swimming pool size



      White hole faded and I found myself lying sideways across the bed, phone still in hand from the night before.

      Screen lit up and said muted. Then eleven.

      Not midday.


      Folded out next to my elbow was the note, the thing allegedly written by myself, begging to be re-read.

      Accepting, I skimmed through, shaking my head all over again.

      If it were true, it meant there were some Japanese scientists on the other side of the world who had really fucked something up.

      If it weren’t true…

      The doorbell rang downstairs.

      ‘Fuck off, Barry,’ I hissed at the floor.

      The doorbell rang again.

      I jumped off the bed and ran towards the window and shook my hands and fake-jabbed at whoever’s melon head was in front of that door.

      ‘Fuuuuuck off.’

      It rang again, implacable.


      After throwing on my CITIZEN OF PLUTO hoodie and some jogging pants, I stumbled downstairs like a drugged toddler and opened the door.

      There were two people in white coats standing there. One, a middle-aged Japanese woman; the other, tall, broad-shouldered and…I wasn’t sure, but, for some reason, he felt South-East Asian.

      ‘Mark Boyle?’ the woman asked, staring at the top of my skull.


      ‘Can we have a word with you?’

      No. Fuck off. Only if you can fix my face. You both look fake, like actors. Did Barry send you? I’m tired. That can’t be your real skin.

      ‘I suppose.’


      They came in and sat down in the living room, seeming genuinely surprised at the size of the place. I offered them a cup of tea, but they refused. I asked if they wanted to watch GENTE+ and they said no. I asked if they liked Doctor Who, and they replied that they didn’t know who that was.

      Blocking me out, the two possible actors sat there for a while longer speaking only to each other. They were debating back and forth if they should tell me everything or just a quarter.

      ‘No, tell me everything,’ I interrupted, putting myself in front of the TV screen.

      They stopped, mouths guppy-like.

      ‘Excuse me,’ said the woman, recovering the fastest, ‘but you can speak Japanese?’

      ‘What do you mean? I’m Scouse, I speak English.’

      ‘But you just-…’ she started, touching her bottom lip.

      ‘I was born here, I live here. This face is…I don’t know what it is, it’s just-…it’s wrong, but you’re gonna tell me what’s going on, right? I mean, you have the answers, don’t you?’

      ‘Kuso…’ the South-East Asian man said, slapping his left shoulder.


      ‘You’re speaking like a native, brother.’

      ‘Like a what?’

      ‘He means, you’re speaking Japanese now.’

      ‘Huh?’ I said, pure Japanese.


      Seventeen huhs and one recording of my own voice speaking Japanese later, we finally got round to an explanation.

      The Japanese woman said a lot of things I didn’t really understand, almost like a lecture, but I did manage to pick up some words.


Words involved in the truth + amateur interpretation…


      Forever exchange, something permanent, different face, different country, biological procedure, surgery.

      Summary: you were Japanese, now you’re North British. They fucked up the face.

      Laser gun, malfunction, double-band implant, memory meld, two different mind-views, two contradictory childhoods.

      Summary: you had Japanese memories, then they tried to wipe them and give you North British ones. They fucked up, now you have both.

       Re-education, memory alignment, face reconfiguration not viable, family adjustment, friend adjustment.

      Summary: they can fix most of the memories, but not the face. They can fix everyone else you know to accept what they see as normal, with the exception of the occasional glitch.


      ‘You can’t change my face back?’

      ‘I’m sorry, no. The original template for…’ The woman stumbled, looking at the family photos on the desk nearby. ‘Sorry, I’ve forgotten your-…’


      ‘Yes, Mark. That’s right. Mark’s original template has been lost, I’m afraid, as his side of the procedure was quite smooth.’

      ‘You mean you didn’t fuck it up like you did with mine?’

      ‘Brother, that’s harsh.’

      I folded my arms.

      ‘No, there were no errors in his procedure. He has already settled into your life.’

      ‘He believes he’s me?’

      ‘Yes, the memory transfer was complete, no traces left.’

      I unfolded my arms and stood up, an idea forming. ‘I can give you a photo…

      ‘Excuse me?’

      ‘…a photo of me, Mark, how I was before…’ I pointed at my chin. ‘…this.’

      ‘Won’t work, brother.’

      ‘No, it will, it has to.’

      ‘I’m very sorry, but he’s right, it’s unviable. A photo doesn’t contain enough data for a second procedure.’

      I stared back at her, hoping for an unless…

      ‘We would need the actual face, and that is clearly off the table.’

      ‘Are you sure?’

      ‘If there were any way we could return your original face then of course we would do that. But there isn’t. It is simply beyond our powers.’


      I sat back down and stared at the screen.

      There was something not right…

      ‘But…hang on. Why did you even put me here if my face was like this? Japanese, I mean.’

      ‘Experimentation, brother,’ the South-East Asian man replied.

      ‘What does that mean?’

      ‘Do and see, man. Do and see.’

      The woman coughed, artificial. ‘It means, we knew it was strange, but we wanted to see how your family would react, and your friends.’

      ‘That makes no sense.’

      ‘Do and see, man. The way to progress…’

      ‘It was merely an experiment. Sadly, it didn’t work, and, although we would very much like to fix it for you, we cannot.’

      ‘So what am I supposed to do now?’

      They looked at each other.

      ‘You don’t know?’

      ‘There is one thing we can do.’ She took off her glasses and spoke while wiping them. ‘We can take out the Japanese memories.’

      ‘And then?’

      ‘Shit, brother, then you live…’

      ‘Live? As what?’

      ‘A new mind. A new character. Transcendence.’

      The Japanese woman leaned in closer to me, her skirt riding up her thighs a little. Not sure if that was intentional. ‘We can take you for the procedure now, if you wish?’



      ‘What kind of procedure?’

      ‘It will be painless, don’t worry. You may need to re-learn a few things afterwards. Our best guess is, you’ll have the mind of a fourteen year old, thereabouts, but you will at least be fully British. Or Northern British to be precise. With the added bonus of latent Japanese language skills that can be re-activated with minimal study. What do you say?’

      ‘A fourteen year old?’


      I thought carefully, remembering how shitty high school was…both of them. Could I really go through with this? Two people just turn up and say, hey, we fucked up the first time, let us fiddle with your brain again…it was nonsense, wasn’t it?

      ‘Well, what is your answer?’

      I looked around the room for no real reason and made them wait longer. I didn’t care if they were sick of this scene or my surliness…the fact was, they’d done this to me, I didn’t owe them anything, least of all basic manners.

      ‘My answer is fuck off,’ I replied, finally.

      ‘Are you sure, young man?’ asked the woman, ignoring the insult.



      I turned to the South-East Asian man, keeping my face deadpan.

      ‘Fuck off, brother.’


      As I corralled them back out the front door, the Japanese woman turned and informed me in the same survey-drone voice that my family would be ready for re-integration in a couple of days.

      ‘You mean that’s when they’ll be back?’


      ‘And my friends?’

      ‘They’ll take a little longer. A week, two weeks, perhaps.’

      The South-East Asian man stepped forward, his hands clasped together.

      ‘Come on, take the op. Let a brother make amends.’

      ‘Not interested.’

      ‘Salve the wounds a little.’


      ‘A hasty line, way too hasty.’ He turned to the street, shaking his head at both the repair shopp cafe and the green uniform guys relaying a patch on the pavement outside it. ‘You’ll be lost here, brother. This kind of weirdness…’

      ‘I’m not your brother.’


      He stared at me, head vibrating instead of shaking, until the woman grabbed his barrel of an arm and dragged him to a waiting minivan.

      ‘Fucking scientists…’

      I closed the door and went up to the bathroom, cried like a wretch for half an hour then wiped the mirrror with water and started examining my new face.


      The next day, I went to college.

      Part of me thought about turning back when I got to Waverley Hub and saw another Japanese guy waiting in the queue, but then I heard him speak in the same accent as me and relaxed a little.

      The campus itself wasn’t far, and when the shuttle pulled onto the main road leading in, I had the weird feeling that there should’ve been trees lining the sides. And that the football field was smaller.

      Probably something I’d seen in a filmn before.

      Or an anime.

      Or my old shadow life.

      Silhouette life.

      Silhouette existen-


      I walked into the lecture without a word, sat down next to an Irish guy I sort of knew and said nothing to him either.

      No one batted an eyelid.

      No one asked me anything.

      Apart from the girl on my other side, who said she was thinking of learning Japanese and maybe she’d ask me for lessons at some point so it’d be good if I didn’t go anywhere. But that wasn’t technically a question, so it didn’t count.


      In the seminar, the lecturer discussed what he’d talked about in the lecture. Derrida, Deleuze, Itō, the slow re-territorialisation of the future, tired space. He left silences open for people to talk into, but no one did, and he was forced into continuing himself.

      I didn’t say a thing…just made notes and nodded a lot.

      The girl in the next seat asked if I was okay, if I needed her to translate.

      I laughed. Then said no.

      At the end of the seminar, the lecturer called me over and enquired whether or not I’d registered with the department staff yet. I told him it was me, Mark.

      ‘I’m sorry, Mark…?’

      ‘Mark Boyle.’

      He looked at his list.

      ‘Mark…Boyle…ah, I think I remember you.’

      ‘I usually talk more, but today I was a bit tired.’

      ‘Yes, everyone was a little quiet today…never mind.’

      He looked at his list again then up at me, confused.

      It was the face.

      ‘The face? Right, what it is, basically…there were two scientists who…’ I stopped, looking at the crayon-drawn Jung portrait on the nearby wall. ‘Last week I had reconstructive surgery to make myself look more Japanese…for personal reasons.’

      ‘Oh no, it’s not that, I understand about the face.’

      ‘You understand?’

      ‘It’s your name that’s the issue. You see, it isn’t here anymore.’

      I looked over the desk and onto the list. He was right, no Mark Boyle.

      ‘Where am I?’

      ‘I think…’

      Wait, the letter…

      ‘…you must’ve quit. But as you seem uncertain…’

      Mark said he’d quit. He said it was a piece of shit college.

      ‘I think I did quit. Yeah.’

      He looked into my Japanese eyes but said nothing.

      ‘I suppose it’s kinda weird that I turned up,’ I added, looking at the erratic hair lines of Jung, then down at the lecturer’s desk.

      ‘It is a little strange, yes.’

      ‘Sorry, it won’t happen again.’

      I turned and went towards the door.

      ‘There’s always a way back, Mark,’ he said as the door was closing. ‘If you ever change your mind.’


      The housse was empty.

      The others would be back from the Welsh mountain in a couple of days and, according to the science nuts, more conditioned to accept the new state of things.

      Whatever, they wouldn’t kick me out at least.

      And was it so bad, having this face? It made me different at least.


      And there were the two sets of thoughts playing in my head. Two streams.

      At first they were divergent, but now, after only two days they were starting to…to do the other thing, move closer, interact, mingle, whatever you called it.

      The first stream:

      …moon, space, moon, Asami, space, aliens, moon, Yosh, Knife, moon, brother, Yosh, space, Tsukubashi, the alien in Alien, Ryu, black aliens, subtext, Tsunashima, science, moon, space, moon, Yosh, Beyond The Rabbit Hole…

      The second stream:

      …writing, writing, words, words, genius, failed, failed, publish, Le Guin, Liverpool Tsukubashi, Void Galaxia, writing, writing, sci-fi, Moon Factory 7, physics, credibility, writing, credibility, no readers, failed, no readers, quit, quit, worthless, failed, failed…

      The first stream was the Japanese Me. The second, the Mark Me.

      And the answer to unite them both…


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