Yorishiro Tadamasa didn’t fly in restricted airspace often, the last time he did it, the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force sent two fighters up to escort him to an airstrip outside of Tokyo where he met some brass who talked a lot about rules and respect, and while he listened to the three generals who met him there, he watched a mountain hawk-eagle dance in the strong currents, the wind reaching peak winter conditions, ripping in off the ocean blasting the warmer air from the inland mountains, creating an oncoming storm as the sky turned a stony grey against a black horizon, streaks of lightning in the far distance over the coast causing an echo of thunder through the sky.
This time there were no scrambling fighter jets to escort him, his AgustaWestland AW609, a tilt rotor aircraft more airplane than helicopter, creating a shadow along the empty, decaying streets of Futaba, just north of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power station. He swung east and flew over a deserted park before careening toward the monster, as he came to know it, the thing that destroyed his life, damaging his empire and poisoning his daughter, who lay dying of thyroid cancer in a Tokyo hospital coughing up blood in the mornings, and at night when the painkillers worked on her she mumbled throughout the night, perspiring until her bedsheets were wet, the nurse changing the linens because by morning she shivered from the cold.
Yorishiro told her no when his daughter said she was entering university as a nuclear physics student, and over the course of six years he guided her to the more benign side of the practice, into academia, where he thought no harm would ever come to her, but as a PhD candidate she undertook research into faulty nuclear reactor design and began investigating reactors at Fukushima with the permission of the government, which cost Yorishiro a couple million in bribes, but he wanted to see his daughter succeed in life, and he wanted to see a safer Japan, and if his daughter could do that, then he was going to let her. The day it happened she was there and when the evacuation order was given she ignored it and observed the meltdown for as long as military soldiers let her until growing frightened at the prospect of letting her get murdered by the monster, grabbed her by both arms and hauled her out of its mouth, but the monster’s jaw snapped shut on her and murdered her all the same, her body a rotten piece of meat, burned inside out by the radiation, the only tangible signs left was the cancer. He visited her every day, flying his black AW609 from his home in Iwaki to Tokyo, but this time after watching his daughter cough up dark black clots of blood all morning, he swept in close to the monster, eyeing the thing as workers scrambled on the ground in their pale white suits amid a heap of water tanks that could tumble into the ocean at any time should another earthquake hit the island or its coast.
A bad day turned even worse when he heard the news Adrian was dead. They didn’t know each other, he never met him but Yorishiro watched him like his daughter observing Fukushima, a monster in his own right. Adrian first caught Yorishiro’s attention when he started to develop what he refers to as, “the weapon.” He pushed a billion through offshore trusts to build a secret research facility in Mongolia, a country good at keeping secrets, safe from prying eyes, and whose officials took bribes without asking questions, and when he filmed himself beheading the wife of a politician who didn’t like to take bribes, and who had mentioned it to a U.S. diplomat, the others shut their mouths and said they forced Yorishiro out of Mongolia. A lie, of course, and deep in the mountains somewhere in that hell along a high plateau he worked on Adrian’s invention, bringing it to life while keeping the monster safe from harm: the costs were mounting though, and now Adrian was dead, again. He didn’t like cloning who he thought of as his friend, his clones were usually enemies, and he reserved a special place for them in his underground fortress below his sprawling home in Iwaki where he hid a secret chamber filled with blood of enemies Yorishiro oxygenated to keep fresh, flowing through tubes in an endless cycle getting richer with each enemy dead. He kept three pets in the chamber, made of white marble with a suspended elevator that lifted down from the ceiling as a platform, where he threw his enemies. The elevator descends into the chamber of blood, and from two-way mirrors along the room’s walls, Yorishiro watched his pets devour his enemies in the pit of blood, and his pets loved him, and they knew he watched because after they preyed on his enemies, toying with them as a house cat might with a mouse, they walked to the mirror and sniffed at it, smelling Yorishiro on the other side.
When Yorishiro was a child, his mother sent him to live with the poor because she thought her son lacked empathy after he started scamming the other kids with fake merchandise such as Nike knock-offs at school after he befriended Yakuza who controlled the area and gave him the stuff to sell, so she paid a family to take him in for a year, bribing them to make her son’s life miserable, forcing him to clean their clothes, house, cook their food, take care of their three children even though he was only 11 years old himself. One day cleaning the kitchen floor, a feral cat Yorishiro named Mae West joined him when he was alone, a mouse squirming in its mouth, and sitting down in in front of the small boy, Mae West dropped the mouse in front of him and they both watched it as it scurried away toward a broken down, rusted fridge. Just as the mouse reached the fridge, to slip underneath it into safety, the feral tabby launched itself into the air and pounced onto the mouse with both paws, its claws digging into the mouse just enough to slice it open so Yorishiro could see tiny specks of blood form along its fur. The cat played with the mouse then, using its paws to bash it this way and that like the Canadian hockey players Yorishiro watched on television, and after he fell in love with the sport, he forced his parents to buy him hockey equipment and put him into the only league in Tokyo, which pissed off his conservative parents who built weapons since before the Second World War. They wanted him to study inner peace, find solace in Shinto, and build strength learning Jujutsu, but Yorishiro loved the hockey stick and it was this his father used to teach him about Kenjutsu, first using a hockey stick in place of a katana, as Yorishiro wanted nothing more than to play in the NHL and become the first Japanese star like his hero Wayne Gretzky. Later in his early twenties, Yorishiro stopped playing hockey when he was hit along the boards where he suffered a concussion that wiped out his memory for a year, during which time his father spent countless hours teaching him the art of the sword, and even in his younger years he showed great promise, but it wasn’t until much later, when building his empire he required the skills with a blade his father taught him.
After playing with the mouse for several minutes Mae West picked it back up in its mouth and brought the rodent back to Yorishiro who dropped it again in front of the little boy looking at him then at its prey than back to Yorishiro, seeming to ask the boy whether he wanted to play with her, as the cat was a middle-aged female who had formed a relationship with Yorishiro after he started to feed her leftover tuna from breakfast. He obliged her and batted the mouse as the tabby watched him sitting still in the middle of the kitchen her head twisting around as Yorishiro pretended he was Wayne Gretzky and the dying mouse a puck, and getting into it, he swatted the mouse with his hand and it hit the old fridge with a thud and fell down the front of it, blood smearing as it dropped to the floor without strength left to move. Yorishiro bent down on all fours and took the half dead rodent in his mouth and brought it to Mae West and dropped it in front of her. They both looked at the dying thing for a while and when Yorishiro felt shame he cleaned the fridge of the blood and shooed the cat outside, picking up the dead mouse by the tale and throwing it after the cat as it ran out the back door. In this way, Yorishiro liked to watch his pets play with their pray, his enemies, usually a competitor, some hot shot CEO, or politician, or lawyer posing as obstacle to his plans, sometimes a disloyal employee or partner. Yorishiro kept many partners, both women and men, and when they slept with others he sometimes put them in his chamber for his pets to play with, to feed on. To kill. After they killed their latest victims, all three of them would walk over to the two-way mirrors and caress the mirror as if they were caressing him, sniffing at the mirror, their sense of smell so good, they knew Yorishiro was on the other side watching them mutilate, in some cases rape, their victims before they finally killed them. His pets were born in a lab deep within his fortress on a research floor, where his cloning program was housed, mutated humans whose genes were spliced with the Komodo dragon, who each required plenty of meat to keep alive. After he fed his enemies to his pets, Yorishiro cloned them into more friendly, cooperative people who liked him and his business of building weapons – people who no longer posed a problem to his plans.
Adrian was different, he was fond of him and thought of him as a best friend, watching the great man, as Yorishiro referred to him, go about his daily activities, he even dedicated a large team of specialists, numbering about 100 personnel, which cost him about $10 million a year to ensure Yorishiro always knew what his best friend was doing. To Yorishiro the great man was special, more important to him than his own daughter, and he would do anything to keep him alive even when his team failed to protect him as it did recently in Australia, where much to his chagrin, Adrian chased a ghost, running after the bait, tripping his way right into his enemies’ trap. Yorishiro built a castle around Adrian, brick by brick, from its foundation to its ramparts, taking decades, and now his castle, Adrian’s castle, was besieged on all sides by enemies, and these enemies grew in number, in strength, surrounding his castle, attacking its walls and battering down its gate with a ram, and with each knock, Yorishiro lost a night’s sleep.
The AW609 swept along the outer edge of the downed nuclear reactors, and looking at the mayhem below him, Yorishiro watched the workers running around like little ants, some pointing up at the helicopter, probably thinking he was with TEPCO, the quasi-governmental organization responsible for the ruin that was his daughter’s body as she lay there, a piece of rotting meat with the flies buzzing around her in the destroyed places of his heart, Fukushima’s own carcass, like hers, a scatter of decaying tin, iron, metal – rust as a jet stream slammed in and pushed his helicopter toward the monster in the grips of death. Pulling against the cyclic, Yorishiro twisted sideways in the wind current, slipping over the monster, its walls peeling off in the same way he dug his fingernails into the orange he skinned earlier that morning during breakfast in the hospital room watching the nurse rub a wet sponge over his daughter’s skin, reddened as if she was outside on a winter’s day in the snow. He lifted up and turned away south to his home in Iwaki where his friend Adrian awaited him deep in the confines of his fortress deep below the earth surrounded by water, a castle moat as Yorishiro thought of it, to protect the inverted skyscraper from earthquakes. His team was in the process of awakening Yorishiro’s latest prize, and this time he would even get to meet Adrian, a chill creeping over him, gripping his spine in the way his hands tightened around the cyclic, his knuckles red and his hands sweating as the AW609 crossed over the land toward his fortress, his thoughts drifting to dinner, Chutoro he would prepare himself, another kind of prize. After spending a month searching for the best Maguro in Japan, where in a deserted shop at 4 a.m. in Tokyo’s Tsukiji Market he found what he was looking for when he nodded to Fumito, a fisherman who keep his gaze on Yorishiro even when bowing without smiling, something Yorishiro liked in a man, that is, when he looked back without blinking, and he was even more impressed when Fumito led him to the back of the shop and presented a thick slab of Chutoro, a $100,000 piece of tuna caught off the northern waters of Hokkaido in winter, Fumito explained, from a small boat his uncle commanded of three fishermen including himself. Off the coast they spotted a school of Thunnini of at least 100 Bluefin tuna amid rough seas that reminded Fumito of the painting his father painted of a storm when he was himself a young man that hung in his parent’s small home. They readied their poles strung with dead herring they killed an hour earlier and cast their lines into the seas Fumito referred to as ‘pissed off,’ and waited for something to hook, and that’s when it happened, the fisherman said slamming his hand against the table, sending several knives crashing to the concrete floor of the market, he pulled up a big one, a 600 pound fish, a monster, larger than life and he yelled at his companions to help with the pole and together they pulled the Bluefin onto their small boat where they hit it with bats their forefathers made from Sugi until it stopped wriggling around and with the fish on their boat there wasn’t even enough room for the four men to move around so they sat on the giant Bluefin until they reached port in the village of Wakkanai. Yorishiro was so impressed with Fumito’s story he offered him $75,000 yen. Fumito shook his head and said nothing, waiting for Yorishiro to make another offer, and standing in the silent fish market, the morning sounds of boats docking and people sweeping the floors, Yorishiro gave him another offer for which the fisherman accepted. Fumito wrapped the Chutoro in Kraft Paper Roll and handed the prize over to Yorishiro, this time smiling, and leaving Tsukiji, Yorishiro thought about the way Fumito’s smile curled into a grin, his wrinkles deep underneath his checks, his eyes dark brown and bright under the faint, flickering fluorescent lighting. Yorishiro hated it, fluorescent lighting, but his engineers said it was the best alternative for his underground fortress, one of the many small decisions he made when building his castle beneath the Iwaki, and later he stood watching Adrian begin to breathe as the doctors massaged his heart with electrical pulses to start his life again.
It started with him standing facing the ocean on a beach, the sand an ivory rather than tan or dust like some beaches, his feet sinking as the waves rolled in, some as high as six feet against an endless horizon stretching all the way to nothing, as far as India, on the other side of this ocean, somewhere lurking a distance port no one here knows about except for the occasional tourist or native of the place who landed in Australia for some reason or another. He recognized the place, he lived here with his wife, Rachel, for two years when he worked for the government planning offshore windfarms, designing security systems for workers ferrying in and out of the theoretical floating complex of windmills the Australian government proposed until the idea was quashed by locals worried about their beaches.
When Adrian lifted his right foot, he looked down to see his imprint where he sank an inch or so into the soft sand still wet from the high tide earlier that morning, and as he sidestepped, he observed his two prints in the sand standing apart, edges ragged and crumbling as the sand caved in and smothered the signs of his passage as he walked away where the tide ran along the sand, making it darker, wet, and hard as the waves rolled in and the sun above rose to noon as he looked over his shoulder where the sound of music erupted from a restaurant he knew called Clancy’s Fish Bar. Near the restaurant, where an elevated path drifted along the perimeter of the beach, carefree children ran jumping from the cement sidewalk onto the warm foot-soaked sand, a brunette girl’s long dark hair winding in the ocean breeze as she spilled onto the sand, chased by her friend. Adrian listened to the way the waves crashed against each other along the short break of the beach as he walked to a pier where a man fished, dropping his hand into a bucket full of bait, then turned away and walked back to the restaurant where he went inside and waited at a line as women in front and behind him pushed against Adrian as people passed by. Four mothers with their children hanging off their arms, or dangling from one of the three couches to right of the line glanced at Adrian as he stood waiting in his dark grey suit without a tie and a his white shirt, when he looked down, was stained with a speck of blood along the breast pocket. Noticing this he took hold of the linen handkerchief in his trouser pocket and dabbed at the blood, smearing it across his white shirt, fresh blood crimson and drying in the heat of the restaurant as a cool wind blew in from the front door as one of the women caught his eye, dressed in a floral dress of red Plumeria roses against a yellow, almost tan tablecloth looking cotton with slight strings wrapping around her milky shoulders where her brown curly hair dripped along her shoulders. She cupped her newborn as he watched her breast feed the child, exposing her nipple, a pink, almost red soft blur, as she lifted the baby and repositioned the child, and when she was comfortable, the baby went back to its mother’s nipple, and looking up, she noticed Adrian watching her and she smiled.
“For how many people?” asked a girl, maybe just out of high school, this her first job since leaving the confines of long hallways adorned with lockers of different colours and doors spaced every so often designating classrooms with some doors opened while others were closed. She took Adrian’s attention away from the group of women and back to the restaurant proper where a bartender lined up three tall glasses, pouring dark rum into each of them before picking up a bottle of ginger beer to slap together a Dark and Stormy.
“Just one, I think, um, two, I guess, and outside if there’s a seat, please,” Adrian replied.
“This way,” she said, wearing a white dress shirt, black pants with a white apron tied twice around her slim waist, Adrian watching the way she moved underneath her clothes as they moved through a torrent of tables and chairs in the main floor space of the bar to the outside patio overlooking the beach. She pulled out a seat at a table for two and smiled as Adrian seated himself at the table along the wooden railing of the deck just a little higher than himself when sitting down and handed him a baby blue menu with a simple logo, an outline of an upright guitar with a fish bone inside.
“How about a Talisman Riesling? Do you have that?” Adrian asked.
“We do. A glass, then?”
“Yes. And what about a dessert?” he asked. She leaned over and opened the menu as it lay on the table in front of him, and glancing down he listened to the way her fingers slid along the paper of the menu as the giggle of young children rang out in the air near him.
“Here, this page, these are our desserts, Adrian,” she said.
“How do you know my name?” he asked her.
“There is something new on the dessert menu, I had it last night after closing for dinner, I do that sometimes, have dessert for dinner, like you Adrian, it’s an apple crumble with rhubarb, some cotton candy one top with ice cream. Why don’t you try that?”
“Sure. I’ll try that. Thank you,” Adrian replied, hearing the laughter of children again, and glancing over the rail, he caught a whisper of his daughter’s voice in his ear as a girl ran down the beach past a woman walking into the ocean, wearing a pink bikini top with pastel blue bottoms, the sporty kind that stretch along a woman’s thighs, the waves splashing against her legs before she dived into the ocean, disappearing for several moments before she popped up and drifted along with the current as a small wave dragged her toward the shore, then swimming back out she slid her body into the next wave and swam, body surfing along the top of the wave as it crested blue in the midday sun, then waist deep again, she walked out of the ocean back to her beach towel, strewn along the sand halfway between the bar and the ocean where she laid down on her back and suntanned.
When the wine arrived, Adrian thanked the server who brought his Riesling without looking up, taking it in his hand, the cold, wet glass in his hands sending beads of water down his arm when he lifted it to his mouth, and as he sipped the wine his eyes stayed on the distant woman sunbathing, then halfway through his glass, he looked away to the empty seat across from him on the other end of the table, listening to the voices surrounding him as people talked and ate their lunch, tables packed with families, couples, friends, and as he focused on the empty chair in front of him, finishing his drink, a faint smell of something reminded him of Rachel, flowering in his mind like the roses on the woman who was breastfeeding her child, then something, like the way their cabin on his grandparents’ property smelled in spring when the trees grew leaves and the river grew flush with snowmelt, everything fresh and clean. Then it was gone as a server placed his dessert in front of him, and when he dipped his spoon deep into the apple and rhubarb crumble, getting a bit of cotton candy and ice cream on the spoon as well, he let it all slide into his mouth as he stared at the empty seat in front of him, and swallowing, he began to choke, coughing up the dessert, then blood, pushing his way off his seat and falling to the wood patio. People gathered around him and when he looked up, they laughed at him and pointed their fingers as they stuffed their mouths with food and drink, crumbs falling to the floor, a litter of voices sounding out together as their faces turned into the faces of animals: pigs, lizards, and hyenas before they morphed again in the faces of monsters, the kind he remembered dreaming about when he was a child, waking in the night screaming, his grandmother turning on the bedside light with a cup of cold water, pulling his sheets off to reveal the stain of urine all over his pajamas, then helping him out of his cold, wet things, and into a new change of clothes all the while sharing with him the story of Dorothy, a young girl who was trapped in the land of Oz.
Then Adrian woke up again.
It took about two hours for Adrian to dress in the slim fitting black suit Yorishiro picked up for him at his tailor in Osaka, the one he always went to for his own clothes, the one who greeted him with a small glass of rice wine as he listened to Yorishiro vent about the latest disaster he faced as the magnate of the largest Japanese arms manufacturer in post-WWII. It took the help of Yorishiro’s personal assistant, Kazue, a small refined woman maybe 23 who just completed her MBA after a degree in economics, landing a job working with Yorishiro after he picked her out in a night club they were both drinking at where she drank until she fell into his arms, unable to walk, and so he took her home and nursed her back to health, putting her up in the softest bed she ever slept in, filled with duck feathers Yorishiro said when she asked, and later, he cooked her a western breakfast because she told him when she was drunk she liked that, fried eggs and bacon, toast and jam, even hash browns and three fluffy pancakes with blueberries.
“I bet the breakfast was wonderful,” Adrian replied.
“It was,” she said in perfect English. “I never forget it.”
“Who is this man, this Yorishiro, Kazue?”
“He is my employer.”
“What else are you able to say about him?”
“I cannot say, Mister Faulk. It is not my place. Besides, Yorishiro watches. He watches everything. There are cameras everywhere, hidden from view, but they are there, so there is no point in saying something that will upset him, nor will I upset him. I will say this, however, Mister Faulk, he is a good man no matter what they say about him. He is good. Remember that,” she said.
“I will,” Adrian replied as she tied a knot in a black silk tie and slipped it around his neck, tightening it and smiling as she looked him in the eyes, and when Adrian looked back he wanted to reach down and kiss her but didn’t, instead looking into her soft brown eyes as she adjusted his tie over a crisp starched cotton dress shirt.”
“There, you are ready?”
“I am sorry. I am so weak, I can barely-“
“It’s okay, Mister Faulk. I understand. You are weak. You don’t know why. Yorishiro will answer your questions, please this way, I will show you to dinner, Yorishiro has prepared a special meal for you. Please, this way,” she said, standing and walking to the door, showing Adrian out, and lifting himself off the bed, every bone in his body burning and exploding he gasped walking forward.
“You are strong, Mister Faulk. You will make it. Please this way.”
When Adrian met Yorishiro, he was surprised by how tall he was, standing at six foot three, wearing a black montsuki haori and hakama beneath a montsuki kimono made of stripped black silk, and when Yorishiro walked forward to introduce himself to Adrian he bowed his head in a slight way never taking his eyes off Adrian.
“Please, this way, Adrian,” Yorishiro motioned Adrian to take a seat at a Japanese Cypress sunken table, which Adrian accepted, sitting with his legs crossed on a low seat also made of cypress, and after thanking his host, Yorishiro began to serve dinner himself from one wooden bamboo cutting board sitting in the middle of the table beside two stone cups of rice wine, one of which Yorishiro handed to Adrian who placed it beside a small matching stone plate with a tiny saucer of soy sauce placed just off its center to the right where two ivory chopsticks lay atop a tan linen table napkin. Yorishiro placed three pieces of Chutoro tuna crowned over a cocoon of white sticky rice in a neat row.
“Please,” Yorishiro said.
“Thank you,” Adrian said as he waited for his host to serve the remaining three Chutoro pieces for himself and slip into his seat, then picking up his chopsticks, taking the napkin and placing it on his lap, Adrian took hold of the tuna, dipped the top into the soy, and relished its perfect texture, a blend of fat and muscle, holding together even as the saliva worked on the tuna, and without disintegrating, Adrian chewed the perfect sushi slow as his host did the same; in silence they relished the mixture of rice with the sushi as the salt of the soy hit their tongues, and when Adrian finished his, he placed his chopsticks down and took a sip of rice wine to wash it down.
“Yorishiro, thank you,” Adrian said, placing his rice wine back onto the cypress wood table and taking up his chopsticks again, he took another piece of the sushi into his mouth knowing it was an expensive cut, maybe even more expensive than most luxury cars, and as he devoured his second piece, all the questions he wanted to ask began to pour into his mind.
“May I ask some questions, Yorishiro?” Adrian asked.
“In time, Adrian. In time. Right now let me share with you who I am. My father, a descendent of Torii Tadamasa, a daimyo favoured by the Shogun, attacked Iwaki in the early seventeenth century, and destroyed the clan that gave the city its name. Today, I operate my keiretsu from Iwaki, the place where my descendants killed the Iwaki clan. In Shinto, Yorishiro is a thing possessed by a kami, a spirit. For instance, Adrian, my katana on the wall there, it is possessed by a spirit,” Yorishiro explained, pointing to a slender blade constructed of tamahagane to Adrian’s left hanging from two simple hooks.
“This spirit is a spirit of death. Since the war, I have built Japan weapons. I have grown rich, powerful, but I have made many enemies and have killed many people to secure my place, my family’s place, my children’s, and their children’s. I am sad to say, one of my children is dying, but I have another, a boy who lives in secret away from Japan, away from this dangerous place. Some people say I am a murderer. I say I am a warrior. I have followed you many years since I discovered your invention. There is something now, something I must share with you, Adrian. This is not easy for me, nor will it be easy for you to listen but you must, the time has come. My competitors, not just here in Japan, but across the globe, they have killed you Adrian, murdered you in cold blood for your knowledge: to possess what you have uncovered. I have cloned you, Adrian, twelve times, and this is the thirteenth time I have done so at great financial cost, great emotional cost, and professional cost. I have kept you alive hoping one day you and I meet, of course under better circumstances than this, but alas, here we are, together, and I have finally met a great man. All my life, I have searched for a great man, and you my friend, are a great man, and you do me much honour,” Yorishiro said, standing and pulling out a drawer from the wall, taking out another small stone ceramic bowl of rice wine, and taking it over to Adrian, he extended it to Adrian who accepted the wine and sipped the drink slow.
“You know about it then?” Adrian asked.
“Of course. It was me who worked the puppet strings, Adrian, helping you unlock your dream. I am your angel, Adrian, as you North Americans say, through back channels, it was one of my trusts that provided you your first couple million to develop the patent, and when you finished the patent, it was me who bought the patent to make you rich. Adrian, let me ask you, how has being a rich man been for you?”
“Not so good, Yorishiro,” Adrian replied.
“Not so good. No. Not so good, indeed. You are surrounded by enemies, Adrian.”
“What happened in Australia?”
“You were killed.”
“We are not entirely sure. There is a American military contract group, a collection of companies working on their own patent, based on yours, your brain mapping technology will change the world, Adrian, and they know I am involved, and instead of purchasing the technology from me to employ in their own weapons systems, they seek to steal it, Adrian. Steal it from me and kill you, erasing all memory of you,” Yorishiro replied.
“I was chased. Chased in the desert, somewhere in the north, after, after I found-”
“Her. Yes, your daughter, Dorothy.”
“She was just a clone.”
“Yes. Just a clone. So are you Adrian.”
“I am looking for the real her.”
“And Adrian, what if she no longer exists, this real Dorothy? What then?”
“Yes, what then?”
“I don’t know. I, I, I will kill those responsible. Kill all of them.”
“Yes. That is good. I will help you. My team and I, we do not know whether your girl remains alive, we are looking. I assure you, Adrian, I am doing everything I can for you.”
“Why? Why Yorishiro? Why are you helping me?”
“You are a great man, Adrian. That is why. You are greater than me. You built the future, a system to stabilize the Japanese economy through the use of brain mapping, this technology was already deployed by our air defense forces in a trial run just last month. And it worked, Adrian. It worked.”
“It does. And really well, I might add.”
“This is why you help me, because my invention works when so many others fail?”
“I have a recurring dream. It started about a year ago, my dream,” Adrian said.
“This dream of yours, share it with me?”
“In my dream, I, I am at home. My home is an apartment where I never lived before yet it was familiar to me in some way, you know, in the way dreams are familiar, but not. And I am sitting on a couch, watching television, and I fall asleep, and then, then there is a knock on the door and this overwhelming sense of dread falls over me. I stand up and walk to the door and look through the peephole,” Adrian said.
“Yes,” Yorishiro replied. “Then what? What did you see?”
“I see monsters, Yorishiro. I see them standing outside my door. They bang on my door looking at me through the peephole.”
“And what do you do, Adrian? What do you do when you see these monsters at your door?”
“I do nothing. I watch them with a growing sense of horror as they walk back and forth.”
“What do these monsters look like?”
“It is a nightmare Yorishiro. A nightmare. I don’t really remember what they look like, but a sense of dread falls over me like when you make a mistake you can’t correct, like the way someone must feel when they fall rock climbing without a rope. I stood and watched them as they banged on my door in horror, like I made a mistake I couldn’t take back, like I had missed a hand hold on a rock face and fell.”
“What did they look like, Adrian?”
“I don’t know. I, I remember something. Maybe. Maybe something. They had wounds like they were in a knife fight. They were painted, bloodied, like they were performing some kind of ritual. They carried weapons with them. There was blood, and maybe screams. I don’t know. It was a nightmare.”
“I have watched you, Adrian. I have watched over you for many years. I have never seen you so surrounded by danger. Your enemies, Adrian, your enemies draw near. I have protected you, Adrian, as I might protect a son. But there are too many. These monsters, these monsters who bang on your door, they want in, do you know what they seek? What they are looking for? What they want, Adrian?”
“Everything. They want everything. Me. My wealth. My invention. My wife, daughter, family, life. Everything.”
“Yes. They do. Why not just let them in, Adrian? Let in the monsters. Open the door, welcome them into your apartment, these monsters, these monsters who want your life. Who want everything.”
“Let them in? No. I will not give them what they want.”
“Because they’re fucking monsters.”
“Who will devour your soul?”
“How do you know this?’
“I know. I sense it. They will destroy everything I am.”
“Yes. They will.”
“What am I supposed to do, Yorishiro?”
“Fight, Adrian. You fight. No matter what. You fight until the end, win or lose. You fight. Do you hear me, Adrian. I love you, I love you like a son. So you must fight because of this. Because of this love I have given to you. Do not dishonor me. Fight to the bitter end when all else is gone, even when you are near death, everything and everyone you ever knew is gone, and there is nothing left to fight for, you fight. That is what you do, Adrian.”
“Will you stand with me?”
“Always, my friend. Always. To the end. When nothing is left, and there is only death and loss. Of course, I will stand with you. I will stand for beauty. For life. For survival. Your invention, it represents a way into the future for us, for everyone to live, there is no choice. I will fight.”
“Thank you, Yorishiro. You are a friend,” Adrian said, finishing his rice wine, and taking the last Chutoro on his grey stone plate, he slipped it into his mouth as Yorishiro watched him finish off his dinner. When he was finished, Yorishiro stood and walked to a sliding door to the right, opened it and looked back to Adrian, motioning him to follow, and getting up Adrian liked the way the sunken table looked, elegant and simple, a light hue of cypress against the tan paper walls of the delicate room, and stepping outside, he was shocked when confronted with a cold concrete wall.
“You are in my dungeon, Adrian, deep underground in Japan. I know you have been dying to ask that question. You are in Iwaki, but I assume you figured that out by now, you just didn’t know where exactly, and where is deep underground. Ever since I was a boy, the devastation of Hiroshima haunted me, because the scars of that place lay scattered throughout my family’s history. It’s a sad story and someday I may live to tell you about it, but not today. Our country was fueled by nuclear energy, but even as I speak, the government is decommissioning our reactors, leaving our people with a way out of this nightmare in the long run, but in the short term, it is devastating our economy, reducing us to ashes, as companies like mine are drained of power. But at our height, after the Americans rebuilt our economy and urged us to construct these nuclear reactions, I knew we were in danger so I built a castle underground to protect myself, my family, and company, from any possible danger. Please, I have something to show you,” Yorishiro said, leading Adrian down the long, cold cement corridor reinforced with steel rods poking through forming an intricate industrial design along the wall of the corridor that looked like snakes eating each other, and after walking a few moments Yorishiro came to a heavy steel door.
“Good evening Yorishiro,” said a voice from an audio speaker somewhere.
“Good evening, Ama,” Yorishiro said to the voice, then turning to Adrian, “Ama is my answer to Apple’s Siri, an autonomous artificial intelligence that runs my castle, she brain maps everyone inside, identifies them, and is able to understand their emotional state. Ama, tell me, what is Adrian’s emotional state?”
“Good evening, Adrian,” Ama said.
“Good evening, Ama,” Adrian replied.
“Adrian is exhibiting signs of resentment and anger, Yorishiro,” Ama answered.
“At who, Ama?”
“He does not know.”
“Tell me, Ama, what does Adrian think of me, Yorishiro?”
“Adrian likes you. Did you cook him dinner, Yorishiro?”
“Yes I did, Ama. Why do you ask?”
“He is contented and happy in the way humans are after eating a good meal.”
“She doesn’t brain map every room, my private chambers, such as the dining room where we ate today, is free of her presence,” Yorishiro said. “Ama let myself and Adrian into the cloning program wing, please.”
“Yes Yiroshiro, please allow for a moment as I determine your identity,” Ama said, pausing before opening the heavy steel door. “Please, Yiroshiro, move ahead. You are both showing zero signs of dangerous intent toward each other, or others, however, as I already mentioned, Adrian is angry but not violent. I am disarming my weapons system. You are free to move on. Thank you,” Ama said.
“Oh, I should remind you, here in this castle, it pays to keep a calm mind. Ama detects when a human is violent, or has violent intent toward myself or others, and she will taser the person. She is also armed with various other weapons I won’t bother mentioning,” Yorishiro said to Adrian as they stepped into a small chamber with blue suits hung up on the walls. “We must put these on, please.”
“Yorishiro, Ama talks so casually. How did you manage to get her to speak like that?”
“I hired a genius to code her language program. Took years, maybe a couple hundred million alone, but it was worth it. I wanted an AI system that talked to me like a real person, nothing you see in the stupid Hollywood movies. Something that moved me, or someone I could have a conversation with,” he answered.
“You talk with her?”
“Yes. Sometimes. She also plays a mean game of scrabble,” Yorishiro said, zipping up his suit, pulling over the hood and applying the mask before helping Adrian with his. Then the pair entered the cloning chamber where a steel catwalk ran over the massive operation as more than a hundred men and women dashed about below working on various experiments, processes, and clones.
“This is much more advanced than I thought possible, Yorishiro,” Adrian said as he looked out over the catwalk railing.
“Yes, it is, and it’s all done in complete secrecy for clients across the globe, but my competitors have infiltrated the lab, and now, I have Russian and Chinese competitors. All of this comes from research shared between the Japanese military, or as the Americans renamed it our self-defense forces, and researchers in Great Britain, namely Ireland, where cloning first began. Since then, I have amassed a small fortune I have to launder offshore, and this is where you come in Adrian, it is this money, this cloning money, that fuels you, your invention, and this is where you were born. Please, follow me,” Yorishiro said, walking down the steel catwalk high above the cloning lab, dressed in solid white marble walls, shining all around Adrian as he walked, glancing down at the workers in their baggy suits, hoods, and masks whispering, some even looking up to see the pair make their way to the other side of the catwalk where Yorishiro opened the door to an elevator and stepped in, turning around, beckoning Adrian to follow.
“Tell me, Adrian, about the day you left Canada and went back home to England. The day your grandparents were killed,” Yorishiro asked when the elevator door slammed shut.
“I was 13, Yiroshiro,” Adrian replied. “There was a fire at the house. When I woke up, my room was filled with smoke, a thick black smoke because when I turned on the bedside lamp, I couldn’t see anything but a swirling darkness in front of me. I hit the floor and crawled out of the room into the hall towards my grandparents’ bedroom where I saw fire.”
“You saw fire.”
“Yes. Fire. I tried to crawl towards their room but it was too hot and my lungs, they were burning and I was choking. I remember coughing and not being able to breath.”
“So you left them, your grandparents?”
“Yes. I left them.”
“And once you were outside?” Yorishiro asked as the elevator doors opened and Adrian stepped out into a space where two lab technicians worked, each standing over a capsule, examining whatever was inside.
“I ran. I ran to the nearest neighbour, where my girlfriend at the time lived.”
“Yes. Rachel. I phoned the fire department. Later, after the fire was out, I went down to the house. We searched, Yiroshiro. We looked for them but they weren’t there.
“Your grandparents went missing.”
“I don’t know. We never found the bodies.”
“Then you went back home.”
“Yes. My mother was Canadian, and after my parents both died, I moved there.”
“An orphan child with nowhere else to go?”
“Yes. That’s right.”
“And your parents died in a fire as well?”
“They did. Their car caught flame when a gas line leaked and exploded.”
“Unlucky. Unlucky, Adrian. Fire is your nemesis, then?”
“You could say that.”
“And after your grandparents’ death, that is when you joined the British Army.”
“And later MI5.”
“I have something to show you, Adrian,” Yorishiro walked to the capsule waving the lab technicians away, as they scurried away, Adrian walked forward and looked down to see himself.
“What do you see, Adrian.”
“Me, Yorishiro. I see me.”
“Yes. This is you. This is you as you were, Adrian, not as you are.”
“What do you mean?”
“We’ve been working on ways to genetically enhance humans during the cloning process, Adrian. You are my guinea pig, so to speak, the first of your kind.”
“What are you saying, Yorishiro?”
“In time, you will begin to understand as your perception grows sharper, like my katana, for now, you are dull, not fully awake, still half in slumber as your mind blinks into focus.”
“What have you done to me, Yorishiro?”
“Improved you. You are smarter, Adrian, with an IQ of more than 230. You are stronger, your bones will not break as easy as mine do, you are faster, stronger, and you know things you didn’t before, things like how to fight with a Samurai sword. You are special. And now you have a choice.”
“Yes. What you see before you, who you see before you, is you, as you were before you died on that desert road in Australia at the hands of your monsters, as you say. Who you see is exactly the same person in every way. The choice is whether you want to be who you were, or whether you want to be what you are?”
“Who am I?”
“A monster, Adrian. You are a monster. And I am the mad scientist, you the Frankenstein. Are you able to live with that, because in order to defeat monsters you must become a monster yourself? And make no mistake my friend, what we are up against, are monsters. Real. Living. Breathing. Monsters.”
Adrian placed his hand on the window of the capsule and watched himself, as if he were sleeping, breathing gentle as condensation gathered along the inside of the glass, caught in some dream, or nightmare, eyes twitching and lips moving in a downward angle.
“Is he alive?”
“Killing him is murder.”
“What kind of choice is this?”
“An important one. What is your choice?”
“I chose who I am, Yorishiro. Who I am now. Not who I was.”
“Good,” Yorishiro said, lifting a latch and pressing a button.
Before Adrian could say anything more, his past was incinerated in a fire that shot through the capsule, heating up the window, causing Adrian to pull away as he watched himself burn, his flesh melting away and bones disintegrating in the inferno.