Like a boat floating on a calm lake, the crescent moon hung quietly in the night sky. It cast a gentle light over Shuri Castle with just enough illumination and warmth. Yet, within seconds, the winds and clouds moved in and concealed the moon from sight, turning those unexpected moments into memories.
For the first time, Kinjo-san and Lynn had a quiet dinner. For once, they could hear broadcasters on TV talking. It was Lynn’s last night in Okinawa, and they both were unable to find the right words to speak to one another.
When dinner was over, Lynn volunteered to clean up and busied herself washing the dishes in the kitchen when she heard a loud shriek from Kinjo-san. She rushed out to the tatami room where Kinjo-san was. Mouth agape with soap water still dripping from her hands, she saw the main hall of Shuri Castle engulfed in flames on the television.
The news reported about the strong winds and electricity that caused the fire. But Lynn could make no further deductions from the information. By now, Kinjo-san was crying. Lynn put her arms around Kinjo-san and tried her best to comfort her.
Lynn did not remember how long she sat in the tatami room with Kinjo-san. They watched the venomous flames, strengthened by the strong winds of the night, burn through the surfaces of the Castle buildings. Like an innocent giant set ablaze, roaring in pain as the fire burned through his flesh, revealing for all to see the shadows of his skeleton. It was his final act of death.
They followed the news until it reported no more of the Castle. Almost after that, Kinjo-san began to run a fever. By daybreak, Lynn was making her way to the pharmacy for medicine. On the streets, the mood was heavy and somber, older men and women in funeral wear were making their way to the burning Castle. A few families, hand-in-hand with their little ones, were headed that way too. They wanted to pay their final respects. Back in Kinjo-san’s place, Lynn tried her best to care for Kinjo-san. It would take Kinjo-san three days for her fever to subside and another week before Kinjo-san could climb out of bed.
When Kinjo-san regained some strength, she put on a long black dress and walked with Lynn to the lake by the Castle. The pair stood still silently. The once proud and dignified brick red architectural emblem was now nothing more than a pile of burnt remains with large swirls of impenetrable black smoke rising from it. And though Lynn was a visitor to this foreign land, she felt emotional. She hugged Kinjo-san. Like a daughter who lost her father, Kinjo-san hugged Lynn back and cried in her arms.
It’s Lynn’s third week in Okinawa, and she was surprised to find herself still inquisitive about the place. This day, Lynn was helping Kinjo-san clean her antiques when Kinjo-san asked about Lynn’s travels.
“I’ve been traveling for close to two years now, and nope, I’ve not gone home in between. I mean, I do miss home from time to time, but I enjoy being out of the country.”
“What do your parents think?”
“They just let me be; I mean, what can they do? I am already 26!”
“You’re 26? I’m 82.”
“No way! You are so young and energetic.”
“It’s the pigskin and tobacco, trust me.”
“What about you, Kinjo-san? Do you like to travel?”
“Oo, not really. I get seasick and flight sickness! Not in me to travel.”
As Kinjo-san pulled herself up from the ground, she noticed Lynn’s slender arms and compared them with her thick arms. She laughed and walked to the bathroom, “Don’t grow old, okay?”
Lynn wondered what that meant for a second and continued to clean Kinjo-san’s scrolls and teapots. As a result of Kinjo-san’s meticulous care, the antiques in Kinjo-san’s place were well-maintained.
“You will tell me some stories, won’t you?”
“Hmm, what do you want to know?”
Lynn randomly picked up a large wooden box and asked, “What’s inside?”
Kinjo-san put down her cigarette and carefully opened the box to reveal a folded piece of vermillion textile, minsa.
Kinjo-san shared that the minsa was a gift of love and protection from her mother to her father. The best-known minsa came from the Yaeyama Islands, a group of islands south of Okinawa main island.
“You see this pattern here. It means long love.”
Lynn carefully observed the vermillion textile. It had shades of yellow ochres and tangerines running across the tiny knots of red. She touched the alternating pattern of five and four small rectangles.
“Just before the war, chichi buried the minsa deep in the soil, somewhere behind this house. He was afraid to damage it. Ha! And then, just before the Americans came, a Yamoto soldier gave him a hand grenade. He took the hand grenade and me into the caves to hide from the air raids. One night, he put me to bed and pulled the hand grenade.”
As Kinjo-san closed the wooden box and put it away, Lynn made a promise to herself to not ask for stories unless Kinjo-san volunteered to share.
The keys turned softly, and the door opened. Lynn walked in, visibly confused. Amy’s father, Benny, looked up, smiled warmly at Lynn, and continued making his tea. While Lynn looked at Benny, then Amy, and then the house she knew to be home. Upon which, Amy ran up from the orange sofa and hugged Lynn.
“Mama! You are home. Where did you go this time? Tell me, please!”
Lynn thought for a moment, yet nothing came to her mind.
Benny chided her, “Didn’t you go to Okinawa again?”
Lynn nodded her head slowly and said, “Yes…”
“Where did you go in Okinawa this time? Tell me!”
Lynn got excited. The smell of Kinjo-san’s antiques permeated the room. She replied, “Oh, you want to know? I went to visit Kinjo-san, of course! She’s really old now and can barely leave the house. But she is in good spirits.”
“What did you do in Kinjo-san’s house!”
“Oh, as usual! We talked and talked. Ate and Ate.”
“What stories did she tell you this time!”
A large wooden box appeared by the orange sofa. Before Amy could react, Lynn looked at the box and frowned. Was that Kinjo-san’s box she just saw? Yet, the wooden box was no longer there in a blink of an eye. Benny placed a hot cup of tea in front of her and sat next to her.
“Mama, what stories did Kinjo-san tell you this time?”
Lynn sipped her green tea slowly. This was unexpected. Amy was never interested in Kinjo-san’s stories. Especially since they were always the same to her.
Lynn and Kinjo-san were eating Blue Seal ice cream in a cafe on the busy street of Kokusai Dori. Kinjo-san had arrived at eight in the morning to pick Lynn up from the guesthouse. By noon, they had finished walking most of the main street and markets behind. Along the way, Lynn picked up a pair of shisa painted in bright red and orange. They tasted dried local seafood, desserts, fruits, and mozuku, a slimy and refreshingly sour seaweed shaped like angel hair pasta. As Lynn contemplated the next stop, she licked the cookie and cream off her tiny wooden spoon and proceeded to scratch the patch of eczema at the back of her left ear.
Kinjo-san asked to see her eczema. Lynn flipped back her ear to reveal a patch of red itchy skin and brushed it off as a helpless situation that surfaced during her travels in the southwest part of China. Though secretly, she viewed her eczema as proud battle scars of a seasoned traveler.
“I think it was in Guangxi that my eczema appeared, or was it Wuxi? Can’t really recall. But anyway, I don’t just have it at the back of my ear. There are some on my elbows and back too.”
“I see. Have you seen the doctor?”
“Yes. But it comes and goes, and it doesn’t fully go away.”
“Well. We will get it treated today.”
Lynn was skeptical but was curious for Kinjo-san to lead the way. Despite her tiny frame, Kinjo-san had a way of evoking command. Perhaps it was this trait of Kinjo-san that reminded Lynn of her late grandmother.
The pair took the car and made their way to the nearby Kainan Street. Kinjo-san parked by the road curb and led Lynn through the busy street. A familiar scent came to Lynn. She panicked.
“Chinese medicine? We are going for TCM?”
“We call it TCM back home. It means Traditional Chinese medicine.”
“Yes, TCM. You got your eczema in China, so we treat it at its roots.”
A sizeable stand-up banner greeted the pair. Three bold kanji characters were printed. Kanpo yaku. Kanpo for short. Han medicine from China, before China, became present-day China.
“Wait. Is this a Japanese Chinese medicine hall? Or is it a Chinese-run Chinese medicine hall?”
“Just come in.”
The wooden hand-painted plaque board and rows of herbs in the display window concealed the contemporary interiors of the medicine hall. As the pair entered and waited in the tea area, they overheard a conversation in the examination room. An anxious Chinese lady who spoke with a northern accent relied on her bilingual Chinese friend to communicate with the practitioner.
“If you are concerned, you should not take my medicine.”
“She is just a little concerned because you prescribed a weaker dosage compared to what she is used to having from other places.”
“In my opinion, this is enough for her.”
“Okay. My friend would like to know if she can continue her Western medicine.”
“It is best to not mix the two. If your friend insists, she should have a 2-hour interval between the medicines.”
Lynn pitied the physician. These were common questions even for TCM practitioners, sinsehs, back home in Singapore.
“Thank you. We will take our leave.”
As the pair walked out of the examination room and the hall, Kinjo-san led Lynn to see the physician. For one reason or another, be it TCM or kanpo, the practitioner tended to be a man in his fifties or sixties. And indeed, in sat a man in his fifties or sixties.
Kinjo-san and the practitioner, Nago-sensei, exchanged friendly greetings and spoke in a mix of heavy-accented Japanese and the local dialect. They were longtime friends. Kinjo-san explained Lynn’s condition, and Nago-sensei carefully examined Lynn’s eczema.
When done, he addressed them both in simple Japanese, “I will need time to prepare. Come back in an hour to make payment and collect your medicine.”
Lynn was a little anxious. She asked, “How much will it be?”
“It’s a standard fee of six hundred yen for a day’s worth of medicine, and you will need thirty days’ worth of medicine for a start.”
Lynn was bewildered. She would have to find some work to pay for the medicine. Noticing Lynn’s worry, Kinjo-san offered to pay, which Lynn immediately refused.
“How are you going to pay if I don’t help?”
“I’m going to work at the guesthouse. If they would take me.”
“So you are staying longer?”
“Yes, I am. At least until I finished my course of medicine.”
Kinjo-san was happy. She said, “Let’s go eat taco rice. It’s like taco without the shells on rice, and you can add lots of cheese and sauces. Or how about spam and egg sandwich? Tonight, we drink Okinawan alcohol, awamori, and fried pig skin at my place.”
“Isn’t the diet of the Okinawans supposed to be really clean and healthy? That’s the reason for the longevity of the Okinawans, no?”
Kinjo-san laughed boisterously till onlookers smiled at them with amusement.
Moon’s mother, Concubine Shun, revealed a flaming red pearl from her silk handkerchief and pushed it into Moon’s mouth. In a reflex, Moon resisted, and the pearl fell to the ground. Concubine Shun scurried to retrieve the pearl. With tears falling out of her eyes, she cried, “For Heaven’s sake, swallow the pearl now!”
“What is going on!”
“The rebels have entered the outer palace. Ming is collapsing. So swallow this pearl and leave at once!”
Concubine Shun pushed the pearl into Moon’s trembling lips and made a small cut on Moon’s thumb with a blade. She dripped Moon’s blood on a palm-sized bronze creature statue and murmured, “This will protect you too. You do not need to be afraid. There is no time to be afraid.”
Bang! The doors flanked wide open. The Emperor, barely recognizable, stood in front of them. Disheveled and defeated, his tears rolled down his downcasted eyes and over the tear stains on his face. On his right hand held a blood-stained golden sword.
He dragged himself toward them. Like a frightened mouse trying its best to be brave, Concubine Shun flung herself in front of Moon and stared wide-eyed at the Emperor.
With a trembling voice, Concubine Shun said, “Run, Moon, run now. Moon, quick, Moon-”
At that moment and without hesitation, the Emperor pierced his sword into Concubine Shun’s chest. Moon let out a shrilling scream. She ran toward them, but her legs could not move. Instead, she collapsed onto a creature as it sped through the burning palace and capital.
The creature brought Moon deep into the forest and said, “I am the bronze statue, and I am to protect you.”
Still shaking and with tears rolling down her closed eyes, Moon looked at the deer-like creature and cried, “What about Ma? Who protects Ma?”
Not long after, the Qing army swept through the deep forests and mountains in search of surviving Ming royalties and loyalists, forcing the pair to flee down to the southern coastal areas. But the war pursued them relentlessly as forces fought to control all of China.
“Where can I go? Nowhere in China is safe for me.”
The creature carried her further south, to the southern caves by the southernmost port. For the first time, Moon smelled the saltiness of the ocean breeze.
By a stream of water leading to the ocean, the creature sang into a large spiral seashell. Gently, from within the cave walls, a hundred-year-old turtle awakened and broke free. He smiled at Moon and his old friend.
The pearl in Moon shone, and the turtle obeyed. With the guide of the pearl, the turtle carried Moon and the creature across the Eastern Sea.
By the time the trio arrived at the Ryukyu Kingdom, China had irrevocably changed from Ming to Qing.
Kinjo-san’s house was in one of the small alleys running across the stone steps. It was a fairly large two-story house, it had a carefully tended garden with blooming hibiscus, bougainvillea, and many local plants Lynn could not name. As with all other buildings in Okinawa, a pair of dog-like stone statues flanked the wooden gates.
Kinjo-san looked at them and said, “Shisa, guardian creatures. Some ‘English-speaking people’ call them ‘shisa dogs,’ but they are not dogs, more like lions.”
Lynn nodded and smiled sheepishly while the traveler in her knew for sure then that Kinjo-san was to be her helpful local friend throughout her stay here. The type who would feed hungry travelers, drive them all over town and act as local guides at the “must-go” tourist sites. In fact, a little out of the ordinary, even for hospitable Japanese, she may suggest housing her new traveler friends for a day or two.
“Wow, these are-”
“Really? Wow. It looks like a museum.”
Kinjo-san’s home was full of antiques, and Lynn could not tell if she was an avid collector or someone who discarded nothing. There were tea sets, scrolls of paintings and calligraphy, vases, furniture, and textiles. Many of which would sit nicely together with the exhibits in the Castle that she had visited earlier. Lynn hugged her backpack and carefully walked into the house. As she walked further in, she could not help but wonder about Kinjo-san’s life.
“If you are interested, I can share many stories with you. But first, let’s eat.”
Kinjo-san walked out of the kitchen with a plateful of sweet Okinawan crepes chinbin decorated with pineapple, mango, berries, and a glass of chilled sanpintea. It was as if she knew she would be expecting a guest today.
“Delicious! Thank you.”
“How long are you staying in Okinawa?”
“Where are you staying?”
“At the Goya Guesthouse near Kenchomae.”
“Nice place. Where are you looking to visit?”
“Well, today is my first day, and I’ve visited Shuri Castle. I plan to visit the shopping street Kokusai Dori tomorrow and then maybe a beach in the evening. The reviews for the Prefectural Museum are great, so I think I will go there too. Actually, do you, by any chance, know where I should visit?”
“Let’s walk Kokusai Dori tomorrow together. There are many hidden gems at the back of the main street that only I know.”
“Ah! But you mustn’t. I have troubled you too much already.”
“No, no, I insist. In fact, let’s grab a bowl of Okinawa soba now before I send you to your guesthouse. Do you like pig feet? There is a restaurant in Kenchomae that sells very yummy pig feet.”
No longer intending to be polite, Lynn replied, “Oh! No! No! You shouldn’t! I can make my way to the guesthouse! Really! And you have fed me delicious chinbin and sanpin tea already!”
“No, no, I insist. Let’s go now. I’ll see you in the car.”
Lynn knew there was no use resisting her new friend, so she quickly downed her last bit of sanpin tea and grabbed her backpack. As she looked around the house one final time to remember everything as best as she could, she noticed at the far corner of the living room table sat a carefully displayed photograph. In that photo were Kinjo-san and a woman who looked like a younger version of her. They smiled proudly without revealing a single tooth. With them stood a Caucasian man and two biracial children. Family stuff.
Next to the photo stood a tiny frame, and it enclosed a painting of a woman in a faded pink hanfu. Her melancholic eyes gazed at a seemingly faraway land. A Chinese? At that moment, Lynn felt a tug in her heart and stared at the painting intently once more.
I walked into the room 30 minutes early. Everyone involved in the trial was already there making final checks. Jake was there too. Beneath the front of professionalism, I could sense a mix of sympathy, ambivalence, and mostly frustration from my colleagues. Jake was right. People were unhappy. People wanted to move on to other patients. I could not blame them. We were like the nurse bees in the hive; only potential queen bees came to our team of neuroscientists, psychologists, doctors, and interpreters. We selected and nursed the best cases to be high-performing queen bees. With my mother’s case taking up 8 months of our time, we had lost many potential queen bees.
My mother was seated on one of the two chairs with a blanket over her. Her face was wrinkled and lifeless. I kneeled by her side, and for the first time in 13 years, I held both her hands.
“Ma, I know you are in there. Listen, you have to tell me everything you know about the red orb. You know, the time you used the V-Skin GX and created a red orb in the metaverse. I was 22 then. You told me how amazing the experience was and that the people loved it. But I was so angry with you, so angry at your betrayal of not keeping your promise. Why did you fixate on the red orb, the ‘flaming pearl’ as you called it…”
“Ma. Please tell me everything about the flaming pearl when we put on the V-Skin later. I want to hear it this time. Tell me all those stories like you always did when I was growing up, about all those adventures you had when you were traveling the world. I want to hear it! I really do. If you don’t, you are going to…”
At that moment, I could feel Jake’s eyes on me. I did not disclose everything I knew about the red orb to him after all.
I had nothing more to say. I walked to my seat and downed a glass of water. I grabbed the lightweight headwear with the words “V-Skin GX” printed on its side. I switched it on and placed it on my head. Instantly, emptiness enshrouded my senses while gradually, white light grew with a soft hum and a brewed coffee smell.
An angelic voice spoke, “Hi Professor Chang, welcome back to Blackbox 61 of Sosi Labs. Shall we pick off from where we left?”
I replied, “Log in a new case file, please. Name it ‘Oki Times.'”
“New case file, ‘Oki Times,’ created.”
And then, I imagined my childhood home, the olive green walls, the white wooden stairs, and the warm orange furniture. The colorful carpets and rugs and the smell of fresh tropical spices hanging in the kitchen. The background jazz music, and my tall and lean father who was always contented and easy-going. He was making tea, as always. On this day, a sudden and ceaseless storm appeared. These thoughts, my imagination, came to life in the metaverse. I took my seat on the well-worn orange sofa. With a thought, I transformed my avatar-self into a nine-year-old me and waited patiently for my mother to come home.
Jake, the department head, was in my office. We had both been silent for a while now, waiting for the other party to make the first move. He looked at me with the hint that at any moment then, a storm could break the clear sky. But I had applied a protective glaze over my eyes, one that masked everything within me from the outside world. No one could peer into my soul or my thoughts now.
He looked at the engraved nameplate on my desk:
CHANG MIN CHU, AMY
Without raising his eyes it, he said, “Professor Chang, it is about the comatose case that I wish to speak to you about.”
Jake was no more qualified than I was. But he was better with people, and he had the right pedigree in the organization. And so, from colleagues to superior and subordinate, we became.
“What about it, Professor Lim?”
“I am sure you understand; you have been in our star department as long as I have. We can’t allow a singular case to use up such an extensive amount of our resources and time.”
I nodded my head as understandingly and deliberately as I could. Jake was no longer a scientist or a friend; he had become a bureaucrat. Perhaps he was always a bureaucrat.
He continued, “Management is pressing.”
I replied, “If I may, I would like to put up a case for one more trial.”
“You do know we have done twenty-five trials. A first, for our department.”
“Yes, I am fully aware of that, and I would like to put up a case for one more.”
“You know, Professor Chang, given your relationship with the patient, there is a conflict of interest. I made the appeal myself to Management to have you lead this case because you are the best in the field.”
“Thank you, I am deeply flattered.”
My mother was the first human in a coma to be plugged into the metaverse. We discovered that deep in the recesses of her unconscious mind, there was still a conscious mind or in my contemplations, a soul. It could be brought to the surface, spoken to, in the metaverse. However, we learned too that experiences in the metaverse of a comatose human did not form memories. In other words, each time my mother entered the metaverse, it was like a fresh new player entering the game. She had no memory of her previous plays. Nonetheless, it was an apparent Nobel-worthy breakthrough, but there were other things at play here.
“I know what you are thinking, Professor Chang. We need more breakthroughs and faster. Else, we have to force a breakthrough.”
Jake’s eyes softened. I was caught off guard. He said, “As you are aware, the patient was brought in here because of the stories she created in the metaverse. At the heart of her make-believe worlds and characters is the red orb, or as she termed it, ‘the flaming pearl.’ The red orb is the key to cellular regeneration, rebirth, ‘rising from the ashes’ or so is the hypothesis we need to prove. The patient needs to tell us exactly where the red orb is in the physical world or how it can be made, else-“
Jake stopped abruptly in his tracks and hesitated as though something foul was in his mouth, and he could not speak of it. After looking away from my nameplate, he finally continued, “we would have to administer Anticreatine on the patient.”
“You can’t. The drug is still in clinical trials.”
“This qualifies for exemption. I have received the order to do so.”
“From who? You can’t. The drug would kill her.”
“Order has been given.”
“On what grounds?”
“Medical improvement. Exceptional medical improvement.”
My lips quivered. On what grounds for medical improvement? I ran through everything I knew about the situation and the drug. I held onto all the science, observations, and knowledge that I knew. And I understood right before Jake proceeded to explain.
“As you know, Anticreatine was invented to bring everyone back into the metaverse. It quietens the neurochemical change of brain cells to not go into ‘creation mode.’ When the brain is not in ‘creation mode,’ it cannot go into hyperdrive, metaverse-induced delirium, and all the negative stuff that comes with the metaverse. The brain retains all its other functions- memory, processing, decision-making, etc. It is less apt to create new thoughts, feelings, and actions. And so, Management would like to see if Anticreatine can ‘quieten the active mind of the patient, and by doing so, induce it to simply regurgitate everything it knows about the red orb.’ “
“How do you know what she created was even true? She’s a Genesis 0! Aren’t they known to be highly deceptive and great performers!”
I did not even believe in my words. Those were words of emotional Amy, not words of Professor Chang.
Jake smiled and said, “You know as well as I do that everything in the metaverse is almost fictional and that every creation in there stems from something accurate and factual. This organization was built out of stories from the metaverse. Stories that were distilled, crystallized to their truths, tested, and built out. That’s how we have the empathy drug, the sonic hearing aids, the superfruits, and now, we are on our way to having the rebirth drug. “
How could I argue against this? Dreams that turn into reality. Imaginations that propel the advancement of our kind.
“Amy, listen to me. I know this is hard, but the patient only has a 1% chance of waking up. You know what that means. With or without administering Anticreatine, her legacy to this world-”
“Give me one more trial. I will get the patient to share about the red orb.”
“Else, we proceed with Anticreatine.”
“Thank you, Amy.”
“You did not need even to come here today. So thank you.”
July 2019 On a quaint island off the southern coast of China
Hidden on a narrow alley of red brick buildings, away from the main streets and crowds, was a cafe with three carefully placed seats. A young woman of not more than 30 was quietly sitting in the center seat, planning her next adventure. She looked at a regional map on her iPad as she took another mouthful of her chai latte. Korea? Japan? How about Mongolia? Hmm, or maybe westwards?
She couldn’t decide, and she was happy with that. Her eyes sparkled, wandered, and roamed. She rested her eyes on the owner, Lili, who concentrated on her latte art. A wing appeared, and then another, and then a tiny head with a handsome body and long tail. She smiled. She has created something worthy, something tasteful.
Lynn exclaimed in Chinese, “Piao Liang!”
“You really think it’s beautiful?”
“Yes, very tastefully done! Now tell me, where do you think I should go next!”
“Hmm, let me see, you want to stay in China or somewhere else?”
Lynn chuckled, “I’ve been in China for quite some time now. Speaking of which, I’ve been on this island, in your cafe for the last 3 weeks. I am so ready for somewhere else.”
“Been there too.”
“What for? Only honeymooners go there. I know you love Korea but how about somewhere out of Korea? “
“Oh! How about Mongolia then! I remember you wanted to go see the Naadam Festival.”
“Good idea! No, wait, if I am going to Mongolia, I want to do a two-week kind of thing. It’s too expensive right now. No budget.”
Just then, a pair of Japanese tourists entered the cafe and ordered takeaways.
When they left, Lynn exclaimed with joy, “It’s a sign! Japan it is!”
Lili rolled her eyes, and as she went back to practicing her latte art, she suggested, “How about Okinawa? It’s the nearest to where we are and probably the cheapest to get there. Many of my friends have been there for holidays, and they found the place…interesting? They say it’s Japanese yet very Southeast Asian at the same time. Also, a bit like Fujian and Taiwan too.”
Lynn liked interesting places. She searched for Okinawa on her Google map, did a quick read-up on the location, checked for air tickets and accommodations, and smiled.
Dr. Kim’s clinic was painted a calming blue; her furniture and items were in a neutral color palette. And then there was that signature pop of magenta table lamp next to her seat. She smiled at me gently, eyes indiscernible of her thoughts. I fidgeted in my seat like the schoolgirl that I once was. I knew by now it was her way of prompting me to carry on with my speaking. I still felt self-conscious speaking to her, but I was willing to speak to her.
“The last we spoke was when I was 25. I went home during the holidays, and we fought. Nothing new there. I packed a bag and left. My mom wasn’t at my graduation either when I got my Ph.D. So, you can imagine how unexpected it was when I saw her case file in my intray last week.”
Dr. Kim put her pen down and smiled at me. The sort of smile you would expect from a proud mother to her beloved child. She said, “This is the first time, without my initiation, you choose to share about your mother.”
I could feel my face and ears flushing red. I gave a feeble smile and said, “I don’t know what to do.”
“When you think of your mother, what comes to your mind?”
“A horse comes to my mind.”
“Ya, a free-spirited horse, running ecstatically on the Mongolian plains, running with the wind, hair in her face, without a care in the world.”
“That’s nice. She sounds very carefree.”
“Ya, she was. She was eccentric and very intuitive. Very sharp, too, even when I last saw her. She was 60 then. Perhaps it was her gift or quality she honed from her travels. She could see through trickery and illusions in a heartbeat. I could not keep a lie from her.”
“How does that make you feel?”
“I felt powerless.”
“Ya, she was kind, so kind to everyone she met. People loved her. People loved her even more, when they experienced her stories in the metaverse. Her stories were so different, so unexpected. They caught people off guard, and people liked that. I did share previously she was a Genesis 0, well she was famous for her fantasy stories, but to her, those stories were true. They were not make-believes. “
“Tell me more about the stories.”
“I’m not sure where to start. There’s so many of them.”
“How does it feel to see your mother now?”
“I still feel powerless too.”
“But your mother is in a coma now.”
Dr. Kim’s words felt biting.
“Yes, I still feel powerless, in a different way.”