child reading book with mother in garden

Amy | Future Past

“Those were my memories.”

“But how? How did you recreate your memories in the metaverse? It was almost documentary.”

June 2050

Instead of busying myself with extra credit courses and internships for this summer break, I decided to come home. Mother was distressed when we last spoke. She was not someone to worry about. I knew she wanted me home too, which I found ironic given her free-spirited nature and tendency to travel spontaneously.

I got home on a redeye flight. We had brunch, and then she took out a newly bought V-Skin Generative X., Also known as V-Skin GX. Oh yes, mother was into new gadgets. She liked to buy stuff too. She told me that the latest V-Skin was intuitive. In her words, “it almost has a soul.”

The earlier versions of the V-Skin were in glasses and contact lenses. Users put them on and accessed the metaverse. But the V-Skin GX had taken it to a whole new level. It was a lightweight headwear that connected to the user’s brain synapses. You did not even have to speak or make any hand gestures to turn it on or navigate the metaverse. You simply talk with your head and enter the metaverse with your mind’s eye. How cool is that! I know, right?

So mother told me to put on the V-Skin GX and watch the replay of a story she created. I put on the gadget and accessed our family’s virtual house. A five-year-old girl was sitting in a corner, flipping through books.

I was amused. “Is that you?”

“Just watch it.”

“Alright…”

She was reading voraciously. They were introductory encyclopedias, and the girl was consumed by the contents. She was reading a book on volcanoes and then another on deep-sea creatures. The next book she read was on ancient civilizations, and then a book on food cultures. Finally, she found a book on ancient china within the piles of books. She loved it instantly. She savored every page of it and hugged it.

And then, she beckoned me to follow her into a room next door. I followed her and watched a family gathering take place. The girl showed her prized book to her relatives. Surprisingly, she received snide comments. Someone mocked her, “Why are you so cheena?” The girl looked confused, ashamed, and disappointed.

I asked my mother, who was quietly waiting outside the metaverse for me, “What does cheena mean?”

No reply. The story continued. The girl grew older, and she always found herself cornered by the voices around her:

“You like Chinese? Seriously?”

“Eeeyur, I can’t speak Chinese.”

“You like Chinese culture?”

“Why are you so cheena?”

“Why do you want to go to China?”

“Why are you so cheena?”

“China is so dirty!”

“Why are you so cheena?”

“Why are you so cheena?”

“Why are you so cheena?”

“Why are you so cheena?”

The story ended; I put down the V-Skin GX and wanted to give my mother a hug so badly.

“What does cheena even mean?”

She replied softly, “It means someone from China or someone very Chinese influenced.”

“I know we are Singaporeans but aren’t we Chinese? At least ethnically? Aren’t our relatives all Chinese, and from what I can see, your schoolmates are Chinese too? Mum, that story was so real. It can’t be a figment of your imagination, can it? I know you are a great storyteller but… I am not even sure if I can call that racism because those nasty people are Chinese themselves! But if it is not your imagination, then-“

“Those were my memories.”

“But how? How did you recreate your memories in the metaverse? It was almost documentary.”

“I don’t know. I put on my V-Skin GX, and what I thought appeared right before me. Some of what I thought I did not even realize. It was like they float up from my subconscious. I was hoping you could tell me since you major in these things in school.”

I looked at the V-Skin GX carefully. “I don’t know. I don’t even think my professors know.”

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