Whipman (C)

Yasuaki Shimizu / translated by Alfred Birnbaum

Steven Spielberg Dead—the headline tucked away in a page-three obituary column just about dumbfounded Satoru Izumo. It was too disheartening: to think the director merited a mere four lines, which only mentioned E.T. as his major work at that. And to make matters worse, in the upper right corner above the article, instead of a photo of the man himself was a picture of E.T.

“The sheer outrage! I thought it was bad that time for Paul McCartney, but this truly goes beyond common decency. Depressing or what, I swear! This makes it seem like he never did anything but E.T., doesn’t it? But what about The Color Purple? And who can ignore his ground-breaking cycle of Indiana Jones adventure spectacles? And then to go and print the wrong photo! If you didn’t know better you’d think it was E.T. they were talking about.”

Unable to contain his anger, Satoru flung the paper to the floor with a bang. Then shooting a sad glance at the framed album jacket of Michael Jackson’s Bad that hung on the wall behind the sofa, he heaved a sigh and trundled into his soundproofed study. After a few minutes of trying to get back into the song he’d been commissioned to write, he lost his mood for plugging away at the Macintosh. He halted his mouse and started leafing through an issue of IN & OUT/Entertainment Tokyo on his desk. Now over 1.5 million copies in print! This mature-reader’s trend magazine showed an ever-serious Brian Eno in profile on the cover and featured a seven-day coverage and exclusive interview—this he balked at—with Michael Nyman. But in flipping the pages, his gaze locked on the “Alternative Cinema” listings, where he eyed tidings of gooseflesh-raising good news and let out an overjoyed yelp. Starting today in Nakano they were running a Spielberg Festival! “Leave it to the good ol’ Musashinokan.”

Okay, he’d go soothe these complicated feelings inside him at the Musashinokan, or better yet, he’d offer his last respects to the director he’d worshipped all his movie-going life by inviting along as many friends as possible to the cinema.

Though after calling up a few close friends his ballooning spirits began to weigh down like lead. Virtually no one had the slightest interest, and still other friends he phoned actually snubbed him, reeling out a string of insults and hanging up unilaterally. One of them even went so far as to say he’d bill him at the end of the month for compensation for wasting his time so pointlessly. Unable to take this rage and disappointment standing up, Satoru returned to the living room and sprawled out on the sofa.

He regretted having done what he did, then he got mad at himself for regretting. He should have known better all along than to expect his friends to share his innermost feelings. They all wrote Satoru off as a fossil of an aesthetist, and even avoided getting into discussions with him. Prone to hauling out the likes of Michael Jackson and Spielberg at the least excuse for enlightening debate, he made himself an irksome presence. Even granted that these friends of his might register some tremulos of emotion, it was ridiculous to expect them to feel the same way he did.

Staring up at the ceiling thinking, contemplating suicide as usual, Satoru wolfed a melon-creme roll. “Good stuff this.”

When just then the phone rang. The owner of that lilting voice suffused with intelligence and other charms happily agreed to accompany him to the Musashinokan, on the condition of a meal together where she would quaff of his sentiments. He arranged to meet in front of the Musashinokan at 6:00 and she gently hung up the phone. Then he flashed a peace sign at the Bad album jacket.

“I’m leaving!” said Reiko, standing to go. Heedless of Satoru attempts to assuage her, she scooted up the aisle out to the lobby.

He knew Reiko was acting strange. Call it a signal in her voice, in her tranquil face that bespoke such knowing yet virginal sensuality. Just a shade younger than he, hers was a mature beauty graced by a singular perfection in body and mind, only she had one small quirk. Whenever she got worked up over something, her pert little nose would twitch.

The opening day screening of the Spielberg Revival was E.T. Reiko’s nose was already tensing by the time the title sequence came up. And as the minutes passed and the vibrations built in amplitude, her breathing grew harsh, until right before the scene where the boy and E.T. touch fingers the spasms peaked in an audible brfaaa! “I, I can’t take any more of this! You tell me it’s like the end of the world, so I think okay maybe I’ll come along today and try to encourage you a bit. But I’m sorry. I’m with the others, I just can’t go for these movies.”

Satoru felt a burning inside, but no, he would force himself to be calm and convince Reiko in a collected manner. Though by now she had already exited to the lobby. Satoru gave chase, but by the time he got to the lobby she was nowhere in sight. Satoru flew out of the cinema and searched for Reiko. Before the dark-stained old woodframe cinema hall, supported by marble columns carved with gods of the Greek pantheon, flashed the neon sign of the Sun Nakano Plaza, reputedly the biggest karaoke palace in the Orient. And there on their much-touted Auroravision® playing full blast was the latest promotion video of that German-born major chart artist Karlheinz Stockhausen. As the glowing images cut and seguéd, Auroravision® pixels mingled with the ceaselessly downscattering dust in the damp air, creating a gigantic moiré effect. Shifting shapes organically along with the music, it looked to Satoru like some impossible monstrous lifeform. These thoughts suddenly plunged him into a nasty funk and he found himself rolling between the ever-surging waves of music in an ugly seasick state.

Through his hazy consciousness he thought he saw Reiko’s red coat swaying off into the distance down the busy high street from the cinema, but that too was drowned out by the glare of the Auroravision®. Satoru dragged his half-warmed-over corpse aimlessly down the high street. But all he found was a Pachinko parlour broadcasting Bartok by loudspeaker.

Satoru kept walking. By now he didn’t know where he was or where he was headed and he didn’t care. All he knew for sure was that he had to keep walking; walking was all that sustained him. The sky, heavily overcast since that morning, gradually weighed deeper into sleet. Chill drops of moisture plastered Satoru’s face, turning his saddened expression into a tearful mess. Satoru took the hint and broke down and cried, his shoulders heaving with each sob. When just then in the back of his mind, floating up like foxfires, wasn’t that the E.T. boy and the heroic figure of Harrison Ford and Robert Shaw as the daring sea captain who sent Jaws to its watery death, had they come to urge him on? Wholly embracing their aid, he felt reasserted in the great power of love, charged once again with courage and inspiration. To think he had the talent to feel these things after having plumbed such negativity, he even felt pleased with himself. He gave his heartfelt thanks to heaven. The sleet turned into rain in his breath, his tears into crystals of passion.

As he walked on in renewed spirits through the now driving sleet, straightening his slouch and humming snatches of Dreams Come True’s “Wish It Would Clear,” he began to think he’d like to let others in on this uplifted feeling of his. It was then he recalled a cozy little “loft”-style bar nearby his apartment, and he turned his feet in that direction.

There, on the oak door to the smaller-than-remembered entrance, read the tiny letters:
Bar Catharsis

A narrow wood-floored passage led in to where some ten men and women sat quietly at a counter. The instant Satoru set foot down inside, every man and woman in the place turned around and shot him a piercing cold stare. It was the “Wish It Would Clear” he was humming. Satoru gave a faux-delinquent click of the tongue, demi-cool, then took a seat at the counter looking as if nothing had happened. The premises, however, remained dead still as if doused in ice water. The tense atmosphere stifled the least movement, but what was that to him? He called to the bartender to order a drink, then tried to make conversation.

“Hey, aren’t you playing any music tonight?”

The bartender’s face went blank. His eyes bore down contemptuously as he quietly pronounced—”Sir! This is John Cage. Or didn’t you know!”

Back at his Macintosh, Satoru had been grueling away for more than five hours straight since morning. His answering machine had stopped functioning, it was so bloated with messages, but he refused to push the <Playback> button. Just more how’s-it-coming-along? calls about this last composition, he knew. Under standard contract for ten years, he was stuck just under the wire to make quota, struggling over the very last song for more than seven weeks now. And the notion that should he not meet his deadline they would dock his retirement annuities to be automatically paid out over the next twenty years had him more than a little concerned. The fact that these annuities were set at twenty years meant he would only live for another two decades more or less after his contract came term. While the government only recognised labour rights for that fixed period of time, advances in high-speed computers and widespread multimedia had shortened that active labour rights period by four-month units. After concluding the term of contract you were expected to live out the rest of your life on retirement annuities alone. Legally speaking, only a chosen handful were permitted to extend their contracts. Still, no one had the least speck of insecurity about the future. The government had seen fit to endow post-contract life with all the free time in the world. The government encouraged intellectual pastime pursuits; the official literature they distributed allowed for wholesale “individual pleasures”, which proved an intoxicating fantasy for most people. Satoru had been one of the few to raise loud objections to the system, but next to no one cared to listen. There’d been a time when he poured his energies into trying to organise a movement or union centred on music, but had always met with solitary disappointment. Rebounding, he’d even considered by engaging a lawyer to try to extend his contract, but no one in the legal profession showed any understanding of art as he saw it, not enough to join in the fight to protect artist rights, not even overseas.

Much irritated, by the time 6:00 rolled around Satoru noticed his trusted electronic musical-scoring pen had run out of ink. The pen was a mail-order product from Service & Scala plc, and it took three days to get the ink by post. But since you could buy the ink directly at their store, tired as he was, Satoru decided to set out. He’d bought this last supply with the ink memory pre-set for the composition deadline date, so he had something to complain about in person anyway.

Service & Scala plc was a famous old mail-order company of eighty years standing. Although theirs was a fame that carried not a nanogramme of weight. Which is to say that since the advent of computer networks snail-mail-order was a useless thing of the past.

Its location was a short way off from the city centre amidst block after rigid block of identical tower blocks, on the tenth floor of an estate tower. On the inner panel of the heavy iron door left open on the third floor was a thick bronze plate engraved with the letters S & S and a trademark crest of sorts—a flexed arm and fist. Satoru announced himself at the entrance, but there was no answer. He stepped inside and called out again, and immediately a person sprang up from behind the custom-built gleaming black counter.

“Dreadfully sorry. Do come in. What might you be looking for, sir?”

“I called earlier. The name is Izumo.”

“Ah yes, the ink for the electronic scoring-pen, handscript extra heavy wasn’t it? Please be so good as to wait, will you, Maestro?”

The moustachioed thin little grouse of a man’s response was certainly polite enough; Satoru had no complaint about that, so he waited.

“Ah yes yes yes, frightfully sorry about the wait. Here we are, sir. We do know our product, don’t we, Maestro! It is the rare composer who uses these, I must say, yes? Well now, then. And is the composing coming along?”

The loquacious delivery shot at him so arrow swift, Satoru was speechless.

“Hear now, not put upon, are we? My my, really, oh ho. Can’t be bothered? Not a moment to spare, what! Please, I’m at a loss, Maestro! Perhaps just one? So as to let fly with another of your hits, like always!”

“Li-like always . . .? I beg your pardon, have we even met before? And more to the point, this ink ran out midway, didn’t it? What kind of pen is this . . . ?”

“Let’s not be fussy. Like they say, the pen does not choose the man—or how was it? . . . Well anyway, ha ha ha.”

Satoru vacillated. Never had he encountered such a buffoon; he was at a loss for how to deal with him.

“Though you know, maestro. For the ink to run out so quickly you must really have been burning down to the line, yes? We thought as much.” The little man murmured under an insinuating grin. “We understand. Once the DNA committed something to memory, it just doesn’t want to go back. Life is hard these days, yes? Even myself, I might add, sometimes you get to feeling so depressed you want to die. I can just tell. This feeling of yours, it deserves the greatest attention.”

Enough! Satoru was truly fed up. When suddenly a huge pulsing wave surged through his veins, his brain, exploding into an irrepressible impulse that struck to like a whack of a machete in the yard next door.

The little man was whispering in his ear. “Actually, just between you and me, there is a little product just made for the Maestro. I do believe it may prove a boon to you, sir, yes?” So saying he placed a catalogue roughly the thickness of an encyclopedia on the countertop and proceeded to flip through the pages. “Hmm, the WPM-IR45, was it? What we all like to call the ‘Whipman©’.”

On the page to which he opened, there stood an expressionless yet somehow willful looking 40-ish man in a tight-fitting blue three-piece suit, posed hand on hip, the picture of determination. In his other hand, an attaché case. Satoru’s first impression was that he’d opened to the men’s wear page by mistake—only the price listing him differently. Those eyes, were they angry or not? Whatever, the model looked super confident.

The catch copy read Works wonders on small bodies, our Home Hit Master (suit not included). There was even a seal printed HIT ITEM.

“Wha-what is this?”

“Before you say anything, what say we have a look? Much faster than my explaining, I assure you.”

Whereupon the man gave a theatric clap of the hands, and with nary a hairbreath of a pause, a screen to the back flew open and out dashed the same man from the catalogue, completely naked—except for some reason
his left hand still held that stout black attaché case. Planting the case on the floor, the man let out a sharp—


A statuesque Greek god of a man whose immaculately balanced form was trimmed of every waste ounce of flesh, his heroic skeletal frame supported an inverted triangle of bulging musculature and pumping veins. This invulnerable naked mass fairly gleamed in fighting readiness. The Whipman© turned to Satoru.

” So what you goggling at? The geese fly alone, the turtle turns to stone—get it? It’s like this turtle who sees these geese ‘n wants to fly too, but don’t know his own limits. That turtle’s you, chump! Hey, out with it. Say something! Oh and by the way, ever hear of the pleasure principle? Ain’t you in no hurry to speak, shrimp face? I can sees you don’t know nothin’, hmm? Alri-i-ight! Leave it to me to break you in, so how’s about let’s go grab some grub?”

” . . . er, yeah.” Satoru could find no explanation why he answered that way, but much to his own surprise he felt something akin to joy for even answering at all.

Presently the Whipman© turned his penetrating gaze on the little man and drew up close.

“Fork over those clothes.”

The very next instant, he’d stripped the little man perforce and with blinding hot speed had dressed himself. At that, the Whipman© grabbed the stunned Satoru and practically dragged him out into the street.

The now-denuded little man, his pale skinny body trembling and covering his crotch with the Whipman© manual that had dropped behind the counter, waved his other hand and shouted. “Maestro! Please bear in mind, the trial period is one week!”

His voice echoed from the tenth storey window down through the forest of tower blocks, rebounding time and again, then dissipating into the darkness whereabouts unknown.

“I ain’t slept in three days!” the Whipman© bellowed at Satoru, as they emerged from the bull-trademark Mansé chain restaurant after polishing off a beef sukiyaki dinner.

“You must be tired. Want to go home now?”

“It near here?”


“I’m askin’ is it near here? Your place.”

“Near is near, but really now . . . you must be joking. After all what happened today, I don’t know what to make of you. For one thing, you’re so damn pushy. First you strip the store clerk of his clothes, then you have someone else foot the bill for dinner. Enough is enough, I won’t have you around.”

“Life comes with risks. I’m amazed you survived till today without knowing that. So let me tell you, the thirty-eight years you’ve lived up to now weren’t nothing. A total waste,” declared the Whipman©, spitting out a decisive “ha!” as he smashed a streetlamp to bits with a blow of his fist.
“Enough of your nonsense and your violence. I’ve got a life of my own, you know. If I don’t finish writing that song by the deadline, it’ll play havoc with the rest of my life. I don’t have the time to be fooling around with the likes of you. I’m heading home alone. You can do what you what you damn well please.”

The Whipman grabbed Satoru’s arm with tremendous force.

“You still don’t get it, do you? Well look here. I’ll size up your life right here and now.”

The Whipman© opened the attaché case with his left hand and pulled out a calculator keyboard the likes of which he’d never seen, instantly stroking the keys with the fingers of his right hand. No sooner had he input whatever-it-was than the wide-screen screen display digitised out


“I just input your life, chump. This baby’ll crunch out the sum total of your existence up to now. If you wants to know, just hit ENTER and give a listen to the voice on the speaker.”
Satoru gave a nervous nod and pressed the ENTER key with fear and trepidation.


Once again, he pressed.


“What’s that? Is the thing broken?”

“You wish.” The Whipman© declared solemnly. “That is your life.”

Satoru turned the front door key and the Whipman© went in. Showing him to the bedroom, he returned to the living room, lit up a smoke and stretched out on the sofa. Turning to Michael Jackson on the wall, he began to relate all the misfortunes that befell this one day, when suddenly a loud growl interrupted.

“Oy! Hey! What’s going on here!” shouted the Whipman© as he invaded the living room and proceeded to move Michael Jackson’s picture. “Stop it! Anything but that! In the end, you’re no different than the rest of them, are you? You muscle your way in here to make me miserable. Now just stop it!” Satoru leapt to his feet and launched himself at the Whipman©’s legs.

“This here’s not quite straight.”

“The picture is supposed to be level with the floor. What’s more, hung up a little higher might bring a ertain harmony to the room.” Satoru was so thrown off, a vague reparteé was all he could manage as he plunked down on the floor.

“Oy! Satoru! Wanna drink a Post-Water?”

“Mm, er.”

“The fridge in here?”

“Please don’t go rummaging around in there!”

But the Whipman© just ignored him, flinging open the built-in refrigerator to scarf up a bottle and bottom up the whole thing in one go.

“Ni-ice ‘n cold. Mighty thirsty after that sukiyaki, mighty thirsty. Hey, what’s with the long face? Oh, I get it. S-sorry, you wanted some too, eh?”

“Not funny. This is not your house. This is my place. And I’m telling you, don’t go poking in my things without asking!” Satoru pronounced from the floor.

“Okay, then, think I’ll have me a guided tour, mm?” said the Whipman© as he forced his way into the studio.

Satoru’s workroom was a complex of wiring connections from various instruments to the computer and mixing console, the Macintosh table littered with jottings of ideas and misnoted scores, pens and pencils, a veritible stew of composition.

“Hands off the instruments and computer—absolutely! Promise me only that, whatever you do. You may be some kind of expert in brute force and that dorky calculator, but music’s my territory. That room is a sanctuary to musical creation!”

Taken aback by the head-on gravity of Satoru’s harranging onslaught, for once the Whipman© backed down into a chair by the piano and spoke slowly in a strangely calm and collected tone. “Tell me, Satoru. Do you really think creation can come from an environment such as this? First of all, how about let’s clean up this table. Granted creation means plunging oneself into chaos, but unless you maintain a constant distance from that chaos you’ll never create anything. To place oneself in an environment is to be at all times amidst the cool ambient air of the forest. The low sweep of the underbrush, the ageless giant trees that inkwash over the misted outlines of the hills, the bare discoloured branches. The sounds dropped from countless cells, the sweet springwaters that well up without cease. That is an environment. So let me just give you one important piece of advice. A warning. Here is where it all begins. Stay here, and it all sparks forth. Just listen, drink in the quietude.”

So saying, he realigned himself to the piano and gently tapped at the keys. What at first sounded like an aimless succession of randomly fingered notes gradually attained individual clarity, definition, and almost as if the piano began to breath rhythmically, now short now prolonged, taking on an ineffable life of its own. The empty spaces between notes, as each new vibration arose only to die away, traced away in arcs or again played out like strings of rosary beads. An azure realm such as no one had ever heard. He could listen on and on forever. Not even realising that what he was hearing was Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.

By the time the Whipman© woke up, the clock was pointing to past 11:00 in the morning. He went out into the living room, but Satoru was not around, so he tried the door to the studio.

Judging from Satoru’s expression, the painful agonising of up to yesterday had given way to a peaceful yet serious intensity. Satoru, headphones on and glued to the Macintosh, didn’t notice him enter at first. Until he turned to finger a keyboard by the door and instead touched upon the Whipman©’s gridlike stomach muscles, then let out a scream.

“Hard at it, eh? Alri-i-ight. So why don’t I rustle up some lunch!” Poked in the ribs and doubled over, Satoru observed out of the corner of his eye as the Whipman© exited to the living room.

From that day forward, the Whipman© cooked mushrooms. Why always mushrooms? Satoru asked, but all he would say was, “Don’t try to understand in words.” Thus, over and over again as if possessed, they were eating mushrooms, Satoru for his composing, the Whipman© to keep up his body-building.

Then came noon on the fourth day. After finishing lunch, the Whipman© addressed him. “So tell me, Satoru what’re you creatin’ for?”

“You don’t know? After three days and nights together? And me, without a moment’s sleep? Why do I whip myself to compose music like this? Deadlines and retirement funds have nothing to do with it. This is for art’s sake! That much you should be able to appreciate. At least I think I deserve to get that much recognition, from the likes of you.”

“You ain’t even seen a whipping yet. And your ‘art’, why it’s just KA-A, KA-A.”

“More of your wiseacre philosophizing! I really just don’t know what to make of you.”

“But y’know, Satoru, let’s say we got three guys here, you included. And we put down ¥50,000 right in front of you. Well, what’d you do?”

“Is this some kind of psychological test?”

“Don’t think too hard. So, what’d you do?”

“Well, let’s see. If it we’re up to me, I’d have us all play scissors-paper-stone, winner take all. A fair-and-square judgment, everyone equal and democratic. No complaints that way.”

“What if you took ¥10,000 for yourself, and split the rest between the other two guys ¥20,000 each? How’s about that?”

“Well, I uh—”

“Ever hear of Gandhi? Not gaijin—Gandhi. Well he had this to say, ‘All true art must aid the spirit if we are to realise the inner self.’ Get it?”

“What’s that got to do with sharing ¥50,000?”

“Before you go questioning, you need time to absorb things. Speaking of which, such good weather, why don’t I step out for a change?” And with that, the Whipman© grabbed up his attaché case in his left hand and flung open the front door with tremendous flourish.

Where the Whipman© was headed, Satoru had no idea, but after three days the city outside seemed bracing. Led on by the Whipman©, he had to walk at a faster clip than he was accustomed to, and perhaps for that reason he was not himself, not the same person he was up until today. He was infused with some fresh new sensibility. Was it the surroundings, had they changed? Or was something changing inside himself? All Satoru could tell was that the gears of his emotional tuning had shifted to a different speed.

The city was the same as ever—and yet, the Bartok blaring from the pachinko parlour was no longer so vexing. The sight of Brian Eno’s face projected from the huge Auroravision® may have depressed him just a tad, but he felt no antipathy. More than that, however, Satoru was surprised how much more animated everyone was than he remembered. Up until now, Satoru had preserved himself by shutting it all out, not a moment to spare for city-gazing. Now what met Satoru’s eyes was completely different to yesterday’s world. The proliferating ranks of city dwellers all bore the same purpose, each walking in a completely different direction. Gone were the ever-rewoven shadowings, those intricate patterns that once intermeshed like a clinging growth of ferns between the soaring melancholic forest of organic buildings. Though this made Satoru not a little sad. And he reflected on his own state of affairs.

The two of them walked on, entering a long tunnel that linked north to south. Expelled from the south exit through a crush of pedestrians into a shopping arcade, they were passing by a greengrocer’s when the kindly old shop-owner was heard to whistle a pop anthem by Brian Eno.

“Yas’m, thanks ma’am. Need the change or e-no?”

Satoru sneered at the poor grocer casting pearls before housewives. And in that very instant—


—barked the Whipman©, swatting Satoru to the ground with repeated slaps of his steel hands. Satoru’s field of vision froze like a snapshot, the passers-by and grocer reduced to a motionless glaze. It was all he could do to visualise some physical sense of what was what. It all transpired in maybe 1/10,000th of a second, but to Satoru it felt like an eternity.

Soon enough, however, the Whipman©’s face underwent a visible morphing from unbridled anger back to his normal composure, and he broke into a smile.

“Don’ mind, don’ mind.”

While Satoru was still reeling with hardly a second to catch his breath, the Whipman© turned and faced off into the distance as if magnetised.

“Oy! Satoru! Hear that?”

The Whipman© began to vibrate with alarming speed, as if his sensitivity voltage were turned up to the max. So strong were the Whipman©’s oscillations that his very silhouette blurred beyond recognition.

Whereupon, Satoru noticed, along came Reiko on her bicycle, ringing her bell so as to part the tides of humanity before she ran into anyone.

“Satoru. That sound. You gotta capture that sound. You can hear it, can’t you?”

This time it was the Whipman© who pleaded, crouching down to bolster Satoru upright. Up close, Satoru’s ears buzzed with the Whipman©’s vibrations.

“Quick! Get with it Satoru!”

“Sound? You mean the bell?”

The next thing Satoru knew, the Whipman© had leapt toward Reiko, or rather to the bell with ferocious speed. And suddenly, while Satoru looked on in momentary shock, a car cut across the road and rammed the Whipman© straight in the side of his torso with a grinding crash. Satoru ran toward the braking car.

Face down under the wheels, the Whipman© propped himself up on his arms and looked at Satoru. From his broken forehead pumped pulses of blood. Satoru crouched down on the spot, not knowing what to do, and wiped the Whipman©’s forehead with both hands. The blood ran from between his loving fingers and spilled to the ground, spattering away like red mercury.

“Satoru. No one else can intercede in a man’s death. This is the last truth left to humanity. Yes, but what about birth . . .?”

These were the Whipman©’s last words. Lying open beside the Whipman© was the attaché case, disgorged of its broken calculator. Inside the twisted calculator were two rectangular batteries, nothing more.

“This is nothing to be understood with the head alone. No, this is different: an extremely deep instinctual knowledge wells up suddenly from the pit of one’s gut. To see the earth as a pale blue planet floating far off in the void and think it’s revolving around the sun, while nothing I could comprehend intellectually, I could just tell there was a purpose to the flow and energy of the universe and time and space. Right then and there, I realised there exists an intuitive understanding that transcended all previous experience and reason. This universe cannot be explained merely as a random ping-ponging of haphazard molecular masses; there has to be something to it.”
—Edgar Mitchell, Earth: Our Mother Planet

The front door bell rang, and Satoru went to answer it.

“Service & Scala plc here. Were you satisfied with the trial period, Maestro? Oh, my, really now, don’t look so surprised. Indeed, well, yes—seeing as you, anyway, we took the liberty of bringing the contract with us today, yes?”

“Um, er.”

“Um, er, indeed. Mustn’t forget now, oh ho? So here it is, here he is,” said the little man, pointing to the giant figure outside the door.