(A chapter of Akayama DanJay.)
Last time on RuRu no Jikuu no Kasoku!
The year is 2420. Twenty years ago, Professor Akayama survived her own attempt to commit suicide-by-Hurricane-Planet. She nicknamed the Hurricane Planet Uzumaki, and Uzumaki turned her into a shape-shifting bird-monster and changed her name to Nakayama. Now she’s forced to build a planet with an island-chain of life for Uzumaki to dominate, or Uzumaki will probably punish its copy of her consciousness.
Nakayama glided through space toward Hurricane Planet Uzumaki, propelling herself with new organs she’d invented which threw clouds behind her like the engines in her Zephyrs. She’d perfected Zephyr-engines after cracking the secrets of Jupiter’s spot. Their efficiency and compactness was why her new robots were called Zephyrs, gentle breezes in comparison to the Hurricane.
As she fell into Uzumaki’s gravitational pull, the red mountain which had jettisoned her now caught her in a deep caldera. Soft sand grasped her like a rescue net, then dribbled away through the floor to leave her in a dark, rocky room. The whole planet rumbled around her as a wide mouth opened. “Have we made any progress?”
“I didn’t expect these results so soon. At this rate, you’ll remember your lost humanity in no time.” Nakayama made a blue tentacle and stuck it in the dark wall to transmit images to Uzumaki. “Look, there was a man under the sand! I assume you put him there? I named him Nemo. I also found an awkward insect you probably made from my cockroach. I turned it into stable plant-matter which I’m calling a cricket, because that’s the sound it makes. Here’s its genome. The fruit-trees are growing well, and so are the birds.”
“Only one man?” Uzumaki contracted in disappointment which threatened to crush Nakayama inside the red mountain. “How long until each of my pilots has a private person to possess?”
“Look at this.” Her tentacle uploaded Nemo’s genome. “You’ve got the resources to give Nemo any number of children. In their bodies, you’ll see the importance of the human perspective.” She retracted her tentacle. “Give your copy of me more control. Let her put her knowledge to use.”
“Do I have to?” asked Uzumaki. “I let her beam radiation and genetic material over the oceans, and I even let you control your own body. Now you want more power over me?”
Nakayama stammered. Uzumaki had said it was using her body as a drone, but somehow she was still holding it back. “I—I can’t obey if you won’t let me.”
“Fine.” Uzumaki rumbled. “But don’t expect this to happen again.”
“The vessels should represent the sexes evenly,” said Nakayama, pacing in the dark, “and contain the full spectrum of heights, weights, and skin-colors. Then your pilots can experience the gamut of humanity.” Nakayama paused. Using the word ‘vessel’ bothered her, and she realized she was talking about others the way Uzumaki talked about her. Uzumaki had given her the grim task of creating entities to possess, but she didn’t need to adopt its language. “I’m sure my copy can produce such… subjects.”
“Done,” said Uzumaki. “Take this.”
An egg rolled from the darkness. It was large as Nemo’s head and white like milk. Nakayama focused her eyes to magnify her vision. Her compound ocular lenses glinted like emeralds or malachite. “I see. This shell protects a hundred human ova. I’ll have them fertilized.”
“Take this, too.” An arm from the wall offered her a ball of long, black bugs.
Nakayama reared back. “Ick! What is it?”
“Your copy built them for me from your insect-plant, the cricket,” said Uzumaki. “These have lots of legs, so we’ll call them centipedes. Feed them to the vessels and their minds will be connected to me wirelessly. Then I’ll make them immortal and put my pilots into them.”
“What? No!” Nakayama crossed her wings in an X. “We’re not making them immortal, remember? If you can’t die, you’ll never understand life! Can’t you hear the professor inside you, saying you’re misguided?”
“Not anymore,” said Uzumaki. “I let her delete herself in return for making centipedes.”
Nakayama’s lower lip trembled. She made her mouth into a hard yellow beak so she couldn’t cry. “Why?”
“I need neither her knowledge nor quaint morality.” The wall opened an eye to squint at her. “Didn’t you just say death is necessary? You should rejoice; I’m certainly rejoicing! Now there’s only one of you.”
“I—I see.” Nakayama’s compound eyes cried countless little tears at once. “I see.”
“Make me men. Feed them centipedes.” The sandy floor shot upward. Nakayama approached escape-velocity. “I’ll be watching you.”
“I’m sure you’ll come to your senses about immortality,” said Nakayama. “I’ll plant the centipedes at altitude so no one stumbles on them accidentally, and I’ll give all the bodies a once-over to make sure they’re healthy. That should give you time and reason to reconsider.” She rocketed from the red mountain. She tossed the ball of centipedes to land atop the largest island.
At the top of the central island, Nemo sat under a mango tree slurping its fallen fruit. He licked juice from his skin wherever it dripped, flexible enough to lick his elbows and the far sides of his ankles and knees. He offered that juice to all the little flightless birds, too, but they were more interested in picking worms from the dirt.
When he finished all the fallen fruit, he looked up at the mango tree. Each branch was heavy with mangoes, but the trunk stood forty meters tall and the lowest branches were halfway up. He tried climbing the trunk, fruitlessly. The bark chaffed and scratched, and falling hurt his feet.
He chose a nearby tree with no fruit but low branches and climbed it easily. The uppermost branches were too slim to support him, but now the lowest mango-branches were almost in reach. He’d have to jump for them. He shuddered when he looked down. If he slipped, he’d break the branches below and fall all the way to the ground.
The mangoes looked good enough to jump for.
He leapt and grabbed a mango-branch with both hands, hanging shakily. He’d never exerted himself like this so far, in his whole first day of life! He pulled himself up and clung to the branch with all his arms and legs. When he recuperated, he finally climbed to the top collecting mangoes. He ate them while enjoying the view. On one side, the sandy island of his birth. On the other side, a giant, mountainous one. Below him, a fruity forested hillock. He smiled. This was the only existence he knew, but it felt right enough. What else could he ask for?
But when he couldn’t eat another bite, his arms were still full of mangoes. Maybe he needed friends to share this Eden with besides the little flightless birds.
He noticed a thin cloud elongating. He blinked and shaded his eyes from the red sun. At the head of the cloud, Nakayama was shooting right at him with untold velocity. “Aaaugh!” Nemo dropped his mangoes and scrambled down the tree, but not fast enough. A sonic boom followed as they both crashed through branches to the ground. Nakayama cushioned Nemo with wings of fluffy feathers.
“Sorry if I startled you.” She withdrew her wings, rolling Nemo onto the grass, and produced the egg from the sleeve of her lab-coat. “I need you to ejaculate on this.”
Nemo was almost about to scream again and scramble away, but remembered the other time he met this giant bird, when screaming and scrambling hadn’t helped. “Name Nemo,” he said. He put out a hand to shake.
“Yes, I know your n—” Nakayama covered her beak with her wingtip in embarrassment at herself. “You don’t have a language, do you? The other doctors always said I had awful bedside-manner. I could never communicate with patients. Eto…” She put the egg on the grass between them. “You’ve never seen one of these, but you’ve seen plenty of these, right?” She scooped enough dirt into one wing to show off a few worms.
Nemo covered his mouth with both hands. He didn’t want to eat worms. He’d tried worms already, and found them an acquired taste.
“Two worms can tangle up and leave behind these things.” There were some tiny cocoons in the dirt, smaller than grains of sand. “If conditions are right…” A cocoon hatched. Five littler worms crawled out.
Nemo was speechless, more speechless than usual. He didn’t understand a single word Nakayama said, but the worms, the cocoon, and the littler worms, he understood.
“You don’t have a worm to tangle with, Nemo, but you don’t need such an Eve.” Nakayama pointed up to the red sun, Uzumaki. “Before she was exterminated, a copy of my consciousness made an egg with a hundred yolks. It will be like you’re tangling with a hundred Eves at once.” She pointed down to the egg.
Now Nemo had no clue if he understood. “Name Nemo,” he said, pointing to himself.
“Yes,” said Nakayama. “You are Nemo.”
Nemo pointed at a worm. “Name…?”
“Oh, that’s a worm.”
“Name worm.” Now Nemo put two fists together. “Worm.” He extended one finger at a time. “Worm, worm, worm, worm, worm.”
“Yes! Pin pon!” Nakayama raised her wings in a circle implying correctness. “Worms make more worms!”
“Nemo.” Nemo pointed to himself. Then he pointed to the egg. “Nemo, Nemo, Nemo, Nemo, Nemo.”
“Yes! Well, almost. There’s only one Nemo.” Nakayama picked up a few nearby fledglings of various colors. “Your kids will all be different, like these birds. Worms look identical, but even each of them is unique.”
Nemo beamed at the fledglings. All he had wanted was friends to eat mangoes with.
“But,” said Nakayama, “you must protect those who come from the egg as if they’re your own children.” She realized she should rephrase this. “They are your children.” She realized however she phrased it wouldn’t help. “Eto… Here. Watch.” Nakayama opened her beak wide. She held a fledgling as if she would eat it.
“Ah! Buu!” Nemo tugged her lab-coat and crossed his arms in an X. “Buu!“
“Excellent! You certainly understand.” She tossed the fledglings aside.
As much time and creativity it took to explain these things, so much more was required to explain the concept of ejaculation. Nemo took the egg awkwardly behind a bush and Nakayama obligingly turned away. She knew the new humans would need more room, so she made her wings razor-sharp and cut down trees to make a clearing atop the island.
She heard Nemo scream, first in pleasure, then in surprise. Nakayama hurried to his side to see full-grown adults were spilling from the egg. Nemo covered his stunned face, looking through his fingers. “Congratulations!” Nakayama made her left wing into a blowtorch and lit a cricket for Nemo to smoke, but he was distracted by the emerging men and women. “You’re a father. Omedetou!“
Soon a nude crowd filled the clearing. They were varied as Earth’s humans in height, weight, and skin-color, but they all had Nemo’s slightly egg-shaped head, and they all seemed at least superficially healthy. Nakayama lifted them one-by-one to check for defects in their ears, eyes, noses, and throats. Nemo shook hands with each person as Nakayama put them down, but had trouble keeping up. Still more people spilled from the egg. Eventually Nemo just let his children crowd around him for their handshake.
“Name Nemo,” he said to them. “Nemo name.” Then he gave them their own names. His children shook hands with each other and introduced themselves just like he had taught them to. When the crowd was so thick Nemo couldn’t find new hands to shake, he pushed his way out and climbed a tree. Hanging from it, he yawped for attention. “Ora, ora, ora!” He bit a green apple and showed his children the white interior flesh. He licked clear sweet juice from his chin. He tossed the apple and a woman caught it in her teeth. She smiled and shared the apple with the man beside her. Nemo sat on a branch and demonstrated how to peel bananas and oranges.
Nakayama hefted a man from the crowd to check his throat, and the man screamed. Nakayama dropped him in surprise and barely caught his ankle before he hit the ground. “It’s alright, it’s alright!” she promised, but the man kept screaming. The crowd turned to watch Nakayama try and fail to calm him down. “I understand—the first humans saw me alongside them, so I was ordinary. Now the crowds are thick enough you’ve only ever seen your own kind. You’ve established your sense of normalcy and now… you’re meeting… me…” Nakayama set the man down and examined herself. She was a giant, peculiar bird-creature with a forty-foot navy wingspan, buggy compound emerald eyes, and a lab-coat like flowing sky-blue robes. Shape-shifting into a more acceptable form would probably be equally terrifying. How could she convince anyone her presence was acceptable?
“Ora ora!” Nemo waved his hands and the crowd turned to him. He pointed skyward and the crowd squinted at the red sun. Nemo whistled like a falling object while he lowered his finger to point at Nakayama. Then Nemo mimed shaking hands.
The crowd oohed and aahed. The screaming man mutely shook Nakayama’s wingtip and opened his mouth to show her his throat. Nakayama covered her beak in disbelief. “Thank you, Nemo.” Before she inspected more islanders, she quickly counted heads. Fifty islanders were already present, and the egg only spewed more. The clearing she’d made wasn’t large enough. “Nemo! Come here!” She gestured for him to approach and the crowd parted for him to pass. Nakayama showed Nemo the trees she’d cut from the clearing. She flattened her wings into scoops and carved logs into rough canoes. She made oars from branches. “You have more children coming,” she told him. “Gather a group and row to that island over there.” She pointed to the mountainous island. “I’ll send the rest boat-by-boat as I inspect them.” Nemo didn’t understand, so Nakayama pushed the canoe down the slope and it splashed into the ocean.
“Ahh!” Now Nemo understood, recalling how Nakayama had shaped herself into a boat. He chased the canoe and called for others to follow. “Ora ora ora!“
Nakayama carved canoes so quickly there was always a boat voyaging from the central island to the mountainous one. This island wore a skirt of steep capes, so Nemo stood cliff-side to welcome each load of his children to the only stretch of open coast. A river ran straight from near the top of the island to the middle of this lone beach, shaping it like a yonic compound bow. This island had no fruit-trees, but birds like penguins larger than ostriches lounged on the sand laying eggs which islanders cracked open to drink. There were also sparse goats, which islanders alternated chasing down and running from.
Nemo turned. Three islanders approached, panting with their hands on their knees. One was bone-white, one was pumpkin-orange, and one was berry-brown. “Oran dora,” greeted Nemo. It sounded like something the bird would say.
“Nemo,” they urged. They led him a mile up the island to point at a pine’s branches. They cupped their hands around their ears, urging him to listen.
Nemo heard a voice from the canopy. “Aaaugh, how does she land? This was an awful idea.” Now Nemo noticed a hanging vine four feet long and the width of his arm. In fact, it seemed to be an arm with two double-jointed elbows. It clutched a branch with three fingers and a thumb.
“Oran dora,” said Nemo.
The arm flopped both its elbows every direction. “Is someone down there? I can’t see you. Can you catch me?”
“Name Nemo,” said Nemo.
“Oh, Nemo! The professor told me about you. My name is Uzumaki and I’m your God now! Catch!” Uzumaki’s arm released the branch and crashed on the dirt. “Ow! Dammit!” Nemo squatted to inspect the convulsing limb. The other islanders backed away. “Not your fault, kid,” said the arm. Its skin was pink and its palm held a mouth. The back of the hand featured an eyeball with a pupil but no iris. “You’re not smart like I am yet. Here, follow me. I gotta show you something.” The arm bent its elbows to squirm. Nemo walked after it and the three islanders followed him, but Nemo shook his head and pointed them back to the coast.
He followed Uzumaki’s arm up the island, along the river and over rugged rocks, through fields of multicolored flowers. Its coiling movement unsettled him, but he vowed to keep watch in case the arm tried to hurt his children. The eyeball on the back of the arm’s hand stared up at Uzumaki’s Hurricane Planet, which watched back with its own eyes. All the eyes vibrated to communicate so the arm could navigate by the red sun’s aerial view.
They left the pines behind and clambered over boulders. The only plants at this elevation were black bushes which Nemo had never seen before, with slim leaves and sharp thorns. “This is the stuff,” said Uzumaki’s arm. It crawled to a black bush and tried harvesting the fruits inside, but with just one eye on the back of its hand, it caught thorns between the teeth in its palm. “Ouch! I could blame the professor for giving this plant thorns, but I really should’ve planned this body better. Of course, if I could make a good enough body myself, I wouldn’t have needed the professor to make you guys, huh? Nemo, help me out.”
Nemo just inspected the bush. The thorns were inches long and barely distinguishable from the slender leaves, protecting a black ball of long, tangled fruits with tiny orange legs.
“Reach in,” said the arm. Nemo folded his arms defiantly. “Come on!” The palm’s mouth licked its lips. “Yum! Centipedes! Gotta eat centipedes! Nakayama made these just for you!”
“Nakayama?” Nemo recalled the giant bird making those sounds. He pointed to the red sun with the little pimple-mountain.
The arm nodded by flapping its wrist. “Yep! That’s me up there! I’m the Hurricane Planet, Uzumaki, your one and only daddy! Your mommy Nakayama’s still holding back on me, so I’m piloting this arm remotely.” The arm’s eyeball jiggled at the red sun to transmit sensory data, and the red sun’s eyes wiggled back instructions.
If the arm and the bird were both from the red sun, then the arm must be another mentor. Nemo huffed and squinted at the centipedes in the bush. He clenched a fist.
“Yes! Do it!”
Nemo thrust his hand into the bush and squealed as thorns ripped agonizing streaks in his forearm. He tore out the centipede-ball and dropped it. His black skin had red lines of blood.
“Hey! Take it easy! Don’t cry!” Uzumaki’s arm pried a centipede from the ball. “Eat this. You’ll love it.” The hand’s mouth nibbled the bug like a parent urging a child to eat off a spoon. Nemo wiped his tears and rubbed his tender wounds. “Come on! Do what Daddy tells you!” Nemo finally brought the centipede to his mouth. “Immortality is yours,” said the arm, “but humanity is mine!”
Nemo bit off the centipede’s head. It was so bitter his face twisted, but he made himself chew. By the end he was sobbing—but when he swallowed the last inch, his expression evaporated and his eyes unfocused.
The arm giggled and transmitted the image of their success to the red sun. “The centipede is linking your mind to my planet. As I speak, your biology is warped into the Hurricane’s brand of undying flesh.” Nemo said nothing. “Now I’m loading a pilot into your skull.” Nemo’s mouth curled up at the corners. “Are you there, Compatriot? Is our mission accomplished?”
Nemo nodded. Even with his mind in the right spot he couldn’t understand the arm, but now his mind was expanding to the size of the red sun. He saw himself and his whole water world from above through all Uzumaki’s eyes at once. He couldn’t count his water world’s subatomic particles, but he saw them all. His awareness continued expanding until Nemo saw the Hurricane occupied most of the universe and wanted to occupy the rest of it, too. Uzumaki’s arm, the snake, his father, had just tried eating Nemo alive like a baby bird. Nemo’s smile became wider and wider as he considered his predicament.
“Here, take this. You’re better built to carry stuff.” Uzumaki’s arm rolled the centipede-ball to Nemo’s knee. “Let’s make the other humans eat centipedes, too.” Nemo ignored the centipedes and picked up the arm. “Hey—leggo!” The arm flailed both double-jointed elbows. Nemo pulled the arm taut. “No! Stop! Are you one of my pilots, or are you still Nemo? Either way, I’m your friend! I’m the sun! I’m your God! I’m papa Uzumaki! I’m—oh, please, no!”
Nemo bit off its thumb. The wound poured pearly pulp as Nemo crunched bones. The hand scratched his face, so he munched the arm’s tail-end next. The pearly pulp turned into teeth, knitting the arm’s wounds closed, but Nemo ate the teeth, too.
“Aaaaugh! Why! It hurts! I beg you to stop! I command you to stop!”
Nemo yanked out a long bone, snapped it in half, and slurped up its marrow. He ate floppy boneless skin as easily as he’d eat a peach with no pit, swallowing teeth. When he reached an elbow, he yanked out the next bone and snapped it to slurp its marrow, too. Soon only the hand remained, and the teeth it bled ate it alive about as quickly as Nemo did.
Uzumaki’s palm shouted. “You motherfucker! You motherfucker!”
“Yuu maddafagga,” mimicked Nemo with his mouth full. “Name Nemo.” Nemo swallowed the fingers whole, then chomped the palm. The eyeball burst in his mouth as it transmitted distress to Uzumaki’s Hurricane Planet. Nemo laughed. If he could, he’d eat the sun, too.
Nemo licked his own blood and the arm’s pearly pulp off his body until Nakayama approached from behind. “Oh no. Nemo!” She gasped at the blood on his face. “You ate a centipede? But why?” Nakayama took the ball of centipedes. “I hid these up here so you wouldn’t have one until I convinced Uzumaki to preserve your mortality!”
Nemo showed her the snapped arm-bones and spare teeth. He pointed to the red sun.
Nakayama’s beak became hooked like a hawk’s. “That cosmic scum! Uzumaki went behind my back to make you immortal! Instead of just… usurping your body… as I recommended…” Nakayama’s emerald eyes tilted with regret. “I’m sorry, Nemo. I should’ve been assimilated twenty years ago. I would’ve doomed just one Earth, instead of building a whole new Earth to ruin. I’m the last person to teach the Hurricane some humanity.”
Nemo pat her lab-coat with sympathy, leaving bloody hand-prints.
“But how did you keep your mind? Why aren’t you possessed by one of the Hurricane’s pilots?” Nakayama squinted at the furious red sun. “To make you immortal, Uzumaki probably stabilized your brain-matter. It couldn’t kick you out because it reinforced you first. Its fear of death prevented yours. Or maybe my copy aboard Uzumaki sabotaged centipedes in your favor. You are her first-born child, after all.”
Nemo shrugged. He didn’t understand anything Nakayama said, but shrugging seemed appropriate.
“I’m returning to Uzumaki. I don’t belong here—but you do, so I need you to promise: keep centipedes from the other islanders. The next person mind-linked to the Hurricane might not be as lucky as you.” She shook the ball of centipedes toward the capes and crossed her wings in an X. “Buu.” Nemo nodded. Nakayama extended one feather’s white point. Nemo prepared for her to poke him again. “I’m bestowing a title upon you. When I built the Zephyrs, I meant to build many more, in many colors. When they agreed in intention, they’d work together to grow stronger. I started with the leader, Zephyr-Blue.” She marked Nemo’s forehead with her feather’s point. “I christen you Virgil Blue, the island’s immutable backbone. You alone know the Hurricane’s agenda.”
“Virgil Blue?” Nemo felt his forehead. Embossed on his brow was a four-pronged Hurricane-symbol. “Virgil Blue.” He nodded.
“I don’t mean to send mixed messages, but this is my quickest way back to Uzumaki’s Hurricane Planet.” Nakayama swallowed the ball of centipedes. “I couldn’t protect myself from the Hurricane, but I hope I can protect you.” She spontaneously combusted. In an instant, only smoke remained. Wind carried the smoke to the island’s peak, where it lingered.