Dan’s Annotations 1

(A chapter of Akayama DanJay.)

The year is 2021.

Dan paused the anime-episode on his smartphone during the end-credits. He smiled as he wrote notes between the manga’s panels: without legs but flying on steam, the Zephyr looked like a djinn. It would eventually have more limbs than anyone could count, but along the way, the robot would be reduced to less than a head. Thankfully the light of the full moon was enough for Dan to read and write without a candle.

Oran dora, Danny.”

Dan whipped around. The shiny circle in the window was no moon: the silver mask peeked into his quarters. “Virgil Blue!”

“Is that a phone?”

“N—” Dan was tempted to hide the smartphone under his mattress, but knew the Virgil’s vision was dominating. He’d certainly seen it. “It is. I’m sorry, Virgil Blue.”

“Sorry for what?”

“For the phone!”

“Phones are allowed in Sheridan.”

Dan froze and shook at the same time. “Even for monks in the monastery?”

“Even for monks in the monastery. Sheridan has three rules and none mention phones.” Virgil Blue realized Dan’s embarrassment. “I suppose there’s no rule about worrying there are actually more rules. Would you open the front for me, Danny?”

“Of course!” Dan put his phone up the sleeve of his robe and slid open his orange paper door. The monastery’s halls were marble-white, but Dan passed tapestries of every color outside other monks’ quarters. He pushed open a heavy wooden gate. “What were you doing out at night, Virgil Blue? Collecting centipedes?”

“Peeking in your window,” he said. “What were you doing with your phone?”

Dan swallowed as he shut the gate again. He was never sure if Virgil Blue was naturally so unsettling, or if his persona was specifically crafted to put him on edge. “LuLu’s had a TV adaptation, an anime. I’ve been watching it while I read the manga to gather perspective for my annotations.”

Virgil Blue followed Dan back to his orange quarters. “You’ll need to turn the volume down a little. The monk in the quarters next to yours told me she heard voices from your room neither English nor Sheridanian.”

“Sorry, Virgil Blue. It’s in Japanese, with English subtitles.”

“Then I should be able to keep up with it.” Virgil Blue closed the sliding paper door behind him with his cane. “Begin the next episode.”

“Really?” Dan blushed. “I’m already embarrassed you let me annotate my favorite stupid giant space-robot manga. If you saw the anime, I think you’d disown me.”

“Danny, Sheridanian monks have annotated toilet paper Marquis de Sade penned in the Bastille, and I have read those annotations. At least LuLu’s hasn’t featured sodomy so far.” Virgil Blue took an achy minute to sit beside Dan on the mattress. “I knew you were the one to annotate LuLu’s the moment you remarked combining-mechas are a metaphor for society, the body, and the mind all at once. What happened in the previous episode? I couldn’t make it out through your window.”

“You came at a weird time,” said Dan. “Lucia—“

Princess Lucia?”

Dan hemmed and hawed and waved a hand. “As daughter of an elected official, she’s not really a princess—but she abandoned earthly luxury and put herself in danger to fight for the sake of her people, so who could be more worthy of the title?”

“Half the fathers in Sheridan call their little girls Princess,” said Virgil Blue. “Anyone can call anyone anything.” Dan hesitated to reply. Virgil Blue’s last line reminded him of his father. He reconsidered: everything reminded him of his father. “Is something wrong, Danny?”

“I guess…” He stretched for something to mention which would get the conversation back on giant anime space-robots. “My friend Beatrice really liked Princess Lucia. She… Beatrice died before she could watch this far. It’s weirdly fitting, because Lucia is about to die, too, between episodes.”

“Oh!” Virgil Blue covered his heart with a sleeved hand. “I thought she was one of the main characters!”

“She was the main character, for a while. But sometimes these episodic stories have time-skips where the author jumps the plot ahead. Characters might change in expected or unexpected ways, or be gone and replaced completely.” Dan rolled his thumb over his phone’s screen to scroll to the next episode. “Tatsu had the gall to skip twenty years of LuLu’s and kill characters off-screen, then circle back to view those twenty years from another perspective.”

“How chaotic and disjointed,” said Virgil Blue, “like man’s own clarity only in Tralfamadorian hindsight.”

“It’s pretty predictable something unpredictable is about to happen,” said Dan. “Akayama, Bunjiro, Charlie, Dakshi—before now, the Zephyr’s pilots were alphabetized by rank! When Akayama retired and brought Lucia onto the team, the story finally started. It’s the flawless order at the beginning of a creation-myth disturbed by the disruption of non-duality. As you’d put it, the Mountain is undivided. The world we worm-vessels experience is the illusion of the Mountain’s division until we find the whole Mountain within us.”

Dan was about to start the next episode, but Virgil Blue poked the phone out of his hands with his cane’s gnarled tip. “You can’t say something like that and not expand with citations,” said the Virgil. “You won’t annotate LuLu’s so lazily, will you?” Dan rubbed his hands and shuffled through books he’d stacked in the corners of his quarters. “Without a book, Danny! Think of a creation-myth. Show me the Mountain reflected in you.”

“Um.” Dan sighed and sat with his arms crossed. If he knew he’d be asked to defend his thesis-statement, he would’ve saved it for an essay. “The Egyptians said Atum created himself from the infinite lifeless ocean of primeval chaos. It’s a bit of a backwards example, but boundless uniform chaos is a flawless order, too, isn’t it?”

“Not bad,” said Virgil Blue, “but consider this angle.” He knocked a book off a corner-stack with his cane and it happened to open at the right page. “The Tao Te Ching says, in the beginning, the featureless and unchanging Way gave birth to unity, which gave birth to duality, which gave birth to trinity, which gave birth to everything else. Every worm implies the whole Mountain for the same reason Indra’s interconnected web of jewels is reflected completely in its every jewel. In Sheridanian terms, starting a reality is like cracking open a perfectly good egg.”

“An egg full of worms.” Dan started the episode. He usually skipped the bone-shakingly triumphant theme-song because it roared in the background of epic fight-scenes anyway, but he let it play for Virgil Blue.

“What’s that?” Virgil Blue poked the screen with his cane’s gnarled tip, pausing the episode, and Dan dropped the phone. “Oh. Sorry.”

“It’s alright.” Dan picked up the phone again. LuLu’s theme-song was paused looking at Akayama’s control-panel. The professor had a desk-toy, an odd decorative head, black, mustachioed, with one pupil. “It’s a daruma, a sort of Japanese doll. It represents Zen’s Bodhidharma, who meditated in a cave until his arms and legs fell off. Professor Akayama filled in one pupil while wishing to neutralize the Hurricane, so she’ll fill in the other pupil when the wish comes true.”

“That wish seems less likely every episode,” said Virgil Blue. “I thought daruma were red. Why is this one black?”

Dan’s jaw dropped a bit. If Virgil Blue knew what a daruma was, why had he even asked? He clearly wanted to pry Dan’s understanding. “Daruma come in lots of different colors, but you’re right, red is most common. A red daruma would look like a Hurricane Planet, though, so they probably aren’t popular in this fictional future. With the solar system orbiting the black hole at the center of the galaxy, maybe black is the contemporary color of the era.”

Virgil Blue nodded. Dan shivered at his undisclosed facial expression behind the silver mask. “Start the episode, Danny.”


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