(A chapter of Akayama DanJay.)
The year is 2024.
Dan paused the anime at the commercial-break. “Virgil Blue?”
“Mm-hm?” Virgil Blue looked at him through his silver mask. Dan’s quarters were so small, the two had to sit close together on his mattress.
“I’ve never seen you without that mask.” Dan showed Virgil Blue the cover of this year’s volume of LuLu’s. The night above a landscape-shot of the islands featured a transparent image of Nemo’s upper face, with the lower half, nose-down, being below the ocean’s horizon. His eyes, wide apart, were crossed to focus on Hurricane Planet Uzumaki behind the transparent Hurricane-symbol on his own forehead. “Do you actually have that mark on your forehead, or did Tatsu make it up for LuLu’s?“
Virgil Blue nodded. “Don’t ignore elephants. Do you think the mark looks like a swastika, Danny?”
Dan felt shot-down, but was still convinced he had an opening into Virgil Blue’s identity. The real elephants were hiding behind that silver mask. “I suppose it does, a bit. Swastikas are just simple spirals a child could draw, so you can find them buried in basically any pattern. They recur in different eras and areas: Hindus, Buddhists, the Norse, and American Indians all had their own swastikas, another example of sharing worms across time and space. Of course, after World War II, most groups have put the swastika away.” Dan finished annotating the volume’s last pages. “I think I understand your context, Virgil Blue. Take off the mask. Show me what the Biggest Bird carved on your forehead.”
Dan dropped his pen. He gave Virgil Blue the annotated volume of LuLu’s with shaking hands. “Please.”
“Oran dora, Danny. Oran dora.” He put the volume up his navy sleeves.
“I’ve met people with swastika tattoos before, Virgil Blue, and I don’t think you’re quite like them.” Dan clasped his palms together. “I want to meet the Nemo behind the mask.”
“Do you want Captain Nemo?” Virgil Blue lightly bopped Dan’s head with the black spots around his cane’s gnarled tip. “Or do you want Odysseus?”
“I want—” Dan was tempted to say he wanted LuLu’s Nemo, Tatsu’s Nemo, but even that wasn’t right. “There’s only one ‘no one.’ You, Virgil Blue. Who are you?”
“Maybe next year, Danny.” Virgil Blue stood up, shaking. “Maybe next episode, maybe next volume.”