Only in Chaos Are We Conceivable
Ryu Fukuyama had just finished cleaning glasses and was ready to shut off the lights when Detective Sakamoto stepped through the entrance.
“Closing time,” Ryu shook his head. “I just saw the last customer out a while ago.”
“Fortunately for me, I’m not looking for a drink,” Jay flashed the metal badge that he had tucked away in his shirt pocket. “I’m Detective Sakamoto. I assume you’re Ryu Fukuyama. I need to ask you a couple questions.”
“Sorry, detective. Can this wait until tomorrow?” Ryu begged. “My wife’s in labor at the hospital. She should be delivering in a couple of hours and I want to be there.”
“I’ll try to make this quick,” Jay replied. “There’s been a death at the apartment up the block here. A professor, Dr. Tasha Eichenbaum. Got a tip in my pocket here that says you might know something. The situation's a bit on edge, so I'm afraid I need to take your statement tonight.”
Ryu froze. Melancholic emotions swelled inside him, and his chest felt tight. There was also that split moment where he contemplated bolting into the kitchen, through the back door, down the narrow damp alleyway, and then escape on his motorcycle.
But he suppressed the instinctual urge. He reminded himself that he had watched too many police dramas. Furthermore, what did he have to be scared of? He was no murderer and had been working all day and evening at the bar. A secure alibi. Most importantly, he knew the professor. They were well acquainted.
“Yeah. I knew Tasha,” Ryu addressed the late professor by his first name. “He’s. He’s dead? How?”
“It’s what I’m trying to figure out, Ryu. Hopefully it was just the mercy of old age, but I just need to ask you just a couple questions. Anything you know might be helpful.”
“Yea. Sure. Okay,” Ryu nodded, finding it hard to form words. “I’ll. I’ll go brew some tea in the back. Just give me a few minutes.”
“Sounds great,” the detective smiled. “I’ll be right back then. You don’t mind if I bring the other detective in here, right? Just fetch him a glass of water.”
A few minutes later, Ryu sat looking bewildered across from the detective and his cat. Three coasters, two cups of hot jasmine tea, and a glass of lukewarm water had been passed around the table. The detective had brought in a diminutive notepad and was already scrawling a few notes with his black pen. Dojo sat upright on the table and calmly licked his glass of water at even intervals. It was only when the large cat looked up from his water and meowed that Jay looked back up at Ryu.
“Alright. Let us get started,” Sakamoto lift his eyes from his notebook and took a sip from the tea. "So."
“Wait a second, wait a second,” Ryu pointed at Dojo and raised an eyebrow. “I just wanna make sure. He’s the other detective?”
“Yeah. What, do you see anyone else in here?” Sakamoto pretended to looked around. “Hello, other detective? Hello. Hello! Anybody else here? See? Now show Dojo some respect. You’re going to want to be on his good side.”
The bartender started to think that maybe he should have made a break for it.
“Back before, you said you knew the professor,” Sakamoto began. “What was your relationship to him?”
Ryu took a deep breath.
“The short story is that Tasha saved my life,” Ryu explained. “Now, the longer version of the story is a bit more complex...”
Jay took another sip from his cup of tea and then set his pen to the page.
"Go on," the detective said.
“Alright. Well for starters, I’m sure you’ve heard of the Fukuyama Incident?” Ryu started. It was rhetorical. Everyone had heard of the incident.
“I’m aware of it,” Sakamoto rubbed his chin. “So your last name, Fukuyama. I’m assuming that’s not a mere coincidence?”
“If only,” Ryu unconsciously rubbed his organic arm against his metallic one. “The head engineer at Fukuyama Industries was my brother. He developed the first line of cybernetic implants. The ones that caused the incident.”
“And where were you at the time?” Sakamoto glanced over at Dojo, who was licking his front paws. Maybe the cat had gotten some dirt in them when they were walking down the street earlier. Jay scribbled some more.
“I was a mess and didn’t have my life on straight,” Ryu admitted. “It might be weird coming from a bartender, but a long time ago I drank. Too much, I mean. Now I just serve. But back then, I did terrible things to my wife. I had gotten so much pressure from everyone around me. They just all had so many expectations, and I felt like I couldn’t deliver. It’s hard to get into specifics, detective. My memory from back then is a little hazy.”
“Sure, sure. I get that,” Sakamoto reassured softly, eyeing the way Ryu clutched his arm. “So you had trouble with alcohol. Did you run into any major health complications?”
“Ha! That’s putting it lightly,” Ryu laughed bitterly. “I had all the usual traumatic events that they warn you about very early on. Kidney failure was the first time I had received a cybernetic transplant. My brother paid for that.”
“So your implants are all from the Fukuyama line?” Sakamoto scrawled another line then flipped the page loudly. Dojo was licking his paws again.
“Yeah, but I just used the new implants as an opportunity to drink more. I had a nasty car accident, got my left arm, and then went to therapy after that. After a few months, my therapist thought I was on the road recovery. I relapsed a week later.”
“That’s fairly typical. Then what happened?”
“I had a wake up call,” Ryu took a deep breath and sighed. “Actually, it wasn’t much of a wake up call. One day I just woke up and everyday became the same.”
“Everyday became the same?”
“Yeah, everyday became the same,” Ryu repeated. “The doctors, Professor Eichenbaum being one of them, determined that due to excessive alcohol abuse, I had accumulated a severe deficiency in Vitamin B-1. That permanently damaged my ability to form memories. Overnight, I was diagnosed with both anterograde and retrograde amnesia.”
“That means,” Sakamoto twirled his pen in the air, trying to remember what those terms meant. “You lost the ability to make new memories. And you also lost the ability to recall memories?”
“You know how there used to be a generation of kids who loved opining about how you had to ‘live in the moment?’” Ryu rolled his eyes. “They have no idea what that actually feels like. Every day is both still and yet in perpetual motion. People will walk in one day and look five years older. Babies that you believe you held yesterday will be grown up. They're going to grade school. I wouldn’t get it. I’d interpret that as a practical joke, some kind of dressed up prank. Or maybe that I'd awoken from a comatose state. It wouldn’t even be right to say that time had stopped. It was still moving. I was just oblivious to how.”
"What did the doctors recommend?" Jay asked. "Did you write down your thoughts in a booklet of some sort?"
"You should've seen my diary," Ryu sighed. "Sometimes the amnesia would intensify in the early hours of the day. I would wake up three times over the course of an hour. I would write down my thoughts and then afterwards cross out my previous entries from that very same morning. I had forgotten I had written in it. Sure, you could say the handwriting was mine, but I didn't know how that entry got there. So it wasn't mine."
“And so this is what Professor Eichenbaum saved you from? Because if you were still affected, you wouldn’t be able to recall any of this.”
“Yes. Tasha and my brother. There was a woman too. She was a psychotherapist,” Ryu nodded. Once again, Dojo picked up his paws and began picking at it. Sakamoto took down some more notes. It had reached two pages now. “This was in ‘54. Fukuyama Incident. All those murders. Just a nasty year.”
“If you don’t mind me asking, what was your brother’s name?” Sakamoto asked. “And the woman?”
“William was my brother. And the woman. I think her name was Helena. The last name escapes me though.”
Sakamoto stopped writing. Dojo continued to gnaw at his paw, but his ears also snapped to attention.
“So the professor. Your brother William. Helen. Okay, how did those three people save you?”
“I was a test subject for a very experimental phase of cybernetic enhancements,” Ryu explained. “I was given a cybernetic brain and had my memories rewritten.”
“Excuse me. Rewritten?” Sakamoto set down his pen and leaned back, stretching his arms back. “I hope as you’re explaining the next few things you remember that I’m a little bit old for some of this stuff.”
“Right,” Ryu started and stopped a couple times, likely on the verge of some overly scientific explanation. He took a sip from his own tea, pondered for a full minute, then found the right elementary words. He started by pointing at his temples. “Part of my brain is cybernetic. Tasha developed it. Its sole purpose is to store granular visual and auditory data and relay them back to me with signals when I think a handful of key words. The response is involuntary. If I think it, I remember. If I could make an analogy: I remember things like the cache of a net browser when you load up a site you've visited before.”
“But can you actually remember what you’ve kept in this data storage?” Sakamoto was still following along, barely. “If you don’t remember to think for the more specific memories, aren’t they still just as lost?”
“That was the other challenge, and this is where the psychotherapist was involved,” Ryu continued. “She theorized that my brain’s inability to remember anything new was a defense mechanism disguised as a mental disorder against relapse. It was my brain’s last resort, and it worked. By the time I was brought to her, I had stopped drinking entirely. I just had developed a completely different problem now.”
“What did she do?”
“She decided it was necessary to change my life. Or at least how I remembered my life. If my brain was confident I’d stop hurting myself, she believed it would repair itself,” Ryu explained. “So, stored in my cybernetic brain is a separate set of memories spliced between my real ones. Maybe you noticed I haven’t described a single good memory from my past.”
Ryu’s tone deepened and grew solemn.
“But alcoholism tends to do that to people,” Sakamoto shrugged. “What’s so different for you?”
“For me, it’s by design,” Ryu tucked his fingers beneath his chin. “My positive memories have effectively been electronically replaced. If I try to remember them, the data vault will feed back a traumatic memory that overwrites whatever used to be there. A few selected things I was allowed to recall. When I met my wife. My proposal to her. Our wedding. But aside from her, there’s nothing. Just long days of drawn out alcoholism, the abuse that haunts me, it’s mnemonic shock therapy.”
“Hold it,” Sakamoto dropped his pen. “Let’s just say I bought this theory that you have computer generated memories. How do you know which ones are real and which ones are fake? The ones about your wife for instance? Or your brother? Are you sure those are real?”
“Yes.” Ryu nodded. “For starters, I can still distinguish between how an organic and simulated memory feel. There are times where it gets a bit blurred, which Tasha said was natural. My implants were an early test design; I likely won’t live long enough for my organic brain to acclimate to the neurological signals the cybernetic one sends to stimulate memories.”
“Doesn’t that defeat the purpose then?” Jay surmised. “If you can tell which ones are fake and which ones are real.”
“I don’t think it makes much of a difference,” Ryu answered. “Real. Fake. That doesn’t so much matter as the emotional effect. I process the fakes as if they’re real, and I can't remember the real ones anyway. I’m no longer drinking, and I’m no longer a danger to my wife. That’s what I care about.”
“But it probably isn’t a coincidence then that you serve drinks just down the road from where Professor Eichenbaum lives,” Sakamoto said. It had taken a while, but he had finally returned to the topic at hand. “Did you two meet often?
“No, it’s not what you think,” Ryu pointed again at his head. “Like I said, my model is old. Occasionally parts need maintenance. Sometimes I’m brought in for a software update. But I haven’t needed one of those in maybe almost a year and a half now. Tasha rarely visited. He said fostering a personal relationship would counteract the effects of the psychotherapy.”
“The reason I came here tonight,” Sakamoto fished in his pocket for the piece of paper and showed it to Ryu. “Professor Eichenbaum was holding this note in his hand. ‘Judgment Day is coming, so end it however you must.’ Any idea what he could’ve meant by that?”
“No, I’m afraid not,” Ryu strained his eyes to read the small print on the slip. “I will say. After the Fukuyama Incident, Tasha was...distraught. He started keeping more to himself.”
“Did he say anything to you? Anything maybe regarding a judgment? Or maybe he was working on something?”
“No, nothing like that,” Ryu sighed. “If he consulted anyone, it would probably be Helena. I still meet Helena here and there for therapy, and she’s mentioned Tasha once or twice. They probably kept in contact.”
“And when was the last time you saw her?”
“Well. I went to a few consultations last month I believe,” Ryu leaned back in his seat and relaxed his shoulders. “She likes to keep track of how I’m doing. For clinical purposes, she says.”
“I’m sure she does,” Sakamoto murmured, then clicked off the nib of his pen. “Would you happen to still have her address? I’m sorry to have bothered you for so long. I can follow up with her myself.”
“She’s probably having dinner right now,” Ryu grinned. He fished a wallet out of his pocket and flipped through a series of business cards before arriving at an off-white card printed with raised lettering. “This is her office, but I’ve written the home address on the back. At this time of night, she's not going to like you bothering her.”
“No.” Sakamoto said. “No, I don’t think she will.”
Jay then thanked Ryu for all the information and offered to help him clean their table. Ryu waved him away. Dojo courteously hopped off as Ryu swept up the three beverages in his arms. Dojo held a long stretch and then meandered about, waiting for his subordinate to wrap up the investigation.
“Alright then,” Jay said. He walked over to the entrance and opened the door for Dojo to leave. “Good luck with your baby tonight.”
Outside, Jay reviewed his written notes under the dim lighting of a nearby lamp post. There was a lot to take in. To remind himself, Jay circled the most important details with a red pen. These were the remarks in Ryu’s testimony that had not caught Jay’s attention, but Dojo’s.
There were a handful of moments during Ryu's statements where Dojo would raise his paws to lick at them. Each time, it was when Ryu had mentioned something about his brother, William Fukuyama. Dojo’s cues were not always obvious, and Jay never knew what exactly to make of them. Sometimes, he would play around with a pen on the table. Other times he would wag his tail, or he would simply incessantly hiss. Now it was time to add grooming the fur on his paws to the list.
Either way, something was off about Ryu’s statements about his brother. Somewhere in his head, Dojo knew what it was.
The Norwegian forest cat cuddled up at Jay’s feet, and the detective could feel why. Even with his thick outfit, the winter air had penetrated his clothes, sending chills down his legs and up his back. The high rises up and down the street formed an artificial wind tunnel and intensified the strength of the gusts. Dojo whined. He clearly had enough of the cold.
“Yeah, I agree, buddy,” Jay picked Dojo up and began walking back to his sedan. “Now let’s go visit your mom.”