Freedom’s Mask – Chapter 1, Part 4

Our preview of the first chapter of Andrew’s new novel, Freedom’s Mask (© 2017, ISBN: 978-1-976-40079-7) continues. The book will be available in all formats by mid-month – with plenty of time for the holidays. You can also find it here on Amazon Kindle’s new Scout campaign. Next week will be the final installment.

Chapter One, Part Four

We exited on the thirteenth floor and I followed them down a hallway to room number seven on the left. Unfortunately Tomor didn’t stop to let himself into any of the other rooms; it appeared that the two did in fact belong together. No matter, I told myself. The boss ran her thumbprint over a pad next to the apartment’s front door and it slid open with a satisfying shooshing noise. We all stepped inside and as the door automatically closed behind us Tomor and the boss started taking their clothes off. I was shocked. Excited of course, but shocked. They slid off their rubber boots in the little sunken entrance as I expected them to, but they didn’t stop there. Up came the pyjama tops, down went the pyjama bottoms. The boss had an even more exquisite body than I was prepared for. Slender shoulders that trickled down into lithe limbs, a smooth taut belly with just about two fingers of fat at its edges that flowed into slightly rounding hips. Silky thighs that betrayed the tension of the muscles beneath as they slid down into shapely calves, tapering at just the right degree. She was sadly wearing panties and what must have been a sports bra of some kind, but both were bare enough to give my imagination plenty to go on.

Tomor’s body I barely glanced at; it looked like a hairless muscular but thin thing, the kind of body a male model would likely have, but in Tomor’s case it was probably a lot more functional since his physique no doubt came from his farm work and not from avoiding carbs while “working out” with tiny one kilogram dumbbells. While I stood and stared at the boss both of them signaled that I ought to disrobe as well. I wasn’t ready for such an eventuality. Taking off my shoes was not a problem, it was evidently their home after all, and I would be happy to get my soggy socks off too, but I was unaccustomed to getting naked in strangers’ entryways. Then again, when in Rome; also I apparently had no choice. I took my sports jacket off, folded it, and placed it on the floor next to where they had put their pyjamas. My shirt and undershirt followed and I took my time with them; they were my work clothes. Then my pants. I was glad to be wearing briefs that day as the tightness of the material was helping to hold down the Eiffel Tower that the sight of the boss’ body had breathed my lifeblood into. The random erections of my early teenage years were enough of an embarrassment to last for a lifetime; I did not need another episode well into adulthood. And also the boss needn’t and shouldn’t, I thought, get acquainted with the Tollman’s tollgate until after we had first got rid of Tomor. Such was not to be though, at least not then, as the boss gathered up all our clothes and headed into a different room while Tomor mumbled something and waved for me to follow him.

Their apartment was lovely. Everything looked so modern, hypermodern really. That shouldn’t have surprised me given the robots I had seen tooling around outside, but being disoriented, lost, and deeply confused sets your mind in strange and unpredictable ways. I had thought that Japan had the most advanced robots in the world but where I currently found myself seemed to be ahead in the game. Wherever it was. I was reminded by that thought that I would eventually have to get back to my real life, but at that moment everything was far too new and interesting to worry about such. My inner explorer had been activated and I had always been a nomad, always on the lookout for the unknown and the intriguing. Besides, it wasn’t the first time that I’d failed to show up at work and I hadn’t been fired yet. As long as I met deadlines my boss didn’t seem to care too much about daily attendance; when she bothered to step out of her office and notice, that is.

Like the outside of the building the interior walls and ceilings of the apartment were all a sharp white that was accentuated by either a wood flooring or a really good facsimile of a wood flooring. Whichever was the case it was also glossed over and felt cool and soothing on my feet, especially after the heat of the day. To my right must have been the living room, a couple of deep upholstered chairs sat on one side and one end of a low table, opposed by a three-seater sofa of the same material. Some oil paintings by an artist that I didn’t recognize hung on the wall under a large round clock. Abstract, I guessed, all lines and shapes and bold colors that jumped right out at the viewer. Ahead of us I could see the kitchen, a typical island countertop design with the sink, oven, and burners against the back wall surrounded by cabinets above and below. I didn’t see a microwave. Next to that was a small living room table. Tomor led me through to a hallway off of which appeared to be two bedrooms and a nice bath unit.

The apartment was a good size; knowing that there was at least another room next to the entrance where the boss had disappeared, I estimated the whole thing to be around eighty to ninety square meters. A space that big would cost a pretty penny in Tokyo, and the effect was impressive. I felt somehow at ease, despite my being a total stranger; the whiteness and the layout and the coolness of the air all combined to yield a real sense of elbow room. I grew up taking that for granted but years of being an expat in the world’s most populated metropolitan area had warped all perceptions of normality in that regard. It had also warped my English and made it a hodgepodge of bits and pieces from all over the Anglophone world, but that was another story.

It seemed that I was being introduced to the shower. Tomor explained – he must have been explaining – at great length, and in a noticeably slower manner of speaking, as he demonstrated how to turn the water on and off, which of the tubes along one wall to use for washing my body and which one for washing my hair. I was a bit offended by the manner and depth of his presumed explanation, and I got a sneaking sense of being mocked again, but I decided to make allowances for cultural differences. He then led me back towards the entrance and I saw that the other room our boss had gone into was a washing and storage room. She was still in there, and still in her underwear heaven be praised, rubbing the excess dirt off of their farming tools and lining them up neatly. It hadn’t clicked earlier but it struck me how low-tech and crappy, really, those tools were when compared to the breath-taking cleanliness and efficiency of the city and of their apartment. When I first saw their farming equipment I guessed that I was in some remote and backwards hamlet, and the entire long walk on the dirt road to get to the city did nothing to dispel that image. Nor did the uniform and entirely uninventive clothing everyone wore. The sheer oddity of what I was experiencing totaled up on me, startled me, pounced on me, and I was at once mystified afresh; just where in the wide world had I ended up? And how?

Tomor took a towel from off a shelf and said something to the boss to which she replied with something else. A lesson that I had learned every time I moved to a new country was that not knowing the language of a place can be quite liberating in some ways; I hadn’t a care in the world what their exchange had been about; I just wished it would have gone on longer so that I could have stared at the boss’ body a bit more. Instead I was taken back to the bath and ushered inside. A shower was in fact what I badly needed, but I still remembered to point to my head and make a grimacing face. Tomor smiled a little as he made what might have been a joke and pulled a bottle out of a sunken area behind the mirror, tapping out one small pill and handing it over with a nearby glass that he filled from the tap. He didn’t seem to mind sharing with me the glass they evidently used for rinsing their mouths and whatnot, and as I didn’t either I proceeded to shoot the thing down. By the time he had left the room and I had started to fiddle with the waterworks my pain had subsided considerably. Whatever was in that pill was pretty good. That and the warm water splashing over me soon had me feeling right as rain. Thoughts of our boss bubbled up as I held my face under the showerhead and all the blood that had been pulsing behind my right eyeball made its way to another eye, of sorts, and pulsed with a lot more spirit. What else could I do? I wanked the thoughts right out, or at least wanked the urgency out of them. I saw no point in holding back and no need for decorum. I tried to take it slow and enjoy the ride but in my imagination the boss was just too much; not even half a dozen strokes and I was already pollocking the wall in front of me. Being a guest I knew that I’d have to clean it up but few things are easier when you’re already in the shower. That accomplished, I leisurely turned to wash my body, getting all the sweat and dirt off, enjoying every moment of what was a good long soak. And then when I got out I found a set of house clothes already waiting for me to put on, resting on a low rack next to the sink. How very considerate.

Thoroughly refreshed I made my way back to the kitchen where I saw Tomor, now in house clothes exactly like mine, stirring something in a frying pan over one of the burners. He gave me a look that could have killed. Glowering is too soft a word for it, glared isn’t even quite there. His were the eyes of rage. I was dumbfounded. I looked over to the boss, who was sadly clothed as well and seated at the dining table, but there was no support to be found from those quarters. If possible she looked even madder. Right after I had finished masturbating to her she was getting annoyingly three-dimensional on me, ruining the fantasy I had built up. People and their feelings, I thought, purposely leaving the thinker out of that category. Tomor turned the burner off and motioned for me to sit down, barking out a word that must have meant the same. I duly took my place at the table and avoided looking at the boss, much as I wanted to. She said something in a low voice that didn’t really come off as aggressive but it was clearly serious. And a little ominous. When Tomor sat down across from me he was holding a small device that was about the same shape but a bit bigger than a smartphone. He managed to control whatever was eating away at him and spoke very slowly, very clearly.

I naturally had no idea what he was saying, but seeing his little gadget reminded me that I had left my smartphone in my briefcase which was who knows where by that point. That had a depressing effect on me as I had recently gotten a high score on “Dance-a-panda-monium”, one of those free puzzle games with little baby pandas that danced to a frenetic club beat. What a shame it was to lose that record. With luck I thought that someone might have found my satchel and dropped it off at the station’s lost and found. One thing that I had always appreciated about Japan was that people rarely stole goods they came across; you could even get your wallet back with your cash still in it. That was an entirely remarkable feature of the country and didn’t get noted often enough.

When Tomor finished whatever he was going on about I sat and stared at him blankly, but with an effort to appear polite nonetheless. His anger seemed to redouble and he began once more in that same steady – but at times quivering – slow and clear voice. When he again finished I again stared at him blankly. Once more: slower and clearer, and just barely contained. I felt bad for him; he was making such an effort and I had no means with which to reciprocate. If my throat had been functional I would of course have stated my case in English since I knew by then that whatever language they were using wasn’t Japanese and English was the closest thing we had to a universal tongue. But my throat, and hence my voice, were for whatever reason as lost as I was. Very visibly frustrated, he finally gave up speaking and started drawing something on the mini-tablet he held. When he finished he put his fingers over the screen and made a pulling motion with his hand which lifted the image out and displayed it in the air as a hologram. I was transfixed. He then flipped the flat image upwards so that it hung there suspended like a whiteboard. This is what I saw:

Surprise doodle here!

For being such a fancy-looking device I was a little disappointed by his finger art, but I thought I more or less understood what he was getting at. As if to emphasize his message he then pointed a menacing finger at me, the seventy-five liter mark, the boss and himself, and finally the no shower mark. They must have had a meter for tracking water output; I had used up too much and they wouldn’t be able to shower that day. I was sorry, but I could hardly have known that the area was under water rationing. After all, I had just washed up on their shores that afternoon. I was Gulliver on unintended travels. Surely they could pardon me for that?

The final part next week!
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