Monday, October 10, 2011

The Eurasian -- serialisation of a novel in progress

My current writing project is a future scenario titled The Eurasian. It's been a challenge to write because inspiration comes in spurts, and then I get none at all. I think what I have so far is pretty good, and I have enough to be able to see where it's headed. It's set in the future, probably about 60 years from now. It starts in Thailand, moves to Hong Kong, then to America. However, each place is only partially recognisable. I should warn you before you start: anyone with nationalistic feeling towards Thailand, Malaysia, or America, could be offended by the future I've painted -- or, they could take it as a warning.

The main character is my own great grandson. Some of the dialect spoken by the Asian characters is something called Singlish, a sort of Pigeon English currently spoken in Singapore and Malaysia. You could refer to the website, where you'll find the Coxford Singlish Dictionary.

Anyway, here are the first two chapters:

The Eurasian

by robby charters

© 2011 by Robby Charters

Chapter 1

Mr. Singh appeared right on time, out of thin cyberspace.
'Good morning class. Everyone present? Ah, I see Derek Hong has yet to join us.'
'Logging in soon I think,' said Lo Peng. 'Just talked to him -- had to water the flowers.'
'Man eating?'
'No. Have real ones la.'
The sixteen of them -- minus one -- appeared to be sitting in a semicircle facing the instructor's console.
'My friend, Kim --' whispered Philip Kumar, leaning over to Mickey, '-- he have botany design game -- makes carnivorous...'
'While we wait,' intruded Mr. Singh -- his on-line presence was a stout, majestic, grey-bearded gentleman who, apart from his turban, could have passed for Professor Dumbledore -- 'I'll just load the module for today, so we can start as soon as Derek gets here.'
Immediately, the space next to the professor began filling up with the usual script code, and an image began to materialise: a map of the North American West Coast.
'America? Wa! I thought Extension of Chinese...'
'Even did homework la!'
Mickey heaved a sigh of relief. He hadn't finished his.
'I'll explain it as soon as -- ah! He's logging in now. Good morning Derek. Glad you could join us.'
The space next to Lo Peng began materialising into the shape of Derek Hong.
'So,' began Mr. Singh, 'You're all wondering, why a map of North America? You'll remember that three months ago, we, as a class, put together a proposal for the field trip of our dreams. Well, it appears that someone in high places, in the Department of Education, in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs, Beijing, thought that it fit right in with their policy to enhance the West's perception of the Chinese half of the globe. In short, you will be taking your graduating class trip to North America.'
There was general cheering, both vocal and otherwise. Half of the seated images degenerated into fireworks, stars and other graphic images, the finale of Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture resounded from where U Ta Gladstone sat, while Jimmy Khoo morphed to both look and sound like a collection of horns, bells, whistles and airborne confetti.
Mr. Singh brought the class to order by tapping the 'muffle' icon. Everyone reappeared in their assumed shapes.
'We'll have a lot of planning to do, special training, extra reading, you'll each receive an orientation packet that you'll be expected to view on your own. There are restrictions on what you're allowed to take with you; books, for instance. Today, we'll talk about your itinerary. Today's lesson, The Extension of Chinese Sovereignty -- Mid 21st Century, will be rolled over to tomorrow. Those who haven't completed their assignments -- I won't mention any names, as I'm sure that would embarrass Mickey -- you have one more day. Now, your itinerary...'
The city of San Francisco, and Mickey's face, lit up in red.
'You will begin your trip here, on the Northern tip of the island of Baja California, which, as you can see, is separated from the North American mainland by the San Andreas Straight...'
The professor droned on, but Mickey had lost his concentration. Dreaming about this was all very well. Apart from Riu, his closest neighbour right here in Chantaburi, he had never actually met any of his classmates face to face. What did they really look like?
He knew that Jonny Lim didn't really resemble the cartoon character Astro Boy, and Lucy Kanda probably didn't look like Marilyn Monroe, nor Albert Fong, the younger version of Jackie Chan. Mickey O'Brien was the one student everyone assumed looked like himself -- whereas in actual fact, he had carefully modified his image to get rid of all his Eurasian features, making himself look the product of the Thai Chinese side of his family.
That sort of worried him.
* * *
Lounging on the veranda of the real-world O'Brien abode, Grandpa Abe watched the monkeys swing on the bamboos just across the lake from their fruit orchard. Mickey sat on the swinging chair with his e-tablet on his lap, loaded with his delinquent homework assignment.
'Grandpa,' he started. 'You were around, weren't you, when China extended their sovereignty to all of East Asia?'
'Hah! Extended! I like the choice of words!'
'You don't sound very positive.'
'Well, I suppose change is inevitable. I was born Thai, I live the life of an Irishman, I'll die as a Chinese.'
'But our family is part Chinese, aren't we?'
'I suppose we are -- and it was just a matter of our motherland catching up with us foreign born Chinese. It's just too big. That's all. Now, Ireland, that's a nice small country. Manageable. Thailand used to be a small country once, not as small as Ireland, but now we're part of the giant super-power. Lost our uniqueness -- not that we had much of that left. I suppose we were ripe for a good take-over.'
'How?' queried Mickey.
'You got your history book there. What does that say?'
'It gives some background. I suppose the political crises in Thailand in the first quarter of the century, with the rising sea water, which flooded most of the central planes, and then the massive influx of non-Malays from the Malay Peninsula fleeing from the tide of radical Islamic repression...'
'Yes -- the entire Chinese as well as the Indian populations of the East Indies, bringing with them their English fluency, and their Chinese ways, to welcome the Southward expansion of the Beijing Empire as they "came to our rescue". The sleeping giant not only awakened, but took charge.'
'The -- what?'
'They used to call China the "sleeping giant". It woke up, just as everyone was afraid would happen, and now here we are, with Beijing central bureaucracy.'
'But it's not so bad, really.'
'Yes, the bark was worse than the bite. Thank Chinese pragmatism for that. But, of course, you grew up with all this. You've never known anything else. Me? I've been to dozens of countries in my time, all small, independent...'
'You know, our class is going on a trip to North America.'
'You're -- what?'
'Just announced today. We had this proposal that we wrote -- you know, just for the heck of doing a proposal. We didn't think anything would come of it. But, I guess, the Department of Foreign Affairs thought it went right along with their plan to expose the West to Chinese culture and politics.'
'Part of the propaganda machine, then...'
'Well, I wouldn't call it that...'
'Probably just what they need -- the Americans. They still think we all dress in green pyjamas with a wee red star on our caps, if we're not up to our knees in a paddy field somewhere. So, when do you go?'
'Twenty-eighth of next month.'
'Ah, so you'll get to help Uncle Jiu harvest the durian and rambutans first.'
'I guess...'
After a long pause, Mickey said, 'Grandpa, do you think my friends will like me when they've seen me up close?'
'Why wouldn't they?'
'I mean -- if they suddenly know I'm Eurasian.'
'Don't they already know that by your surname?'
'They know me as Mickey Mao.'
'As in -- Mickey Mouse, or Mao Tse Tung?'
'Ha ha -- both.'
'Oh! Listen to you! Why do you think they won't accept you as you are?'
'Well -- the jokes they tell, and -- well -- the virtual classroom is the only place I don't hear farang dong, farang dong, everywhere I go.'
'So you don't look like a farang dong on-line?'
'No one looks like themselves on-line.'
'So there you go. They've probably all got deep dark secrets to hide from the world.'
Just then, the whir of a hover scooter sounded from the driveway, as it died down to a stop. The two looked up in time to see Reverend Pongsak step up to the veranda.
'Good afternoon, Pastor,' said Grandpa.
'I think you not do road repair since you stop using rubber tires!' commented the clergyman.
'What brings you this way?'
'Pastoral visit.'
'Ah! Not see us in two weeks, ah?' Grandpa always reverted to the regional Pigeon English when the occasion called for it.
'Yes, ha ha, notice that too. But how are you? How your cousin, Jiu?'
Just now, the said Cousin Jiu, Abe's partner in business, was napping in the hammock strung out between two of the pillars supporting the older, traditionally built, half of the house. He was surrounded by oil cans, tools, engine parts and a pile of early ripened durian.
'We all well, la. Next week very busy. Pick durian. But this Sunday you see us.'
'Ah, well -- Your sister, Rosemary. You hear from her?'
'Yes -- the thorn in your side.'
'You know, EFT churches, government recognised. We allied with Three Self Patriotic Movement in Beijing. We must keep good relations.'
'What's that to do with Rosemary?'
'She must come under covering of EFT. Officials asking questions, la.'
'But there hasn't been a crackdown on house churches since -- when?'
'Not in long time. That's true. But we must keep peace, la. House church? No control!'
'They acknowledge Christ as head of the church.'
'Ah! Christ the head! Christ the head! Christ the head of earthquake destroy Tokyo!'
'I forward your concern when I see her. Here! Let me pick out a durian for you. Your family, they like durian, ah?'
'Oh! No no, you mustn't!'
'No, I insist.'
Grandpa Abe walked to the pile next to where his cousin Jiu rested. He began to pick up various ones by their stem, tapping them with a long stick.
Just then Uncle Jiu sprung to life and took a large durian from near him. 'Look nee sook raeo...' telling him, in Thai, this one was ready to open today, and the other one should be ripe in two days.
Reverend Pongsak drove away with two durians.
'What's he got against Aunt Rosemary?' asked Mickey, standing at Grandpa's side.
'Your Aunt Rosemary has done many times more for the church than that Pongsak ever will. She's a woman of God. Takes after her grandmother, after whom she was named. Our Grandmother Rosemary, in turn, followed the footsteps of her mother, Ma Hanna.'
'That was an awful long time ago.'
'1913, same year the Titanic sunk. She started a school for girls in Lampang. Later, she came back with her husband. My grandmother, Rosemary and her twin were born in Lampang. Later, Grandma Rosemary come out and marry Grandpa Willie in Tak province. They start new churches there. Your great grandpa, Boz born. He married Bless, Thai Chinese, so I'm the first Eurasian. The rest of us, Eurasian, down to you, Robby and Rosie.'
Mickey had heard the story hundreds of times, but Grandpa Abe seemed to enjoy telling it.
'Now you,' Grandpa went on. 'You have a great heritage. Don't be ashamed of Eurasian.'
* * *
Uncle Jiu was driving the tractor, the only conveyance on the property that still had rubber tires. Hitched to that was the hover truck. It wasn't powerful enough to both drive forward and hover with such a heavy load at the same time, so it just did the latter while hitched to the tractor.
Perched on the growing mountain of durians, padded by a thick rug, Robby and his sister Rosie, ages 10 and 9 respectively, took the durians from the pickers and arranged them into a sustainable stack. They had one glove each to shield the palm of their hands from the sharp prickles. They took each durian by its stem with their bare hand, while holding it up with their gloved hand.
Their great uncle, Jiu, told them stories.
'In the very old days,' he spoke to them in Thai over the whir of the electric motor, 'they have a special penalty for attacking someone with a durian. If you throw a durian at someone, they count the punctures on the body, and make you pay one Baht per puncture. It make ten punctures, you pay ten Baht. In those days, ten Baht, a week's wage. But, in my day, before adoption of Chinese currency, ten Baht not even pay for a Cola drink!'
'Uncle Jiu, why don't we use robots to pick durian, like people on TV?' asked Robby.
'If we use robots, how could we employ so many people? Where would these people find work? I tell you. In the early days of Chinese Communism, they can't own so much land (long before Chinese come to Thailand, of course). But they find that Communism -- I mean, pure Communism -- won't work. Must let people own businesses. Businesses puts people to work, so not burden on the State. We have large property, can earn lots of money; but our responsibility to the State: employ people so they have income. We can live on what's left.'
Mickey brought the last durian before Uncle Jiu decided they had a big enough load. Rosie took it from him. Uncle Jiu began driving through the orchard towards the house.
* * *
The sound of the hover-car coming up the driveway was unmistakeably that of Papa, returning from his office job in the nearby town of Makham. That was followed by the sound of footfalls on the gravel. But the sound was slower and more deliberate, and the taking off of his shoes on the veranda seemed to take some effort.
Mickey went out to look. Papa was struggling with a large box. Yet more books.
Over the last ten or so years, there had been a surge of used books on the market -- English language and, according to various handwritten notations, from places in California, Canada, Texas, Mexico. According to the electronic tags...
Mickey could remember first trying the scanning program one of his classmates had hacked. They revealed an intriguing history. The second to the last entry was always something like, 'Property of San Diego Archives', or 'Property of Vancouver Archives' -- always property of somewhere-or-other archives. The last entry was invariably, 'To be destroyed' and a date.
'Pity to destroy such great books,' Mickey had commented.
'Obviously, someone did the right thing in sending them here instead,' Papa had replied.
Now the family library included the complete works of Charles Dickens -- two or three of some titles, though never matching sets -- H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Arthur C. Clark, Agatha Christi, Stephen King, J.R.R. Tokein, Brian Adlis, John Grisham, William Gibson, William Shakespeare, Tobias Buckell, Peter O'Tool, Michael Crichton, J.K. Rowling, C.S. Lewis, George MacIntire, Billy Whistle, just to name a few. There were also Bible commentaries, encyclopaedias, works on ancient history, and even a few tractates of the Talmud.
Mickey took the box from Papa, brought it inside and set it on the floor. Robby and Rosie ran over and began rummaging for any children's books. As usual, Mickey had his scanner.
Again, he noted the date on the 'To Be Destroyed' label. Always 2055, give or take a few months. Some had 2056, or 2057.
'Why did they suddenly decide on that date to destroy all these books,' wondered Mickey out loud.
'What's that one there?' said Grandpa Abe, looking over his shoulder.
Mickey picked it up, a paperback, with a headline and subtitles meant to shock: The Coming Purge, by Dustin Smith. The subtitles read, 'This may be the last book you'll be allowed to read!' 'Massive brainwashing campaign', and 'Major rewrite of history!'
'I remember him,' said Grandpa. 'A prophet of doom. We thought he was a ranting crack-pot.'
The book looked brand new, as though it had never been opened. Mickey looked at the inside front cover. There were prices pencilled in, crossed out, replaced by cheaper prices, no owner's name.
Mickey scanned the destruction tag: August, 2055.
'Same year as the rest,' said Mickey.
'Hmmm -- wonder if that was his prophecy, come true?' said Papa.
'You know, they don't let me take any books along to America,' said Mickey.
'They say I can download as many e-books as I like when I'm there, though.'
Mama piped in, 'Make sure you download a Bible, then.'
* * *
Mickey put on the head set and took his seat in the VR console and went off to visit his classmate, Philip Kumar.
He tapped on the button beside Philip's name and waited. He knew Philip wouldn't be far from his console, as they had agreed to meet -- or if he happened to be downstairs, it would page him through his mobile.
The large body of Philip appeared, and his deep voice resounded, 'Hey! Mickey Mao! What gives?'
'New books, la.'
'What kind?'
'You have one, William Gibson, Idoru? One after Virtual Light.'
'Have already. Still no have All Tomorrow's Parties. You have?'
'Don't have. Sorry. But I have this -- weird. My grandpa says written by crackpot prophet of doom. But I think he prophecy about why we get so many books.'
'Cool! Let me see!'
'Here. I put on scanner, you download.'
'Okay, la!'
'Ready for America?'
'Y-es.' There was a bit of hesitation in Philip's voice.
After a pause, he suddenly perked up and said said, 'I hope we can meet Monterey Jack.'
'Who's that?'
'Someone I talk to on-line. Live in California.'
'But California different Internet system!'
'He have to hack. He know we come. He tell us a lot!'
* * *
It was noon siesta time. The workers had finished their lunch, and the kids that had tagged along were enjoying a swim. Robby was with them.
Mickey hoped he was wearing pants. He was on a personal campaign to train his younger siblings to mind their bums in public, and not follow the lax ways of the neighbours' and workers' kids. So far he'd had no help from Papa, Mama, or the rest. Nobody seemed to care.
Now, especially, since being faced with the prospect of showing his true face to his classmates, Mickey's mind had been preoccupied with the difference between life in the fruit orchard and cosmopolitan life. What he saw on TV, their regular trips into Chantaburi City, and the few excursions to the giant Bangkok Metro-Tower had made him well aware of how sophisticated life was in the outside world. His virtual classroom experience, and cyberspace visits with his school mates in private, had only confirmed it.
So, Mickey stood on the veranda and watched. Robby jumped a few times, but not high enough to reveal any white elastic. Maybe he was wearing it low. He was tussling with Pong just now. Pong had him in a hold, with Robby's arm over his shoulder. He pulled, lifting Robby out of the water, revealing only bare white skin.
Mickey sighed.
Grandpa was standing nearby.
'We're so primitive here! Why can't we make the kids wear pants in the water, like they do everywhere else?'
'You used to skinney-dip yourself when you were younger.'
True. He did, before he discovered the rest of the world.
'Yeah, but everywhere else...'
'Hah!' snorted Grandpa. 'When your great-grandpa Boz was young, it was like this all over Thailand. By every riverbank, at bath time, naked children everywhere with nary a second thought. Occasionally, even a grown-up. Mind you, they were careful in other ways. Big boys and girls never kissed. Never even held hands. Young lady, with chaperone, peeping over her fan at the handsomely dressed boy with a hat and walking stick strutting along side their tri-shaw -- that was a date. But in my time? Behind every bush, a boy on top of a girl, pumping away -- later, traipsing off to an abortion clinic. But at bath time at the river, every young bum draped in underpants. Innocence lost -- as though God walked in the garden and said, "Who told you you were naked?" So, now we've come full circle. Which way do you find so primitive?'
Mickey sighed, but otherwise stood silently.
Grandpa added, 'You're going off as a sheep among wolves. Don't you lose your innocence!'

Chapter 2

Mickey had a window seat. Riu sat next to him. The hover-bus sped along in as straight a line as could be navigated, sometimes over the mud flats, sometimes over sea, but swerving around the islands. A line of hover-vehicles before and behind them showed that they were in the correct lane for traffic in their direction.
Ahead of them, he could see Pattaya Island. On this side, what was once Jomtien Beach, now an archipelago of ruined buildings standing in the water. Then, they saw the built up town of Pattaya Island, then beyond were similar ruins demarcating what used to be the great tourist resort of Pattaya City. Further along, was the island of Laem Chabang, then the dyked cities of Sriracha and Chonburi.
Generally the sea was to their left, in Mickey's plain view, and only where they swerved significantly inland, could he see the mudflats, generally to their right, though covered with water at high tide. These were dotted by settlements consisting of buildings on stilts and platforms, people living off their plankton extractors, taking the said produce to market by boat, buying what they could with the proceeds, but otherwise living primitively.
Both Mickey and Riu were silent. Mickey tried to break the silence.
'Wonder what they'll all look like,' he quipped.
'Donno,' answered Rui.
Mickey wondered if Riu was bothered by the same concern as he. He did look quite handsome in real life, Riu's on-line image was slightly different, making him look like some old movie star or other. He shouldn't be that concerned. Why was he so quiet?
On their next to last class session before breaking to embark on their respective journeys to the meeting point, they had discussed the suggestion of coming to their last class session looking like themselves. No one could bring themselves to do it. So now, they were on their way to meet one another with no idea what to expect.
Mickey remembered his grandfather's words, They've probably all got deep dark secrets to hide from the world. He didn't feel so bad now.
So, why was Riu bothered?
'What's the matter?' he ventured, finally.
After a pause, Riu said, 'Grandma isn't well.'
Riu lived with his grandma, Mickey remembered. She was all he had. His parents were both dead.
'Is it pretty bad?'
'Yeah. I wanted to stay with her, but she wants me to go on this trip.'
'She'll be all right when we get back, maybe?'
Riu sighed. 'I hope so.'
They could just see the Bangkok Metro-Tower in the distance, and it grew steadily as they drew near. At high tide, the mud flats were indistinguishable from the open sea making the Bangkok Metro-Tower look, from this distance, as though it were standing on its five legs in middle of the sea. The pentagon formed by the legs was about three kilometres in diameter, and the structure, itself, was about five kilometres high, consisting of millions of cellular compartments suspended in a vast network of hydrolic tubes. Some had called it an overweight version of the Eiffel Tower.
As they came closer, they could see the derelict buildings, parts of the old expressway system, the Skytrain track, and bits of everything else that once stuck up in the air. Some of the more intact buildings were used for fishing villages, some old posts, pillars, and old Skytrain stations housed plankton extractors, or had become warehouses for harvested seaweed -- communities living their primitive lives under the shadow of ultra modern technology.
As they approached the Metro-Tower, the hover-bus aligned itself with one of the thousands of portals leading into the lower levels. After entering, it zoomed on through semi darkness, past lit up areas that whizzed past too quickly to be observed, curving here, turning there, and finally coming to a stop. It was dark outside, but that wasn't the end of the line. The craft suddenly began to ascend like a lift. When it stopped, it again went on, took more turns, until they finally arrived at the hover-bus terminal.
Mickey always wondered why such a big place as a hover-bus terminal didn't have a direct rout to the outside instead of so many twists and turns. It was a big place.
The passengers disembarked on to a platform, and the two students, shouldering their backpacks, started off to the point where they were to meet Philip Kumar, Geoffrey Wong and Marisa Srisomboon. It was a café on the opposite side of the terminal from where they were -- a long walk. So they walked.
The place was crowded. Mickey walked a bit behind Riu, keeping his hand on his back pack so as not to lose him. On his right was a boy wearing thick glasses, apparently by himself. Indian, by the look of him, hardly bigger than Robby. A bit young to be by himself, thought Mickey.
They were about to meet some of the others for the first time. Mickey wondered if some of them were nearby. Philip Kumar, maybe? He glanced about for someone large sized, as he perceived Philip to be. Large, broad shouldered, with a deep voice -- even if he did show childish excitement at times. That tall man up ahead maybe? He looked a bit Indian. What about Marisa Srisomboon? Was that her over near the tall man that could be Philip? If it was, she looked good!
Mickey continued walking, his hand on Riu's backpack. However, in his mind, he was following the tall man up ahead.
There was the café -- but the tall man kept right on walking. So did the lady he hoped was Marisa. Riu and Mickey went in.
Table eleven -- there it was. There were two people sitting there already.
'Hi,' said Riu. 'I'm Riu, you must be ...?'
'Marisa,' said the long haired skinny girl that had looked a bit like Cleopatra on-line.
'Geoffrey,' said the rather fat boy with close cropped hair.
'I'm -- er -- Mickey,' said Mickey.
'Wow!' said Marisa.
'An orang pute!' said Geoffrey. 'Cool!'
'We wait for Philip, then?' said Mickey.
'I guess,' said Marisa.
They sat down.
Mickey looked towards the door, and then around the room. No sign of anyone fitting the description.
About three metres away, between two other tables, was the boy he had noticed earlier, with the thick glasses.
No way!
He was just standing there, looking at them, terrified.
Mickey called out, 'Philip Kumar?'
The boy nodded, and walked slowly towards them.
'Er -- Hi, Philip. I'm Mickey.'
'Hi,' said Philip, in a voice that sound as far from the deep manly computer generated voice as could be imagined.
'You're kidding!' said Marisa.
'Wow!' said Geoffrey.
'Yeah -- wow!' said Riu.
'You sure did a good job on your computer generated image,' said Mickey.
'Thanks, ha ha,' said Philip, smiling for the first time -- though still shyly.
'So,' said Geoffrey. 'What do we do now?'
'I think we're supposed to tell the hostess,' said Marisa. 'There's a meal ordered for us, and then we get on the shuttle to the other terminal.'
'Okay,' said Mickey. 'I'll tell the hostess.'
He did. They sat about the table, nervously, while the meal was brought -- fried noodles with seafood. They ate in silence.
After that, they walked to the inter-terminal shuttle. Philip walked close to Mickey's side, almost as though he were clinging to a big brother for security. Definitely not the image he projected in the virtual classroom.
'You don't look eighteen,' said Mickey.
'Actually, I'm thirteen,' said Philip.
'You -- er -- advanced quickly, then?'
'An exceptional child?'
At least this explained his childish giddiness in class.
They boarded the shuttle and soon they were speeding, twisting and turning, lifting, etc., until they were at the Northern Terminal. Being that this one serviced journeys to more distant places, where travel permits were required, they had to go through a check-in area, where they showed their tickets and travel permits. Then, they had to wait in a transit lounge.
Philip had to use the men's room, but didn't want to go by himself. Mickey went with him.
While Philip went into one of the stalls, Mickey used the urinal, and then went to the sink to wash his hands.
'Ah, Mickey! There you are!' A woman's voice. The tone of voice sound like she was expecting him.
A glance in the mirror told Mickey it was Aunt Rosemary!
'Wow! What are you doing here?'
'I work here now.' She produced her mop as evidence. 'Here. I have something for you.' She began reaching into her apron pocket.
'But -- how did you know I was here?'
'Abe told me two weeks ago you were going, so I took a job here to give you this.' She handed him a brown envelope.
'But -- I didn't even know my travel plans then! We could have left from --'
'Never mind that! Keep this with you. Put it in the inside pocket of your blue jacket. Don't open it until you get to Cactus Head.'
How did she know I had a blue jacket? Where the heck is Cactus Head? 'You got a job here just to see me?'
'Oh, no. The pressure was getting a bit high in Sakeo, so I decided to spend some time in Bangkok. We now have a group meeting in the staff lounge of this terminal. I must go now. Have a good trip. Remember, Cactus Head. Open the envelope there, not before. I'll be praying for you.'
She rushed out the door, just as the toilet flushed. Philip emerged.
'Who was that lady you talk to?'
'My aunt Rosemary,' said Mickey, still in a daze.
'She surprise you?'
'Yes, she did.'
'We better get back. Bus leave soon I think.'
They went back into the waiting area.
Hong Kong would be cooler than Bangkok, so Mickey decided to put on the blue jacket right away. He looked again at the envelope. The handwriting on the front said, 'Open in Cactus Head.' It fit perfectly in the inside pocket.
The departure to Hong Kong was called, so the five students boarded. Philip still stuck close to Mickey and took a seat next to him.
The hover-bus took the coastal rout, around Cambodia and Vietnam. Mickey recognised all the old sights, including Chantaburi, as they passed.
About half way to Hong Kong, Mickey and Philip were once again talking about all the things they used to when Philip was deep voiced giant and Mickey was a brown-skinned Thai: simulations, classic science fiction, and prophecies of doom.

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