[Fiction] The Dead Switcher – Week 1

New episodic story that I will be writing every week-ish from now on. Hope you enjoy.

I want to try something: writing an episodic fiction in English. Why episodic? Because the periodicity and the potential audience will make me more willing to go on week after week. I will try my best to post every week but since I can’t commit to serious schedule right now, there will probably be some late posting or sometimes it may not come at all. So don’t expect something every Monday evening, but keep an eye on your notifications.

Also, if you know me or if you’ve been following this site for some time, you know that I’m not a native English speaker, so please excuse me if it doesn’t live up to your expectation of a new Pratchett. I wish I was as good (and funny) as he is, but there is a long long way to go.

So, let’s not wait any longer. Here it is. Please read it and tell your doggy. Don’t hesitate to comment, since I will take any input that help me improve. Or I will answer any question that may come along.

The dead Switcher

Week 1

I shouldn’t have seen that. Nobody is supposed to see themselves dead, even if they gave their body away. There have been countless peer-reviewed studied on the impact of meeting your own former sleeve, let alone seeing it dead, and yet, here I was, bending over it. I recognised it right away. It was covered up to the neck in bloody water, but the face was enough for me. I’ve seen that one so many times in the mirror, several times a day, and I used to hate it.

But somehow, I wasn’t hating it when I saw it in the bathtub. It looked… serene, almost peaceful. I guess anyone who slit their own wrists looks like that, since the lack of blood makes every muscle relax. I didn’t feel any hatred. The face was familiar, but it wasn’t me. Not anymore. It was more like looking at an old passport photo and realising it was someone else. I would look at it like I look at the next stranger with a face that reminds me of someone. I could even find beauty in some features that would have disgusted me when I used to wear them.

Steve yelled at me. “Get a grip” he said. I snapped out of my shock. “What’s wrong with you?” I couldn’t tell him. So, I helped him take the body out of the tub, after the police cleared us and finished with their investigation. Doesn’t seem like a mystery to me to be honest. The poor guy was desperate and didn’t see how he could go on and took his own life. I can relate, I thought about it a lot too after the operation. After I took his body. It wasn’t easy at the beginning. It’s not only a new face that I had to get used to, but a whole new body. And it’s disturbing.

In the old days, they used to do that slowly, with drugs that changed your body over the course of a few years, and you could only change as much as your body would allow. Nobody was equal on that matter. Now, you only need to find someone who is in the same situation as you and is willing to have an exchange. Obviously,you don’t have much choice in the kind of body you will get, but at least it’s genuine. They just show you the body you will get a few weeks before the actual operation, and if you refuse, you get back at the end of the waiting list. We never get to know their name or ask for a cancellation. It’s a one-time thing. You need to be sure that’s what you want before you proceed.

We put the body in the bag and threw it on the stretcher, then at the back of the ambulance. The whole ride to the hospital, I couldn’t help but stare at his face. At least at where his face was supposed to be in the black nylon bag. I guess he was really dead now.

I used to joke about that with my friends after the transfer. That’s how we call it. You may have read about the “switch” in newspapers and on TV. But I don’t like it. I hope if someone ever write a book about that story, it won’t be called “The switcher” or any title with “Switch” in it. With my friends I joked about how “I” was dead. And I was reborn. But now, “I” was actually, literally dead.

Back at the hospital, he went straight to the morgue, and I never got to see him again. It was like having a painful memory of your past giving you one last finger and then vanishing forever. At the end of my shift, I asked to see my psych, who gave me an appointment two days later. Somehow, that’s even more shocking. I still have a hard time processing it.

As usual, I could barely make out a word. It’s been like this forever. It took me years to get where I am now because I couldn’t tell what was troubling me, even to someone whose job is to respectfully listen to anything you have to say. At the end of the session, seeing how troubled I was by all this, and the possible legal implications of the situation, she advised me to record my memories and my thoughts, so I could go over it and better explain next time. I’m not too happy about it but here I am talking into a microphone.

Incidentally, I managed to catch his name from one of the detectives on the scene, so next thing I am gonna do is look him up online. It’s stupid, but I must know.

Quick review: The Handmaid’s Tale (book)

In this review, I am talking about The Handmaid’s Tale, a dystopian novel written by Margaret Artwood and published in 1985, in which Offred, a young handmaid, is sent to a family to be the surrogate womb of a couple that can’t carry, in a society where women have no right anymore.

The Handmaid’s Tale is getting more popular now thanks to the recent Hulu series, but since I don’t subscribe to Hulu, I decided to read the novel instead. Written by Margaret Atwood and published in 1985, the Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel set in the nation of Gilead, a post-USA theonomic state that is run through a very literal application of the bible. Basically the utopia of white christian (male) supremacists. In this wonderful new country, we follow Offred, who has fallen really low in the social hierarchy, first because she is a woman, and then because she tried to escape this magnificent paradise. The really wise men in power probably didn’t understand why on earth (which is flat obviously) she’d want to do that, so they placed her in the very charitable position of being the surrogate womb of an unlucky couple who can’t have kids, and that way, maybe God will forgive her for her sins. Or else she’s a useless eater, and she would get the rope treatment, 3rd Reich style.

It’s not a story of great heroes. It’s a story of survival and resilience. It’s the story of the people who end up living in a despotic government and keep their head down, accepting every humiliation hoping that some day they will see brighter days. People are not all ready to fight. Here, the resistants seem to exist, maybe, but they are in the background, while Offred is the narrator. It’s her story, her struggle to stay alive until she can find a way out. She tells it from the beginning: she intends to survive. She will do everything she’s asked to do, because she has no other choice. She tried her luck once and she was lucky she wasn’t executed or sent to a labour camp, thanks to being able to carry a child, so she will carry one again, for someone else, and maybe have a better opportunity later. But what opportunity? That’s the biggest question mark. She doesn’t know what would become of her after she gives them a child, especially since it’s the beginning of the new government and they don’t really have thorough regulations on the matter. But she only have hopes, hope that her daughter is fine, hope that maybe her husband has survived, and that’s the only thing that keeps her going.

The Handmaid’s Tale is a really great and frightening story. It’s great because the story is so well crafted that it seems all so plausible. And it’s frightening because, well, it seems so plausible, especially when we hear what some US officials say nowadays. This tale shows us what’s the worse that could happen if we let evangelists and christian extremists run a country, and the thought I couldn’t get out of my head all the time I was reading was that in this novel, the government falls after a coup d’état, but in my opinion this kind of situation is more likely to happen without a civil war. With years and years of carefully escalated despotism, until the time it becomes impossible to stop it without a fight, a theocratic government could be installed without a real struggle. Maybe they didn’t think that it was plausible back in the 80’s. After all, the only example they had of a new theocratic government was Iran, and it had to go through a violent revolution to put it in place, so I can imagine they didn’t think people would willingly vote for the same person who would gleefully take that right to vote away from them, even though it happened before.

I can only recommend this novel. It’s a cautionary tale in the same vein as 1984 and deserve the same appreciation, while we are still allowed to read.

Quick review: The Little Drummer Girl (TV series)

In this article, I talk about The Little Drummer Girl, an adaptation of the 1983 novel of the same name by John Le Carré, a famous British spy novelist. It follows an actor, Charlie, thrown into the world of spies and deception, that she can’t escape without scarring her mind.

The Little Drummer Girl is an adaptation of the 1983 novel of the same name by John Le Carré, a famous British spy novelist. Some recent adaptations of his works include Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Film) and The Night Manager (TV series), both of which are very well crafted and brilliantly adapted. But something sets The Little Drummer Girl apart: the very subject of the story is the spies themselves. The mission is second to the psychology of the protagonists and what they have to go through to complete the mission¹.

 

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Charlie is a British actor. An more than that, she is the opportunity-of-a-lifetime for the Mossad to get to a Palestinian terrorist assassinating Israelis or “Zionists” across Europe. To get into the role, she has to become the life partner of the terrorist’s brother, without ever meeting him. She has to be so convincing in the role so that she survives all the obstacles to reach into the inner circle of the terrorist cell. She becomes so ingrained by the fiction that she has a hard time not falling into her own trap and becoming the enemy. Even the Mossad operatives can’t really tell whether she’s turning or remains loyal.

Directed by Park Chan-Wook, it’s superbly executed. I was particularly glad that he wasn’t showing off like he used to in his Korean productions². This time, he chose to be intimate with the characters, get very close to them, to capture all their emotions, to build empathy and make us feel like we’re in the story. Some POVs of Charlie are also perfectly timed, when she is talking to some influential characters, showing that they’re piercing into her shell. All those direction choices serve the story and the character without showing off.

So, I really loved that TV series. I really think it’s one of the best spy stories directed in recent years, on par with The Americans. I love a show that takes time to introduce their characters and build arcs so meaningful that you want to stay close to them until the end. I am so hooked now that I want to read the book, so I don’t have to leave them just yet.

The Little Drummer Girl is a 6-part TV series available on AMC/BBC One.

¹ The mission isn’t really special in the spy genre and goes pretty smoothly, considering how it affects the characters.

² I really love most of what he’s done in Korea, but to be honest, his art direction is often way over the top and unnecessary.