by Koh Ping En
I don’t recall when it all started. I don’t remember the exact moment when my heart burst with realisation. I don’t remember if I had any urge to start skipping instead of walking, or if my surroundings bloomed and radiated happiness. I don’t remember when I started loving him.
I only remember that it all came crashing down when he said, “You’re doing this every week now. You’re giving up. Don’t give up. I have not.” That tone. It was more hurtful than anything else, to know that I have disappointed him, to think that he’s always been there. Encouraging and motivating me, even though I’m constantly depressed.
I trust him with all my insecurities. I know he will never judge me. I know that he is different. We grew to be closer than lovers, tighter than family. He is my fiancé. His name is Kenji Ogawa.
I did not say yes immediately when he popped the question. I knew I was going to burden him with the rest of my life. But I remember seeing the soul in his eyes that day, after the rain. Now I get it. The best feeling in the world is when someone you love loves you back.
Your name is Momoka Myoi. You have a condition. You sleep and your mind wipes off your memory. V12 has taken 3.7 million lives as of yesterday.
Yesterday was 16 February 2019.
The tension in her hands, growing; the paper is creasing. It is her handwriting, neatly cursive across the slight brown paper. At the back of the letter there are frantic scribbles.
She rubs her eyes and sees phosphenes drifting in the morning sunlight. Yes, she thought, this makes sense. Momoka has been working on the cure for V12. This disease has taken the lives of many across the Atlantic in Europe; a slow and painful death. It mutates so fast and frequently, the epidemic comes and goes like the waves of an ocean, whenever it likes.
Then there is a knock on the door.
“I’m sorry if I startled you.” He walks in with caution. The smell of waffles drifting from the tray in his hands, he smiles anxiously, “Good morning. No matter how long it has been, I still feel nervous seeing you every morning.”
Her line of sight deviates to her left; there, on a mahogany shelf, sits a photo of them under the romance of a Parisian backdrop of The Eiffel Tower. Photos may not mean a whole lot, but to Momoka, it is sufficient.
“Yes?” His eyes are warm, yet unfamiliar. Fright is climbing up like creepers on her; an old house wall: no memory to recall with. Insecurity is enveloping her. ‘I am supposed to love this man?’ she thought.
“I can’t remember any of this, I don’t remember you. I need time on my own.” “I’m going down to the lab.” Momoka stumbles slightly, out of her bedroom door. Everything looks the same: the Beatles poster on the staircase wall, the painting of a night street she bought in Hong Kong while she was there with a team of fellow graduates in epidemiology, in 2003 while fighting SARS.
Momoka walks into her lab with the letter. Trials; she needs to test this formula. If it works, she will have the vaccine, and it will save lives: families, fathers, especially her dad in Germany.
She fears her condition has robbed her of the laboratory skills to trial this cure. ‘Will today be the day?’, Momoka questions herself out loud. Like the discovery of Penicillin, will it be a fortunate accident? She pushes open the heavy door and the familiar odour strikes her. Her fear was unecessary.
Momoka strides across the white lifeless space. She opens the cold storage. There lies the collection of mysterious bottles with cotton stoppers. She reaches out for the bottle that has been stained purple by the fluid it held. Momoka starts to work like a ballerina on stage.
She mixes sulfur into the odd viscous purple liquid. And Momoka draws out the solution and releases it onto a drop of infected sample sitting on a pristine petri dish.
Red. Black. Red. Black. Red. Red. Red. Please.
Standing there, anxiety clings onto Momoka like a wet blouse. It feels like time is passing so slowly. Then the solution starts to change its colour, diffusing into the sulfur. The sample has congealed into a blob of red. Momoka cannot believe her eyes. It is glistening under the laboratory light.
She sprints up to the living room, looking for Kenji. Why is she looking for a stranger to share her joy? Momoka could not help herself, her heart is taking the lead.
“Kenji! I found the cure! Sulphur! We can implement this vaccine through the water supply.” She is elated; she wraps her arms around him. “Daddy has a cure!”
Kenji then pulls her back, his face with worry, his looks solemn. “I’m sorry love, your dad passed two years ago.” Cold. She suddenly feels cold, frozen in place. She opens her mouth, but no words come. Momoka begins to tremble. She weeps. Heavy sobs take over control of her. Her mind and body seems to concentrate on crying. The happiness and excitement from a moment ago suddenly died. Momoka thinks as if the cure now serves no purpose.
Kenji stays with her. They sit on the couch, huddling. He whispers their secrets and jokes into her ear. Slowly, it all starts to come back to her. The flashes of their time at cafes, at the beach and at Paris: they all fit into her lost memory like pieces of a puzzle.
“Why didn’t you leave? How can you live like this, with a woman like me?” Momoka asks. She cannot help but feel cynical.
“Some mornings you remember me, most you don’t. So the letters you write to yourself are my salvation.” He sieves his hands through her thick black hair. “Momo, I know who you are. I know what I’m in for. I am on board. And I am still staying put.” She is relieved and happy, with a trickle of melancholy, but happy. She reaches in and hugs Kenji closer.
Momoka’s eyes feel heavy. Perhaps it was all those tears, she thought. “I need papers. I have to write the letter; I want to wake up remembering you. I want to remember the cure, and dad.” She breathes, taking in all the air she can to fill every corner of her lungs.
“Sleep, I’ll write it”, he said. Momoka cradles in Kenji’s warmth as he carries her up the stairs. Momoka lightly shuts her eyes, and soul; any slight touch will disintegrate her into molecules. “Kenji, remember, Sulfide 4 ppm.”
Kenji waits till Momoka drifts into deep sleep. So many formless days have passed ever since he set his mind on this mission. After years, this cure: it is all that he has been waiting for.
Forgery comes in handy when you are a corporate spy. Crane & Fuller had trained well. They pay well too. It is just another piece of information to steal. And it will be like all the ones he did with ease. Kenji finds it hard to believe he has the vaccine formula in his hands. Imagine all the profit this cure is going to make, and how much power he will have. No one believed following Dr. Myoi will be a good investment of time and effort. Now it has paid off.
But Kenji did not expect to love Momoka. When he sat at the café, to study her; to watch her moves and to get familiar with her lifestyle, he did not expect to execute this in a different way. The purpose of getting close to her slowly changed. Kenji knew back then, he was getting into a dangerous situation. Everything there is about Momoka is pure gold.
Now he knows too much. For the rest of his life, he has got to be looking over his shoulder. No, that wouldn’t do. How can he give up everything he has for one woman? The idea that anyone can only be complete with another person is absurd. ‘This success with Crane & Fuller now, and Dad and Mom will finally be proud of me’, he thought.
He must make a choice.
Kenji Ogawa begins to write.