My initial enthusiasm at convincing Little Red I was on the up and up, quickly bottomed out once it was clear that neither of us had any bright ideas about what to do next. From the outside it might have been expected, after all we were a couple of teenagers, or at least Red was - I on the other hand was just a time travelling senior citizen trapped in the body of a fat kid. Still, head shrinking was outta my wheel-house and to put a fine point on it, I had no idea of the common sense of the world. For what it was worth, I was as naive as a new born babe... or something to that effect.
"We should get you looked at by a doctor" offered Yukino, her voice expressing an undercurrent of uncertainty.
I was... "apprehensive" to put it mildly. First of all, I didn't really know if I had amnesia. Well, if I thought about it logically, I clearly didn't as I remembered my own past with startling clarity. Secondly, I didn't know if in the future they could do something amazing like treat amnesia with a pill or a ray gun or some other hocus pocus. Would they get suspicious if it didn't work?
One of the great things about my "lie" was that it was the truth... more or less. I really didn't have any memories of Ryouji's past life or of this town or any this future hubbub in general. So long as I never let on to the fact that I did have memories of my own life as Ronnie Diamond, then maybe I'd just come off as a pitiful head case and left alone, possibly to "rehabilitate" at my own leisure. Preferably with a drink in hand.
Actually... that didn't sound too bad. I'd be taking my chances I could con the doctors, but if it worked out I'd have a situation that would give me a bit of distance from what I was starting to perceive as my alter egos checkered past and my own ignorance of the world I found myself in. So, despite my hesitation I agreed.
"Alright Red, let's blouse! Oh and on the way lets get some grub..." I reached down and patted my gut, "I gotta feed the Alderman."
To her credit, Shortstack only gave me a faint grimace before using her fancy future telephone to make the appropriate arrangements. Can't say that I blame her, as I may have mentioned before, Ryouji wasn't particularly attractive nor well kept. I can only imagine his table manners were somewhere between "drunk hobo" and "pack of wild dogs".
"That's taken care of," she said as she tucked her phone into her skirt. There must be a pocket in there.
"We'll have to bring a doctors note to the school, so if this is some kind of prank you better not back out now."
Reflexively I gave her one of my award winning "Diamond Smiles", in retrospect a bad idea since anything involving Ryouji's face came off looking like a death row murderer.
"No bunk doll face, I'm as interested as you are to see what the docs say."
It was true, but Little Red still wasn't convinced. In the end she just shrugged her shoulders in defeat and beckoned me to the front door, to which I jauntily followed.
The trip to the doctors office was a real eye popper, let me tell ya. On the way there I was half trying to keep up my conversation with Red, while doing my best to keep my head from spinning around like a country bumpkin. I always thought I was a real cool cucumber, ice water running through my veins and all that, but the impact from stepping outside that door really threw me for a loop. It was as if the reality of the situation had come right up and socked me in the jaw - I was in the god damn future and all the implications of that, mostly personal started to dwell in my mind.
My office, my friends, my family... all gone for sure. I had no link to my past, nothing that I could reach out and touch or see or talk to. For a brief moment I started to question the authenticity of my own existence. Am I really Ronnie Diamond? How did I know? Could I prove it?
These are not questions that I wanted to entertain, especially right now. My stomach did a flip and in a brief wave of nausea I lost my footing, almost tumbling to the sidewalk. Little Red actually seemed concerned at this and threatened to call the meat wagon for me, but I clowned it off as being hungry.
"Are you sure you're okay?" she said, with a fair bit more concern than I would have anticipated from her, especially given the run down she had given me previously on the situation between her and "me".
"No problem toots, I just didn't eat breakfast. There's no need to worry." I replied in Ryouji's voice. It was still too wheedly and nasal for my liking and grated on my ears.
"Hmph!" hmph'ed Red as she spun around on her heel, "I-i-i-diot! It's not like I was worried about you!"
Before I could respond, she had broken out into a short jog to put some distance between us, forcing me to scamper after her. I huffed a bit to follow along, the lack of physical fitness in Ryouji's body readily apparent, but eventually caught up. I had no idea what had gotten Red so balled up, but she seemed to calm down quickly and after a block or two she fell back into a moderate walk along side me, allowing me to continue to put the Edison to her about all the stuff I didn't know. And boy was there a lot of it.
It turns out that Ryouji and Red have known each other for pretty much all their lives, with the former's father being the boss of the latter's. She didn't say much more on the topic of that relationship, but I got the distinct feeling that Red's old man was out of the picture somehow. I just hoped that Ryouji hadn't murdered him or something.
Now, you might be thinking to yourself, "Hey Ronnie, isn't that a bit much? Why are you being such a dramatic bun duster?" and you know what, maybe I might have agreed with you an hour ago, but after listening to Red chew the fat on the walk over to the surgery my opinion of Ryouji had reached new found lows. Lows so low that they could only be described as criminal. In a way it was almost impressive that someone had managed to turn into such a creep well before reaching adulthood. Back home in Chicago, a kid like this would have either ended up a gangster or a politician, he had that much going for him.
My impression of the boy I had somehow found myself impersonating was that he was a typical rich kid sociopath. His family was loaded and that apartment was evidently all his. He lived in it to go to school while his pops traveled all over the world doing whatever it is that successful businessmen do... probably their secretaries and backroom deals.
In that vein, Ryouji wasn't too far from a chip off the old block. He obviously had something on Red and used it as leverage to harass her, but she wasn't letting on exactly what it was. I was sure that this was going to cause me a headache down the road - after all, how could I blackmail someone if I didn't actually know what or where the blackmail material was? Hell, even if I wanted to let her off the hook, how could I convince her of my altruistic impulses?
It was a real doozy of a problem. Red was my only source of information about... well, pretty much everything. I needed to win her over, or failing that, keep her tractable to answering my questions, at least until I could cover the gaps. Lord knows how long that'd be the case.
In addition to the above, it seemed that Ryouji was a rather unpopular fella at his school. According to Yukino, he used his old mans status and wealth to practically run the joint, bullying students and teachers alike, which just added to my problems. After all, once word got out that I had "amnesia", chances are a lot of the palookas that Ryouji had been messing with would start coming out of the woodwork for a little taste of revenge.
For what seemed like the millionth time I cursed the son of a bitch I had been "reborn" as.
I tried to push it from my mind. There wasn't much I could do now and as it happened, we were standing right outside the doc shop. It wasn't a big hospital like I had been expecting, but instead it looked more like an office building but obviously futuristic. All concrete and shiny glass and taller than you'd think it would be sensible to build. We walked through the main doors (they opened on their own!) and looked at some sort of electronic directory for the doctors office. I brazenly studied Red as she manipulated the device - after all, I had no idea about the technology of this era and I had to learn somehow. I think she caught on to what I was doing because she started explaining her actions to me while she tapped on the screen.
"So... this is a search box. You tap here and enter the name of what you are looking for, then you tap on this icon here and.... ah, there it is - the fifty sixth floor."
I looked at the screen. Sure enough it was all gibberish to me and then as if by magic, the characters started to rearrange themselves into English right before my eyes. I shot Red an inquiring look but it didn't register. She clearly hadn't noticed anything. At this point, I was pretty damn certain as to what was going on - both with this and with the strange "tickling" feeling I got whenever I opened my big yap.
Actually, I had suspected it since my first conversation with the girl. The tickling feeling that happened whenever I talked - it was more prominent when I used... more "colorful euphemisms" in my speech, particularly ones I hadn't said before. That, combined with the obvious visual hallucinations related to the written word could only lead me to believe that the language I was speaking and reading was anything but English, yet somehow I could understand it and the sensation I was experiencing was related to this.
I walked with Yukino over to the lifts and as we waited for them to come I considered the possible answers and implications of my theory.
Hypothesis number one - The information that I needed was in Ryouji's brain all along and I was subconsciously using it when necessary. This was a particularly attractive theory because it meant that there might be more information in there that I could consciously get to if I tried, also it was pretty "safe" and maybe even a tad bit scientific, which is helpful for various reasons.
Hypothesis number two - Someone had purposely given me this ability because they anticipated I would need it. I didn't like this theory at all because it implied that my rebirth in this place and time was by intent, or namely, someone was seriously messing with me and I didn't know who they were or why they were doing it.
Hypothesis number three - This one was particularly crazy, but I had some previous experience in the topic - Basically, the world freaking hates the supernatural. I know this from a first hand basis, hell considering my line of work and the cases I get, I count on it just to survive. To summarize it in a way the average fella could understand, it's like this - anything that goes against the laws of rationality or physics is constantly being suppressed or altered by the universe. This is why most people can't do things like magic or why vampires aren't controlling the United States government - the bigger and more profane the aberration, the harder the universe pushes back and the more it tries to make things conform to our expectation of reality. Since my presence in Ryouji's body is almost certainly supernatural, the universe is inadvertently helping me by concealing that supernatural origin as best it can.
I had no idea which one of those hypothesis is correct, or if I had missed one, but out of the three of them the most frightening on an existential level was the last one. If the universe was really pushing back on me, then it's possible my very existence was in danger. Like I said, the bigger the aberration the bigger the blow back and I might just get blown out. I've seen it happen before to people who played around with toys they shouldn't have. It had even saved my life on more than one occasion.
"Hey... Ryouji... what are you thinking about?" asked Red.
My face must have been screwed up in thought because despite her regular hostility to me, she looked a bit concerned. Of course, given the circumstances maybe that was normal. It's not every day you lose your memory, or in my case, someone elses memory.
"Just wondering Red..."
The lift finally came with a ding and we entered.
"Wondering what?" she asked me as she punched the numbers for floor number fifty six.
"Ah, well... y'know..."
A somber mood fell over the joint as we ascended the building. Truthfully I was just being evasive because I didn't want to talk, but Red probably took it the wrong way because she knitted her eyebrows in consternation. It was a cute look on her and I held back a smile, knowing all too well that it'd come off the wrong way on this ugly mug I was renting. It was a real shame that Ryouji had been such a bastard to Yukino. Most guys, including yours truly, would have killed to have a girl like her as a childhood friend and hopefully as something more.
Still, despite the horror stories she had told me about "myself", it seemed that she didn't utterly despise the guy. In a way, she reminded me of a stray dog that wouldn't leave it's master no matter how much it got kicked and that thought was enough to make even a hard boiled fella like myself a little misty. She was a good kid and didn't deserve it.... well, probably didn't deserve it. At least my gut told me that was the case.
As the elevator came to a stop and we stepped out onto the fifty sixth floor, I made a silent vow to myself that I'd do something for the girl if I could. Not really a big surprise if you knew me, I had a habit of getting pretty dames out of jams and myself into 'em. Of course, in this case I was cause of this particular girls problems so naturally they'd be easy to fix.
Boy, did I not know just how wrong I was going to be on that count.