In the midst of a typhoon, I have been working on an article for Mish Mash Magazine about the prolific author, Jeffrey Thomas. The piece for Mish Mash features a three-question interview with Jeffrey Thomas and thoughts on his work and its effect on me, the reader – a kind of phenomenological indulgence piece. In the meantime, as I spend this day editing, consuming gallons of coffee and enjoying the cloudy pre-autumnal weather in Japan, I present you with an excerpt (used with permission from the author) from Thomas’s book “Deadstock,” published in 2007 by Solaris.
Deadstock (Excerpt) by Jeffrey Thomas:
“It’s about my doll, isn’t it?” Yuki said. “My father is asking you to find it for me.”
The girls sat on a marble bench within the garden-like courtyard of the company that Yuki’s father owned. It was a cylindrical building hollowed by this open core, the bright blue sky of the planet Oasis showing far above them like a telescope’s view of heaven, but it was a deceptive view. Beyond the walls of this structure, Punktown was anything but heavenly. At least this courtyard seemed like a microcosmic paradise. A double-helix sculpture twined up from the fountain at the center of the garden, reaching almost to the top of the building like a ladder. Brightly blossoming vines had entangled the bronze chain’s loops. Encircling windows looked out upon this rising symbol, so significant to the work being done within the building’s offices and labs. Stake had passed through a lobby area, and been directed to wait here for Mr. Fukuda to join him.
“I really shouldn’t discuss my business with your father, dear,” he said to the girl politely.
“Well, I’m sure my father will want you to question me about Dai-oo-ika’s disappearance.” Yuki smiled again, but her lips quivered and her eyes suddenly took on a moist sheen. The reddish-haired girl reached over to clasp her hand on one of Yuki’s legs consolingly. Stake tried not to look at the small hand upon the plastic-smooth thigh.
“I’m sorry about… your doll,” he said awkwardly. “So it’s name is what?”
“Dai-oo-ika,” said the short-haired girl. “It means ‘great king of squid.’”
“I see.” Stake nodded, and now took in the three kawaii-dolls of Yuki’s pals. “Kawaii” was a Japanese word for “cute,” and kawaii-dolls of all types had been the rage with children in the Earth colonies for the past few years. Of course, the more expensive and elaborate dolls held more value for collectors, and hence more appeal—more esteem. Stake had done a little reading about these toys on the net this morning and could tell that these three dolls were of the highest order.
The short-haired girl watched Stake staring at the dolls, so took it upon herself to introduce them. She hugged her own and said, “This is Mr. Gau.” It seemed like a very realistic bear cub in some ways, but its eyes were too large and it had no nose or mouth and only stubby vestigial limbs. The lack of a mouth and ineffectual arms and legs were a common theme with kawaii-dolls, to make them look helpless, vulnerable, submissive. Stake had read that critics of the dolls viewed this as a conspiracy, sending signals to young girls that these passive qualities were what would appeal to men when they became adult women.
There was a little metal straw extending from between Mr. Gau’s legs. Yuki’s friend uncapped it, held the teddy bear up and sucked at the straw, keeping her eyes on Stake’s. At this, the bear lifted its head higher, blinking, and made a rumbling sound like a purr or muffled growl in spite of its missing mouth. Its tiny half-limbs swam in the air. Finished, the girl recapped the straw and the bear went immobile again. She smiled, licking her lips. “Ruou gau is a rice wine the Vietnamese like, made with bile from a bear’s gall bladder. The Chinese used to have bear farms where they put catheters in live bears to drain it. But Mr. Gau is filled with pineapple CandyPop.” She giggled.
“Mm,” Stake said. He hadn’t realized the dolls could be so educational. But however slight his knowledge of animal anatomy, he knew a bear’s gall bladder was not between its hind legs.
“There were only a hundred-fifty copies of the Deluxe Mr. Gau made,” the girl announced proudly. She gestured to the reddish-haired girl’s pet. “Suzu’s doll is number four in a series of only a hundred!” She pouted as if in sad envy. Suzu giggled, less sulky all of a sudden, and held her doll higher for him to see. It was a thing like a clockwork robot from some long-antiquated future vision, made from a goldish tarnished metal (or plastic resembling metal), somewhat turtle-like in form. The whole time they had been talking, this thing had been watching Stake avidly, turning its head ever so slightly to track his smallest shift in position. He found it unsettling.
Not to be outdone, the Hispanic girl spoke up loudly with a kind of arrogant pride to say, “Mine is only one of four hundred. That’s still pretty rare!”
Yuki was able to speak again. “Maria got hers for her Sweet Sixteen party two weeks ago, like I got Dai-oo-ika for my Sweet Sixteen party last month.” At the memory of this event, she looked like a woman who had watched her child murdered before her eyes. Stake saw Suzu’s hand give Yuki’s thigh a squeeze.
Stake recognized that Maria’s kawaii-doll was not an animated toy like the other two, but a bio-engineered organism. Its functions were simple; despite its seemingly higher evolution, it was as primitive a thing as a starfish. It was little more than an anthropomorphic starfish in shape, too: four pointed pink limbs and a pointed pink head with eyes like black marbles pressed in dough, and no other features but for its outie navel. The near-mindless organism squirmed with the uncertain slow-motion movements of a newborn infant.
“Yuki’s Dad’s company makes Stellar,” Maria said. “And he made Dai-oo-ika, too. But there’s only one Dai-oo-ika.”
Sniffing, Yuki nodded. “Dai-oo-ika is the rarest kawaii-doll in Punktown, Daddy says.” Her voice came close to breaking as she squeaked, “And I love him, too!”
For more information on Jeffrey Thomas, see the following links:
Jeffrey Thomas’s Official Site
Jeffrey Thomas’s Blog
Jeffrey Thomas on Amazon
Jeffrey Thomas on Myspace
Jeffrey Thomas’s Deadstock Review – Guardian UK
Bookgasm Review of Jeffrey Thomas’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street: The Dream Dealers
Another Deadstock Review
Jeffrey Thomas interview -Infinity Plus
Jeffrey Thomas interview – Post Weird Thoughts