it seemed like a choice


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How Shoes Protested in Australia
In which a small number of young people take part in an intercontinental competition. What they don’t expect, however, is that there will be many, many different kinds of footwear for them to wear.
“Why is the Australian footwear so much more expensive than our European counterparts?” asks one of their participants, who is not the least bit interested in the answer she receives. She continues: “Do you think they have to be so big and heavy? And the shoes on these are all too small!”
“You can’t blame shoes for everything,” replies another competitor, whose name escapes the reporter’s memory; it might even be a name she has already forgotten.
The first speaker, apparently having no intention of backing down, adds: “What do you mean by this? Is it because the designers want their contestants to suffer while wearing the same size as their competitors? That would certainly explain why the shoes on those two pairs seem so small…” Her words trail off as she realizes the implication behind them, and she goes silent.
Meanwhile, the interviewer, with an expressionless face, continues his or her monologue:
“…And how about this? The shoes that you wear are made from rubber, yet the shoes worn by your opponents are made from rubber. How does something like this make any sense whatsoever? It makes no sense whatsoever… I don’t think it’s possible for anything to make sense in fashion, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t some logic to it, and if you think about it carefully, surely it does. But anyway, back to the question: Why are all the shoes in this magazine so small? Why did we have to create this stupid, ridiculous category? And why is it even called the ‘Fantasy World’? We are obviously supposed to make fun of it, but… we couldn’t make fun of it without making us look bad in comparison. We shouldn’t put a whole magazine dedicated to this. If we do, we’ll become just like the fashion industry. There are only two options left, then: Make fun of it and lose the rights to use its material; or get the right to ridicule it. Either way, we must have been blind not to see it at first hand.
“Let’s assume, for now, that none of these shoes were made here in Australia. Let’s also assume they weren’t produced here. This country has a long history of producing things that aren’t native to Australia. In fact, it seems like it hasn’t existed for centuries. So if these shoes could come from other parts of the world, where else could they possibly come from? Maybe the United States? Or maybe Mexico? They certainly didn’t originate here. Perhaps there are others in Africa, and perhaps Asia, and possibly beyond. We haven’t seen them here, either – although we may never know for sure since we only have access to a few pieces of evidence.
“So, let’s assume these shoes did somehow come out of somewhere else. Then where did they go? What happened to them? Did they find someone who wanted to wear them and decided to leave with them? Do they still exist today, hidden away in some secret hideout, awaiting revival? Or did they fall into disuse? And what does it matter whether these shoes are found or not? Does anyone care? Does anyone care about this subject? No! We have a serious problem on our hands…
“I’m going to give an example of the kind of thing I’d like everyone to watch out for. If one of my friends were to ask me a question like ‘Where did all these shoes come from?’ and I had a good explanation ready for him, it would probably help to clear up any doubts he had in his mind. But what happens when he says ‘Actually, they came from somewhere else?’
“Well, he could be completely wrong – and I agree with him that it’s not impossible. However, there might very well be a possibility, however improbable, that those shoes did indeed come from somewhere else. After all, most of the time, we don’t understand how the world works anymore. As we get older, we learn less and less, and sometimes, we actually forget how to solve a mystery!
“For example, there was once a guy who lost his car keys in Australia and returned home in a state of absolute chaos. He searched frantically through every room until he stumbled upon an open drawer full of keys – and suddenly he remembered everything. He realized it wasn’t a nightmare or a dream. He saw the real world. His house wasn’t really far from his job. His wife wasn’t an evil witch disguised as a waitress. Even though some of the things around him were strange, they looked familiar enough that he recognized everything that used to belong to him. That is exactly what’s happening today! These shoes are exactly what we should have kept all along.
“I hope that everyone will stop looking at this fashion issue and pay attention to our own lives instead. I know a lot of people who don’t even realize what they’re missing… So yes, thank you very much for coming to my little show. Stay tuned next week for a preview of an exciting new book, the latest installment in the ‘Fantasy World’ collection. Until next time!”
Chapter 2
It had been a relatively easy assignment. He’d simply taken a photo and sent it to a friend, saying that he wanted advice on what to do with a certain article, and he’d gotten a reply almost instantly.
After checking to make sure he hadn’t missed anyone important – he’d done this before – he had started typing.
It was a simple message. Something to keep in mind, he’d told himself – and to send in order to confirm he was still sane.
He’d gone straight from “Hey,” to “My, it’s been a long time, huh?” and eventually ended up sending, “Are you busy?” He’d waited patiently for the answer that wouldn’t have been surprising at all: “No, I am not busy right now! What do you need?”
Of course, he’d expected some vague answer about work or family life – or both – but in truth, he didn’t particularly want anything from the guy he hadn’t talked to in years. Besides, he knew that the only person who ever answered his emails like this was his mom – and it took an extraordinary amount of patience on his part to get a decent response out of her, considering that her answers tended to be pretty much random musings that she got caught up in, rather than solid, cogent information.
His mom was always busy. There was never enough time for her to write him back. She was always working, or doing something else with one of her colleagues, or meeting up for coffee, or talking about politics, or trying out new recipes (and failing).
His dad had a steady job, which kept him busy enough, at least on the surface, that he hadn’t thought about writing to anyone for over twenty years, but his parents had a son who lived in London, and he’d written several times to check up on him, but every single email was ignored.
He’d stopped asking after that. It had felt weird to start sending emails again after such a long time, especially if his son had completely forgotten about him.
But that was a problem for later. For now, he needed to focus on the job.
That was easier said than done. All those questions had piled up on top of each other, forming a massive pile, which seemed like a mountain, or more specifically, a giant piece of furniture.
If someone asked him, ‘Is it normal to send emails to strangers all day, and never talk to them again?’ the answer would definitely be no. But if he replied, ‘It’s not normal… Not at all,’ that would be lying. To tell the truth would mean that he had changed, and he was afraid. Afraid of what might happen if his father learned about his current situation, and angry at him for causing him harm.
As long as he continued to ignore what his father had tried to tell him – to live life, to be happy – he was safe. He would continue being the person he was before everything went wrong, and eventually the man who loved him would come back, and everything would be fine, and his father would apologize to him for whatever he’d done.
However, if he didn’t ignore his father’s messages, if he answered them, what would happen then? If nothing happened, he’d feel better, knowing that nothing bad had really happened. If something bad did happen, he’d feel guilty. It was a dangerous game to play with his emotions. Sometimes, if he played it carefully enough, he managed to convince himself that what he was doing was okay, but he often got bored quickly – so easily bored that it was almost scary. And then, all the feelings he had suppressed for so long burst forth in an instant, forcing him to face the reality of his situation, and to confront the consequences.
It wasn’t the easiest thing to think about, even if he was able to rationalize it all.
In the end, it seemed like a choice – he didn’t love his parents, yet he loved his friends too, and they had helped him get through it.
“So I suppose, in theory, this is a problem? Because there isn’t really any reason why you can’t answer your emails. And even if they are lies, what difference does it make whether or not someone sees through them? The point is that you’ll have the opportunity to try to understand what was happening behind the scenes. You can discover why things went south so abruptly. But if you ignore what’s behind the scenes, you won’t understand why it went downhill in the first place.”
“But what if I find some other reasons for it?”
“We already covered these arguments,” interrupted Kaito. “Now we’re just discussing alternatives. I doubt there’s anything we haven’t discussed yet.”
Kaede opened her mouth, about to say something, but the words died halfway, leaving her speechless. He was right. Their conversation had been thorough in almost every way except one, and she couldn’t see the reasoning behind it. They were talking about possibilities that were either unlikely or impossible, and there wasn’t much she could say without offending him and getting in the way of his plans.
She shook her head slightly.
“Okay,” Kaede agreed. “I understand. Let’s move on, and see where we end up.”
They resumed their conversation, but now they talked about anything and everything. They spoke about school, they spoke about their jobs, about hobbies, about relationships and interests. And then there were discussions about their families and friends – about their parents, and their siblings, and about their pasts.
And gradually, they began to understand what it meant to be human, as opposed to merely the sum of our actions and thoughts. They also began to understand that it was pointless to argue with oneself. There was absolutely no use in doing that – no matter how strong the desire, no matter how hard you tried to justify yourself. Nothing worked – nothing made sense, at least not in the slightest.

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