Excerpt of All Tomorrow's Parties by William Gibson
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Chapter One: Cardboard City
Through this evening's tide of faces unregistered, unrecognized, amid
hurrying black shoes, furled umbrellas, the crowd descending like a single
organism into the station's airless heart, comes Shinya Yamazaki, his notebook
clasped beneath his arm like the egg case of some modest but moderately
successful marine species.
Evolved to cope with jostling elbows, oversized Ginza shopping bags, ruthless
briefcases, Yamazaki and his small burden of information go down into the neon
depths. Toward this tributary of relative quiet, a tiled corridor connecting
Central columns, sheathed in green ceramic, support a ceiling pocked with
dust-furred ventilators, smoke detectors, speakers. Behind the columns, against
the far wall, derelict shipping cartons huddle in a ragged train, improvised
shelters constructed by the city's homeless. Yamazaki halts, and in that moment
all the oceanic clatter of commuting feet washes in, no longer held back by his
sense of mission, and he deeply and sincerely wishes he were elsewhere.
He winces, violently, as a fashionable young matron, features swathed in
Chanel micropore, rolls over his toes with an expensive three-wheeled stroller.
Blurting a convulsive apology, Yamazaki glimpses the infant passenger through
flexible curtains of some pink-tinted plastic, the glow of a video display
winking as its mother trundles determinedly away.
Yamazaki sighs, unheard, and limps toward the cardboard shelters. He wonders
briefly what the passing commuters will think, to see him enter the carton fifth
from the left. It is scarcely the height of his chest, longer than the others,
vaguely coffin-like, a flap of thumb-smudged white corrugate serving as its
Perhaps they will not see him, he thinks. Just as he himself has never seen
anyone enter or exit one of these tidy hovels. It is as though their inhabitants
are rendered invisible in the transaction that allows such structures to exist
in the context of the station. He is a student of existential sociology, and
such transactions have been his particular concern.
And now he hesitates, fighting the urge to remove his shoes and place them
beside the rather greasy-looking pair of yellow plastic sandals arranged beside
the entrance flap on a carefully folded sheet of Parco gift wrap. No, he thinks,
imagining himself waylaid within, struggling with faceless enemies in a
labyrinth of cardboard. Best he not be shoeless.
Sighing again, he drops to his knees, the notebook clutched in both hands. He
kneels for an instant, hearing the hurrying feet of those who pass behind him.
Then he places the notebook on the ceramic tile of the station's floor and
shoves it forward, beneath the corrugate flap, and follows it on his hands and
He desperately hopes that he has found the right carton. He freezes there in
unexpected light and heat. A single halogen fixture floods the tiny room with
the frequency of desert sunlight. Unventilated, it heats the space like a
"Come in," says the old man, in Japanese. "Don't leave your ass hanging out
that way." He is naked except for a sort of breechclout twisted from what may
once have been a red T-shirt. He is seated, cross-legged, on a ragged,
paint-flecked tatami mat. He holds a brightly colored toy figure in one hand, a
slender brush in the other. Yamazaki sees that the thing is a model of some
kind, a robot or military exoskeleton. It glitters in the sun-bright light, blue
and red and silver. Small tools are spread on the tatami: a razor knife, a sprue
cutter, curls of emery paper.
The old man is very thin, clean-shaven but in need of a haircut. Wisps of
gray hair hang on either side of his face, and his mouth is set in what looks to
be a permanent scowl of disapproval. He wears glasses with heavy black plastic
frames and archaically thick lenses. The lenses catch the light.
from ALL TOMORROWS PARTIES by William Gibson by permission of G. P.
Putnams Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © 1999 by
Gibson. All rights reserved.
This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form