From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Excerpt from Black Sheep by Ben Peek

EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT! Here’s a sneak peek at Ben Peek’s Black Sheep, the story of Isao Dazai, a Japanese-born man who has recently immigrated to Australia with his family. The future that Isao lives in is a world of mass race segregation where each of the world’s cities have been divided into three separate walled ghettos, defined by three ‘mass racial’ categories: Asian, African and Caucasian. Living in Asian-Sydney, Isao knows that simply wanting to cross the city’s boundaries is one of the greatest of crimes in this new world, as is his inability to leave his Japanese culture behind.

Within months of arriving in Sydney, he is charged with the crime of multiculturalism and sentenced to Assimilation, a radical and invasive punishment created by the Australian Government. This new punishment strips Isao of his personality and skin pigmentation and leaves him with cold, white skin, and nothing but a number to identify himself with . . .

Black Sheep

BLACK SHEEP, Chapter One

I was convicted of being Japanese. It was my only crime, and when found guilty, I was sentenced to Assimilation.

The trial took three hours, and when I arrived at the Assimilation Centre, Sol Demic, cold, grey clouds had knitted the sky tightly together. Beneath them, Asian-Sydney was a wet, grey creature, and its buildings scraped down to the ground alongside the rain, their outline drawn in thin lines of black ink that led to the sidewalks where nine-foot-high drooping lampposts and figures of men and women dressed in grey and shielded beneath black umbrellas waited. I couldn’t see their faces, and they did not look up as I passed. The guard tower on the wall of Sol Demic that I passed as the van entered the gates, was a faceless station, misted grey and blind to me from my position at the van’s window.

The Segregators opened the back of the van a moment later. They were faceless too: hidden beneath smooth black masks that offered only a featureless curve and black glass eyes; the remainder of their uniform was black padded armour, a pistol, nightstick, handcuffs, and leather pouches that weaved along their belts. One was male, the other female. They stared at me as the doors swung open, and then the one on the right—the male—climbed into the van. It sank and rocked beneath his weight as he approached, reaching down to grab the loose chain that held my limbs together.

Outside the van was a barren courtyard surrounded by tall concrete walls, and five towers along it. The sound of traffic seeped over the walls: a small number of automobiles, not much for an average day in Asian-Sydney, but always less in the wet. Such a minor thing, but I would never be aware of it again.

Water ran down my face and one of the Segregators dug a nightstick into my back, propelling me towards the entrance. I went, offering no resistance. There was no point, anyway.

Inside Sol Demic’s halls, neon lights swept over my face. The walls were white, new born but sterile, and there was no sound beyond the stumbling trip of my feet and my chains. The Segregators never said a word, never told me when to turn into a doorway, or when to stop. They used their nightsticks: digging into my back to get me to move faster, slapping my right side to have me turn right, my left to go left.

Eventually I reached a door that didn’t open, and I waited for one of the Segregators to open it.

It had been one hour since my trial had finished.

The Judge, a dour, sagging, sinking past his bones old man, had said: “Isao Dazai, you have broken the United Nations Laws of Nationality. In doing this, you have put the good people of Asian-Sydney in danger of Multiculturalism, a most heinous crime for which we, as People of the World, must be ever vigilant against. The court has viewed the evidence that has been presented before us, and we find that not only are you Japanese, but that you are Japanese with full awareness that you are living in Australia. Your willing embrace of this state, your flaunting of it actually, is nothing less than frightening, and we are forced to worry just what impact you have had on those around you. I am forced to ask myself just how scared your family are, and find myself with no alternative than to recommend counseling for them, while for you, Isao Dazai, I have only one choice. It is the ruling of this court that your punishment be the only kind that can be given to someone of your . . . illness. We find that you will be Assimilated.”

No one had said a word to me afterward.

I did not see my wife, Kumiko, during the trial. I did not know if she had even been present.

They had removed me from the court because I would not walk out. I mumbled questions, whispered pleas, but none of it mattered, and soon the doors to the van were closed, then locked, and in the cold dark, I knelt at the small window and watched as Asian-Sydney passed by all too quickly.

A nightstick jabbed into my spine, pushing me through the now open door and into a small, unfurnished room. The floor was tiled white, and at the other end of the room stood a door, which slid open.

Three men entered. The first two were tall, lean men wearing flowing white coats which billowed in their wake, while the third man, shorter, wore only overalls.

“Ah, here he is, here he is,” said the first of the men, older than the others, and his head completely bald. His narrow face was covered in fine, intricate lines, as if a sculptor had chiseled him. His dark eyes glittered and shone as he stared at me intently, then said, “The chains. Take them off, please.”

The male Segregator bent down, and the lock clicked open. A moment later, my hands and feet were free—though the chains might have stayed, for all the difference it made.

The bald man’s hand curled around my chin, twisting my head from left to right. “How old are you? Thirty, I would guess.” He plucked a strand of black hair out of my head, then murmured, “It is an easier procedure on teenagers and anyone over fifty. Did you know that?”

I could think of nothing to say.

“Sho,” said the man, not turning from my face but continuing to scrutinise it. “Take him to his cell, have him changed there.”

The third man stepped from behind the others. Everything about him was thick and coarse: his lips, eyebrows, overhanging forehead, neck and short, stubby body in his creased, dirty white overalls. Without a word, he clamped his hand around my arm, and dragged me out the doors that he had come through.

I turned once, a slight twist of my head to hear the bald man talking to the Segregators:

“Was his trial quick?”

“Yeah. We had lots on him—”

And then the door slipped shut.

Neon lights passed over me again, and the walls quickly turned in a running, white haze without distinction. The only sound was the rubber squelch of Sho’s soles as he plowed down the corridors, doors sliding open and shut, corners twisting until he had led me deep into Sol Demic.

Eventually we came to a narrow, dead-end, whitewashed corridor that was lined a dozen electronic locks, six on each side. The small catches over the doors were closed, but they must have been full, because Sho dragged me down to the end, where at the last cell on the right side, he punched in a code and, without a word, shoved me inside. The door slithered shut a moment later.

I was alone. I stared at the single bunk with its crisp white sheets and pillowcases, then at the back of the cell, where the toilet sat. The walls were clean—the same whitewash throughout the building, and there was a slender tube of neon light across the ceiling.

There were no windows, no natural light, no noise.

I sat down on the edge of the bed and, shortly, began to arrange my thoughts. Beneath the white ceilings and surrounded by the white walls, my mind filled with the mistakes that led me here and everything that was about to be taken away from me . . .

* * *

Read more in BLACK SHEEP: Available now!

” With the gravitas of a Margaret Atwood or Kazuo Ishiguro, [Ben] Peek, in his debut novel, Black Sheep, crafts a quietly horrifying world displaced from ours by a century of time and an implosion of globalist attitudes.”—Paul Di Filippo

Trade paperback / $15.95 / 332 pp. / ISBN 978-0-8095-6263-3

Ben Peek is a writer. He lives in Sydney. He has published short stories, poems, a chapbook, and essays. In 2000, he created a zine called the Urban Sprawl Project, but it no longer runs. His novels include Black Sheep, a dystopian novel, published by Prime Books, and an autobiography, Twenty-Six Lies/One Truth published by Wheatland Press.

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