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immortal WIMON SAINIMNUAN


2 ‘In art we strive for originality and lose sight of truth which is old and yet ever new; in literature we miss the complete view of man which is simple and yet great’ — Sādhanā, Rabindranath Tagore

© 2000 WIMON SAINIMNUAN © AMATA FOUNDATION & MARCEL BARANG for the translation Internet edition 2008 | All rights reserved Original Thai edition, Amata, 2000

WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


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1 03:00 read the digital clock. Phrommin still couldn’t keep his eyes closed. He wanted to sleep, but the more he wanted to the more his thoughts kept him awake. He tossed left and right and sighed deeply. He had been sweating profusely since he went to bed at eleven last night. At times he felt so incensed he almost got up to bang on the walls just to settle his nerves. The venom of sleeplessness was like a burning fire. His wife turned and presented her back to him. She was luckier than he was as she could sleep by fits and starts. Even though she wasn’t sound asleep, she still could get some rest; she wasn’t tormented and agitated like him. ‘What’s bothering you?’ she asked. Phrommin stepped out of bed and went to sit on the easy chair by the window, taking deep breaths to try to calm himself. His wife rose too, stretched her arm to switch the lamp on, and then moved to sit up against the bedstead. Soft yellow light illuminated her thickset body draped in a nightgown. She was half-Thai, halfChinese, but her soft features were decidedly Thai. Her hair was wavy and cut straight at the nape. Her skin was deeply wrinkled, especially on her forehead, at the IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


4 corners of her eyes and on her neck, which was only natural for a woman of fifty. She had striking eyes, pensive and worried at all times – the eyes of someone who never knows peace of mind. She looked at her husband, rather indistinct in the lamplight. She guessed he must have a big problem, something momentous, because he had never behaved like this throughout all the years they had been married. ‘If there’s something you want to tell me, go ahead.’ She freed herself of the blanket, stepped out of bed, went to sit in the easy chair opposite him and waited for him to speak while trying to guess what it would be about. As for him, he pondered how to begin so that he wouldn’t scare her too much. Then he spoke. ‘I think the time has come.’ He rested his elbows on the arms of the seat, rubbed his temples and stared at the carpet as if finding his words there. ‘For several days now my joints have been killing me. The professor did a checkup and he says I am suffering from arthritis.’ She stared at him while holding her breath, wishing that what she thought wouldn’t happen. ‘My body is beginning to deteriorate with age. So I think it’s time to fix it. I’ve been procrastinating for far too long.’ She didn’t hear a single word of the last sentence, because there was a buzzing in her ears and she had grown numb. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


5 He understood how she felt. ‘I don’t want to do it, but it’s necessary.’ ‘Isn’t there any other way?’ Her voice was hoarse. He shook his head. ‘I want to solve the problem at source, not merely treat the symptoms of the illness, because no matter what it won’t go away. This ailment is torture, you know.’ ‘And won’t it be torture for him?’ ‘No.’ His tone was firm. ‘We won’t let him suffer.’ ‘I really can’t take it.’ Her voice was shaky. ‘I understand,’ he said in a conciliatory tone. ‘Me neither. That’s why I can’t sleep. But no matter how much it hurts, I will have to accept it, because it’s necessary. How can I go on working if I keep hurting like this? Our children aren’t experienced enough yet to do all the work for me. We’ve more than a thousand companies. Besides, and more importantly, I want to have a long life without suffering, so we can be together forever.’ She had told him many times she’d never do the Immortality programme like him after he had taken it over from his father. She was happy to let her life run its natural course, rather than being hacked to bits and take someone else’s life to extend her own. ‘Can’t you give him one more year?’ she pleaded, even though she hadn’t the slightest hope. ‘I’m fifty-five already. The more we wait, the more difficult it’ll be. Sooner or later it’s got to be done. If it’s IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


6 done soon, it’s good for me. As for him, he’ll have done his duty. You won’t have to suffer any longer either. And when my life is fine again, everybody – the three million people plus – will also be fine.’ He meant his employees, both at home and abroad. ‘We’ve raised him like our own son.’ Then her tears came. It was hopeless to plead with him any further. He tried to comfort her by saying, ‘No matter how we’ve raised him, we must accept the truth. He isn’t our son – he isn’t even one of us. He’s only a part of me, and he’s been made for the purpose of being of use to me.’ No point in arguing. No point in pleading. No-one could get in his way. She stood up to leave, but didn’t know where to go to escape the sorrow that overwhelmed her heart. Then she opened the door and went out of the bedroom, leaving him sitting alone in the dim light.

In the morning, when Phrommin went downstairs to eat breakfast before going to work, he found his wife sitting with a strained face on the sofa in the living room. He greeted her normally. ‘Have you eaten yet?’ She shook her head and without looking at him asked, ‘What will you have?’ He told the middle-aged maid who had come in and stood waiting for his order, ‘Orange juice and coffee will be enough,’ then went to sit down on the chair in front of his wife. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


7 She turned her face away and looked at the small garden in front of their residence, her eyes glazed as if her soul was already frozen stiff. Phrommin let out a sigh. He wasn’t feeling unhappy because of the other fellow but because of his wife’s feelings. ‘I know you’re disappointed and angry with me, but please try to understand me a little and, if possible, stop thinking about it. I don’t want to see you like this. It can only depress us. I’d like to leave the house with a light heart, not dejected and sad like this because I’m worried about how you feel.’ ‘Don’t worry about my feelings. No matter what, I can’t accept it, for all that I’ve tried to. Actually, you’re not so much worried about my feelings but about yours. You’ve said it clearly enough: you want to have a light heart.’ His face tensed up at her retort. ‘All right, I accept I’m selfish. Everybody in the world is selfish. So am I wrong? If I’m wrong, so is everybody in the entire world, and even you, who sit here with a long face because you can’t get what you want. It’s the same thing. It’s just a matter of who’s got the better reasons.’ She shook her head and told him she didn’t want to argue with him. The maid brought in orange juice and hot coffee on a tray she set down carefully, but Phrommin stood up, seized his attaché case and walked to the door of the lift beside the stairs. He turned to his wife briskly, ‘Tell him to follow me… to the head office.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


8 After that, he took the lift to the rooftop. There the helicopter, its pilot and his personal secretary were waiting for him. Phrommin hadn’t left the house for five minutes when a young man in a brown suit came down from the top floor. He was tall and slender. His clear, fair-skinned, eggshaped, witty face and bright black eyes told of perfect health. He had a striking resemblance to Phrommin but, as he was twenty-two years old, he looked slimmer. He meant to walk to the right wing to join his mother and father over breakfast as usual, but then he saw his mother sitting in the living room in the left wing, so he went over to her and asked why she sat quietly on her own. He sat down diagonally across from her, ‘Are you all right, mother? You look so pale.’ She shook her head, but didn’t turn to look at him. As soon as he asked why his father hadn’t come down yet, she turned to stare at him. ‘He was in a bad mood, so he’s already left.’ She stared vacantly at the glass of orange juice and cup of coffee. ‘He wants you to follow him to the head office.’ ‘Anything wrong between you?’ She shook her head, unable to speak. The maid entered and, standing respectfully, asked him if he wanted anything special besides the carrot juice he had to drink every morning. He thanked her and answered, ‘I’ll take my father’s breakfast’ and smiled at her. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


9 His mother tried to withhold her tears, but then they rolled down. He leaned towards her and said softly, ‘If you can tell me and it helps you feel better, please do so.’ But she merely stared at him for a long time with redrimmed eyes until she burst into tears.

Phrommin went back home feeling irritated because Cheewan hadn’t gone to work. He asked the maid where his wife was and when he had his answer stalked to the library, which was past the living room. He asked about Cheewan at once but his wife didn’t answer. ‘Why didn’t he come to work?’ His voice was curt. ‘I don’t know,’ she answered coldly. He went to stand in front of her. ‘You told him, didn’t you?’ She raised her head and looked at him coolly, with hardly a trace of sorrow. ‘It’s his life. He has a right to know, hasn’t he?’ His face clouded at once and he tried his best to control his temper. ‘That right is mine. His life is mine. It’s not his or anybody else’s. He was born from my own cells. He was raised on my money and as I saw fit. Even you don’t have the right to interfere in this.’ ‘In that case, you don’t have to ask me.’ ‘I have to ask, because you told him.’ ‘I wanted him to know so he can take care of his own life.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


10 ‘If he runs away, what will you do?’ ‘That’s what I’ve been praying he’ll do.’ ‘You must be mad. Do you know how much money and time we spent before we got him and how much we’ve invested for his upkeep to raise him up this far?’ ‘You talk as if he weren’t a person.’ ‘He is a person, but an artificial one, as you know very well.’ ‘He is a person just like me and you, except that he was born from your cells, not from normal conception.’ Having said, she lowered her head and pretended to read, which incensed him further, but he didn’t know how to answer her and figured it wouldn’t help anyway, so he just stood there staring at her in a huff. Then he turned round and left.

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2 Cheewan drove out of the beautiful neo-Roman-style residence feeling hurt and confused. He had nowhere to go. He only knew he had to be on the move. He couldn’t stay still. After driving for about an hour, he felt a bit relieved but the waves of pain still crashed about in his chest. His thoughts began to take shape, but they were so blurred they seemed far away. He asked himself why he felt hurt. Was it because he wasn’t like everybody else or because he had been betrayed by the people he respected and worshipped or because he was afraid of dying? ‘Why didn’t you tell me from the first?’ The car stopped at a red light. His thoughts were still running in circles in his distress. He had no idea the light had turned green until there was the blare of a horn from the car behind his. Startled, he stepped on the accelerator and was gone. Before long the traffic lightened, the air grew clearer. He was aware he was leaving town along a way he was used to. His subconscious had driven him there. By now he knew why he felt hurt. He had loved and worshipped his father and it seemed his father didn’t love him any less than he did his other children. But then it was as if he had been struck full in the face by lightning when he was told he IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


12 wasn’t a real person and his father was about to tear him to pieces to replace his organs that were beginning to deteriorate. So, his father didn’t love him at all. His father loved himself. Throughout his life, his father had never thought he was his real son. He had merely thought he was a set of body parts that was alive, that was all. His father thought he owned him as he owned the hundreds of thousands, the millions of animals in his farms. He didn’t understand why his father had him raised in his family as if he were his real son. If he had him reared in the cloning farm, it’d have been better. From birth he’d have known what he was and what his fate would be, instead of being led to think all along he was a real person. It was difficult for him to get used to the idea that he was an artificial person. The car turned into a small tarmac road going through communities of poor people separated by stretches of thickets, coconut groves, cassava fields and pine plantations. After a mere ten kilometres, the car reached the end of the road. It came to a slow stop as if it were about to float and stayed still, brooding for a long time before the door opened and Cheewan stepped out, staggering a little, so he had to steady himself by grabbing onto the door. He took a deep breath and looked far ahead. The familiar sea and wind were waiting for him. The sound of the waves against the cliff came from nearby. He would often come here whenever he felt lonely and empty or wanted to sit quietly on his own. It was his WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


13 private world not even one square inch of which was under his control. He came to rest his mind and then took his leave. He walked down to the sandy beach. Though his body was weak and his mind tired, he still was careful not to tread on the morning glory that flowered gaily in large swathes over the upper reaches of the beach. When he was over those patches and came to the beach proper, he kept on walking as if he were counting his steps and then his conversation with his mother that morning came back to him. ‘Since I’m not a real person, since I’m not the real son of either of you, what am I going to do with myself?’ ‘No matter who you are, no matter your origins, no matter what you are, for me you’ll always be my son and nothing can change that.’ ‘So what do you want me to do?’ ‘Your father must be operated on to replace his organs with yours.’ ‘What is it he needs exactly?’ ‘I don’t know. He’ll want to keep replacing one organ and then another.’ ‘What state will I be in then?’ His mother shook her head, unable to speak. ‘He’ll probably tear me apart one piece at a time. What will be left of me will be a chunk of meat, kept alive by being fed a straw, breathing through a tube, excreting through drains, until he has torn my body apart entirely IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


14 or, if I’m lucky, my heart and brain are torn out first.’ ‘Your life is yours, not your father’s or anyone else’s. Therefore you have the absolute right to protect it. If you think doing this isn’t right, that it is against nature, you must oppose it.’ ‘How can I do that given that I’m not a real person?’ She couldn’t deny this either: ten years earlier, the government had issued a law allowing the creation of clones for medical research purposes and stating that clones were the property of their makers or of specific legal entities. ‘Why don’t you run away? Why don’t you go somewhere abroad, change your features through plastic surgery and change your name too? Even though you’re a clone, you have an identity card and your name is in the house registry as well.’ He wondered why he didn’t think like his mother. Even now he didn’t. He was afraid of being taken apart and of dying in the end, but he didn’t think of running away. It wasn’t a matter of daring or cowardice, but of feeling what he didn’t know how to name, attachment or gratitude or habit, or was it that he believed his father eventually wouldn’t treat him like this? The waves beat against the rocks in a deafening roar. Whenever he felt lonely, he’d sit down surrounded by the roar of the waves and look at the evening sun as it sank into the sea, leaving a red glow over the horizon and the distant water before darkness took over. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


15 Cheewan climbed up among the rocks and set his back against a boulder, then let his body relax and forgot everything by closing his eyes and listening to the waves crashing over the rocks. Before long he dosed off. When he woke up again, the day was coming to an end. The sun was disappearing from the sky, sending purplish red rays over the horizon and the skin of the sea. He saw this natural wonder but didn’t see its dainty beauty. More than at any other time in his life he felt sad and empty.

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3 It was dark by the time Cheewan drove into the seaside town, which seemed to have just awoken from sleep. All roads, streets and buildings were decorated with multicoloured lights, so that it seemed no dark corner could be found. People were milling about. Some large commercial or entertainment arteries were so crowded there seemed to be a fair going on. Cheewan parked in front of a twenty-four-hour convenience store. He followed two young men into the store. As soon as the glass door opened, an electric bell rang and the man and woman behind the counter shouted out ‘Welcome!’ even though neither looked up at the person they greeted because they were busy with calculators and credit cards. Then they both said ‘Thank you. See you again soon’. As soon as a new customer pushed the door open, the bell rang and the two of them uttered the same greeting but it was very seldom that they looked at the customer at all. But nobody minded: everyone did their duty. The first time he had entered this store, some six months before, he had thought that these two, as well as the salespeople in the other 77 777 branches all over the country, were genuine robots, but he had also wondered whether these salespeople, if they worked for twenty-two years, would be able to do anything else besides scanning barcodes, WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


17 receiving credit cards and uttering ‘Welcome. See you again soon’. The first time he had walked in, he hadn’t gone to pick up a drink in the cooler inside but had stood watching the two employees absentmindedly. The girl had told him welcome once again. He hadn’t moved. She must have felt there was something unusual because she had raised her head and looked at him with a forced smile and said welcome yet again, then she had added, ‘Go ahead’. He had smiled at her, amused, and had gone over to get his drink. When he came back to pay for it, he had asked her if she wasn’t fed up repeating the same thing all day, day after day. ‘It’s my duty.’ ‘Have you ever counted how many times you say “welcome” and “thank you” in a day?’ he had asked her with a soft voice. He didn’t want her to think he was hassling her. ‘I haven’t got time to count.’ She didn’t sound pleased. He had smiled at her in a friendly way. ‘Sorry. My question was stupid. I should have known you haven’t got time.’ ‘Never mind. Thank you. See you again next time.’ She had returned his credit card to him and cut short the conversation by greeting a new customer who was getting through the door. He had come into the store regularly so he knew all the salespeople and became increasingly friendly with the girl. Eventually their friendship had turned into a IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


18 relationship. He had taken her out for a meal or they’d go for a stroll along the beach and on two or three occasions they had gone to see a movie in Bangkok on her days off. This evening he went in to buy a can of iced coffee then went to stand in front of the counter. She took the can and scanned its barcode, but she recognised his hand, so she looked up. Her smile at the pleasant surprise brought tears to his eyes. But her pleasure didn’t please him tonight, because his life had changed. He forced a smile. ‘Why didn’t you let me know you’d be coming?’ ‘I didn’t know in advance.’ She was so pleased she didn’t pay attention to what he said. ‘My shift ends at six in the morning.’ ‘I know. I just wanted to see you.’ ‘Will you be coming back?’ ‘I’ll book a room in a hotel for the night and I’ll come back here at six to pick you up.’ ‘Good. I’ll take you to have soybean milk at the morning market.’ He took the can of coffee. ‘See you then.’ He smiled at her and at her friend before pushing the door open and stepping out.

The sky at six in the morning towards the end of the cold season wasn’t lit yet. The lights in the streets showed a WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


19 layer of fog covering everything. Cheewan parked in front of the store just as she was coming out. He took her to the morning market, which had stalls selling rice dishes, soup, fritters, fruit, fresh flowers, Thai sweets, tea, coffee, soymilk and many other kinds of hot drinks. There were also dishes which went well with the cold weather such as porridge, vegetable soup or gruel with little bits of fish. He chose vegetable soup because he had had nothing but coffee and water since the previous morning. As they sat eating, Manatchanok looked at him pensively. She waited until he had eaten his fill before she asked what the matter with him was, as he looked so sad. He kept silent. He didn’t know how to begin. He drove with her back to the bay in front of the hotel where he had spent the night. Fog was still covering the area, turning the light of dawn into a white haze. The morning air was still nippy. There were no waves or wind on the bay, nothing but wavelets chasing each other onto the sand. Cheewan took her for a stroll along the beach, asking her about herself, her studies, her work and for news of her family, which meant her mother and teenage brother. She answered that she was feeling okay, there was nothing much to bother her. After she had told him about herself, Manatchanok asked him, ‘What’s happened? Why are you asking me questions as if you hadn’t seen me for a year?’ ‘Things change so fast these days you can’t adjust to them.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


20 ‘You, for instance. You weren’t like this last week. Why do you look so down-in-the-mouth now?’ He went on walking with her. Much time went by before he spoke again. ‘It’s hard to say, hard to understand and even harder to accept it’s true.’ She stopped walking, turned to stare at him, but he looked away towards the sea. ‘Have you ever wondered who I am, what I am?’ He couldn’t find the words to phrase the question to his liking, and he thought he shouldn’t have asked this one. ‘I don’t know. I just know you are you, a nice man, generous, caring, full of ideas and sensitive. Sometimes a bit fanciful. What about you? Who would you say you are?’ ‘I mean, am I like everybody else?’ ‘All told, you’re no different from the others. Goodlooking and warm, too.’ ‘If I told you I’m different from the others, would you believe me?’ ‘Well, tell me about it.’ ‘I’m not a real person,’ he forced himself to say. ‘I am a clone.’ She stared at him with doubt rather than alarm. ‘I’m an artificial person. I was born through cloning. I have no father, no mother, no relatives.’ She was silent for a while before she said, as if it was something ordinary, ‘What’s strange about that? No WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


21 matter which way you were born, you’re a human being like the rest of us. If you’re different from anyone, it’s because you’re a nice man.’ ‘I mean I have no dignity, no rights like other human beings. I’ve been created for a purpose, like a domestic animal. The only difference is they’re raised to be killed and turned into food, but in my case I’m being raised to be killed and used as spare parts.’ She stared at him, trying not to let her pain show in her eyes as she was afraid it’d make him feel even worse. ‘You’re telling me…’ ‘I am going to be used as spare parts.’ ‘For whom? Some millionaire?’ ‘My own father.’ He was silent, as if suppressing the hurt in his heart, then he said, ‘He’s the model. Now he wants to replace his organs, because it’s time. He’s already fifty-five. He wants his body to be strong like that of a young man.’ ‘What parts of you is he going to use?’ ‘I’ve no idea. Maybe my limbs, my eyes, my lungs, my spleen, my kidneys, my heart, my bowels, my stomach, or even maybe my brain too.’ Her tears were flowing without her realizing it. He held her in his arms to comfort her. ‘I don’t regret life, but what I feel bad about is I’ve been made to feel worthless like those cattle of his.’ He felt so slighted his voice shook. ‘If he had done with me as with farm cattle from the first, I wouldn’t feel bad at all.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


22 ‘So what will you do?’ ‘I can’t think of anything. I don’t know what to do. I just thought about you and worried about you.’ ‘Why don’t you run away? Why would you want to die for him?’ ‘I can’t think. Everything for me is difficult, even making a decision.’ ‘Your life is your own, nobody owns it but you. If you don’t want to give it away, nobody can do anything to you.’ ‘If I wanted to run away, I could do it. This world is big enough. But how can I run away from myself? How can I run away from mental pain, from resentment?’ ‘I’d like you to run away, go anywhere, just to be safe. If you need money, I’ll be happy to work and send you some.’ Her generosity moved him. He told her money was no problem because he was the son of a multimillionaire. He had money in his own bank account and if he ran away, his mother was ready to help him in every way, because she too wanted him to fight for his life. There was no need to be ready to die for someone who thought like his father. And then he told her who his father was, how big and diverse his business was, and how fast it was expanding. Even the store where she worked was part of his father’s empire. She was silenced for a long while by this revelation. ‘So what will you do now?’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


23 ‘I’d like to stay quietly here for a while, think things over, until my mind is at peace, and then come to some decision.’ She held his arm tight, tears still running down her cheeks. ‘No matter what you decide, to run away or to die for your father, there’s something I’d like to ask you and I don’t want you to refuse.’ She tightened her grip on his arm. She wanted him to know she spoke with sincerity. ‘Whether you decide to go back to your father or to run away, I won’t have the opportunity to live with you like the other families. If you think I’m good enough for you, that I’m good enough to be a mother, I’d like to have a child with you.’ He was silent. It was something else that was hard for him to accept readily. It wasn’t that she wasn’t good enough or he didn’t love her, but all kinds of problems would follow their decision. He wouldn’t have peace of mind if he was alive and if he had to die he’d die in turmoil because he wouldn’t know what his child’s fate would be. The father an artificial person, the mother a real person, what would the child be? For the time being, there was no clear-cut law about this, and society would frown on it, as with the untouchables in India, but what was he to tell her so she would understand? It seemed that the curtain of fog was thickening and the light getting even dimmer. He wanted the fog in his heart to lift, so that the light of wisdom would shine through somehow. IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


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4 Phrommin reached the hospital at 8:30 am. His arrival had been announced ahead of time. When the helicopter landed on the rooftop of the 99-floor-high building, the top hospital officials stood waiting. Phrommin stepped out of the helicopter as Professor David Spencer, the hospital’s director, and his two deputies, who were Thai, came to him to pay their respects. Phrommin greeted them familiarly then walked to the entrance to the lift where twenty top officials stood in a line to welcome him. He waved and smiled at them then entered the lift whose door was held open for him, the director and the two deputies. Professor Spencer asked about Cheewan, who usually came with him. Phrommin frowned and answered curtly, ‘There’s a bit of a problem.’ The lift stopped on the third floor. Phrommin walked into his office. He told the director and the two deputies to follow him. As owner of the hospital and chairman of its board of directors he had his own office and came to the hospital twice a month for a checkup and to listen to reports of the monthly meeting, as well as taking the opportunity to check on hospital affairs. His office was located in the centre of the building. Through its large glass wall you could see a small WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


25 garden decorated with oddly shaped boulders, a swimming pool, a fountain and shady palm trees. Inside there were Persian carpets, a large glimmering mahogany conference table with twenty-two chairs around it, and a large sofa for the guests. There was a well-stocked bar and a fully equipped and luxurious bathroom to one side. He went to sit at the table while inviting the threeman welcoming party to sit down as well. A secretary came in and enquired what they wanted to drink. He refused, so the others refused too. He thanked her and told her that if they changed their minds later they’d call her. ‘There’s something I want to discuss with you.’ He stared at the fifty-five-year-old professor. ‘I think it’s time for me to begin to replace some of my organs because if we wait any longer there will be problems.’ He didn’t wait for any questions. ‘The first problem is that I’m getting older by the day, which means that the efficiency of organ transplant diminishes accordingly. The second problem is that now my clone knows who he is. I’m afraid he’s about to run away, which will make things difficult for us as we will have to waste time looking for him. The third problem is that, if he does come back, I believe my clone will be very tense, so his body won’t be totally perfect and will secrete toxins which will make it more difficult for my body to accept his organs.’ ‘We still have a problem with the law,’ one of the two deputy directors, a man of 44, pointed out. He was in IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


26 charge of lobbying parliament to issue a law on commercial cloning production and organ transplant, as well as designing mass media ad campaigns to get the general public on their side. He had been successful in lobbying parliament to issue a law allowing cloning for medical research purposes, which had won him quickly the position of deputy director. ‘How much more time do we need?’ Phrommin asked in a matter-of-fact voice. ‘Or is it a matter of money?’ He didn’t need an answer because he already knew there was no easy way to solve their problems, and even more so whenever there was a change of government. ‘Do you think we’ll be able to get somewhere quickly?’ The deputy director answered, ‘For the time being, the various NGOs and poor people’s organizations are still very hostile, but the leaders of many organizations are beginning to see the light.’ He smiled sweetly. ‘How much do we have to spend to make them all see the light?’ ‘For these two groups, not more than one billion. But the group that’s really unpredictable are the dharma hustlers.’ ‘For the ones that won’t change their minds we must try to convince them to leave worldly concerns alone. As for those who want to have their cake and eat it, tell them that one day when they’re ill they’ll have to use our services so they can have a nice long life and can practise dharma for ever and ever.’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


27 Phrommin spoke with a straight face, but the directors smiled knowingly, pleased with the scathing words he used. ‘The various ascetics are hard to convince. They’re still stuck with moral problems, good and bad, merit and sin.’ ‘Tell them not to worry about us sinners. Cloning and organ transplant is our concern. If it’s a sin, the sin is ours. It has nothing to do with them. We’re happy to take that sin upon us. It’s no different from carnivorous people. They’re just meat eaters. Their duty is to eat meat, so they do that. We’ll take care of cloning ourselves.’ He reclined over the back of his shiny black seat. ‘And tell them also that before they talk about morals or merit, sin and punishment, they should kindly wipe the grease off their mouths.’ Then he laughed. ‘Well, actually, don’t tell them that, or else the hospital might go up in flames.’ The three of them laughed. Phrommin was silent for a while then said in a conversational tone, ‘How can we have morals? If we still take other people’s lives, why can’t we admit the truth fair and square that we’re no less cruel than the other animals in the world? More evil in fact. Animals kill each other only to sustain their own lives, but we kill not just for this: we kill just for the hell of it. Worse than that: we kill each other out of malice. Otherwise there wouldn’t be wars in this world. The corpses that have IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


28 piled up throughout the ages, what have we used them for? We still can’t take their skins to make shoes with or to make drums for our children to play with. Totally useless, don’t you think? But the final purpose of war is to enjoy ourselves to the full, without limits, which… If we justify ourselves by saying we must eat and kill each other to stay alive, we must also accept cloning to replace organs, because the objective is to stay alive.’ ‘The basic problem is that they want to sell themselves more dearly.’ ‘Let them, then. By reducing their protests, everything will go more smoothly. As for the political side, I’ll help you deal with that.’ He turned and stared at the director, who sat at ease with a smile on his face all the time. ‘Professor, do you think it’s possible to undertake an organ transplant within two weeks from the moment my clone returns?’ ‘No problem, boss, if you’re ready.’ ‘What about the clone? Will there be a fallout at the psychological level?’ ‘There must be some as usual. But we can take care of it by putting him under sedation a week before to soften him up, though he’ll be half-dazed until it’s time to operate.’ ‘Will the tranquillizers affect his health or mine at all?’ ‘Just a little, but it’s no problem, boss.’ ‘Too bad. At first I had planned that, on the day of the operation, I’d take him for his physical checkup as usual WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


29 and then give him an anaesthetic and get on with the surgery.’ ‘If you want to have him fresh and flawless, there’s a solution. If he comes back tell him you’ve changed your mind and won’t use his organs but somebody else’s instead. Another is to have a psychotherapist pacify him for a while and at the same time feed him with tranquillizers in heavier doses towards the end… if necessary.’ ‘I don’t see this as a problem, Dad,’ the other deputy director said. She was a woman of twenty-eight and Phrommin’s elder daughter. He had sent her into the hospital to familiarize herself with its work and prepare to take over as director in time. She was thickset, with a fair skin, an oval-shaped face and eyes that told of earnestness and determination. ‘If the clone comes back by himself, it means that he has accepted his condition and is ready to do his duty, so I don’t think he’ll be too tense.’ The professor nodded in agreement. ‘If he comes back totally voluntarily, out of gratitude, it’ll help us a lot. Let’s wait until he does, we’ll assess again how to handle him then, but I’d like to warn you, boss: we can’t avoid using a psychotherapist and tranquillizers.’ Phrommin sat up straight, his hands flat on the desk, so the other three sat up straight too. He told the deputy director in charge of lobbying, ‘I want this law to be passed soon, even before I get operated on. I want it to IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


30 be something clean and aboveboard, so we can inform the media before and after the operation, otherwise they’ll accuse us of using a legal loophole for medical purposes. There are lots of jealous people. What’s important is that, if the law is passed before the operation takes place and we inform the media, it’ll be good publicity for our hospital, because I will be the first to show how it’s done.’ He looked the deputy director in the eye. ‘It isn’t necessary for all sides to agree. That there is disagreement within each group will be enough. The politicians can then claim the people are demanding that law, which will make it easy for them to vote for it. Some politicians are already willing to do this for us, they want to be rewarded by us for their goodwill, and they want to stay in power for a long time, but the trouble with politicians is that the voice of the people is their gravy train. No matter how much they agree with us, if the people don’t agree, they must pretend they don’t agree. It’s their job to lie to the people.’ Phrommin reclined on his seat when the others had left the room. He thought of his clone. He thought of the operation to replace his organs. He wanted it done as soon as possible. And he thought of the prime minister. He pressed the intercom button of his front-office secretary and asked to be put through to the prime minister.

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31

5 The following Sunday Siam Salyawet Hospital hosted a reception for the council of ministers, which came in its entirety. The whole retinue tried to come quietly and to humbly impress on the populace how determined they were not to waste public funds. Nonetheless, the cortege of official cars that went through the hospital gates numbered no fewer than fifty-five vehicles, not including the police motorcycles, and the four limousines at its head and four at its tail, as well as four ambulances. These were followed by the dozens of press vehicles. The procession drove past rows of hospital officials standing in an orderly fashion and its head went to park in front of the administration building, where the hospital’s top officials stood waiting in welcome. His Excellency the Prime Minister was the first to step out of his limousine. He was of short stature, aged fiftyfive, and was always seen smiling benignly in public, but he was earnest and went by principles nobody quite understood. As soon as he stepped onto the red carpet that stretched into the reception hall, Phrommin came out to raise his hands and bow to him, then they shook hands and held each other by the waist, before he turned to bow in turn to greet or return the greetings of the ministers and their wives and children as they came out of the cars. IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


32 Phrommin introduced his honourable guests to the hospital officials rather informally and raised a few laughs. The introductions over, there was an exchange of greetings, chitchat and banter. Then Phrommin invited the ministers and their party to proceed to a physical checkup as had been arranged earlier, with the director and other high officials of the hospital in close attendance. Siam Salyawet Hospital showed its potential for outstanding professionalism, from its beautiful layout to the harmonious shape and disposition of its buildings, which looked majestic, hospitable and venerable. The grounds were spacious, clean and undoubtedly safe. Its equipment was modern and sparklingly new, the service impressively swift and efficient. The guests were impressed by the hundred and eleven doctors the hospital had provided for their convenience, which worked out at one doctor per guest. Within an hour all of the ministers and other guests had gone through their physical checkups. Then it was the turn of the reporters. Many of them lined up for the checkup, but many others opted instead to cover lunch, the next event. The hospital had arranged to have food served to the press on the ground floor to make it easy for them to carry out their work, and the deputy director, Phrommin’s daughter, was in close attendance. They had the same food, ordered from the same restaurant, as the WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


33 ministers and their families, who used the conference room on the second floor as a refectory. The floor was fully carpeted, the table decorated with vases of beautiful fresh flowers, crockery, cutlery and napkins. When all the honourable guests were seated at their allotted places, fragrant food was swiftly brought in. Phrommin honoured the prime minister by having him preside at the head of the table. As for himself, he received from the first deputy prime minister the honour of sitting in his place at the right of the prime minister. Inviting the honourable guests to partake of the food, he said, ‘You may compliment me later about the excellence of the service in the hospital. For the time being, it’s more important to attend thoroughly to what’s in front of you, and then I’ll have something else for you to be impressed with. Please go ahead.’ He went to sit down, then changed his mind and went on speaking over a clatter of spoons and dishes and buzz of conversations. ‘We have excellent wines as well as other alcoholic and soft drinks to suit your requirements. There’s a great variety of meats, mutton, turkey, ostrich, either grilled, stewed or steamed. Tell your preferences to the waiters. What I’d like to recommend is broiled deer meat, all of which, as you know, comes from our farms, our farms which produce three quarters of all the food consumed in this country. Well, I see I’d better stop speaking now or I won’t keep up with you. Please enjoy your lunch.’ An hour and a half went by before the meal came to an IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


34 end. Plates and scraps were disposed off and the tables went back to their former use as conference tables. There were no longer any traces that a meal had just taken place there, except on the faces and necks of the honoured guests, made ruddy by alcohol. Everyone looked pleased. Cold water was served, together with fruit juice and coffee, and after that the media representatives who had been eagerly waiting for news outside were invited to enter the conference room. When everything was ready, Phrommin stood up, called for order and began to play his part. ‘I and all the officials of Siam Salyawet Hospital are deeply honoured that Their Excellencies the Prime Minister and the various ministers as well as their spouses and other followers are honouring our hospital with their presence. We hope we shall be further honoured in the future so that I will have more entertaining times like this. In addition, I want to thank all the members of the press, whether television, radio or newspapers, both Thai and foreign, for being aware of the importance of the work of our hospital. And I want to tell everybody here that what I’m going to say is the truth and my actual view, as well as that of all our working teams and officials. There’s no point whatsoever in pulling wool over your eyes, which also means fooling the rest of the country. I won’t let His Excellency the Prime Minister thank me at this point’ – he turned laughing to the prime minister, who smiled back – WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


35 ‘because I want to be on TV for a long time.’ There were laughs. ‘Actually, there’s nothing for His Excellency and his council of ministers to thank me for, because I’m not being useful to them. On the contrary, I should be the one thanking His Excellency and his ministers for having volunteered to administer the country at a time of social turmoil. They have endeavoured to tackle our problems to their best ability and many problems have been solved, and for this I should thank His Excellency and his ministers, both in my private capacity and as an official of this hospital. And if it’s not too presumptuous I’d like to say thank you in the name of the people of this country too. Thank you all.’ Then there was applause as a way to give each other face in an atmosphere the mass media reported as ‘cheerful beyond belief’. ‘I’ve made no script for this speech, but thinking of the goodness of this government will see me through unaided. I didn’t invite the government here to lavish praise on it, but what you’ve accomplished won’t let me speak otherwise. Let’s take one example, that of passing the law allowing people to open farms raising animals of all kinds, in particular animals in forest reserves. It must be said that this government has taken a far-reaching approach, because this law helps wild animals to avoid death at the hands of hunters and to have secure lives. The Forestry Department’s budget to purchase necessary equipment and hire officials has been reduced by a third and will diminish further. At the same time this IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


36 law has encouraged people to open farms to raise wild animals both for food and for hunting as a sport. Tigers, which were disappearing from the country, have rapidly increased in numbers, both in private farms and in reserved areas. This is a very clear example. Nobody can deny the goodness of this government. Nevertheless, as I’ve already told you, I didn’t invite the government here to merely lavish praise on it.’ He laughed together with the others. ‘I’d like to have a follow-up law to the one just mentioned. People are able to raise animals and sell them freely, and this industry is growing fast. But I’d like to see this government pass another law… for individuals to be granted concessions to develop wildlife reserves for the purpose of sport. These reserves would raise wild animals for sport, like fish farms. I believe such a law would help reduce the problem of illegal hunting as well as help reduce the tension among some people in our society. I believe that one of man’s instincts is like that of animals – that is, hunting. Such a law would help answer a deep craving of mankind. Additional money would also be made from the wildlife reserves, and that would be of benefit to the overall economy of the country.’ Everyone was silent. The atmosphere in the conference room was getting tense. ‘There’s something else. Something urgent and very important, and something that’s a problem in our society. Don’t worry, I wouldn’t mention it if I didn’t have a solution to suggest. A problem we WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


37 haven’t been able to solve for centuries is the problem of disease and premature death. According to your ministry’s statistics, Mr. Samphop,’ – he turned round to smile at the minister of health, who smiled back – ‘the average life expectancy in this country is sixty-six years. As for the prevalence of diseases, the figures are very dispiriting, but let me say that the number of the ill or injured in accidents that needed organ transplants last year was one million one hundred thousand, but we only had half of that amount in terms of available organs. Many people can’t have organ transplants and this is a tragedy for the country. I consider it’s the country’s fault for not being able to save people’s lives, even though we could have been doing so for a long time. How is that to be done? Well, twenty-two years ago I argued and fought for the people to accept cloning for the purpose of organ transplants and I asked the government at the time to pass a law to that effect. But unfortunately few people accepted this view. Most were locked up in the cage of morality.’ He stopped speaking, looked round the conference room, and said in a deeply moving voice, ‘But do you realize that while you were talking about morals, you let the ill die one after the other, day after day? How many? On the average and at the very least five hundred thousand per year. For the past twenty-two years how many millions does that add up to?’ His face looked pained. ‘I’m sorry about those lives, I’m sorry for the relatives and friends of the dead IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


38 and I’m sorry for myself for not being able to help them in any way, even though I could have, because your sense of morality wouldn’t allow that law to see the light of day. This sense of loss is a matter of the heart; we can’t measure it in numbers or give it a price. But if you look at it from an economic point of view, you’ll be astounded. Let me give you an overall picture. Those that die are of an average age of thirty-three. People at this age are in their productive stage, their brains are fully efficient, but they have to die. If they lived until they were sixty-six as per the average life expectancy, think how productive they could be, how much income they could bring to their families, how much the national product would be increased by. At the same time, let us think back, from their birth to when they are thirty-three, at how much their families have had to spend on them, in terms of food, clothing, medicine and shelter, not counting other expenses besides essential needs, such as recreation and entertainment costs. And that’s not all. There are also education expenses, starting with nursery school all the way to a BA, which is rather a low-water mark, given that these days the MA has become very common. Think about how much their families have had to spend, how much the government is losing in people’s taxes. The relevant figures are enormous, but unfortunately the return on investment is very low. I believe it’s a huge loss to the state and we’re all involved in generating such a national tragedy.’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


39 It was so quiet that there seemed to be no-one in the room. Phrommin shifted his weight to his other leg, brought his left hand to his waist, and raised his right to emphasize his words. He struck the pose of an out-ofcourt judge condemning opponents of cloning. ‘The problem doesn’t end here. Refusing to legalize cloning and organ transplant has many terrible consequences. I’ll tell you only of a few, and to begin with criminality, first of all the abduction of people to sell their organs – seventy-seven thousand cases last year according to the statistics of your Interior ministry, Mr. Kritsana. Out of these, only two people were identified. All the others disappeared, which means they were killed and their organs were sold. It isn’t just in the world at large: even in hospitals patients are made to die to sell their organs to rich customers. Last year the police arrested forty-four doctors. And that’s only those that were arrested. We don’t know how many others could have been arrested. And this doesn’t include patients’ greedy relatives who are complicit in having patients die in order to sell their organs. Last year thirty-three people were arrested, this year already another fifty-five. These things are very difficult to prevent. But it can be done. Allow me to preach for my own temple, that is, if cloning and organ transfer were legal, very little of this would happen. Not only would it help solve the problem, but in the near future we’d use clones as soldiers, as police, as workers in factories and farms, and IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


40 whatever else, in order for us to have time to rest or travel as we see fit. I’ll end my speech here, and I don’t know what to say except call for the people to accept cloning and organ transplant. It’s no big deal and it’s no different from our killing animals for food or sport as we do currently, except in that they won’t have to suffer or be tormented like the animals we kill. Accepting this will help the lives of I don’t know how many hundred thousand, how many million people who would otherwise die. I regret the wasted past twenty-two years and I don’t want to waste any more time, so I ask the people to support the government in passing a law in favour of cloning and organ transplant.’ Then he had a mild smile, his eyes throwing sparks. ‘What’s to be regretted most of all is that, if twenty-two years ago the government had legalized cloning, today I’d have clones of pretty girls to offer each of you, ministers, to take back home. What a shame!’ He lowered his head and sat down to a round of applause and good-hearted laughter. Professor Spencer joined in the applause, smiling knowingly and shaking his head in admiration. He admired Phrommin for speaking so persuasively, looking so sincere and natural, and at the same time being derisive, even downright insulting, though his listeners had hardly noticed it. Even if some did, they couldn’t be angry with him, because it came across as warm-hearted banter. His speech this time held a few chess moves, of which nobody was aware, especially when he talked WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


41 about wildlife reserves for hunting as a sport. If the government passed that law, the next step for Phrommin would be to create untold numbers of clones for other purposes. With their use sanctioned by law, clones would become economic animals like other animals, such as tigers, stags or deer. You could be sure his reserves would switch from animals to clones. And when in the end he chafed the ministers about beautiful cloned girls, it was the same: before long, he’d make it happen. Cloned women would get involved in serviceoriented establishments and in the end real women would become irrelevant. Phrommin had a superb imagination and was able to turn his musings into moneyoriented objectives. At the same time he had an amazing ability to think of ways of achieving success. To say that he had genius was to look down on him, because actually he was a genius. And it was this quality that made the professor respect him and had made him his collaborator for the past twenty-two years. The prime minister stood up to express his thanks and said he’d try to push for the new law to be passed as soon as possible for the collective wellbeing of society, and added that the people’s voice must be listened to as well. While the others applauded deafeningly, the professor raised his glass of cold water and drank to clear the oily taste in his mouth, and then he too applauded. IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


42 The people’s voice during the first week was still evenly split. From the various media, including public opinion polls from some fifty-five institutes, those who agreed with Phrommin were mainly businessmen, traders and investors, people who were the rich as well as those who thought they were broadminded, ready to accept change and modernity. The opposition came from the poor. Phrommin well knew that this was because they thought they’d be unable to meet hospital expenses, as the cost of cloning, including nursing and surgery, was extremely high. The media too made a lot of this point. They pointed out that the law would give him the opportunity to be the first to achieve great wealth and would only benefit the rich, who would have the right to extend their lives indefinitely. Phrommin wasn’t worried about these alarmists. What he worried a little about were dogmatic conservatives, who expressed their opinions petulantly and irrationally. Newspaper columnists and other stick-in-the-mud critics attacked him for being heartless, a mere ‘money predator’ and worse still a ‘blood-thirsty vampire’. He had been born to devastate the world, to devastate human life; he cared for nothing but money and power. Phrommin, unfazed, listened carefully to all this for two weeks, then opened the conference room in the hospital to the media for an interview once again. He thanked the various media, thanked all the people who had expressed their opinions, in particular those WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


43 who had indulged in name calling, and thanked everyone who had offered ‘weighty’ arguments. He spoke with laughter in his voice. All opinions were valuable to him, and would lead to him making the right decisions. ‘But in any case, I’d like to emphasize some points I may not have explained clearly enough. The first is about the law which I am promoting. For a trader to hope to make a profit is only natural – ask vendors of sweetmeat or banana fritters or owners of dry-goods stores. I’m no different from them, except in the size and nature of my business. In terms of aspirations, I believe I’m no different at all, and not just from vendors and store owners but from people in other professions, whether they’re employees or civil servants. These people don’t sell goods to make a profit like me, that’s true, but they are selling something. What they sell is their labour, they sell their mental abilities, and if you don’t deceive yourselves you must admit that you too expect a profit, you want high wages or salaries, you want to double or triple them in a hurry, even to the point of sometimes stepping on other people’s heads. I think this is excessive profit seeking and somewhat immoral.’ He laughed. ‘But I’m not here to point the finger at anyone. I only want to point out I admit I want to make a profit and I’m asking you to see what I’ll do with that profit. Of course part of it will go to expand or improve the business, which won’t be to my exclusive benefit, but of benefit also to millions of unemployed. I’ll IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


44 have you know that the companies in my Greater Goods Group employ altogether some three million three hundred thousand, who are your own flesh and blood. They export to other Asian countries, to Africa, Europe and America, and are able to bring into this country revenues of a hundred million billion baht a year. The companies in my group pay taxes every year of no less than ten million billion baht. Please think about what I am doing for you and for the nation. And for those of you who revile me and want to see my companies go bankrupt, let me tell you what would happen if what you wish came true: there would be three million three hundred thousand people out of work and the state would lose ten million billion baht a year. But what’s more frightening that this (I’m not making any threats), one day after my businesses flounder, everybody in this country (and in neighbouring countries as well) would have nothing to eat, no more equipment; all communications, by water as well as by air, would be paralysed; all telecommunications would turn deaf at once.’ He looked straight into the camera lenses. ‘Therefore, I ask you to please stop cursing me, because you yourselves would be in deep trouble. As for me, I can go anywhere in the world.’ He smiled to release the tension of what he was saying. ‘And that’s not all. Regarding the profit I make, I have fifty-five foundations. I make donations to charities of no less than ten billion baht a year, and let me tell my friends in the same circles that nobody gives out more WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


45 than I do. I’ve never advertised what I do for the public benefit but when I’m called a money predator, a bloodthirsty vampire, I must proclaim to one and all there’s no Holy Joe out there that does as much for the good of society as I.’ He stopped to recover his breath. ‘Another point: when you say that cloning and organ transplant will only benefit the rich, I must tell you that’s true, but it’s only partly true, and it’s only true for the initial period. It’s normal for a new business to have high expenses, which means high revenue, because it’s a new investment. At the same time the available items are few. When there is high demand, goods are expensive. That’s normal. Of course, if they are unrealistically priced nobody will want to buy them, but I’m confident that after only a couple of years prices will go down steadily, because the items will be produced in greater quantity, and it’s at that point that poor people will be able to afford them. Even if initially it isn’t cheap, it doesn’t mean the poor won’t have the opportunity to have organ transplants, because in reality we’re not changing the whole body, we’re only replacing those organs that have become damaged or can’t be used. It’s like changing spare parts in a car. At first, if you don’t have money, you just change what’s necessary; when you have more money, you change more. Actually this is what we already do, except that the replacement organs we use come from real people. As for changing the whole engine, let it be for those who have money IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


46 like me to begin with. If I stop my explanation here, maybe you won’t be satisfied, so let me tell you that, when the law is passed, it won’t be only the private sector which will be involved in cloning and competing with each other: the state must do it too. Our state must be a service provider, not merely a supervising power as has been the case up to now. The state already offers basic public utilities; the same goes for public health. The state must provide it free, or at minimal charge, which is what the current government is doing. Therefore those of you who are worried about this can be at ease. It isn’t as hard to find or as expensive as you think. Look at my chicken meat: these days, it’s so cheap that – well, let’s say if you don’t have enough to buy something else to eat, you turn to chicken. This law will be a golden opportunity for the lives of everyone eventually. For how many million years has man dreamt of having eternal life, searching for it, and thinking up drugs to prolong life? And now I’m going to make it happen. Why won’t you support it? Wouldn’t you like to live a long time? Wouldn’t you like to have perfect health? What’s the good of being alive if it only means being ill and hopeless? Now you have the opportunity to have perfect health and to be able to enjoy it for as long as you wish. Why would you want to waste it? I beg you, I beseech you: if your ideal is to have a life of illness and pain until you come to your natural death, I respect your ideal, but please show compassion for the ill and WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


47 hopeless, give them the opportunity to have a life free of the illnesses of old age.’ He interrupted himself to let people get ready for what he was going to say next and avoid forcing his voice to a hoarse and disturbing crescendo. He looked into the camera lenses and said, stressing each word as if in blame, ‘For those of you who don’t agree with this law, let those who want it take care of it themselves, because it’s their own lives. Please don’t oppose it, because your opposition means leaving other people to be in pain and to die early. And then how can you talk about compassion? How can you talk of morals when it’s you who are preventing them from being treated and the cause of their early death?’ He was silent for a long time, as though listening to voices from all directions in deep contemplation. The journalists too were dead quiet. Phrommin swept his eyes over the room and then said, ‘There are many other points, but I’d like the director of Siam Salyawet Hospital, Professor David Spencer, whom you know well, to raise them and answer your queries, so that everything is clear and in the open. Thank you very much.’

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48

6 In his dark dream, he heard his father ask, ‘Do you love BB?’ It was a question he had heard time and time again from his first memories to his prime adolescence, but this time it sounded extremely distant and drifting, as if coming from a faraway land. ‘I love BB… to the utmost.’ His own voice seemed to come from his heart, clear and sincere. ‘Would you die for BB?’ ‘I love BB… I can die for BB.’ He could only see his father’s smile appearing somewhere. He tried to look for his father in his entirety but it was like looking into darkness. It was utterly dark. And then his attempt was successful when orange evening sunlight appeared on high, grassy hills, wide and empty as far as the eye could see. He thought he must meet his father in that light, but then he saw a diminutive child running downhill, approaching through a pasture. The child sank out of sight as it raced downhill and reappeared as it ran up the next hill. This happened again and again as if it would never end. He felt stifled, out of breath, and he wanted it to stop. The tiny body grew little by little but was still as small as an ant, compared to the huge expanse of hills. He WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


49 waited for a long time with a restless heart before that body reached him, and then Cheewan realized that that body was himself (he wasn’t at all surprised). He was aged about five and wearing cowboy gear – a light-blue chequered shirt, dungarees and brown boots. He looked very tired and was also seeking his father. The child went on running to a building, behind which was a metallic fence holding a thousand young cows. He ran to the front of the building, past farm workers, then turned and entered the building. It was a big slaughterhouse, reeking of blood, which made him retch. His father stood looking at the young male workers driving the cows into endless steel stalls set in rows. Hundreds of cows were driven into the stalls together in orderly fashion. When they stood in the stalls, the workers in each stall shot an anaesthetic into their foreheads. The shots rang together. The bodies of the cows shook then collapsed as one. Pulley chains were lowered. The workers grabbed the hooks and the cows’ back legs, inserted the hooks, then the pulleys were pulled up until the cows hung in rows, heads dangling, looking as if they were on parade. The pulleys slid forward then stopped in front of a new group of workers, who used long sharp shiny knives they planted into the cows’ gullets to sever the main arteries. The cows’ blood spurted out and was gathered in containers below. Then they were skinned. It looked as easy as taking off a coat. The various organs were cut out in no time and set apart according to the price they would fetch. IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


50 After that another team of workers took the organs to weigh them and establish a final set of statistics, that is, the meat ratio of each cow, the rate of pounds of meat per pounds of feed from the time of birth to the moment the organs were being weighed. He stood looking at a new set of cows being driven into the stalls and being shot and collapsing and then being tied up to have their throats cut and their bodies cut to pieces, again and again, as if unable to take his eyes off them. His own body was shivering, his tears ran copiously out of pity for them but his father asked him, ‘Do you love BB?’ He didn’t answer, but raced out of the building and vomited with an almost broken heart. (In reality, from the day Cheewan saw the massacre for the first time, he never ate meat again.) Cheewan wasn’t startled awake but slowly came to himself. He was tired out, covered in sweat, his throat dry as if he had just stopped vomiting. He turned to lie on his back, took deep breaths, opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling in the dark, surprised at himself for dreaming what he had. It was a dream whose every detail had felt real, except when his father had asked, ‘Do you love BB?’ Cheewan had almost forgotten he used to call his father BB. He had never wondered about it, because ever since he could remember his father had taught him to call that name until he was old enough to ask why. His father had told him BB stood for ‘Big Boss’. He said he’d WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


51 like to call him the same name as his mother had taught him (it wasn’t Dad) but his father said it was all right to call him BB as it made him feel proud. When he became a young man, he called him ‘Father’. At first, his father warned him to call him BB but as time went by he let him suit himself. Now he understood why his father had wanted him to call him BB. It was because he wanted to turn him into someone else. He wondered why, since his father wanted him to be a stranger, he had paid more attention to him than to all his other children. When he was little, he had left him in the care of a nurse (a relative of his). Wherever he went, his nurse had to go with him. As for his father, he’d take him out as often as the opportunity arose to holiday resorts or to the companies in his group. The rest of the time he’d spend with his mother. He had been well looked after all his life. Even if he was at times embarrassed to be under constant supervision, he understood, because his father had a legitimate reason: he ‘was worried’. He accepted that reason, along with the strange feeling he had from his father – close and yet aloof, the opposite of what he felt for his mother, who looked distant but gave him deep love and kindness. At the time he hadn’t understood, but now he did. He understood also why his father hadn’t wanted him to pursue his studies abroad like his brothers and sisters: he ‘was worried’ about his property, that’s why. IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


52 Cheewan tried to reject these thoughts. He didn’t want to be unhappy any longer. He stood up, intending to take a shower to get rid of the sweat, but as he reached the bathroom he heard Manatchanok vomiting discreetly. He knocked on the door, asked what the matter was and whether he could be of help. Her voice answered it was nothing, ‘I’m allergic to the toothpaste’. He hesitated a moment then went to bathe downstairs. He had given up the hotel room for a month now. After wallowing in sorrow for two weeks, he had thought his life was worthless and pitiful. Deciding to put his affairs in order, he had taken Manatchanok to visit a brand-new housing estate next to a national park. He chose the innermost plot of land, so that its dwellers would breathe the purest air and have the best view of the forest and mountain. The house he chose was compact, one in which four or five people could stay without feeling crowded. He asked to have the upper balconies both front and back enlarged, and let Manatchanok decide on inside decoration and household implements. She was pleased and signed the lease that very day. Two weeks later, the house was ready. When he decided to buy that house, Manatchanok was very surprised and asked him why. He told her, ‘The dead don’t have the opportunity to use their wealth. To leave it behind doesn’t make sense. It’s much better to spend it on the living.’ He told her also that when he was gone he wanted her to take her mother and brother WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


53 with her so they’d be a family again. Manatchanok wasn’t pleased with the property because she was sure of what his decision was. He intended from the first to live in the new house to keep her company for a while. When she’d settled down, he’d leave. And today he felt he had been in this house long enough and it was time for him to go away. He put on new clothes and went to the drawing room on the upper floor, where he drank warm water quietly. A moment later, Manatchanok came in. She was wearing her green store uniform. She asked him whether he wanted some coffee. He said no and told her to sit down for a chat. While Manatchanok held herself in check as she stared at him to read his feelings, he let his sight drift through the window to the horizon, looking at the morning star which shone brightly above the dark mountain range. ‘Are you strong enough now?’ His voice was tentative. ‘So the time has come, has it?’ She lowered her head. ‘I’ve never asked myself if I was weak or strong, but I’ve been trying to get used to the idea that one day you must go.’ ‘Don’t be angry with me that I have to leave you.’ He turned and stared at her, saw that her eyes were red. ‘I can’t stand to stay in this heart-breaking state, whether here or anywhere else, because the problem is nowhere but in me. If I must get rid of it, it’s in me I must get rid of it.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


54 Manatchanok tried to suppress her tears by looking at the bottom of the sky but all she could see there was a blurred star. ‘If we have a child… I beg you, if you’re going to tell him the truth, do so from the moment he’s able to understand. But if you decide to keep it a secret, do so forever, so he won’t be hurt, won’t be tormented like I am.’ Manatchanok nodded in acknowledgment. Big tears welled in her eyes. ‘I am with child.’

Cheewan could only stand being agitated like a bird in a narrow cage for two days until he decided to leave her. He took her to work as he had every day before dawn. Along the way they were both silent, because their hearts were constricted, until the car came to a stop in front of the convenience store. Manatchanok then said, ‘Don’t tell me goodbye… because you’re not leaving… you’re still here… in my heart.’ Cheewan turned to hold her in his arms, looking far away. Outside the sky was still dark. And then he felt warm tears on his chest. ‘Once you’ve left the car, don’t turn around to look at me,’ he said in a shaky voice. Manatchanok took a deep breath, gathered all her strength and then pushed the door open. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


55 Cheewan looked at her walking away bravely and felt a weight pressing on his chest. The glass door was pushed open and she walked in and then it closed tight as before. Cheewan tried to clear his eyes blurred by a curtain of tears to look at the way ahead, then he drove away under the dark sky, in the dim light of street lamps.

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7 Phrommin went to bed at ten. He was about to sleep when his eyes opened wide again as if some invisible being had woken him up. He sat up then felt there was some movement downstairs. He went out of the bedroom, even though he was still in pyjamas, went down the stairs then turned left and tiptoed to the library, slowly and noiselessly pushed the door ajar then passed his head through the opening to have a look. All lights in the library were out and the room was dark, except at the table close to the back window, where soft yellow light poured out of a lamp, and in that light a young man was reading a book as if waiting for someone. Phrommin’s heart beat strongly. Cheewan was back, back exactly as he had forecast. He hesitated for a long time, unable to decide whether to go and greet him or withdraw first. He had lost his bearings. He didn’t know what to tell him, which topic to broach, because by now Cheewan knew he wasn’t his real father and worse than that he was about to tear him to pieces, so he couldn’t face him at this time. He slowly withdrew, went back to his bedroom and then sat with his eyes wide open for the rest of the night. At dawn when he went down for breakfast, he met his wife who sat in the living room as she did every day. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


57 Since they had quarrelled about Cheewan, his wife had moved to sleep on her own in the third-floor bedroom but she still carried out her other duties as usual, except that she wouldn’t speak to him first and only spoke as was necessary. He had felt oppressed and upset morning, noon and night but had taken upon himself and hoped that before long she’d get better. But two months had gone by and there was no change, so much so that he thought he should send a psychotherapist to have a talk with her, because if the situation didn’t change, he’d lose his cool sooner or later. He went to say hello to her as usual and looked at the library. The door was closed as usual. Then he turned to ask her, ‘Are you aware that he’s back?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Since when?’ ‘Last night, when he came back.’ ‘What did he say?’ ‘He didn’t say anything. He asked me how I was, how you were, then excused himself to go and take a shower, and after that he shut himself in the library. At three in the morning I went to have a look, I saw he was still reading, I gave him some warm water and then didn’t bother him again.’ It was the first time his wife had spoken at length since they had quarrelled. He knew that if she did so it was because Cheewan was back, but she looked more worried and unhappy than usual. IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


58 The maid came in to ask what he wanted to eat. He told her he didn’t want anything yet, then he went to the library door, hesitated a moment, wondering how he’d greet Cheewan, and then opened the door and went in. Cheewan was still reading like before, as if he hadn’t slept for the whole night. Phrommin walked up and stood by the table for a moment. Cheewan looked up at him, then got up and bowed to him with joined hands. Phrommin told him to sit down, ‘Let’s talk,’ and he too sat down on the opposite chair. ‘How are you, Father?’ ‘Well… as before… was worried…’ He didn’t know how to address Cheewan. To call him ‘child’ as he had always done was far too disturbing to him. ‘You shouldn’t worry, Father. You know very well that no matter what I’d be back.’ ‘I know.’ This time, ‘father’ slipped out, however embarrassed he was, because he couldn’t think of any other way of saying ‘I’. ‘But I was worried that… you disappeared so quietly.’ Cheewan lowered his head and said, ‘If you were me, you’d have done the same.’ ‘Yes, and if… if you’d been me, you’d have done the same too.’ Cheewan stared at him, stressing with eyes and voice, ‘I’d never do the same.’ His father looked at the shelves and sighed. ‘People aren’t the same; everyone has their own opinions. And WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


59 what’s worse is that everyone thinks his opinions are the best and most appropriate.’ He turned to look Cheewan in the face. ‘Are you angry with me?’ The theu he used for ‘you’ was a nice touch; it gave the right feeling of distance. ‘I’m sorry to have been treated like this.’ Cheewan pinched his lips, trying to control the waves of pain. ‘Like what?’ ‘You reared me as your son, but at a certain stage you turned me into a mere animal. Why didn’t you raise me in a way suitable to your purpose from the very beginning? I’d have known what I was born for. I wouldn’t have had to lose hope when I was betrayed by the person I loved and worshipped.’ Phrommin’s face clouded over. He was silent for a long time and finally said, ‘If I change my mind, will everything be the same as before?’ ‘Do you regret that love and worship?’ Cheewan stared at him with deep emotion in his face and eyes. ‘You’ve been thinking of killing me all along but as soon as you lose that good feeling from me, you want to change your mind. It’s too late and I don’t want you to change your mind. I’ve prepared myself. I’m ready, that’s why I’m back. Even if you change your mind, you won’t be able to make me love and worship you again. That’s over. It’s all gone.’ He was trying to deal with his pain. ‘What I think about now is my duty. Since you raised me to use my body for spare parts, I’ll comply to defray your expenses.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


60 Phrommin felt offended and deeply moved at the same time. He said in a flat voice, ‘Okay, if that’s what you want.’ ‘I’ll wait for you here. When you’re ready, just tell me,’ Cheewan said in the same flat voice. ‘But if there’s something I may ask, I’d like to make a last request.’ Phrommin nodded in agreement. ‘Go ahead.’ ‘When you’ve decided to execute me, don’t wait for long.’ ‘All right.’ Phrommin stood up, brought one hand to his waist, and looked at Cheewan with eyes that proclaimed his power. ‘I’ll tell you something. If you think that the life, blood and soul you have are yours, then you misunderstand. You’re deluding yourself. The truth is you’re my life, my very own life, because you’re me as reincarnated into you.’ He turned his back and left, stepping out in a way that projected power. Cheewan looked at him puzzlingly, amazed by what he had heard. He felt as though all of his thoughts were blurred all around him and he couldn’t put them in order. From that very second he couldn’t be the same man again.

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8 He was just back from two weeks’ holiday by the Andaman Sea, so he was suntanned and looked younger, as different from when he had got there as the back and inside of his hands. His condominium friends had greeted him with wonder, and shown even more wonder at the beautiful woman he had come back with, whose complexion had turned copper brown because she too had been under the sun. He took his lover into the lift to the twenty-second floor, to the celestial abode he had purchased at the beginning of the year. Once he had turned the key, entered the room and closed the door, he told her, ‘Make yourself at home.’ The young woman looked at the selfcontained room which had been decorated in a simple yet beautiful and cosy way. Grey carpeting covered the floor; the bathroom was to the left, close to the main door; next to it was a corner to read and work, with a few bookshelves, a small table and cotton-upholstered chairs with adjustable backs. Further on was the bedroom area, with a wardrobe, a bed and a lamp at its head, a soft-coloured sofa, a telephone and a CD player. The young woman went to sit on the sofa. He brought her cold water, then excused himself to take a shower. When he came out of the bathroom, he saw her IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


62 standing beside the bay window admiring the view of Bangkok in the evening. He dressed then went to stand beside her. ‘In the evening Bangkok is very beautiful. From up here you can see orange or red light bathing the buildings. The whole spread looks like a forest of Siamese sal trees in the dry season.’ She hugged him and stayed still for a long time, until the evening light left and darkness took over and the skyscrapers began to bristle with lights, scaring away the stars in the sky, which couldn’t be seen, unlike over the Andaman Sea. But the stars on the ground shone brightly all over the city, a beautiful and dazzling sight of a different kind. For her it was something she was used to. For him, sure it was beautiful, but it was a cold beauty, deprived of feeling, without the vibrancy of the starry sky in the countryside. He told her to go take a shower. ‘Then we’ll have dinner.’ When she went over to her big leather bag and rummaged in it for clothes, he turned to the telephone, pressed a button and then recorded callers’ voices were heard. The third was a woman’s, whom he identified as his office secretary. She told him to contact the office as soon as he was back. ‘There’s urgent work to do.’ He wasn’t excited in any way, because his work was like that. He took a can of beer out of the fridge and went to sip it on the sofa and switched on the television to watch the evening news. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


63 Half an hour went by. She came to sit beside him, wearing a long-shirt. Her hair was still wet and she dabbed at it with a small towel while watching the news. After a while she had him comb her hair, but then his hand froze when the image on the screen showed Phrommin being interviewed for the third time, once again trying to convince people to accept the law on cloning and organ production for sale. He made the same points as he had raised twice before, plus a new one about the advantages of such a law. ‘Even if the people are against this law and the government fails to pass it, it doesn’t mean that cloning and organ transplant will cease. It’s like abortion in the old days. Nobody accepted it, the government didn’t legalize it. It was as if, since part of the population wouldn’t have it and the government wouldn’t legislate, everything would stop by itself, there would be no more abortions. But we all know what happened. Hospitals and clinics that practised abortion were all over the place. Even public hospitals did abortions on the sly by exploiting loopholes in the law. And do you know who the customers were? Surprise, surprise: according to the data in my possession, one-half of them were opponents to abortion! I don’t want to shame or denounce anyone but I beg you to accept reality. Don’t say it’s immoral, because in the end, when we’re in trouble personally, we do the very thing we oppose or disagree with. The same goes for cloning and organ transplant. Whether people IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


64 accept it or not, whether the government legalizes them or not, these things still go on, and more and more as time goes by. I don’t want morality to hide away reality as our lives know it, because when the time comes and your heart or limbs are giving out, you want them back. As for the state, it must lose income in tax collection, a huge amount every year, from this business. Most importantly, I’d like to warn everyone that because of the lack of spare organs there’s a growing crisis in the market. So, when you’re at home make sure doors and windows are locked and when you go out be very careful because you might end up with a shot of anaesthetic on your way to being cut into pieces.’ He looked straight at the viewers. ‘Maybe you think it’s funny that you or your children can be cut into pieces to be fitted on whoever, but let me warn you you’re making other people and their children fall into great danger by refusing to help them while boasting of how good and virtuous you are.’ ‘With your father playing it up like this, it must mean he wants to achieve his goal soon.’ ‘How dreadful,’ she said. ‘What is?’ ‘What Dad is talking about, of course. Makes me afraid of leaving the house.’ ‘You should be much more afraid of your father himself.’ ‘My dad is a far-sighted man.’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


65 ‘Maybe too far-sighted, to the point he can’t see the problems that’ll follow.’ She turned to stare at him briefly. ‘What kind of problems?’ ‘Regarding what?’ ‘Legalizing cloning and organ transplant. I don’t see any problem there.’ He turned down the sound of the television and went to sit on the sofa, with her sitting on the floor with her back against his knees, then he went on combing her hair. ‘I won’t talk about morals, because no matter what I said I couldn’t beat your father’s arguments.’ ‘Aren’t they true, though?’ ‘Well, to some extent.’ He didn’t want to argue with her. ‘It depends on how you look at things. I’d rather talk about the problems that will ensue. The first is that soon we won’t know who is a model, who a clone. If there’s no system to determine this strictly, there will have to be all kinds of laws to take up the slack. If the law merely says clones aren’t real people and allows the trade of organs, who will know whether the people being cut up are clones or real people? Besides, if it’s not illegal to kill clones, when real people kill each other they’ll claim their victims are clones, and we’ll have a great time trying to sort things out. It’ll be like during the twentieth century when the communist doctrine was spreading in dictatorial society and people were killing both in the name of the doctrine and for personal IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


66 reasons, but everybody was claiming they only killed communists. And yet, the problems I’ve just mentioned are nothing compared to what we’ll do when the market is saturated with clones because of profit-oriented competition leading to overproduction as is the case with other goods. We might have to kill them wholesale, as when your father dumps a hundred million chicks into the sea or burns them or buries them and throws away a hundred million litres of milk into the fields because of overproduction depressing their prices. That’s the only way for goods to be back in demand, and for their prices to rise.’ ‘Dad once told me that besides producing clones for organ transplants, they’ll be produced to work instead of real people in all professions, even as soldiers or police, because they’re better than robots in that they have feelings and can think and are able to make their own decisions like real people.’ ‘That’s exactly where the problems start. If these people are exploited as indented labour like in colonial days, what will happen? I think they must think of their own dignity, just like we’re divided into classes. If the cloning class comes out against the real people, it’s quite possible civil war or internecine warfare will occur. When that time comes, I think it’ll be greater fun than reading novels.’ ‘Maybe it’ll be as you say.’ She had no further opinion, because for her it wasn’t something vital to ponder in WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


67 earnest and in any case these things hadn’t happened and besides had little to do with her. ‘By then, we’ll be dead.’ He went on talking in an even yet earnest voice. ‘Another problem is that if clones have children with real people, what will happen to them, their wives and their children? Will they be punished, and their wives and children too? What will we do with the children? Will they be half-castes or what? Will they be like the untouchables in India? Or like Negroes who were slaves of the white people in colonial times? Or even worse?’ She laughed brightly. ‘You’re as serious as if you were a clone yourself. You think too much.’

Orrachun ordered dinner by phone. Soon afterwards, a restaurant employee came and laid it out. While they ate, he was so withdrawn that she noticed it. When she asked him what the matter was, he said there was nothing, maybe he was a bit too tired; being back home after two weeks on the island, he felt without strength. ‘How long will you stay here?’ he asked. ‘As long as you want me to.’ She laughed. ‘I want you to stay forever, but what about your parents?’ She laughed again, got up, took out her mobile and pressed one button. A signal rang out. ‘Guess who’s calling… How clever of you.’ She sat down on the same chair IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


68 as before. ‘Now? I’m still on the Andaman Sea island. If you want to contribute to my travelling expenses, put the money in my account, Dad. How much is up to you… Maybe another week. I still don’t want to go back, I’d like to wander through all the islands in the sea… Come on, Dad, don’t grumble. When I’m back I’ll help you work night and day. Don’t worry about me. Tell Mum I miss her too. I love you, Dad… I miss you very much too. By-ye.’ She pushed a button and put the mobile down on the table, and told him with a sweet smile, ‘Now it’s up to you to say when I should go back.’ He forced a smile. ‘Right after I’m dead.’ ‘I can really stay, you know.’ ‘I believe you, but I won’t have time to stay with you forever. Tomorrow I must go to work. The office has been calling me.’ ‘You mean there’s someone at the office?’ she jested, hoping to improve his mood. ‘About a hundred people.’ ‘Someone special enough to call you?’ He laughed. ‘The office secretary. I told her if there was anything special to call me and let me know.’ ‘What do you mean by special?’ He sighed slightly, took a spoonful of rice and chewed and when he was through said, ‘It’s like this: I instructed her, if some customer is a special case, to let me know discreetly, I’d volunteer to go to the office. I’d like to know how many kinds of problems there are in life.’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


69 ‘That does it.’ She pretended to pinch his arm. ‘Don’t let me catch you with one of those special cases, or you’ll find out how weird problems in life can be.’ He laughed loudly, then changed the subject. ‘When you’re back home, what will you do?’ ‘Well, help my father, of course. As if you had to ask.’ ‘I know that. But your father has work of a thousand kinds, he has thousands of companies. So how would I know?’ ‘I still don’t know. Frankly. I’d like to wander about, to be with you on and on.’ ‘If you can stay alone during office hours, that’s fine, but you must clear the matter with your parents, otherwise I won’t have it. When their daughter is sleeping on the sly with me, your folks at home won’t approve.’ ‘Suuure. I’ll ask them to approve of you.’ Then she was pensive. ‘What kind of work would you like me to do?’ ‘Be my housewife, have children and raise them.’ ‘How very old-fashioned! These days, women are expected to go out and work, and men to do the cooking, take care of the house, and raise the children if there are any. When their wives come back from work, they must wait upon them on bended knees and before going to bed grovel at their feet.’ She laughed again. ‘But if you want me to choose now, I’d very much like to work in the hospital. It’s exciting, this thing about cloning, operating, transplanting organs. But I’ve learned business IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


70 administration so I don’t know what kind of job I should go for.’ ‘If you really want to do it, your father will no doubt find something for you. You can go on the administration side, like your sister.’ ‘You forget that my sister is there already. I’d better go into another company. Heck, why should I think about these things now? There’s still plenty of time. Right now, I’m having dinner with you. Why should I think about something that hasn’t happened yet? You like to make me think and worry. Let me give it to you straight: I don’t want to have a strained face like you, thinking and thinking all day long.’

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9 He took the car to the parking lot and then took the lift to the psychotherapy office on the thirty-third floor. He pushed the glass door and entered the office, which spread over some fifteen thousand square metres and was partitioned out in various cubicles that were openplan, except for the office of the manager and the therapy rooms, which were walled in. But even though there were therapy rooms, the office sent the therapists for treatment outdoors, depending on where the patients wanted to be treated. In most cases, it was at home. This psychotherapy office had the same characteristics as a law office (Orrachun called lawyers ‘hired psychos’), except for the type of work being handled. The psychotherapy office had psychiatrists as well as psychologists and sometimes there were theologians joining them, depending on the symptoms and personality of the patients. Depending on the office analysis or on the patient’s wishes, the office designated an official in charge of each case. Orrachun had volunteered to work there after he passed his BA in psychology last year. The office was reluctant to employ him, because his level of studies was very low: nobody working there had anything lower than an MA and most had doctorates. But being impressed by his personality, the office accepted to take him on IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


72 trial for six months, after which full employment would be considered. It turned out that after one month his genius became apparent to all, when he helped solve the problem of an office employee who was so strung up that he alienated his fellow workers. But this was no great accomplishment, given that senior psychologists and psychiatrists had considered the case as piddling and hardly challenging, so they hadn’t condescended to handle it themselves. His masterstroke was the case of the office manager himself, which all the bigwigs were at a loss how to solve. At first sight, the fifty-five-year-old manager shouldn’t have any problems. He was like everybody who was tense and kept things to himself for the most part, but no one knew that his tension came from the fear of dying, and the older he grew the more he was scared to the point of becoming deranged. He couldn’t sleep, wandered in his mind, saw himself falling into hell and was utterly miserable, and he’d wake up in the middle of the night, bathed in sweat and gasping. He wouldn’t tell anyone, but his fellow employees took notice and endeavoured to help him out. The bigwigs couldn’t help him return to normal permanently. But shortly after he had started work Orrachun undertook to talk to him and soon enough results were there to be seen. After three months, the manager’s mental health returned to normal. Almost all of the experts were of the opinion that it was because Orrachun was young, so there was little feeling of resistance from the manager to the WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


73 treatment. Nonetheless everyone agreed on Orrachun’s ability, so that he broke through the wall of trial work, and whenever there was a case of fear of death, it was sent to him at once and he was never unsuccessful. The young women at the public relations desk smiled at him and teased him about going on holiday, asking if he had really rested because he looked so gaunt and what was this about coming back with an island girl in his wake. He laughed then walked to his office. Before he entered the room, the office secretary came to tell him the manager wanted to see him and whispered it was good news ‘as you wanted’. He was so excited he could hardly control himself. The manager was already waiting for him in the room. He was tall and lean, with an elongated face and brisk manners. Orrachun raised his hands and bowed to him. The manager asked him if he had had a good holiday, then told him that now that he was back, he should warm up his engine by handling a case he could handle well. ‘I heard the secretary say you’d like to work with people in that family.’ ‘Thank you, sir.’ ‘Actually, they’ve already specified they want a young, good-looking man. In fact, there are two cases, one difficult, one easy. If I let you handle both, do you think you can cope?’ ‘Thank you, sir. Difficult or easy I won’t object. Let me just work with that family, that’s all I’m asking.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


74 The manager stared at him suspiciously, yet fondly. ‘Are you looking for an opportunity to take over their business or what? I heard that when you went on holiday, you took along some cute data from the company’s owner to peruse, right?’ Then he laughed. Orrachun was red in the face. ‘Actually there’s another reason. I’ll tell you about it before long.’ ‘Alright. Take him over, before he takes us over.’ The manager rose and stood by his desk. ‘The first case is about the chairman’s wife herself. She’s feeling depressed because she’s against cloning and transplanting organs, which has been very much in the news for the past three weeks. The other case is about a clone who’s about to be operated on for an organ transplant. They want us to reduce his distress before the operation. You can get more information from our data centre, but there isn’t much more than this.’ Orrachun stood up. The manager put his arm round his shoulders and took him to the door of his office. ‘Looks like there’s something you aren’t happy about. Would you care for a cure?’ he said with laughter in his voice then added earnestly, ‘If you’ve got something on your mind and you can talk about it, then go ahead. I’m ready to help you with anything, sonny.’ He patted his shoulder softly, as a way to take his leave for the time being. Orrachun went back quietly to his office and leafed through the data about the patients he had obtained WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


75 from the company’s data centre. Then he pondered over what would happen next, and anxiety seized hold of him. His eagerness to find the opportunity to work closely with Phrommin’s family was gone. He tried to assess his own feelings: was he afraid or merely excited? But then he decided he had no more time to waste, and told himself he couldn’t care less whether it was excitement or fear. Now the opportunity had come. No way was he going to let it go by without daring to do something. It could be said he had waited for it all his life.

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10 The morning sunlight was bright when Sasiprapha drove to the outskirts of town. She tried not to think of the awful goings-on in the family, because thinking about them didn’t help improve anything and it was hopeless to expect him to give Cheewan his freedom. ‘He isn’t a person but a clone,’ he still insisted as before, while pointing out again that in the future it’d be a legal as well as a social problem. If there was a law saying clones were not real people and forbidding people to raise them, Cheewan would have to be returned to the hospital. But the legal problem wasn’t as nearly serious as the social problem. If society didn’t accept clones as real people but considered them as a different species, like the blacks that were slaves or animals to white people in the sixteenth century with racism still being felt to this day, what would happen? He wouldn’t be able to take responsibility for it, and yet, given that he was the one who had created this problem, he had to be responsible, he had to solve the matter right away. She didn’t see it as such a terrible problem and even if it were, she believed ‘we’ve taken care of it correctly already’ – meaning by letting Cheewan have an ordinary life. These days he had an identity card, his name was in WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


77 the house registry, he had everything to show he was an ordinary human being. But Phrommin kept insisting he didn’t want to run foul of the law. His business interests were huge. If his reputation suffered, it’d have dreadful consequences on all of his businesses. He wouldn’t be the only one in trouble: so would all of his employees, the three million three hundred thousand of them. He told her again not to fool herself into believing Cheewan was her son. The car entered the compound of the Stray Animals Foundation. The side fences were of thick, high acacia trees which stretched as far as the eye could see until they came to buildings and houses way back, hemmed in with rows of barbed wire. The front fence was also of acacia trees, but behind it was a wall which rose above head. Near the entry gate was written in large letters ‘Kindly feed cats and dogs’ and next to it ‘Bring stray animals to us’. And above the gate a big panel bore the words ‘Stray Animals Foundation’. She turned as she got inside. The two guards in the security booth hurried out to pay their respects. She smiled at them, then driving slowly went to park under the rain tree in front of the office, among a few other parked cars of foundation officials. When she turned off the engine, she took a plastic sheet she knotted at the waist as an apron, and then opened the door and went out. She had yet to close the door when five or six pets were fighting each other to get her attention. No matter IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


78 how she scolded they didn’t listen; indeed they seemed even more excited. They jumped and pawed at her until they had expressed how much they missed her and instead rubbed themselves against her legs. She shouted out ‘Enough! Enough!’ but it looked as though they didn’t believe her at all, so she gave up as she did every day she came to work. Glancing around, she saw a tigerstriped cat crouched on a car rooftop, which looked halfscared, half-fierce when she walked up to it, followed by the dogs. It stood up, hair bristling, hissing at the dogs. She had to turn round and chase the dogs away before its fur flattened. She asked it where it came from as she slowly walked closer to it. The cat made as if to scamper off, but seemed to be in two minds about it. She held out her forefinger for it to smell, which it did, then looked her in the face. She smiled at it and slowly stretched her hand to scratch its muzzle and then stroked its head lightly. An instant later, she had picked it up and held it to her bosom. ‘Did you mean to come here or couldn’t you find your way home, you night cruiser?’ The cat looked up and stared at her while purring. Its red mouth and red tongue were so cute. ‘You can stay with me here, but you’ll probably be castrated, I’m warning you.’ ‘A new member?’ There was the sound of steps growing behind her. When she turned round, she saw a young man who WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


79 stood smiling mildly as he raised his hands and bowed. ‘Good morning.’ She gazed at him, feeling that she had met him before and that he looked familiar, but she couldn’t place him. When he walked up closer, her heartbeat quickened. He looked so much like Cheewan that he seemed to be his twin, in body, voice and deportment, except that he was darker and more vigorous, his face was more handsome, his voice deeper, his eyes clearer and brighter. He looked surer of himself and he had a dimple on his left cheek which Cheewan didn’t have. ‘You must be from the psychotherapy office,’ she ventured, with her eyes still scouring his face. ‘Yes. My name is Orrachun, Orrachun Phakhawat.’ She nodded in acknowledgment. She wasn’t surprised because her husband had told her that very morning she should talk to psychotherapists in order to feel better. She had felt like refusing but as she didn’t want to talk to him she had kept quiet. He had asked her where a psychotherapist should meet her. She had answered that, if it were after nine in the morning, he should meet her at the foundation. The tiger-striped cat stared at her and went on purring. He smiled. ‘How cute.’ She smiled. ‘He’s just arrived. He was waiting on that car top.’ ‘Does this happen often?’ She seemed to be happy to talk about cats and dogs. IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


80 ‘Almost every day. They come and go. Some stay for a while and then leave never to be seen again. Others make themselves scarce and then come back. Some stay all the time. Some are mothers, they bring their litter to be taken care of and then disappear. Others aren’t so bad: when they’re pregnant, they come to give birth here and stay to feed their young until they’re strong enough and then they leave.’ She laughed. Her face looked softer. ‘As for the dogs, they come every day, some on their own, some brought in by the villagers. We also have a van to cruise around and catch the wounded or the famished to take care of. Would you like to have a look at our business?’ ‘I was about to ask you to show me around.’ ‘In that case, come along.’ She took the striped young fellow along in her arms and the pack of dogs followed her. She walked him to the back of the office, past fairly big two-storied buildings, explaining that the animals dwelled in one and were hospitalized in the other. He felt they were like hospitals in everything, except that behind them were several big stables. Each stable was surrounded with strong netting, and there was a shed within the stable grounds, ‘to take shelter from rain or shine,’ she told him. She meant for dogs and cats and other domestic animals that people brought in, such as goats, sheep, cows, buffalo and even elephants and horses. Besides these, there were also animals with broken wings, such WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


81 as birds, ostriches, wild and domestic fowls and various other species which each had to have its separate abode. ‘How many animals do you have?’ he asked. ‘More than nine thousand – over four thousand dogs, almost three thousand cats, and the rest are goats, sheep, chickens and birds.’ ‘It must be expensive to run each month.’ ‘Two million baht a month just for food. Salaries and water and electricity charges, another million baht, not counting land and building lease, the cages and various implements, including drugs and cost of operations on wounded animals, which fluctuate from one month to the next. Are you thinking of setting up something similar?’ She sounded intimate with him. ‘I don’t want to take your livelihood away from you.’ He laughed. ‘Especially with huge expenses like that.’ She smiled, inhaled the morning air, looked at the trees, the grass and the sky, feeling more relaxed than on any other day. ‘Isn’t it a problem for the chairman with you in charge on your own?’ ‘He doesn’t like it. He’d rather have me spend my time looking after some company than spending it here. This place doesn’t bring any profit. But I haven’t had the heart for that kind of work for a long time, so I resigned from all companies twenty-two years ago and took the money to buy eight hundred acres of land in the suburbs to take care of stray animals. When the number of animals increased, IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


82 this had to be registered as a foundation, so that when I die people can go on working. For running costs we rely in part on charity, in part on interests, including yearend dividends from my shares in various companies. So we can go on. Around here it was all rice fields before, but as you can see these days it’s tall buildings all around, so this is like an outer lung for the city.’ ‘I’ve seen lots of people coming here. You’re letting them rest here, aren’t you?’ he asked to have something to say, though he already knew the answer. ‘It’s good for them; they have a place to unwind. At the same time, the animals here have friends to play with. Cats and dogs like to have people around. If people take care of them, they’re very happy and if the people know their nature they’ll be happy too. Each side benefits from the other, which is our objective. We’d like to see people and animals being happy together and living together peacefully.’ Orrachun smiled, admiring her kindly spirit. ‘Besides, I can’t stand seeing cats or dogs or any other animals starving or being abandoned.’ She stared at him. ‘Am I so unhappy or so much in trouble that I must have a psychotherapist treating me?’ ‘If it were other analysts, they’d say it isn’t necessary, because the thousands of domestic animals here are the best therapists.’ She smiled, listening to him while stroking the cat’s muzzle. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


83 ‘I mean these animals are innocent, they show what they feel, they don’t have hidden motives. When they are hungry they eat; when they are full, they sleep. Staying with animals in many situations is better than being with people.’ She smiled. ‘Are you trying to cure me by speaking like this?’ ‘Not at all.’ He sounded earnest. ‘The chairman only ordered me to come and see you, to see how you were, and I’ve seen at once that you are more normal than the chairman.’ He laughed. ‘How do you know he isn’t normal?’ ‘From what he’s doing.’ ‘What do you think he’s doing?’ ‘I don’t think, but I can see. And so can you, and that’s why you’re unhappy.’ The cat made as if to jump so she put it down on the ground, then turned and stared at him. ‘I apologize for talking straight, because there’s no point in coming and pretending not to see anything or sinking my head in the sand like an ostrich.’ She smiled at his simile. ‘I like it that you dare to speak your mind.’ He laughed. ‘As I told you, I’m straightforward.’ And then she saw it was time to ask about what had been on her mind from the moment she saw him. ‘What does my husband say about you?’ ‘I didn’t meet him. The hospital contacted the company IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


84 I work for asking to send a psychotherapist to treat a patient and claiming the chairman wanted you to be treated as well. So I volunteered for the job.’ She wanted to tell him that that was his bad luck. He stared at her and then said, ‘Thank you for being concerned about me.’ She was thrilled that he could read her face and manners. ‘You’re very daring.’ The two of them stared at each other briefly and Orrachun then said, ‘I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for a long time, madam… almost all my life.’ Finally he was ready to say who he was. ‘What for?’ ‘It’s very hard to say what my reasons were. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to be near him, in order to do something.’ ‘You should analyse your own mind, you know.’ He smiled. ‘It’s like he was a magnet attracting me all the time. At first there was no reason, even though there must have been, but I couldn’t find any. But when I grew older, I knew why. Because I wanted to take my revenge on him.’ ‘I cast you away and I was happy I had succeeded. I didn’t think you’d come back to the starting point of the force casting you off.’ ‘The world has an overpoweringly attracting power.’ He laughed. ‘How will you take your revenge on him?’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


85 ‘I’m not sure how I’ll do so, but I intend to. And since I learned he’s going to be operated on with organs from his clone, I want to witness that, and I want him to fail and his clone to be safe. I’m ready to help his clone.’ She sighed and stared at him hopelessly. ‘Let me tell you straight that not only you can’t help him but you’ll suffer the same fate if he knows who you are.’ ‘I’ve prepared myself.’ ‘I really don’t understand. It’s as if you wanted to die or as if the child who was discarded was trying to return under the guise of taking his revenge, even though he doesn’t know what he’ll do. Tell me, do you feel disappointed about being thrown away?’ ‘I’m not his son to have an inferiority complex, and I know the reason why I was rejected.’ She stepped out and said sharply, ‘Losing one son is too much already. Why are you ready to be lost as well? There’s no reason for it any longer and it isn’t worth anything at all risking your life like this.’ ‘You can rest assured I haven’t come to die, but to help someone die, and it isn’t helping just one person, but maybe thousands, tens of thousands.’ ‘Even though you still don’t have any plans?’ ‘I do, except that I must learn the inside story in order to make the right moves. When I’m ready, I’ll let you know.’ She was silent for a long time, at a loss on how to make him change his mind. ‘Is your mother alright?’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


86 ‘Yes.’ ‘Tell me about you and her, will you. From the moment she ran away that night she hasn’t tried to contact me.’ ‘There isn’t much to tell. From the moment she left, pregnant with me, she took me to Mae Hong Son. After I was born, she entrusted me to a local monk, who hired villagers to raise me. She herself disappeared to the South. She refused to go back to her former house and refused to take care of me because she feared she’d be traced. She’d come to see me once or twice a year. Later, the monk made me a novice and then left me with an abbot in town for me to go to school, the temple school, with monks and novices only. While I studied, she’d come to see me once or twice a year as before. When I finished secondary education, she had me leave to have plastic surgery. She was afraid someone would recognize me, so that my face is like you see it now.’ She smiled. ‘No wonder you’re not like Cheewan. You look a bit too handsome.’ There was a flash of bitterness in his eyes. ‘I’m not proud of anything. On the contrary. I feel bitter to have to hide behind my own face.’ ‘Let me tell you something. No matter how well you hide yourself, I recognized you. I felt you must be that man. And if I can still recognize you, so can he. His instinct is much finer than mine.’ ‘I know he must recognize me,’ he said very casually, WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


87 ‘but I can’t stand not being recognized through my own face any more. What’s the point of being alive if we don’t have freedom?’ He went on telling her that, after his plastic surgery, his mother had taken him to Bangkok to carry on his studies in a university and rented out a room for him to stay on his own, while she went to be a nun upcountry. She didn’t have to work because the lump sum Sasiprapha had given her before she left would last her a lifetime, but she couldn’t stand the cruelty of the world and so had become a nun for good. ‘Were you miserable when you found out who you were?’ He shook his head. ‘No. It didn’t bother me. I don’t see the difference between me and the others, and the more I think about the children who are born from artificial insemination, the way I was born seems to me very ordinary. In any case I’m a person; I’m no different from the others, except that I was born through that method.’ ‘Are you afraid?’ ‘I have no reason to be afraid. Nobody knows who I am, except myself, my mother and the monk who raised me. And now you. I’m not afraid or have any regret that my life has to be like this. Sometimes I feel proud actually, when I think it’s a good thing altogether I wasn’t born from the craving of sex.’ He laughed. ‘But I don’t feel proud any more, because I’ve come to think that, no matter what, I too am born from craving, a IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


88 craving that is more terrible than being born as nature intended.’ ‘Does your mother know you’ve come here?’ ‘She does. She knows I’ve been tracing him. I think I know almost everything there is to know about him, I know what his businesses are, how he runs them, how many children he has, what each of them does and where, and I also know that he’s about to change his organs. I even know that his clone has disappeared.’ ‘I don’t understand how your mother can let you come here.’ ‘She forbade me but I’m too stubborn for her. I explained to her that there’s no way we can escape from our fate. If I accumulate good karma, no one will do anything to me.’ He laughed. ‘But I probably won’t, otherwise I wouldn’t have been born in this guise.’ ‘I’ll try to think like you.’ ‘About Cheewan, you mean?’ She turned and stared at him. ‘About you too.’ He laughed as if amused. ‘Besides past karma, there’s also new karma. Past karma we can’t change, because it’s done, but new karma we can organize and plan for.’ He smiled and looked away at the bright green plants. She turned to look at his face again. ‘You talk as if you’ve come to kill him.’ ‘If there’s a murder, it’s him who’ll be the killer, killing himself.’ She went on talking with him until late in the morning. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


89 She felt the breeze stronger and the light brighter than every other day. Before they parted, she invited him to visit her at home.

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11 Orrachun drove his old car past the security booth at the gate, answered the guards’ questions, then was allowed to enter and drive up to the three-storey neo-Romanstyle residence. He drove slowly to admire the view in front of the residence, which was built on twelve acres of land shaded all round by palm trees and decorated with seasonal plants and boulders with strange shapes that made you think of prehistoric animals. He parked the car in front of the residence. When he got out, another security official came to welcome him and asked him if he had come to meet the lady of the house. He answered and followed the official to the porch, went up nine steps, walked through the hall and entered the reception room. A middle-aged maid came in to welcome him in turn, invited him to sit down, and after that a young girl brought him a glass of cold water. The maid disappeared into the library then came back with the owner of the residence. He stood up, joined his hands and bowed. Sasiprapha invited him to go into the library, so he followed in her steps. When the library door opened, he saw a young man who sat reading a book at the farthermost table. Orrachun looked at him with excitement that turned into deep emotion. His steps slowed down without his WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


91 realizing it, so that Sasiprapha had to turn round and nod to hurry him along. When he stood by the table where Cheewan sat, Orrachun saw that his face was sallow as if he had been ill for a long time. His orbits were dark and the eyes deeply set. Their vacancy wasn’t due to indifference, but was because his mind had deserted the outside world and taken refuge within itself. ‘Cheewan!’ Sasiprapha had to call him twice before he turned to stare at his mother. She smiled sweetly. ‘Look who’s here.’ Cheewan looked at the guest with unconcern. As soon as Orrachun smiled at him, though, his eyes peered at him wonderingly and then widened in astonishment as if he saw his own face in Orrachun’s. It was then that his mind surfaced to acknowledge the outside reality. He stood up unwittingly, looked at Orrachun for a long time, unable to utter a word. ‘This is Orrachun,’ Sasiprapha said. Orrachun held out his hand. Cheewan looked at his hand and then tried to hold out his own as if in a dream. He held Orrachun’s hand for a long time, as if to exchange the stories of their lives through the skin of their palms. Sasiprapha’s tears were flowing without her being aware of it. Then she told Orrachun to take a seat so they could talk together. She went to sit beside Cheewan with an attitude that showed how much she cared. Orrachun sat across from IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


92 them, smiling warmly, forcing himself a little maybe, but it was better than letting out his inner confusion, which would have further depressed everyone. ‘Are you awake?’ Orrachun asked, out of curiosity. He had already forgotten what he had come to do, but even if he knew, it wasn’t necessary to use psychology to analyse and talk according to the theory. He let his heart do the talking. Cheewan nodded slowly. ‘I’m awake.’ Orrachun felt better. ‘And are you aware of how many days you’ve been sitting here?’ Cheewan shook his head and said with a dry voice, ‘I haven’t paid attention.’ But Orrachun knew he wasn’t in the least aware of the outside world. Even the book he had set in front of him he hadn’t read. ‘For many days, you haven’t been here.’ ‘And where do you think I’ve been?’ His voice and his eyes were dull. This kind of behaviour didn’t look good, but Orrachun was unruffled, because at least it was better than before. ‘In your own mind.’ Orrachun stared at him. ‘But now you’re back.’ Cheewan looked down at the book and sighed lightly. Sasiprapha looked at Orrachun, impressed and admiring. ‘You know, don’t you, who I am?’ Orrachun asked, to make him think. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


93 ‘I know what you are.’ Orrachun and Sasiprapha stared at each other. ‘And do you know why I’m here?’ ‘I’d like to know what’s going on.’ Orrachun sat up straight to emphasize he was earnest and he told him truthfully what his job was and what he had come to do. Cheewan sat in silence. ‘But that’s not as important as my willingness to help you… with my own body too.’ Cheewan still couldn’t make sense of things and merely stared at his mother, but this helped him a lot to emerge from his lethargy. Sasiprapha thought it was time for her to tell him the truth, so she said, ‘Orrachun is a clone of the same age as you, from the same model, Phrommin. Actually, he made a great number of clones, but only twenty-two were adjudged faultless, so he had those inserted in the wombs of women, who were all hospital employees. These women were hired to grow the clones in their wombs. But during their pregnancy, some clones died in the womb and others were destroyed month after month because the doctors assessed they were no longer perfect, even though they were alive. And finally you were the only two left.’ She was silent for a long time. ‘I couldn’t stand this destruction of life any longer, so I helped the two who were pregnant with you to run away, but unfortunately only one was able to escape. The other was caught, brought back and kept under strict detention. It was only after she had IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


94 given birth that she was let go. Phrommin was afraid the clone would be stolen again, so he had him raised in our family. He told me we’d raise him as our child. I believed him blindly. Actually, he did it to allay everybody’s suspicions, especially mine, because he knew I was behind the escape of the two mothers.’ ‘Did you know you were a clone?’ Cheewan stared at Orrachun, looking excited. ‘Yes. My mother told me as soon as I was old enough.’ ‘You were lucky someone told you the truth.’ Pain appeared in his eyes again. ‘I was deceived all my life.’ ‘If I didn’t tell you, it was because I thought your father had given up on his intention, and I didn’t want you to feel you were a clone when there was no point to it.’ ‘I understand. It isn’t your fault.’ ‘I know how hurt you feel, because you were deceived into love and respect and he paid you back by betraying you, but I want you to know as well that knowing the truth doesn’t hurt and torture you any the less. Look at my face!’ Orrachun looked Cheewan deep into the eyes and pointed at his own face. ‘Do you think this is my face? It isn’t. It’s someone else’s. Why didn’t I keep my own face? Because it’s your enemy! It’ll tell the model’s agents where you are. Eventually, it had to be changed so I could stand and watch real people.’ Cheewan was shocked and stared without blinking. Orrachun tried to lower and soften his voice but it resounded with pain nonetheless. ‘No matter what WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


95 people think, we’re all real persons. The only difference is in the way we’re conceived. Whatever other people think we are is their own problem. It’s up to us to think what we are.’ ‘At this point it’s no longer necessary for me to think what I am,’ Cheewan said. ‘You know what talking like this means?’ Orrachun’s voice hardened. ‘It means you’re running away, not only from the others but from yourself as well.’ ‘I’m not running away, but I don’t want to know anything any longer. Why do you want me to think about what I am, given that in a few days I’ll be torn to pieces?’ ‘Precisely, that’s what you think you are. You think you are bits of flesh, organs, spare parts, and that’s why you’re like this, a rotten slab of meat even before you’re dead. That’s because you don’t want to think you’re a person, you don’t want to think you have dignity like other people.’ ‘You’re not me, so what do you know?’ Cheewan’s voice shook with anger. Orrachun stood up and pointed at his face disparagingly. ‘I’ve heard this remark a thousand times. Do you know what it says about you? It says you’re a defeatist. You turn yellow at the least hint of a problem. Let me tell you free of charge that people like you are nothing but losers!’ Cheewan got up too. ‘If you’ve come to insult me, IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


96 you’d better get out! It’s my life. I can do what I want with it.’ ‘What a great formula!’ Orrachun’s voice was derisive. ‘“Refusing to choose is still a choice.” Or: “Hell is the others.” You’ve already fallen into hell along with that bible you carry between your teeth.’ Orrachun strode out. Sasiprapha sprang up and followed him, telling him to cool down, but he didn’t listen. He pushed the door open and went out without turning around. Sasiprapha followed him into the reception room. ‘Why won’t you be patient with him? You know he’s ill. And he’ll get worse if things are like this.’ Orrachun smiled at her kindly as he shook his head. ‘From this moment on, I’ll be on his mind all the time. Don’t worry. This way will help him wake up and face reality, otherwise he’ll keep on sliding into a bottomless pit and in the end we won’t be able to take him out of it.’ Sasiprapha stared at him dubiously then smiled with tears in her eyes. She thanked him with a tremulous voice. ‘He’ll get better, believe me. Tomorrow I’ll come again.’ He stepped out towards the porch, then turned and smiled at her softly. ‘I love this philosophical garbage of the twentieth century. At least I can use it with him to some purpose.’ Even when his car had left, Sasiprapha was still looking in his direction with alarm. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


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12 In late morning the next day, Orrachun went back to Phrommin’s residence. Sasiprapha was waiting for him in the reception room, looking worried. As soon as he was seated, she asked him, ‘How do you think you can help him?’ ‘Isn’t he better?’ Orrachun asked, looking surprised. She lowered her face to hide her tears, and nodded. ‘He is better. That’s why I’m worried about him. The better he is, the sooner he’ll have to leave. Right now, Phrommin is only waiting for two things. One is the law he expects parliament to approve next week, which I believe nothing can prevent: by now, opposition has grown incredibly weak and support is growing by the day. The other thing is that he’s waiting for Cheewan’s health to improve. As soon as Cheewan is back to normal, he’ll be taken away. If you have some plan to help him out, you shouldn’t wait, or else it’ll be too late.’ Orrachun stifled a sigh. ‘I’ll act as soon as possible.’ ‘If you need my help, please say so.’ ‘I want you to be strong. If it’s time for Cheewan to go.’ ‘You’ll help him, won’t you? Why would you let him take Cheewan away too?’ ‘It’s up to your husband. If he believes the foreigners, Cheewan will be safe, but if not… I’ll have to try to find IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


98 another way, but don’t ask me right now what way there is. Allow me to keep this to myself for the time being. When I’ll need your help, I’ll let you know. Right now, please take me to see Cheewan.’ Sasiprapha took him to Cheewan in the library. Orrachun asked whether he occasionally went out of the room, and was told he had just done so last night to take a shower and change his clothes before coming back. Today Cheewan wasn’t reading but stood at the window, looking at the garden at the back of the residence. Orrachun went to stand beside him quietly and waited until Cheewan could feel him and turned to look at him. Cheewan looked pleased at seeing him again. ‘How are you?’ Orrachun asked. ‘I couldn’t sleep all night. I apologize for being rude to you yesterday.’ ‘Never mind. I was a bit too hot-headed myself,’ Orrachun said with a sweet smile. ‘I’ve come today to apologize to you too.’ Cheewan invited him to sit down by the table. Orrachun went to sit in the same chair as before. Sasiprapha sat at the head of the table. Orrachun stared at him. He looked better, but still exhausted and weak. ‘How do you feel now?’ ‘What about?’ ‘About what worries you… your life.’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


99 Cheewan’s face clouded over. ‘There’s a worry that bothers me. It must be fear.’ ‘The fear of death.’ ‘Yes, I’m afraid to die. Isn’t it frightening?’ ‘Indeed. It’s frightening. Everybody is afraid. That’s why they must make clones to extend their age. But the more we’re afraid, the more we’re haunted.’ ‘I’m trying not to think, but then you came to make me think.’ ‘Even if you don’t think, it doesn’t mean your fear will disappear. You’re just looking over it but it’s still there, in your heart. I’d like you to be conscious. No matter what happens to us, no matter how many problems we have and how serious they are, we must be conscious. If you can’t escape it, face it and look at it without thinking, and then it won’t be able to frighten you.’ Cheewan answered with a sigh. ‘We’re all afraid to die, because we long for life, but life is nothing more than memories. In the final analysis, what we regret is only memories and the new experiences we’d like to have.’ ‘It’s not just memories. There’s the body too.’ ‘That’s because we think that the body is you, is yours, even though it’s only earth, water, air and fire elements mixing with the consciousness element into a different form. But even when we think we’re still alive, it’s dying all the time it’s alive – our cells, that is. Old cells die, new cells are born. If you turn to consider the mind that IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


100 knows how to feel, how to remember and how to think, it too is changing or dying and being born all the time. Finally what is there that is you, that is yours? We’re born and die all the time while we’re still alive, except that we don’t see it, because we don’t care to look. We think that actual death is only when we stop breathing. So we’re afraid of those last moments, whereas actually nothing dies, nothing is born; there’s only what we call birth and death. If you can see this, you won’t suffer.’ Cheewan almost smiled to see a young man talk about life in the manner of a Buddhist monk. As for Sasiprapha, she listened calmly, unquestioningly, the suffering in her heart easing out gradually. ‘What can I do to see things like you say?’ Orrachun stared at him and breathed lightly. ‘It’s easy to say but hard to practise, even though actually there isn’t much to it, except sitting down, making yourself at ease and looking at yourself. The first step is to observe your body to see how you sit, examine from the top, that is your head, down to your bottom, then consider the flesh and skin that covers your body, and then consider your breath. You’ll see you’re breathing in and breathing out. You focus your awareness on your breathing in and out, long or short, being aware of it all the time. Sometimes your mind will wander and think of other things as it is wont to do. Don’t get angry. Bring your awareness back to your breathing. When it is firmly there, determine a point from which to observe WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


101 your breathing, your upper lip or the tip of your nose. Set it as observation point for your breathing. This method is a training in meditation. It’s called breathing awareness training, but it would be hard for you to see the three characteristics of existence (impermanence, suffering and absence of self) through it. Some people train till they die and don’t see anything, but it’s a good base to live one’s life. The best method is to train for insight meditation – that is, the observation of our main postures: walking, standing, sitting, lying down. Being aware of whatever posture we’re in, observing it as we do breathing. When changing from one posture to another, being aware of why we do so. Don’t change it without knowing why, that is, don’t change it without observing it as soon as you want to change it. If you observe it you’ll see it must change, because the previous posture can no longer be held, as it hurts or makes you stiff, and that is suffering already. Suffering is a contradictory condition that is hard to be withstood and finally cannot be. But for as long as we don’t feel the suffering in this case, because we’re changing posture all the time without observing it, without realizing it, we do not see the suffering. When we want to see the suffering we must focus our awareness on observing it. By training often, we’ll see it gradually. When we see it, the belief that life is something permanent, that life is happiness, that life is certain will be gone. You’ll see it is only a natural condition.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


102 ‘Have you ever been a monk?’ Cheewan asked as if he wasn’t interested in what Orrachun was saying. ‘Yes. Why do you ask? You want to know, don’t you, whether I have a diploma? Well, I don’t. But I can tell you I’ve been with monks almost all my life, and I’ve studied and sought knowledge from the teachings of Buddha all the time… Maybe this kind of thing is boring,’ he added as an afterthought, as if to excuse himself. Sasiprapha smiled to encourage him to speak further. ‘It isn’t like talking western philosophy. That’s smart, because we use our brains, we chew on thoughts; the more we think, the more delicious it is and the more we feel clever, profound. But philosophy is just playing with the basic ingredients of thought. No matter how excellent it is, it doesn’t help solve the problems of our lives.’ Cheewan sat up, intent on listening. ‘But religion is about getting rid of thought for us to be in the now. We train for awareness; we train for insight meditation, in order to be in the present, for us to see everything that is true. Thought is an illusion. We think of the past, think of the future, we are not of the present, so we don’t really feel life. Therefore I’d like to tell you that you mustn’t be jealous of those who have a long life or high status because people like these though they have a life are already dead, are dead from present life, are dead from the real life.’ He looked Cheewan in the eye. ‘Therefore, that a life is WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


103 short or long isn’t important, it’s just conjecture. If someone is stupid, the longer the life the more suffering, the more suffering the more stupid. Isn’t a short life that knows every moment of thought preferable?’ He reclined on his seat, putting his body at ease, then said good-humouredly, ‘Once I had a man in his seventies as a case. His relatives asked me to treat him because he was very much afraid of dying. He told me he had learned the oration for the dead and had recited it forwards and backwards thousands of times. I asked him why he had to go to so much trouble. Didn’t I know it gave you a long life? he answered. I asked him how old he was. Seventy-seven, he said, then he related at length that he was suffering from a bone infection, osteoporosis, tuberculosis, some gall-bladder ailment, had difficulty breathing and a mild heart condition, and now diabetes was joining the fun, but he was still able to live, thanks to reciting the oration backwards. So I told him you’re now seventy-seven and, as you admit, full of diseases, and then look at yourself, thin and dry, your muscles all melted away so there’s only skin left on bones. Why pamper them? Let go of them. They’re only a burden. They’re no longer beautiful or gracious or strong as they used to be. They’re only the strings of a dry carcass. Even though I’m still young, I’ve always felt that this body of ours is a very heavy burden I don’t want to carry around. It has to be fed, it has to be used, it goes here and there, it wants to listen to beautiful music, IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


104 to see beautiful things, to taste delicious food, it yearns for the flesh of the opposite sex, it thinks all kinds of crazy things until you can’t concentrate. Just that and you’re feeling tired already, and you still have to wipe its shit and its piss, because it’s a pouch of waste that comes out of our orifices – earwax, eye pus, snot, tartar, nail dirt, sweat, scurf and many other excreta, no matter how much you wash and wipe. It stinks and you must find perfume to rub in or spray. All those who dress up, put on makeup and make themselves pretty or handsome, they all tart up the portable shit pouches that they are.’ He smiled, with a clear glint in his eyes which had Cheewan smiling too. ‘Even by taking so much care of it, your body never stops ailing, and it fades as fast as a falling leaf. I don’t see what’s so attractive about this life. It’s only – to put it mildly, this body is just a heap of refuse which is a breeding ground for diseases.’ He still smiled sweetly. ‘I went on preaching, telling him he had recited that oration thousands of times, but had he ever understood what it meant. He was silent, looking tense. He must have been angry with me. So I left.’ He let out a deep breath, turned to stare at Sasiprapha. She looked very relaxed. Her face and eyes were livelier. He turned again to Cheewan and said, ‘The next day I went to see him again. I thought he’d be angry, but instead he expressed himself as befits a senior citizen, and praised me for knowing how to talk. I told him I WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


105 was merely telling the truth, I wasn’t out to make him feel good, which would only be deceiving him. At his age how could I deceive him? I wanted him to see the truth of life, how it works out. Why regret that pouch of oozing shit that holds all kinds of diseases, especially the incurable disease of birth, old age, pain and death? Facing death and being born again was better.’ He stood up. ‘Well now, I think I’ve got to leave. If I go on preaching, you’ll be fed up with life, which is certainly not what Buddha intended. So bye for now. I’ll meet you again tomorrow afternoon.’ He shook hands with Cheewan then walked out, with Sasiprapha seeing him to the front porch.

The next day in the afternoon, Orrachun went to the residence again. This time everything was different. Sasiprapha came out to receive him in front of the stairs, tears running down her face. Orrachun at once knew what had happened. ‘He took him away, right?’ Sasiprapha nodded then wiped her tears, took his arm and walked into the reception room. Orrachun glanced towards the library. Its door was closed. His face and eyes became tenser. ‘When?’ ‘This morning. His father told him to go for his monthly checkup.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


106 ‘And how did he react?’ ‘When his father went into the library, he followed him obediently, looking at me as he did so. A moment later, he walked out first, looking tense but calm. He didn’t look my way, but when he went into the lift, he turned to look at me, as if sending a message telling me to be strong. There was nothing I could do to help him.’ ‘You don’t have to feel guilty about this. No matter what, nobody could help him.’ ‘So how come you told me you would?’ ‘I can help him according to the situation first. But it won’t stop here. It’s only starting, actually. The only thing I ask is that you be strong, otherwise everything will get worse. You must be strong as Cheewan wants you to be. Don’t forget you’re my patient too. If you feel bad, I’ll have to waste time with you instead of spending that time helping him.’ She appeared to toughen up. ‘Man’s fate depends on his karma, as you know. Man adds to his karma all the time. What’s already done is old karma, what’s being done is new karma. Old and new have results sooner or later. If his old karma has a measure of good and is added to good new karma, I believe it’ll have good results for him. As for me I’ll try to do my best to help him. Please be at ease. I’m certain nothing will happen to him.’ She felt better, but still not very confident. ‘Then what will you do next?’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


107 ‘I have to go to the hospital and ask to meet him.’ ‘He’ll recognize you.’ ‘I’m counting on that. Let it be that we meet at the right time, that’s all. I believe I can help him.’ ‘His life is in your hands,’ she enjoined, wanting him to put all his efforts in helping out Cheewan. ‘I’ll do my very best.’ Then he left. She was shaking clumsily as if her nerves were shot and she couldn’t do anything right. It took her a long time to collect herself, after which she went up to the prayer room. It was the only thing she could do – pray for Cheewan and Orrachun to be safe.

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13 Phrommin had known for two days that parliament would pass the law on commercial cloning and organ transplant today. So in the morning he took Cheewan for his checkup at the hospital. At the same time, he ordered a news release to be prepared for that evening to be distributed to the media in the hospital’s conference room. Thanks to the wonders of technology, at the push of a button the media all over the world would be informed at the same time. In the afternoon, parliament passed the law with a majority of three quarters. All international media present in Thailand reported the news at once, along with opinions from individuals of every profession and every class, both pro and against. But Phrommin had achieved his ends. Members of the media flocked to the hospital to interview him. When this was denied, they asked to interview Professor Spencer, which was also denied. A hospital spokesman asked them to bide their time until evening, when there would be a major announcement and interviews would take place. At nightfall, press people trooped into the conference room, loaded with cameras, tape recorders and microphones they set out in a confused display that took half an hour to sort out, leaving hospital officials exhausted. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


109 And then the most important moment in history came. A presenter went on stage to frame the event and introduce the hospital’s director, Professor Spencer, who came out to explain briefly the history of the demand for such a law among the people and the government. He then went on to explain the attempts made to achieve cloning and the transplantation of organs, as well as the manufacturing of artificial wombs to grow clones until complete success was achieved. He then praised the progress of science and technology that allowed the dreams of mankind to become true, ‘and, to celebrate the new law which means that the quality of life will be excellent for all the people, the chairman of the Greater Goods Group of companies has volunteered to be the first person to be operated on for organ replacement’. After that, Professor Spencer left the floor to Phrommin. Phrommin stepped out to the podium in front of the stage. He greeted everybody and said he wished to say a few words before answering questions. He thanked the people, members of the media and members of parliament who had ‘given a new life’ to mankind by supporting the law. The law would also bring enormous financial benefit, in that foreign currency from all over the world would flood into the country and would constitute a more than sufficient income for the nation, so that the government would never again have to worry about balancing the yearly budget. ‘By passing such a law, parliament has shown itself IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


110 extremely far-sighted,’ Phrommin stated. After which, he talked about the readiness of the hospital to service patients, both in terms of highly competent doctors, taking the example of Professor Spencer and his working party of a dozen specialists, ‘all top professionals,’ and in terms of state-of-the-art technology, including spare parts which have been cloned as such and are ready for use, ‘and that, for organs of all types’. Then he announced that ‘to test the efficiency of the hospital in all respects, I am going to volunteer to be the first to be operated on for organ replacement, as a way to celebrate this new law’. Then it was question time. Most of the questions dealt with his feelings: didn’t he feel anything, given that from now on men would become commodities? He answered that clones were not real people but artificial creatures because they weren’t born through conception, whether inside or outside of the uterus. The main factor was the intent: ‘we intended from the first to create a clone for a given purpose, therefore it isn’t trading in people’. Another interesting question was what kind of a transplant he would have: one organ at a time or all of them together? He answered ‘one at a time’ and then added jokingly, ‘or maybe I’ll change them all if it can be done’. ‘Will you use a specifically cloned organ or a clone?’ ‘I’ll use my own clone.’ ‘That means you cloned yourself a long time ago.’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


111 ‘That’s right,’ Phrommin answered coolly, gambling no one would detect the lie in what he was going to say next. ‘I did it a long time ago under the law on cloning for medical research purposes.’ ‘Would you say that you got around or took advantage of that law?’ ‘I did not get around it and I did not take advantage of it. That is, when the law allowed cloning for research purposes, our hospital did it, as did the other hospitals in this country, by taking as models our own officials. I myself am an official in this hospital, so I volunteered to be a model. And I’ve never used my clone to change my own organs, even though it could have been done, and without breaking the law either. It’s only now that we have this new law that I’ve thought of getting an organ transplant. If I didn’t respect the law, I wouldn’t have waited until I am this old.’ ‘When will you be operated on?’ ‘As soon as everything is ready, which shouldn’t be more than a few days from now, and when the operation is over, no matter how it turns out, I’ll report to you again. Thank you very much.’ After the press conference, a celebration party took place, to which all media representatives were invited.

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14 Professor Spencer stood close to the glass wall on the twenty-second floor of the administration building of the hospital. He was looking at the cars speeding to and fro in the streets down below, each car the size of a child’s toy. He liked the way they ran, like ants looking for food or fleeing from a fire, hurrying and stopping short along a trail drawn by the instinct of fear. All creatures of the world feared death, but the other animals, even though they feared death, had to die. Man had a gift God had bestowed on him especially, the gift of thought, and it was thought that had had him find a way for mankind to become immortal. He was proud of being one of the pioneers of this wonderful method harnessing immortality. His fame put him among the few top scientists of his field. At the same time, he had been successful in business as well. His luck wasn’t born out of nothing, but came from his genius-grade excellence in his chosen profession. There hadn’t been scientists or doctors on his father’s or on his mother’s side (his paternal grandfather worked in a slaughterhouse). Thus given his ability on that side, it had to be accepted that he was born with the soul of a scientist. At the age of five, while playing with a Doberman, one day, the fundamental traits of a scientific WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


113 mind revealed themselves in him. Out of the blue, he wondered what it was in the body of his beloved dog that made it move, bark or whine. He thought that ‘there must be something in there’. He didn’t wait for his concern to worry him unduly – a whole minute would have been too long. He called the dog into the kitchen, closed the door, took the fruit knife and held it firmly in his hand. The big dog must have wanted its name to be inscribed in the annals of medicine, because it let him finger the skin of its neck, laughing and fawning with him for good measure. He grabbed the dog’s throat with one hand and with the other hand he used the knife to cut its throat, but the strength of a five-year-old no bigger than the dog wasn’t enough to cut through the artery in the dog’s throat. The result was an open wound at the throat; the artery was slit only partially. The big dog yelped, jumped to flee, flinging away the hand that held its neck so brusquely he fell on his face. From then on, it raced around trying to find a way out, with blood gushing about in growing amounts. He was shocked, didn’t know what to do, and merely lay looking at the dog running round and round, spurting blood all over the floor. When he came to his senses, he stood up and, his hand still clasping the knife, tried to call the dog soothingly in order to catch it, but it looked as though the big dog was too hurt and scared to hear or see anything. It was still running around in circles trying to find a way out, looking weaker and weaker all the time. One IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


114 hour went by and then it fell, panting loudly, blood still running out of its wound. It struggled to get up and find a way out, but then had to lie down on the side, panting hard still. Half an hour later, it grew peaceful. He watched intently to see if something would come out of it, but saw nothing, except for the tremors in the last stage before it became still. No longer scared, he dragged the body of the big dog to the middle of the kitchen. The body thus dragged swept the blood on the floor in a long trail. He looked at the body critically, then undertook to cut it into pieces, to look for what it was that made it move, bark and whine. The result of his handiwork that time was that his maid, who only cared to watch TV and was wont to fall asleep in front of the tube, was taken to court. As for him, he was scolded and had to tell his parents as well as the court the reasons why he had shown cruelty to that animal. He answered as he thought, which spared him punishment. Before long he was being praised for having the makings of a scientific genius, which gave him further confidence in himself. And given that a dog was too big and too strong a guinea pig, he went instead for cats, mice, birds or any other animals he could butcher without too much exertion. Later, when learning medicine at the university, he’d call the thousands of animals that were dissected his ‘teachers’. During his studies there, he had the opportunity to WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


115 take apart animals of all kinds, sizes and shapes as could be found on earth, in the water or in the sky. In all their numbers, he found none as interesting as man. In the course of his studies, he dissected untold numbers of corpses, for love of knowledge, and at times became so engrossed in his work he stayed on in the dissection room after the class was over, not even going out into the open for food: he’d eat nothing but burgers he ordered delivered to the dissection room. From cutting up so many corpses, he had an excellent knowledge of animal anatomy, down to the last cell you could say. Another plus was his surgical expertise, at once incisive and nimble, so that when he came to Thailand he was given the moniker of ‘the doctor with the divine touch’. He wasn’t only keen on surgery; he was also interested in cloning. While he was studying medicine at the university, the whole world was becoming fascinated by cloning, which in medical circles was considered as very advanced, to the point that they viewed obtaining clones that were stronger and lived longer than their models as something ordinary. But the competition centred on cloning or growing tissue for specific organs, because that would solve the moral dilemma for sure. In those days, opposition to surgery to replace organs taken from live clones was growing all over the world at the instigation of NGOs. Yet, in the following ten years, opposition in many countries gradually weakened and IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


116 support grew, stemming from the ‘necessity’ to provide populations with ‘better health’ or ‘improved quality of life’, or whatever fancy formulas that could be coined to foster legitimacy. Moral considerations thus were slowly eased out of people’s lives. At the same time there were claims that letting life end in death was ‘more immoral’. Because of this, several countries came up with accommodating laws. When one country had them, another country had to have them also, because the paramount issue wasn’t a question of morals at all but of competition in leadership in medical science, as was the case in astrology circles vying with each other for distant stars and in other fields. The overriding consideration was trade. No country would easily let huge sums of money every year pass it by. Instead, it would coyly pass laws ‘for research purposes in medical science’, which sounded so appropriate as a human endeavour, and under such drastic laws, have a great time cloning and transplanting organs. It wasn’t that governments wanted their citizens to have better sanitation or improved quality of life as policy had it, but it was because of the huge amounts of money involved. They were unable to forget the law of trade that says the first to enter a field is the most likely to get filthy rich, because with no competition they can maximize their profit, and before competitors can emerge they’re firmly established, making it difficult for others to take away their market. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


117 Therefore, even though many countries couldn’t climb out of their own moral walls, their leaders took praying postures in front of those walls in full sight of their people, then let those with capital do the said business from within the walls, as they had their own reasons, which were that this was preferable to having local capital leave the country and actually there’d be foreign capital flowing in as well. Even though they’d be attacked by the superpowers for covertly encouraging black market activities, they were well aware that those superpowers were fighting or pressuring them to get out of the organ trade. It was like in the centuries that have gone by during which the superpowers have pushed for world trade in the name of human rights. But by now thirty-three countries had passed laws allowing commercial cloning and organ transplant. What impressed Professor Spencer wasn’t that many countries had acquired such laws rapidly. What impressed him was Phrommin’s vision. When he was doing his master’s at the university, Phrommin had come and introduced himself, saying he was learning international business administration and he had long heard about how outstanding a student he was, so he had wanted to come and make friends with him. Before they separated that day, Phrommin had told him, ‘When they praise you for your outstanding abilities, you’re being underrated, because as a matter of fact you’re a world genius,’ which had made him feel IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


118 not a little pleased with himself. Phrommin had told him his father had business in Thailand ‘covering all fields’, especially food and basic public utilities. He was also heavily into wholesale and retail both domestic and international, had investment companies and shares in no fewer than five banks. Now his father had got involved in the health business, with forty-four clinics all over the country, and was interested in cloning and organ transplant for commercial purposes, and he’d like to invite him to join them. From then on the relationship between the two men had grown rapidly. Phrommin was always going to see him or else calling him up to discuss what they were both keen on (cloning and organ transplant) which had to cover religious, moral, political and trade issues as well, since nothing happens all by itself, as is the case with the laws of nature. It couldn’t be any other way. He was concerned that as Thailand was a Buddhist country it would be hard for its population to accept cloning. Phrommin laughed and told him it wasn’t any different from any other country with any other religion. ‘Having Buddhism as the dominant religion doesn’t mean everyone in the nation will behave in a Buddhist way. On the contrary: most people still don’t know what Buddhism is about; they don’t even know how to distinguish between real monks and opportunists in saffron robes.’ At this point, Phrommin had to expound on immoral characters that hide behind monk robes for WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


119 their advantage, including those who misrepresent Buddhist sayings. ‘These people aren’t just ordinary villagers, but also well-educated intellectuals, and there are many of them too. They call themselves Buddhists, but they know nothing (I’ve studied them).’ Phrommin told him that he wasn’t worried no matter how fast people held to Buddhist tenets because in time everybody loved life and was afraid of dying. For the time being, as they were in good health, they’d oppose cloning but one day when they fell ill or were close to death, they would ‘want it’. Only a minority of them would remain hostile until the very end of their lives, people ‘whom we must bow to in respect’, but this wouldn’t shatter the world and they’d die quietly. At first there might be press reports and individuals to praise them, but after a while it’d become a common thing, like seeing the sun rise in the east and set in the west. The mass media as a business wanted to make a profit too. They were only after news that could sell. Therefore their moral sense and code of ethics would make them react strongly at first, but when their heroics didn’t sell, they’d turn to something else to peddle. ‘And of course they’ll have to turn to me (because I sell well) even though they denounce me as evil (I’d like to know how different they are from me). The thing is, they love themselves too and are afraid to die.’ Phrommin further predicted that in the next decade one quarter of all countries in the world would accept IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


120 cloning and organ transplant for commercial purposes and that would make it legal, which meant they’d adjust the law in favour of commercial cloning and organ transplant. As for the countries that declined, they’d engage in it clandestinely with the complicity of their leaders, who of course would stand to benefit from it. And the ostentatious broadmindedness of liberals along with the weariness of moral crusaders would further propel ‘the enlightened’ towards victory. As for the new generations they’d be increasingly unconcerned with morals. They’d seek and enjoy the pleasures of the flesh and live like shadows, floating like balloons, not even knowing who they were. Phrommin wasn’t being sarcastic but earnest, because he knew that everybody is selfish. When in a tight corner or in times of danger, looking for one’s safety first is the instinct of the earthly animal of whatever species. ‘It’s the only mistake of that God of yours,’ he said evenly, ‘so he had to be punished for the mistake he made, and came round to teach man to love his neighbour and turn the other cheek. But today and tomorrow, man will slice off his neighbour’s cheek and won’t let go of the opportunity to slice off the other as well. I don’t know if God will sit down and weep or get up and do something, but whatever he does, I don’t believe in his creative powers any longer. I’m more confident in yours, that is to say I believe in man’s wisdom. We’re able to nurture those the “world” wants to have an extended life in future for as long as we want WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


121 and we’re able to get rid of those the “world” doesn’t want just as well. We’re the only ones able to create the world really – create and destroy, like Brahma in Indian mythology. What I’m telling you is that man will crown himself as God, but it won’t be all men. From what I can see at the moment, there’s only you, thanks to your genius. Can you find out if there are other men like you that are worthy of becoming God?’ Phrommin didn’t try to disguise his intentions. He told him that he had more than enough money. Even if the money stopped coming, he wouldn’t be in trouble. The driving force in a young man was stronger than riches (even though he loved those very much); he wanted to know if man could do God’s work. Professor Spencer finished his doctorate two years before Phrommin. For those two years he worked in a private hospital in his own country for a huge salary. One year after finishing his doctorate and returning to Thailand, Phrommin set up Siam Salyawet Hospital Co Ltd, mostly for the purpose of practising commercial cloning and organ transplant, and for treatment related to surgery. Professor Spencer was made an offer he couldn’t refuse, for a salary vastly superior to the one he received at the clinic where he worked and, on top of it, a thirty-percent share in the company, as well as ex officio allocations for management and academic research. But for him money wasn’t the primary motivation (though he wasn’t embarrassed by earning a lot). IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


122 His faith in Phrommin was, a man thoroughly cautious behind his recklessness, brilliant, commanding, yet whose manners were casual, good at compromise yet never on the losing side, impatient yet knowing how to wait when he wanted to win, full of himself yet unassuming. Now, he was still among the sharpest tongues in the country, from his increased knowledge of the truly fraudulent nature of man. An important consideration was that the thirty years of his association with Phrommin had proved his belief that the man was a true genius in his sphere of activity. And he was about to undertake surgery to transplant organs on this genius friend of his. Professor Spencer looked at his watch. In another fifteen minutes, it would be 8 pm. He walked to the door, opened it and went out. Ten minutes later, a tall, big man with the blond hair and the blue eyes of a westerner came to stand in front of the operation room in the surgery building. He greeted the team of specialized doctors and nurses as they gathered with a few words, and then opened the door and went in. He stood still, surveying the whole wide room resplendent with instruments to check and support body functions whose data would appear on a large screen, both as graphs and scans, along with pictures broadcast by closed-circuit television. The staff changed into their surgical uniforms then took up their stations and checked once again the tools WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


123 and instruments, while Phrommin sitting in a wheelchair was brought to the level of the operating table. He was dressed in squeaky clean light-blue patient clothing, and greeted and smiled at everyone. Professor Spencer shook his hand and asked him whether he had slept well the night before. ‘Very well, all of four hours.’ ‘That’s enough for a wonderful man like you.’ ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Of course. How about you?’ ‘I’m sure.’ Then he told a joke. ‘Yesterday I met a patient who came here to have an organ transplant. Do you know who he was? He was the head of an NGO that’s dead against us. So I went to him and said, Hey, you’re against cloning and organ transplant, aren’t you? How come you’re here then? Isn’t that what’s called swallowing your own words? He was utterly ill at ease. Finally he burst out, If I don’t do it I’ll die and then who’ll be leader of the opposition?’ All the officials laughed heartily. Professor Spencer smiled broadly. ‘So I told him tomorrow I’ll get an organ transplant too so I’ll keep you busy for a long time to come.’ He stood up and stepped out of the wheelchair. ‘Therefore please do your best to extend my age as much as you can, won’t you, professor.’ A male nurse pushing Cheewan’s wheelchair entered. Cheewan looked calm as one who has prepared himself IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


124 mentally, but there was still tension on his face. He was taken to the side of another operating table, two metres apart from Phrommin’s. He looked at Phrommin with the unresponsive eyes of someone under sedation. ‘Everything will take place very fast,’ Phrommin told Cheewan with a kindly voice. ‘You won’t feel a thing, not even a mosquito bite, and me neither. You’ll return into my body like twenty-two years ago; you’ll become one with me once again and forever.’ Officials hoisted Cheewan up and made him lie down on the operating table. He let himself be handled obediently and didn’t say a word. ‘Is there something you want to tell me?’ Phrommin asked when he lay down too. But it looked as though Cheewan didn’t hear. The strobes above the beds were lit. All the staffers in their green blouses were lined up around the two beds. They covered their heads with synthetic-fibre caps that had a transparent plastic visor up front, a tiny microphone and earphones on the sides, while a neckpiece was connected by a tube to an oxygen tank in the middle of their backs. Professor Spencer was the head of the surgical team, assisted by four Japanese and three Thai specialists. The other officials were all Thai, divided into two teams, each with four doctors, so that the surgery could be carried out on both patients simultaneously. Scientific progress helped reduce delays and all kinds of difficulties to an almost negligible degree: there was WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


125 almost nothing to be done, at most merely think and move the hand a little, and the job was done almost instantaneously. The organ transplantation was the same. It was like the patients were scratched a little and then went to sleep rapidly. A doctor injected a drug into one of Cheewan’s arteries, while another did the same to Phrommin. Five seconds later, the two of them were asleep. Surgery began. The computer-controlled laser beams sliced into the shoulder muscles of both men at the same time. Then the doctors carved out the joints deftly. Phrommin’s arms were put into a temporary freezer and Cheewan’s arms were adjusted to Phrommin’s shoulders, and the flesh cells were joined with an efficient glue-like substance that acted in a matter of seconds. As for the nerves, blood vessels and skin, they were stitched with self-destroying synthetic thread. After that, lasers sliced into the muscles in the periphery of the pelvic and hip bones. The hip joints were severed. Phrommin’s legs were put into the freezer, and Cheewan’s brought in to be attached to Phrommin. The next step Professor Spencer undertook himself rather than stand by supervising closely, as it consisted of transplanting the eyes. As finicky as the operation was, it wasn’t hard for him. Shelling a hard-boiled egg seemed more difficult because you had to be careful not to let the white touch the shell, even a little, otherwise the whole egg would have a blemish. With marvellous IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


126 tools and supreme skill, he took out Cheewan’s eyes and then Phrommin’s as easily as if he had scooped out boiled eggs from a cup. Then he put Phrommin’s eyes in the freezer and put Cheewan’s in their stead, and set about stitching the tear ducts, blood vessels and nerves blissfully, as a housewife knitting away in a pastoral age. Then the first stage of organ transplant was over. After waiting for two weeks for the model and clone to recover and rest, the second stage would begin.

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15 From the moment Cheewan was taken to his physical checkup, Orrachun went to sit agitatedly in the office and waited for a return call from the hospital. He felt like barging in to ask what had happened to Cheewan, but he couldn’t. Besides being an intrusion, it would harm the outfit’s reputation and put an end to its livelihood. After a three-day wait, he was called back and told to meet the director the next day at 8 am. Out of concern for Cheewan, he couldn’t help asking if he’d be kept working. The answer he got was that the director would inform him himself. He called Sasiprapha, who by then had moved to her own realm in the foundation office and didn’t want him to treat her any more. The only thing she wanted was news of Cheewan. She sounded still hopeful somehow. She enjoined him to call her as soon as he had news of him. His job done, he went back to his flat, wishing time would go by quickly.

Ratirat, hands full of bags full of goods, had just come back from her daily shopping spree. Even though there were piles of bags on the bed, on the table, on the sofa and on the floor, it looked as though she wasn’t pleased IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


128 with what she had bought, though she was pleased to have been shopping. It made her happy to have purchasing power. Orrachun wasn’t pleased but he didn’t say anything. It was her money and her happiness and he himself was well aware that, whatever she did, she’d never be a problem for him, because he wasn’t serious about sharing her life. If he had struck a relationship with her, it was only because he wanted to have a child with her, so that if his plan failed and he was at the mercy of her father, he’d redeem the shame of being alive by taking his revenge and humiliating him further. He had undertaken to approach her during the hot season last year. She was back from England to take a break in Thailand. He dogged almost her every step. When she travelled to the seaside in the South, he followed her, and on the beach one evening went over to talk to her. He did so for two days running until they were close enough to have dinner together. From then on they met every day. At night they left the hotel to have some food, listen to songs in bars or in hotel lobbies; in the daytime, they hired a boat and sailed out in the open sea or else skirted the various islands. He stuck to her like a puppy to its mother for two weeks until his holiday was over, but even then he’d call her up every day. When she came back to Bangkok, they met almost daily, to see movies, listen to music and have meals as they had done when they were by the sea in the South. When she returned to England, he still contacted her often, to make WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


129 her see how serious he was about her. One year went by. She completed her education and returned to Thailand. This time he invited her on a trip in the South again. On their return he held her back so she would stay with him. She didn’t want to leave him, so she had been with him for almost ten days. In those ten days, she hadn’t been aware of what went on, either in society or in his work. She was only interested in him, in his feeling of love, and she looked like she wouldn’t willingly go back to her luxurious residence. But today Orrachun had made up his mind. He felt certain that, from tomorrow on, when he would set foot in her father’s hospital, his life would never be the same again. He wouldn’t come back to see her again, or if he did it wouldn’t be in the same condition. As soon as he opened the door and entered, she threw her arms round him, kissed him and, still embracing him, led him to the sofa. He sat down and she brought him a glass of cold water, then propped herself down beside him. Orrachun was touched all the same to see her being so good to him all the time. He was no longer so sure of himself. If she went back home as he wanted, would he miss her, want her to be near him? He wondered if he wasn’t putting a noose around his neck. He stifled a sigh and gazed into space, his eyes gloomy and tense, worried about Cheewan and anxious about himself and Ratirat. Finally he told her it was time for her to go back home. IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


130 ‘You’re fed up with me, aren’t you?’ she asked with a sad voice. ‘That’s not it.’ He was trying not to sound grouchy. ‘I’ve got so much work to do these days I may not be able to come back here very often. Do you think you could stay here on your own?’ ‘Where will you go?’ ‘To your father’s hospital, that’s where.’ She brightened up. ‘When?’ ‘Tomorrow.’ She seemed to reflect. ‘I can go back. But you must meet me often, okay?’ ‘You talk as if I didn’t want to see you.’ She held him in her arms. ‘Don’t lie to me.’ ‘Why would I lie to you? If you want to meet me, you can meet me at the hospital.’ ‘Not during working hours. Dad is dead against it.’ ‘Outside of working hours then. If I’m free. It isn’t a problem at all. I don’t see why we should argue about it.’ He sounded gruff. When Ratirat was asleep, Orrachun put on the DVD of Phrommin’s pleas in favour of commercial cloning and organ transplant and watched it all over again. He wanted his resentment of Phrommin to be stronger than his love for Ratirat, and then for the whole night he let himself think wildly so that he didn’t sleep and wasn’t interested in seeking peace of mind at all. In the morning his face looked drawn but he was WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


131 satisfied that his resentment was burning deep. ‘What’s eating you?’ Ratirat asked as they sat drinking coffee at the breakfast table. He stared right at her, at her beautiful face, at her lovely complexion. Her sweet, coy, bewitching eyes turned solemn and sad. ‘Do you love me?’ he asked with a sad voice. She gazed at him with big eyes. ‘After all this time, do I still have to answer you?’ He lowered his head silently, blaming himself for asking a stupid question which he was actually addressing to himself, and then he changed the subject. ‘How are your brothers?’ ‘They’re okay. I just called them up yesterday. They said they’d come back to visit Dad soon. Why do you ask?’ ‘Nothing. Just curious.’ Her two elder brothers who were studying in the United States were instrumental in his decision to exchange his brain with Phrommin. He wanted to take over both Phrommin and his business empire before the two sons came back, as their return might create more problems for him. Orrachun went on drinking coffee quietly. After a while, he asked her, ‘Will you leave with me? I’ll drive you home.’ ‘Sure.’ When he drove out onto the street, he felt as if the IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


132 world had changed in a way that was difficult to explain. It was blurry with shifts taking place behind the surface of things. Or was it him who had changed? He drove her to her house, waved goodbye to her two or three times while saying ‘Let’s meet again’, and then drove away, without turning to look back. He speculated about what she’d do when she learnt that ‘elder brother’ Cheewan had been taken to the hospital and hadn’t come back. As for her mother, she had moved to the foundation lock, stock and barrel, and she wasn’t coming back either. Would she feel sad or see it as something normal, because she had left home when she was still very young, so family relationships didn’t mean much to her? Would she know that her family was being torn apart? Would she care? And how would she feel when she knew Cheewan was a clone? How would she feel? Would she still love him if she knew that he too was a clone?

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16 Orrachun arrived at Siam Salyawet Hospital a little before 8 am. When he gave his name to the director’s front-office secretary, she smiled at him widely and told him ‘He’s waiting for you’, then walked ahead of him, pushed the door open, went in and took him to the director’s desk. Professor Spencer observed him carefully as he stood up and held out his hand. Even as he motioned for Orrachun to sit down, he still didn’t speak. Orrachun stared at him attentively. ‘How do you do? Glad to meet you,’ the professor greeted him. He said, ‘Thank you, I’m fine, and you?’ ‘Thank you very much. I’m fine too.’ The professor smiled in a show of white teeth. ‘Only thinking about the little bird that fled the nest.’ ‘You raise birds too?’ Orrachun feigned interest. ‘Yes. I also farmed one out. But too bad: it was stolen when it was very young.’ Orrachun smiled, his eyes sparkling. ‘If you met that bird, do you think you could recognize it?’ The professor laughed good-humouredly and reclined over his seat. ‘Just seeing it once or hearing it once, I’d remember.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


134 ‘All birds are the same. Maybe you’d get it wrong.’ ‘This means you still don’t know birds. All birds have details that differ; all other animals also.’ ‘Maybe it’s you who doesn’t know all the birds.’ He stared at the professor openly. ‘What you know of the birds is only their appearance. But do you know their minds?’ ‘Sure.’ He smiled. ‘But how do you want me to answer? With a set formula or according to the truth? If it’s the first, I’ll have to say birds want freedom, because we believe birds are freedom. They like to be free. But if you want me to answer truthfully, I’ll say all birds are afraid of dying, otherwise they wouldn’t fly away, would they?’ ‘There’s something you misunderstand. All birds are afraid to die, but some birds, though afraid, dare to die.’ The professor laughed appreciatively. ‘In that case, if a bird flies back to the nest, it means it’s ready to die.’ ‘Absolutely. Even if there’s a snake in that nest.’ ‘Why would the bird do that, would you say?’ ‘In order to keep on living.’ The professor stared at him briefly, assessing the significance of his words. ‘Meaning that if that bird is back, it’s ready to fight.’ ‘Now you understand perfectly.’ The professor laughed as if it were a joke. ‘Well now, maybe I’ll see a heroic bird one of these days. But let’s come to our work. I’ve made up my mind to have you WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


135 work on with the same patient, but we’ve moved him to stay here, rather than at the chairman’s residence.’ ‘How is that?’ ‘It’s more convenient this way. You know all this.’ He told him in which room Cheewan was staying and added he should come to work tomorrow as usual. ‘Today he’s not ready to listen to anything from you, but I have someone who wants to listen to you. I’ll take you to him right now.’ He stood up. ‘This way, please.’ He took Orrachun to the surgery building, at the back of the administration building. There was a glass tunnel joining the two. Phrommin’s bedroom was across from the operation room. It was a large room, especially decorated. There was a red carpet with a beautiful pattern of graceful flowers, a set of plush sofas, television and stereo sets, a dinner table, a refrigerator and a cabinet with nonalcoholic drinks. The patient’s large bed stood in the middle of the room, its head close to one wall, presiding over the room as it were. On one side, the wall was a single glass panel, providing a 180-degree view of the capital city. Not far from the bed stood pouches of serum and glucose. The pictures on the walls represented flowers and landscapes. The room smelled clean, and its atmosphere was bright, airy and comfortable. Phrommin lay on the bed, dressed in patient garments. His eyes were protected by shades. He was dozing, because he had eaten lightly twenty minutes earlier. The professor and Orrachun went to stand by his bed IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


136 quietly but Phrommin knew who it was. He was the first to say hello, then asked, ‘You must have some surprise for me, coming so early this morning.’ ‘Your nose is sharper than ever.’ Professor Spencer laughed good-humouredly. ‘I hope it won’t detract from the efficiency of your ears.’ Phrommin turned towards a button beside the bed. The nurse standing close by hastened to press it, and the upper part of the bed rose by forty-five degrees. He shifted a little, the nurse assisting him. On the other side, the professor helped to hold him straight. Orrachun, who stood at the foot of the bed, looked at the hands and feet that came out of the shirt and pants with interest. They were Cheewan’s. ‘I brought you a guest. His name is Orrachun Phakhawat.’ ‘Is that a remake of the Bhagavad-Gita, professor?’ Phrommin laughed at his own joke. ‘Is it as well written as the original? Good morning, Khun Orrachun.’ This time his tone was serious. ‘Sorry for being flippant. I mean no disrespect. I was just joking with my friend, as ailing old people are wont to do.’ ‘It’s your privilege,’ Orrachun said smoothly, hiding his irritation. ‘Good morning to you, sir. I hope you’re fine and will soon be in good health again.’ Phrommin was silent. He didn’t even say thank you. He looked as though he was trying to have a clear picture of the owner of that voice. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


137 ‘You impress me very much, you know. Most people have a good ear when they lose some other sense, especially their eyesight, but all your faculties are excellent.’ Phrommin looked tense but then he broke into a smile. The professor took a step back to better see the two of them, then stood looking impassively, his arms wrapped round his chest. ‘I wonder if you’ve had an organ transplant before, if I may ask without prying.’ Phrommin shook his head. It looked as though his excitement hadn’t abated. ‘No, this is the first time.’ His voice was so hoarse he had to clear his throat. ‘How many times will you do it?’ ‘Well… as often as needed, whenever this organ or that begins to wear out.’ As Orrachun looked at the arms and legs that belonged to Cheewan he felt a painful tightness in his chest, yet he went on speaking. ‘I think that if you keep on changing organs like this it’ll be a loss in terms of both time and health. Each time you make a transplant you have to rest for at least two weeks. If you do this twenty-two times, you’ll be wasting at least eleven months for nothing. I think there must be some other way so you won’t waste so much time in your life.’ ‘What you say makes sense. Pray tell me what other way there is.’ ‘I have no medical knowledge but using common sense IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


138 I think that if you change all of the thirty-two organs your entire body will be that of your clone, right?’ ‘Yes, but feelings and thoughts will still be mine. They’ll be me.’ ‘Right. Well now, where do you think your feelings and thoughts are?’ ‘Well, in my brain, of course.’ ‘Not in your heart?’ ‘The heart’s duty is to pump blood. The brain’s duty is to think and remember and order the movements of the body, as well as to see to it the various internal organs function normally. Or don’t you think so?’ ‘From what I learned at school, it’s as you say, because we copied our textbooks on western countries’. But Buddha said it’s the mind that performs the task of feeling and thinking, because it’s the nature of the mind to know emotions.’ ‘Whether you call it mind or brain, it’s one and the same, or if it’s different it’s in the brain anyway. It’s the brain that feels and thinks, so we call it the mind.’ ‘Buddha said the brain is just physical matter, a chunk of meat if you will. It’s just matter and energy. So how can it think?’ ‘That energy precisely is thought.’ ‘Energy comes from the disintegration or alteration of matter or substance, which doesn’t have the property to retain data and remember, so how can it think? Because in order to think we have to have data we remember, WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


139 right? Another reason has to do with those who die and are reborn and can remember previous lives. Think about it: do they take their brain along when they are reborn? If they don’t, how can they remember their past lives? It’s the mind itself that’s reborn, because it’s abstract, but it doesn’t mean it floats down to be reborn like we say. The mind goes on and off indefinitely like a lamp. We see it as the same old lamp, it hasn’t changed in any way, but in reality the lamp goes on and off innumerable times. The lamp we see isn’t the old one but always a new one. When there’s a passing away, a death, the mind is conceived or born at once in a new matter or body. Conception is like lighting a fire. Suppose we strike a match or a lighter; a flame comes up at once. That flame can be compared to the mind. As soon as the sperm mixes with the egg in what we call conception, the mind comes up right away. The mind will stay in the place that is the heart. When the body grows, with all its organs, the mind will be in the heart. The mind’s duty is to receive the moods that enter through the six openings, namely eyes, ears, nose, tongue, skin and consciousness, or thinking, and it’ll keep all moods and experiences, because that’s its nature. When the mind receives the moods, there are mental processes coming to work or mixing together, giving rise to the various feelings, such as suffering, happiness or absence of either according to their nature. At the same time, there are actions or reactions, in the heart, in speech and through the IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


140 body. These actions are called karma. And it’s the mind again that keeps a record of that karma. Whenever the situation is favourable, the accumulated karma shows itself in new actions and results in suffering, happiness or the absence of either. And it goes on like this indefinitely.’ He wasn’t sure whether the two of them understood him, so he stressed that ‘the word “mood” doesn’t mean love or hate as people generally understand, but it means what is perceived by the mind. If my mind sees you, what is seen is you and that’s the mood of my mind. If my mind hears your voice, your voice is the mood of my mind. If my mind perceives your smell, your smell becomes the mood of my mind. If my mind savours food, the food flavour is the mood of my mind. If heat is perceived by my skin, that heat is my mind’s mood, and if a thought comes up, that thought is my mind’s mood. When the mind knows the various moods as I’ve just explained, there’s a mental process that alters the mind every time. It’s its own nature, just like that. When the mental process alters the mind, the various feelings appear, such as suffering, happiness or the absence of either. These feelings are called perceptions. This alteration of the mind by mental processes is like hydrogen mixing with oxygen to produce water. Oxygen is like the mind, hydrogen like the emotion, water like perceptions of suffering, happiness or the absence of either.’ ‘How did your Buddha know all this?’ the professor asked. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


141 ‘He trained his mind until he achieved the condition that knows the entire natural state according to the truth.’ ‘Thought it all up, did he?’ ‘No sir, you can’t reach universal truth through reasoning or speculation. Not even scientific experiments can achieve this entirely. You have to train the mind through insight meditation.’ ‘Ha?’ The professor pretended to be amazed. ‘Since you won’t go through the scientific process of experimentation, how would you know? You don’t have evidence to support anything.’ ‘There’s some evidence that comes from the experimentation of scientists themselves. Buddha discovered the secret of life through mind training to the point of achieving omniscient foresight, that is being able to know everything through transcendental insight. He was able to know even the movement of atoms, that atoms don’t stay still but move at great speed all the time. Belatedly scientists like you have found out that atoms are made of electrons that move at great speed. He even knew the frequency of the forms, that is the physical phenomena, that come into contact with the nerves of the various openings of the body, such as sound and light waves, which is that they have the characteristic of going on and off at great speed so they look continuous. He called this continuation. Later scientists found out that light and sound travel in waves IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


142 of a high frequency. He knew that the mind can’t stand still, that it flickers on and off all the time, just like the forms affecting us. He knew that for one form that comes into contact with the mind through the various body openings once, called one-instant form, there are seventeen mind-instants. He even knew that the on-andoff or birth-death working of the mind in one instant has three components, the instant of birth, the instant of existence and the instant of death. He explained everything in much more detail, so that even now physicists and dialectic materialist scientists have yet to catch up with him. He knew that the mind isn’t the nervous system and isn’t the brain either, but perceives by using the nervous system of the various openings; for instance, the mind uses the optic nerve to see, the aural nerve to hear, the lingual nerve to taste, and so on. Besides this, he also knew that for vision to be it must use four elements in combination, that is: an optic nerve; a form to be seen, which is a light wave reflected from an object onto the optic nerve; light; and intent. If one of these elements is missing, there cannot be vision. The same goes for hearing; there must be four combined elements: an aural nerve; a form, that is a sound wave coming from the vibration of an object to the aural nerve; an ear duct, for the sound wave to reach the aural nerve; and intent. In the absence of one of these elements, you won’t hear, as we know. To know a taste, a contact, a thought, it’s the same. Even death and WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


143 rebirth, dying and being born like what, for what reason: all of this he knew in a comprehensive way, which scientific circles have partly found out since.’ Orrachun let out a deep breath, wondering whether by talking so much he was being understood. ‘Even though Buddha has found out so much and modern science has come up with some backup evidence, I know you don’t believe it, because there is no proof in the form of documents or graphs or spreadsheets for you to see. You still hold that genes, chromosomes, DNA and what not are life itself, are how life reproduces itself, are everything of what life is, whereas in reality they’re only the by-products of sex, I mean forms born of karma, which are the requisites of the birth of life. Buddha knew he’d be in trouble with both materialists and idealists, so he taught not to take anyone’s word on trust and not to believe anything without experiencing it for oneself. Thus I can tell you that the best proof is in yourselves, is in your minds. If you train your mind the way Buddha teaches, you’ll see the truth.’ ‘Science isn’t about making calculations or guesses or training the mind as you say,’ the professor said academically. ‘It’s about making hypotheses, gathering data and evidence and experimenting time and time again until you reach incontrovertible results that can be summarised into laws or theories. The same applies to the brain. Innumerable scientific tests have been carried IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


144 out with instruments which have varied in the course of centuries. In the twentieth century, scientists used electrodes to reach the brain which were connected to voltmeters, which recorded brainwaves. These days experiments are being carried out through computers, which are most efficient and produce similar results.’ ‘The brainwaves you’re measuring do not mean that the brain can think or feel. The brain is merely the place where the mind works – its office, if you will. And the brainwaves are only the manifestations of the behaviour of the mind. They aren’t the mind; even the whole nervous system isn’t the mind, because it too is matter, substance. In summary, neither the brain nor the nervous system are able to feel or think anything: they’re merely tools of the mind.’ ‘If the mind is really the one doing the feeling and the thinking,’ Phrommin spoke up animatedly, ‘and if it’s located in the heart, then why, when a heart is replaced, the person whose heart is changed doesn’t have the feelings and thoughts of its previous owner?’ Orrachun was silent. The professor smiled indulgently. As for Phrommin, he waited for the answer confidently. ‘Because a heart transplant doesn’t sever the whole heart, does it? The part of the heart that’s left untouched may be where the mind is.’ ‘May be?’ The professor laughed. ‘Science has no “may bes” but neatly points out what’s what.’ Orrachun smiled. ‘The same question goes for the WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


145 brain, though. How will you explain that, in a brain transplant, the person that receives the new brain still feels and thinks like before?’ ‘We don’t transplant whole brains, and in the old days brain transplants weren’t done, except localized surgery for the treatment of various illnesses. It’s only recently that we’ve begun to transplant brains from clones. We still don’t transplant the whole brain at once. Sure, we do transplant brains but we do it progressively so that the brains can exchange their experiences or feelings and thoughts or karma as you call it. Let’s say for the brain to adapt or sort things out. The important factor in transplanting the brain of a clone efficiently is that the brain, indeed the whole body of the clone, is the same as his model, the only difference being in its quality. This may be the reason why those who get new brains still have the same feelings and thoughts as before.’ Then he smiled good-humouredly and jokingly said, ‘But no matter what, I’ll try your insight meditation to see if I can come up with something weird like your Buddha.’ He smiled and shrugged. ‘When you dwell in the material world, you only see matter and you hold it’s the reality of the universe. But before long you’ll know.’ ‘I’m not looking down on your Buddha. I merely want to see the proof.’ ‘Then I won’t argue any more. Let’s say that if you believe the brain does the thinking and the feeling, I’d IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


146 like to suggest to you to only change the brain.’ He turned to look at Phrommin. ‘Just have your brain transplanted to a clone and that’ll do. You don’t have to waste time like you’re doing now.’ ‘What a great idea,’ the professor exclaimed. ‘Splendid.’ ‘Will you do it then?’ ‘We’ve gone ahead to some extent already.’ He stepped closer to the bed. ‘We’ve swapped arms and legs and the eyes. If we do as you say, we will waste time by putting them back as before.’ ‘Just once, though. Isn’t that better than ten or twenty times?’ ‘What do you think, boss?’ ‘I haven’t thought this through. I need to figure things out. But what I worry about isn’t about transplanting organs back and forth, but I don’t… I don’t like this clone.’ He meant Cheewan. ‘He looks fine, he’s no different from me when I was his age, but I don’t like his spineless attitude. He isn’t strong!’ ‘When he gets your brain instead, it’ll be your personality that comes out.’ ‘I understand this. But imagine that my brain is a person and he is a car. If the car is of bad quality, even if the driver is good, it won’t go far.’ ‘We check his body every month,’ the professor said. ‘We have found that several of his organs were not quite perfect, especially internal organs like stomach and WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


147 intestines. He’s suffering from mild ulcers there. His gallbladder isn’t what it should be either. For this reason we have to select only those organs of his that are in perfect condition. As for the others, we’ll get them from somewhere else.’ ‘In that case, I think that first you should replace his organs with perfect ones, right? When all his organs are perfect, you can replace his brain with yours.’ ‘Oh, not bad.’ The professor’s tone was complimentary. ‘Thank you for your valuable suggestions. We’ll take them into consideration.’ ‘Thank you very much for coming to see me,’ Phrommin said to end the conversation, ‘and for bringing me new hope. Right now, I’m feeling very cold – it must be your name that does it.’ Then he laughed goodhumouredly. Professor Spencer took him out of the room, parted with him with friendly words, then returned to see Phrommin again.

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17 Phrommin still sat in the same posture, looking pensive. When the professor came in, he asked at once, ‘What do you think of him?’ ‘Perfect, boss.’ He smiled. ‘What would you say if I took the most perfect?’ ‘If you really want him, you must have him, but there’s a little problem, which is we must find proof he’s a clone. But that won’t be difficult. Checking his DNA and the hospital records should be enough.’ ‘If we ask to check his blood, do you think he’ll agree?’ The professor laughed again. ‘I’m sure he wants us to.’ ‘Isn’t he afraid that we’d know?’ ‘He isn’t afraid of us, boss, because he decided to come and see us. Besides, he knows I know who he is. I’m very much impressed with this young man.’ Phrommin shifted in bed, eager to learn more. The professor told him what he had said to Orrachun. ‘I don’t think he’s come without a purpose.’ ‘Then what is his purpose? The workings of his subconscious? He left me, but deep inside he wants to come back to me?’ ‘Partly. But I think that’s not all. What we can be pretty sure of is that he wants to help his twin clone.’ ‘He’s too late for that.’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


149 ‘Yes, too late. He can only cheer him up, but whatever his plan is I can’t see how he can do it.’ Phrommin was silent for a while then said, ‘No matter what, I’ve fallen for him, and I’d like to do as he suggests.’ ‘If you’re certain, there’s no problem.’

The next morning, as Orrachun was about to visit Cheewan in his room, an official told him the chairman wanted to meet him urgently. He didn’t try to figure out what would happen. No matter how the story would unwind from now on, it’d end the way he thought. When he opened the door and entered, he didn’t meet just with the chairman but with the director of the hospital as well. The two of them looked at him with interest and some ulterior motive, but he pretended not to notice and left them at their games. After greeting him, Professor Spencer was all business. ‘If we have disturbed you during your working hours, it’s because we need your help.’ ‘It’s no trouble at all,’ he said evenly. ‘Every second of my time the hospital pays for anyway. So let’s talk about how I can help.’ ‘We already know in our hearts what’s what,’ the professor began. ‘Therefore I won’t beat about the bush and I’m sure you don’t want to either. I’d like to be certain you’re not our clone that was stolen twenty-two years IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


150 ago. So I’m asking for your cooperation in checking your blood.’ ‘You’re wondering whether I’m your own clone.’ ‘Not quite.’ Orrachun stepped closer to the bed and told Phrommin, ‘You don’t need to wonder. You should’ve been certain the moment you heard my voice.’ Phrommin was rather taken aback by his daring. ‘If you’re my clone and dare to admit it without compulsion, you must be aware what you were made for.’ ‘I am. That’s why I came.’ ‘You’re daring and forthright. So let me ask you straight: why did you come here?’ ‘If I tell you, you won’t believe me. I’ve come to take over your business empire, as well as your life.’ Phrommin was amused and nervous. He pretended to smile as if hearing some nonsense. ‘Your wish will surely be granted, because your body will become mine. I’ll feel, I’ll think, I’ll do all business with your body.’ ‘Thank you very much for being so forthright with me. It’ll be my pleasure to cooperate.’ It wasn’t only Phrommin who was startled by the unexpected reply. Even Professor Spencer, who prided himself on his coolness, was left speechless. He stared at Orrachun unbelievingly. ‘What kind of transplant would you like us to do?’ ‘I don’t want to waste time in life.’ He stared at PhromWIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


151 min. ‘Our life is very short, just the span of a butterfly’s dream. And my own is even shorter, so I don’t want to waste time being operated on again and again. However it’s done, let it be just once or twice and then no more.’ The professor smiled as if he knew what he was up to. ‘Like you suggested yesterday?’ ‘Right. That way we’ll test our opinions clearly, right in the open, with all the proof required by the scientific process.’ The professor smiled. ‘And how will you know who’s right and who’s wrong? ‘I don’t need to know. The truth is self-evident. We human beings at best are only witnesses to wisdom and with only you left that’s enough.’ ‘Won’t you feel any regret?’ Phrommin asked as if concerned about his feelings. ‘Your question shows you’re still human to some extent,’ Orrachun said with a straight face. ‘But that’s defeated by selfishness. There’s no point for me to feel any regret or even be afraid, because science and technology are helping people to die ever more comfortably. I know it’ll happen swiftly, almost without feeling anything. Maybe it’s harder to fall asleep than to leave life for good, but as soon as my life will be gone, I’ll be right back.’ ‘You’ll be born again,’ the professor asked. ‘Absolutely.’ ‘You really have strong faith in the mind,’ he praised. IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


152 ‘Yes. But it’s not the same as your faith in God. My faith is based on reasons that come from study and training that can be tested… with the mind.’ ‘When will you be ready?’ Phrommin interjected. ‘I don’t want to waste time in life either. Time is money.’ He smiled. ‘As soon as you give me your cooperation. I want you to return to Cheewan the organs you’ve taken from him.’ He didn’t utter the word ‘clone’ because he wanted the two of them to think that Cheewan was a person and so was he. ‘Let him lead the life he wants to lead.’ ‘Is that your bargaining chip?’ ‘You already have my life. Please consider it as an exchange.’ ‘What if I’m not able to do what you want?’ ‘What can I do to you? I’m merely hoping for the last time that you still have some humanity left in you, that you’re not an economic animal as you call the animals in your farms, including the persons born out of cloning like me.’ Phrommin put on a poker face. ‘You’re the first and only one who dares to speak to me like this.’ ‘Because I don’t expect anything from you, so I don’t have to be afraid of you.’ ‘Because you’ve got nothing to lose except your life.’ ‘Well, what’s the difference then?’ ‘I’m willing to cooperate with you, but as to the WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


153 method or form the organ transplant will take, we’ll decide that as we see fit.’ ‘Thank you. But there’s still something else. Take it as my last request. I’d like to see your cloning farm – maybe not all; just what you think is proper. I’d like to see those who share the same fate as mine and it’ll be my way of taking leave of them as well.’ ‘No problem,’ Phrommin agreed. ‘You tell them goodbye as you wish.’

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18 Orrachun came and stood with a calm heart in front of the patients’ ward for a moment then opened the door and went in. Two young nurses responsible for the health of the hospital’s ‘property’ welcomed him in a friendly manner because they had been told beforehand what he had come to do. Orrachun looked at the white bed that stood close to the glass wall. He saw a body lying on that bed and his heart beat so strongly he could hardly breathe. He tried to put up with the pain he felt, then, walking softly, went to stand by the bed. He didn’t know if the patient was asleep or not, because his eyes were bandaged up. Only the heaving of the chest told that he was still breathing. Orrachun suppressed the painful turmoil in his heart by forcing himself to calmly observe that body and reflect that it was merely a combination of flesh and soul. At a given time, it must be destroyed by the power of adversity, which is natural. Even though the body he was seeing had yet to be destroyed, the eyes and limbs taken away by the unjust power of man were no different, because they were manifestations of the law of impermanence, suffering and absence of self. This body once had moved, run, waved, swung and WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


155 grasped, and had seen. Now there were no organs left that would allow such actions. What was left was merely a chunk of life waiting to be further maimed. He sighed softly, too weak to think or say anything. He shifted his eyesight to beyond the glass wall and saw a jumble of skyscrapers caught in glaring sunshine. Outside it was dazzlingly bright, but inside his heart was gloomy and constricted. ‘Tell me, Orrachun.’ The words came from the live body trunk. The hoarse voice startled Orrachun. It meant Cheewan wasn’t asleep, but was still searching for reasons to his fate. ‘Tell me who is in this body.’ Orrachun took a chair to sit next to the bed and was silent for a long time, because he had to concentrate and prepare himself to talk about something he wasn’t ready for. He had yet to answer the first question when more followed: ‘Then why does it have to be born in this body? Why a life like this?’ Who is in this body? Why does it have to come into being? Having come into being, why does it have to be like this? These questions used to be easy for him to answer, but now they had become incredibly difficult. ‘You’re not who.’ He tried to collect his thoughts. Actually, Cheewan hadn’t asked him a new question. It was the same problem he had talked about in the residence. ‘In that case, who is it that is me?’ ‘That who, your physical body, is composed of the priIMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


156 mary elements in the universe: earth, water, air and fire. In each element there is colour, smell, flavour and space. These four elements are material elements or substances. They have no life, but when they blend with the spiritual element, which is the leading element, they give birth to a form that is called life, like you for instance. And that form, that life, grows up through a mixture of food, weather, mind and karma. Therefore who is material and spiritual elements combined in a natural condition that is born by itself, that is itself and that reproduces itself, with nobody or no god to give it existence.’ Cheewan was silent. Orrachun knew he understood. ‘As for you, your identity, it comes after who, because it comes from your thoughts – thoughts that misread, that misunderstand, that think that who has a shape that holds that it is you, that it is yours. In summary, you is a misconception, that’s all. ‘When you think or hold that who becomes you, becomes yours, you must fall into a whirlpool of suffering without end, because the nature of who evolves all the time. It doesn’t stay still, and it has no shape as you think. Therefore, when something comes and makes your who go in a way that you don’t like, you’re unhappy; if you like it, you’re happy; or sometimes you’re neither happy nor unhappy, indifferent. At the same time you must act in the same way for the who in you to be happy, to be comfortable. If it goes as you wish, you’re happy; if not, you’re unhappy; or indifferent. But WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


157 no matter how you feel, your action must have good and bad, depending on its volume and quality. When you act, result follows. Acting one way, the result is that way too and is in you. For instance, if you’re angry with others, the one under stress is you, not the ones you’re angry with. An action will trigger a new action, which has both good and bad and brings suffering, happiness or neither to you again (and is inscribed in your heart). And it goes on and on in circles like this forever. This is the answer to why your life must be like this. You are in what you do.’ ‘Then what is it that makes one to be born and die without end?’ ‘That what is the hunger or craving in your heart. The nature of craving is to hanker after the taste of the various moods perceived through the six openings. The eyes which enjoy beautiful pictures; the ears which enjoy beautiful music; the nose which enjoys nice smells; the tongue which enjoys delicious food; the body which enjoys contact hard or soft, hot or cold; and the mind which enjoys thoughts that entertain and please. As soon as you enjoy the moods you crave, you’re happy, you’re fond of them and look for some more. If you don’t like them, you’re annoyed and don’t want to taste them any more. But not to want is to want in another way. And if you partake of bland moods, you feel indifferent. To seek such experiences, craving uses you as its tool, as its slave, and the actions you perform for it have IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


158 both good and bad, with their effects adding up in your heart, so that your life takes place according to its power. Even when your body is destroyed, it mixes with the elements of earth, water, air and fire and with the spiritual element to create a new life that will be a slave to craving again… and it also takes you and the effects of your actions, like someone takes data on a diskette from one hard disk to another. This is the characteristic of death and rebirth. There’s nothing secret or confusing, that’s just the way it is. ‘If you want to be free, you must not become a slave to craving. You must train yourself to consider it, to see that who isn’t you, doesn’t become yours, but is of itself like that. It’s the same as when you say the air in this room is yours. Think about it. Are you stupid or mad or both? But air is hard to grab, seeing it with one’s eyes is hard, so you don’t get hold of it or lay claim to it in earnest. It’s not like your body or your heart, because that has a shape, a form, you can see it, you can feel it. Furthermore, it knows and learns also, can eat, excrete, talk, move about, do all sorts of things. So you hold it is you or consider it as yours firmly and earnestly. ‘If you let go of who, there will be no you. When there is no you, how can craving get hold of you? Because craving comes up only when you’re stupid enough to hold who as you and yours.’ Cheewan was silent but after a moment said, ‘What can I do now? My body has become my prison.’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


159 ‘It isn’t as bad as being locked up in the cycle of lives and deaths.’ He took an alarm clock and set it close to Cheewan’s ear. ‘For you to listen to.’ Orrachun explained how to listen to it. ‘You must focus all your attention on listening to the clock within your ear, listening to it without thinking about anything at all. You’ll come to see that the sound you hear is but a sound wave that reaches your mind at your aural nerve. It’s merely a question of object and subject; there’s no you and it isn’t yours at all. When you’re aware of this, then when you see, smell, touch or think, use the same method to observe these activities. You’ll see by yourself that everything that constitutes life has no you or yours at all. It’s only objective and subjective elements that mix according to various factors. When there’s no who or you, craving disappears, your mind is pure, there’s nothing to defile it and foster suffering or happiness or indifference ever again. Your mind will enter a permanent state of supreme bliss but of non-self, what is called nirvana, enlightenment. Then you won’t have to go through the cycle of deaths and rebirths again, because you’ll have achieved perfect freedom.’ ‘When I met you at home, you told me to observe the main postures, sitting, lying down, standing and walking. But why are you changing the method today, even though I’m still lying down?’ Orrachun looked beyond the limbless body at the IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


160 cluster of computer screens which showed the workings of the various systems in Cheewan’s body, while he tried to adjust his mood back to normal. ‘When you’re lying down you don’t move, so it makes observation difficult, unlike the walking posture.’ Cheewan was silent again. Orrachun knew he was affected by the body in front of him, so he said with teasing in his voice, ‘It’s good your body is like this. You don’t have to run around under the power of craving. It’s good you’ll see the body isn’t permanent but a mere chunk of matter, so you’ll stop thinking it’s you and yours. And it’s good you’re willing to train in meditation.’ ‘You’re just like a bloody politician.’ Cheewan’s voice had perked up. ‘Dodgy, swiping away, turning everything to advantage!’ Orrachun was able to laugh. ‘That’s because this world has nothing permanent. This world is merely an illusion. Even our opinions. Therefore there are plenty of viewpoints for us to choose from.’ ‘See? You’re doing it again.’

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19 The clones’ building was set at the back of the hospital grounds. Fifty-five storeys high, it was in the same neoRoman style as the administration and other buildings. There was only one way to enter it: you had to go through the security outpost where guards searched you, took your photo and recorded your vital statistics with computerized equipment, then walk through the glass tube leading to the clone building, or clone farm as it was called, which was a large hall of transparent panes. This was where the central security unit of the building was located. It had staffers and scanning equipment to check individuals as well as all the important parts of the building. From the hall a lift led to the various floors. It was made of transparent material, to allow security guards to watch the movements of one and all. Professor Spencer took Orrachun to the twenty-second floor in the company of two security guards. At the centre of a large square, carpeted area, a one-storey housing unit stood on stilts three feet above the floor, and similar units ran the length of the building in one long line. These were fairly big square structures, each divided into four rooms of equal size. All four outer walls were made of glass, to make it easy to watch and IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


162 provide food to the ‘animals’ kept inside. The inner partitions of all rooms were made of concrete, so that the animal in one room could not see the animals in the other rooms, though it was able to see the animals in the next dwelling. In each room there was one small bed and one bathroom corner. The professor took Orrachun around the first housing unit without saying anything. He waited for Orrachun to be the first to speak, but Orrachun was still amazed at seeing clones in solitary confinement. Each clone wore loose brown clothes which were hospital uniforms. They looked like patient garments, only much finer. Each face was gloomy, some were tense, others impassive, but all had the same kind of eyes, lonely and forlorn. After walking around the second dwelling, Orrachun was finally able to talk. ‘Do they speak at all?’ ‘There’s no need for them to speak, because we don’t want their language or their thoughts.’ ‘But how can they live without friends?’ ‘They don’t need friends.’ ‘What kind of life can we have if we don’t have friends or someone?’ He looked at a young clone that had come to stand against a glass wall and was staring at him. ‘It’s not exactly that they don’t have anyone.’ The professor was looking at the unit across. ‘At least they have neighbours.’ He laughed. ‘Without talking at all?’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


163 ‘They do. They have their ways of communicating. They have their own language. It’s sign language.’ He turned to stare at Orrachun. ‘Sign language is worrying enough as it is. If they were able to talk and socialize, think of what would happen. To have them tense is better than having them riot. We’d be able to control them, of course, but it’s preferable that nothing like that happens.’ Orrachun kept the pain in his heart to himself. ‘How do they eat?’ ‘They eat like us, except that it’s a different type of food. We give them synthetic food. They are capsules the size of your little finger. Two or three capsules per clone. You don’t have to worry that they don’t have enough to eat or don’t get enough nutrients, because we determine how much they need according to their weight and age. Synthetic food has the same characteristics as the food we eat. When you put a capsule in your mouth, it makes you salivate and it grows into a mouthful. The only difference is that after two or three mouthfuls they feel full and they have taken enough nutrients. What they eat expands in their stomachs, you see, so there’s no problem with their digestive systems becoming atrophied.’ The professor took him further along. ‘Capsule food has another special property, which is that it spurs growth. Guess how old the young men on this floor are.’ They were all of Orrachun’s age. ‘Twenty-two.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


164 ‘Eleven only.’ He smiled proudly. ‘This is a result of science and technology. In the future we’ll be able to reduce the growth period by half, which means they’ll be fully formed by the age of five, and that in turn means they’ll help us save on labour by that much. When investment capital goes down, so do our rates.’ He took Orrachun to the thirty-third floor, a floor of female clones. There, the layout and everything was the same as on the male-clone floor, and so was the age, the only difference being that the girls wore yellow. They had the same deportment as the males, withdrawn, melancholy, depressed, forlorn, but many kept their aggressiveness in check, and some must already have shown it, because they looked drugged to the eyeballs. ‘I’m only showing you a few samples. Actually we have clones of all sexes and ages, and we’ve separated them by age. Now, let me take you to one of our special floors.’ He smiled, then took Orrachun into the lift to the forty-fourth floor. It was the same layout, except that the housing units were bigger, which made the rooms bigger as well. The various implements were better too. At first Orrachun couldn’t see any difference between the clones on this floor and the others, but when he looked at the second dwelling, he knew, because several of the clones looked familiar. The first he identified was a clone of the prime minister, the next were clones of ministers, both from WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


165 present and past cabinets. There were also dozens of clones of opposition politicians. He couldn’t believe his eyes. ‘Do they know there are clones of them here?’ The professor laughed. ‘What do you think? Actually, not everybody does. In some cases, we took the cells and grew them without their owners knowing. We intend to make them presents, when the time comes.’ ‘I can’t believe this,’ Orrachun exclaimed. The professor laughed heartily. ‘You don’t believe it! If you saw the other floors that are even more special than this, you’d be shocked to death.’ Orrachun turned and stared at him, unable to speak. ‘The world they oppose is the outside world. It’s the world of others. So they play up for all they’ve got, in the name of ideals. What do they do that for? For them to have meaning in this world, to be somebody, not nobodies as in their inner world. When they have meaning in this world, they wish to live on and on. And the result is what you see. Their clones are here. I sympathize with them for having to live in a world of such contradictions, but this is the real world to us.’ This explanation made a lot of sense, but Orrachun was unable to say anything any more. He felt forlorn, as if he was alone in a deserted world. Maybe it was a good thing he’d leave this world soon. It wasn’t that he was fed up, indignant, angry or resentful, but it was because this wasn’t a place where man should stay. This world IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


166 was a world of animals that went by the tenet of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution: the survival of the fittest. He had once hoped there was a good side to man and this good side would make him evolve to achieve perfection. It’d be an evolution through knowledge, not through the flesh. But, come to think of it, once dead, one has to be reborn, as is the nature of all creatures that still have defilements and cravings, with no way of knowing what one is to be reborn as. Therefore, while one is still alive one shouldn’t waste the opportunity – the opportunity to evolve in the way one once hoped, or the opportunity to take one’s revenge, who cares? ‘Ideals and principles are relative,’ the professor was saying with laughter in his voice. But Orrachun didn’t hear. He was thinking how, if he had power or if he had taken over Phrommin’s business already, he would liberate these clones. This was why he had asked to visit the clone farm. Even though he knew life and understood it and had trained his mind, he couldn’t help being anxious at the living conditions of men who had had their dignity lowered to the level of commodities. He knew that most people did lower their dignity to the level of commodities, because they didn’t only want food, clothing, shelter and medicine, the four requisites of life, but wished to taste increasingly delicious flavours. Thus they had to do many things beyond the ordinary in order to have the wherewithal to be happy. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


167 Their method was to exchange, buy and sell, and they differed only on who sold and who bought by how much or how little. If pigs, dogs, cows, buffalo or even clones were called economic animals, what did the people in such trade call themselves, given that it was them who ran it for excessive profit, while those animals knew nothing about it?

Orrachun had to go calm and compose himself in the room the hospital had put at his disposal. When his resentment and pain had subsided, he went to see Cheewan. He sat down quietly on the chair next to Cheewan’s bed and looked with a heavy heart at the body that was a mere chunk of meat. Cheewan’s eyes were still hidden behind a mask and gauze to prevent dust from entering the orbits. ‘Do you want me to help cure you?’ Cheewan’s voice was flat. What was he being sarcastic about, trying to sound amusing? But Orrachun wasn’t amused. ‘You can tell me what your problem is. I guarantee you I won’t tell your secret to anyone.’ This was his second attempt at levity. Orrachun stifled a sigh. ‘It’s the first time in my life that my job fails me.’ ‘As the saying goes, If four legs can slip, so can the wise. With two hands and two feet, you should be careIMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


168 ful. I don’t know if it applies to your problem, but I’d like you to know it’s nothing unusual. Doctors do fall ill on occasion. So what do you expect in a case like this?’ ‘You sound better.’ ‘I think so.’ He smiled. ‘I must try to get better, so I won’t be a burden to you.’ This was the third time he was trying to jest, but then he was silent. ‘I want to tell you I really feel better after listening to your clock for days and nights in the dark. It has helped me not to think at all. And I fully realize what you said about people generally not having a real life. They all have artificial lives. I realize it because when my thinking stops, time disappears, there’s no past, there’s no future, so I know very clearly that my life is only in front of me, in every moment of the present. It’s always fresh and new as if it had no end; it’s eternal (I’m very much astonished, and I have just understood its real meaning) because there’s no time for us to compute and there are no thoughts to mask our real life.’ ‘I’m glad you realize this. If you keep on doing it, you’ll see lots of things more wonderful than this.’ ‘I’m doing the second level as you told me. When I listen to the clock, I begin to analyse causes and effects. The sound I hear actually is a sound wave, unsubstantial, whether it’s a sound from a man or from a thing. The sound wave comes in contact with the aural nerve at the same time as the mind reaches out to receive it, so what happens is what’s called hearing and hearing is WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


169 unsubstantial; it happens by its own nature, except that we hold it to be the sound of a clock, the sound of a person. I know now there’s nothing. It’s purely a natural condition as you said.’ ‘You’re lucky to understand so fast.’ ‘That’s because I have nothing to worry about. Knowing that I won’t be alive for much longer is a great help. As soon as we know we’re going to die, there’s nothing to worry about. Just concentrate on the present.’ ‘It’s not easy at all.’ He smiled to improve his tone. ‘Some people when they know they’re about to die are all the more worried, about their children and grandchildren, their wife or husband, their property, their status. It’s only those that have intelligence that cut off the worry.’ ‘So that’s why I understand Buddha had to sacrifice everything throughout innumerable lives. When he came to the last life, he still had to give up in order not to have any worry again.’ ‘Yes, and because this world has nothing to be worried about. There’s nothing worth holding or possessing.’ And then all of a sudden Orrachun recited sayings of the Buddha in the Ratthapala Sutra with a clear voice. ‘The world of old age is not stable… it has nothing to immunize against pain… you are no longer big… the world is not yours… because everyone must leave everything behind under the rule of death… your world is imperfect… never fulfilled… you are a slave of craving, that is, struggling and hankering.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


170 Cheewan was silent for a while then said, ‘Did you know I had a lover?’ ‘You did?’ ‘Even now I still love her but I must get over it because there’s no point in feeling like this any more. My life with her has ended, but her life with her child hasn’t… her child… born of me.’ He told the story of his love for Manatchanok. Orrachun knew some of it already, but he didn’t know she had meant to have a child. Thinking about it, it was funny that his and Cheewan’s fates weren’t that different: they were both clones, they had lovers, except that he hadn’t started with love but out of resentment. Cheewan didn’t want to have a child because he was afraid it would create problems, but he’d like to have one so that there would be problems – Phrommin would be miserable. He told his own story to Cheewan. ‘You’d be using a child as a tool for revenge,’ Cheewan told him. ‘A child who has yet to be born and knows nothing. So what’s the difference between you and Phrommin?’ Orrachun sat listening calmly. What he was doing was testing Phrommin’s utterances that ‘The true nature of man is to be selfish and evil’ and that ‘The virtue we claim is nothing but a package to create added value for ourselves’. Nevertheless, Orrachun still was certain he was different from Phrommin because he wasn’t acting for WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


171 power and wealth or for making his life eternal and invulnerable; he was acting because it was necessary, otherwise clones would be produced and killed without end. ‘The difference is that… I’m Orrachun.’

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20 When he left the hospital in the evening, Orrachun drove about aimlessly. At first he made for his flat out of habit, but he felt like going somewhere else, somewhere where there was no one. He wasn’t suffering to the point of being unable to stand it; he just wanted to get rid of his tension and think about everything that was happening. He stopped the car in a shady suburban street, wondering if he should go and see Sasiprapha. But then he thought better of it. He picked up his mobile and called her, told her how Cheewan had improved, then outlined his plan and asked her not to worry, that Cheewan would be safe. She wasn’t too sure, but she had to accept things as they were. She wasn’t able to do more than this. Everything was beyond her control. She asked him when the transplant would take place. He answered, next week. She was silent. He was very surprised she didn’t ask about Phrommin. She was behaving as though he was no longer in this world. When he switched off the mobile he thought he should talk to Ratirat to put an end to their affair. So he called her and arranged to meet her over dinner in a hotel restaurant. When he reached the hotel, rain was abating, leaving fine spray shimmering in the evening lights. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


173 In the restaurant, he found Ratirat already waiting. She was glad to see him. He hadn’t been willing to see her for three days, with the excuse that he wasn’t ready. When she asked what the matter was, he had answered, ‘I’ll tell you later’. He apologized for making her wait while wiping rain drops off his shoulders. She handed him a handkerchief. ‘Have you ordered yet?’ ‘Not yet. I was waiting for you.’ He told her to go ahead and order. As they waited for the food, he asked her about work, whether she had decided on what she’d do. She answered she still didn’t know. He told her that some people almost died looking for work, but here she was with so much choice she couldn’t make up her mind. She laughed, taking it as a quip, and asked him what he wanted her to do. He answered whatever work she felt like doing. Well, she didn’t know, she said. She’d like to linger first. He asked her if she didn’t regret wasting her time. Life is short. We think it goes on and on, but that’s not true, therefore he wished she’d find out what she wanted to do and then get on with it. She told him, ‘I’d like to be your housewife.’ He was silent and instead looked out across the glass partition. It was drizzling again. The drenched road reflected frothy lights as in an abstract painting. A waiter brought the food and served it. Orrachun ate in silence, his face tense as if he was chewing thoughts. IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


174 Ratirat looked at him often but didn’t speak until they were full and he said, ‘Have you ever been disappointed?’ She shook her head. ‘That’s too bad. Disappointments build up immunity in life.’ She laughed. ‘Oh, happiness begets suffering, does it?’ ‘Not always, not if you don’t meet with disappointment in your entire life.’ ‘And what do you think? Shall I?’ ‘I don’t know. It’s up to how you feel.’ ‘I don’t understand.’ ‘For example, if I have to leave you, but it happens to be what you want or you can reconcile yourself to it, you won’t be unhappy. But I think that in the course of a person’s life there must be times when we feel disappointed and hurt, at the very least in terms of love and separation.’ ‘You’re talking oddly today.’ She stared at him with a searching look. ‘If there’s something you want to say, come out with it. Even if I don’t have immunity as you worry about, I can always face whatever happens and that’ll help build immunity in me.’ He looked out at the road again. The cars were still speeding back and forth and gleamed in the rain. ‘Do you know that your father has made clones?’ ‘Of course I do. Everybody knows. It’s Dad’s business.’ ‘I mean your father has made clones to change his own organs.’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


175 ‘I know. He told me once.’ ‘And you don’t feel anything?’ ‘Well, he just told me, but I never saw anything and I haven’t been in Thailand much, so I haven’t been really interested. Is it something momentous that affects you?’ ‘Have you ever seen your father’s clones?’ ‘Never, and I don’t want to, either.’ ‘And do you know why your mother has moved to the foundation?’ ‘Oh, that goes back a long time.’ Her voice was sad. ‘Since Dad built the hospital to make clones and organs for transplant. They couldn’t see eye to eye. Mum disagreed. She said hospitals were for helping save people’s lives, not for killing people, but Dad said if he was making clones it was to help people’s lives too. Mum argued that to do so there was no need to kill others. Dad said if we don’t do it how can we extend people’s lives. They each had their reasons. Shortly after that, Mum resigned all of her positions and went to listen to sermons in temples, found cats and dogs and kept them to take care of them. When there were so many, she set up the foundation.’ She sighed. ‘Now Mum is old, maybe she doesn’t see the need to force herself to stay with Dad day in day out, so she’s moved to the foundation.’ ‘Don’t you feel bad that your family is falling to pieces like that?’ ‘It’s been like this for a long time, ever since Mum and IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


176 Dad quarrelled, except that this time it’s out in the open. My feelings?’ She shook her head. ‘Will it sound like I have a heart of stone if I tell you I feel almost nothing? It’s as I told you: I’m not often with my parents, but it doesn’t mean I don’t love them. I just feel sad, that’s all.’ He sighed, weighing the pros and cons of telling her the truth, but then he decided not to. There was nothing to gain from it, except make her feel miserable. She stretched her hand and took his. ‘I always tell myself that when I have a family, when I have children, I won’t let them go too far away from me, like my parents have done to me. I’m not saying they did wrong. They did it because they loved me, they wished me well, I know. They wanted me to be clever, to be the best, so they sent me to study abroad, but the result of that love is what you see. I’ve never tried to figure out if it was worth it, between my cleverness and the love in a family going to pieces.’ He squeezed her hand to comfort her. She said bitterly, ‘So I’m clever and then what? There’s nothing in my heart. It’s empty, adrift. I can’t even depend on myself yet. There’s nothing for me to feel secure about, so I have to cling to you like this.’ He returned the handkerchief for her to wipe her tears. ‘That’s the reason why I don’t want to work. Why should I? What for? I don’t see any kind of work I can do. What I want is a new family, a family of mine, a family with you and our children.’ She was silent for a long time, until her tears dried up. ‘And now I have it.’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


177 ‘What did you say?’ ‘I’m pregnant,’ she said in a most ordinary voice. ‘I had a blood test and a urine test three days ago. That’s why I wanted to see you.’ This time he was the one speechless for a long time, feeling utterly confused. ‘You once told me you wanted to have a child. Now you will. Aren’t you glad?’ Orrachun didn’t dissemble. ‘I’d like to…’ then he couldn’t think of what to say. ‘If you don’t want it, tell me.’ ‘You’ll get rid of it?’ ‘I just want to know what you want.’ ‘Let it grow and grow,’ he said blandly. ‘You talk as if you didn’t want it.’ ‘What do you want me to say? Do you want me to jump around like in the movies? I am not that simpleminded.’ She laughed. ‘I don’t want to stay with a simpleton either, but I’d like you to show some enthusiasm.’ He sighed. ‘I’m sorry. I’ve been very tense for days… with my patients. It’s made me thoroughly confused, to the point I don’t know where my heart is any more.’ ‘About Dad, I’ll take care of it myself.’ Her face was lighting up. ‘There shouldn’t be any problem. No need for you to worry.’ He smiled a little. ‘I’ll take it up with him too.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


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21 Even though there were only five days left before the operation, Orrachun still went about his job as usual. He spoke with Cheewan of what Cheewan wanted to talk about, which was nothing but how his dharma practice was progressing. After talking about this thoroughly, Orrachun told him that from the next day on he’d no longer have the opportunity to come and talk to him. Cheewan, surprised, asked what had happened. ‘Or is he going to have the second-stage organ transplant?’ – meaning operating on him. ‘Both stage one and stage two at the same time.’ Orrachun didn’t wait for Cheewan to ask. He told him of his argument with Professor Spencer and Phrommin about whether we think and feel through our brain or through our mind. ‘The two of them think that the mind is the brain. Actually I already knew they thought like that, because the textbooks teach us that the brain is the mind and the brain is the one doing the thinking. Some people say the mind feels but the brain thinks, but in any case they deny that the mind feels and thinks. It’s because of this belief of theirs that I have dared to appear in front of him and dared him to swap his brain with mine.’ ‘Are you certain it’ll happen like you think?’ WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


179 ‘Absolutely. If he transplants only the brain, he believes that when his brain is inserted instead of mine, I’ll become him, my body will be merely some sort of tool he’ll be able to control.’ ‘When will he do it?’ ‘In five days’ time. That’s when you’ll be operated on too. He’ll return to you the organs he has taken from you and at the same time his brain will be inserted in my head.’ ‘And what about his body?’ Orrachun laughed. ‘Maybe he’ll deep-freeze it as a keepsake or else turn it into fertilizer for sale, to make that much extra profit for his business.’ Cheewan was silent for a long time before he said, ‘You’ve been yourself for twenty-two years. Why risk your life like this?’ ‘Because I’m evil!’ Orrachun’s tone was derisive. ‘I want to take my revenge on him and more than that, I want to help the other clones in their thousands.’ ‘Thousands of them, really?’ Cheewan couldn’t believe it. ‘I’ve seen them with my own eyes, in this very hospital.’ ‘I never heard about this before.’ ‘They had to keep it secret. Now that the law has been passed, they’ve dared to reveal some of it, but only to me, because even though the law permits it, some people are still dead against it, so the thing has to be hushed.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


180 ‘How will you help them?’ Cheewan wasn’t through worrying. ‘I don’t know. I haven’t thought this through yet. For the time being, let the organ transplant go the way I hope.’ ‘Orrachun,’ Cheewan called out with a troubled voice. ‘You might be able to help the clones in this hospital, but you won’t be able to help clones elsewhere, or not all of them, because it’s legal now.’ ‘But it’s still better than doing nothing, isn’t it?’ ‘I don’t mean you should give up, I’m merely pointing things out to you, and I don’t want you to feel miserable afterwards for not being able to help all of them.’ ‘I know I may not be able to help everyone. I’m merely hoping to help you and those other clones I’ll be able to help out. Let’s figure things out as we go along for the others. Maybe some other method will have to be used, perhaps even politics or war.’ ‘If it’s like you say, it could turn into a free-for-all, given people’s fear of death, so they’d die like flies. I don’t want to picture this.’ ‘Cheewan, you and I are the same. We’ve got nothing to lose. And I think I’m already dead. If I get through this all right, I swear to you I’ll do everything so that law and society accept that clones are people like their models and won’t allow organ transplants at all, including making new clones. If fighting peacefully doesn’t work, I’ll use force. I’ll have as many clones as possible WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


181 come out of their cages, fill their minds with revolutionary ideals and then set them loose in the various professions, including politics and the military. I’ll create an army of clones, a huge one, and have it trample the faces of those animals in human bodies and turn them into corpses. I swear no other fucker will succeed like I will!’

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22 From the moment he agreed to exchange organs with Phrommin, Orrachun went through physical checkups every other day. Four days before the operation, he was asked to put himself under the care of the hospital. In those four days, he was checked thoroughly every day with favourable results every time. He rested in a room located next to Phrommin’s and met no one, except for the staffers who brought him special food and those who cleaned the room. The only person he met at least twice a day was Professor Spencer. He came to talk about all kinds of things, always in a good mood, talked about Orrachun’s life prior to his return here, about society, politics, economy, western philosophy, and had Orrachun talk about Buddhism. He listened earnestly and respectfully. Orrachun compared the Buddhist religion with the major philosophies, with the political doctrines that had held sway worldwide during the twentieth century and with Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis and the new trends of his disciples up until now. He talked about Darwin’s theory of evolution. He said that animals in the world did evolve but over the course of lifetimes and as a result of karma, of their actions, so that in this life they were men and in the next might be reborn as animals of some kind. Similarly, WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


183 one kind of animal in this life might be reborn a man in the next life, depending on its karma, but most animals would miss the evolutionary stream because they had done evil and thus would be reborn in a worse life condition. Then he talked about the objective of Buddhism, which was for man to evolve to the highest level, that is to be released from impermanence, suffering and non-self, thus achieving what is called enlightenment, to escape from the cycle of births and deaths, which meant being immortal, and he told of the way to achieve this. He thanked the professor for not showing contempt, unlike those self-proclaimed Buddhists who, as soon as you spoke of karma, cycle of rebirths and dharma practice, looked bored stiff and even a little offended. ‘These people are influenced by your people. Whatever isn’t concrete, can’t be seen or seized or heard, they don’t believe in and reject as credulity, as nonsense. This rejection makes them modern like your people, but they differ from your people in that you search and look for answers whereas they never think of searching, and only wait to consume whatever you conceive and create. They consume even your thoughts, your culture, without giving it a thought, because it’s easy, like eating your fast food.’ The professor laughed. ‘Are you praising or maligning what you call my people?’ ‘I’m telling it as I see it, but I’m not wrong in what I see.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


184 The professor looked impressed. ‘You know who you’re like? So self-assured? The boss, that’s who.’ ‘But the reasons for self-assurance are different.’ Orrachun was silent; then he ventured: ‘Did you make a clone?’ ‘I did,’ the professor answered matter-of-factly. ‘But I’ve never thought of using his organs. You know why? Because I’m still happy with the shape I’m in. It looks like that of a scholarly artist. Don’t you think so?’ Then he burst out laughing. ‘What about the chairman? How is he now?’ ‘Very well. He can see now. Would you like to meet him?’ When they went into Phrommin’s room, they found him sitting comfortably on the sofa listening to his favourite songs and looking at ease. He shifted a little when the professor and Orrachun came in, invited them to sit down and asked them how they were. Then he complained, ‘My eyes have never been this sharp and now I have to take them out again, and my limbs too. Too bad really.’ ‘Give them back to their owner, and you’ll get even better replacements,’ Orrachun said evenly. Phrommin looked suitably impressed. ‘So you’re a salesman too, are you? Sell yourself first, and then you can sell anything. Exactly as the sales theory has it.’ Orrachun smiled slightly. He saw the glint of worry in Phrommin’s cheerfulness, but didn’t say anything. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


185 ‘Look at me.’ Phrommin was feeling talkative. ‘Absolutely perfect, right? For this, all the merit goes to Professor Spencer. He isn’t called “doctor with the divine touch” for nothing.’ The professor smiled contentedly. Orrachun said smoothly, ‘I’d like to talk truthfully one last time.’ The two of them listened respectfully. ‘I don’t want to deny that your body has improved and even less that Professor Spencer’s skills are superb. But I want to stress yet again that no matter how perfect your body is, you can’t escape the law of impermanence, suffering and absence of self. You have to change your body time and time again and to do so destroy lives, and as for you, Professor Spencer, no matter how superb your skills, you won’t be able to operate to see the truth, because truth must be seen with the heart, nor will you be able to remove the law of impermanence out of life. Even more so in the case of clone making: no matter how alike the clones you make are to their models, there’s no way you’ll achieve clones with the same souls.’ The professor said in an easy tone of voice, ‘We know about the three characteristics of existence, about birth, old age, pain and death as you’ve told us persistently, but it’s because we know this that we must do what we do, to win over birth, old age, pain and death. Cloning is the same. We know we’re unable to obtain a cloned soul similar to the model, but that’s not our goal: we only want the organs.’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


186 ‘I don’t think like that actually,’ Phrommin intervened. We’re now able to produce artificial wombs to grow clone embryos. So I believe eventually we’ll be able to clone feelings and thoughts, in the same way as we copy data in a computer or a scanner. In fact, we’ve already begun to think about it, but we have yet to do it in earnest. But we’ll get there.’ ‘Since you only want organs, why don’t you make clones of only the organs you want? You can already do this.’ ‘We can do it and we are doing it,’ Phrommin said, ‘but some of our customers won’t have it. Besides, for many illnesses, you can’t just change organs on a piecemeal basis, you have to change them all, and this means we have to clone the whole body. We could clone only some parts, but it’d be a waste of time and the investment is high too. Nobody wants to pay through the nose, and an important factor is that if tomorrow our wholesale transplant succeeds, cloning whole bodies will be even more important and will be popular at once. It’s like an engine: to change the whole engine is better than wasting time changing parts one after the other. Don’t you think I’m right?’ Orrachun didn’t know why he should object. ‘That’s our way,’ Phrommin insisted. ‘Yes, I understand.’ ‘I know you’re upset that clones must die every time there are organ transplants, even though in many cases WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


187 it isn’t necessary that they die, but as I already told you, that’s what our customers want. It’s like when we made artificial meat, that is, instead of taking the ingredients to make animal food, we took them to make meat, which saved time and money and which we were able to do very well. Texture and look and taste especially, we made it exactly like meat. If we had said nothing, nobody would have known. At first it sold very well; then we revealed it was artificial meat and the result was that sales fell at once. They demanded real meat. These days we produce very little artificial meat, and that’s to defer to the kind-hearted. People are like that.’ He wasn’t being sarcastic but sounded increasingly tense. ‘The first rule of the sales business is, no customers no production. If they don’t want it, to whom will I sell it? Whatever it is, including cloning and organ swapping.’ To get rid of his tension, he asked Orrachun, ‘Do you know how many groups of vegetarians there are?’ The professor smiled. ‘Let’s see. The first group only eats vegetables and cereals unadulterated; the second eats only vegetables and cereals of the same ilk but they must be accommodated to taste like meat; the third also eats vegetables and cereals but they must have the shape of animals and must taste like them; the fourth allows itself to eat eggs as well; the fifth allows itself milk as well as eggs; the sixth besides going for eggs and milk allows itself to eat meat of the other kind!’ IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


188 That joke made Orrachun laugh. ‘Orrachun,’ Phrommin called out, sounding earnest. ‘I know that some people are really virtuous, generous and highly moral, and I respect them, but such people don’t live in our world. The world in which we are is like what we can see around us and I don’t believe in the cycle of rebirths either but even if there’s such a thing, I don’t want to die because I’m afraid that when I’m reborn I won’t be what I am now. I don’t want to begin the life of I don’t know who. Therefore I have to do what I’m doing, for me to be immortal, to be alive forever. And that also goes for all my customers.’ Orrachun felt as if he was an empty vessel. There was nothing further to be said.

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23 Yet another night and Phrommin couldn’t sleep. He felt as restless as the night he had decided to tell Sasiprapha he’d take Cheewan to remove organs from him for his own use. He told himself that deep inside he must be excited to have a brain transplant as nobody had done so before. If it was successful, his hospital would be famous the world over, and so would he. But if it failed they’d have to waste time doing the operation once again, to take his brain back into his skull. Yet, he was confident that Professor Spencer would be successful. He was adamant there was no problem and he could rest at ease. Orrachun fell asleep at 11 pm and woke up again at 4 am, which was his normal sleep span. He was amazed at himself for being able to sleep at all, even though he worried about the operation, about whether it’d be successful. It might be because he had reconciled himself to the idea that when the time to die has come, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, die you will. Why make a big fuss about it? But if the operation was successful as he hoped, it’d be like he had been reborn. He thought humorously that he’d be born fully grownup. By the same token, the other clones, the thousands of lives in this hospital, would also be born again. In the morning, doctors took Phrommin and Orrachun IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


190 to check their bodies once again, then shaved their heads. This done, they put them into wheelchairs they pushed into the surgery ward, where Cheewan in the form of a block of meat already lay waiting on an operating table. Professor Spencer and three teams of doctors, as well as hospital officials, were also waiting there. Phrommin and Orrachun greeted the party with cheerful voices. Then the professor explained the operational procedure. ‘We’ll take the organs back from the boss to Cheewan first, through Team One.’ He turned to smile at Phrommin. ‘Right, boss?’ Phrommin nodded, smiling mildly. ‘At the same time, Team Two will open up Orrachun’s skull. On the boss’s side, when Team One has finished taking out the organs, Team Three will open up his skull at once. This,’ he added, turning to Orrachun to tease him, ‘must be done at the same time to save time, because time is money.’ Then he stressed again that Team One having taken the organs from the boss would attach them to Cheewan’s body as before, Team Two would operate on Orrachun’s skull, Team Three on Phrommin’s skull and he’d be the one transplanting Phrommin’s brain. ‘Please lie down, all three of you. We’ll put you to sleep in a moment. Have nice dreams, all of you.’ Phrommin and Orrachun climbed onto their respective operating tables, with nurses helping them along though it wasn’t at all necessary. ‘How do you feel, Orrachun?’ Phrommin asked. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


191 ‘Like I’m about to sleep.’ ‘Have a good dream.’ ‘Same to you, sir.’ ‘How about you… Cheewan?’ ‘Okay.’ ‘Good. I wish you luck.’ To administer anaesthetic by inhalation would have been easier, but Professor Spencer preferred to have it injected in the blood because besides knocking the patient out, it’d help the blood thicken round the wounds. Phrommin himself seemed to favour this method. He said it was like going to sleep and being bitten by a mosquito, it stung a little and then you were dead asleep… Five seconds after the injections, they were all asleep and looked like it. Then the laser beams went swiftly into action, as easily, it seemed, as if pig legs were being cut off to be smoked. Cheewan’s arms and legs were sectioned off by laser from Phrommin’s body and then returned to their owner. Phrommin’s body thus became a slab of meat. At the same time, the eyes were excised and slipped back into Cheewan’s sockets. This done, the miracle beam sliced round Phrommin’s head. The upper half of the skull was taken out, revealing the membrane shelling the brain pulsating at the rhythm of the heart. The doctors turned to consult graphs and figures on the computer screens to check blood pressure and heartbeat. IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


192 ‘How’s it going?’ The professor’s voice resounded near everybody’s ear. He upheld a tiny probe for the team operating on Orrachun to see as a way to tell them of the next step. This probe was part of a brain-fooling device. It had three needle-sized pins and a thin wire connecting a brain simulator and the computers monitoring the operation. ‘Excellent,’ one of the doctors raised the probe as a signal of readiness. ‘Okay then. Go ahead.’ Probes were inserted into the Orrachun and Phrommin necks. Pictures and functions of the brains appeared on the computer screens, and from then on the bodies of the two would work with artificial brains as soon as the real brains were taken out. When everything was fine, the operation went on to the next level. The skulls were further cut on both sides by laser beams to make the excision and removal of the brains easier. When the brains were cut off their stems, they were plunged into a recipient full of an electrolysed solution and then promptly swapped. Phrommin’s brain was placed inside Orrachun’s skull and Orrachun’s brain was kept in the room freezer. His body was taken good care of, because from now on it would be Phrommin’s. The whole operation went smoothly. Phrommin’s brain in Orrachun’s skull was attached meticulously by Professor Spencer’s divine fingers assisted by the efficiency of computers that reported constantly which WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


193 important points had yet to be sutured. Soon everything fell into place. The brain membrane was sewn back as before. The three pieces of skull were joined again in their former shape. The scalp was stretched back and stitched properly. Before long everything would be perfectly soldiered. As for Phrommin’s body, which no longer had a brain, the probe was pulled out from the nape and the graphs and figures showing life indicators, heartbeats and blood pressure disappeared at once. All figures turned to zero. Then the body was taken into the deep-freeze room together with various organs that were no longer of any use. The next day the various functions of Phrommin’s body (or rather Orrachun’s) were normal. All the doctors and officials were delighted with this miraculous work. Professor Spencer made an announcement to the media immediately. He explained roughly how the organ transfer had been done and concluded by saying that, thanks to the concern for humanity of the chairman of the Greater Goods Group of companies and the perseverance of the whole staff of Siam Salyawet Hospital, the dream of man to be immortal had become true. All media reported his speech with alacrity and the news of a brain transplant made waves all over the world. It was held as a new breakthrough of medical science in cloning and organ transplant. The media waited for the day Phrommin would be in IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


194 good enough health again to come out and announce the news himself. Everybody wanted to see how amazing his new body was.

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24 Thirty-three hours only after the operation, Phrommin came round. He opened his eyes but all was dark. He was a little indignant that his world wasn’t as bright as it used to be. At first he was dismayed at the thought he might not see ever again, but when he told himself it must be only in the initial period, he felt better. Two nurses came to observe him and asked him, ‘How do you feel?’ ‘I’d like to see.’ His voice was hoarse and different from before. ‘You’ll get the answer in two minutes.’ One of the nurses called at once to report directly to Professor Spencer. Two minutes hadn’t gone by when he was standing by Phrommin’s bed. ‘Why is it I can’t see?’ Phrommin asked as if he had smelled him coming. ‘Just a moment, boss.’ With his fingers he pressed softly on the gauze that covered the eyes then asked, ‘Is it absolutely dark or do you see flickering lights under your eyelids?’ ‘I’m not sure.’ ‘I’m certain there’s nothing wrong with your optical nerve system. You can put your mind at rest.’ Twenty-two hours later, Professor Spencer took off the IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


196 gauze that covered Phrommin’s eyes. The world he saw at first was hazy but soon cleared up and was back to normal eventually. ‘Thank you very much, professor.’ His voice was still hoarse, but better than before. ‘I don’t like this kind of voice. It’s neither my old voice nor that of my clone. I hope it won’t be a mixture of the two.’ The professor laughed. ‘It might happen, you know, because your brain is yours but the body and the various functions are the clone’s. Theoretically, though, it should be the clone’s voice because the brain is just the one issuing the orders, it’s not able to produce sounds itself. I think in a few hours everything will be back to normal.’ Phrommin felt better. There was nothing any more he had to worry about. Six hours later, his body was normal. ‘We have succeeded, boss.’ ‘You’re not a doctor with divine fingers but God’s hand itself,’ Phrommin praised with enthusiasm in his voice, which made the professor grin, with flushed cheeks and eyes flashing with happiness. ‘We’ll broadcast the news worldwide and take the opportunity to further advertise our business. From now on you must work harder than before several times over, because you’ll be swamped with customers from all over the world who will want you to make them immortal.’

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197 The broadcast of the results of Phrommin’s brain transfer was received enthusiastically by the media worldwide as before, but greater than before was the craving to see Phrommin’s new body. The announcement was made in the hospital’s conference room, with Phrommin’s elder daughter as presenter (his two sons were also present). Professor David Spencer explained how the first organ transplants had been carried out until the decision was taken to transplant a brain only and the operation was crowned with success. Then he invited Phrommin to express how he felt and answer the questions of the media. Phrommin got up from the sofa that was behind the podium, walked to the front of the stage, clasped Professor Spencer’s hand and put his arm around his shoulders fondly. There was a long flurry of flashes. Phrommin gave everybody the opportunity to take an eyeful of his new body. He looked youthful, strong and beaming with majesty and charisma in his dark blue suit, his favourite colour. Then he walked to the podium, each of his gestures duplicated on a large video screen, projecting a forceful glamour at once believable and awesome. This was Phrommin Thanabodin’s new body, a man with a life as long as he wished to make it. Ratirat, who sat on the front row of seats, was dumbfounded. She remained utterly confused for a long time IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


198 before she accepted the truth that her lover was her father’s clone. Contradictory feelings seared her heart, making it hurt and confused. How could she figure out whether the body she was seeing was her father’s or her lover’s? Then she went numb all over and unable to perceive anything any more and merely sat still like a stuffed doll. Phrommin looked across the whole conference room as if there was nothing unusual. The thousands of honoured guests sat in deep silence, each looking intently at him, both his face and the one on screen. The news people too were silent. The atmosphere thus was solemn as if welcoming the return of God himself. ‘Good morning everyone, honoured guests and members of the press.’ He was all smiles. His eyes glittered. ‘I am Phrommin Thanabodin. I must introduce myself first or else you may not believe it’s me.’ This was greeted with a wave of laughter. ‘Before talking to you today, I’ve had to introduce myself to myself several times.’ Laughter resounded throughout the conference room. ‘Because I couldn’t believe I was the one I was seeing.’ The laughter wouldn’t stop. ‘You may have some difficulty in understanding this, as I have. It’s like this, you see: it’s like going to bed as an old man and waking up in the morning to find yourself a young and handsome man again. What has confused me and I’ve found hard to accept all the same WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


199 is how come I had become handsome so fast, and strong and spry as a bonus. But the truth is, it’s the most miraculous thing in my life… and from now on in yours too.’ He raised his hands. ‘Honoured guests, I won’t hark back to the demand for a law on cloning and organ transplant in the course of the past twenty-two years because everybody here knows all about it, but I’ll talk about our future, the future of mankind in this our world. Honoured guests, ever since men have been born on this planet of ours, they have sought ways to live forever. In the early days, they implored sacred things. When this didn’t succeed, they made propitiatory offerings – as a way to show respect, not to pay bribes.’ This generated a few laughs. ‘They made propitiatory offerings or sacrifices with a variety of things, notably, as we know, various animals, and some tribes sacrificed human lives as offerings, but this still didn’t succeed. At the same time some tribes began to have scientific thoughts and sought medicines to extend life from trees and plants or from animal corpses or even from various substances, but then time went by and took their lives away generation after generation, era after era. Yet man still refused to be defeated. The spirit intent on winning over death perpetuated itself until our own era.’ He breathed slowly while letting his eyes rove across the whole room once again. ‘Our own era. We researched and came up with the IMMORTAL | WIMON SAINIMNUAN


200 most marvellous thing man has ever found. We call this marvellous thing state-of-the-art science and technology, which now allows man to achieve a life without end. Not that this marvellous thing will stop developing. For sure man must develop it further and further to be of service to mankind without limits and for everything. Honourable guests, since the first man was born on this planet up until now four million years have gone by. In those four million years our ancestors have expended physical and spiritual strength, thoughts and beliefs that are invaluable because they can’t be counted. Their lives, their pleas, their prayers have all gone with the wind of centuries past without any returns. It’s an invaluable loss that can’t be tabulated. And now, we, as the new, the latest generation, have made their hopes come true thanks to our own intelligence. Honourable guests, from now on mankind will go beyond death for ever and ever.’ He stared right ahead and spoke forcefully. ‘The law of impermanence which has wrecked the life of man for no fewer than four million years has now been abolished thanks to our superior science and technology.’ He shook a fist over his head with a powerful gesture. ‘We won over it.’ There was a shattering round of applause that lasted and lasted. ‘Man is now able to determine his own fate.’ He hammered the podium with his fist, his eyes throwing sparks of open jubilation. WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL


201 ‘God is dead and buried,’ he proclaimed. ‘Now man has promoted himself as God with his own tools. Science and technology are his sacred hands.’ He clenched his fists. ‘The hands that will create real happiness for mankind.’ He looked into camera lenses with a sneering face. ‘Science and technology are our unadulterated truth.’ And then he announced, as if he meant to communicate with someone somewhere, ‘We have succeeded!’ He shook his fist amid the resounding waves of applause that went on and on. ‘From now on it is your turn,’ he said in a normal tone of voice and smiled gently, looking incredibly mild and genial, but deep in his eye the spark of an evil intent was hidden. Phrommin invited Professor David Spencer to come and stand beside him and proclaimed in praise: ‘This is the man who gave me a new life. He is God’s hand that bestowed a new life on me – Professor David Spencer.’ The thousands of honoured guests stood up and gave them a standing ovation that looked like it would never stop. ‘We’ve succeeded,’ Professor Spencer told Phrommin. ‘Yes. We made it.’ Phrommin smiled, with a mysterious glint in his eyes.

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202 Wimon Sainimnuan, born 1958, is a foremost, if controversial, Buddhism‐inspired Thai novelist and short story writer. Through his punchy writings, he pursues a double reflection on the nature of the indiv‐ idual and the social forces that mould and maim it. Among his best‐known works is the Khoak Phranang quartet (Snakes, The Medium, Khoak Phranang, Lord of the Land), also to be found on thaifiction.com. Immortal won him the SEA Write Award in the year 2000. This translation was commissioned by The Amata Foundation, Thailand.

WIMON SAINIMNUAN | IMMORTAL

immortal | wimon sainimnuan  

A Thai novel on cloning, from a Buddhism-inspired perspective — winner of the Year 2000 SEA Write Award

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