A Sci-Fi Short Story written by Taiyo Fujii


by Taiyo Fujii

Translated by Toshiya Kamei


Taiyo Fujii was born on Amami Oshima, an island midway between Kyushu and Okinawa. In 2012, his self-published Gene Mapper became’s number one Kindle bestseller of the year. The revised version of the novel was published in both print and digital formats as Gene Mapper- full build- by Hayakawa Publishing in 2013, and was a finalist for the Nihon SF Taishō Award and the Seiun Prize. In 2015, his second novel, Orbital Cloud, earned both awards. In 2019, he gained mainstream recognition when he won the Yoshikawa Eiji Literature Prize for New Writers for Hello, World!


Owww. Ouch! Right there, Doctor.” The patient writhes on the stretcher, grimacing in pain. The smell of fear permeates the air. “The twelfth vertebrae! My spine! Ow!” A cry of agony echoes through the chilly emergency room.

In the midst of this, the doctor keeps his cool. He pays him no attention and casts his ice-cold gaze toward me.

How is it?” the doctor asks, staring at me but not really seeing me.

When I’ve barely opened my mouth to deliver my diagnosis, a severe pain shoots through me, making me double over. A groan escapes from between my clenched teeth, passes through the headset microphone, and shrieks out of the speaker at my waist, unleashing a deafening howl.

It’s feedback. I carry around the speaker with me because sometimes I can only muster a barely audible whimper, but this time it’s backfired. I hurriedly switch off the microphone.

The fifth rib is fractured,” I manage to stammer, “and caused a mediastinal perforation of 2.5 centimeters.”

The doctor looks aghast for a moment and nods. “Oh, just as I thought. Hey, folks! Let’s get busy! Move! X-rays, please!”

As nurses scramble frantically, I leave the ER and head to the break room to get some shuteye.

Once inside, I look at all the faces. Some are new, others familiar. More new than old each time. They chitchat about themselves, telling each other where they went to school. Get-to-know-you stuff. And there’s the rest of us. We know when to close our eyes.

Decades ago, scientists discovered a synesthetic nervous system. It’s located in the ventral premotor cortex and enables us to feel others’ pain. Further research revealed that electrical stimulation amplifies our synesthetic abilities for those of us born with B2-mutations.

That was how the new profession of pain-feeling came into being. Our job is to describe our patient’s pain in medically accurate terms.

Around the time I started medical school, I found out that I was a B-2 mutation carrier. So it made sense to me to become a pain-feeler. Those of us who share pain for a living are a close-knit bunch. We frequently chat via Zoom. Just like any other profession, our online meetings turn into gripe sessions and gossip. In this line of work, we appreciate outlets for releasing work-related stress. If there’s one thing all of us hate, it’s working in the ER. I suppose it’s easy to imagine why. We’re inundated with patients in extreme pain.

The PA system squeals and emits a grainy static sound.

Here we go again. What did I tell you?

Calling for the pain-feeler on duty. A familiar yet distant voice booms over the speaker.

We’ve got a car accident victim. Please report to the second ICU.

I get up with a sigh but sprint out of reflex. Scanning my ID at the door, I step inside and go to a patient strapped in the stretcher. With a syringe to inject a synesthesia implant, I grab the patient’s wrist and look for a place to insert the implant. He looks familiar. He’s my fellow pain-feeler.

Don’t!” he says. I know what he means.

Even so, I continue out of inertia. My tired hand automatically moves and slides the implant into the patient. Numbness spreads in the upper part of my right thigh bone. It’s a sprain or a fracture. In an instant, we amplify each other’s pain through the implant. I collapse to the floor as the worst pain a human could experience seizes me.

It’s feedback. That’s the last thing that flashes into my mind before I pass out.

A synesthetic nervous system. It makes sense to most of us. After all, we find great comfort in the biological proof that we can share each other’s pain. We all feel a sting when we hear a story that involves some kind of accident. Some may shun our abilities. Others may even question our sanity. Others may wonder: is this what you get in exchange for your gift? All I can say is that this is what I signed up for.



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