Book excerpt: From Daniel’s new novel…
…When I woke up my head was wrapped in bandages, throbbing with pain. I must have suffered a massive concussion, for I’d been blacked out for quite some time and had no idea what could have brought me to this state. I did recall the heat of flames, and lots of shouting around me. I remembered being picked up and taken away by people I didn’t know. But nothing else. Where was I now? Lying in a bed somewhere, in a room with a window.
Turning to look outside, I saw something strange about the next building…Edwardian architecture in red brick…Rangoon….Shit!…I’m back in Rangoon. How did I get here? Struggling to recall my last conscious moments, my mind kept returning to a long trip toward the border with students. Then malaria, basic training, and…nothing. Within a few moments of regaining consciousness, I saw the room fill up with people. A man in a white coat asked if I knew my own name. When I could not recall it he told me, but I did not recognize it. Others wearing white coats called me that name as well. Or “sir”, or “Captain.” So did the thirty or so other folks who visited my room over the next hour, each of them bearing food, Buddhist pendants, garlands of jasmine, or giant chunks of jade, which they made a big deal of presenting. Every one of these people was dressed in full Tatmadaw uniform. Then I noticed that the white-coated folks who had woken me up were addressing each other by rank. Uh oh: I’m in a military hospital.
Visitors asked about people I didn’t know, places I’d never been, things I could not recall having done. Each time I responded with a blank stare, they would shake their heads and say: “Ah, poor Aung Win. The bump on your head has damaged your memory. Don’t worry, it will all come back.” The mystery was solved on the second morning, when a nurse announced that a special visitor was coming to see me. At eleven o’clock, the clopping of army boots coming down the corridor signalled his arrival: the door opened and a Tatmadaw private stepped in, followed by a senior official. The second man, my “special visitor,” wore tinted, aviator-style glasses and an officer’s cap.
“Captain Aung Win,” said the private, “This is U Khin Nyunt, chief of Military Intelligence and Secretary-1 of the State Law and Order Restoration Council. Sir, this is our national hero, Captain Aung Win.”
My heart began pounding when I recognized the SLORC’s top spy. Khin Nyunt was chief of the secret police and one of the regime’s most notorious figures. His sudden appearance at my bedside, which came as a total shock, was evidently horrifying enough to spring me fully awake. For I suddenly recalled my own name and realized what was happening: Oh no…They think I’m that other ‘Captain’…The clone!