Four o’clock in the afternoon, the bronze of Autumn sun. I was with her, Amy, when she disappeared – that’s the word they used, but I know she didn’t disappear at all, she was taken. We were seven, playing outside in the street and a man pulled up in a big blue car. In moments she was just gone.In the aftermath, I remember my mother speaking to my father in the privacy of our home. Even so, she spoke in whispers. ‘I’m just so glad it wasn’t Sadie. Isn’t that terrible?’I agreed, it was terrible, because I wanted to be with her. I thought she was having an adventure. She had become the town’s own princess, everyone in love with her. Our bicycles stayed leaning against the tree trunk opposite my house for weeks, months, before anyone thought to move them. By that time they were rusted together.I’ve met her several times since then. Maybe she clings to me because I was the last friendly face she saw.I burned down the last of my cigarette with one long draw. The orange and black, crackling like firewood, matched the sunset - clouds of grey-fire; apocalyptic colours. It was that time of year again and the evening was burning like the end of the world. Or maybe it was the beginning, the shower of meteoric rock and fire.Is it serendipity that I am here, or am I a pre-programmed projectile with one possible trajectory? Or, when a missed train leads to meeting the love of your life on an empty station platform, to children with your name and your smile – is that all happenstance? Neither fate nor chance leaves much room for free will – except when chance throws you a choice. I’ve definitely made choices – I decided to go to Tokyo, but that particular choice is an ambiguous one – I know Amy was inside my head then. The reality is someone starts making choices on your behalf from the moment you open your eyes and bawl. External influences are unavoidable. Things happened to me, I happened to things. Things led onto other things, and it all leads here.I imagined Joe arriving through the afternoon gloom into Haneda airport. It would be warmer down there, but up here the November air was a dull knife-edge at your throat. I saw him pull his coat tighter and warm his hands in great billowy puffs of breath as his bus climbed the mountain road.He was back in Tokyo – somewhere in the depths of the city – but tomorrow he would be here. He doesn't like me smoking. He would smell it on me, but it’s autumn and everything smells of smoke this time of year.I was smiling, which felt strange. I'd grown used to frowning - not because I was altogether serious, but in the wind and rain up here it's the way you walk; a frown to battle with the elements. The mountain range stretched away from the exercise yard, dipped in the darkening sky that hid its highest cloud-consumed peaks. I knew them though, their shape, the jagged edges that shoot you to the stars. Even half-submerged they had a power that reminded you just how meaningless everything else in the world is. Somewhere beyond them, a dusty thumbprint moon was battling through the cloud, sucking up the dying sun. The whistle blew and we filed back into our cells. Tomorrow, I could climb the mountains if I wanted. In the distance, there might have been a small girl weaving through the trees, but I wasn’t sure.Back on the small boat that had carried me from the mainland out into the South China Sea, I’d watched the beautiful ink-blue waves slosh gently against the hull. My forever seven year old friend sat on the bow, facing outwards to our destination, her feet speckled with sea-spray. I couldn’t see her exactly, but there was an impression of her. Somehow I had the fully formed image in my head of what she was doing in her other universe, in the life we might have shared. She had brought me here to borrow my eyes. I had wanted to come.We heard of a pirate whaling ship entering nearby waters. Spirits were raised, and as we chose our course and made our preparations I was reminded of a pack of hounds and hunters. I had to remind myself that we were not the hunters here. We were teaching magnanimity. Nor but in merriment begin a chase. By nightfall the Yamato-Maru had appeared as a dark smudge on the horizon, but what was most heart-racing on my first night at sea was not our impending mission, but the openness of everything. The sky and the sea became one big bowl of black, two parts of one harmonious whole looping forever. The sky, filled with silver-white sparks in unknown constellations, tipped into the still ocean, one reflecting the other. Both were vaster than I could comprehend, two frontiers touching. For a moment everything was connected and I lost all sense of orientation until I thought I was falling into the sea and the sky at the same time.Here, the trees and the mountains are my anchor; they stop me floating into the vastness. When Joe had last visited, he had a question to ask me.'What's that?''When we get you out of here,’ he said it like there was no doubt, ‘can you leave her, your ghost, behind?’‘Ghost?’ I was confused for a moment. ‘Oh, Amy? Well, I don’t think I have control over her. I thought you didn’t believe in her anyway.’‘Well of course I don’t really, but still, I’m only human.’‘Meaning the thought is as scary as the real thing. Anyway, if she’s in my head, as you believe, she’s as far from you as she could possibly be.’‘Whether she’s in your head or out here in the world, she’s still made of something real. A thought is as solid as an object if you believe in it.’‘Hmm, you’re probably right. You don’t need belief to make a dream or a thought a thing. They are made of matter like you and me.’ That was more confusing than being a rational person haunted by an implausible person. ‘A thought though, is not sentient.’ A thought does not think.‘Anyway, I couldn’t abandon her here, even if I had the choice.’We saw a pod of whales from a distance – the only ones we saw the entire time we were on the sea. They were gray whales on their migratory path. The whalers call them Devil Fish because they put up a brutal fight to protect themselves and their calves.‘Keep going, away from the ship, keep fighting.’ That night, once the Yamato-Maru was no more than quarter of a mile away, the wind picked up. I woke several times to the sound of Susan Visser, a Dutch campaigner, heaving over the side. Thankfully, she was the only one of us that was prone to sea-sickness. All through the next day we used the whaling ship as shelter when we could, whilst bombarding the wind that reached us with our loud-speaker-amplified voices. I couldn’t speak Japanese, but I held banners, cooked food, and helped manoeuvre the boat. The intent was peaceful protest and the promotion of eco-friendly alternatives to whaling; with words we would let them know why their actions were wrong. We would chase them through the oceans and prevent them from aiming their harpoons, and for those first few days, though no whales were killed, I felt like a thorn in the foot of an elephant. As the giant ship mowed stoically through the ocean beside us, I was reminded of a bird picking parasites from a half-submerged hippo. They ignored us, no matter how loudly we shouted. After perhaps seven days of high winds and choppy water, the gulls tailed off and the storm arrived that night. Clouds obscured the moon and stars. I’ve never felt the world so violently unleashed. Our protest boat was caught up in the swells of a molten metal sea. Each rise was a precipice over which we would inevitably fall, crashing into the dark watery valley beneath. The ocean sluiced over the deck and washed your feet from under you. The noise of water plummeting and crashing thundered over our feeble voices. We tied ourselves to the boat with a harness if we had to venture outside of the cabin. If we didn’t, we were huddled together, the ten of us, trying to keep warm. Susan Visser was inconsolable. None of us were as knowledgeable about the seas as we had claimed so we sat and drank from a bottle of whiskey and slowly gave up as pulse by pulse our bodies gave way to the warm alcohol. We tried to use the radio, but the Japanese weren’t going to send their boats for us, and there wasn’t anyone else out in this storm. We didn’t know what to do but wait for it to pass, or drown us, whichever came first. It looked like the latter. Our protest banners lay in an angry pile, shouting at us, telling us what failures we were.Then, the crackle of the radio interrupted our sombre drinking. An invitation.‘You must come aboard’.The whaling ship was offering sanctuary. The banners clamoured and steamed. We were unable to say no, it was go or be swallowed by a whale ourselves. Maybe we could talk to the crew – change their perspective. They must have moral decency, to take us out of danger when we were impeding their work. The boat was small enough to be winched aboard. All ten of us were wet and exhausted and though our reception was not warm, we were given hot tea and blankets to fight off the chill.We thought the ship would bring us safely into harbour, but we were shocked to learn that they intended to ride the storm. We were kept under constant guard on board – though the men that were watching us disguised their watching by playing board games and smoking with us.They said we couldn’t go outside for our own safety. I know our captain, Toshio, was worried about his boat, but the rest of us were happy to sit tight. Despite the obvious barriers, we tried to talk. I remember a conversation with one man, he was thin and wrinkly around the eyes, but he had vigour about him. I tried to tell him that commercial whaling has very little modern trade value, that selling whale-watching trips to eco-tourists would earn more money and prevent the extinction of hundreds of species. Between the clouds of smoke and rolls of dice we spoke in snatches of each other’s language and I don’t think he fully understood. Undoubtedly, he thought I didn’t understand him either, and I didn’t. He made his argument in the yellow lamplight, and all he said was that he had to make a living somehow. I guess we live in different worlds, but it seems to me that there is usually more than one door to choose from, even in the narrowest of alleys.There came a point when I realised that besides our watches we had no way of knowing how long we had been below deck. There weren’t any windows in the dorm they had given us. A nervous feeling crept over me like a shadow moving through a sun dial. The men seemed friendly, but what did I know? I was so unaware of their ways, I could not read them. I wondered if I would be the first to get cabin fever and go mad. I wondered whether I could eat human flesh if it came to it.Finally the lashing wind and water gave way to gentler seas and we were allowed on deck for the first time in what was only four days, but felt like months. That was the first instance of time going astray. Outside the slow-moving shadow was obliterated. It was only sunlight I had been craving after all!After the storm, the lemon slice sun floated in fizzy tonic air, Alka-Seltzer to cure the stormy hangover. Everything was bright and sharp and the seagulls had returned. We were minutes from a harbour, and already I could hear the sounds of industrial trade.Toshio had gone straight to his boat. The whalers handed him a lump of metal with wires sticking out of it. They had removed something from the engine that meant we would be waylaid by several days whilst he had it fixed – they would have a head start on us. Toshio was irate. Disappointment settled in our chests. The meagre friendships we had engendered hadn’t helped our cause, but we were alive at least. After a few days, we thought, we would catch up with them. This had just been Christmas in no-man’s land. We agreed to go our separate ways – so long in close quarters had left us craving some space – and Toshio would call us when the boat was ready.For a day after landing, the earth swayed and rolled beneath my feet until my land-legs reinstated themselves. Clearly, it had taken longer for my mind to reinstate itself; I had forgotten that I couldn’t speak Japanese. With a stubborn pride I decided not to go back to the group, I was too tired to find them anyway. Instead I sat in a bar and drank with the same small lip-burning sips, hoping for divine inspiration. Then, Joe arrived. I saw him come into the bar, he spoke to the bar-tender – a friendly conversation in Japanese – they must have known each other. In the normalcy of being he almost lost my attention, but when he sat down he pulled out a book from his jacket. I don’t remember what it was, sci-fi I think because the cover had an aura of spaceyness to it, but it was in English. Swallowing my pride, and pushing away irrational fears of sexual predators in unknown lands, I went for help.We spent the whole evening talking. I had never heard of most of the music he listened to, and he had never read any of my favourite books, but we bonded over woodland cabins, zombies, rednecks and the detritus of our beloved American horror movies. Eventually the conversation led to his room and a small span of time in Tokyo when I felt like a tourist rather than an activist.Amy had been a complete secret from the world before Japan, something private. I must have known deep down that telling people would have consequences, but on the surface my only feeling was that I was letting her be. She was - not living – existing in a quiet semi-being, so why talk about her? Life continued and sometimes she was there, just an imprint of a distant memory resurfacing. Except, I knew that she was more than that; she came of her own will, not mine. She didn’t talk to me, but she made her feelings known – she passed them onto me until I almost wasn’t sure where a thought originated when she was around, if a feeling was mine or hers. Almost; there was always a divide if I needed to find it.After ten days, Toshio hadn’t called. We should have realised that wasn’t right, but I didn’t want the days to run out. I’d developed the mental cataracts that are a symptom of new love and in our Tokyo smog we were purposefully ignoring the time we were running up.‘Okiro! Anata wa, hanzai beddo kara!’ Men came when the sky was still in between the previous night and the next morning, that invisible grey hour, the haunted space. I was half awake and roughly shoved from the bed. Yelling, in a loud, strange language rang around my head. The window was open and the breeze brought in the smell of laundry that seemed to hang permanently outside the window. It had become familiar to me – funny how quickly – but everything else was suddenly disorientating. Men were in uniform, shouting, thrusting themselves into the room and guns into my face. They screamed the sleep haze from me. I remember feeling glad that Joe was with me, it was selfish of me to be glad about that, and the memory of those words I’d overheard my mother whisper to my father suddenly resurfaced. Still, I was glad. They let me get dressed but they wouldn’t answer Joe’s questions. They wouldn’t answer when I spoke either, though I know they understood because they made their commands in English. Their handcuffs clicked around my wrists with a cold crispness, and I was out of choices, they took me with them.I had no idea what I was accused of, and I was kept in solitary confinement. In the cell, I kept myself from going mad by pretending I was a mind encased inside a skull. The eyes were blind and I had to entertain myself with thought. This was what it would be like to occupy someone else's head and make my presence known. With Amy, we were a trio of Russian dolls. It was a cold and lonely annex of the world, somewhere forgotten and mould-stained. The cell was bare stone. If there had been straw on the floor instead of concrete, it would have been like I'd gone through a door and back in time; I could have been in the bowels of a Medieval castle on a green English hill-top, but I wasn't. I wrote a lot of stories in there.I must have mentioned the stories to Joe, mentioned my thought games, because I think he began to associate them with Amy after that came out. I didn’t tell him in Tokyo of course, I wasn’t about to make him think I was some loony hippy, or worse. When he did find out, through letters that we passed back and forth between my lonely cell, he was the only person in the world to know. He didn’t understand the quietness of her though – he wanted me to talk to someone. For a while he really did plant a seed of doubt in my mind that, just like Amy’s moods, became so that it was my doubt as much as his. Funnily, she seemed to like me talking about her. She’d hang around longer – even in my cell – when she was the topic of thought, and I had a lot of time to think about her.That was the benefit of the place, I came to realise that the truth was as immaterial as the theory. It was as ethereal as whatever Amy was made of, be it me or not me. Ultimately, it was not important. Thank god for Joe. After they'd taken me away, still barking roughly into my ear, he was quick to act. He contacted the British embassy and called my family at home. He did as much as he could on my behalf. At first the only respite from my solitary confinement came in the shape of men and women who refused to look directly at me, and spoke to me in Japanese, which they knew I didn’t understand. In time though, there came a man in suit made in London - Saville Row perhaps. He was the first person who would explain, in all the long, long expanse of locked away thoughts that I had created here, what I was accused of: espionage. I actually laughed, it was joyous. How could I be anything but innocent? Unfortunately, it didn't work like that. The lawyer’s name was Blake Hooper, which sounded more American than his suit suggested, but he’d been living in Britain for longer than I had, even though his voice carried a remnant of his soft California accent. I thought people moved to California, not out.Blake told me the real story. Our friends the whalers had tipped off the authorities about our campaign boat. It was probably on their command that they took us on board, so that they had an excuse to deliver us into Japanese territory. They were more than happy - for a cut - to make a ‘mistake’ in identifying us as spies rather than campaigners, and to keep us incapacitated whilst the ship went back to business. All ten of us had been arrested, Toshio first of all when he’d taken his boat to be fixed. The shipwright had been recommended by the whalers, they had even taken him there themselves, and as soon as he’d paid for the repairs the shipwright had tipped off the Keisatsu-chō. Toshio though, because he was Japanese, was only questioned for all the information he had on us before being freed – minus his boat which had been impounded. I could only imagine his rage, though I was hurt that he had given the rest of us up. It hadn’t taken long for them to trace us all, politically opinionated foreigners lost in the city. Already, I heard, the BBC had downloaded my Facebook profile photos and slapped them on the rolling news feed. Greenpeace were lobbying on our behalf.Blake got me ‘upgraded’. My new cell was at least suitable for human habitation and I was sharing with other inmates, even if I couldn’t talk to them. I wish I’d thought of learning Japanese, but until then the only possible reason I’d had to do so was to watch undubbed Japanese horror and anime films, which hadn’t seemed so vital.Joe had to be interviewed by Blake for the trial, though the trial itself would never come to pass. After that, Blake knew about Amy. She watched, from somewhere above me, or inside of me, as he proposed a plan.It is usual in Britain for the emphasis to be placed on the beginning of words; in the US the emphasis is placed on the end so that the same word sounds subtly different: VALet as opposed to valET. That was what this felt like, the language he used to tell me I was crazy was just as I’d imagined, this was why I had never told anyone, but the emphasis was slightly different. I was crazy, and being crazy could be my salvation. I was imprisoned here, but what if I could offer a trade - be somewhere else under my own terms? What if I needed to return home for psychological treatment and assessment? What he was really saying was: you could trade one prison for another.‘So, bartering my freedom and mental free-will buys my liberty? That’s just bollocks.’‘When you’re back home, you don’t have to do anything they ask. It’s just a bargaining chip.’ A bargaining chip, a massive game. They got me out of the way and that was what they wanted.Full circle. The bonfire-air creeps in over the warped wooden sill as Joe and I pack my things. The guards watch at a distance, unsmiling. Amy watches from somewhere high up in the room, but I’m not sure quite where. She keeps her distance when Joe’s around, like she knows how he feels. I imagine she’s wary of men. Since I stopped talking about her she’s spent less time with me too. I wonder if she goes somewhere else when she’s not with me, or if she’s not with me is she anywhere at all?Joe carries my bag as we leave. Blake is waiting at the exit. ‘Going home! Well done.’ He congratulates me cheerfully. I don’t know why he thinks I’ve done well; I didn’t do anything at all.Britain is a shock – a wonderful, noisy, cold, rainy shock, and everything is in English again. Safely in the cocoon warmth of Joe’s car, Heathrow shrinks behind us and Japan dissipates into uncertain memory: inside the head of someone else I once occupied. I stop following another girl’s path and travel along a new road with the map in my hands – on the map are mountains.