Disclaimer: If you don’t know anything about voice acting and Troy Baker in particular, you probably won’t enjoy this short story to the full extent that it can be enjoyed. All the context you need to have is that Troy Baker was a small time voice actor who hit it big and does less roles for obscure projects.
Troy Baker lies in his bed but he can’t sleep. Or he doesn’t want to. He’s not sure yet. All he knows is that he came home after recording lines for the protagonist of the latest Call of Duty game, and that means that sleeping will be hell. He did voices for the new Call of Duty game, so that means he is going to pay him a visit again. He does not question it, he just knows that it is a natural consequence of his actions of the day, just as it is a natural consequence for his body to seek rest. He hates the lack of control, he wishes he could either stop getting visits from him all together and just sleep, or that he could somehow will his body to not sleep at all. He chuckles to himself, remembering a character he once played with a similar dilemma, but he steels himself; determined not to succumb to his tiredness. But it’s no use, and without even realizing when or how, Troy Baker closes his eyes and goes to sleep.
He finds himself in a voice recording studio doing lines for Benito Mussolini. He knows that this is perhaps his most important role, since the anime adaption of World War II (the highly acclaimed sequel to one of the greatest mangas of all time) is sure to get a ton of media coverage. Baker knows people are counting on him to do a good job so he starts emulating the famous gestures of his character in the middle of his recording booth. He finds that this brings him closer to his character and he continues to do it. He continues to do his job, but he has to redo a take because of a sad laugh he made that wasn’t part of the script. His voice director thought he was improvising, but in reality he was amused by the sad reality that he was working so hard to please people who will largely never even see his face. He is about to continue when suddenly he notices someone standing beside him in the middle of his booth. He didn’t hear him come in, but he doesn’t dwell on that fact since the person standing before him is familiar to him. Familiar and absolutely terrifying.
Kanji Tatsumi’s gaze pierces Troy Baker and suddenly, Baker is weak in the knees. He wants to run, but he can’t. He feels an overwhelming sensation of guilt and shame, but he convinces himself that he doesn’t know why. Kanji scoffs at him.
“You know, you’re really friggin pissing me off. Start talking dammit!” the large blond teenager bellows. Baker tries to leave the recording booth, but Kanji’s large hand presses into his shoulder, halting his movements. Baker takes a deep breath, and while doing everything he can to avert his gaze from Kanji’s, he whispers in a desperate and pleading voice “Let go of me”. Without meaning to or understanding how it happened, Baker finds himself once again locked by Kanji’s intense gaze, who harshly tells him “No”.
“What the hell are you doing in there Baker?! Get started on those lines! Read the script!” his voice director, who is now a horned sheep, yells. Baker tries to protest, but is suddenly thrust backwards into the hard glass of the booth by a pressure on his chest. He looks down and sees Kanji’s hand placed flat against his chest, holding a script for him. “A revised copy” the enormous teen smugly informs him, with a large toothy grin plastered on his face. Baker takes the script for himself as Kanji’s arm slowly retreats. He looks down and prepares himself to start reading. “Action” his voice director yells, but the words on the page won’t come out from Baker. He sees the words, he sees the truths they possess, and he can’t bring himself to verbalize them. It was too much. Far too much. Kanji, frustrated by his hesitation, aggressively grasps Baker’s collar, hoists him up slightly, and harshly whispers into his ear a simple command. “Read”. Baker gulps and begins to do just that.
“I am a fraud” he says, but he can’t bring himself to continue. Kanji grasps his ear, and harshly twists it. Suddenly, a searing pain shoots through Baker, and he finds himself motivated to continue. He audibly gulps and begins again. “I am a fraud. I am fake, a phony, a fallacious individual, a counterfeit person. I – I’ve abandoned everything. I-I-I-I-I-I…” Baker chokes back tears. He’s shocked as he feels the need to cry, he wants to believe it was from the pain, but he knows that isn’t true. Kanji, furious at this point, yells into his face. “If you don’t start talking you stupid bastard, I will rip your eyes from your sockets and shove them down your throat since you seem to like them so much! GOT IT?!” Baker nods in response and continues.
“I… I’ve forgotten who I was. I’ve left behind the people that got me this far, everyone that mattered. I don’t even know who I am anymore. People tell me that this is what happens to all voice actors who play as many characters as I do, but I know the truth. I didn’t lose myself from playing characters, I lost myself from leaving who I really was behind, from leaving real characters behind. Those characters and their fans were a part of me and I…” tears begin to spill down Baker’s cheeks, blurring his vision. The words on the script become harder to see, but he doesn’t need them. After hearing the cracking of Kanji’s knuckles, he resumes “… I abandoned them. I feel like a shell now. I don’t know where I’m going or who I’m voicing next. I don’t even care about most of these characters anymore because I know they aren’t characters. They’re cardboard cutouts, cliches animated for the pleasure of millions. I realize now that I didn’t forget who ‘Troy Baker’ was because I played so many characters. I forgot who he was because I stopped playing them”.
Baker drops the script and wipes his eyes to clear his vision. He suddenly finds himself in his room. He picks up his controller and starts up his Playstation. He wants to play Persona 4. The game starts, and the second he selects his file, he feels a tap on his shoulder. Baker turns around and locks eyes with the man standing behind him. He looks just like him, only he’s different somehow. His eyes are bright yellow obviously, but his face is twisted in a cruel, almost mocking expression. The unknown man who looks just like him then loudly declares “I am a shadow, the true self!”.
Baker is taken aback. “My what?” he questions in a voice a little more shrill than he’d like. The shadow calmly replies “You heard me. I’m you. The real you. The you that isn’t going to hide behind this tortured soul act you put up in front of everyone”. Shocked, but more than a little intrigued, Baker continues to question this entity. “What the hell are you talking about? What do you mean the ‘real me’?”. To this, Shadow Troy Baker loudly chuckles and continues with his explanation. “I can see what’s really in your heart. How you really feel. On the inside, you like to think of yourself as a tortured soul. A guy who sold out and is ashamed of it, who knows in his heart that he isn’t really like that. But I know how you really feel. I can see deeper, and so can you. I know that you don’t even care about all of that. You don’t care about your fans, your old characters, hell, you don’t even care about the old you” at this point, Baker has heard enough.
“Shut up” Baker chokes out.
“You love the fame, the pay checks, the prestige-” Shadow Baker continues.
“Shut up!” Baker yells, becoming increasingly agitated.
“You are so happy where you are in life that it scares you” Shadow Baker smugly declares.
“I told you to-” Baker begins but stops as he is interrupted.
“You’re so afraid of losing what you think is the ‘real you’, this ‘down to Earth’ and humble voice over artists, that you don’t even realize the truth. You aren’t losing your real self, you’ve found him. This unfeeling, shallow, professional; he’s not who you’re afraid of becoming, it’s who you’ve always wanted to be” Shadow Baker calmly explains, taking pleasure in the despair he can see in Troy Baker’s eyes as he says this.
“What the hell do you know about me huh?!” Baker exclaims panicked at this point.
“Heh, didn’t I already tell you? I know everything about you, because I am you” Shadow Baker states, as he notices something come unhinged in Baker.
“YOU’RE NOT ME!” Baker screams absolutely enraged at this point.
A smug grin appears in Shadow Baker’s face, and suddenly he begins to go through a grotesque transformation. Flesh sunglasses form over his eyes, his teeth transform into diamonds, a headset phone is ingrained into his ear, and he begins to grow larger. A crisp suit made of skin replaces his clothes, and he gains a tie made of hundred-dollar bills. His right arm becomes an enormous and demonic version of the microphones Baker uses to record his lines, and his left arm is replaced by an enormous glass booth. Soon, all of his features become touched with a demonic aesthetic, and by the end of his transformation he becomes something truly terrifying. The beast begins to approach Baker menacingly, as he cowers into a corner in his room. Suddenly however, someone he knows very well appears before him.
Wordlessly, Kanji Tatsumi and Baker’s shadow engage in a lengthy battle. Armed with only a folding chair, Kanji fights in Baker’s stead. The battle comes to a gruesome end when Kanji slams his folding chair into the monster’s right eye. It lets out a horrific wail and rapidly implodes into nothingness. Mental anguish begins to overwhelm Troy Baker, as he realizes there was something he was supposed to do with his Shadow self, but he doesn’t quite know what. Nevertheless, he slowly rises from his corner and approaches Kanji, wishing to express his thanks. Kanji turns to him and says with a sadistic grin, “You still can’t see it can you?” and with that, a sharp pain is felt in Baker’s right eye. He feels that he is bleeding excessively all over his face. Something happened to his eye and now it hurts more than he can stand, and suddenly it’s bleeding out everywhere. Baker rushes to the bathroom, ons the tap, and looks into the mirror. What he sees is far more horrifying than any bloody face.
When he looks into the mirror, the face he sees appears fine. No blemishes, no cuts, no wounds, and worst of all, it looks to be in peace. Happy almost. The face he is looking at isn’t his though, what he sees in its stead chills him to his core. What Troy Baker sees staring back at him as he looks into the mirror is the face of Private Jack Mitchell, the protagonist of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Troy Baker tries to scream, but no sounds come out.
Suddenly Troy Baker finds himself awake in his bed in a cold sweat. He feels warm and chilled at the same time. He gets up from his bed and looks at the wet spot he left as a result of his sweat, every little drop that rolled off his body and into his bed being reminders of his weakness. He shakes his head and goes towards the bathroom. He washes his face and looks into the mirror just to calm himself down. “Every time” he mutters, and with this he goes back to bed; to once again face his personal hell.
Author’s Note: This story is mostly for humour purposes. I love Troy Baker and his work, and I still believe he continues to do great work today (his roles as The Joker in recent years for example). This story is mostly in reaction to the fact that he was too busy to do the voice of Kanji Tatsumi (his most iconic role for a certain crowd of people) in Persona Q and Persona 4 Arena Ultimax. This was all written for fun, which I hope it was for those reading.