Friday, November 5, 2010

Our Courage, Chapter Two (part a)

Suzuko had recently added two new routines to every day.
In the morning when she got to school, the very first thing was to look over at Yamato’s desk. In the evening before she slept, she called her cell phone that Yamato was carrying.
It’d been a week and a half since he left Nagoya. She’d only been able to connect with him once. That was before he’d entered Makuhara. After that no matter how many times she called, she’d gotten nothing in response.
“The number you are trying to reach is out of range or turned off...”
She was so gloomy  that her friends tried to console her, saying things like, “He’s fine, he’ll come back unexpectedly one of these days.”
Suzuko just smiled and nodded, but no matter what it became a lonely smile.
Right now, where was Yamato? And what kind of life was he leading? If only he’d call just once, then I would be relieved...
While Suzuko was in the classroom sadly watching Yamato’s seat, Yamato was in distant Makuhara sitting on the riverbank, stuffing notes with SOS MAKUHARA into bottles.
“So today is already the fourth day we’ve been locked up in here.”
Takeru was watching Yamato at work and complaining.
“I already know that without you saying it,” Yamato answered half-heartedly while stuffing a sixth bottle.
“Crap. What is the Prime Minister doing?”
“Don’t know, never met him.”
“Isn’t this a violation of the constitution?”
“The constitution?”
“Chapter fifteen. All citizens have the right to maintain the minimum standard of healthy and civilized living.”
Takeru stated this so smoothly that Yamato looked over his shoulder to tease him.
“Aren’t you cool.”
“It’s just because I thought about attending law school.”
“You don’t look it.”
Saying this, Yamato threw his finished bottle into the river.
“...Um, Yamato? You look like you’re having fun, but what exactly are you doing?”
“You’re not some maiden on a southern island. You have no idea where or when those bottles are going to wash up.”
“Better than not doing anything and just saying a bunch of words like you. I’m doing something I thought about on my own.”
“You are totally acting like you’re settling in for a long war.”
“I told you, didn’t I? I’m the adaptable type.”
“Don’t adapt to a situation like this,” Takeru said, opening a can of mackerel. These were a standard ration, it seemed, as they could be found all over Makuhara.
When he had it open, Takeru ate with his fingers.
“Huh?” Takeru noticed that Yamato was watching him as though looking at something filthy, and he stopped eating.
“Isn’t it gross, eating with your fingers?”
Smiling at his companion’s grimacing face, Takeru held out the can.
“Ah, Yamato. You. If you pay attention to manners like that, you’re not going to live long in a place like this. Get used to it, adapt. Are you adaptable or aren’t you? Here, eat this. Eat!”
“...hate it.” Turning away, Yamato pushed back Takeru’s hand.
“Mackerel.” His voice faded away. Takeru grinned.
“You know, Yamato. Most of us are, like mackerel, caught in a net. This is not a situation where we can talk about likes and dislikes.”
“... I break out in hives. When I eat mackerel.”
At last Takeru burst out, “Be victorious! Win against the hives! Well, if you fight hard you’ll adapt.” He started laughing.
When an annoyed Yamato threw another bottle into the river, a hand reached from behind Takeru and grabbed the can of mackerel.
“Wait a - hey!”
It was a little boy. He wore no shoes, and his bare feet were covered in scratches. Clasping the can like it was something precious, the boy fled. He made such a pitiful sight that neither Yamato nor Takeru chased after him. They watched him go speechlessly.
“Good morning, everyone.”
A misty morning in front of the gate. Shibazaki appeared on the monitor. In front of it were the guards as always, carrying guns and menacingly turning from side to side.
“It’s good weather in Makuhara district, today. No wind. A fine day to pass the time.”
Shibazaki’s voice echoed, but the gathered children watched with the same blank faces.
“But from now on, the seasons will change to winter. This morning we will be distributing blankets to everyone. Be careful not to catch cold. Please rest every day and stay warm.”
Yamato considered the naturally bureaucratic air of the man on the monitor.
Who was he, this Shibazaki guy? Was he an enemy, or an ally?
“Please endure just a little bit longer. Each day we are hurrying, because we want to release all of you from there. The research of Makuhara’s alien organism is certainly continuing.”
Yuuri appeared. She gripped a small rock in her hand. She glared at Shibazaki on the monitor, and as though she was a representative of everyone’s irritation, she raised her fist.
But before she could throw it, the guards instantly surrounded her. Biting her lip, she turned that piercing gaze back to the monitor. Whether he knew it or not, Shibazaki kept speaking.
“Please, do not be afraid. Do not lose hope. Get along and help each other. Please believe us. We are your allies.”
The monitor went blank, and the sound of the helicopter could be heard.
Yamato had finally figured out the system in this world. The so-called distribution forces came once in every day. It was mostly canned snack foods. Since the waterline was shut off, the rations included juice and mineral water.
But one of Shibazaki’s underlings must have miscalculated the number of children. There was never enough for all of them, so they fought amongst themselves and it became a survival of the fittest scenario.
Makuhara was no longer present day Japan. Small groups jumbled together, turned against each other. Like a primitive society the only rule was power, force. In the end the strong ones kept the food for themselves. No, not only the food. All of the necessities of living were distributed according to that rule.
In front of Yamato’s eyes, today also a survival game began. A small child who finally got his hands on some food was shoved over by a bigger boy. A boy threatened with his knife to get food from someone older than himself.
Yamato watched the scene bitterly. Here there was nothing like civilization. Everything was breaking apart!
Suddenly, he saw Mori finally get his hands on some milk, and smile happily. So, Mori could smile. But, while Yamato was thinking to himself, Mori’s smile froze. There was a boy thrusting a knife at him.
“You wanna die?” the boy said in a low voice, and reached to take the milk from Mori’s hand.
This time it was the boy’s face that tightened. Yuuri pointed her gun directly at him.
Bitterly the boy left without taking a thing from Mori.
The square was empty after everyone had flight in the blink of an eye at the sight of the gun. Yuuri walked around leisurely loading her bag with food. For an instant her eyes met Yamato’s.
That’s right... Yamato thought.
Yuuri, you’re the one who has the most power in this world. With the power of a gun, you’re the boss here. Ruling like that, you alone are going to survive the longest...

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