第 １３ 話
クソ! "Fuck!" One of the soldiers yelled out, as if speaking for everyone. Not only was the bus no longer a viable way to get away, the flaming ambulance in front of the now open door near the driver's seat was unlikely to block the infected for long. Morioka looked at the doors on both sides of the bus, as they were now completely surrounded. The infected were clawing around the edges to work the doors open, while the police and soldiers inside did what they could to keep them closed. It was only a matter of time, though. At any moment the infected were likely to make it in through one, or both, doors.
こっちは？ "What about this?" Mari yelled, and her voice surprised everyone, as they had either forgot about her or had never been aware of her presence. She was standing on a bench seat, with one foot up on the backing, and using an equipment rack to brace herself as she reached up toward a hatch in the ceiling of the bus. There was a long and heavy slide lock to hold it shut, but it moved smoothly and Mari was soon pushing at the heavy metal door of the hatch.
みんな！こっちだ！ "Everybody, this way!" Morioka yelled as he ran back toward Mari. He grabbed her by the legs and raised her up so that she had a little more leverage to push the door up and over. Mari knew that at this moment he was lifting her only because she was the one there at the door and getting her up and out was the fastest way to get himself and everyone else out. She had fallen down Morioka Sensei's list of priorities, at least for the moment.
By leveraging herself off of the back of a bench seat and with Morioka doing all he could to push her up, Mari was accelerated up toward the now open hatch. Just before she made her exit, in a moment when she was crouching downward just enough to get full momentum upward, she noticed a flaming body jump into the front of the bus, an infected, on fire, that attacked the soldier helping the driver. Then, in the next second, she found herself in the open air, leveraging herself up over the edges of the hatchway. She scrambled forward along the roof of the bus to pull herself completely through, and then she stood upright as soon as she could, in a ready, slightly crouched position, scanning around her for options. The air around her smelled like burnt rubber, charred meat, and gasoline. There was grey wispy smoke all around, but not thick enough to obstruct her vision in any direction.
Below her, all around the bus, were infected. They consisted of a variety of people, a random selection of anybody you might walk past on the street, plus a dozen or so cops in riot gear, a couple of firemen, and a handful of soldiers. Just behind them, more to the centre of the intersection, it looked like the aftermath of a battle. One police car was on fire, two looked like they had crashed into each other, there were bodies and body parts everywhere as a result of the earlier explosion, and there were still infected attacking a few remaining victims.
To her left was the road that led in the direction of the hospital. At the front of the bus on this side was an ambulance that looked like it had driven into the bus, and it was on fire. The back and side that was not yet burning was riddled with bullet holes. There were only slightly less infected on this side of the bus, but there were still many running from the direction of the hospital. It seemed like the hospital no longer had anyone uninfected, and as Mari looked farther down the street, she could see some infected running away into the night, to spread the chaos into new parts of Tokyo.
Near the back of the bus was the armoured military vehicle with the gun turret on top, but it was completely still. Whether the people inside were dead or had abandoned it, it was impossible to tell. There were just a couple of infected around it, but they seemed more interested in getting near the bus than doing anything about the armoured vehicle. Above Mari and to her right was the pedestrian overpass that spanned all four sides of the intersection. It seemed mostly clear except one or two people running along it on one direction or another, too shadowy to be sure if they were infected or fleeing victims. Just beyond one of the stairwells leading up to the pedestrian walkway, behind the bus, Mari could see the remaining roadway that she had noticed before as being mostly clear. Just like before, there didn't seem to be anyone just beyond a small blockade of hastily positioned cars. Mari knew that was the direction she needed to go.
Just as she got her bearings, the cold metal roof beneath her feet shivered with the vibrations from gunfire inside the bus. She could hear yelling, men shouting to each other and screams as some of them were brought down by the infected. She turned and ran back toward the back of the bus, having to sidestep the hatchway as Morioka Sensei was making his way through, though he was too busy dealing with what was below him to be concerned about Mari's actions. There was a popping sound, like metal breaking, and it looked like the mass of infected on the intersection side of the bus were now flowing forward, having got through the doors on the side of the bus.
At the very back of the bus was a metal pole painted dark brown that the bus had backed into, having bent and knocked over a white metal sidewalk barrier to reach it. The impact on the pole had been hard enough that the pole was angled a little and the roof of the bus was indented just a little. Looking up, the pole didn't have a streetlight, and there were no wires connected to it. Instead, it had two traffic cameras, one attached directly to the side of the pole, and the other at the end of a long horizontal pole extending from the very top. There were no other features except for some kind of electronic box strapped to the pole at a point just a little higher than Mari’s height.
There was no time for hesitation. And no reason to wait for Morioka Sensei, as she didn't feel any safer with him. Whatever Morioka Sensei intended to do when he got out of the bus, it wouldn't be any better than making her own way. Wrapping her hands around the pole and then using her bare feet to push against it, she started to climb. Only a couple of meters above her was the pedestrian overpass, close enough that so long as she didn't slip or flinch, she'd be able to span the distance and climb onto it. It seemed that the infected were intent on heading to the most noise and action, so the overpass, from what Mari could see, was empty enough to be a viable escape route.
When she got level with the overpass, she braced one foot against the electronic box, which was far too small to stand on, but gave her leverage to extend her other foot out to the overpass. She wasn't close enough to step over, she had to commit in one motion to half step, half jump, extending one foot and both hands forward. Mari paused, just a moment to close her eyes, to steal her resolve, to commit, and then went for it, thrusting away from the pole and grasping the blue painted bars of the railing of the pedestrian overpass with both hands. With both hands firmly gripping the bars, she pulled her other leg in, and then used both legs on a concrete edge to push herself up and over.
Although the pedestrian overpass had a metal handrail with blue vertical bars going all around the sides, on the inside there was a translucent plastic material forming a second small wall, blocking Mari from being seen from anyone who was below the overpass. She ducked down immediately, and then cautiously raised up just enough to scan the walkway on either side of her position. There were a few bodies, soldiers mostly, but a couple of police in riot gear, and some civilians, but they all seemed to be dead and unmoving. It was a small oasis of calm above the noise below. Mari considered the possibility of hiding there indefinitely. Would the infected, once the madness in the intersection was resolved, wander away from the intersection, or would some wander up the overpass? It wasn't worth the risk, Mari reasoned, since if it turned out some infected came up the overpass, she'd be easily trapped. Instead, it was better to move now while it seemed the chaos below was pulling the infected in, causing possibly enough distraction that Mari might be able to slip away. She knew she wanted to head down the one road that had the blockade and seemingly less activity, and that direction was accessible from the corner down the steps that went away from her on her right. Keeping a low crouch, almost crawling, she made her way to the corner of the overpass where there were two stairways down, one the way she wanted to go, and the other ended up not too far from the bus she just escaped from.
Mari intended to head down the stairway that went directly toward the street she wanted to go to, but as she crawled to within sight of the stairs, she saw a soldier sitting about midway down, his back against one side, holding his automatic rifle straight up. As he came into view, Mari could see he was breathing hard, and shaking, but trying desperately to hold still. She was quiet, but as she crested the top of the stairs into his peripheral view, he turned and saw her. There was a moment when he was looking at her, and Mari for a moment assumed that he would know she wasn't infected so she didn't avoid his eyes. But, with her thoughts working at an adrenalin fuelled high speed, she quickly realized that from his perspective, she would be a shadowy and obscure figure moving around. She could yell at him to not shoot, but she didn't want to give away her position to all the infected below. Instead, she dropped to flatten on the walkway, which took her out of his field of view. Just as she did, he began firing, and bullets punctured and ricocheted off the railing around her.
She held herself low to the ground, not sure if she should back up or try to communicate to the soldier, but she didn't have to think about it for long. She heard the soldier screaming, and firing his gun. Over the course of the night she was getting a little familiar with how guns sounded, and she could tell he was firing another direction. She risked raising her head just enough to peer over the edge of the top of the stairs to look down, and she saw that some infected were running up the stairs from the other side. They looked to all be civilians, a man and two women possibly, but it was dark and hard to be sure of anything. Besides, more and more, Mari was becoming less and less discerning of what kind of people the infected were. They were just one entity now, a large, indistinct mass of violence. The soldier put some bullets into them, but they fell upon him largely undeterred, and his screaming intensified.
His screams were pitiful and Mari felt bad for him, but sympathy was a feeling she had no time for. She had to focus more on how his gunfire seemed to have drawn infected up the staircase she hoped to use, so that way was now blocked to her. There was another stairway to her right, that would take her past the back of the bus and the abandoned military vehicle with a gun turret. It was less direct than the way she wanted to go, but it seemed clear of infected for the moment, so it was worth a shot. Staying low so as to remain out of sight of the infected people killing the soldier on the stairs, she crawled down the set of stairs to her right. Once she was sure she was out of sight of the infected on the other set of stairs, she raised up from a crawl to move quicker, something between a run and a crawl.
Halfway down the stairs, she paused to risk peering over the edge to look toward the bus. Morioka was on the roof now, as well as a soldier and an officer in riot gear. All three had machine guns and were shooting at people who were surrounding the bus, taking out anyone who seemed they might be on the verge of climbing up. They looked to be moving to the back of the bus and getting ready to head up the same pole Mari had used, but Mari stopped watching them before seeing anything decisive, as she felt every moment counted. She learned what she hoped to confirm, which was that even though her current path took her close to the action, and some infected were no more than a few yards away from her, they had their backs to where she was, drawn toward the gunfire, or people, on top of the bus. None were heading around to the staircase she was on.
Mari halted a few steps before reaching the very bottom of the stairs. Once she stepped out, not only would she no longer have the cover of the overpass wall, but she would also have nowhere to run to. Scanning around for options, she noticed that on the left side of the stairs, there was a fence made of metal bars with some pointed tips to discourage people climbing over, but they were thick and spaced far apart, which made them more of a mild discouragement in more civil times, and wouldn't be at all hard to get over if one was determined. The fence was designed to keep people out of the canal that ran under the road. It was a drop of about five meters straight down to where the water was, but, it happened that right beside where Mari was there were iron rungs built into the concrete walls of the canal that formed a ladder for maintenance crews to gain access. It would be an awkward climb over the railings, and there was a nearby tree with overhanging branches that were a little in the way, but they also provided a small amount of cover.
Committing herself so that even if an infected noticed her she would move too fast for them to do anything about her anyway, Mari pushed through the branches and leveraged herself by the metal spikes and was soon climbing down the iron ladder. There was cement ledge that came out about a meter and a half from the cement block walls on both sides of the canal, and the water was just a little below that. It flowed gently to the east, away from the chaos of Shibuya and, she assumed, toward Tokyo Bay, carrying with it random debris, shapes and materials Mari couldn't make out in the darkness. The air down in the canal was different, more humid and it smelled like a mix of ocean and how a sidewalk smells after rain. Being underneath the road, the sound of gunfire above was muted, but also Mari could tell there was less of it than before. With every passing minute there were more infected and less people fighting them.
There was little light down in the canal. The water looked like black glass except for the tiny ripples that flickered a high contrast of white light. The walls on either side were rough grey bricks each about a half a metre high and a metre wide. Just behind where she stood was a large hole in the wall where water seeped out and stained the trail it made heading down to meet the canal water. To her left the canal went west, under the intersection and eventually toward Shibuya, which was obviously not the way to go. To her right, though, heading east and presumably at some point reaching Tokyo Bay, the ledge she was on abruptly ended, leaving only sheer walls either side of the water.
In spite of the darkness, it seemed to Mari that the water just in front of her was not too deep because she could see something of the shape of the ground underneath from the way the water flowed over it. Plus, some debris, boxes and a chair and a tire and so on, seemed to be caught on the ground. Without taking much more time than it took to assess her surroundings, Mari climbed cautiously over the edge of the ledge and put her feet in the water. She lowered her right foot slowly, feeling for the ground underneath. It was about where she guessed it would be, and was in parts rough concrete with loose pebbles, and patches of slick and furry moss surface that felt soft and padded under her bare feet. The water itself was cold enough that it was uncomfortable being in it, but if she only had to have her feet in it, she would manage for a while.
Once she was fully standing in the water, it came up to just below her knees. She started to walk eastward, away from the intersection, away from Shibuya, away from Morioka Sensei. She placed each step carefully, not wanting to step on anything that might surprise or cut her. She was still caught a little off guard when the ground lowered abruptly at an odd angle. It wasn't enough to cause her to fall over, but she had to brace herself against the wall. Now the water was about mid thigh, and she was holding her patient's gown up in hopes of keeping it from getting wet. A few more yards ahead, she felt another ledge under the water, something she was prepared for after having encountered the first ledge. She felt around with her foot, keeping her balance against the wall, but couldn't feel the bottom. If the height of the ledges were in regular intervals, then she figured she would end up only down to her waist. But there was no way of being sure before committing to dropping down. And it started to seem likely to her that the ground under the water could keep dropping, and she would have to swim.
A thick quilt, heavy with all the water it had absorbed, drifted by Mari, an edge of it sliding along her thigh and causing her to jump. Although she was a good swimmer, having grown up with the ocean almost always a short walk away, she didn't like the idea of swimming in among all the debris, in the dark. Her paper-like patient's gown would most likely disintegrate if submerged long enough, and even if it didn't, it didn't offer any protection against the cold water. Without knowing how far she had to go, there was a real possibility that hypothermia might drag her down before reaching anywhere that she could get out again. Ahead of her, the canal curved away from the road to her left, and with the buildings between the canal and the road, the streetlights were entirely blocked. On her right, there were trees hanging overhead, blocking yet more light. Going forward was like going farther into a void. She felt a tension from her thighs to her lower back, an antsy feeling making her want to run, but she was already trying to escape her circumstances, so she didn't know what to do with the feeling.
When she was very young, she would refuse to swim in any water where she couldn't see the bottom. She told her parents that it felt like there were sea monsters there that would rise up from the bottomless dark below and pull her down. Her parents said they weren't monsters, but the spirits and gods of the deep, and they wouldn't pull her down if she respected them. They said that the feeling of tension and fear that she got in her stomach was caused by a part of her that was more honest and in touch with nature than the part of her that thought with words in her head. The more she learned to listen to and understand the feelings that came from inside her, the more she could communicate with the gods, the spirits, and even the sea monsters. Then they would tell her things, guide her, and carry her safely across the water.
It felt to Mari that as she grew up, the sense of a presence in dark waters and forests and basements just went away as she came to understand that there was no such thing as monsters. By the time she was a teenager, she was swimming faster than all the other boys and girls her age, and even some of the older kids, in races out to the rocks far from the shore line. The feelings in her gut weren't replaced by any particular communication with unseen forces that she could tell. Her parents never changed their stories, though. The sense that gods and spirits existed in everything was a part of their theology that was very real to them.
As an adult, Mari knew that the feeling she was experiencing was adrenalin, fuelled by the fear of running from danger and into the unknown. Still, something reminiscent of the sense of sea monsters was there. It felt like it wasn't just the levels of the surface under the water getting lower, it was a like the water was rising up. If she tried to go further, the water would rush up and swallow her into the darkness. The monsters in the blackest waters were warning her away.
Up to the right, where the trees were, had more space where she could potentially climb over the fence, but it would also be more connected to the area she had just been in, with a lot of potential for the infected to run over from the intersection. At her slow and cautious pace, she hadn't actually walked more than a dozen yards from where she climbed down the ladder. Close enough that infected could be right there, within a few running strides, ready to pounce on her the moment she got to the top.
Up to the left were the backs of the buildings that faced into the main road. It was the road that she had originally intended to get to, where it seemed mostly clear on the other side of the makeshift barrier made of cars that separated it from the intersection. All things considered, Mari felt her best chances would be up on the road, with better visibility and a clear direction to go. The only trouble was that there was no ladder on that side of the canal.
Mari made her way across the canal, slowly working around the odd angles of the edge of the level she was on. The wall first went up to a small ledge, rounded and too shallow for her to walk along, and then went up another two metres or so to another short ledge just below to the top edge. It was angled slightly, and the grooves in between the large cement bricks were deep enough for her to get just enough purchase with her fingers and her toes. The main danger were streaks of a very thin layer of moss that weren't too slippery, but crumbled if Mari gripped it too much, so she would have to feel around for areas with a solid grip at every step of the way.
Before starting her climb, Mari looked back toward the intersection where there was still some gunfire, some shouting. She couldn't make out Morioka's voice, or anything too distinct because the sound reverberated against the walls. There were steadily rotating red lights from police cars, and an ambient light probably from headlights and fire, but there was also a hazy smoke that obscured everything. Shadows and silhouettes were projected onto the haze, infected and the remaining few people running in one direction or another.
She moved slowly, feeling around with her hands and feet for an edge she was absolutely confident in before committing and then moving another limb. The wall was only about four metres to the top, though, so it didn't take too long. At the top, the back walls of the buildings came right up to the edge of the canal so that there was nowhere to go but between them. The gap between the buildings was so narrow, she could barely fit if she faced forward, it was more effective to move sideways. It was partly blocked with a stack of yellow and orange plastic crates that Mari had to move out of the way, a large blue plastic bucket and planks of dark rotten wood that she had to awkwardly step around, and the ground was packed dirt that had been largely neglected and covered with wrappers and plastic bottles from food bought at convenience stores. She made it to the other side, and found herself on the main road, Meiji Dori, where it seemed completely empty. Scanning cautiously before venturing out, Mari couldn't make out any people, infected or not, anywhere nearby.
To her left was the main intersection, where there was still yelling, shots, and chaos. But it was all behind a roadblock formed out of cars, about three deep, all pushed together. One was on its side, and most of them looked dented in a way that it seemed like a bulldozer or something equally big had pushed them into place and pressed them to eliminate space between them. There were vans and small trucks mixed in, which obscured Mari's view into the intersection, but it wasn't like a solid wall that would keep everyone out. Anyone with enough determination could clamber over the vehicles and get through, and it looked like many had tried, but their bodies were strewn about, their efforts halted by having been shot with excessive gunfire. What existed now was a combined pile of bodies and cars that would slow down any further people trying to get through. Especially the infected, who didn't seem particularly coordinated. For the moment, though, it seemed to Mari that the main reason the infected wouldn't come to this side of the blockade was simply because they were more drawn to the action on the other side. A circumstance that could change any moment.
She stepped out cautiously onto the street, only just coming around the corner of one the buildings she was between, keeping her back against the wall and looking cautiously for anyone nearby. For the moment, it seemed like she was in a different world, separated from the one she had just been in, on the other side of the car blockade. Over there was smoke and noise and chaos, on this side was quiet and stillness. The barrier between them was as thin as a bubble, and if she made too much noise, drew attention in any way, that bubble could burst.
おい！マリ！待つんだ！そこに行く！ "Hey, Mari!" Morioka Sensei's voice pierced through the membrane holding worlds apart, and Mari ducked in the same way as if something had been thrown at her. She looked around, and could see Morioka Sensei on top of the overpass, overlooking the car barricade. He was with a few other figures, police or soldiers, pushing forward while some infected were just behind his group. He had to keep moving while shouting out to Mari. "Wait there! We'll head over!"
It seemed ridiculous to Mari that Morioka Sensei was making plans about where he might go or that he could help her given that it didn't look like he was much in control of his own circumstance. More than that, though, although it didn't come from a rational place, she felt a little betrayed by him, letting her feel he was saving her, and then discovering he was merely preserving her. Her feelings about him made it easy to slip into resenting him for yelling out to her, adding to her already growing sense that he wasn't offering any safety. With him shouting out to her, it seemed like that might also alert infected to where she was. Were the infected limited in their thinking so that they would only go to the source of a human voice, or were they aware enough to understand that someone was the recipient of someone calling out?
Whether caused by Morioka's yelling or just that she was now out on the street and more visible, or maybe the infected were focused on some other way of locating people, she could see some motion around the barricade. There were infected clambering over the cars, and as awkward and ineffective as their motion was, overall it wouldn't be long before they made it over. Mari felt she had only seconds to consider her next move. She glanced at Morioka Sensei, who was becoming obscured behind the black smoke of a burning car below him and his group. She already knew she wasn't going to wait for him. She glanced down the road, which seemed to be the best route, free of infected and cars, but she didn't want to test herself in an all out race against any infected. There was a green metal barricade that ran down the centre of the road, separating the two directions of traffic, and she decided she would first jump over that, and run down the other side. It seemed like the infected were coming at her mainly from the side of the road she was on, and every little obstacle she could put between herself and them gave her yet more seconds to try and find another option.
She bolted from her position and with two hands on the green railing, propelled herself over in a jump that was so smooth it barely affected her speed. She then turned to the right and started down the road. She ran for a few seconds, and then turned to look behind her to see how many pursuers she had. When she turned, she saw one infected, a teenager in a checkered shirt and white pants, hit the fence in the middle of the road. He hit it like he didn't see it, and fell over it, landing head first on the other side. Another infected, a middle aged woman in yoga pants and a grey hoodie, hit the fence in a similar way, but she was not as tall, and she skidded along the side of the fence. Part of her jacket got caught on some edge, causing her to turn as she fell and her hoodie wrapped around her, tangling her in a way she was not coordinated enough to get out of. As that happened, the first infected scrambled to his feet and started to come after Mari.
Similar to how the fence had tangled up one of the infected, a few more were similarly caught in angles and gaps in the car barricade that they were two uncoordinated to work their way out of. But as Mari looked over her shoulder to see who was chasing her, she could see that a couple of infected had come out of a gateway to a Buddhist temple that was on the same side of the street as her. All told, she saw about four people now chasing her, and there was only open road in front of her. She was now in a foot race of indefinite distance, and no way of knowing if the infected would get tired before or after her.
She was in an all out sprint, and within fifty yards she could feel her lungs tightening and her legs aching. She was very fit, and ran regularly, but this was the kind of intensity that would challenge even the most athletic. How long could she keep her current pace? She wouldn't be able to just run down this road indefinitely. How many times now, she wondered, had she been this close to death, where danger closed in on her and there was no way of knowing if she would live through the situation? She imagined herself running until she just couldn't anymore, her legs giving out from exhaustion, falling to the pavement, her pursuers catching up to her.
The road arced very slightly to the left, and as she rounded the curve, she saw figures moving up ahead, people around a van. One figure turned as he heard her and her pursuers approach. It was a man, a soldier, raising a rifle.
撃たないで！あたし、感染者じゃない！ "Don't shoot! I'm not infected!" Mari screamed. The soldier lowered his rifle a little, but only enough to consider options for a moment. Mari then saw enough of his light skinned face and pale eyes to see he wasn't Japanese. The particular shade of green of his camouflage combat gear registered with Mari as being like the American military personnel she had seen sometimes in Okinawa.
"Don't shoot! Don't shoot! I'm not sick!" Mari yelled in English. The soldier's body language changed in that moment. He flinched backward in surprise just a little, and then he readied his rifle against his shoulder and looked down its sights in a clear firing pose.
"Get out of the way!" the soldier called out. Mari dodged to her right, throwing herself into the metal fence in the middle of the road. She crouched down, holding onto the green painted bars of the traffic divider, closing her eyes, hoping the soldier would resolve the situation. He fired his rifle in short bursts, loud as an industrial power tool. There were growls and the sounds of bodies hitting the ground behind her, then silence.
Mari held for a moment just to be sure that it was safe to move again, assuming that no noise meant no infected. When she opened her eyes, from the position in which she was curled up and covering her head with one arm, the first thing she saw was the building across from her. There were two flagpoles beside the main entrance, each with a different flag, listless in the windless night, one Japanese, and one American.