The dust is so thick, and feels like trying to breathe chalk.
The coughing continued for a long time while we’re drowning on what feels like chalk dust in the air. It was completely dark all around us. I felt around even while trying to cover my mouth with the lapel of my school uniform jacket to cough into and breathe better. But the air was terrible and made you feel like you were suffocating. I held my breath as long as I could and covered my mouth with my shirt. It was hard to not take in any and then after I exhaled I had to only take in small amounts slowly while filtering it as much as possible.
After a long time the dust seemed to keep settling but only slowly. But the suffering had lasted so long while everyone was also coughing and trying to adapt. Around me I knew the other students were still alive, because I could hear everyone else still coughing too.
“Poor Jin…” someone said, in a heartbroken voice, another boy in our class. It was one of the kids who hung out with him, but I didn’t know his name. Our school had a lot of kids after all, and sometimes at the start of the school’s new year people came in and out from other schools nearby.
“Screw Jin, what about us?!” yelled someone else, a boy student.
“I agree, we need like help and stuff,” some airhead girl said. Because we can’t see I don’t know who it was.
“What…cough…cough…do you …mean? He brought it …cough…on himself…cough..,” said boy #3. I also didn’t know him; after all they were the wrong crowd to hang out with. Nor did I want to get to know them.
“Are we going to die?” Someone said pitifully, in a hoarse choke.
“Everybody stay calm,” I said, but then I wasn’t just ignored but someone elbowed me so hard I couldn’t breathe.
Others were also mumbling weird despaired comments. Things like, “we’re going to die aren’t we?” and, “Mommy!” were just the tip of the iceberg.
“Pull it together. Jeez your parents work at the city hospital. You should have more guts,” said Tanagawa. Her tone of voice was cold as usual. She was sort of tough in her attitude, but she wasn’t trying to be mean…I think.
“Ugh…I don’t feel good.”
People are still coughing.
“I need my mom too,” someone else said.
There were all kinds of people all saying stuff and some of it was a blur with too much despair because of people being afraid. I didn’t catch all of it, but felt around me.
I’m trying to figure out which way to safety without getting trampled. Sometimes I felt hands grabbing around at me and everything around me and I had to keep them away to stop being smothered by the mob mentality around us.
“Yumi? Are you OK?” I asked.
“Yeah….cough…cough…this air…so bad…need to get out,” she responded.
“Are you there teacher?” Some of the students cried out.
Gradually the dust was settling piece by piece but for some reason it was still really heavily dark outside.
“Why is it so dark? It’s just morning…” someone said.
“The electricity is gone,” someone said.
“My phone won’t connect to the internet anymore.”
“Wow neither will mine.”
“I can’t get a dial tone. What the hell?!” someone said.
“You should get a dial tone, especially if you are calling 911,” Miss Asakura said.
“I don’t still,” someone else spoke up.
“No phones? This isn’t right,” I told Yumi.
“Yeah isn’t that weird?” another kid spouted off.
“Jin’s such a dumb ass,” another said.
“Everyone just stay calm and quiet. If everyone is talking and panicking we’ll never get through this! Quiet please,” Sensei said with command tones.
“Uh, OK,” several of them murmured at once. Still it was a bit noisy. I heard some plaster and sand falling from bits in the ceiling.
“It’s so dark, teacher. We can’t see a thing!” someone said.
“Yeah, why is it dark so quick?”
“It’s probably just clouds in front of the sun, don’t worry it’ll pass,” someone reasoned.
“I don’t know this feels really dark,” another said.
This does feel weird.
“The school lights should go back on right? I doubt the electricity could just be gone,” someone said.
Even though they complain about it the electricity really is gone.
The students hushed up quickly.
I could feel Yumi holding my arm for support. “Oh thank goodness you’re not hurt. I was worried. Hey we need to find your sister fast!” she hissed.
I knew that even before she did. Did she think she was reminding me?
My gut wrenched. “Yeah, I was thinking that too.” But even though Yumi had found me it was probably by feeling around and just stumbling into me. It wasn’t like any of us knew where we were or could tell what was going on.
Others also were moaning about needing to check where their family members were, but our teacher cut them off. She’s trying to restore order but everyone’s still freaked out and it’s not working well. They are also drowning out her voice.
We were also looking around us, but it was so dark outside. That’s weird. Why are the town lights out too. We should see the glow of neon signs of a few restaurants in sight of the school property from here, but we can’t.
“Nobody move!” Miss Asakura ordered as the students tried to panic again.
“But doesn’t the emergency plan say to go outside?” someone said.
“But it’s too dark to move. People can get hurt trying to move in rubble filled areas that are unstable without being able to see where they are going. More people will be in danger by us trampling each other in this pitch black.”
“But my sister is in class 3-C. It’s just down the hall!” someone said.
“So is mine! Only 3-B instead.”
“My brother uses crutches, who is going to look out for him?!” another girl said pitifully. Hearing her say that made me want to be urgent to go get Rina, my cousin, who lives with me. She also tells people often that she’s my sister.
“I know you all have people you are worried about. First, everyone check your neighbor to the front of you, just one desk in front of you, and to both sides, and to the back of you. Use a buddy system. Make sure if everyone’s OK first. If you feel someone isn’t awake or sleeping or something wrong then we’ll talk. Don’t talk until everyone is done. First let’s make sure everyone’s safe.”
“Teacher…will you marry me?” a pitiful snotty sounding kid said.
“I’m not your mom, Sai. Be responsible for yourself!” she shut him down fast. “Besides, I can’t marry a student. The principal would fire me! How would I buy food and pay rent?”
“Shut up Sai, while you can still talk. Do your job, while I get the first aid kit,” she said with finality.
After a few minutes everyone had felt around us. It was disorderly at first. People were all trying to be quiet but still talk. To the front of my Aikawa was fine. I was near the right wall so no one was to my right. Behind me was an empty seat, and to my left was Yumi. I felt around with my hands. It felt dusty but otherwise things weren’t too different than normal. I think the classroom didn’t get changed too much…but I wouldn’t know for sure until when it was lighter and more visible.
One after another all the students reported. It took a long time though because we had to go slowly and Sensei couldn’t see her seating chart. She had to account for people by memory and that wasn’t easy with so much panic.
So far everything was working until finally we got our phones out for light. This also didn’t happen right away because we had to find them. As a rule Sensei didn’t let us keep them out during class.
My cell phone had a pretty good light. I turned it on to find Yumi right next to me, inches from my face. The others around me shined their lights too, and suddenly we could see it was night outside. This was more confirmation than anything else.
“Why is it so dark? It’s only 8:23 AM…”
Actually that is a good point.
“Yeah so weird…”
“Shun are you there? Stay close,” Yumi said to me. She sounds scared.
“I know that even before you said that,” I countered.
“But your sister won’t go with me if you aren’t there too,” she said revealing that she doesn’t care about me that much.
“What the fuck?! There are two moons up in the sky,” Abe said in shock. He’d somehow wandered over to the windows and was looking out. Suddenly a crowd of students all bolted to the windows and were looking.
“Oh my gosh…what the hell is this?!” someone cried.
“How can there be two moons? It’s not that new 5G stuff is it?” someone asked.
“What’s happening to us? This isn’t right.”
The noise from the panic and confusion became obnoxious. I picked up on tons of people chatting noisily. Yumi was terrified and kept a death grip on my wrist. “It’s just till we find your sister,” she said fright with panic.
“Yeah I get it,” I replied.
“Where the hell are we?” someone said.
“Are we still in Kobe?”
“I still want to know what the fuck is going on?!” someone cried out.
“Are we still in our town?” another repeated.
Gradually more dust was settling and finally it wasn’t so dark. I was able to wave my hand in front of my face finally and see it but its hard to see in the darkness this thick. Hopefully when more dust settles it’ll be easier. Then a few minutes later the mood was better since people could see. But students were crowding by the window and pointing at something.
“What is that?”
“Hey what’s going on?”
“What’s that light in the sky? There are two of them?”
“Those aren’t stars…odd…”
“That moon is like weird…neither of them gives off much light. So strange. What is this place?”
“Where the fuck is Kobe?! Two moons?! How?!” the cry of the desperate. Unfortunately the people that are desperate are fueling other people to become desperate while I try to figure out where Yumi went.
“How come we’re surrounded by a meadow and fields with trees? The buildings are gone!”
Then we heard cursing.
“Is that a forest?!” Someone else said.
“The mall is now replaced by grassland and forest!” someone cried out.
“What the freak is going on?!” several asked versions similar to this but with a different word.
“How the heck are there two moons in the sky?!” someone sort of half screamed and half yelled.
That got everyone in a panic and for a long few minutes Sensei couldn’t get anyone calmed down and everyone was by the window. They were in total confusion. Something wasn’t right. I mean …Russia or the USA couldn’t have nuked the moon into two pieces right?
That was one theory…but no one could come up with another. Then they start noticing other things but everyone was in a panic.
“Did we die?”
“Maybe we’re in hell? This can’t be heaven after all,” someone said.
“If this is hell are there devils or angels? Where’s my dead grandpa?” another said.
“If we’re in hell then your grandpa isn’t dead anymore right? Or are we dead too?”
The chatter kept increasing both with the number of students trying to see out the window and with Things were deteriorating fast as far as public order was concerned. The sounds of people’s voices was getting more and more upset. We had to do something fast. I didn’t like being around this many people that were in a panic anyway.
“Teacher? Do you know something?”
“I’m sorry Kazuki. We need to stay still for awhile. We’ll wait for the school supervisor to advise us. They should have an announcement soon over the intercom.”
“But how will they do that when they need to be rescued to?” someone said.
“Just stay calm. Things will work out,” Miss Asakura tried to repeat. She was ignored I think mostly.
“But Sensei, the lights won’t work. There’s no electricity, so how can there be an announcement?” I said.
There was another big silence. People were realizing we had to do something I think.
“Sensei, we should organize ourselves because the school principal isn’t going to be able to use the traditional means. He himself might be hurt,” I said.
She hesitated a bit, then, “All right Shun-kun. Your right. Tanagawa I want you to go to the classrooms next to us, ahead, behind, and to the right. Ask if anyone is injured, and make sure there is a teacher in each room and ask if they each have a first aid kit. Don’t stay to talk, don’t panic, go directly to each and someone else also call for help, while she’s doing that. Tanagawa come back quickly because what’s going on around us may help us to figure out what to do next. If you get distracted we could have more trouble.”
“Hey teacher, how come our phones won’t work? I’m not getting signal bars out here, also I can’t get a dial tone when I try to call my mom,” someone said.
“Just be quiet for a minute!” Miss Asakura said in frustration after being bombarded with the same questions over and over.
“Pffh, that’s normal. After an earthquake everyone’s always checking on their family all the sudden. The network will be swamped, when it comes back on,” Inoue said.
“But if we’re in hell can we call home?” someone said.
“Well maybe we’re still in Kobe, but something is off?” someone yelled.
“Yeah, then how the F*#(@ do you explain where all the buildings went? Grass, fields, and a forest? The dirt even looks different. What the hell is going on?!” Mori yelled angrily. I didn’t like when Mori got mad. He didn’t know how to calm down.
“Are you sure?” Sensei asked carefully. “It’s odd that you aren’t getting any signal bars though. But it’s too soon to be able to know for sure. Let’s at least wait for help.”
“Its fine, my dad works for the phone company. He told me how it was last earthquake. Everyone’s just swamped the network,” someone said.
“Your dad doesn’t know everything,” Abe said. Hmm he actually said something smart, even if he was a gangster.
“Well I’m not sure what we can do about that yet. Inoue will you check and go over the first aid kit to make sure we have everything we need?” Sensei asked.
“You got it Miss Asakura! I’ll go over it to twice or three times to be sure. What do I look for though?”
“Just make sure you have stuff for anything, burns, seizures, trauma, air pump for CPR kit, a trauma blanket, bandages, gauze, tape, that sort of stuff. Don’t let anyone use it for stupid little scrapes though. Someone with a paper cut will waste it and then if someone has a real emergency people won’t be able to do anything,” I interrupted.
Rina’s story had forced me into thinking this way despite being a kid. It was because of her that I knew what to do. I’d leave to go find her soon.
“Does anyone here have CPR training?” Asakura Sensei was very thorough it seemed. She was holding up her own cell phone light mostly just for show to help people stay calm. I think it was working a little though, because they liked to see how nice looking she was.
“Shun does! He knows how to get through this!” Yumi spouted off quickly.
She didn’t notice that I gave her a dirty look. My heart sunk. I didn’t like telling people that. I had enough responsibility already. I was sweating it really badly now. I wish Yumi didn’t say that. She meant well, but …
“Does anyone else know?” she asked.
“Abe’s dad is a doctor. He’s had training too,” someone said.
I briefly heard Abe swearing at whoever ratted out his good points. I then thought I heard an “ouch” after someone was punched in the arm.
I don’t know if I’d trust Abe to do CPR, even if he was the last man on Earth.
“OK, Shun, you want to help me? Do you know what to do?” she asked.
“Well…the truth is, I need to check on my sister. She…”
But Asakura Sensei’s eyes were pleading with me…
“Fine… First you need to check who has life threatening illnesses that require medication, not just who is immediately injured. Also because it’s dark out people could get injured if we go outside walking around. All the emergency training for schools is based on things happening during the day, not at night. Also we don’t have electricity so we need to help ourselves as much as possible till we figure out what’s up with the phones and electricity. Wherever we are, we don’t know if it’s even safe outside. What if there are animals, or pits, or dangers we can’t see in the dark?” I said.
The class got really quiet.
“Yeah, let’s stay put.”
“I don’t want to be falling all over stuff,” another responded.
After a few minutes the class was feeling better when we realized only Jin had been hurt…though his was permanent damage…the dead kind.
“What about the danger of natural gas or bad poisoned air? That’s real for an earthquake right?” she asked.
“It could be, but we aren’t in Kobe, that’s for sure. It looks like we’re in the middle of the wilderness. I’d swear I was crazy if I wasn’t seeing it myself. What the fudge is going on…,” Inoue said.
“Holy shit right?! What is that?! I saw something move! It was big too!” Mori said excitedly pointing outside the window. Everyone seemed to ignore him though. They were already mistrustful of him for pressuring people for lunch money for him and his gang. Abe, himself, and a few others were trying to look outside still and watch for whatever it was they saw.
“So are you saying there won’t be any gas or poison in the air?” someone asked.
“It …I’m not sure. But I don’t smell anything weird, and it’s not cold or hot out. It’s just like a cool summer night outside and the air coming in from the breeze is clean and feels good. There’s even a decent breeze,” someone said, feeling with their hand outside the window.
“Well if there’s a good breeze, as long as the windows are open we should be OK right?” Sensei asked.
“Sensei, while I still have battery power and right now before anything else happens I want you and Yumi to go with me to get Rina. It can’t wait,” I said.
“Oh…I forgot about that. I’m so sorry I should have remembered that. As soon as Tanagawa gets back we’ll go,” Sensei said.
“I swear I saw something move outside in the bushes. But I’m not sure what kind of animal it was,” someone said.
“What’s wrong with Rina? That’s his sister right?” Inoue asked. As she talked she had a habit of waving the cell phone with her light on around. She was like super chatty as a person, and really weird and playful but she was nice too.
“Yeah, she’s….not doing so well. Her health…,” Yumi said sadly.
“She just was barely admitted back into school from chemotherapy treatment ending a few weeks ago. This was going to be her first day, and she’s not strong enough to stay at school all day. We’d had plans to take her home after lunch and only have a half day school attendance for a few months until she got better,” I said.
“Ah fudge,” someone said. “That’s bullshit. Now we have to go take care of someone,” he said.
If I could have known who it was I might have hit them.
“Do we have to take care of a sick person too? This is already bad enough,” someone said. I’m glad I didn’t know who said it in the dark…
That somehow helped people realize they need to stay calm though.
“Rina is my friend Teacher. I need to go with him too. I won’t accept no for an answer,” Yumi said seriously.
“OK, but what’s the plan?” Miss Asakura said asking and not sure what to do. She seems to be letting me take charge and follow me. I guess it’s because she’s never been in a situation like this. Neither have I but I am a bit more assertive than she is.
“We need to get her with me and keep her here since I know how to take care of her but others don’t. I also have to get her some place where she can rest safely. So …probably we’ll have to go to the nurse’s station, and wait with her there,” I said.
“Good idea,” Yumi chirped. “We’ll make this happen.”
After a few minutes Tanagawa came back.
“Both classrooms in front and in back of us are doing fine. A lot of people with skinned knees and mild scrapes but nothing serious. Everyone’s in good spirits so far, because they know they won’t have any homework tonight. The other teacher, Miss Yamanaka had hit her head but isn’t bleeding much and feels fine. Her room had a few people cut by broken window glass but nothing serious. But nobody has heard from the Principal yet, or his assistant?” She said quickly.
“I agree that’s weird, but one step at a time, OK. We have to go carefully and not panic,” Sensei responded.
“OK, good. Tanagawa, I want you and Inoue to be in charge until we get back. Keep everyone safe and together. Don’t go anywhere and don’t have anyone roaming the halls. We can also check on the Principal after we get your sister, plus seeing things higher up will give us an idea where we are or what’s going on,” Sensei barked.
Before leaving we noticed someone put a jacket over Jin’s body.
Yumi, and Miss Asakura followed me out to go the stairs…we had to go slowly bit by bit. It was a pain and we were trying to not get cut by sharp concrete pieces and broken tile while not slipping or falling too. Miss Asakura’s reasoning is that Rina is in the most risk of anyone, and except for Jin our whole class was fine.
Rina’s class was on the 3rd floor near the roof, while we were on the bottom floor. Normally this wasn’t a bad situation. But it was really super dark outside with the only visibility being my cell phone light. Also with it being an emergency situation we had no idea what was going on in other parts of the school.
It was a long way up…I kept thinking how worried I was for Rina, my cousin who lived with us. She was really weak. I kept trying to get her to wait a few more weeks before going back to school but she wouldn’t listen. She kept worrying about having to repeat that year if she missed too much school.
She’d been off chemo just long enough for her hair to grow back but be so short it was like a short boy hair cut. Supposedly it was in remission and she was fine, but that didn’t mean she had the energy that she used to. She’d managed to be OK because she had such a pretty face, and was really thin and nice looking, but I think it was still too early for her to go back to school.
But the main problem was her fatigue and how long she sleeps. She needed a good three hour nap around lunch. Then she’d need another after 3 or 4 PM in the afternoon. Then she’d sleep a long time during normal sleep time. But I didn’t feel like sleeping in a school was safe.
I wonder what her mental state was going to be like? She was probably really afraid now. With both her serious health condition and everyone not knowing where they were she must be in true despair, I realized.
I had to find her quick, before something happens.