“Wait, don’t move so fast Shun!” Miss Asakura said, trying to keep up in her shoes. Her pantyhose had torn somehow while we were dodging debris in the halls, trying to move. Honestly how did she seem so cool before? Before she was always the epitome of the students’ view of what being smooth and flawless was…
Well actually she was cool but just she’s sort of trying to not get caught in the mess of broken concrete and exposed rebar sticking out around us. Concrete dust is also still snowing down in places where the building is damaged.
But wait, maybe anyone wouldn’t know what to do in a disaster? I correct myself after remembering that. Both she, and Yumi were struggling in the dark, having to go by my light.
But she wasn’t the only one that had gotten scraped up and dusty. All three of us had gotten dirt from the ceiling debris on us. We were also trying to maneuver around the ruins of the school. As we looked around everything was a wreck. The building seemed to somehow be holding itself up. However, when you looked at all the exposed guts of the ceiling you wondered how that could even be possible.
But there is rebar and broken concrete all over the place. It does feel that a lot of the halls are still strong enough to hold up, but…it looks awful.
“Wow. This is way worse than what Tanagawa said. She made it sound like everything was cool and fine,” Yumi added in support.
“She was blinded by the idea of no homework maybe,” I said.
“You think she’d do that?” Sensei asked, carefully.
“That would be tempting,” Yumi noted.
“Dang it, maybe I’ve been too lenient. Extra homework for sure after that gets resolved,” Asakura muttered.
“Well…it’s no homework, would you be tempted?” I replied carefully.
“Sigh. You’re right. That does sound like a good deal to a kid,” she shook her head sadly.
“Please don’t punish the rest of us,” Yumi pleaded earnestly.
We were having to dodge stuff while moving carefully. Lots of ceiling tiles and supports were hanging down. Plus pipes had fallen from the fake ceiling that was underneath the real ceiling. It was also dusty and the air not so great in some places.
A pipe had even leaded a bunch of water from the second floor down in some places. It was probably water from the bathrooms above, and even though it looked clean I hopped over the small pools.
People also didn’t want to go outside because it was warmer inside the school than outside maybe, I suddenly thought.
“We need to keep moving,” I reminded them.
“If it weren’t so dark, oaahhh man!” Yumi whined.
“I feel your pain Yumi,” Sensei affirmed, while also jumping over the small puddles.
Overall the school was a bit older in some places but had some new sections too. Both parts had a lot of problems. This was where the new construction areas from five years ago met the really old parts of the school. The seams of the different types of concrete were ugly even before this place was wrecked.
As we tried to make our way through, I had to keep flicking my cell phone to use the light. But it had an auto shut off on the light to save power, and that made me have to do so often. So about every ten steps we’d have to stop. Yumi didn’t have her light, and it turns out teacher’s phone was locked in the faculty room so she wouldn’t be abusing her authority as a teacher; they said when they asked the teachers to do so. Both were trying to stay by the light, without crowding me too much.
“Wait, stop here a sec,” I said.
“What is it?” Yumi asked.
I grabbed a board that had fallen from the ceiling and then proceeded to knock the glass out of the fire hose cage. Inside it was a fire extinguisher and a fire axe. It was the fire axe I wanted; I’m not even sure why I thought about it, but I did. Only the older schools had them now, since they used to trust kids knowing not to play with it. For some reason this one was still there. It was a good find, in a bad time like this.
Weird, I don’t remember this being here before. I picked it up.
But I’d also have to take steps to make sure no one could take it from me.
“You aren’t going to try to use that are you?” Sensei asked nervously.
“Don’t worry, I just want us all to be safe. If someone is trapped under rubble we can use it to help get them out carefully. Also wouldn’t you rather I had it than someone like Abe or Mori?” I said in response.
“Oh hell, that would be awful,” Yumi said.
“Ugh…those guys…they shouldn’t even be allowed in school, but the darn Principal was afraid of their lawyers’ threats,” Miss Asakura said, sighing.
“Eh? What was that? Tell us more,” I was getting more interested.
“Oops, you didn’t hear that. Slip of the tongue in a life or death situation doesn’t count. Actually I still would be back with class except that Rina’s situation is the most dire,” Sensei replied.
We had to then go even slower, because we still didn’t have good light. If we moved too fast we’d bump into stuff. Also because I was the lead, Sensei and Yumi had to keep touching me every now and then because it was hard to see. So normally we went down the hall me first, then Sensei, who kept bumping into me, and then Yumi with her.
“What’s going on? How come it’s so slow to move?” Yumi asked naively.
“I have to go slow because the hall lockers are a mess and a lot of them are tipped over into the halls,” I said.
“But they were bolted down. I’ve seen them do maintenance on them before. They are sturdy! They shouldn’t be able to do that,” Sensei said in surprise.
“Just be glad the electricity is out. If it weren’t I’d have to go even way slower watching for exposed wiring…” I muttered.
“Wow,” they both said in unison.
I waved the light up better so they could see, but it was a cell phone light and not meant to be used as a flashlight.
“See? The earthquake broke a lot of them loose. Some of them have sharp edges where the metal was shredded or bent open so be careful.”
“Got it,” Yumi said quickly.
In my left hand I kept the fire axe, and with my right hand I kept the light up. Sometimes we’d hear other students in this area, but a lot of the classes were still staying in their rooms because they couldn’t do anything with the light. They were afraid to move around much I think. Plus moving around in an emergency just gets everyone all panicky, especially when you bump into each other all the time.
“How are we doing so far?” Sensei asked.
“We’re passing 1-F now,” I said, noticing the door tag near us. But the door was completely jarred off its hinges. The ceiling in this area was in bad condition too. We also had to watch for broken glass, and we crunched and stepped around it when possible but inevitably it was still something that couldn’t be totally avoided.
“Wow, I’m glad I wore tennis shoes and not high heels today,” Sensei said.
“Ah, yeah, that is lucky huh?” Yumi noted encouragingly. “Sensei, you are so cool!”
Despite being an adult Miss Asakura giggled in response. When she laughs her bust shakes a lot, but I tried to not notice it.
We continued and finally got to the first set of stairs.
“Wow. This is bad!” I said in shock.
I hadn’t noticed it at first, but now that we’d gotten closer I could see the stairs had collapsed here. That was totally unreal. These were steel reinforced concrete stairs! But the pressure of the quake had collapsed that whole section. Everything here looked way unstable.
“Oh wow, dang, we’ll have to go around won’t we?” Sensei said. She was looking up too, at what I’d seen.
“Wow. That must be a strong quake we had,” Yumi admitted. She and Sensei were both near me and had come close on either side of me to look at it.
There was another small detail I’d noticed too. I’d almost overlooked it at first, but now it was more apparent. Some parts of the roof section around the stairs were sagging dangerously and the outside wall itself looked really bad. In fact, just as we sat there some parts of the ceiling were still having metal shrapnel bits shake and flutter and quiver. Dust and gravel was crumbling too. Wall and ceiling parts aren’t supposed to drip gravel.
Breathing the dust from said areas was probably a free ticket to a unique placed called Cancerville.
“Uh, we better step back. This area’s not safe,” I said.
“Wow this whole section could fall, huh?” Yumi said seriously.
“Uh, let’s go to the other staircase,” Sensei said quickly while we were staring at it.
“Hey Sensei, we better have them evacuate those classrooms closest to those stairs on the levels above it,” I also noted.
“Oh, good idea Shun! It’s good we have you here,” She chirped with relief.
“I wish we could move faster, but we need to be careful with all this rubble,” I mentioned.
The others agreed.
We made our way down the adjacent corridor then. Sometimes we passed whispering voices from classroom doors that were open. But no one wanted to go into the hall. A lot of them seemed like they were too into the light atmosphere and not having to work. One class we passed wouldn’t even listen to their teacher. Others the teacher was laughing and joking with the student.
“Idiots. They’re acting like this is a holiday,” Sensei muttered.
“Well…we are newly minted adults, and eighteen years old. And we rejoice for no homework days,” Yumi shrugged.
“Yeah but those teachers aren’t even thinking there could be danger here. What’s wrong with them?” Miss Asakura was really upset. She seemed about to go tell them what for, when I grabbed her arm.
“Sensei, Rina is really weak. We can’t afford to get distracted. Please.”
“Ugh. Yo-you’re probably right. But on the way back maybe we can slap them around,” she replied.
Yumi and looked at each other as if to say, “is she serious?”
They didn’t seem to understand what was going on yet. No one did.
“After seeing that is it even safe to stay out in the classrooms? Maybe we should go out to the forest area?” I suggested.
“I don’t know. If the stairs are like that…not good,” Sensei said.
“What is your reason for the forest though?” Yumi wondered aloud.
“Well, if we aren’t in Kobe anymore, are we even safe still?” I asked.
“So you think a dark forest is safer still?” Sensei wondered.
“Well a forest has places to hide in or places to pick berries,” I said.
“But I’m not convinced yet, we’re in a new place. Maybe we were hallucinating from gas or chemicals released from the wreckage,” Sensei countered.
“That could be. But the point isn’t whether or not we’re really here or somewhere else but whether or not the students ‘believe we’re in a lawless place and how they’d react under those conditions’,” I said.
“I suppose that could be true too,” she huffed, climbing over some wreckage.
“Hide? From what? What did you mean by that earlier,” Yumi asked.
“Well…you all know Abe and Mori and their gang are here. You know they got off last year because Mori’s parents are lawyers. But they all run a gang. Their gang is bigger this year than last year and that is with police and public order around. How safe do you think it’s going to be for us to be around them once they realize there is no law and public order around?” I asked.
“I didn’t think about that. But if we really are in a new place, some of these kids might not be safe to be around,” Miss Asakura said with an almost grieved voice.
Unfortunately I’d had premonitions of this. Last year they’d put me in the hospital. I have stitches on my back where one of them or their gang buddies stabbed me. They got away from it with lawyer moves, having lots of money, and even the police weren’t sure. They’d only left me alone this year because I was considered “too hot and noticeable for attention” for them to be caught around. But I’d noticed they’d not stopped picking on kids this year. They just changed targets.
Neither of the girls said anything for awhile.
“Shun…we have to still be on the Earth you know,” Sensei said in a strange voice. I think she was having trouble admitting it to herself.
But there was that comment about two moons. What was that about anyway?
“You know, those kids said they saw two moons in the sky,” I said. “How do you explain that?”
Yumi made a “mhmm” sound but didn’t comment. She was listening though. After a while, once we’d gone about fifty more feet she finally said something, “yeah actually. I don’t want to be around when those guys figure out no one is in charge too. But…it sounds so incredible that we’re not in Kobe anymore. How could there be two moons? I saw it but…it’s still so hard to believe.”
“But I’m the teacher! How can I just abandon them? I’m in charge of their welfare! What do we do?! If we aren’t on Earth…Oh my…I think I have a headache. Just wait before we jump to conclusions. We …maybe it’s some kind of optical mirage like when you think you see water in the desert?” Sensei was starting to get stressed out.
I didn’t have an answer immediately but decided to try. “Actually their parents are who owe the duty of care. You are only there to help them be safe in school, but in this situation it’s unfair for them to not try to do some on their own, don’t you think? Can you really save everyone in this school by yourself teacher? Do you think it’s fair to put the load of a school of like 900 kids all on one person?” I asked.
She didn’t answer but looked back at me worriedly. Then she sighed.
“Hmm, you think the two moons maybe… it was a mirage? But our school was surrounded by office buildings all around and suddenly we’re next to a lush green forest and big green and grassy meadows are surrounding most the place. There’s no concrete anywhere either except this building itself. That doesn’t make any sense,” Yumi tried to reason.
“Oh you are making my head hurt. If you weren’t my precious student… It’s bad to make your teacher worry this much…,” Sensei started to say.
But I cut her off, “you know teacher, we have to hurry. When people start to need to go to the bathroom and realize there’s no running water and no working toilets. That’s when they are going to start to realize we’re not in Kansas anymore. It’ll hit when they have to face hardship, like no water, no food, no toilets, and getting cold at night. That’s when things will start to get them panicking. They’ll realize with no resources to survive that they might have to cannibalize resources from others. And if we are in some other new place, then even if you are a teacher you won’t be able to help all of them. Your responsibility is for yourself first.”
“Oh you’re right. Wait. Do you think we should get some more tools and things?” Yumi asked.
“Well the only place to get them would be like …whatever is in the janitorial closet,” I said.
“But…but we don’t need weapons! You’ll see…things will be OK…I think,” Miss Asakura tried to reason, but the tone of her voice was a bit scared. I think she was trying to believe that people would always do the right thing.
By now we were almost to the second set of stairs.
“Oh we’re by the stairs. Yes!” I got excited.
“What kind of shape are they in? I can’t see…” Yumi wondered.
“Well…they look OK,” I said using my light to study them. The ceiling and wall areas looked stable so I tentatively started to go forward, but Sensei’s hand was on my arm.
“Be careful!” she said quickly. It almost seemed silly to have stairs be adventurous, but after the school was this badly damaged, we had no idea if it would kill us to even set foot on them.
At first I was scared. After seeing how awful the other stairway was, I didn’t want to rush up there anymore. I tested my steps carefully feeling my weight and gingerly going slow and spreading my weight out. I listened and felt for any kind of movement while the others were close watching.
It felt pretty stable. So I tested full weight, standing without spreading my weight out. I even hopped up and down a bit. No movement at all.
Once I was halfway up I gave them the signal to follow, “it looks pretty safe so far. Let’s keep moving.”
We kept moving for awhile until we got to the second floor open lobby area. It was an area where the students would hang out after going upstairs from the lunch room. It was also our half way point. At this point it meant we were getting progress.
It was tempting to want to stop and sink into the comfortable bean bag chairs, and cushions in this area. Since it was a popular hangout spot, which meant it was also a good rest area. People would fight over the cushions though, if what was happening was real…
But I knew that Rina depended on me.
“Yumi, you are good with baseball too right?” I asked.
“Hmm, I guess. I’m not the best, but I do OK. Sometimes I’ve gotten some good hits. I’m good at batting but I’m not good at being in the field.”
“Why are you asking?” Sensei asked suspiciously.
“Well, if Rina is tired we may have to carry her. She’s so sick sometimes we just push her in a wheelchair. We might have to carry her around on our shoulders is probably the best way. That’s why I needed three of us,” I said.
“Oh. I was wondering about that…but I trusted you had a reason,” Sensei countered. “So it is good that I came with you then. We can trade off helping her so the burden is lighter and more bearable.”
“Thanks,” I said.
“Yeah, Shun thinks ahead. That’s part of why I felt going with him is a good idea. Plus Rina needs us,” she replied.
“So why did you ask about baseball?” Miss Asakura asked.
“Well…if things get bad, I doubt I can carry Rina and have me still protect us. I might have to have her carry the fire axe,” I said.
I could see both of them stiffen in shock. “Wha…” almost in unison.
“Well we’re in an area that is about to become lawless. You don’t think that we’re going to not have to protect ourselves do you? Surely you aren’t that naive?” I suggested, trying to make them think.
“Oh. Man. We should leave the school!” Yumi said excitedly in a low whisper. “I didn’t realize until now, how bad this is going to be. Who knows what’s going to happen. This is the worst possible place to be!”
“Are you sure?” Sensei wondered aloud as we worked our way down the hall. Soon we’d hit the stairs that go to the 3rd floor. At that point I’d feel a lot better.
“How can you ask that Sensei? You are a beautiful woman. Probably one of the most beautiful in Kobe, and not just this town…the men will try to kidnap you for sure,” I said.
“You are scaring me, Shun,” she almost cried out in despair. Even by me as we moved I saw her hands shake.
“Sorry Teacher, I’m not trying to scare you guys, but we need to get the hell out of here fast. Abe and Mori’s gang have probably already started trouble,” I then said pleadingly. “It’s also easier to prevent tragedy from starting than from stopping it once it’s started.
“Please don’t let anyone kidnap me please! Shun, I-I-I’m going to stay with you OK? But don’t let anyone grab me please!” she pleaded, lightly tugging my arm.
Yumi ‘hmmed’ again, “How come you seem to know so much, Shun? I really want to leave the school now. Can we?”
“Well my parents had me take care of Rina even before she got sick and they both always work. There was no other choice but to do my best and be independent. That kind of thinking teaches you what to do when things go wrong. I have seen some things I shouldn’t have at this age already…”
By then we finally found ourselves up at the classroom on the 3rd floor. But it was only after parts of the 3rd floor were found to be not as strong as the 2nd floor. I found sections of the floor in that area seemed to shift a bit and didn’t feel good. I wanted to get out of there fast.
We entered the classroom and found kids fighting already. They had cleared the whole room of the desks and one of the desks near the middle of the room was even on fire, so they could see each other. Somehow they’d rigged it into a homemade torch.
We were lucky this room had more light. Some kids even had flashlights they’d stolen from the janitors closets, in addition to the fire. But the room had the resemblance of what a prison takeover might look like.
The boys in the room were howling like they were all crazy and mad. They were whooping and jumping around and bumping into each other. All of it was rough play and what you might see in a chaotic war culture of some natives in uncivilized lands.
I was surprised how fast things were coming apart.
“Oh hell, it’s already started,” I said as we charged in. After entering the room I saw it was even worse than I’d thought, and I’d thought really badly of it. This wasn’t even like how people were…
It was total anarchy. Boys were punching and fighting and kicking each other and the girls too in some spots. Someone had even had his arm pushed into the fire and was burned up and limping away from it. Some of them were cowering by the walls, and a lot of them were bloody, with black eyes, and some had been smacked down with heavy chairs.
Suddenly we realize this situation could be deadly fast. We’d been hoping it wouldn’t get to that, but with this many people in total chaos and then someone starts to fight over stuff like first aid kits and emergency blankets or food.
I didn’t expect they’d start hurting each other this soon…
There were a few bodies too, but I wasn’t sure if that was because of them being knocked out or dead; or whether it was from the fighting or falling debris, or both. But it still looked like a war zone. Some of the bad kids had used blood from the bodies to paint anarchy symbols and death skulls on the blackboard.
The girls in the room were in varying states of undress with ripped clothes, but thankfully it looked like the chaos had only barely started. Some of them were being held against their will.
“I forgot there are two big gangs in our school,” Yumi said.
“Yeah, we’ve been meaning to do something about that,” Asakura said.
“Are you serious? Why would they let them stay if they know they are trouble?” I asked.
“The problem is you have to prove they have harmful intent to the school or some crap like that,” Asakura said.
We stared in shock. That wasn’t the worst of it.
Then I suddenly saw the teacher’s body.
It was Noru Sensei.
He was a popular gym teacher, and into weight training and physical education of all kinds. He even was rumored to practice judo. But he was definitely dead. But curiously he wasn’t dead from the earthquake. Someone had smashed him to death with chairs, and even one of the chair legs was still sticking out of his guts, and kids were kicking his lifeless head with the jaw hanging down.
Now I understood that someone pure evil was in charge and had dispatched what was preventing him from having his way. Noru Sensei represented the authority in the room and the semblance of control. So someone must have opposed him. The wounds on his body also didn’t match what would look like wounds from earthquake debris.
The two girls with me were too shocked to say anything right away.
I think the scene of them desecrating his body was permanently etched into my eyelids and I felt really sad. I knew this person. He was a real person; not just a number, and a good person. That worried me even more.
“Oh wow!” Miss Asakura exclaimed.
But that was the wrong thing to do. I saw how quickly the kids had already started circling her like wolves. They’d heard her voice crying out and recognized who it was.
I had to act quickly. Plus Rina was hopefully still alive in this room. But where? I felt choked up hoping she wasn’t one of the bodies…
Behind us also, I’d already heard sounds of fighting coming from one of the other classes near us. It wouldn’t be long now. Soon the other classes would start to panic. We were running out of time.