This is only but one of many possibilities of how the end will play out.
I love my master very much. It’s not that type of love. I don’t know how I would survive without him. He was the one who saved me.
I shoved my hands deep into my coat pockets. My master walked beside me, eyes to the ground with a Seven Stars cigarette hanging out of his mouth. I always wondered why he smoked that particular brand. Come to think about it, there is so much that I don’t know about Mikado Ryugamine. He barely talks at all. He’s always looking at as if something is on his mind. I get the feeling that he’s trying to close me out for some reason. Mikado is there, but yet I feel like we are so far away. His son, Akira, ran around in front of us as the little flakes of snow fell in his messy black hair.
“I told you it won’t do you any good to ask any questions about me,” my master spoke up. I about jumped as I looked up.
“Don’t do that!” I shouted.
“Maybe you should try to keep your thoughts to yourself,” Mikado said, shrugging. That’s another thing about my master. He’s not exactly human. Well, he’s human, but not human at the same time. He calls himself a tadpole. From what I have heard in the past, they are like gods or something. They have many powers. My master can see a person’s inner demons. He has a few other powers as well.
“Maybe you shouldn’t be listen in on my thoughts all the time,” I said. Mikado took out his cigarette and breathed out the smoke.
“That’s just how I am,” he said.
“You are a strange man sometimes,” I said. I’ve tried several times to figure him out. I can’t tell what is on his mind half of the time. He won’t tell me anything about himself. I don’t know where he came from or what his motives are. I’ve tried to get him to open up to me, but he always turns me down.
“The less you know about me, the better,” he says.
“Why is that?” I asked. He gently grabbed me by the wrists.
“Let’s just leave it at that,” Mikado said. Every time he pulls something like that, I come away more frustrated than when I asked him in the first place. I sighed and looked up at the pitch black sky. The tiny flakes of snow fell endlessly around us. I’m still getting used to seeing stars in the city sky. Only dim lighting surrounded the streets of Roppongi. We arrived here three days ago. Akira, my master, and I don’t stay in one place for long. At most, we stay for three days. I don’t know why we keep moving so much. I want to say that Mikado is looking for something or someone. I could help him, but he won’t tell me anything. Akira ran around us with is arms out. Heh, at least he’s happy.
“Akira-kun!” Mikado shouted. The little boy froze in his tracks and lowered his arms. My master reached out and patted him on the head.
“Let him be,” I said. “He’s been cooped up in that hotel room for three days. Can you blame him for being a little antsy? Let him enjoy the snow.” Mikado drew back his hand.
“Fine,” he muttered. I will get into more about his relationship with Akira at a later time.
“How long are we staying this time?” I asked.
“Hm,” my master said. “I don’t really know. I haven’t really thought about that.” We don’t stay in one place for too long. What is the whole point? Most of east Japan is practically a ghost town. Six years and it’s getting worse. Ikebukuro’s been quarantined off. Just looking at it from the pictures, it puts Chernobyl to shame. The government didn’t even collect the peoples until three years later. Now, the “plague” that killed Ikebukuro is spreading to the rest of Japan, slowly but surely. Last year, Akihabara, Ginza, and the Meguro Distract all had to be closed off and evacuated when the people started showing the symptoms just like in the rest of Tokyo. Almost all of the city looks vacant. I wonder how long before it reaches the rest of the country. My master doesn’t appear to be fazed by any of it. He and his son keep walking. I just follow wherever he goes. I don’t have anywhere else to go. Most of everyone close to me has died. Either by the “plague” or murdered. My boyfriend was killed by the former while the latter happened to my mother. Everyone we’ve run into have lost somebody. I look at my master and wonder who he’s lost.
I looked down at all of the footsteps in the snow. Two big sets and one tiny set. I looked at my thick black boots. How long have I had these? I remembered my boyfriend bought me these when we shared our first Christmas together. He used to tease me about how big my feet were. “Elephant hooves” is what he called them. I always did have fat ankles.
“Your ankles are not that fat,” Mikado spoke up. I turned to him with big eyes. Does he always have to do that? I shrugged my shoulders. Across the street, I spotted an old wind-up clock in a shop window. 12:45 a.m. already? It didn’t feel like it.
“You’re not hungry or anything?” my master asked. I lifted my head.
“Hm? Oh, no,” I said. “I am a bit thirsty.”
“I did see an all-night café a little ways back,” Mikado said. “Come with me.” He put his arm around my waist and dragged me along.
“You sure that’s okay?” I asked.
“Sure,” he said. “I don’t mind back-tracking for a little bit. We’re not going to be staying in Roppongi for long anyway.” My master looked over his shoulder.
“Akira! Come!” he shouted. The little boy ran behind us. I gave up on arguing with Mikado at this point. He knew what he was doing. It’s still better than where I was six years ago.
My master found me Kabukicho. Through a chain of circumstances, I ended up in a rough place. Originally, I was born in Seattle Washington. Dad was never in the picture from what I could remember. My family was only grandma, mom, and myself. Mom always struggled to hold down a job. Grandma struggled with her health as well. Despite that, they both made life work for me.
By the time I was ten, two things happened in my life that really set me on this path. First, my grandmother was at her bridge club meeting one evening during the summer. I don’t exactly remember how the story went. But, I think she was trying to go upstairs and twisted her ankle. She ended up falling down the stairs. That’s the best of how I remember how it went. The details are a bit hazy at best. Either way, she ended up in the hospital. Turns out, my grandmother had a whole host of problems that she had been keeping a secret.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” mom asked.
“You have enough problems as it was,” grandma said in her bed. “You still need a better job and Jessie’s a growing girl.” She broke down coughing. How bad had she gotten? She wouldn’t tell me every time I went to visit her. Grandma was quick to distract me by changing the subject. We talked about school, my swimming classes, the weather, the good old days, what I wanted for Christmas, and everything else in between. Mom got frustrated when I reported back to her.
“Damn it!” she would complain. “You can’t let her distract you like that!” Mom gave up on using me to get information out of grandma. By Christmastime, Grandma’s health grew worse. We wondered how long she would hang on. Mom was surprised that she hung on until next year. I remember the day that she day. It was the first day of school for me. Mom called me in the middle of my class on cell phone. I took the call in the girl’s bathroom.
“Sweetie, grandma is dead,” Mom told me. I literally froze in the bathroom.
“What?” I asked.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. I sank to my knees as everything around me disappeared in a blur. I don’t remember if mom said anything else in that phone call. The only thing I could hear in my mind was Gary Jules’ version of “Mad World”. I think I started singing along in that moment. Mom was calling me over the phone, I think. We held the funeral that weekend. My head felt like it was underwater. My life suddenly felt more empty.
The second event that set my life on this path was when mom got a better job. She realized that with grandma dead, she would have to really step up and keep us together. After weeks of applying for different jobs, mom got a call back from a company based in Okinawa, Japan. At first, she wasn’t too sure about this.
“Are you okay with possibly moving to another country?” she asked while we were in the park one day.
“Why?” I asked.
“Well, mommy’s going in for a job interview today,” she said. “If I do get the job, we might have to move one day.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Now, I might not get the job,” mom told me. “I’m only tell you so there won’t be any surprises later on down the road.” I didn’t know how to take this. I didn’t want to leave Seattle, but it was good to see mom doing more than just moping around the house for a change. I pressed my lips together and nodded.
“Okay,” I lied. Mom pulled me into an embrace.
“I love you so much,” she said. I forced myself to smile as I reluctantly hugged her back. Deep down, part of me hoped that she wouldn’t get the job. But, mom kept doing so well on her interviews. I could see in her eyes the excitement that I hadn’t seen in my life. She started planning out what she wanted to do once she got the job.
“You’ve never been outside of Seattle before, have you?” she asked after the third job interview. “I’ve always wanted to go to California or Texas for vacation. Ooo, maybe we could even go up to Maine or Canada!” Her enthusiasm scared me at times. I would just sit quietly at the table and nod. I hated to think what would happen if she didn’t get this job that she was getting excited for. My fears and relief were met the last day of elementary school. I had just gotten home when I found my mom sitting in the living room, smiling. This wasn’t the smile she had when she upset or embarrassed either. She looked ready to shout something at the top of her lungs.
“Did something good happen today?” I asked with caution. Mom jumped to her feet.
“I got the job!” she said. It felt like I got hit by a bus. I couldn’t move as mom ran over and hugged me. I mean, I was happy that she finally got the job, but I wasn’t too thrilled at the possibility that we would possibly leave Seattle for good. Mom picked me up off of the ground.
“We have to go out and celebrate,” she said. “Do you feel like Italian or seafood tonight?” I don’t remember how I answered her. I don’t even think I answered her at all. I was too busy trying to manage the gravity of the situation.
Mom started work at her job in July. I had never seen her so happy before in my life. She started making new friends, eating healthier, cooking more often, dressing more organized, and even falling in love. On the one hand, I was so happy to see her more upbeat and taking better care of herself. But in the back of my mind, I had the feeling that something was going to hit us. I counted down to the day that we would be uprooted.
That time came when I was twelve.
I remembered that summer too. I had my first crush on this boy that was older than me. His parents worked in the same company that my mom did. I thought he was the most beautiful boy that I had ever seen. We met on the playground near my house. I thought he was an angel when I laid eyes on him. He looked so big and brave on that pirate ship in the middle of the park. I loved the way that the sun shone on his short deep brown hair. I loved his grey Nike t-shirt and navy shorts. Could such a beautiful, perfect boy exist? I had to go over and talk to him.
I gathered up my little nerve and walked over to that pirate ship. But then, my cell phone hang.
“Hello?” I asked in a huff.
“Sweetie, where are you right now?” mom asked.
“The playground, why?” I said. I looked at the big plastic pirate ship, pacing around. I hoped that she was just checking on me and I could go back to perusing that boy on the ship.
“I need you to get home as soon as you can,” she said. “I have something to tell you.” I stamped my foot and groaned.
“But…” I complained.
“Come home right now,” she said. I threw back my head and groaned.
“Fine,” I grumbled. I hung up before she could say another word. I took one more look at that pirate ship before turning to leave. To my dismay, that beautiful boy was already gone. If I didn’t think my day couldn’t get any worse, I was about to be in for another shock when I got home.
At dinner, mom announced that her job was shipping her out to Okinawa. Even though I knew this was coming, it still devastated me.
“What?!” I cried.
“Baby, we talked about this,” mom said. “You knew this was coming eventually. Work has been going so well lately that they are branching out all over the world.” I threw down my fork and folded my arms across my chest.
“I don’t want to go!” I shouted.
“You can have no choice, sweetie,” she said in a calm tone. “You have nowhere else to go.” I stood up and stormed off to my room. I wouldn’t come out for the whole weekend. I should’ve seen this coming, but it still felt like a betrayal. I would have to leave the only place that I knew as home. I didn’t have that many friends, but I would still be leaving behind the people I enjoyed talking to. Plus, I would never get to talk to that beautiful boy I met in the playground. I pulled myself into a ball and started crying.
Mom and I started packing up over the course of two weeks. My old room started to look more and more empty with each passing day. We would be moving before I started seventh grade that year. I couldn’t see myself in a foreign country. I prayed that this was just a really bad dream that I would wake up from. Mom, on the other hand, was counting down the days to start her new life. She kept calling it a new adventure. She had so many dreams that she wanted after the move.
“It would be nice to have a father figure in your life,” she said. Just once I wanted to scream at her to stop grinning all of the time. It felt as if in the process of fixing herself, she lost sight of me.
By moving day, I knew this wasn’t a dream anymore. Most of our belongings had already been shipped to the new house in Okinawa. We would be living in company housing. At least, six over families would be leaving the country that year. Mom and those employees would be working on the new branch opening in mainland Japan. We left for the airport that morning. I held my teddy bear to my chest as I sat in the car.
“You still have that bear?” mom asked. I wouldn’t even make eye contact.
“Yeah,” I said. Mom nudged me on the arm.
“Come on,” she said. “Think of this as a start to a new life.” I frowned as I looked at the rain on the windshield. Mom turned on the radio and pulled out of our driveway for the last time.
For the next three years, I got used to Japan. My mom got lost in the new world around her. She found herself a boyfriend in the new branch. His name was Jun and he was from Yokohama. He lived in the mainland, but worked mostly in Okinawa. I didn’t have much to say about Jun back then and I still don’t now. I was just happy to see mom happy.
“Are you going to marry him?” I asked when I was fourteen. She blushed with the soapy dish rag in her hand.
“I don’t know,” she confessed. “I haven’t thought about that. It still too early for that. We’ve only been dating for about a year now.”
“A year?” I asked.
“Well, I like taking things slow,” mom said. “It didn’t work out with your father so well. I am not too keen into jumping right into another relationship.”
“Whatever you say,” I said. By that time, I didn’t mind. I had found a boyfriend of my own. You remember that beautiful boy I saw in the playground that day? I have a funny little story to tell you about that.
When I turned thirteen, one of my mom’s coworkers gave me a video camera on my birthday. I developed a taste in filming and started recording my trips to mainland Japan on the weekends. On one such trip, I was in Akihabara. I walked around the crowded streets, shooting film like I normally did. I was waiting to cross the street when I happened to spot a cute boy walking into an electronic store. My camera stayed focused on him as something about his profile triggered something in my memories. Where had I seen him from before? My brain ran around in circles, looking for the answer. My camera didn’t turn away as the traffic light turned to walk. I headed straight for that electronic store. I watched as that boy in the brown jacket browsed the mp3 player aisle. Why did I start thinking about that boy on the plastic pirate ship back in Seattle?
I should’ve kept track of how long I was standing there filming because I noticed that boy pull out a cell phone and start filming me back. I jumped with the camera in my hand. What was this? I didn’t get to figure that out because the store owner came to me with an angry look on his face.
“Get out of here with that!” he said. I turned off my camera and dashed away as fast as I could. I wound up in a maid café, sitting alone at the window. I watched back the footage of the boy in the store. Where have I seen him from before? For some reason, I wanted to place him on that pirate ship, but I didn’t get a good look at that boy’s face back then. Mom killed all chances of me being sure of that. I still hadn’t gotten over that.
“Is this seat taken?” a heard over my head. I looked up to that boy who I was filming in the electronic store. He appeared just at the same time that he turned his phone on me in the film. My face turned bright red as I tried to delete the footage. This boy looked down at my camera.
“Tell me, do you like filming random strangers for no reason?” he asked. I looked up at him, frowning and blushing.
“No,” I mumbled. “But why were you filming me?”
“Why were you filming me?”
I frowned as I puffed up my cheeks. “I didn’t mean to. You just remind me of someone I saw back in America.” This boy gave me a sympathetic smile.
“May I join you?” he asked.
“If you want to,” I mumbled. I tried not to make eye contact as he slid into the booth in front of me. I caught a glance of him out of the corner of my eye. His smile could rival the sun. The boy leaned forward on the table.
“Tell me, are you always filming around the city?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I mumbled. “I love filming things.”
“My name’s Josh. And you are?”
I slowly turned my head. One look at his face and cupid shot me in the chest. His brown eyes pulled me deep into his gaze. I don’t think I’ve ever seen teeth so white. The cheek bones and the jaw line told me he was going to be a man really soon. I tried to put that little boy’s face over his.
“J-J-Jessie,” I said. Josh’s raised his eyebrow.
“Look, I know I’m pretty, but you can talk to me like a normal person,” he said. I gave him a blank stare. Usually, I would smack a guy for sounding so cocky. But the way he said that made him that much sexier.
“So what else do you film on there?” Josh asked. I looked down at my camera.
“I just film whatever city I’m in for the weekend,” I said.
“Do you film unsuspecting strangers too?” he asked.
“No.” I gritted my teeth. “You aren’t going to let it go, aren’t you?”
“Why should I? You were the one filming me without my permission.”
I sat back with my arms folded across my chest. “Look, I’m sorry. I got caught up in the moment. Is there anything I can do to make it up to you?” Josh leaned in with a cat-like smirk.
“Let me take you out on date,” he said. All of the color drained from my face.
“What?!” I asked. Josh smirked as he shrugged at me.
“Hey, what do you have to lose?” he asked. “On the one hand, the date can be the best thing you’ve ever had, but on the other it could be a disaster. You have a fifty-fifty chance of this playing in your favor. So, what’s it going to be?” I didn’t whether to scream or hit him. How can such a person sound so arrogant? I could’ve just got up and walked away.
“We don’t have to do anything fancy and lavish,” Josh added. “We can just have lunch here and then walk around Akihabara.”
“Wait, you want to go on a date… now?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Josh said, nodding. How did this happen?
“So… Are we on a date… now?” I asked.
“If you want us to be” he said. I struggled for something to say for ten minutes. At last, I gave up and lowered my eyes.
“Fine, we’re on a date now,” I complained. Josh smirked and raised his arm in the air. A waitress came by our table.
“Are you ready to order?” she asked. Josh sat back smiling. Our “date”, if you can call it that, was rather… awkward. I didn’t know what to make of the guy. This cocky asshole couldn’t have been the boy on the pirate ship. But, he acted like a gentleman around me. Josh didn’t try to do anything perverted or say anything degrading. In fact, he treated me like a person. His eyes stayed on my face. Josh didn’t let me pay for lunch.
“I don’t let girls pay on the first date,” he said. “Besides, I pushed this on you. Let me be the one to treat you today.” I sat there was dumb look on my face.
“O… Okay…” I said. He meant that too. Josh paid for everything. We spent that Saturday walking around the rest of Akihabara. I went back to filming on my camera. Josh and I talked as he added commentary to my film. To my surprise, the date turned out rather nice.
“Can I see you again?” I asked. Josh gently patted me on the head.
“You can see me any time you want,” he said. “Give me your number.” I took out my phone and exchanged numbers with him. It didn’t take long for us to start dating. Everything was going good for me that year. I was starting to like Japan and mom was happy with her boyfriend and job. Maybe, I foolishly believed that our happiness could last.
That all got wiped away when the apocalypse happened.
It all started when Ikebukuro became infected with a plague, killing almost the entire population. Over three days, that neighborhood became a ghost town. The government officials cordoned it off from the rest of the city, but the damage was already done. The plague was starting to spread through Tokyo. More and more people started to flee the city. Nobody could figure out what the cause was or how to reverse the effects. There wasn’t enough to time to find the cure either. How long before all of Japan became infected? What about the rest of the world?
Josh and I were in Akihabara when the plague started to spread through Tokyo. We were at the train station when things started to shut down. I had put my pass through the slot in the gate, but it got rejected.
“What’s going on?” I asked. I tried three more times, but no dice. Josh tried with his pass and got the same results.
“What the hell?” he asked. The jingle of the loudspeaker ripped through the air.
“Attention passengers, all trains arriving in and departing from Tokyo have been canceled,” the lady said. “I repeat, all trains arriving in and departing from Tokyo have been canceled. That is all.” Collective groans and what’s filled the station. I turned to Josh with a worried look on my face. He put his hand on my shoulder.
“I’m sure that this won’t be too long,” he said. “We’ll probably be back in Okinawa by tomorrow.” His words didn’t sound so sure. I pulled out my cell phone and tried to call home.
“What the hell?” I asked. My phone’s screen was pitch black. I tried to turn it on, nothing happened.
“I know I charged this thing up last night,” I said. “I don’t remember dropping it or anything.”
“What’s the matter?” Josh asked. I showed him my cell phone.
“Is the battery dead?” he asked.
“It shouldn’t be,” I said. “I charged it last night like I always do. It won’t turn on or anything.” Josh pressed many buttons, but nothing happened.
“Are you’re sure you charged it up?” he asked.
“Yes!” I insisted.
“Hang on,” Josh said. He reached into his bag and pulled out his own phone. My boyfriend looked just as confused as I was.
“The fuck?” he asked.
“What’s the matter?” I asked. Before Josh could answer, we looked around when we heard people freaking out. Every single cell phone stopped working in the train station. I remembered hearing something like this happening in Ikebukuro. This was the first sign of the plague.
“Oh no…” I murmured. I reached for Josh’s hand.
How was this possible? They had closed off Ikebukuro. All I could think about was my mom. I would usually be on the train back to the boat station by now.
“I think I’m going to be sick,” I whispered.
For a whole year, it turned into waiting and seeing. Every day, I worried about my mom. I couldn’t contact her and I couldn’t leave Tokyo. Josh and I stayed holed up in that hotel room we stay in Akihabara. He tried to comfort me, but I could see that he was starting to get worried too. I thought about trying to reach mom’s boyfriend, but I couldn’t remember his address.
“I think he lives somewhere in Aoyama,” I said in a panic as I paced around in the hotel room on the first night. “I don’t have a way to reach him and I don’t remember where he lives. Oh, what am I going to do? What am I going to do?” Josh pulled me into his arms.
“Calm down!” he shouted. “We can still try to call back home.” My boyfriend pointed over at the phone on the nightstand. I blinked for a minute.
“Oh…” I mumbled. Now that I thought about, people were lined up everywhere trying to use the payphones around Akihabara. I guess they had the same idea Josh had just now.
“You’re right,” I said. “I forgot about that.”
“You go first,” he said.
“Thanks,” I said. I walked over and dialed my house. My stomach turned as I heard it ringing.
“Come on. Pick up. Pick up,” I whispered.
“Hello?” I heard my mom said on the other line. I breathed out as I flopped back onto the bed.
“Mom, it’s me,” I said.
“Jessie? Jessie, is that you?” she asked. “Are you okay? Where are you are?”
“Yes, mom,” I said. “Are you okay?”
“Yes. I have Anzai with me.”
“Oh, that’s good. Josh and I are in a hotel room at the moment. We can’t leave and our phones don’t work. It’s just like it was in Ikebukuro.”
“You’re not hurt or anything, are you?”
“I will send you money by morning, okay?”
“Okay, thank you. I love you, mom.”
“I love you too, baby.”
I hung and looked over at Josh. I handed him the phone and he got to call his parents back in Okinawa.
Just like everyone else trapped in Tokyo, we had to try and make things work. The trains were still shut down by one month later. Cell phones had become useless. Nobody was allowed to leave any part of Tokyo. Rumor had it that people still trapped in Ikebukuro had escaped and were wandering the city.
“Something like that isn’t possible,” Josh said over a pizza dinner in our hotel room in the middle of July. “They’ve got that whole area on lock down. There is no way anyone could get in or out of there.”
“So why are we on lock down?” I asked.
“Probably one of the survivors they picked up was a carrier and spread it to someone on the outside.”
“How much long are we going to be like this?” I asked. “I want to go home. I miss seeing my mom in person and I’m running out of film again.” I looked at my video camera sitting in the corner of the room, charging. When did that stop being fun? Josh rubbed me on the shoulder.
“We will get home soon,” he told me. “They might find out this was a hoax or find a way to fix it. We will be getting home. Keep that in mind.” The more he spoke, the more I desperately wanted to believe him. By now, Josh was starting to doubt himself. I couldn’t blame him. Everyone in Akihabara felt cut off. The only way people could keep in talk with each other was the land lines, internet, or in person. Supplies had to be flown in and delivered to the people of Tokyo. Why couldn’t we take to the skies and leave? I wondered that. We all waited and waited for something to happen. Where would the plague strike next?
In the second year of the lock down, Josh couldn’t take it anymore.
“Pack up, we are leaving!” he said in mid-October.
“But where?” I asked.
“Anywhere!” he shouted. “I can’t stand this anymore! I hate this hotel room. Akihabara’s become boring. Plus, the interest has been slowing down everywhere.”
“Wait, what?” I asked.
“Yeah, the internet start slowing down this morning,” Josh said. “I went down to the laptop to check my e-mail, but the clerk at the front desk told me that the internet in the hotel was down.”
“Are you sure it’s not just the hotel?”
“That was my thought too. The internet has been slowing down in hotels, internet cafés, manga cafes, and everywhere else in Akihabara.”
“You’re kidding. You don’t think…?”
“I do not wish to find out. Pack up now!”
I leapt off of the bed and started packing up. Josh paid our bill and we took the only running bus to Shinjuku. At the time, we didn’t know that the plague was taking over at slow, but massive rate. We didn’t know that people exposed would show the symptoms for months or even years. By the time the bus reached Shinjuku, government officials were turning us back.
“What’s going on?” the bus driver asked.
“We cannot allow you entry,” one of the guards said. “This part of Tokyo is on lockdown. You have to turn back.” Every passenger on the bus looked at each other with stunned looks on their faces. First Ikebukuro and now Shinjuku? I grabbed Josh by the hand.
“What do we do now?” I whispered.
“We will keep going,” he said back.
“Anywhere!” He snorted as he squeezed my hand.
“Ow,” I said through clenched teeth. I happened to look up and notice the other passengers were staring at us.
“So, where can I go?” the driver asked the guard outside.
“You will have to go back or change your route,” the guard said. “But you will not be allowed to pass.” The passengers groaned around us. So, the bus turned around back to Akihabara. That didn’t mean, Josh and I went back. We ended up heading towards Harajuku. However, I ended up being hit with another tragedy.
It all started when we side-tracked to Kabukicho. Josh said that he pick up something in that district.
“But isn’t that near Shinjuku?” I asked.
“It’s okay,” he said. “It will only take a day. I will be back by tomorrow. I promise. Just go onto Harajuku without me.”
“But how will you find me?” I asked.
“Go to the Shibuya Tobu Hotel. Try and get us a room there. Here.” He handed me his credit card. “Just use this. I will come by the hotel and look for you.” Josh sighed when he saw the desperate look on my face.
“I’ll be back, I promise,” he said. My boyfriend gave me a quick kiss before he got back into the cab. I stood on the sidewalk and watched it pull away.
That would be last time I would see Josh looking so healthy.
A day wound up be three days. On top of having no way to contact him, I didn’t know where in Kabukicho he went. I didn’t hear anything different on the news saying that the plague had spread to that part in Tokyo. I tried to distract myself by talking to mom every day and looking for anything to film in Harajuku. Everything appeared normal in that neighborhood. I didn’t stop thinking about Josh at all.
One morning, I got a phone call from the front desk.
“Hello?” I asked, half-asleep. I heard heavy panting on the other line.
“Hello?” I asked.
“Jessie!” a voice wheezed on the other line.
“It’s me, Jessie.”
My eyes widened as I shot up straight. “Josh?” I heard a raspy chuckle on the other line.
“I finally made it to Harajuku,” he said.
“Okay… Why don’t you come up to the room? I’m in room 295.”
Josh chuckled over the phone. “I really wish that I could, but…” I about jumped at the sound of loud coughing.
“Baby?” I asked.
“I’m fine,” he said. The coughing grew louder on the other line. I had never heard such a sound as he coughed harder. I hung up and ran out of the room. By the time I got down to the lobby, the guards stopped me in the hall.
“I’m sorry, you can’t go in there,” one of them said, pushing me back.
“Why not?!” I screamed. I tried to get a peek over his shoulder. Josh was slumped over on the receptionist desk, pale and couching. He could barely hold himself up. My boyfriend lifted his head and laughed while coughing.
“Oh, I didn’t want you to see me like this,” he whispered.
“Josh! Josh! Josh!” I screamed as I tried to push past the guards.
“I’m sorry, miss,” the other guard told me. “He’s going downtown into quarantine.”
“Quarantine?” I asked. “Can’t you take him to the hospital?”
“We don’t know how bad off he is,” the first guard explained. “He needs to be taken and examined before we can figure out what to do next.”
“He needs medical help!” I shouted. No sooner had I said that, Josh started coughing again. A huge ball of blood splashed onto the reception desk. Josh collapsed to the tiled floor.
“Josh!” I screamed as I fought to run over to him. The guards pushed me further back as government officials walked into the lobby. They picked Josh up from the floor and carried him off with them. I screamed as he disappeared from view. The last thing I remembered before blanking out was collapsing to my knees, sobbing.
Josh stayed in quarantine days. I couldn’t understand why he went to Kabukicho. He should’ve known that the plague would’ve spread from Shinjuku. What the hell was he thinking? Talking to mom on the hotel phone helped me stay calm. At best, I helped that they would give Josh some medicine to help him leave quarantine. But, I still couldn’t get the gut feeling that the worst was coming.
Ten days later, I heard a knock on my hotel door.
“Yes?” I asked.
“Is this Jessie Goodwin’s room?” a man’s deep voice asked.
“Yes?” I asked. Curious, I walked over to the door and removed the tissue from the peep hole. A government official stood outside in the hallway. I opened the door a crack.
“Yes?” I asked.
“I’m sorry to inform you of this but your boyfriend died last night,” he said. I felt like everything inside of me drained through the floor. Everything went black as I hit the floor.
When I came to, I was lying on the hotel bed. A maid was sitting at the foot.
“Oh good, you’re awake,” she said. “Are you okay?” I sat up, blinking.
“What happened?” I asked. “Who are you?”
“You fainted a couple of hours ago,” the maid said. “The government official put you on the bed and asked me to keep watch over you until came to.” It all sank in as I started to remember. My eyes filled with tears.
“I’m so sorry for your loss,” the maid said. I dropped my head and cried.
I had to survive on my own after Josh’s death. I couldn’t go home and I didn’t know anyone else on the mainland. My boyfriend’s credit card could only go so far. I only used my cash cards to pay for food and supplies that I needed. I would probably need to make some money for myself in case the inevitable happened. Everywhere I looked, everyone was tense about the situation going down. The government was trying to fly people out of Tokyo last year, but now that’s becoming too risky. Healthy people were suddenly coughing up blood and collapsing in the streets around Akihabara, Shibuya, and the Shibuya District. Nobody could figure out how this plague was being spread. It seemed to change patterns whenever it felt like it. People were trying to pin down the symptoms.
I just wanted to go home. Filming lost all of its appeal. Talking to mom on the phone was the only one keeping me sane. I couldn’t help but wonder what Josh had to go Kabukicho to risk his life for. The more I thought about, the angrier I became. What was he thinking?
I got sick of staring at my hotel room one night in April and decided to get a job. I went down to the hotel restaurant to get something to eat and clear my head. I looked out the window with my bowl of ramen. There was a time where I could get lost looking at the city at night while I stayed on the mainland over the weekends. But now, it just makes me feel sad. I began to think back on the happier times I had filming Ikebukuro, Harajuku, Akihabara, and all of the other neighborhoods in Tokyo. Josh would throw in little comments as I walked around filming. I’d cut together little movies when I came home. I reached up and wiped away my tears.
“Something the matter, darling?” I heard over my head. I looked up to see a man in a black t-shirt and jeans handing me a handkerchief. I took it, blinking.
“Thank you,” I whispered.
“May I sit down?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said. The man took a seat in front of me. His grey-framed glasses made him look kind of geeky. I tried not to look at his crooked teeth.
“What are you eating there?” he asked. Everything about this guy screamed creepy to me. I wanted to run away when he smiled. What was up with his mustache too? I grabbed my bowl and pulled it towards my chest.
“Ramen,” I mumbled. “It’s my dinner.”
“I see,” the man said. “You aren’t in a talkative mood, are you?”
“I don’t know who you are.”
“Ah. My name is Gushiken Eichi. What is your name?”
“Nice to meet you, Jessie.”
“Yeah.” I didn’t feel the same way about him. In fact, I started to eat faster.
“I overheard you at the front desk asking about any jobs in the area,” Eichi spoke up. I glanced up at him with my eyes narrowed.
“Why?” I asked. I didn’t like where this was headed. Mom warned me about these type of people. “I will not be involved in some sort of prostitution or organ trade!” Eichi started laughing.
“What?” I asked.
“Is that what you foreigners think men like me are?” he asked. I puffed up my cheeks as I looked away.
“Not really,” I mumbled. “Just you.”
“Aw, that’s not very nice,” Eichi said. “I just came by because I wanted to talk to you about a job offer.”
“Why me?” I asked. The man looked around the restaurant for a bit before leaning in closer.
“To be honest with you,” he said. “Kabukicho is running out of employees because this damned plague. But don’t worry, that part of Tokyo is monitored every day for anyone who’s contaminated.”
“Is that right?”
“Yes. We could use more young ladies like you to help keep Kabukicho alive as long as possible.” He took hold of my hand before I could speak up.
“Rest assured, it will be nothing illegal,” Eichi insisted. “I am just looking for a waitress at my friend’s café until he can find more workers. The way I see it, anything is better than being holed up in this hotel with nothing to do as this city dies around you. Interested?” He got me with the being holed up in the hotel bit. As much as I hated to admitted, but he did have a point. I was itching just to get out of my hotel room at least.
“Well?” Eichi asked. I puffed up my cheeks as I weighed my options.
The next day, I headed off to Kabukicho with Eichi. I still didn’t like where this was headed, but I couldn’t stand sitting around in that hotel room any longer either. Once we reached Kabukicho, Eichi took care of the paperwork. I watched him write three words across the top underneath my name.
“Female, 20, uncontaminated.”
These were going to be my selling points to get a job in Kabukicho. These were my ticket for survival in this new world. But, there was a problem. Only two of these were right. I was a female and I was “uncontaminated” as the people here claimed. But, I was only sixteen years old at the time.
“Details, details,” Eichi brushed off. “It’s not like anyone’s going to do a background check. Besides, you look a little more grown up for your age. You could easily pass yourself off as a twenty-year-old American woman. Just don’t say anything, okay?” I reluctantly nodded. Still, I didn’t like where this was headed.
I ended up working as a waitress in a sex club. I noticed that only women seemed to have an easier time getting jobs in this part of the city. Only problem was that it was for sex. They didn’t do it for money either. Most of them did it for food. I prayed that I would have to become desperate enough for that route. Eichi became my handler and got me the job. I caught on to where this would be going when they asked me some rather person questions.
“Are you a virgin?” the lady asked.
“Yes,” I said.
“Do you have any diseases?”
“Are you willing to submit to an physical examination?”
I gulped and crossed my legs. “Yes.”
“Have you been exposed to the plague?”
“Are you willing to submit to an examination of that as well.”
“Yes.” I thought those questions would never end. The examinations were worse. The plague I could handle. After that, they stripped me naked and probed me between the legs and bottom. After all that, they gave a clean bill of health.
“She’s ready for work,” the nurse told Eichi.
“Excellent,” that bastard said. The nurse gave him 200,000,000 yen. I sat on the floor, naked and huddled in a ball. I just wanted to die in that moment.
I had to serve drinks for the men every night. I worked from seven at night to six in the morning. This place stilled haunted my nightmares. The club was named Iris’. The dim lavender lights hurt my eyes. I would get a headache just by walking from all of the cigarette smoke. I would have to swallow it down and get through my shift. My uniform consisted of hot pants and a halter top. Sometimes it would be a skirt that was too short for me. (It just depended on what the manager felt like dressing me up in for the night.) I didn’t enjoy feeling exposed like this. The high heels didn’t help either. The more handsy of the customers were worse. I couldn’t tell you how many times my boobs and ass were grabbed. One times, I smacked a middle-aged man in the hand so hard that his drink spilled in his lap. The manager had to pull me into the back and have a nice long chat with me.
“You have to remember that the customer is always right,” he told me. “If he wants to grope your ass, you let him. You should be thankful that we gave you a job here. Do you understand?”
“Yes, sir,” I grumbled.
“That’s a good girl,” my manager said. He smacked me hard on the ass as I walked back out to the club. Still, I stuck it out. What other choice did I have? I still couldn’t go home and I had nowhere else to go. Sure, Eichi put me up in housing, but it was with thirty other women in the sex trade and there was no landline. I had to go across the street and call mom. To my relief, she and her boyfriend were still holding up well. Okinawa was still doing well compared to Tokyo. Sometimes, I envied her. She didn’t have to deal with seeing people collapsing in the street after coughing up blood. She had our neighbors and her boyfriend to keep her together. I couldn’t bring myself to tell her what I was doing now. It would just break her heart. Josh’s parents quit the company and moved back to the states after the death of their son. They weren’t even allowed to go to Harajuku to collect his body.
In a way, I was still lucky. I was still alive. I was clean and still a virgin. I had a job, somewhere to live, and food to eat. I thought I could stick out this sleazy cesspool a little bit longer. I believed that this would be it for me.
That when it all changed one night in August.
I was working my usual shift in Iris’. Five months in and I was about numb to everything. I could block out the cat calls and the groping. I even expected one of the usual guys in the corner to try and take a picture up my skirt again. I figured that I was used to all of this by now.
“Here are your drinks,” I said to three thuggish looking men who looked about twenty or twenty-one as I handed each of their beers to them. I tried to ignore their hungry eyes on me as I leaned down. One of those perverts grabbed me by the wrist. I winced at his grip.
“Hey,” I said. “Let go, I have to get back to work.” A thug with dyed blonde hair licked his lips at me.
“This place is lame,” he said. “Why do my boys and I show you what a real good time is?” His other two friends snickered as I tried to put on a brave face. I tried to laugh it off as I slipped from his grip.
“Maybe some other time,” I said. “I have to work right now.” I picked up my tray and walked away from the table. The blonde thug hit me on the ass as hard he could. I bit my lower lip and kept walking. I wasn’t going to give him and his creepy little friends the satisfaction.
The night dragged on like it normally did. I bit my tongue with all those men groping me and making inappropriate comments about me. I told myself that it could be worse and that I could handle it. I happened to glance out of the corner of my eye to see that blonde thug talking to my manager. Oh great, he’s making up some crap about me to get me in trouble for turning him down. I rolled my eyes and went back to work.
Around midnight, I was about to head on break in the back when someone grabbed me on the shoulder. Against my better judgement, I turned my head. That blonde creep stood over me smiling like a junkie. I didn’t even get a chance to speak up as he dragged me outside.
My back touched the metal of the trash bin behind me. When I opened my eyes, the asshole and his buddies looked at me snickering.
“What the hell?!” I shouted. The blonde douchebag smirked at me.
“I just rented you out for the rest of the night,” he bragged.
“What?” I asked. He slammed his hand against the trash bin.
“We can do whatever we want to do,” the blonde douchebag said. I reeled back from the smell of his breath.
“No!” I shouted. “Get off of me!” That bastard tried to kiss me. I slapped him in the face as hard as I could. The blonde thug gritted his teeth.
“You bitch!” he shouted. He smacked me in face back hard enough to make my lower jaw ache. I screamed as he ripped open my white blouse.
“Oh-ho!” he said as she looked down at my black and red lace bra. “Looks like the little virgin was looking for some action tonight, boys!”
“Let me go!” I screamed. I struggled to push him off of me.
“What’s going on here?” someone asked. We looked up to see a man staring at us from further down the alley. His blue eyes seemed to glow in the dark as they glared at the blonde thug. This man walked over to us. The blonde thug snorted.
“Who the fuck are you?” he asked. “We saw her first! If you want a ride, you’ll have to get in line!”
“Let her go,” the man said in a calm voice. The blonde thug gritted his teeth.
“What did you say, shithead?!” he shouted.
“I said, let her go,” the man repeated, never raising his voice. The blonde thug let go of me as if in a daze.
“Yes, sir,” he said.
“Now, you and your sad pathetic friends go and walk back inside,” the man said. “When you sit down to your drink, you will forget this whole situation.” I looked around as the other thugs went into a daze. What was going on?
“Yes, sir,” the thugs all said. I looked around as they walked past the man and myself into back into the club. I turned and stared at the man looking back at me.
“Are you okay?” he asked.
“H-H-How did you do that?” I asked. The man shrugged. I got a better look at him under the dim lights. I wanted to run my fingers through his short black spikey hair. Was it possible for eyes to be that blue? Despite it being the hottest night of the year, he wore a long black trench coat.
“It’s best that you don’t know the how,” he told me. “What is your name?” I moved my hand to my exposed chest.
“Jessie,” I answered him. He was Japanese, but he spoke perfect English. Something about his voice calmed me down. “Who are you?”
“My name is Mikado Ryugamine,” he said. “Nice to meet you.” I blinked at him as I tried to figure him out.
“I don’t get it,” I said.
“Get what?” Mikado asked.
“Why did you save me?”
“Would you rather have been left at the hands of those thugs?” He laughed as I shook my head, shivering. “Didn’t think so.”
“That’s not funny,” I muttered in a low voice.
“Would you like to get out of here?” Mikado asked. I stared at him, wide-eyed.
“And go where?” I asked.
“Anywhere,” this strange man said. “It’s certainly better than staying here. Besides, Kabukicho will share the same fate as Ikebukuro and Shinjuku in three weeks’ time.” I tilted my head.
“How do you know all of that?” I asked.
“I just know,” Mikado said. “If you are going to leave with me, we have to go tonight.”
“Wait… right now?”
“Yes. Do you have anything of value that you need to get from wherever you were staying?”
“Just my video camera, some clothes, and my wallet.”
“Alright, we’ll go get those things.”
“But… what about them?” I nudged my head over to the club. Mikado looked at the building.
“Don’t worry, I’ll handle it,” he said. Within an hour, I was released from working in that hellhole. Mikado and I went back to that apartment and gathered up my things. We left Kabukicho around midnight. And sure enough, Kabukicho fell into ruin three weeks later.
“Whoa! How did you know?” I asked. “Are you psychic or something?” Mikado put his finger to my lips.
“I told before, do not ask questions about me,” he said.
Mikado sat across from me and watched me drink my coffee. That’s another thing about my master. I’ve never seen him eat or drink anything. He never seems to lose any weight. When he does eat, it’s usually in small portions. I was really worried about his health in our earlier days together.
“It’s fine,” he insisted. “I don’t usually eat much anyway.” My master watches Akira and I eat and drink.
“You sure you don’t want any coffee yourself?” I asked.
“No, I’m good,” he said. “Yes, I am a sure.” I looked down into my coffee.
“Alright,” I said in a low voice.
“That ring on your chain, where did you get it?” Mikado asked. I paused and looked down at the silver chain around my neck. A silver and topaz ring hung in the middle. My heart sank as I looked down at the orange gems on the surface.
“Oh,” I said.
“You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to,” he said quickly, waving his hands back and forth. I shook my head.
“It’s okay,” I said. “This was what got my boyfriend killed. We were supposed to go to Harajuku when the trip to Shinjuku went bust. Josh said there was something in Kabukicho that he had to pick up. He said he would meet me in the hotel the next day.” My eyes began to fill with tears.
“Five days later, Josh arrived at the hotel, but they wouldn’t let him up to my room,” I said. “He ended up with the plague and died in quarantine. His parents couldn’t even pick up his body for the funeral. The government said that he had this in his possession. He had his grandma’s ring fitted for my size. Seems kind of foolish, doesn’t it? He risked his life for a piece of jewelry.”
“I don’t think so. He did it as a gesture of love.”
“A piece of jewelry wasn’t worth his life.”
“I guess he thought that since the world was ending, he might as well.”
“I still don’t think it’s worth it.” I finished off my coffee before setting aside my cup. Akira had his little head leaned against my side as he slept. I reached over for a napkin and wiped away the drool from his little mouth. My master leaned forward with his chin propped up on his hands.
“I’ve decided, we’re leaving Roppongi tonight,” Mikado said.
“So soon?” I asked. “Is the plague coming here too?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Where will we be going this time?”
“I haven’t figured that one out yet.” Mikado snubbed out the butt of his cigarette and looked out the window. I ran my eyes down his profile. Six years and I still haven’t figured him out. He was determined to keep it that way too.
“I think we should get out of Tokyo this time,” my master added.
“You sure?” I asked.
“Tokyo is dead. There is nothing for us here. Most of the people have already left and scattered to the rest of Japan. We should do the same.”
“Is that right?”
“Okay then.” Wherever he goes, I will follow him and Akira. He’s the only thing I have to survive. I can’t go home and I have no family. With this world ending, I have no idea what will happen next. But with my master and his son, I at least have a chance to hold on a little bit longer.