Chapter 2:

Gathering (Part B)

The Time Capsule - Part 1


  The sky of the first dawn of our new lives in this new world was as clear as a blue-ish vitro glass. It was almost a sacred moment, with nature proclaiming "Let there be light!". Or something. It was still rather cold though. Then, as I was at the entrance of the Mejirodai dorms it hit me. I had forgotten perhaps the most important items! Toothbrush and toothpastes! I tried smelling my breath and feeling my teeth with my tongue. Bookmark here

  My breath smelled horrible, as far as I could tell, but thankfully all my teeth felt like they remained in place. They must have been full of dental plaque though. If the activity of the bacteria of the teeth did not slow down as well I should have lost all of my teeth but somehow it appears that the pollen affected the dental bacteria as well. I can think of no scientific reason to explain that either. Bookmark here

  I turned to Yuki-chan and really looked at her for the first time. She was quite cute and looked younger than 19. Her hair was shiny and brushed and when she smiled at me her teeth were clean and almost snow white. I will not comment on her bra size, since it is irrelevant; OK fine, it was slightly larger than Fumiko-chan's; I think. I imagined she washed her hair like me so I just asked about her teeth, if she had brushed them. Bookmark here

  "Yes I did. It was the first thing I did after waking up! I grabbed two toothbrushes and quite a few toothpastes from a supermarket close to where I revived. Here, you can have the one toothbrush if you want, and keep this toothpaste as well!", she said with an open wide Colgate-like smile, as if she wanted to show off her teeth.Bookmark here

  "Ah, you are a lifesaver Yuki-chan! Thanks a lot! I am running to the toilets for a while and you can go look around dorms for survivors if you want. I will be right behind you!", I said. Bookmark here

  "No! Please! I am afraid to be left alone! I don't know who else might be here! I'm coming along and I'll wait just outside!", she pleaded with a scary expression.
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  "Fine, let's go!"
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  By the way, we had not yet seen a soul. We hadn't yet looked though.
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  The toilets obviously had no water -not a drop- but they had mirrors, and now that there was quite a bit of light I could examine how I looked and the state of my teeth. This was another surprise: they looked like they hadn't been washed for about a month or so. Not 7 decades, not 2 years, 'just' a month.
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  They were full of plaque so they would need to be brushed thoroughly, but they had not decayed beyond their early 2025 condition. "Does the pollen have antibacterial properties as well?", the scientist in me wondered. Bookmark here

  I spent almost half a liter of bottled water to brush my teeth twice and it was now clear that their state was virtually identical to their 2025 state. Everything new I discovered generated more questions upon more questions, but I had no answers yet. The toothpaste was less staled than that shampoo / body wash, and it felt like quite a bit of mint fragrance was still left in there (thank god!). It is strange how I forgot brushing my teeth when dental hygiene was something I almost religiously practiced back in the day.Bookmark here

  Then 'nature' called but the flush toilets had no water to flush. All the water in the cisterns had long evaporated. However there was still some semi-decayed toilet paper left ('Toilet paper! Another important item I forgot to get!', the thought quickly crossed -and left- my mind). Reluctantly I used that rag-like paper and also spent some of the bottled water to flush. After about 10 minutes in total I was back with Yuki-chan. She had -seemingly- not moved from her spot but she had started to get restless. Bookmark here

  "Sorry I'm late, something.. er.. turned up. Maybe you want to use the lady's room as well?", I asked.
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  "It's fine, I already did. Shall we go look around the dorms? Are you sure you don't mind if I tag along with you?". Although Yuki-chan was spared being raped she must have clearly been in shock from her attempted rape; and that's on top of the shock of waking up after 7+ decades in a post-apocalyptic Tokyo. Bookmark here

  "I don't mind at all Yuki-chan. You are the first reasonable person I've talked to in 74 years so quite frankly I can use the company", I said with a soothing smile, which probably put her mind at ease; she ditched her worried look and a warm smile was drawn on her face. Bookmark here

  "But that about your girlfriend? Won't she be.. er.. jealous or something if she sees you with me right after she wakes up"?, she teased with a bratty smile. Bookmark here

  "It's OK, Fumiko-chan is not the jealous type". That's true. Kind of. She can be jealous, but within reason; she knows she can trust me, but she occasionally likes to play the jealous type either as a game or to show me -rather than tell me- that she is still into me.Bookmark here

  That presumably satisfied her, so we started walking toward the dorm rooms. Along the way we met a familiar face. He was a guy that I knew from my prep college days back when I was 18 - 19, and we hung out during that year. His name was Akira Benjiro (loosely 'the wise one who enjoys peace') and he was the same age as I was, 24 (-->26). After prep college we downgraded from friends to 'acquaintances'; we chose different courses, met new people, or simply.. life got in the way. I chose biology while Akira-kun chose electrical engineering. Bookmark here

  I recall he acquired his PhD in integrated circuit design (i.e. design of CPUs, GPUs, cutting edge stuff) just a month or so before Naturecaust struck. I wondered if he will be able to employ such expertise in this new world and how. I also wondered the same about my own expertise.Bookmark here

  "Hey Akira-kun, are you OK?", he seemed like he had just woken up, probably in a nearby room.
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  "Asahi-kun is that you?!", he rubbed his eyes to look at me be more clearly. "How are you buddy?!?", he came close and hugged me. His hair was quite long and greasy, his teeth were full of plaque, his breath smelled like that of a 103-year old witch crone that hadn't brushed her teeth in decades, his clothes were reduced to rags but I paid no attention. I was in the same state just a few hours ago. Bookmark here

  "I think I'm OK Akira-kun. I woke up 3 or 4 hours ago at Yoyogi Park, walked the entire distance, and along the way I met... tschh... I'm so rude, let me introduce you. Yuki-chan, this is Akira-kun, one of my fellow students from my college prep days. Akira-kun this is Yuki-chan. She used to be a student at our prep college". Yuki-chan slightly blushed and bowed gracefully; like a sunflower bowing toward the setting Sun. Bookmark here

  "How do you do, Akira-senpai? I may call you -senpai right?" Akira-kun also blushed, apparently because Yuki-chan saw him in such a miserable state; or because he liked Yuki-chan; or both. Time will tell I guess. Bookmark here

  "Yes you may Yuki-chan.. Sorry, but I'm a bit of a mess right now.. The morning sunlight woke me up less than 15 minutes ago. You both look fine so you must have washed, changed clothes and all that, but I must look and smell like crap. Oh kami-sama ('dear god'), my rags are see through as well!!" Bookmark here

  We both smiled without a hint of condescension since we were in the same state not too long ago. If anything I found his embarrassment to be charming. Did Yuki-chan feel the same? Bookmark here

  "We do not have a third toothbrush, unfortunately, or spare clothes, but take this bottle of water and those two meat & vegetable cans to drink and eat. Drink the water slowly. Take care of the rest later", I suggested. "There are plenty more where these came from. For now. The closest supermarket is just a 5' walk away as you know". Bookmark here

  "Thanks a lot! (he drank some water) I still want to tidy up myself a little bit though. I am thirsty (he drank some more water) but not particularly hungry right now; perhaps that's due to the awakening shock, who knows.. I want to go to the supermarket to grab some stuff (a bit more water), then go to the bathroom etc Where will you be so that I may join you later?", his awkwardness was really charming. Bookmark here

  "We go to the second floor of the dorms to look for Fumiko-chan (whom he was loosely acquainted with). If she is still in her bed slumbering we will wait there for her to wake up. If she is not we will look around for her, but remain at this facility for now. Even if she already woke up and went for 'shopping' we had already arranged to meet here in case we both slumbered. Anyway, we will be in the west wing of the second floor, see you later!", I said and Akira-kun almost bolted away from us without uttering a word, just waving his hand nervously. Bookmark here

  When he was far enough for him to hear us we both laughed (good-intentionally) at the same time. His sudden speeding away from us reminded me of the Road Runner speeding away from Wile E. Coyote and I laughed even harder. I had smiled quite a bit since I woke up but this was the first time I laughed, and laughed I did, with all my heart. And that was all thanks to my old buddy Akira-kun. The one who used to be known as the 'awkward genius'.Bookmark here

  Yuki-chan was quite amused as well, but I soon pulled myself together and said : "Let's go!". We moved hastily toward the second floor and headed for the west wing. As we approached her room my heart started racing, agitated from thoughts like 'Will she still be there? Will she still be in slumber? Is she safe?' As we passed rooms with open doors we saw some skeletons of former students. We were both used to them by now. Bookmark here

  The dead were no longer rotting, they had been completely reduced to bones and rags. As a result Tokyo was no longer smelling of rotten flesh, and neither did this dorm complex. That was quite unlike the last days back in the day, when the semi-collapsed 'authorities' were rushing in vain to collect, bury and eventually burn the dead - including the dead of their own. Bookmark here

  At first it was individual graves, then mass graves, then they started burning the dead en masse, and then, during my last week (quite earlier in countries like the United States), it was, well, utter chaos. It was a miracle this country was relatively stable for so long, with even the metro functioning during my last alert day. Bookmark here

  The only explanation I can suggest for that is the cultural makeup of the Japanese people, specifically their persistent honor and dignity, even -or, perhaps, particularly- during calamities. I think these stem from the 'Bushido Code' of the samurai class of the pre-Meiji days, which spread among most Japanese like a meme on fire after the samurai class was dissolved. During my last few days though even that dignity almost fell apart..Bookmark here

  At last we reached Fumiko-chan's room. I opened the door with my heart racing like a turbocharged Formula 1 engine. She wasn't inside, and neither was the skeleton of her roommate, who I heard passed one day before Fumiko-chan slumbered. So she already woke up, but -naturally- my head started being filled with largely irrational thoughts. Bookmark here

  'What if she is attacked by goons like the ones who attacked Yuki-chan?' was the thought that emerged above all others. 'If they hurt her I will literally kill them.. But by then it will be too late..'. Yuki-chan seemed to sense my anxiety and sat next to me on Fumiko's bed. She gently placed my hand in her hands and said,
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  "Daijobu (loosely 'It's OK', i.e. in this context 'She will be all right') Asahi-senpai, daijobu". Bookmark here

  Predictably, at exactly that moment, Fumiko-chan showed up at the door of the room carrying two full hard bags with tin cans, water bottles, various dried food paper containers (mostly chilly and noodles), a collection of meds, vitamins, a lot of toothpastes, a few toothbrushes, toilet papers, shampoos, body washes, solid soaps for general use, solid soaps for 'special' use, razor blades, tampons, the whole 9 yards and then some. Fumiko-chan did not simply look at us, she glared at the spot where our hands were joined. For a moment it almost felt like a ruby red laser beam connected her glaring eyes with our hands. Bookmark here

  "Who the frack is she Asahi-senpai? And what the heck are you doing in my room with her?". Great, she was in full-blown jealousy mode. I could not tell, but perhaps this was a rare moment of true jealousy. She enunciated 'she' and 'with her' mercilessly, as if they were razor sharp shurikens (Ninja stars) thrown directly at our hearts, comedy manga style. Yuki-chan was startled, or more likely afraid, and swiftly moved her hands away from mine.Bookmark here

  "Calm down Fumiko-chan; I know it's a very old cliche but this is really not what it looks like. Her name is Yuki-chan and she used to be a freshman at Tokyo Uni., at its college prep. I don't mean to brag or anything but I met her while saving her from two goons who were after her in order to rape her. She just held my hand to console me because I did not find you here and my mind started conjuring horrible things that might have happened to you, rapists chasing you, deranged killers with foamy mouths brandishing bloody axes..."Bookmark here

  She placed her index finger vertically on my lips and uttered "Shush..." slowly. She glared one last time at both me and Yuki-chan and then... burst into laughter! The little minx fooled me. Again. This why I love her!
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  "I knew that I would find you two here Aho-senpai ('aho' means 'fool'). Akira-senpai let me know a few minutes ago. I don't know why but the dude was running; fast. I had no idea you were almost raped though", she turned toward Yuki-chan,
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  "Sweetie I apologize if my 'jealousy play' was a little insensitive. I was planning to have more fun with Asahi-senpai but I killed my game when I heard about your attempted rape. Kawaisō ('you poor thing') how are you holding up? Daijobu?".Bookmark here

  "I think I'm OK now Fumi... may I call you Fumiko-senpai?", Fumiko-chan nodded. "I am still afraid to be left alone though". Bookmark here

  "Do not worry Yuki-chan, that is not going to happen, you are with us now", Fumiko-chan said reassuringly. She then hugged her and kissed her cheek. From jealousy mode she was now in 'motherly mode', but this was not a game. This was realBookmark here

  "On second thought, may I call you oneesan ('older sister')?", Yuki-chan asked. "I lost mine during the third week of Naturecaust, you see", she noted sadly. Fumiko-chan's eyes glowed like light bulbs. I knew that glow well. There was some.. hunger in it. In this case perhaps a need as well. She was bonding with Yuki-chan much faster than I expected.Bookmark here

  "What a... coincidence, I also lost my imouto ('younger sister') a week or so before I slumbered. Yes you may Yuki-chan. I might in turn call you 'imouto' in time; not now though because her loss still feels very raw", she said sadly as she recalled Ichika-chan ('one thousand flowers'), who was three years younger than her when she passed into the Great Beyond. Perhaps because she wanted to kick the sad thoughts from her mind Fumiko-chan tried to measure Yuki-chan's bra size with her eyes, discreetly. Bookmark here

  She frowned and a very soft "Tsch.." escaped the side of her lips. Fumiko-chan could somehow measure bra sizes with just a glance, so just like I thought Yuki-chan was bigger than her, though barely. I suppose that you good people from the dawn of the 23rd century must have too many problems on your mind to care about bra sizes, but please allow to me to lighten up the mood a bit; for my own sake -and sanity- as well. Bookmark here

  Our conversation and the bra size contest were interrupted by the arrival of Akira-kun who was not alone. A teenage boy that looked like 16 or 17 was with him. Akira-kun wore new clothes, had clearly washed, shaved, trimmed his hair and nails, and when he smiled his teeth were whiter than a Japanese Spitz dog. The boy must have just awoken though. Bookmark here

  "Good morning guys, I see you found each other. This is Haru-kun, I found him in the supermarket looking for food and he was all alone, so I asked him to join us", Akira-kun spoke quite more calmly and confidently now. His nervousness was largely gone. Bookmark here

  "Nice to meet you, my name is Haru Hiroshi ('generous spring')", Haru-kun said as he bowed. He appeared to be calm or reserved and he had a small beard hanging from his chin along with sparse but long facial hair all over his face. At that moment I realized that Fumiko-chan was (and smelled) almost as nice as in 2025. It appears that she took her time on her way back from the supermarket. Only her hair was quite longer than usual.Bookmark here

  "Nice to meet you Haru-kun", said Fumiko-chan. "Do you want to go to the toilets to freshen up a bit? They have no water but you can take this bottle if you want. Do you want me to show you the way?" Bookmark here

  "I saw where they were on the way here, thank you. I wanted to go but Akira-senpai wanted us to rush here to meet with you first. I have everything I need for now, arigato". Fumiko-chan glared at Akira-senpai in a scolding-ish way, who smiled nervously.
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  "Fine then, we will be waiting for you here. Take your time, we are not going anywhere for now", I said to the boy. Haru-kun mildly bowed and headed for the toilets. Bookmark here

  And so we were five. Haru-kun was our first minor and I hoped he was going to be the last. It might sound cruel but we would all struggle to survive if we formed an orphanage. Besides, the responsibility would be immense. Ten days have now passed since I woke up, while I'm writing this, and I've barely covered our first post-awakening day. Let's explain how I managed to write this despite the lack of power.Bookmark here

  As you are already aware I've been writing this on good old-fashioned paper with a good old-fashioned pencil. Paper of good quality lasts a long time if kept dry, the imperishable graphite core of pencils does not dry up or evaporate like the ink of pens and fountain pens, and I can also correct my mistakes with an eraser. Even if we somehow restore power later on you will be delivered this piece in the form of the same 'primitive' paper medium that I'm writing it on, id est you will receive the original - a term that was basically rendered obsolete during our digital age of old.
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  This plan might be modified if I manage to discover an old-fashioned mechanical typewriter along with a few functioning ink ribbons, and that's because my handwriting is a bit poor and I don't want it to be the cause of readability issues. I will use the same paper though.Bookmark here

  That's because this paper is special. While on the road looking for resources I found out that the gates of Bank of Japan -the central bank of Japan, which used to print Yen banknotes- were wide open. After a little wondering inside I found where they kept their very expensive (at the time) cotton paper on which they printed our banknotes. Bookmark here

  I left the already printed banknotes (tens of billions of ¥) in place, of course, since they were now useless. I just needed some high quality paper to write on. And this paper, particularly when using a pencil with a soft and dark graphite core, is so smooth to write on. Even after 74 years it has not decayed at all, though the fact that it was tucked deep inside the dry underground belly of BoJ must have helped a lot. Bookmark here

  My dear readers from the future, the second and last part of the Gathering dual chapter ends here. In the next chapter we will explore how and why I was chosen as our team's leader, the preliminary survival plans and strategies we are going to devise, why radiation from nuclear meltdowns has not killed us all, and whether Akira-kun will hook up with Yuki-chan or not, among other casual, daily and post-apocalyptic stuff. Bookmark here

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