Mari pushed through the crowded train to get away from the hand that had been groping her. The car was packed to the point where there were no spaces between any of the passengers, but Mari took advantage of the shuffling of people on and off while the train was stopped at Ebisu Station to make it a little ways down the central corridor, close to the next set of doors. She never even saw the man who had lifted her skirt from behind and caressed the inside of her thigh. She did, however, have just enough room to take her hand and swat the intrusion away without looking behind her.
Grabbing onto a hanging strap, she now saw that the paint on the nail on her pinky finger was damaged. Just a slight chip on the outside edge where it extended past the tip of her finger. It was an additional annoyance on top of having been groped that whoever it was that touched her had, as a result of giving her cause to lash out, also now ruined her perfect set of recently manicured nails. She glanced back up the direction she had come, but if the man who had groped her was still there, and even if she had any idea of what he looked like, she wouldn't be able to see him. The dense crowd of people in the train left no space to see anyone beyond those immediately around her.
If the train weren't as crowded as it was, she would have pulled her phone out of her purse and read through messages from her friends. There were so many people behind her, though, that she was forced to lean forward, hovering a little over the people sitting on the bench seat in front of her, making access to her bag awkward. Instead of finding comfort in social texts, Mari played with her long black hair, combing it with her fingers and checking for split ends. An onlooker might have assumed vanity, especially because she was tall and pretty, which played into some people's assumption that she would be overly concerned with appearance. Really, though, playing with her hair was just a way of pretending that everything was fine and that she wasn't bothered by the anonymous violations of some unseen hand. She looked at and through her reflection in the window in front of her. Even though the streets near the tracks were brightly lit, there were enough patches of darkness where she could see her reflection clearly. It was mild out, being late spring, but occasional wind carried a chill with it, so she wore a light jacket that warmed her torso enough that it in turn carried warmth to her legs, which were exposed from her short loose fitting skirt down to her heels.
Mari resented the unseen man for imposing his own interpretation of what her skirt meant. For her it was experimenting with a freedom she gained when she moved to Tokyo, away from the ultra conservative sensibilities of the religious community her parents raised her in. Her parents had made Mari dress in long white shapeless dresses as a child. It wasn't that the dresses were particularly uncomfortable, but when they went out beyond the temple grounds, to visit cities like Naha or Nagasaki, the people outside of their community, who dressed less conservatively, just seemed to be having more fun. On posters and television screens, there were impossibly perfect people with smiles that conveyed how enjoyable their lives must be. Mari's parents or other adults would explain that everyone outside their faith, 「消費族」, "consumerites", as they called non-believers, were actually hollow and miserable in spite of outward appearances. Mari intuitively doubted it, and determined that when the opportunity came, she would find out for herself.
The train moved slowly toward Shibuya. During rush hour the trains were sometimes running so close together that they would adjust their speed so as not to have to stop outright while allowing the train in front to depart the next station. Still, it was just a few minutes before they would arrive at Shibuya station, and Mari could get out and go about her night. She was heading to a gokon, a group date for single men and women to meet, arranged by a friend from the restaurant Mari waitressed at who promised that the men there would be different from the players and stalkers who comprised the majority of men that approached Mari. Mari didn't like these group dates, as they had too much expectation compared to the low chance of actually meeting someone promising. She really only agreed because of the likelihood that her girlfriends would want to hang out for drinks afterwards. Though, if some of the guys were at least cool enough to hang out with, then...
Yelling, coming from closer to the front end of the car, interrupted Mari's thoughts. Something was happening in the area Mari had been just before.
おい！何やってんだ？"Hey, what the fuck are you doing?"
It sounded like the beginnings of a fight, except that usually fights build more slowly, as people jostle and work up their hostility toward each other. This time, there was just sudden surprised and angry yelling. And then, shutting out any more words, a woman screamed. Not the kind of scream you might expect from a woman who was accidentally caught between two men fighting, or a scream of a woman imploring for the fight to stop. It was the guttural scream of a human in mortal fear. The scream was sudden, sharp, lasted only a few seconds, and then was silenced. There was a moment of quiet, only the sound of rhythmic bumps of metal wheels on tracks as the train rolled forward. Everyone was turning and craning their necks to see what was happening, but most people, like Mari, were obstructed by too many people to see past, so the only people who had any idea what was happening were the people immediately beside the commotion.
The inside of the train car abruptly came alive with panic and motion as a wave of terror rippled quickly through everyone, each person passing their fear to the next. There was more screaming and shouting, and... growling? Not all the voices sounded right for people. It was impossible to see what was happening, but in some ways that made the situation even more frightening. People only knew that there was shouting and fighting and that everyone else, especially those closest to the centre of it all, wanted to get away. There was a swelling of movement, of people pushing from the direction of chaos. But there was nowhere to go, and as people instinctively moved back from the danger, they also realized they had nowhere to retreat to. With no release for the mounting fear, the waves of panic reverberated back across the crowd, intensifying the terror.
Mari was carried by the waves of motion within the crowd from where she was standing to a little farther down the corridor, and she would have been carried even farther except that she grabbed onto a vertical bar at the corner of the bench seat in front of her to try and get control of herself. With the bar as a pivot, she found herself involuntarily swung around so that she was pressed against the door. Not that she would have made it anywhere better had she stayed in the main flow, as the doors at the back of the train and the confused people in the next car over formed a bottle neck that kept most everyone trapped. Mari found herself pressed against the door in an awkward, half fallen over position, with enough people behind her and below her that she was caught with no options. There was more screaming, and mixed in with that more growling, and sounds not so easily identified. Tearing of clothes perhaps. Dull wet thuds... someone being beaten against a wall of the train?
With some difficulty, Mari turned her head to look down toward the safer end of the train, to see if there was any chance of escape. Through the crowd she could barely make out a man reaching for the yellow emergency stop strip, but his hand hovered with hesitation. He was standing up on a seat, crouching to stay under the luggage rack above his head. He was white with terror, and locked with indecision. Was it better to stop the train and potentially be trapped inside with whatever was happening? Or was it better to wait until the train arrived at the station? Or maybe he was just frozen in a thoughtless inability to decide between fight or flight.
Suddenly the train lurched, the man hesitating at the emergency stop strip fell out of Mari's sight, never having touched the emergency brake, and everyone stumbled in the direction the train had been going. The station was now in sight, and Mari felt relief as the platform came into view. The train was braking hard, though, much harder than it usually would for pulling into a station. Mari didn't care about the timing of it all, though, she just wanted the doors to open.
Mari was at an odd angle, positioned diagonally, not fully crouching, her head only just high enough to see out the window on the door. She was only prevented from falling to the floor by the pressure of the people behind her and one or two people awkwardly positioned below her. Although the train had stopped, the doors didn't open. The adrenalin of panic turned sour inside Mari and she felt sick, nervous tension twisting into knots inside her, commanding internal responses completely beyond her control. Just behind her, behind a few people in the pile surrounding her, she heard a man scream in a way that conveyed a primal resistance to death. There was screaming and noise everywhere, but this one caught Mari's attention because of how close it seemed to be, and how it meant the danger was approaching her. It was a scream that could only be described as wet, as if he had started drowning in the blood filling his throat before his voice had finished. Whatever it was that was happening was right behind her, and getting closer, person by person as each individual thrashed in a desperate life or death defense, but ultimately fell victim to the mortal danger they were all trapped with. The platform of safety, just on the other side of the glass from Mari, was almost as crowded as the train. Her head was being forced downward by the dead weight of someone above and behind her, and her long course hair was in front of her, some of it sticking to the condensation on the inside of the door's window, obscuring her vision. All she could make out was motion on the platform, people moving around, backing away from the car instead of approaching to get on like they would normally do.
The force of the danger behind her pressed Mari against the doors so that she couldn't move, not even to turn her head around and face what was coming. She couldn't even really say anything about who it was pressed right up against her. Moments ago she was surrounded by businessmen and students and retirees, but in the blur of movement they were just bodies occupying the space around her, as anonymous as corpses. She felt she might be crushed, before the threat even reached her. She might die, right here, never knowing what happened. Tears streamed down her face. She felt like a rabbit caught in the jaws of a wolf. It was useless to struggle, it was better to not add thrashing and hysteria to the inevitable. Mari closed her eyes, fully expecting that at any moment, if it, whatever it was, reached her, she would feel... what? A pierce like a knife in her back? A dull thud of someone hitting her in the back of her head? Would everything go black before she could understand what was happening, or would she have to feel every moment as she was murdered in some primitive attack? Would there be anything other than blackness? She tried to remember what her mother taught her about the part of us that has no boundaries, no separation from the universe. She needed to focus on something, to hold her in a comforting personal peace while her physical reality was torn into strips of flesh and blood. Her father said that we are not the candle, we are the light, and we are eternal. Mari tried to see the light when she closed her eyes, but the comfort of meditation wouldn't come. Mari just wished and wished and wished she wasn't about to die.
The doors opened, and Mari surprised herself with her ability to move. At first she tumbled onto the platform, propelled forward by the weight of people behind her. From there, though, using her hands and feet to scramble ahead of the pressure behind her, she got enough traction to accelerate up into a run on the balls and toes of her feet that was surprisingly effective in spite of the heels she had on. She dodged left and right, weaving through the dense Friday night crowd in the station. She only needed enough stability to make it a few metres down the platform where there was a corner on her left that she could swing around for a moment of relative safety. She collapsed downward into a crouch, her back against the smooth paper of some large advertisement. She felt she had used the up any luck she might have had to not have tripped even in the short distance from the train doors. Her heels were going to have to come off to get any further.
An alarm went off in the station, a two tone electronic noise that cycled in a steady repetition that didn't match the chaos. A station employee started speaking over the station address system. From the way he spoke in a flat monotone, it seemed he may not have even known the level of chaos on the station platform, he was just following a manual of set phrases.
駅から避難してください。落ち着いて出口に向かってください。"Please evacuate the station. Go to the exits in an orderly fashion."
Like water from a river hitting an ocean, there were two competing forces, as people coming off the train in a panic collided with people on the platform who were themselves a mix of different dispositions. Some people were just coming onto the platform without any idea something was wrong. Some people knew there was something amiss, but, without knowing what, stood around trying to assess what they needed to do. Yet others didn't need to think too much about the possibilities and would bolt in whatever direction felt safe. People were moving in all directions, walking, running, some tripping, others being grabbed, and most disappearing out of Mari's line of sight. A few people ran past her. It was all a blur of motion, seen through a haze of adrenalin.
There was screaming up and down the platform. In between people moving back and forth, causing Mari's vision to be blocked in random intervals, Mari could see there was blood spattered all over the inner windows of the train, and at first glance it looked to Mari that the whole train had burst into a massive brawl. Everyone was fighting everyone else. Old men and women, students, businessman, mothers, children... anyone you might see on a train, all now suddenly turned on each other. As Mari focused, it became clear it was not a fight. Some people were grabbing at others who were trying to get away. Some fought back, but even then it was just to try and get some distance to then escape. The efforts were mostly futile, as the train was too confined, and anyone still inside was inevitably pulled down.
Mari saw a middle aged woman who had probably been shopping being pulled on two sides, a man in oversized khaki shorts and a baggy t-shirt on one side and a salaryman on the other. When the salaryman's grip slipped, she fell toward the man in the shorts, and without a moment of hesitation he bit into her cheek. She screamed a primal scream and Mari's eyes widened in fear. It was then that she was able to survey the scene and see it for what it really was. This wasn't a fight or a riot. This was something far more vicious. People everywhere were biting and clawing at others. Another woman fell down through the doors of the train, landing half on the train and half on the platform. She was cut and bleeding, though so much blood was smeared everywhere on her face and clothes that it seemed likely not all of it was the woman's. Mari couldn't tell if the woman was dead or unconscious, and with all the people between Mari and the woman, it was hard to keep her in view. Within a few moments, the woman sprang upwards with surprising energy, although her movements were jerky and clumsy. She then growled in an insane rage and ran out of the train down the platform away from where Mari was, to catch a boy, perhaps fifteen years old, and just before she disappeared from Mari's view, it looked as if she pounced on the boy's back.
The terror was spilling out of the train onto the platform as the insane chased after new victims, of which there were plenty. The density of people in Shibuya on a Friday night meant that the insane were pushing into a sea of bodies. Mari wondered if the density of people would slow down the spread because no one could go more than a step without running into someone else, or if the infection would spread faster because of the availability of victims.
Mari didn't have time to ponder too long as her view forward was suddenly cut off by a man standing in front of her. She must have only became visible in his peripheral vision for a moment as he passed the corner Mari was leaning against, but despite people being everywhere around him, something made him stop and turn to her. Maybe, Mari thought, it was because he noticed she was vulnerable, half crouched, frantically pulling at the straps on her shoes. She looked up and saw the rage on his face, the whites of his eyes so bloodshot they were almost uniformly red, and pupils so wide it was like he had no irises. He was slack jawed and there was blood in a streak from his mouth down the right side of his chin. He lowered his stance into a crouch, both awkward and animalistic, from which he could pounce on her in one jump if that was his intent.
Mari had seen just enough to know that the insane didn't hesitate much, if at all. The stairs down to the Hachiko exit were only a few metres away in front of her, but there was no way she would make it past this man if he tried to stop her. With more urgency she pulled hard at her shoe, and the one strap and decorative clasp that held her heels in place broke off easily with the amount of force Mari applied. As she took each shoe off, she immediately threw them at the man facing her. One struck him in the stomach, which his face gave no reaction to, but he didn't step forward. Her second shoe clipped him on the side of his head, and as it continued past him and over his shoulder, he turned for a moment to track it as it went by. It was unclear if was enough to distract or stun him, but whatever the the reason for his pausing, Mari was not going to waste the time she might have bought for herself. The second he had turned to look at the second shoe go by, with her now bare feet providing more traction, Mari burst forward to the nearby stairs. She had to leverage herself around a large and slightly overweight man in a business suit who stumbled to the side and made a grunting noise that conveyed some annoyance, but Mari was past him before she saw the rest of his reaction. All she heard was an angry and frustrated vocalization quickly become one of surprise and terror. She might have pushed him right into the insane man she was getting away from, but she had no time to think of her part in his probable infection or death.
People on the stairs were dimly aware that something strange was happening, and not clear at all if this was something they should avoid or if the alarm just indicated the mundane delay caused by someone falling into the tracks. People were clustered in awkward groupings of strangers unable to decide as a group if they should go up or down the stairs, making what would normally be a tough mass of people to run through even more awkward and frustrating. As far as Mari could tell, she was getting ahead of the wave of infection, but as she had to turn and twist to get through the people, she could see over her shoulder that it was not too far behind. Off to her right and only about ten steps behind her, Mari saw a younger girl, dressed in the bright multi coloured clothes often seen in Harajuku, with long curly blond hair, trying to make it down the stairs in ultra high platform shoes. The girl got about four steps down when one of her ankles wobbled and she fell forward. She would have landed face first had she not managed to grab the railing on the way, but it didn't matter. Two young men, both in jeans, glasses, and carrying backpacks, like they belonged to the same after school club, jumped on her and began biting. Clawing. Ripping at her clothes to get at her flesh. She screamed and pleaded, but they were in a rage beyond comprehending language.
At the bottom of the stairs, there were masses of people jostling to go about their way on both sides of the gates as there always was at this time of day in Shibuya, but the strange sense of confusion and possible danger had rippled throughout the station, creating yet more of a bottleneck at the gates. Those with more of an instinctual need to get away from something they had no concept of were pushing to get out, others were still trying to push their way in, and a significant third group of people were standing around and conferring with friends as they scanned the signs with train information to try and figure out what was happening. Even if anyone could make out the station master's instructions to exit the station in an orderly fashion, which was obscured by the low sound quality of the speakers and the general noise of people, no one could easily go in any one direction in or out of the station anyway because of the crowd.
A police officer burst through the crowd and pressed past Mari and up the stairs, knocking her to the side into the wall on her left. The cop had left just a slight wake in his path, a gap where his shouting and authority had caused enough people in the crowd to let him through. To one side of the ticket gates in front of the stairs was a small metal fence filling a gap between the wall and the ticket machines, and the cop must have jumped over it. With her right hand using a ticket machine for leverage, she hopped over the little fence, stepping with one foot on top of it, propelling her forward with yet more urgency. She smacked into someone in the crowd of people coming in and out of the gates on the other side, but she didn't pause even for the moment it would have taken to apologize with a sumimasen. She pushed against the person hard enough that she then could rebound off toward the left and out to Hachiko square. She moved so fast that by the time the people she pushed even realized what was going on, she was gone.
Mari suddenly found herself out in the square between the station gates and the main intersection of Shibuya. While the train platform was absolute horror and madness, just inside the gates on the ground floor was a confusion of growing awareness, outside of the station, in the open air, in spite of all the crowds and activity that was normal for Shibuya on a weekend night, had the calm of normalcy. Mari was surrounded by all the lights, people, noise, and activity that was all the result of everyone's ambitions to go out after work, to go to dinner or for drinks, some shopping, or maybe go dancing. None of it had anything to do with a struggle for life and death. The massive screens that overlooked the intersection played music videos and advertisements, there was a band playing somewhere over near the Hachiko statue. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people, were all passing through this little plaza in front of the station, hanging out, smoking, meeting, talking, laughing.
Seconds, though, only seconds before that would change. In the moment she paused to scan over the heads of everyone to determine the best way to safety, she could hear her own heart above everything else. Each beat that she felt all the way up into her throat ticked off a clock that was counting down to her impending death if she didn't act now.
To her right, just to the side of the station entrance way she had just come out of, there was a police box attached to the station. It's screen doors were shut firmly, and there was a man outside slamming his open palms against the glass, yelling for the police to open up. A few other people stood near the police box, simply confused about why it was closed, talking with each other and checking their phones. Inside, it was hard to see, but Mari could make out only one officer in there, and he was waving the man outside away, yelling something Mari couldn't hear. The police were surely aware already and were executing on some kind of protocol. Whatever that protocol was, Mari reasoned, there was no help for her to be had from it.
Mari pushed forward through the Friday night crowd toward the intersection, running as fast as one could while having to step from side to side to get through the waves of people going in all their different directions. There was an equal amount heading from the intersection to the station as there were going the opposite, and they formed larger channels of people going in one direction or the other, but no one was moving fast enough for Mari, so it mattered little if they were going her way or not. Sometimes Mari cut so close to someone that she effectively pushed them out of the way, and people responded with noises of disapproval, but no one got upset enough to react in a way that slowed her down. A young man with copper coloured hair and a black button up shirt under a dark silver jacket put his arm out ahead of her, without grabbing her, to try and get her to stop and talk. He looked like a typical hostess club recruiter or pick up artist, but Mari didn't pause for a moment to discern which. She just pushed through so that his arm gave way, and he laughed it off as if he was too cool to be bothered about it.
She made it into the intersection just as the pedestrian crossing lights were making their last flashes of green before going red, with dozens of people quickening their step to get across before the traffic started. Mari made it half way across the intersection before the light had changed in favour of traffic, and a luxury sedan pulled out suddenly from her left side, then slammed the brakes just before it would have hit her, causing her to stumble. She had to brace herself for a moment with her hand on the hood of the car. The driver leaned on the horn to express anger at this stupid girl for trying to get across the intersection after the lights had turned. With her hand still on the hood, Mari briefly looked up and saw the driver, a middle aged man wearing a cravat and blue blazer, the kind of look that conveys a deliberate attempt to come across as rich. That he was angry didn't register with Mari, as she was just thinking of her own survival and whether not being in a car would be a good idea. She didn't consider it for more than a moment, as anyone who has ever been to Shibuya would know, traffic in Shibuya was slower than walking on a weekend night, and he would most likely soon be trapped in his car, surrounded by the insane. The windows would probably not hold up. She felt nothing in response to his expressions of anger, because it was like he was already dead, yelling noiselessly from inside the coffin that was his car.
When she turned away from the car to make the last few steps to the other side, Mari found herself on the corner with the Q-Front building, with the largest of all the display monitors in Shibuya and a Starbucks on its first and second floors. To her left was a subway entrance, and as well as the masses of people coming and going, there were people hanging out in the area, waiting to meet up with friends. She was breathing hard, and her insides felt tight. With traffic providing a momentary river of safety, Mari turned to look back and tried to get some sense of what was happening closer to the station. It was hard to see through the passing cars and trucks as they slowly criss crossed in front of her line of sight. At that moment, there didn't appear to be anything different happening, but, just beyond the noise, if she focused, she could hear shouting, but it was indistinct and blended with the rest of Shibuya's noise. Then she heard what she guessed must be gunshots, even though she had never heard gunshots outside of television and movies before. They sounded more like firecrackers than the big dramatic explosions movies made them out to be. A few people near Mari turned and looked, but they craned their necks more with an idle curiosity than a need to know. To Mari's surprise, it wasn't obvious that there was anything wrong. There was a wall of people on the other side of the intersection, and movement, but it was hard to make out if there was anything to distinguish it from Shibuya on any other Friday night.
ね、靴はどうしたの？"Hey, where are your shoes?" A man with long hair and a tattoo running up from under the collar of his shirt up the left side of his neck to just under his ear was speaking to Mari. Having turned around and noticed her without having seen her running to where she now stood, he probably figured that her bare feet was an easy starting place to begin chatting her up. She ignored him, and she was about to say something to quickly and politely dismiss him, when a car across the street hit someone, sending that person flying like a rag doll a few meters off to a side of the intersection, where that person was again hit by another car. Cars all over the intersection started screeching to a halt and knocking into each other, but even well before the traffic was stopping, people were already running out into the intersection. A few more got hit by cars, one getting pulled under the large wheels of an advertising truck that was loudly blaring the manufactured songs of the latest boy band.
As most of the traffic halted, it was now easier to see that the wall of people on the other side of the intersection was not like any other night. It was as if the surface tension of the people on the outer edge had broken and now people, both the insane and those getting away, were pouring out in all directions. The ones being attacked didn't know which way was the route to safety, and the insane were mixed in with the rest, so as often as not a person trying to run away would end up running straight at one of the insane. People bit and clawed at each other with animal ferocity, and the chaos was moving forward like a tidal wave. The only clearly safe way left to go was out into the intersection, but quickly that was changing. The insane smashed car windows and attacked those inside. Within moments the insane would be running across the intersection to all the other sides, including where Mari was.
The madness from inside the station was now outside, overwhelming the hundreds of people available in the square beside Shibuya scramble. With each new person overtaken with the disease or insanity or whatever it was, the madness spread outward like the expanding blast of a bomb. There were maybe tens of thousands of people tightly crammed in a radius of mere hundreds of yards from where Mari was currently standing, and the implications were obvious to anyone with the slightest inkling of what was happening. All of Shibuya was about to explode with violence.
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