Chapter 04, Part Two – A Chopping Block, A Butcher’s Knife and a Volunteer

STOP!!! This is the second part of Chapter 04. If you haven’t read the first part, you’re heading into spoiler territory. Read it first by clicking here. If you’ve already read it, continue.

Words: 3,205
Recommended Listening: Tuk – “Monodrome for a Velodrome”
Shelter: Sugimoto Residence

Upstairs, Daisuke searched for Hitomi.  Ryu shambled out to the balcony and laid down on the floor and smoked his cigarette.  Daisuke checked the bedrooms and the bathroom but didn’t find his classmate.  Eventually he returned to the balcony and told Ryu she must be downstairs.  Ryu responded with a quiet grunt and continued to smoke.

Daisuke returned to the main floor.  He was about to tell everyone about Hitomi when she and Seiji came bounding up the stairs.

“Where did you go, Hitomi?” Daisuke asked.  “We worried about you.”

“Don’t worry, Daisuke-chan!” she said.  Her mood had completely changed from earlier.  Now she seemed as happy and care-free as she did in school.  “I had to use the bathroom but I didn’t want to interrupt you watching the news.”

Hitomi walked over to Junpei and Akane and awkwardly got down on her knees in front of the couch on which they sat.  She closed her hands into fists and rested them on the front of her legs.  “Fukuhara-san – Junpei and Akane,” she said.  “I am so sorry for how I behaved earlier.  I beg your forgiveness.  I should not have been so angry.  I was upset and confused about my father.  Please accept my apology.  From this moment on, I will work to earn your forgiveness.”

Junpei and Akane looked at each other curiously for a moment.  “Th-that’s fine,” Akane said.

“I’m sorry also,” Junpei said.  “Let’s all work together to survive through this.”

Hitomi agreed.  Her newfound energy was strange, but welcome.

“Kamiya-san, what happened to your hand?” Daisuke asked.

“I…”

The phone rang.  The sound came from a small table against the wall between the kitchen and the stairs.  Everyone jumped and stared at it.  Given the circumstances, the ring was so unexpected that all seven survivors in the Sugimoto house looked at the cordless phone base for a full two rings.  Daisuke snapped out of it first, assuming it was Asahi or his parents checking in on him.  He crossed the room and picked up the receiver, staring at it for one brief moment before pushing the green button with the picture of the phone on it.  It beeped once in his hand and he raised it to his ear.

“…Hello?”

“Asahi-chan!  I thought you were on vacation with your parents.”

The voice was deep, gravelly and quiet.  It sounded like that of a middle-aged man, possibly even in his 50s, with little joy in his life.

“I’m sorry; I’m…not Asahi Sugimoto.”

There was a long pause.  Daisuke was about to ask the caller if he were still on the line when he spoke again, this time in a firmer voice.

“Who is this?”

“I’m Daisuke Kinoshita.  I’m one of Asahi’s friends from school.”

“Where is Sugimoto-san?  And Asahi?”

“It’s like you said; they’re on vacation.”

“Why are you in the Sugimotos’ house?”

Daisuke’s ears burned and his cheeks flushed.  “I…I was at the Obon festival where the rivers meet.  There were these dancers, and I thought one of them fell.  I tried to help, but…but…”

“You went to ask Asahi-chan for help.”

“I knew he was on vacation but I didn’t know where else to go.  My house is so far away…”

Junpei asked Daisuke what was going on and Daisuke realized he still had no idea who the caller was or why he was asking Daisuke so many questions.

“Excuse me, but, who are you?”

“Hmm,” the man said.  “Call me Akira for now.”

“Akira…?”

“Just Akira,” he said.  It reminded Daisuke of his first encounter with Ryu.

“Wait.  If you knew that Asahi and his parents are on vacation, why did you call?”

“I saw the lights and TV on, plus I heard you boarding up the windows.  You’re terrible at staying quiet.”

“Ah, that makes sense,” Daisuke said.  “Wait…You saw and heard us?”

Akira laughed.  “I live across the street from the Sugimotos.”

“Really?”

“I can prove it.  Go to the window.”

Daisuke remembered all the windows were boarded up.

“Hang on,” he said.  He ran up the stairs to the frontmost bedroom and looked out the window at the house across the street.

“Look at the second-floor window on the far left.”

Daisuke did as he was told.

“Three…two…one…”

A red dot – a laser pointer, Daisuke presumed – flashed several times through the blinds of the window.  Daisuke gasped.

“Is that you?”

“Yes.”

“Is there anyone else with you?”

“Just me,” Akira said.

Daisuke looked around outside Akira’s house.  “None of the zonbi are at your house.”

Silence.

“Zonbi,” Akira said.  “You…you know they’re dead?”

“Yes.”

“Have they said so on the news yet?”

Daisuke ignored his question.  “One of them attacked me.  His head was…open.  There’s no way he could be alive if—”

“Did he bite you?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes.  Why?”

“Don’t let them bite you.  Is he still in the house?”

“No,” Daisuke said.  “Someone saved me.  This man and his wife were outside, so Ryu and I—”

“How many of you are there?”

“I’m sorry, but why are you asking me so many questions?”

Akira paused.  “I think…you need my help.”

“Why do you think that?”

“Do you know how many zonbi are outside Sugimoto-san’s house right now?”

“Well…”

“27.”

Daisuke cursed.  “Can you do anything about them?”

“No,” Akira said.  “They don’t know I’m here and I don’t want them to.  But I have things in my house that you may need in the weeks to come.”

“Weeks?  Why do you think it will be weeks?”

“Any longer than that and you’ll all starve to death.”

“What I mean is, couldn’t help come sooner?”

“We…can talk about that later,” Akira said.

“I’m sorry, but now I have questions I need to ask you.”

“Mm.  Keep it short.  Three questions, no more.”

“What do you have in your house that we’ll need?  Food?”

“Medicine,” Akira said.  Daisuke thought back to Akane.

“Medicine,” Daisuke mumbled.

“Antibiotics, painkillers, antihistamines—”

“Do you have prenatal vitamins?”

“You’re kidding me.  Is one of your friends pregnant?”

Daisuke said yes.

“I have some.  Hang on and keep looking at the window.”

Daisuke did as he was told.  Soon, he saw the window open and an arm extending a bottle of pills.  He took his cell phone from his pocket, unlocked it, opened the camera app and zoomed in as far as he could.  He recognized the pink and purple label on the bottle from the local pharmacy.

“You see?” Akira asked.  Daisuke said he did, and Akira withdrew his hand and closed the window.  “I also have a cell phone charger, unless you make a habit of running around with yours.  Also, I can see around the outside of the Sugimoto house – you can’t.  We can start with those for now.  If you can help me in return, we can continue to trade.”

“What do you want in return?”

“We’ll get to that – I’ll give you that question as a freebie.”

“How would I get the medicine and the phone charger from you?”

Akira laughed again.  “Leave that to me.  But as an act of good faith, I’ll get you the phone charger first, no questions asked.”

“How do you know so much about what’s going on?”

“Sorry kid, that’s three questions.”

“Forgive me, but…there’s something you’re not telling me.  If you want to help us and for us to help you, I need to know.  You seem to know more than the news does.  You’re alone in your house but you have all kinds of medicines including prenatal vitamins.”

Daisuke thought he heard Akira sigh through his nose.  “You’re right.  I work for the Ministry of Health.  I don’t know much more, but I think I can learn enough if you get me what I need.”

“What do you need?”

Five minutes later, Daisuke slowly descended the staircase from the upper floor to the main floor.  His six companions stood silent around the living room and entryway looking to him for answers.

“Who was it?”

“Is help coming?”

“Was it Sugimoto-san?”

“Did they know anything else?”

Daisuke walked past them in a daze and sat on one of the couches.  He sat forward and propped his elbows on his knees, cupping the lower half of his face in both hands, and breathed.  He looked at the carpet and summarized the conversation for them, refusing to look any of them in the eye.  Silence fell over the room afterwards.  Seiji finally broke it.

“I don’t believe it,” he said.

“He’s legitimate,” Daisuke said.  “He gave me a set of login credentials for the Ministry of Health website and I tried them on my phone.  They worked.  Most of the pages were locked with other passwords – his full name didn’t even appear on the page; I think I’d need his email password for that – but he works there.  He seems to be an important person there.”

“If he’s so important, why don’t they just send a helicopter and get him out?” Seiji asked.

Daisuke shook his head.  “He said he was hiding from them.  He changed his company record to a false address last year.”

“Why?”

“Look around,” Daisuke said.  “He thinks they know something about this.  If they came for him…I don’t think it would be to rescue him.”

“Did the website say anything about rescue efforts?” Seiji asked.

“It did.”

“What did it say?”

Daisuke didn’t say anything.  He shut his mouth tight and looked at Seiji sadly.  Everyone understood.

The room erupted into complaints, screams, groans and curses.  Emiko and Hitomi wept softly.  Despair and terror reigned for several minutes.

When things finally settled down, they resumed their conversation.

“Forgive me, Daisuke-kun, but you said he has medicine?” Emiko asked.

Daisuke nodded.  “I thought we could get antibiotics for the cuts on Junpei’s arms.  If they get infected…it could be bad.”

“It just happened an hour or two ago,” Seiji said.  “Junpei, your arms aren’t that bad, are they?”

Junpei looked away.

“It…doesn’t look good,” Akane said.  “So much tissue is exposed…”

“We’ve all seen infections before,” Daisuke said.  “If they’re left untreated…”

“Yeah,” Junpei murmured.

“Excuse me, but I think it’s important to get him antibiotics,” Daisuke said.

“Also…”  Daisuke paused just long enough for Junpei to look at him again and the two locked eyes.  “We could ask Akira for any other medicines we may need.”

As he said “any other medicines,” he gave a quick glance towards Akane’s stomach and back to Junpei.  Only Junpei saw it, but he caught on to Daisuke’s meaning and straightened up.

“Forgive me, but, if anyone else has any medicine they may need, I can ask Akira for them as well,” Daisuke said.  The room got quiet.  He could tell some of the others must have prescriptions at home they required.

“Ok,” Junpei said.  “We don’t know how long we’ll be here and this guy has our only lifeline to medications, right?  What does he want in return?”

Daisuke sighed.  “First, he doesn’t have a cell phone or a computer.  The moment everything happened downtown, he smashed them both so his employers couldn’t find him.”

“Idiot,” Hitomi said.

“That’s smart,” Seiji said.

“So we need to keep him updated with the news.  Also, he needs us to look some things up for him online so he can continue his work.”

“What work?” Hitomi said.

“He said the zonbi crisis might have something to do with what he was working on.  He wasn’t sure, but if it was, he could begin work on a cure.”

“A cure?”

“Or a vaccine at least.”

“Is that all he wants?” Junpei asked.  “To only ask for news updates and some Googling in exchange for life-saving medicine and a phone charger to keep us connected to the outside world…”

“There’s one more thing,” Daisuke said.  “He needs…one of them.”

He nodded at one of the boarded-up windows.

“S-still alive,” he added.

“Why?” Junpei asked.

“For his work.  They don’t know he’s in his house, but if we can separate one of them from the group and lead it over there, he can restrain it and—”

“How would we do that?” Seiji asked.  “The only thing they’re attracted to is us.  I won’t go back out there.”

“We don’t need to go back outside,” Daisuke said.  “There are too many of them anyway.”

“There must be 20 by now,” Akane said.

“27,” Daisuke said.  “Akira counted them.”

“So how would we lure one to his house without leaving?” she asked.

“Akira has a drone,” Daisuke said.  “One of those flying helicopters with the four sets of blades.  He offered to fly it here, to the balcony.  We can tie…something to it.  Something a zonbi will follow.”  He looked at Seiji.  “Something they’re attracted to, as Kamiya-san said.”

“Daisuke-kun, what are you saying?” Emiko asked.

“He’s saying we need a chopping block, a butcher’s knife and a volunteer,” Seiji said.

Emiko shrieked.  Ryu and Hitomi gasped simultaneously.  Akane shrank back in her seat.  Even Junpei involuntarily crossed his arms and put his hands under his armpits.

“Make him do it himself,” Hitomi said.

“He’s a doctor,” Daisuke said.  “His hands need to be intact to work on the vaccine.”

“Is there another solution?” Emiko asked.

“Nobody’s coming to help us, Takahashi,” Daisuke said.  “We need medicine that Asahi-kun’s family doesn’t have.  We need someone’s phone charged to communicate with the outside world.”

“I’m sorry, Daisuke-kun, but…I don’t think anyone would volunteer for that.”

“I will,” Daisuke said.

“No, I will,” said Junpei.  He stood up.  Akane grabbed at him and urged him to stop, but he freed himself from her grasp.  “I’m older than you, I need the medicine the most and I say I’m doing it.”

Daisuke gave a half-smile and chuckled.  “I’m sorry, Junpei, but this is my responsibility.”

“You’re just a kid; we can’t let you do this.”

“You’re all in this house because of me,” Daisuke said.  “Junpei, Akane, Takahashi, Takai, Ryu, Kamiya-san…I don’t know if we should have come here or gone to a hospital or the police station.  I made that decision for all of us.  If we’re stuck here, it’s my fault.  Maybe this way I can earn your forgiveness.”

Akane, Emiko and Junpei objected, but Daisuke was resolved.  Ryu, Seiji and Hitomi stayed quiet.

“Wait a minute,” Seiji said.  “What happens if it doesn’t work and he wants…another?”

“I told him if we considered this, it would be once and never again,” Daisuke said.  “I said if he asked a second time, we’d never speak with him again.  He’d be on his own.  He’s…afraid of that.  We’re his only line to the rest of the world. 

“Also, he’s sending us the phone charger as a gesture of goodwill, along with everything we need for…the operation.  There will be a sealed, tamper-proof bottle of local anesthetic and a clean syringe.  Also, there will be disinfectant, a blood coagulant, a suturing kit, gauze and painkillers for afterwards.  If we like, he can walk us through the whole process step-by-step on the phone.”

“What about the…” Seiji made a scissors motion with his fingers.

Almost everything we need,” Daisuke said.

“Why are we talking about this like we’re even considering it?” Hitomi asked.

“How do you know he’s not just a crazy person collecting fingers?” Ryu asked.  “I don’t trust him.”

Daisuke thought back to some of the things he’d seen on his phone, on Akira’s Ministry of Health account.  He thought of some of the things Akira had told him – things that matched up with what the news did and didn’t say, things about the missing American and more.  It added up to more than a hunch.  There were things he couldn’t tell everyone.  Not yet.

“Do you trust me?” Daisuke asked.

“Eh?”

“Do you trust me?  If I said I knew this was what needed to be done – if I said there was no other way to get us the medicine we needed – would you trust me?”

A silence fell over the room.  Outside, the dead beat their hands against the wall.

“Trust is one thing, kid,” Junpei said.  “But—”

“Good,” Daisuke said.  “I trust you, Junpei.  I trust all of you.  I need everyone’s help to do this and I trust you all to help me.  I want us all to survive together.  I want us to overcome this evil.  I need everyone to do their best.  But I can’t force you to help.  This is a decision we need to make together.  I volunteer myself, but it affects all of us, so we should all vote.”

The tone in his voice had kept everyone quiet so far.

“There are seven of us, so the majority rules,” Daisuke said.  “Akira is going to call back any minute and ask for our decision,” Daisuke said.  “Who believes we should do this?  Who believes we can do this?”

Daisuke put his own hand up.  Everyone looked at one another slowly.  No one spoke.  No one moved.

“I…” Akane looked down at the floor.  “I have some nurse’s training.  I can administer the medicine and sew the…I mean, I can help.”  She raised her hand.

Ryu shook his head.  “No.”

“He’s a kid,” Junpei said.  Then he turned to Daisuke.  “You’re a kid!  I won’t ask you to do this.”

“You’re not asking me to, Junpei,” Daisuke said.  “I’m volunteering.”

Junpei’s feet were tapping on the floor again.  “No.  No, I can’t agree to this.  I will help you if that’s what everyone else decides but I can’t approve.”

“I’m with my brother,” Hitomi said.  She folded her arms.

Seiji thought of the amputations he’d seen over the years.  He had seen fingers get blown off with pistols, cut off with knives.  In his world, it was a punishment, or an atonement.  He knew the blood and he knew the pain and he knew the screaming.  He had also done them himself.  He knew how to do it and he knew how not to do it.  He couldn’t meet Daisuke’s eyes.  His nostrils flared, his breath came quickly and shallowly and his eyes watered.  Seiji Kamiya raised his hand.

“I can do it,” he said.  He thought quickly and added, “I…worked at a butcher’s shop in high school.  Strong arm.  It can be quick and precise.  Daisuke said he trusts all of us.  I want to prove he can trust me.”

Slowly, everyone turned and laid their eyes on Emiko.

“It’s up to you, Emiko,” Daisuke said.

“Is this…the only way to help everyone?” she asked.

“Yes,” Daisuke said. 

“W-We don’t know that,” Junpei said.  He was stalling.

“Do we know…it will work?”

“We’ll get the antibiotics for Junpei’s arms and medicine for anyone else who needs it.  Even if the bait trick doesn’t work, I promise Akira will give us the medicine.  As I said, he needs us as much as we need him.”

“I mean, do we know that you’ll be safe, Daisuke-kun?”

Akane and Seiji reassured her.

“I’ll do the worst part,” Seiji said.  “And this lady will take care of everything after.”

Emiko looked to Junpei, who was shaking his head.  Then she looked at Daisuke.

“It’s okay,” he said.

Voting Time!!! Emiko is about to choose whether or not to let Daisuke lose a finger in exchange for medicine for the group and to allow Akira to begin aggressive work on a cure for the zonbi. If she raises her hand, the group will help Daisuke go through with the operation and he will lose partial strength/use of his non-dominant hand but they will receive the medicine and build a relationship with Akira. If she doesn’t raise her hand, Daisuke will keep his finger and full strength in his non-dominant hand, making him more useful to the group, but the group won’t get medicine they need and their relationship with Akira will weaken or break. Should Emiko raise her hand or not?

Anyone can vote on Facebook by clicking here.
Patrons can vote on Patreon by clicking here, where votes count double.

Polls close Friday, October 11.

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