A Simple Survey:Volume2 Attraction10

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Attraction 10: Earn 200,000 Yen with 1 Millimeter[edit]

The attraction had 5 participants.

But even that many seemed an extraordinary number of people to gather in such an insane place.

“Okay, this here is a guillotine. I’m sure you have all heard that name before.”

The room looked like it could exist in any multi-tenant building.

That rectangular box had all furniture and office equipment removed. Instead, two very out of place objects could be seen in the center of the room.

The first was the representative example of a medieval execution tool, the guillotine.

The second was a smiling bunny girl giving the explanation.

“Those being executed are restrained in this. You see the three holes below the giant blade? The neck and wrists go in there.” The bunny girl raised her index finger. “This blade weighs 170 kilograms. The blade is usually sloped to more efficiently cut off a human head, but this attraction requires the blade to be flat. Sorry about that. Some models hold the blade up with a rope that is cut to drop the blade and some models hold the blade up with a chain and drop it by operating the gear and attachments. This is the latter.”

No one said anything.

A strange atmosphere enveloped the room.

This location seemed soaked in a sense that it did not matter if humans lived or died.

It was possible the headquarters of a cult would be filled with the same atmosphere.

“Now I will explain the rules of the attraction. But don’t worry, it’s nothing difficult. One at a time, the participants will each have their neck and wrists restrained within the guillotine. You will then be given a switch to hold in your right hand and a switch to hold in your left hand.”

She showed us a red switch and a blue switch with cords attached.

It looked like we would operate them with our thumbs.

“The red switch drops the guillotine’s blade and the blue switch stops the blade. We would like you all to stop the blade just before it decapitates you. You will be awarded with money based on how far the guillotine made it. However,” the bunny girl raised her index finger again, “the reference point for your prize is not the highest point where the guillotine starts. It is the very center point. About a meter high is the zero point. You will be paid if the blade falls further than that, but you will need to pay us if it does not make it that far.”

That meant we would only be given anything in the lower meter.

“Your prize will be calculated based on one millimeter being worth 200 thousand yen. If you truly stop it at the very last instant, you will earn 200 million.”

An odd atmosphere floated around the five of us.

We needed 200 million.

And we could not trust an empty hope like betting on winning the lottery. Our lives would truly be over if we did not acquire that much money right away. Only people like that would gather in a place like this.

The bunny girl pulled out some makeshift lots created from chopsticks like we were playing the king game in a karaoke box.

This would decide my fate.

The attraction was beginning.

This was all or nothing.

We could not practice and we could not redo this, so we needed to gather as much information as possible beforehand to find a means of ensuring victory.

The person who went first had an overwhelming disadvantage. I desperately wanted one of the other participants to take on that role so they could test the balance of the attraction, but the other four would be thinking the same thing.

The first step toward either life or death would be decided by these horribly carelessly-made lots.

Lot 1 was drawn by a small old man with glasses.

Lot 2 was drawn by a college-aged girl wearing a kimono.

Lot 3 was drawn by a middle-aged man who was wearing a suit but did not look like a salaryman.

Lot 4 was drawn by me.

Lot 5 was drawn by a high-school aged boy wearing sportswear.

“Okay, Yamai-san. You are up first. Come on up. Come on up.”

So the old man is the top batter.

I felt sorry for him, but I did not have time for sympathy. The time had come to keep my eyes open wide. I needed to gather as much information as possible. What I wanted to know most was the timing or lag between pressing the buttons and the guillotine starting or stopping.

I needed to gather all the information I needed before it was my turn.

It was obvious what would happen to my head if I did not.

“…”

Urged on by the bunny girl, the nervous-looking old man was placed within the execution device. The tool was meant to kill criminals, so it provided no dignity whatsoever. With his head and arms held in place, the man was left in a crawling position like a dog.

The bespectacled old man was handed the two buttons.

It was about to begin.

This attraction that used a device designed to kill to toy with people’s lives and dignity was about to begin.

“You can choose whatever timing you like, but I will drop the blade if you do not begin within three minutes. If you are not confident in your ability, it might be better to leave it up to me.”

There was no way that was true.

I did not know how fast the guillotine fell, but not knowing the exact timing with which it would fall was a definite disadvantage. That time lag could be the difference between life and death.

With his body restrained, the old man moved only his eyeballs around in a desperate attempt to look around the area.

He may have wanted any last hint he could find.

He may have wanted someone to give him some advice.

Or…

He may have wanted to give a human complaint that this was wrong despite having come this far.

“…”

Given the angle of his neck, I doubted the old man could see my face as I looked down on him, but I shook my head regardless.

If he had not fallen as low as he could fall, he would not have been invited to this attraction. Nor would he have agreed to come.

He needed to prepare himself.

He needed to remember that he had searched in every single direction and not found a single opportunity. If he did not want to be sent straight back to that dead end, he had to win here.

And…

I heard a long, drawn-out sound like air leaking from a balloon.

I soon realized it was the sound of the old man breathing out long and slow.

And in the next instant…

The first round began and the giant blade fell.

Everyone watching on must have felt like electricity was running through them.

I thought my heart had stopped.

I had to observe.

I had to gather information.

That work was directly linked to my own survival, yet all of it left my mind completely in that moment.

The 170 kilogram blade held up by a long chain and gear fell vertically. It was a simple phenomenon, yet it held tremendous weight due to its deadly purpose.

In reality, the nightmare could only have lasted for a second or maybe slightly longer.

The bunny girl smiled and said, “Yamai-san is out!”

An unpleasant liquid dripped down below the guillotine.

But it was not fresh blood.

It was tears. It was sweat. It was snot. Every liquid that could flow from a face was flowing out as the old man trembled. All the dignity provided by his age was gone.

The problem was the location of the guillotine blade.

The bunny girl exaggeratedly stared at the measurement markings on the guillotine’s column.

“You came in at only 72.2 cm. Not enough! I went to such effort to explain that 1 meter was the zero mark, but you didn’t even get close!! You had two meters total, but you did not even make it halfway!!”

She was rubbing salt in the wound.

The bunny girl snapped her fingers and some men in work uniforms entered from outside the room. They removed the old man from the guillotine in order to carry him somewhere else.

“And that means Yamai-san must receive a penalty! He will receive a debt equal to the negative amount of height. Let’s see, 1 millimeter is 200 thousand yen, so how much would that be?”

“Gh…kh…”

“Hey, Yamai-san. I have no idea what led you to this final attraction, but maybe you would have been happier if you had lost your head.”

“Aaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!”

The old man gave a bestial cry, but the men in work uniforms calmly held his arms and legs and speedily removed him.

He had saved his life.

But I doubted there was any hope left for that old man.

He had lost any chance of turning his life around.

That was the type of failure we gained if we failed to let the guillotine drop.

“Okay, time for round #2. Ise-san, come on up.”

The woman in the kimono’s shoulders jumped in shock, but she knew there was no escape. In order to grasp the sole chance remaining for her, she needed to get on the ground as instructed so she could be restrained within the guillotine.

I was #4, but my turn would come up quite soon at this pace.

I wanted to gather as much useful information as I could. I wanted a surefire method of stopping the guillotine at the last possible second.

And then…

“(Have you caught on yet?)” The sportswear-wearing boy whispered that in my ear while watching the attraction with his arms crossed. “(Have you caught on to the main issue with this attraction?)”

“(The chain does not move as smoothly as I thought. And yet making the brakes work more ambiguously would work up our fear more.)”

“(They probably want to make that as fair as possible. It makes it feel like they’re looking down on us mockingly.)”

“(Even though the bunny girl has a system to freely drop the blade if the participant takes too long?)”

“(What if they can remotely turn off the brakes if it looks like someone is going to make it? I would be more worried about the blue button.)”

I did not think they would do that. Or maybe I just did not want to believe they would.

The little bit of observation I had done was enough to tell me that. They wanted to enjoy watching people struggle futilely, so they would not set it up so we all quickly died one after another.

Still, I decided to have the bunny girl step away from the button during my attempt.

“(I think another issue is more important.)”

“(Another issue?)”

“(You’ll figure it out soon enough. It’s quite a cruel trick given the attraction’s rules.)”

My focus had turned to the boy in the sportswear.

That was why I did not notice when the second round began.

I heard a different sound than before. It sounded like something soft being sliced through.

My consciousness was dyed in red.

I could not grasp the source of the iron smell. I could not understand why my clothes felt wet. I could not figure out how it was possible the body of the kimono-wearing woman had slid to the ground despite her being restrained in the guillotine.

I saw a head.

I saw two hands.

They were lying in a dark red puddle.

“Eh? Ah…?”

I saw them, I looked at them, and I stared at them.

Finally, the result of the attraction’s second round entered my head.

Failure.

Killing.

Death.

Those simple words floated up in my mind, but they still did not seem to match the scene before my eyes.

Someone had died.

They had been decapitated.

And yet I had not heard a scream. The head had been sliced from the body as simply as someone removing the changeable head of a doll. Was that all there was to human life? Was it something lost so easily? I had always thought a life was protected my some sort of invisible rails.

“Ise-san is out!” said the smiling bunny girl who was as soaked with blood as I was.

I could not let my mind go blank.

I had to think. I had to observe.

My fate would be decided by how much information I had gathered by the time my turn came. But despite keeping that in mind, the scene before me was so vivid my thoughts seemed to lack any continuity.

The men in work uniforms came in once more and took out the kimono-wearing woman who was most certainly dead.

The bunny girl did an extremely apathetic job of wiping the blood off of the guillotine before saying, “Okay, round #3. Yate-san, come on up.”

“N-no…” The man who was wearing a suit but was obviously not a salaryman shook his head as he trembled. “I’ve had enough!! This…this isn’t normal! It’s messed up!! I’m not doing it. I would rather do the most difficult job in the world over this!”

“Yate-san?”

“I’m not doing it. I told you I’m not doing it! H-hey!! I said I’m not doing it!! I’m leaving. Stop! Let go of me!! Hey! Dammit!! I said let go!!”

“Yate-saaan?”

The men in work uniforms grabbed the man in a suit, forced him into the humiliating pose, and restrained him within the guillotine that stank of iron.

And then it hit me.

“(I see now.)”

“(Did you figure it out?)”

“(They force us down on all fours like a dog, so we can’t see how far the guillotine has passed. This is more than just a game of chicken.)”

“(Exactly. The problem is that we have no way of winning this attraction without overcoming that.)”

Participant #3 did not press the red button or the blue button.

But the bunny girl did something which caused a change in the chain and gear holding the giant blade in place. The blade quickly fell and the head fell immediately afterwards.

More fresh blood gushed out.

I was surprised to find it was much less of a shock than the first time.

Had I begun to grow accustomed to it after experiencing it once? Or had my fear surpassed its limits so my senses had numbed over?

The body was carried out like a mere object.

Now completely covered in red, the bunny girl said, “Okay, #4.”

Had I finished my observations?

Had I found a surefire method?

No.

It wasn’t enough. It was nowhere near enough!

“Yamazaki-san, come on up.”

She urged me on.

It was my turn.

An unpleasant sweat poured out of me.

But I had to do it.

I had just been shown that resisting it did nothing to help.

Once I was on all fours like a dog with my neck and wrists fixed into the guillotine, I tried to glare up at the bunny girl.

But I failed.

I could only see up to her waist.

“I’ll do it myself, so keep your hand away from your button.”

“Do you think I would cheat?” said the bunny girl while doing as I said.

Now, what was I to do?

I could not see the guillotine above me in this pose. And if I did not know how far away the giant blade was, I could not know when to press the blue button.

In that case, I needed to measure the time and speed of the falling guillotine.

But it was too late to start thinking about that once it was my turn.

I needed to have done that ahead of time in order to have a perfect and surefire method of victory.

I had been given three chances to watch the attraction.

But I had not used those chances effectively.

Had the boy in the sportswear actually made proper observations? Or was he planning to use my round to do that?

With no basis to go on, I would have to press the blue button purely on instinct. If I was too slow, it would literally kill me. The rules were much too severe to rely on my instincts.

I needed something.

I needed some way to see the guillotine blade.

“…?”

As I stared at the ground below me, I noticed something.

The floor.

Instead of carpeting, it was prepared like the floor of a school or hospital. In other words, it reflected light. It was not as good as a mirror, but I could see some vague shadows.

I could grasp the distances using that.

If you wanted to see something behind you, it was common sense to use a mirror.

“No…”

I started gripping the red button tighter, but then I changed my mind.

Wait.

Is it really that simple?

Reading writing reflected in a mirror was not easy. In the same way, it was possible my mind would not accurately process the information even if the images were accurate. The guillotine blade could fall before my mind could catch up to the deviation in the image.

When I thought about it, anyone’s gaze would fall on this point when forced into this dog-like pose.

Despite two people being killed, the bunny girl had gone out of her way to wipe away the pool of blood.

Why?

It was to make sure this trap still functioned!!

Just as a drowning man would grasp at a straw, we would easily jump at this trap with our limited information. I needed to calm down. I could not fall for this trap. I needed to observe everything calmly. I needed to think about those who had set up this trap.

Why had they set it up?

It had to be to distract us from something else. That was the standard technique used by magicians. There had to be something. There had to be a surefire method. This trap was here to keep us from noticing it.

But…

What was it?

What exactly was it?

“Yamazaki-san? What’s wrong? If the time limit passes, I will drop the guillotine myself.”

My heart was not beating properly.

I had no solution.

Could I do nothing but entrust my life to my intuition?

I could not watch the guillotine fall, so was there any other way to accurately measure the blade’s fall?

“There is.”

“There is what?”

There was a way to measure it.

I tried to raise my head, but I just felt a dull pain in my neck where it was restrained. I could not watch it fall. But there had to be away.

Not the guillotine blade itself.

The chain and gear that were used to hold it in place.

“Hey, kid! You, the one going after me!!”

“Eh? Me?”

“Tell me how big the gear directly above me is and how many teeth it has! That will let me win this!!”

“Wait, you are supposed to complete this attraction alone,” complained the bunny girl.

How naïve.

I had been making observations the entire time. I had been gathering the information I needed to win.

And so I could be sure.

“There wasn’t a rule saying we couldn’t receive advice. And our reward has nothing to do with anyone else’s performance, so that kid has no reason to betray me. Listen up, if I win here, you’ll be able to figure out the trick to it. If you want to know a surefire way to save yourself, help me now!!”

The boy wearing sportswear sighed and said, “The gear has a diameter of about 20 cm. I think it has about 70 teeth.”

I had won.

As the chain moved, the gear would turn. I could count the number of times I heard the chain and the teeth strike. If I had an accurate idea of how far the guillotine had fallen, I could win this ridiculous blindfolded game of chicken.

And then the bunny girl added, “But you do not know if Matsui-san was telling the truth.”

“The rules of this attraction give him no reason to betray me.”

“But the rules do not say he needs to help you out either. What if he has always wanted to betray someone who thinks he is their last hope?

A silence followed.

Asking for an answer from the boy would be meaningless.

What good would it do to ask him if he was telling the truth or lying?

I lightly touched the surface of the red switch with my thumb.

“I can win this.”

“Really?”

“I will win and redo my life!! And the first step is dropping this guillotine!!”

“I’m not so sure it will work out that well for you.”

I felt an infinite pressure emanating from the red and blue switches.

Nevertheless, I had to continue on.

The guillotine.

A tool for execution.

A tool created to kill.

I held the switch that would make it move.

I held the red switch.

And I pressed it.