A Simple Survey:Volume2 Reaper01
Reaper Game 01: Decision
Higashikawa Mamoru hurriedly stood up. He ignored the corpse and the bomb and ran over to the room’s only exit.
It was an extremely thick steel door.
But it would not open no matter how much he pushed or pulled. He kicked it and rammed his shoulder into it, but it showed no sign of breaking. It seemed to be very sturdily built and it was tightly locked. He spotted a keyhole near the doorknob. The design gave off a different impression from the keyhole to a house.
“A key?” muttered Higashikawa as he looked around. “I need to find the key. Is that what this attraction is?”
No response came from the speaker.
Higashikawa looked around the room. The square space had no furniture or equipment. No matter how small the key was, he should have found it immediately as there was nowhere to hide it. Yet it was not there. He could not find it. Was there simply no key in the room? Or…
(If it’s hidden…)
Higashikawa looked over at the wall clock that had fallen to the floor. The clock had been turned into a time bomb with an unknown time limit. The key could be hidden within, but he did not want to carelessly dismantle it.
Higashikawa’s impression of bombs came from movies and dramas, but he was fairly certain that real bombs would explode if you messed with them just like in fiction.
But on the other hand…
(The bomb was installed on the outside of the clock. Was that because there was no space inside for it?)
And the parts on the outside such as the circuit board and the bomb itself were completely exposed. They were not hidden within a box. He could see nothing in which a key could be hidden. The cylindrical container with the liquid explosive inside was transparent, so he would have been able to see a key hidden within.
It was not in the clock.
Where else could the key be hidden?
Where could a small key be hidden in that almost entirely empty room?
“…You’re kidding me.”
After looking around the room again, Higashikawa’s expression stiffened.
There was something he had been trying to keep his mind off of.
It was sitting in the middle of the room.
The corpse of the woman in a kimono.
It was true a key could be hidden on that.
He hesitated to approach.
If this was the remains of a relative who had lived to a ripe old age and died of natural causes and it had been properly prepared for a funeral, he might have been able to tearfully see her off to her grave.
However, the object in the center of the room was clearly different.
The woman in the kimono had been killed in an abnormal way so she was missing her head and hands. And it seemed a few days had passed since her death, so this had transformed into something no normal person would think of as “human”. The corpse seemed to be radiating the invisible concept of “death”. He felt he would be enveloped by that “death” if he carelessly approached.
But he had to check.
A time bomb that could explode at any time had been put in the room. And he had been thrown inside with it.
He had no idea how powerful the bomb was, but he doubted it would be survivable from within the room if it was one of their penalties.
He guessed the blast would envelop the entire room at least.
He had to find the key to the door before that happened. He had to search every spot it could be in.
With every step he took, the urge to vomit grew. His feet grew unsteady beneath him. He felt as if he was walking on a ship. His gaze was fixed on the corpse’s neck wound.
The ten steps it took felt like hell.
But he eventually made it to the corpse.
He crouched down.
Approaching it and touching it were two different things. This was an even higher hurdle. But he had to do it. Higashikawa grabbed the cloth of the kimono and flipped over the corpse.
He found a silver key. Tears welled up in his eyes. But something was wrong. The key did not have the proper jagged teeth.
This was a blank key. Trying it in the door would only waste time and could even destroy the keyhole
He rolled the corpse back onto its back and stared at the kimono. Unlike western clothes, the kimono technically had no pockets. However, a key could still be hidden in the clothes.
This was a woman’s corpse with no head or hands.
He felt an intense rejection towards the idea of sticking his hand inside the kimono.
Even so, Higashikawa was urged on by the ticking of the time bomb.
He reached out a trembling hand.
He first reached inside the corpse’s right sleeve. He felt a sticky sensation and his urge to vomit doubled. Was this blood from the severed hand or had the woman’s skin started to liquefy like a green onion? Higashikawa did not know much about the decomposition process and he was afraid to think about it too much.
He then felt a hard key.
But when he pulled his hand back out from the kimono’s sleeve, he was holding another blank key. Something brown and wet covered his fingertips. A sharp odor reached his nose. He thought he was going to cry. But he also felt like his mind would completely break if he stopped working now. While thinking as little as possible, Higashikawa continued his work.
He reached his hand into various parts of the kimono, but found nothing but more blank keys.
He had gone so far and yet it had all been a waste.
He suddenly started to wonder if there was any need to continue the search for the real key.
Could he perhaps dig through the wall with the blank keys? He did not need to open up large enough a hole to pass through. He just had to dig around the bolts holding the door frame in place. Then he could pull the entire door down.
He continued his search for the real key. Would the enemy allow him to ignore the proper method and force his way out? They were the same people who had prepared this corpse.
If he did not find the real key, he would be blown away by the bomb.
The extreme situation felt as if it would destroy his stomach, but then a thought struck Higashikawa.
He realized where the key could still be hidden.
He thought of a location.
With almost no expression left on his face, Higashikawa Mamoru looked toward that location.
He looked back toward the kimono-wearing woman’s corpse.
However, he did not think they key was hidden in her clothes.
He had to search deeper.
There was a much crueler hiding spot.
In other words…
The key could be inside the corpse.
It could have been embedded inside it somewhere.
“You’re kidding me…”
Higashikawa shook his head at the very idea he had come up with himself.
He wanted to deny it.
But with the organizers who had thought up and carried those attractions, it seemed likely.
“You’re kidding me!!”
Higashikawa shouted, forcibly encouraged himself, and then began poking down at the surface of the kimono-wearing woman’s corpse. He was pressing down almost hard enough for his finger to sink into the decomposing skin. If a key was located under the skin, he thought he would feel a hard lump.
But he could not tell.
He was not sure.
Just pressing down with a single finger was not enough to know if a key was there or not.
He had no choice but to actually cut the corpse open and check.
As Higashikawa imagined it in his head, he rolled over onto the floor.
And he cried out.
He felt like his entire stomach was going to come out his mouth. He pointlessly swung his arms and legs around. Tears poured from his eyes and his vision blurred. He felt an unpleasant crawling feeling on his palms.
Was he going to do it?
Did he really have to do it?
Whether alive or dead, a human was a human. That bluish black corpse that he had felt so repelled by now brought the word “human” into Higashikawa’s mind. He would be slicing it open. He would be looking inside. Those actions felt like desecration.
But time continued on.
If he did not want to die in the explosion, he had to try out every possibility that came to his mind.
He wiped away his tears and looked around.
Something was glittering on the ground near the clock that had fallen to the floor. They were sharply pointed glass shards. The glass that had protected the face of the clock had shattered from the fall.
He could use one of those sharp fragments as a blade.
Higashikawa slowly stood back up.
He did not want to die.
He did not want to be blown into as many pieces as logic and common sense had been.
He moved across the room to grab the largest of the glass shards and then faced the kimono-wearing corpse once more. He gulped audibly. He had to cut it open, take out the contents, and examine them all. That was his unavoidable path if he was to attempt every possibility for survival.
He crouched down.
He removed the kimono from the corpse’s chest.
What lay below was more horrible than he had thought. For an instant, his vision darkened and stomach acid rose in his throat, but he somehow managed to endure. He focused intently on the glass shard he held between the fingers of his right hand. He brought it down to the corpse’s unmoving chest.
He pressed down.
The transparent shard sank down about 5 millimeters and Higashikawa forcefully shook his head.
It was too late to bring a hand to his mouth.
“Geh!! Ugeehhh!! Gbggh!! Gbh!!”
He felt like his stomach had suddenly become directly attached to his mouth. Like water flowing back up through a pipe, vomit spewed out across the floor.
Most of his heart cried out that he had had enough.
But he would not survive if he took the easy path. He would meet a similar fate to this corpse. And being blown to pieces by a bomb had to be even more horrible than being decapitated by a guillotine.
Higashikawa grabbed the glass shard once more.
He placed it against the center of the kimono-wearing woman’s body and pressed his weight down on it. After making sure the tip had sunk in, he felt like intense static was running through his mind. He was overcome by dizziness as he pulled the glass shard down to the woman’s navel.
This was different than cutting a piece of paper with a utility knife.
He continually felt the shard catch as he worked his way down.
Because the woman had died several days before, she did not bleed much. Instead, something more black than red seeped out. The sour smell spread further. He realized anew that her insides were rotting.
Higashikawa’s heart had already numbed over.
He had imagined it as being like opening up a pair of double-doors, but it was not that neat. The end result was more like the slit to a disposable package of tissues. He could not see the insides from the outside. With his head wobbling, he moved both hands and stuck his fingertips into the vertical slit he had opened up.
He felt a horribly soft and squishy sensation.
He felt around primarily in the center of the upper body where her stomach would be, but only found a blank key.
She had not been made to swallow the real key.
That meant it had been surgically embedded somewhere else.
He would have to cut her open and search everywhere from her back to the ends of her arms and legs.
Higashikawa’s breathing grew erratic and he felt oxygen deprived even in that room filled with air.
He pressed the tip of the glass shard against the corpse’s right arm and cut it open.
He felt something hard near the elbow.
He stuck his fingertips into the wound and tried to pull it out, but he could not.
It was not a key. When Higashikawa realized the protrusion was white, he vomited for the second time.
Even so, he had no choice but to continue the work.
This was no time for showing respect to the dead.
He found bloody blank key after bloody blank key. It was possible a limit was set on the number of times he could look, but it was not worth thinking about now. As the woman’s corpse slowly lost its general form, Higashikawa Mamoru finally found something made of a gold metal in the woman’s right thigh.
The object covered in something sticky that was both red and black turned out to be a real key with teeth.
He tossed aside the glass shard.
Not even the standard idea of wiping off his dirty hands entered his mind.
He walked unsteadily toward the steel door. He could think of nothing crueler than this key not fitting the keyhole, but fortunately the organizers had not gone that far.
The key entered the keyhole.
Whatever the doorknob had been catching on was gone. The door easily opened.
He practically fell out of the room.
Higashikawa Mamoru gave several shallow breaths to try to take in oxygen while lying on the floor soaked in sweat.
Higashikawa Mamoru found himself in a narrow passageway.
Five identical steel doors were lined up along it.
He could not tell if they led to identical square rooms or if they led to the building’s exit.
Higashikawa brought his hands to the steel door he had left through and slammed it shut half in desperation. He did not know if that would be enough to stop the blast, so he walked backwards away from the door. He felt a chill as he thought about if he had decided to destroy the doorframe without using the real key. His back reached the wall and he slid down to a sitting position.
“Dammit!! I survived. I survived!! Was that the attraction, you bastards!?”
He put all his strength into shouting, but received no response.
One of the other five steel doors opened. A man with a slight beard and wearing a bloody work uniform came out.
Intense anger and wariness welled up within Higashikawa.
The man must have sensed something in Higashikawa’s eyes because he frantically shouted, “W-wait! Wait!! I’m a participant too!!”
Higashikawa finally realized something thanks to that shout.
He looked down at himself.
He was covered in just as much blood as the man in the work uniform. Dirtying his clothes had been unavoidable while searching for the key embedded in the corpse.
Still sitting on the floor, Higashikawa looked up at the man.
“…Did you do the monitoring too?”
“Yes. And now I had to find goddamn key in a corpse’s thigh. I’m Kazakami. How about you?”
“Higashikawa,” he replied quickly before finally taking a deep breath. “Sorry.”
“It’s fine. You showed plenty of restraint in not running at me.”
The man named Kazakami tried to wipe sweat from his face but then realized his hands were still covered in blood. He grimaced.
“Attraction Land is a world famous amusement park, so I thought nothing shady would be going on here. …And yet this is what I find. How insane can this get?”
“Hey, about that…”
Just as Higashikawa began to speak, two more of the five steel doors opened. From one came a woman in a suit who looked like a coldhearted career woman and from the other came a high school aged girl in a school uniform.
Their clothes were bloody too.
It seemed everyone had had a corpse to deal with.
The career woman said she was Hiyama and the high school girl said she was Matsumi.
After they had all exchanged names, Higashikawa returned to the topic at hand.
“This was supposed to be a job with Attraction Land, but do we really know they’re involved in this at all? It’s a famous amusement park, so maybe someone was just using the name.”
“Yes, I doubt an international corporation would be involved in such risky games. Perhaps someone was using the large grounds without permission.” The blood on her hands must have bothered her because Hiyama scraped them up against the wall again and again. “For one thing, a company making that much money would have no need to be involved in anything so dangerous.”
“That’s right,” agreed the high school girl named Matsumi. “But where did the other participants go? If I recall, there were thirty or forty people watching those videos.”
There were only 5 doors.
If only one participant had been locked inside each one, it did not add up.
Were the others involved in their own attractions elsewhere?
Had those attractions already been completed?
The man in the work uniform, Kazakami, searched through his pockets.
“Hey, does anyone have a cell phone. I want to call the police.”
“Mine was taken,” said Matsumi.
Higashikawa and Hiyama shook their heads.
The organizers had likely confiscated them in preparation for the attractions.
“That isn’t good. They can get our personal information from the phones’ memory.”
“Wait a second!! So this group of psychos will know our addresses and our friends’ phone numbers!?”
“Just escaping will not be enough.” Hiyama let out a quick sigh. “And if those videos were all real, these organizers kill people for fun on a daily basis. They must have a system in place to escape the police even if they are reported. I have no idea what that might be though.”
“Then what are we supposed to do?” asked Kazakami.
Hiyama glared lightly at him and said, “But there is plenty of evidence of their crimes here. If we can gather enough information to prove what sorts of attractions are carried out here… Well, having them all arrested would be best, but even if we can’t manage that, we might be able to hold them in check so they cannot go after us anymore.”
“Wait. Are you saying we head deeper into this instead of running away?” frantically cut in Kazakami. “Will that really work!? That’s like heading deep into the forest yourself. It’s suicide!”
“Then what do you say we do? We can assume they have our personal information from our phones. Escaping here does us no good if they can simply target our homes.”
“I don’t know what we can do about that, but escaping here comes first. We can always just abandon our homes. We could run away to some tropical island.”
The high school girl named Matsumi shook her head.
“If we had the money for that, we wouldn’t have come for this job in the first place.”
“We can just go to some really cheap country! We can manage to live comfortably enough for a while.”
Despite Kazakami’s vigorous explanation, it simply did not sound realistic. And that was likely especially true for Matsumi who was still supported by her parents. A minor like her could not choose to abandon the country.
Not that Higashikawa Mamoru’s situation was much different.
“Hey,” said Hiyama as if she had suddenly realized something.
Higashikawa looked over to find her looking at one of the five steel doors.
“Does anyone know when the time bombs will explode?”
“No.” Matsumi shook her head. “None of the attraction’s rules were explained to me.”
“Why do you ask?”
“Well…” Hiyama pointed a slender finger toward the door she had been looking at. “That door is the only door that hasn’t opened yet. I have no idea when the bomb explodes, but doesn’t the person in there need to get out as soon as possible?”
They all turned to look at the unopened door.
Kazakami spoke up as if to shake off a bad feeling.
“Well, we don’t actually know every single door has a participant inside. That door might lead out of the building.”
What if someone was locked in there with a bomb?
What if they had not realized the key was in the corpse?
Or what if they knew where the key was but did not have the courage to take it out?
Higashikawa, Matsumi, Kazakami, and Hiyama.
Those four had made the decision to survive. But that did not mean everyone would make the same decision in the same situation.
The next thing he knew, Higashikawa was calling out toward that door.
No one tried to stop him.
Higashikawa stood up and ran over to the steel door. He frantically pounded his fists on the door and shouted into the room.
“Hey!! Is there someone in there!? Did you give up when you kept finding blank keys? You know where the real key is, right? This is no time to hesitate!! Hurry up and get out of there!!”
He tried to turn the doorknob, but as expected, it was locked and would not budge. Trying to kick it down would be useless.
Meanwhile, a frail female voice came from the other side of the door.
Higashikawa could not tell if the voice was really that quiet or if it was only being muffled by the thick door.
“You can’t what!?”
“I cannot do it. I cannot… That is…that is…”
“Dammit,” cursed Higashikawa through clenched teeth.
If the person inside did not cut up the corpse and get out the key, she could not leave the room. If she did not leave, she would eventually be blown to pieces by the time bomb.
The woman inside knew that yet could not choose to do it.
Higashikawa did not think she was simply refusing to look at reality or being indecisive. He saw something incredibly bright in her.
But it was all over if she did not do it.
That bright thing had been completely normal not long before and yet now it was too much to even look directly at. And it would soon be destroyed in an explosion.
Higashikawa pounded his fists on the steel door and shouted, “Come out!! Get out of there!! This is no time to be idealistic! We were forced to do this. We aren’t the ones at fault here!!”
“The real key is in the corpse’s right thigh. You don’t have to open up a very large hole. You only have to make a small cut! Hurry up and do it!!”
“…I cannot do it. I cannot live like this. I do not want to survive badly enough to do something like this. Do not worry about me. At least work to survive yourself…”
Higashikawa felt an intense heat surge through his stomach.
This was not confusion or fear over the unreasonable situation he had been thrown into.
It was anger.
It was anger toward the organizers who enjoyed creating these cruel situations they called attractions. He felt fierce anger when he thought about them rejoicing as they trampled goodness and reason underfoot.
He had no idea who this woman on the other side of the door was.
Focusing on one’s own moderation and “dropping out” of one’s own free will may have been a different option a human could take. That decision may have been much more respectable than Higashikawa and the others’ decisions to slice open someone else to save themselves.
But he could not allow it.
Someone that decent could not be allowed to die in such an unreasonable and nonsensical way.
“…You can’t do that.”
“What do you mean?”
“No matter how noble your choice may be, the organizers will only rejoice when they see it! They will be clapping their hands together and laughing their asses off in some comfortable room!! I can’t let that happen. There is only one way to make those fucked-up organizers cry and your decision here will ruin it!!”
“What…way is that? These organizers have created such an elaborate setting to mess with us while ensuring they will never be harmed. I do not see how we can fight back. And even if we can, do not worry about me. You can head down that path yourself.”
“I need your help for the method I’m thinking of.”
The organizers had overwhelming power.
They were absolute existences who used human beings like game pieces.
If there truly was a method of frustrating those unknown people, it had to be to…
“Every single one of us must survive this. That is the only way to defeat the organizers!!”
A slight silence followed.
Higashikawa continued on.
“So don’t die here! Don’t end this!! That is not the path you chose. That is the ending prepared by the organizers and it is the ending they are eager to see!! So survive this! Survive by any means necessary!!”
Higashikawa seemed to squeeze out that last word.
Setting aside whether the person had been alive or dead, he had cut open a human being. He did not want to put anyone else through that experience nor did he want anyone to be treated in the same fashion after their death.
They would live on and go home.
That seemed like a terribly obvious thing, but it seemed horribly unrealistic here.
But he spoke once more.
“Please!! We’re at our limit. We can’t accept people’s deaths again and again! If you die, something will break within us. So please…please! Don’t show us that again!!”
He received no response.
He could hear nothing at all through the door.
Had he not been able to reach her?
Thinking he had not, Higashikawa leaned up against the door.
He heard a hard clicking noise from the steel door.
It was the sound of a key turning.
He heard someone groaning through as the door cracked open.
A foreign-looking woman with blonde hair and blue eyes exited. She appeared to be about college age. Her clothes were covered in dark red blood and she had tears and snot covering her face.
The blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman looked at Higashikawa and the other participants in the passageway before collapsing to the floor. She covered her face with hands covered in someone else’s blood and began sobbing.
She had made a decision and lost something bright within her.
But she had survived.
Higashikawa dragged her fully out into the passageway and shut the steel door.
Not even 10 minutes later, an explosive noise stabbed into their ears.
Despite how thick the steel doors were, all five of them bulged out quite a bit. If even one of them had not been closed or if any one of the participants had escaped without using the proper key, everyone in the passageway would have been smashed to pieces by the blast. The giant mass of violent noise was enough to tell them that.
For a while, the five of them stared at the warped doors.
For the moment, they had made no sacrifices.
It took a full three minutes before that hit home.
“…It’s over,” muttered Higashikawa blankly. “It’s over.”
“Yes,” agreed the career woman named Hiyama. “But what is over?”
They had definitely cleared one attraction. But they had no idea where they were and there did not seem to be an exit. Even if they managed to escape, they had no guarantee the organizers would not pursue them. In other words, their safety was in no way ensured.
The man in the work uniform named Kazakami cut in to say, “I kinda liked the sound of that.”
“That thing about the only way to defeat the organizers.”
“I agree,” said the high school girl named Matsumi. “I don’t know if even our best efforts will be enough, but having a goal like that is a good idea. Having everyone survive is our way of opposing the organizers.”
The blonde-haired, blue-eyed woman looked up at Higashikawa from the floor.
He did not know what to say.
Finally, he breathed a sigh of relief and simply said the words that came to mind.
“Then let’s go and find a way to survive.”
The five began moving.
The second attraction was sure to begin soon.
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