Kaijuphile.com presents 'Eyewitness'
Kaijuphile.com presents 'Eyewitness'
Kaijuphile.com presents 'Eyewitness'

The Top of the Food Chain by Benjamin Riley

by Benjamin Riley

Who would have ever thought ceramic tile was so comfortable? Certainly not me but here I am, face planted on a white hexagonal sea of it. Granted, I can only see about eighteen inches straight ahead but that should count for something, right?
Why is it so quiet? A second ago, when I saw the tile rushing up to meet my face, the party had been raging like a Class Five storm in the adjacent hotel room. I still don't know where Jack and Allen found all those people, especially here in Tokyo where we only know one person. But now it was as still as a country morning, the music silenced and the roar of happy humanity stifled. What had happened?
Sitting up brings another wave of nausea, reminding me why I wound up in the toilet in the first place. What was that stuff Hiroki had given me? He'd called it Suntory but it might as well have been liquid pain, considering how smoothly it had gone down. And after I and four of our mutual friends had flown halfway around the world to be with him for his wedding. Some friend, poisoning his best man!
I wipe my forehead with the back of my hand, lean over the toilet I'd been napping next to and spit into the bowl. Three deep breaths later and I'm ready to rejoin the party even if I do feel like a marionette with two strings cut as I lurch to my feet. I check myself in the mirror and I look like I feel. Hair tousled, shirt wrinkled, tie still on but hanging down my back. I twist it back and smooth my shirt before unlocking the bathroom door.
There's not a single solitary soul in the room. Everybody has left and they weren't too particular about helping clean up on their way out. One of the chairs has been tipped over and colorful half-full plastic cups line every flat surface. The CD player is blinking at me, waiting for a command. There are coats and hats and even a woman's skirt strewn about.
Had there been a fire drill while I was asleep? Maybe that was it. Everybody had lit out when I'd locked myself in the john and they hadn't been able to bring me along. Maybe they hadn't even tried to find me. Who knows? Well, they're probably all waiting outside for the drill to end. I walk over to the window and peek down the five stories to the street below. Nobody's there. I mean, nobody's there at all. The whole street is absolutely deserted. I check my watch. It's just after midnight. I was asleep for four hours and now there's not a body to be seen.
I've only been in Tokyo for two days but even I know that's not right. This city is in a constant state of bustle and pretty much stays that way 24/7. All of a sudden, it's a ghost town. A creepy little tingle starts to edge its way up my spine, settling in behind my ears and making my shoulders twitch. Something's clearly not right but I don't know what it could be. What's going on?
I go out into the hallway, wishing I could find some aspirin. My brain feels like it's about to start leaking out my ears my head hurts so bad. The hall is as quiet as the street. The doors to some of the other rooms had been left ajar so I wander around and peek in. These also have been abandoned, clothes and valuables dropped carelessly all over. My stomach bubbled but not from the liquor. I'm starting to get scared here, I say to myself. Just to see what happens, I shout down the hall.
“Helloooooooo?” My voice echoes around me. I take another deep breath, thinking furiously. Maybe the concierge will tell me what happened. I try the elevators but they're not working so I hoof it down the stairs. By the time I reach the bottom, I'm sweating. Haven't exercised in months and been spending way too much time at the local Outback, gorging on steaks and onions. Next week, I'm going to start hitting the gym instead.
The lobby is also devoid of life but by now I'm getting used to it. Whatever panic infected the people upstairs had passed through here, too. Papers litter the desk and plants are toppled over. One of the plate glass windows that look out onto the street has been shattered. What happened here?
A TV had been left on in the bar that adjoins the lobby, tuned to a newscast. The guy on the screen seems harried and plenty upset, speaking roughly one thousand syllables per minute. Problem is, they're in Japanese and the only Japanese I know is “Sayonara”. Okay, I also learned “sake” on this trip but that's no help here. The unending wave of gibberish scorches my ears so I go outside. Somebody has to be around, hopefully someone who I can understand. I can't be the only person left in this city...
I look up and down the vacant street. All right, maybe I am the only one here. I've seen more activity in cemeteries. There aren't even any birds in the trees. I shout another hello but apart from the echo, everything's the same as before. I feel like I'm in a sci-fi movie. You know, “The Last Man On Earth” or something like that. And I hate sci-fi movies.
I don't know this town. Tokyo's as alien to me as the surface of Neptune. Hiroki had taken us around sightseeing but for the life of me I don't remember a single thing he said. My first instinct is to hail a taxi and pray the driver speaks English but that obviously wasn't going to happen so I wander up the boulevard, hoping to find someone. Anyone.
I make it two blocks before the siren goes off. At first, I don't know what it is. I've never heard anything like it before. It starts off with a deep bass hum but quickly rises to a deafening electronic scream. I clasp my hands over my ears and sink to my knees, moaning. The sudden auditory assault goads my headache to psyche-splitting proportions. The sound doesn't quit but after ten or fifteen agonizing seconds, I become more or less used to it. It's even familiar, though I don't know where I would've heard it before. I stand, using a street sign for support and look around, confused and disoriented. I don't understand what's happening. I'm in a foreign city, I don't speak the language, what sounds like an air raid siren is bellowing all around me and I've got a hangover that would cripple one of those monsters that are always stomping all over this city.
Oh, my God! My eyes stretch wide as a hellish idea smacks me in the face. It was years ago, watching the Japanese channel with Hiroki back in New York. One of those monsters (only he called them “kaiju”) was landing in some Japanese city. That big turtle thing. I don't know what it's called. Who can remember their names? It was fighting some equally weird creature, throwing it into an apartment building, crushing it like a cardboard box and this siren was picked up by the news camera's audio feed. The very same siren I was hearing this very minute.
It wasn't possible, was it? Was one of those… THINGS coming here? No, of course not! Not now, of all times. Not with me here. It can't be. There has to be some other explanation. I'm still trying to think of one when I hear a war break out. The night lights up behind the towering buildings that crowd the sky, casting a kaleidoscope of shadows on the streets and storefronts as I hear the thunder of artillery close by, from the direction of the harbor, I think, but right now I'm not too sure about anything. For a moment, the siren is drowned out by the bedlam and I stand in awe as the world changes color all around me. Too stunned to even run, I stand there like an idiot and gape up at the enormous pillars of smoke that begin to rise from the battle zone. From the din, I pick up the ratatatat of machine gun fire, the wallop of a series of explosions, even the strange electric crackle of those new laser tanks I read about in some magazine while waiting my turn in the barber shop. But then, a new noise swallows them all, smothering them with its unearthly timbre.
If I live another thirty years, I'll never be able to describe that sound. It is the sound of godlike rage with a life unto itself; this sound, a pulse appallingly pure in its wickedness, a staccato promise of death and ruin that mocks any pitiful being that would dare challenge it. The extraordinary cry skews and melts into an unending moan that soaks through the empty city, resonating off glass and concrete until the entire metropolis bathes in it. In seconds, the city is brimming with the otherworldly wail until it sounds like it has been overrun with damned things; the cackling of foul demons and the cries of tortured hearts blending into an unholy melody that makes pure souls want to cower and repent.
Before the last echo dies, there's another flash that silhouettes the buildings, casting heartbeat-quick shadows all around me and then the earth itself shakes violently and spills me on my rump. Even from there I can feel the heat spilling like blood through the alleys and streets and the sky turns to crimson daylight. It's a hideous parody of a sunrise, all the same colors but each with a macabre tint.
Oh my God, it's true. One of those… things is coming here. One of those damn kaiju is about to tear this city down with me still in it. Emotionally numb, I do the only thing I can think of: I pray. Please, whatever god may be listening, please let me see the real sun rise again.
In seconds there is no more gunfire from the bay area. I recall how all these mutants can shoot lasers or whatever from their horns and mouths and realize that the last detonation must have been the creature's doing. I wonder if there's any army left.
I'm just starting to stand up when the street bucks underneath me, sending me sprawling again. Even as I hit the pavement, I feel a horrendous crushing jolt, certainly one of the behemoth's feet punishing the earth as it comes ashore. The jolt brought me to my senses, shocking me out of my numbness even as the pavement splinters and cracks around me. I scramble to my knees, then to my feet. I've wasted precious time and I'm only now starting to understand how much trouble I'm really in.
I don't have to know where I am to know what direction to go in: away from the monster that's coming. Fueled by the biggest adrenaline rush a human being has ever had, I sprint down the street, deeper into the dead city. But I'm not fast enough, don't have enough stamina. The rush lets me fly down the first block. I'm down to a full run for the second. I'm stumbling by the third. I'm puking halfway down the fourth. I double over, hands on knees. I spit and look back the way I came.
I can see the beast clearly now, though it's still half a mile away, towering over the concrete canyons, dwarfing the creations of Man. Backlit by the funeral pyre of a thousand men, its features are voided by the darkness deeper than the moonless sky. It is nothing but a sheer demonic mass. It moves among and through the buildings with the air of an emperor inspecting his lands. With a casual swipe of one mammoth paw, it tears the top off an office building, undoing months of construction and causing shattered glass and mounds of pulverized concrete to spill into the streets. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage is caused in mere seconds by the merest whim of the mighty creature. It roars again, pleased with itself and as its head swivels about, I realize it is trying to decide which way to go.
Don't turn left, I pray, my pulse so loud in my ears I'm surprised the thing hasn't heard it. Left brings you to me. I can't run anymore. Don't turn left. Go straight. Go right. Go back. Just please please please don't turn left! With a guttural snarl, the body pivots on its foot. Left. I run again. This isn't right. I'm a human being, the top of the food chain, the dominant species on this planet. I'm running for my life.
The world itself is being torn apart behind me as I look over my shoulder and run. The animal is too big to fit down the street but it's just tearing through every obstacle. Building faces are being scraped off by the creature's body, the structures themselves screaming from the torment as countless tons of steel and cement and glass form enormous testimonials to the invincible beast's passage. Why? Why? Why is it coming this way? It can't see me, can it? Is it after me?
The end of the block. An instinct born of thirty years' practice makes me stop before I run into the street, look both ways for oncoming traffic, then curse my own foolishness. I don't need to look back to know it's almost on me, that any minute I might be trod on or devoured, or just smashed by the rubble the monster left wherever it went. Can't outrun it. Can't get away. Gotta think. Think. Think!
I break to the right. Thing can't move at angles, buildings are too big. Running. Not running but staggering. There's nothing left and I'm out of shape, hung over; too much activity too fast. I lurch to the side as I fall into the entry arch of a huge building that looks like a bank. Hide and it'll pass me by. Won't get me. Please, don't get me. I pull my knees up to my chest and hide my face in my knees.
I know what happens as soon as it does. The arch bucks as the entire building leans sideways, the walls bending in to embrace me. I hear debris showering the street, then I'm once again swallowed by the creature's triumphant wail. The monster just knocked the building over. As the light fades, I have to smile. At least my headache's gone.

* * *
As I'd suspected, Hiroki and his fiancée, Yukio, and the rest of the party had evacuated en masse when the government first learned of the impending attack. When they couldn't find me, they'd just assumed I'd gotten lost in the shuffle and made it outside. He felt horrible that I'd been left behind.
I came through the ordeal with minor injuries, cuts and bruises mostly. How is that possible? Simple. The archway held. I don't know how long I was trapped there but they tell me it was approximately sixteen hours. I wouldn't know, being as I was unconscious the whole time. My right shoulder was dislocated and I have a nice scar on my forehead. Apart from that, there was no permanent damage. I wasn't the only person left in Tokyo that night. After two weeks of search and rescue operations, myself and twelve other people were the only ones found alive there. Three hundred and fifty-six people died while they hid and prayed something or someone would come to their rescue. One thousand, nine hundred and eighty-four people died in the brief skirmish at the docks. So many dead but I lived.
When you have an experience like mine, you're supposed to learn something. I don't think I have. Eight months after the monster returned to the sea, I go to the gym every day now. And every morning I wake up and watch the sun rise.

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