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
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
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
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