It was now the middle of June.
I woke up at half past seven without an alarm clock, and the sleep on the couch didn’t even result in any body pain. I threw some breakfast into me, changed into my uniform and… prepared for being late, didn’t speed up at all and did all my morning business in my usual slow pace. Finally, I went to wake up Minato, she didn’t even think of getting up before my appearance.
No sooner had I come to my senses, than I was used to such a life.
The door to my room was slightly open. I knocked, and then opened the door. Minato wasn’t inside. Her form and bag weren’t there either. I searched at the entrance. Minato’s shoes and suitcase on wheels also disappeared.
With a bad premonition, I searched the entire dwelling. Her toothbrush disappeared from the bathroom, from the washing machine - her uniform, her phone charger didn’t stick out from the outlet. Everything disappeared.
I opened the closet. Storage room. Washroom. Shower. I took my smartphone and looked through my messages. The slider in the text history was crawling steadily, like a log on a quiet river. I was looking for messages that Minato unceremoniously sent me from time to time.
There were none. There was nothing. Even her email address in my contacts.
The floor under my legs seemed to turn into jelly, that had dragged me into its belly. It just couldn’t be, one single thought whirled in my head. Minato Rica. Does a person with such a name even exist? This was enough to blow up my brain.
Could this really have been a dream?
“Hey! Are you here?!” I asked, almost shouting. “Hey, come out already!”
There was no response. My brain began to fail. I scoured all the places that came to mind, opened all the doors that I saw and eventually collapsed on a chair. The clock showed almost eight o’clock. I clung to the faint hope, that she might have already left for school. Perhaps she left alone, while I was sleeping, and now she’s waiting for me there. This is what I though.
I quickly washed my face and began to change. And here a crumpled sheet of paper fell out of my pocket. The copy of the list of my classmates, the one I forced Katai to get me. It had both phone numbers and home addresses.
I enthusiastically ran my eyes through the list, and found it at the very bottom.
Minato Rica. Her name.
I eased with relief. And then another thing came to my mind. I sent Hara a text, in which I asked him to tell me if Minato has arrived, dressed in ordinary street clothes and flew out of the house, forgetting to lock the door.
In my phone I opened up a site with a map, put in an address and launched the search. A red arrow was pointing to the needed destination, and I ran, even hammering in the fact that if I would run into a policeman, he would stop me.
I ran up to the station and with transfers rode to the place indicated by the arrow. The train was travelling at the scheduled speed. Go faster. My body was practically itching from impatience. The stations passed, were completely different, from the ones on my way home from school, and after a while I went off the train.
A restaurant with business lunch for three thousand yen opened before my eyes, and behind it was a sleeping quarters. I glanced at the map, ran a little more and finally got to the destination - a ten-story apartment building, in which the condos were clearly bigger than the standard.
I walked past the automatic gate, which I couldn’t have opened without a key anyways, and found the mail boxes. I looked for box number 506.
And there it was, 506. On the nominal plate was the required last name - Minato.
Having checked only this, I went up to the gates at the entrance of the building. I pretended to be waiting for someone, and hobbled over to the intercom and called the needed apartment. And only grew angrier when I didn’t receive a reply. How I regretted, that I didn’t guess to steal Minato’s keys earlier.
Some time passed, and a man came up to the building, pushing a handcart with a pile of boxes decorated with the logo of a well-known carrier company. I made sure that the man pressed the call button, and stumbled to the entrance.
The automatic lock on the door opened, I attached myself to the man who rolled the car inside, and also walked in. Good work, thank you for the qualitative delivery. These thoughts could be read from my fake smile by any decent local inhabitant.
On the elevator, I went up to the fifth floor. Walking past several apartment, I found the 506th. It was still possible to turn back, but this thought didn’t cross my mind. I reached for the bell and pressed it, hoping for an answer and also afraid of it.
How strange I became. I could’ve just left these Minatos in peace. Peacefully go to school. But I rejected the most adequate options and came here. I wanted to make sure that the consciousness of Minato Rica truly existed.
A foolish peep - and a ring behind the door was heard, calling to go to the intercom and to answer.
If someone were to come, who would it be? Maybe, the parents. Although it’s unlikely that the parents, who don’t care where their daughter spends the night, would be home at such a time. Or is Minato living all alone? Footsteps were heard from the door - it seemed that there really was someone home. I got tense in anticipation, and through the negotiator I heard:
“Sorry, this is the classmate of Mina… Rica-san, my name is Idzono-kun.”
Silence in response.
“I would like to talk. Well, about Rica-san.”
“And… what about?...”
I was speechless. I was vaguely aware of my wish to know more about Minato. Any information would be useful, but most of all I wanted to know, why was Minato so attached to me? Why did she come to me? Why did she climb out of her skin just for me? And just in general, what is her nature, her hobbies, what kind of person is she? I simply knew nothing about her. I knew how she behaved, but didn’t know what she thought about. But after all, we lived together. And I didn’t dare talk about that.
“Well-l-l, okay, let’s say. I’ll listen to you.”
I heard a key turning in a lock, and the door opened.
“I need to go out, let’s talk on the way?”
In the narrow crack, I saw the face of a woman about thirty five years old. Her clothes, lacking all sorts of frills, expressed the hostess’ aspiration of maximum simplicity. Or the woman simply decided that she had no need to dress up for the walk for business.
“I beg your pardon,” She said with indifferent politeness and went out into the corridor to me, and then shut the door with force, locked it and hid the key. In the inner pocket of her bag, something buzzed weakly.
I have to say something, I thought, but nothing came to mind. Because how else, I myself didn’t fully understand why I came here. The woman walked past me to the elevator, and I followed her without a word. We walked into the elevator and silently rode it down.
The elevator arrived on the first floor. My attempts to stay away from the woman in the tight elevator probably looked rather suspicious. I walked out of the elevator through the sliding doors, then passed the main entrance and sped up. I overtook the woman on her right side, where her bag hung, and politely bowed my head.
“I’m sorry it’s so sudden.”
“It’s fine, don’t worry.”
Without raising my head, I made sure that the woman passed by, and I went in the opposite direction. I looked back. The distance between us increased. A second later, I looked back again. The distance increased. I looked back one last time. The woman turned a corner and disappeared from view.
I put my hand in my pocket, and took it back out, holding the just-stolen key.
I turned the key, as if going into my own house, and finally felt the guilt, once firmly drowned by the regular cleaning of other people’s pockets.
Shoes were beautifully arranged on a stand at the entrance. The place was clearly much more spacious than mine. Having taken off my shoes at the entrance, I slowly walked into the corridor. The dead silence was broken only by the beating of my heart. If that woman remembered that she forgot something, and would go back, I would be finished. I wonder how long would it take for the hostess to realize the loss of the key and ask the concierge for a spare?
Though it wasn’t necessary to muffle my steps, I preferred to move slowly. I went into the living room - a table, chair, and a couch, then to a standard kitchen. I found a room filled with clothes resembling a large closet. Probably a wardrobe. The shower and dressing room didn’t feel humid. The examination of secluded corners created the impression, that this place was carefully cleaned, or maybe even that nobody lived here.
In the next room, I suddenly froze.
It was also cleaned, but differed from the rest with white walls, and with the fact that someone definitely lived here. On the table stood a glass stand for pens, and on the bookshelf stood disks and books. Their genres were the most diverse, from manga to ranobe to serious novels. This talked about the broad views of the owner.
And for some reason I was convinced that this room belonged to Minato Rica. It seemed as if I learned something new, but didn’t get much further. It was as if I learned at least a little about the girl named Minato Rica, and for some reason this pleased me. Almost when you get the corner of a puzzle.
Examining the room, I opened the drawers. There weren’t many things in them, but in the clothes drawer of the cabinet I found something unexpected. Dozens of wallets. If you think about it, it was expected. Having found a suitable bag, I stuffed all the goods in it. My right hand took all the evidence of the committed crimes. I only just realized, that this was my first prey for today.
Closing all the drawers, I noticed a photo frame on the desk. In the photo Minato was with a different girl, apparently a friend. Minato, who I was used to seeing in a blazer, looked unusual in a striped shirt. When was this shot taken? Not long before the transfer or during middle school?
The girl in the photo had an impression of a frightened, maybe melancholic, but definitely a not very social person. Bangs to her eyes, dark skin.
It was as if a spark flashed through my head.
The girl lowered her gaze, as if not daring to look into the camera’s lens.
In my head the sounds of clapping was heard.
I remembered. The girl in the photo. She was in the same class as me.
“Well, what do you think?” came from behind me, and I shuddered from surprise and turned around. Minato stood there, and I tensed up immediately. “We were in middle school then. After that the close friend went into high school, there, because of humiliation killed herself, and as revenge I transferred to the same class. I do not hesitate and act with full cruelty, and blame everything for the sad past. And now a question. Is this true? Or not?”
I stood like a statue, and Minato slowly approached me.
“The fact that we were close friends, it’s true, but the revenge is just an excuse. I am actually a very cruel girl, and I just wanted to destroy the class. And again, is this true? Or not?”
Minato cut the distance between us, and I tried to move away, but hit my heel on the bed, and from surprise I became breathless.
“But maybe, I faked the photograph, to justify my revenge on the a*sholes, who began to bully immediately after my transfer. To get revenge for oneself alone is somehow too much, but if you add a victim, the avenger will have an excuse for all the cruelty. Well?”
From the push, I sat down on the bed. Minato, who stayed on her feet, grabbed me by my shoulders and pushed again, and then sat on top.
“Or this. You and I are alike, Idzono-kun, our parents left us both to the mercy of fate, and we show cruelty to distract ourselves. The woman you met is actually a servant who was hired to look after me. That’s how it is.”
I was pinned to the bed. I tried to shove the girl sideways, but lost all my strength. Or maybe the strength was there, it just hid somewhere. Minato was so close, I felt her breath on my face.
“Idzono-kun, which of the heard motives, do you like the most?”
I didn’t know.
“Isn’t it amazing? If we hadn’t the same reason for all this, I would’ve had to force you. I would tell you a depressing story, and you would feel sympathetic. You still wouldn’t have checked whether it’s the truth or not. That’s why, Idzono-kun, you will like my story.”
What was she going to do?
“Or will you announce that I don’t need a motive?”
I tried to open my mouth, but my lips did not obey.
“I am worrying. Soon things won’t go as planned, from this one thought I lose myself. I love you, Idzono-kun. Do you love me? Would you do anything for me?”
My heart squeaked. The miniature Minato on me seemed to be unliftable. She towered over me and stared, waiting for an answer. The silence in the room was suffocating.
“Listen… Tell me at last, what are you planning?”
Minato asked, whether I was ready to do anything. Anything. But what is she planning? What was she going to make me do? It hurts to breathe. My body trembled with shivers.
“A massacre.” Minato smiled. “There, I said it, now what?”
What gibberish. What did she think of.
“What a coincidence. I was thinking of the same thing.”
I walked along the corridor of an apartment building. Hara walked beside me. I grabbed his phone and called the needed person. After a few rings, a voice was heard from the phone:
“Hey. Hara-a! Why the hell are you calling so late?!”
The hands of the clock showed one twenty at night.
“I’m coming,” I threw out the two words and hung up.
I pulled out a fire extinguisher from a corner, lifted it, pulled out a yellow tab and began to press down on the lever, resembling a bicycle break, similar to firefighting exercises. White fume came out of the fire extinguisher immediately.
I walked along the dimly lit corridor to apartment 605. Hara walked behind me. The nameplate showed the sh*tty name - Matsuoka. This was the meeting place of above named piece of sh*t’s friends.
I began to press on the doorbell madly. I was sincerely scary and jabbed at the button to the point that my fingers began to hurt. Soon someone’s hurried footsteps were heard in the apartment. Before the door was opened, I stuffed the end of the extinguisher into the mail slot and began.
I sharply clamped the lever, the white fume swept into the room, and the fire extinguisher, weighing about five to six kilograms, lightened up significantly. Violent coughs came from inside. The door opened and a man’s hand appeared in the opening. I slammed the door, and the limb that was sticking out was stuck. There was a sound of breaking bones. I repeated the blow again, and again. From the crack between the door and the wall, more white smoke came. The hand pulled back, exhausted. When it was clear that the extinguisher was empty, I threw open the door and threw it in.
The thick white smoke hung in the hallway, and on the floor at the entrance sat the fat Oga, who pressed his injured hand to his chest. I kicked him with all my might, and then stepped over his fallen body. I took out the fire extinguisher, stuck in the gypsum wall and went further down the hallway, into a seedy apartment with the format of a 2DK. In the living room, the eyes of Matsuoka’s companions widened. Tobacco smoke, which covered the room, mixed with the smoke of the fire extinguisher. The pieces of sh*t shouted something in my direction.
With the coming of June, we were struck by a terrible humidity. Cicadas crawled out early and screeched loudly. There was only a week before the semester tests, but the class was not at all in study mode.
First of all, the people in our school didn’t like to put their efforts in their studies as a principle.
And second of all, the time has come, when we destroyed our class.
Everyone was silent, and we were the ones who calmed them down.
There were those, whose eyes were extinguished. Those, who were afraid of me, those who praised me, and those who simply wanted to understand my true nature. There were definitely those who hated me so much they were ready to kill me.
Each and everyone of them recognized me.
I was in the very center of attention of others, completely taking over it; all gazes were on me. To this point, I invisibly attacked with my right hand, and no on from the adults noticed me. I hit with no punishments and quietly chuckled at the results. I destroyed the habitual reality, and people began to try and get even with me.
I was recognized as someone, who, at the site of a trash can, jams up its nose and rips it into pieces. This is exactly what I’ve always wanted. Complete destruction. To burn the stuffy space to ashes, where only morons gathered.
With the next step, the goal will be fully achieved.
Let’s go back exactly one year.
It was the time I entered high school. I think it was May, we were getting used to high school and were building up the relationships between us.
People called her The Curtain, her real name was already erased from my memory. I remembered how her bangs, resembling a bamboo curtain, fell on her face, reaching her eyelashes, and the dark skin tone wasn’t due to a healthy skin tan. Perhaps, it was simply her type of hair, but the strands of hair falling on her hair were always disheveled like yarn, with which some cat played.
In those days, I wasn’t particularly interested in socializing with people, and no one wanted to socialize with me anyways, and close communication seemed to me like something vague and distant. Except for the times at each break when I exchanged glances with the girl, who usually sat in her place reading a book with a guilty face.
Because of this, I remembered the moment perfectly, when a sudden call forced that girl to leave her usual spot.
The call was from Tanabe.
“Your bangs are just like a curtain.” This was a ‘greeting’. “Why don’t we cut it?”
The girl muttered something in response, but I didn’t make out the words. But it was as if Tanabe smelled the scent. The scent of a human, who can never refuse, and would always obey. And so, the girl who didn’t like to decorate herself, was sucked into a company of girls, who were covering themselves in tones of makeup.
Like this, Tanabe and the others began to direct her, how to comb her hair, how to do her makeup, get dressed. Soon their efforts came through. That girl, unable to make decisions for herself, changed in appearance. And since then she changed exactly as Tanabe’s gang said. Just like in the social network, avatars change - she changed in real life. She even moved just like she was told.
Getting an all-powerful feeling, Tanabe and her gang soon got carried away. Once that girl appeared in school with yellow-blue hair, just like a character from an anime. The teacher was outraged of course, but in answer only received, “It’s my natural colour.”
Gradually the amount of requirements grew. And demanders too. One after another, absurd orders were thrown at her, which all had to be carried out. Each time they got harder and harder. The crowd got obsessed with this. It got to the point that the crazier someone’s requirement was, the cooler they looked in the eyes of the others. It was necessary to think of something so crazy. Necessary to force her to do something so absurd. Wow, how cool.
The crowd turned into a god for the girl. A god, that only sent suffering and misfortune. The girl was fed with weeds, and forced to smoke until she started vomiting and fainting. They made her run errands, they shredded her hair with scissors, tied a leash around her neck and pulled her after them. They forced her to take off her clothes and show her dirty skin, on which stretched long, red scars, and perform songs of an idol group popular then. If the girl wouldn’t smile, she met with the copper cable. If she puked, she was forced to lick the floor and swallow her own vomit.
No one felt guilt. Everyone was doing it, so it’s ok. This is how they thought. Because these were the rules of the class: the decision of the majority is undeniable. You are free to do anything, as long as they’re within the established rules. This is how they thought.
For me, separated from everyone, the situation caused disgust. But I could only continue watching or transfer to a new school. In any way, this is what I thought in those days. There wasn’t the slightest desire of risking it and going to snitch.
Here summer break began, and then they ended.
During the summer break, the students who began to break under the sense of superiority, began to demand the absurd again. One of them even boasted of appearing at her house and pulling her out of there.
Athletic festival. Cultural festival. Everyone is feeling an unprecedented unity. So it happened that everyone was filled with this feeling and together abused the girl.
Autumn came, then winter. Here the story comes to an end.
December 24th. Christmas Eve.
When the closing ceremony ended and we returned to class, that girl was standing on the windowsill.
She died. She simply died. She killed herself.
It seemed that everyone said just that.
When the eyes focused on the window, the girl glared at each one of them viciously. Her bangs resembling a bamboo curtain was gone - her hair had been shred a long time ago, like a lawn by a lawnmower.
“I’d rather die!”
How unoriginal, thought I. Just like in a cheap two-hour drama. That girl swept through the class again full of blame, as if she was an actor, staring at ungrateful viewers, like me. Her stare seemed to say: you are all to blame, because of you I will die.
Nevertheless, the class remained silent,
Soon there were sounds.
The intermittent sounds, capable of creating a spark, awaken the flame.
What is this? Oh, got it.
The clapping of hands.
The claps before the performance of suicide.
The claps became more frequent, as if it was a cough before the worsening of an infection, and gradually overlapped each other.
The blows of the hands spread across the room and echoed off the concrete walls.
The angry face of that girl distorted.
Her shaking legs buckled, and the girl fell back into the class.
She lifted herself from the floor, stood on all fours, and howled at the top of her lungs. I didn’t understand what exactly she was shouting, but the girl probably didn’t know herself.
Someone sighed so loudly, as if his soul flew right out of him. A chair shifted by someone screeched on the floor.
“So it won’t happen?”
The people lost interest and fled out of the class.
For a moment, I met gazes with the girl, who caused only pity, and turned away. I took my bag and left the room.
The next day, that girl unexpectedly died in a car crash.