Disclaimer: I own nothing save the storyline. Everything else belongs to Max Brooks and Daisuke Sato.
To be Prepared
Chapter One: The Night Before
The night before everything ended… I was up late.
For some unfathomable reason, I simply could not rest. Maybe it was because I just finished my evening ten-kilometer run; perhaps it was due to a last-minute rechecking of the homework that was due the next morning; possibly it was because I was simply not tired. Whatever the cause, whatever the multitude of possibilities that made sleep all but impossible for me, I did what I always do when I have free time: I studied my guidebook.
"The Zombie Survival Guide" by Max Brooks, for short.
Sure, go on. I know you want to laugh at this point. Please do, don't mind my private little obsession. Believe me, when I first saw this book two years ago, in the bookstore near my family's house, I did too. I laughed myself silly, long and loud, to the point where the shop keeper asked me to leave. And I did leave… after I bought the thing. If you'd have asked me why I did back then, I would've said that it was out of curiosity than anything else. Perhaps the novelty of an American-written "guide-book" about surviving the walking dead – in a Japanese bookstore – intrigued me. Never would I have guessed how much of a godsend this Max Brooks' book would become…
The day I bought it, I also discovered another strange novelty that would impact my life. My dearest friend from childhood (and, secretly, my fondest crush), Miyamoto Rei would be going to the same highschool as me! I just finished junior high and my test scores were… passable. And as usual, Rei's were incredibly high. My darkest fear was that she and I would be separated do to Japan's academic standard, and that we might never see each other again. Well, maybe not never again. There was still college to consider, but still, that was years away.
Way, way back, she once promised me that we would get married. And while a childish promised for sure, it was one that I still carried with me to this day. Of course, I am still referring to the incident two years ago when I first bought the Guidebook. As for what I feel today, well… I'll get back to you on that as I still don't know.
Continuing on, fate and fortune were shining down upon me the day of the test and I'd managed to scrape just above the standards of Fujimi High, thus ensuring our continuing friendship. It was one of the premier schools in Tokyo, one that an average of 13% of its graduates going on to attend Todai: That's Tokyo University, for short. And yes, Todai has that kind of elite academic standard. The best of the best (or in my case, most determined) get in.
But how did I learn of this enlightening little fact? Simple. Another of my friends, a standalone genius named Tagaki Saya, told me. She also explained that the reason why wasn't because of Rei's drive for scholastic excellence. One my best male friends, Igou Hisashi, was hitting puberty like a boss, gaining the attentions of nearly every girl in our class like piece of fine cut beef thrown into a cage of starving dogs. Dear Rei… my Rei, was no exception it seemed. Relations between me and Hisashi would soon become strained, but I'll get back to that later.
So, in the span of a single day, I was amused, intrigued, elated, and heartbroken: God I hate being a teenager sometimes. That night, two years ago, I dove into the Guidebook with single-minded determination, figuring that hey, since my circle of friends was now being decreased a bit, maybe a bit of "zombie-fiction" couldn't hurt. Oh my God, how wrong I would be.
The Zombie Survival Guide all but dominated my imagination, even after I read it... three more times. I was horrified for lack of a better word and yet hungry for more of this type of fiction. Thank all for the internet because my desire became reality. More and more books on the subject came to my doorstep and soon, my parents were starting to get worried. They told me I was obsessed and that maybe I should stop. But I could stop at anytime, I told them, and I was not obsessed. I simply had a healthy interest in all things relating to the coming zombie apocalypse.
Nothing weird about that, right?
Well, for starters, most of the novella and other books having some sort of relation to the Guidebook were all in English. Shit. That was a topic I wouldn't learn until the later years in highschool. I got lucky with the Guidebook, it was printed in hiragana. So I started early, working my way through the language bit by bit, using Guidebook as a reference. And I soon ran into another problem: Most, if not all, were meant for an American audience, referring to places and facts that only a citizen of that Western Nation (well, Eastern if you want to be technical) would recognize.
I had to improvise.
I suppose it needs to be said that, like many things, my parents were right. I was obsessed. Over the next two years, I all but devoted myself to these books, training myself for a future that would never come, that couldn't exist. Running, kilometers and kilometers of running myself ragged day after day; reading survival manuals and magazines, memorizing obscure facts such as how much water a boy my age could ration out over a week and still remain at near full ability; learning how to craft and utilize all manner of weaponry from mundane and benign objects, as guns and swords were both hard to come by and generally frowned upon in Japan.
Two years of this pass… I was starting to get as weird and antisocial as Hirano Kohta, Fujimi High's resident weapons-otaku. Ironically, he and I hit it off pretty well, often discussing the pros and cons of various firearms and his experience (since I'd never fired a pistol in my life) with them. Don't let the pudgy exterior fool you into thinking he's an idiot: Kohta knows his shit. And he can be really fucking scary sometimes, too.
But the good times were fast coming to a close as Rei and Hisashi finally began dating. No surprise, that was when my and Hisashi (a.k.a. a royal prick, because who really dates his buddy's crush, right?) stopped talking. Relations between myself and Rei became further strained and she stopped hanging out with me in favor of her new boyfriend. I did mention that he was a prick, right?
So here I am, relaxing on my bed, the Guidebook firmly in hand, reading when I should be sleeping. I rub my eyes and groan, wishing that whatever was bothering me would just leave me alone.
"Jesus…" I groan, setting the book on the bed before standing up to stretch. Tendons pop and my muscles burn, mostly in my legs, back, and forearms. It feels good, like a validation that my workout regimen agrees well with my body, which in turn rewards me with a bit more strength and power. A win-win in my book.
Then I went to the bathroom and jerked off. Hey, don't judge me. I'm a healthy teenage boy with an equally healthy interest in the female sex. I do what I have to do to get by. Most of the time I think about Rei, about those curves she's really growing into and how great she looks in her gym outfit. Other times, I imagine our school nurse and that luscious bosom she rocks – I wonder how she can stand much less avoid back pain considering the sheer size of her boobs. Every now and then, the brainy redhead Saya creeps into my fantasies and I find myself curious to know whether her scathing wit and perfectionist attitude would impact her performance in the sack.
I'm close now… so close. And then suddenly I'm thinking of Busujima-senpai, the coldest, sexiest senior I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. Busujima Saeko, the kendo mistress and president of Fujimi High's sword-fighting club… dear God, that'll do. All that softness moving and sliding in that coarse, white dogi, all sodden with sweat; Saeko's long, luxurious hair that shines purple in the light; her captivatingly sweet smile right before she utterly destroys her opponent… almost there. I've seen her eyeballing me every now and then when I'm in the arena, watching me with her ice-blue eyes, inhaling sharply when I attack, and sighing softly when I win.
A glorious release.
I wipe the sweat from eyes after I clean myself off. I am not ashamed of my fantasies. They are simply dreams, nothing more. Busujima-senpai is a senior and would never dean to acknowledge me, no matter how well I fight. Saya is on some completely different mental level, no doubt my thought processes are too slow and disjointed for her to even consider – she probably couldn't think as slow as me if she tried. The nurse, Marikawa-sensei, is not a pedophile and Rei is in love with the prick. Hisashi's no doubt. And while I'm on the warpath of bashing away my self-confidence, most of the girls in the whole school think I'm a nut that reads too much zombie-fiction than is healthy.
Whatever, a bunch of jerks anyway. I don't need anyone; I've got my Guidebook and the mentality I've trained myself to think with. Intuition, knowledge, strength, adaptation… survival. If ever the worst should happen, I know that I can survive alone. But in all my books, team-work is ever paramount. True, one determined person assumes the mantle of leadership in a group but no matter how skilled, how strong, one man (or woman) is useless against the horde of walking dead.
Dimly, I know that none of this crap is real, that I'm thinking too much into a fictional hypothetical. But I can recognize and associate the common elements of the zombie-fiction with a real-life catastrophe. An earthquake, a tsunami, an atomic detonation: These things are real enough and apocalyptic enough to warrant such thoughts that I've been thinking. They can happen and when they do, similar events recorded in my books will become reality. No one will be ready when the worst comes knocking… no one.
Except me, Komuro Takashi, avid zombie-enthusiast and amateur survivalist.
I know I will survive but the question is, can I help others to do so as well?
"Yes," I say aloud, standing in front of a mirror, staring hard at myself.
No, says a voice in the back of my mind, tempering my confidence before it becomes arrogance and thus preventing myself from getting killed sometime in the future.
"…maybe," I allow, my voice soft as I notice the bags around my eyes. I look at my watch, 2:32 AM (UTC+9:00, Coordinated Universal Time). In England, people are just getting off work and heading to the local pubs for a pint. In America, most people are getting lunch. Here, I am not sleeping even though I have to go to school in a few hours.
I shake my head ruefully. "Takashi, you are fucking messed up." I chuckle wearily, seeing my reflection do the same and elect to give sleep another try. I get back over to my bed, finding a comfortable position, and reverently close the Guidebook, setting in on the nearby ottoman. I recall my meditative exercises, closing my eyes and imagining a small black box. Then, starting from one corner, the top-left one, I count off each of its sides, coordinating my breathing rhythm with it.
One, two, three, four…
One, two, three, four…
My heartbeat begins to slow as it settles to a softer cadence. My body relaxes and my mind seems to float away. But before sleep claims me fully, I recall the last passage of the Guidebook that I read:
"…The monsters that rose from the dead, they are nothing compared to the ones we carry in our hearts. When the end draws near, it will be by the ravages of the fearful that many will perish – despair will make the even sanest, most benevolent man a monster…"
…To Be Continued…
A/N: I hope you like this story. Yes, everything will be in first-person and no, I am not sure if I'll stick with Takashi's POV. I'll gage that on the reception I get from this chapter. Oh, and this is my first foray into the wonderful world of zombie-fiction.
A/N (Part 2) I want to give a shout out to Max Brooks. If you haven't read any of his stories, seriously, check them out. You will like them, promise!