December 29th. It’s been four days since the earthquake. I’ve been walking around the church with a map since this morning. I’m jotting down where crevices have formed and places where it’s flooded. It’d be fatal to go to such dangerous areas in the future if the snow covers the ground, and we’ll also be able to tell the difference even if any other aftershocks change the terrain. And this isn’t a practical reason, but gathering information should give us some peace of mind. We still do not have any information, and we have no way to find out what’s happening. Anxiety flourishes without information, so we should observe the situation and gather information on our own in order to figure out what we should do. This was Tanomura-san’s idea, and I have no objections with it. I started exploring, but I haven’t met any survivors yet. I tried making a smoke signal, but the white smoke was lost in the cloudy sky and the falling snow, so it wasn’t effective. But I did meet dead people. I noticed countless corpses we had previously overlooked while carefully trampling down the snow and mapping the landscape around me. For example, I was inspecting a landslide when I saw a hand sticking out. For example, I was surveying the scope of the flood when I saw black hair swaying deep in the water. For example, I saw something red dripping out of a crushed car. I see all this just by walking around. I’m sure I’d find many more dead bodies if I decided to search through the collapsed buildings. My legs are tired by the time I make it back to the church. I brush the snow off a nearby concrete block and sit on it. In front of me is the flooded town. The deep pool extends almost to my feet. The water’s surface creates a dark grey reflection of the sky. I nibble on the cookies I’m carrying while holding the hand grip in my right hand. The springs creak. I watch the panoramic view in front of me. A wild bird is flying between the ruins. Birds can fly, so it must have been easy for them to survive the earthquake. Seeing the bird elegantly fly through the barren ruins is a fantastic sight. My sense of reality fades as I keep watching it and, strangely, I calm down. I feel faint. Then, I hear footsteps stomping on the snow from behind me. I turn back to see a dirty-looking man.
“You’re a student, right?”
He’s holding a briefcase and is wearing a grey coast, grey suit, a neck tie which is coming apart and a dirty business shirt. White snow is on his head and shoulders.
“Can I have that?”
I hand him the whole back of cookies.
“Thanks. I haven’t eaten for a long time. But this is the first time I’ve met someone since the earthquake. I haven’t seen anybody alive, so I thought mankind had perished.”
He doesn’t even look at the cookies I gave him and keeps talking.
“So I wasn’t the only one who survived, huh? Well, I guess that’s natural. But I think it’s only a matter of time. Look at the condition this town is in! I don’t know how many people survived, but does it look like...