Chapter 1: The Drowned Mouse
A mouse crawled into a hole.
He breathed in quietly, wrapped in pitch black. He could smell the faint odor of damp soil. He continued on, slowly and cautiously. The hole was narrow. It was scarcely big enough for a mouse to squeeze through. And it was dark. There was no light to be seen. But he felt at ease. He liked dark and narrow places. The larger creatures bent on catching him couldn’t get to him in places like this. It was a fleeting moment of peace and quiet. The wound in his shoulder was aching, but it didn’t really bother him. The real problem wasn’t the pain, but the amount of blood he was losing. The wound wasn’t especially bad. It was just a small hole in his shoulder. It should have started to clot a while ago. But… The wound… Still felt slimy and warm. It was still bleeding.
–They must have put an anticoagulant in the bullet.
The mouse bit his lip.
I wish I had some
hemostatic agent. I’m not asking for anything fancy. Thrombin or aluminum sulfate, either would be fine with me. At the very least, I wish I had some clean water to wash the wound.
His legs buckled. He was feeling light-headed and dizzy.
–This is bad.
I’m probably going into shock. In which case, I’m in serious trouble. I won’t be able to move anymore.
I heard a voice in my head.
Maybe it’s fine if you can’t move in this damp darkness. You’ll drift off to sleep and die peacefully. You probably won’t suffer much. I bet it’ll just feel kind of cold. No, that’d be too easy. Your blood pressure is dropping, your breathing slowing, your body becoming numb… of course you’re going to suffer.
You’re sleepy. You’re cold. You’re in pain. You can’t move. You only have to suffer a little longer. Come on, just give up this futile struggle and sit still. Even if the people chasing you get here, no one’s coming to rescue you. No one will save you. So just give up on living already. Just curl up here and fall asleep. Just give up already.
He forced his feet forward, bracing himself against the wall. The mouse smiled wryly.
His body is defying the voice telling him to give up. What a pain.
–An hour. No, thirty minutes?
I can only keep moving in this condition for about thirty minutes. During that time frame, I need to stop the bleeding and secure a place to rest. That’s all I need to make it through this.
The air stirred. The darkness in front of him began to lift just a bit. Step by heavy step he walked on. He emerged from the dark, narrow tunnel into a vast space surrounded by white concrete walls. The mouse knew that it had been in use as part of the sewer system until ten-some-odd years ago at the end of the 20th century.
Compared to the surface sections of No. 6, abandoned underground installations were quite commonplace. Installations left untouched from the previous century were scattered about underground. It was a most appropriate environment for a mouse. He closed his eyes and recalled the map of No. 6 that he’d pulled down from the computer.
This sewer should be disposal route K0210. It ends up near the upper class residential area, Chronos. Of course, there might be dead ends before that.
If you want to survive, you have to keep moving forward. Right now, the mouse could not allow himself to waver or get picky.
The air is stirring. It’s not the stale, damp air from before, but fresh, humid air. Speaking of which, it was raining heavily on the surface.