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Gosick - Volume 2 - Chapter Epilogue


Published at 5th of February 2016 08:22:08 PM

Chapter Epilogue

monologue 2


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[1]

I awoke to the sensation of someone shaking me .

I opened my eyes, and saw a pair of black eyes peering at me worriedly . Her long black hair, the same glistening color as her eyes, draped down to the floor .

She was a pretty girl, around the same age as me .

I tried to get up, and let out a groan from the pain in my head . The girl murmured a little cry of concern, and propped me up with her thin hands .

*****

Where was I?

What had happened to me?

I put a hand to my head, and looked around . I was in a spacious lounge . There were elegant antique-looking tables and chairs scattered here and there . In the corner was a bar counter, lined with many wine bottles . A small stage had been set up on the side of the room, with sheet music left open as if someone had been performing there .

There were a lot of other boys and girls my age lying down on the polished hardwood floor . There were at least ten of us there . All of the kids were gripping their heads, complaining about their headache .

I realized that the kids belonged to many different races . Nearly all of them had white skin . But since the group included everyone from a heavy-set, particularly Germanic-looking boy with blond hair and blue eyes, to a tanned, curly-haired boy who looked like he grew up around the Mediterranean, I could tell that we came from many countries . There was also a short, yellow-skinned, Chinese-looking boy . A small boy and girl of similar swarthy complexions tried to communicate, but when they realized that they spoke different languages, they seemed taken aback .

Out of the roomful of groaning voices, probably complaining of their headaches, I could make out the sounds of English and French, but there were also many kids speaking rapidly in foreign languages, and I didn’t know what they were saying .

The yellow-skinned boy came over and helped me up . I thanked him in French, “Merci,” and he nodded as if he understood .

“Where are we?!” I heard someone say in clear-sounding English . The children all turned around to see who was yelling .

A white boy was standing there . He was skinny, and his hair was short . His skin, dotted with freckles, was ruddy and deeply tanned .

“Some adults in this weird carriage grabbed me and gave me a meal, and I fell asleep . When I woke up, I was here . And my head hurts… . What’s going on here?”

I stood up and said the same thing had happened to me .

“Did that happen to everyone here…?” the boy replied uneasily .

Only the children who understood English nodded .

The freckled boy looked around the lounge . He paced around the room impatiently, then looked up at the door . He put his hand on the doorknob .

…It opened .

I followed him to the door and took a peek outside . There was a long corridor, lined with lamps that lit up the ornate wooden walls and dark red carpet with much brighter light than they needed .

The freckled boy looked back at us, tension straining his face . “Say…” he asked, tilting his head doubtfully . “Doesn’t it feel like the ground is moving?”

“…You’re right . ”

Now that he mentioned it, it did feel like the ground was slowly moving from side to side . The movement was steady, swaying every few seconds… .

Where were we?

Why were we here?

Then a girl lifted her head up from her hands and cried out shrilly, “Is it an earthquake? An earthquake, that must be it!”

This sent the group into a frenzy . Some of the children quickly dove underneath the tables . Just as panic was about to overtake us, the Chinese boy who lent a hand to me earlier said, “That’s not it . ”

He spoke in English . His pronunciation was flawless .

All eyes turned to him .

“This movement is no earthquake . ”

“Why do you say that?” asked the freckled boy .

The Chinese boy answered in a calm voice, “Because we aren’t on land . ”

“What?”

“This movement … these are waves . We’re at sea . This room is probably a ship’s cabin . What I think is, we’re not in a building on land, but on a ship . ”


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The lounge fell deathly quiet .

 

[2]

The freckled boy led us and several other children who had recovered from their headaches down the hallway . The Chinese boy and the black-haired girl who had awakened me earlier came with us .

The hallway was brightly bathed in lamplight . Our feet sank into the crimson carpet, which felt plusher than any carpet I’d ever stepped on . The softness nearly made me lose my balance and fall down .

I muttered this aloud, and the Chinese boy replied, “Yeah . We must be on one of the upper levels of the ship . ”

“How do you know?”

“On this kind of ship, the upper levels are reserved for the first-class passengers . They can afford to pay through the nose to go on a luxury cruise, and that’s why the lounge and the cabins, and even the hallways are so fancy . ”

“Oh…”

“But if you go to the lower levels, they cram the sailors and the second and third-class passengers into cheap rooms . So they skimp on the amount of lighting, and the carpets look worn out . Go even lower, and you’ll find the cargo hold and the boiler rooms, which look so grimy, you can’t even imagine you’re on the same ship anymore . ”

“…You know an awful lot about this sort of thing,” the freckled boy muttered in an accusatory tone .

The Chinese boy smiled wryly . “Come on, don’t look at me like that . I just happen to have some experience being a third-class passenger . ”

“Huh…”

As we walked along, we introduced ourselves to each other . The freckled boy called himself Huey . The Chinese boy was named Yang . “What about you?” they asked me .

I answered, “Alex . Nice to meet you . ”

“Are you French? It’s just that you spoke French at first, and you have a little bit of an accent to your English . ”

“No, I’m from Sauvure . ”

“Oh . So they speak French in that country, huh?”

The black-haired girl apparently didn’t understand either English or French, but she seemed to catch on that we were introducing ourselves, so she pointed at herself: “Ree . ” And then she counted off her fingers to show us that she was fourteen years old .

Just as Yang had described, that luxury lounge seemed to be on one of the floors nearest to the top of the ship . Once we found a stairwell and climbed up, we immediately found the deck . We emerged onto the deck one by one . As each kid climbed up onto the wooden deck, which had clearly been in service for many years, the planks made a stiff creaking sound .

And once we were all outside … we were lost for words .

All we saw was the ocean—the ocean, and the night…

We were shrouded by heavy darkness, unimaginable in the city . Black waves sloshed around the ship . The pale moon was far above us, its image reflected on the surface of the ocean as a single line of light . There was only water as far as the eye could see, and nothing else in sight except for the ship itself .

One boy ran across the deck . “He-ey!” he shouted . “Is anyone out there?! Help us!”

The quiet sound of waves came back as the only reply .

A Hungarian girl, tall and plump, also ran forward . She leaned over the railing, and just as she was about to give a yell of her own…

I heard something slice through the air—a strange whistling sound . Then came the girl’s shrill scream .

Huey was startled . “What’s wrong?”

“Something just grazed my cheek . Right after I walked over here, something flew at me and fell into the water… . ”

Huey reached out to touch the girl’s face .

Even in the darkness, I could clearly see thick blood smeared on his hand .

A shallow gash ran across the girl’s right cheek as if something had scraped it, drawing blood . When she realized what had happened, she screamed, and sank down to the floor .

I went to help the girl up . The black-haired girl, Ree, also lent a hand .

Huey and the others went to investigate in the direction where the Hungarian girl had pointed, but it was too dark to tell what could have caused something to fly through the air like that .

Yang had gone to the bridge before all this happened, but now he came back out, shaking his head . “It’s no use . The rudder is broken . No… Someone broke it . ”

“How can that be? Why are we here? And are there any other people on this ship? Why are kids the only ones on board?” cried out one boy .


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But Yang just shook his head in dismay . “I don’t know . ”

Huey stood up . “At this rate, we’re just going to end up stranded . Wait, how about finding the radio? This kind of ship should carry a radio, right?”

“Yeah . Hey, Alex… The radio room should be in the bow of the ship, shouldn’t it?” Yang asked me . But I had never been on a ship like this before, and I shook my head, unable to answer him .

“Let’s go!” Yang and Huey ran off together . But soon enough, they came back, their shoulders slumped .

“What happened?”

“We can’t make it… . There’s this huge smokestack, and it’s blocking the way . It’s impossible to cross the deck from stern to bow . I guess the smokestack’s probably for decoration… . But it’s still much too big . Almost as if someone deliberately made it that way, just so we wouldn’t be able to get to the radio room… . ”

“Then what should we do?”

Huey looked up at me . “There has to be a way . If not by the deck, then we could try going through the inside . We can go down the stairs, walk back through the hallway toward the bow, and go up the stairs on the other side . Once we’re across, we can call the coast guard on the radio . ”

“Right . It shouldn’t take long . ” Yang nodded .

Then I suddenly felt something soft lean against my arm . Ree had come to my side to cling to me anxiously . We couldn’t communicate with words, but I tried to nod at her reassuringly, to let her know we were going to be okay .

We both propped up the Hungarian girl, who had blood running from her cheek, and went back down the stairs . The hallway was still bathed in that painfully bright light . The soft red carpet now felt a little different from before; now it looked more like the lurid red color of blood . The Hungarian girl at my side started to cry silently . I exchanged a look with Ree, and tightened my grip on the girl’s arm .

*****

We got back to the lounge, and found that the other kids seemed to have recovered from their headaches . When they caught sight of the injured girl, they were shocked into silence .

Everyone had been sitting in the chairs, staring down at the floor pensively . Their pale faces were lit up by the blazing light of the chandelier, and their eyes wore a dark look .

Several of them stood up . “What the… Wh-what happened?” they said, approaching us .

Huey pushed them back, saying, “Here’s the situation . ” He took on the role of representative and explained what happened on the deck, then suggested to them that we all head to the radio room in the bow . The others nodded, lacking the strength to resist .

We started out by giving each other a simple self-introduction: our names, ages, nationalities, and how we ended up on this ship . There was one thing about us that differed every time: what country we came from . These included England, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Italy, America, Turkey, Arabia, China, and … Sauvure .

There were several other kids besides Ree that we couldn’t communicate with, but apparently, among the eleven boys and girls assembled here, no two came from the same country . We had been brought together from all over the world .

But we did have something in common .

We were all orphans . If we disappeared, no one would come look for us .

 

[3]

All eleven of us walked down the hallway again, but this time in the other direction .

I was feeling so tense that my headache came back . I put a hand to my head as a low groan escaped my throat .

Ree noticed me and paused . “Alex…” she whispered, pointing at the heart-shaped pendant hanging from her neck—a shiny pink pendant made of enamel . She grabbed my hand and made me touch it, then closed her eyes . Maybe this was her way of telling me to relax .

Ree apparently treated that heart-shaped pendant as her amulet . She seemed to be trying to let me know that as long she had it, we would be safe . I saw a gentle radiance well up in her large black eyes .  She’s a kind girl, I thought to myself . I nodded in thanks, and then we quickened our steps to catch up with the others .

Huey and Yang, walking in front, suddenly gave a shout . Everyone halted in surprise .

“It’s blocked off,” murmured Huey .

“What do you mean?!” cried out the Hungarian girl with the wounded cheek . She pushed through to the front, and the rest of us fell to either side to let her pass . I was walking at the very back, but through the newly formed gap in the crowd, now even I could clearly see what stood before us .

It was a wall .

The hallway was blocked off by a black wall that reached to the ceiling, and there was no way to bypass it . When Yang saw it, he turned around, his face pale, and ran back down the hallway .

“Yang?!” I yelled .

He looked back at me . “This shouldn’t be the only hallway on this floor . We need to find out if there’s another one that leads us to the bow!”

Everyone nodded, and ran after him .

But all of the hallways were cut off by the same black wall . The Hungarian girl was the first to reach the next one, and she burst into sobs, which prompted some of the other children to also start crying .

Huey and Yang conferred together in low tones, then looked up at us . “Let’s go look for an elevator!”


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The rest of us turned our gaze to them .

Huey declared reassuringly, “We can try the lower levels; they might not be blocked off . Agreed? OK, let’s go!”

Yang pointed at the other end of the hallway . “We’ll go that way . ”

The two of them took off, leading the way without bothering to wait for any dissenters .

The elevator was located in a corner even more brightly lit than the rest of the hallway . The metal cage gleamed eerily black . Next to it was a stairwell lined with sparkling white tile, but the lights inside were turned off for some reason, plunging it into a darkness that made for a stark contrast with the surrounding area .

Huey eyed the group of children . “There’s a staircase, too . What do you think we should do?”

We all turned to look at each other .

Maybe we were just scared of taking the dark stairwell, but everyone suddenly started scrambling to get inside the elevator . For a moment, Huey stared open-mouthed at the elevator, filled to bursting with children, then seemed to compose himself . “There’s room for two more… . Yang, Alex, can you two guide them one floor down?”

“What about you, Huey?” I asked him .

He tugged Ree’s hand in the direction of the stairwell, and answered, “Me and Ree will take the staircase . See you down below . ”

Ree looked back at me, and waved her hand at me enthusiastically—she looked cute when she did that . I locked eyes with Yang, then ran to get inside the elevator .

The metal latticed doors closed after us with a coarse clank .

The elevator began its slow descent, groaning all the way .

We stayed silent, suffused with anxiety . The elevator’s lights shone starkly upon our faces .

But all of a sudden…

A girl screamed . It was Ree’s voice .

Yang frantically tried to pull open the latticed doors . The elevator stopped on the next floor down, with a few seconds of shaking and creaking . Then the doors slowly opened, and we all came tumbling out .

“Ree?!”

“What’s wrong, Huey!?”

I took a step into the dark stairwell, but it was immersed in an almost palpable darkness, and I hesitated, finding myself unable to do more than call out for them . From above, I heard the muffled sound of someone weeping .

“…Ree?!”

I was just about to run up the stairs when Yang came after me, carrying a small emergency flashlight that he had found in the elevator . He flipped the switch, and lit up the darkness of the staircase with a faint white circle of light—which then fell upon a corpse .

We uttered a low cry, going rigid in shock .

…Huey was lying there on the floor . His body was sprawled over the landing of the staircase like a broken marionette . He was lying face down, and his left hand was hidden underneath his body, with his right hand held to his waist .

Ree was slumped down next to him, as if her legs had given out .

“What happened?!” the German boy shouted at Ree . He was a heavyset boy of intimidating size, and looked far older than the fourteen years that he claimed was his real age .

But no matter how much he shouted, Ree was unable to give any explanation . She tried to explain via gesturing that she had followed Huey down the stairs, but then he collapsed here .

The German boy yelled at her angrily in accented English, “I don’t understand what you’re trying to say!”

I ran up to Huey and tried to check his pulse by taking his right hand, which was facing outward, and putting a finger on the inside of his wrist .

…But his pulse had completely stopped .

“How did he die?!” someone yelled . Ree shook her head, trying to tell us that she didn’t know .

Yang’s flashlight was the only illumination in the pitch black stairwell . But his shock overwhelmed him, and he dropped it . The round ray of light tumbled down the stairs, the rolling sound echoing, echoing… and then the staircase fell once again into darkness .

The silence that followed felt as heavy as death .

Then someone suddenly uttered a shrill scream . “No! I can’t take it anymore! I’m going back!”

The voice belonged to the Hungarian girl with the wounded cheek . The next thing I heard was the sound of her running down the stairs . I started to rush after her, but Yang gasped, and yelled at us, “Hey, where are you going?! Don’t get lost!”

She didn’t answer . Yang yelled with even more urgency, “We have to stay together… . It’s too dangerous out there!”

I reached the floor below . I looked around, and caught a glimpse of the girl running away in terror . She turned the corner, and disappeared from view .

“Hey!” shouted the other children who followed on my heels . They exchanged a look between themselves .

There was no way we could just leave her by herself . We decided to rendezvous at the elevator, and started down the stairs, looking for her .

 

[4]

The hallway was feeling a little dark . We had descended by just one floor, but compared to the previous hallway, the lighting had gotten a bit dimmer, and I could see more knotholes in the wood . The crimson carpet was frizzy and darkened in the middle where people had trod upon it over and over, wearing it down .

The rooms for single occupants seemed to stretch on forever . The hallway remained unchanged, tricking the eye into thinking that we had only been passing the same point again and again .

As I walked upon the uncomfortably soft carpet, my feelings of apprehension kept growing stronger .

Maybe it would be better to say that I felt like something bad was going to happen .

My heart pounded in my chest .

When I approached the next corner, for some reason I didn’t want to see what was around it . My legs refused to budge . I gathered up my gumption, and forced myself to walk around the corner ever so slowly .

And there I saw…

The Hungarian girl we had been looking for, standing there, all by herself . Her eyes were wide open, like something had startled her, and her body was perfectly still . I met her eyes . I wanted to look away, but I couldn’t .

…She was dead .

Before I knew it, my mouth dropped open, and I screamed so loud that I couldn’t believe that it came from my own throat .

She wasn’t actually standing up; a combat knife had pierced her throat, skewering her to the wall . Feeling compelled to do something, I staggered toward her, reaching out my hand .

The second I touched her with my shaking hand, the knife that was embedded into the wall came loose, and her lifeless form collapsed into my arms .

She was heavy . I could acutely feel the sensation of her body weighing down on me .

After hearing my cry, the rest of the children gradually arrived . When they rounded the corner and saw the corpse, they screamed .

Yang approached me hesitantly . “Alex… Are you okay?”

I nodded listlessly .

The assembled children looked at one another, unable to do anything except tremble in fear . Finally, the bulky German boy yelled out, unable to contain his anger, “Who killed her?”

“Well … I don’t know,” Yang replied .

The German boy shouted indignantly, “What do you mean, you don’t know?!”

“It’s just that none of us was carrying a knife . We all arrived on this ship empty-handed . And it’s not like a passenger ship would have such a crude military knife on board . ”

“Then…?”

Everyone exchanged looks .

Ree arrived a few moments later . When she caught sight of the corpse, she gasped, and covered her mouth with her hands .

*****

As I held that girl’s body in that quiet hallway, I couldn’t speak a word to anyone .

I saw an antique cabinet at the end of the hallway . One of the drawers was slightly ajar . From where I was standing, I could catch a glimpse of its contents .

There was a small pistol inside of the drawer . The barrel gleamed malevolently black .

There were weapons here .

Left on board this ship .

But…

…Why?



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