It was midnight at Marunouchi, yon-cho-me. Buildings with their darkened windows rose against the skyline. Along the walks under rows of gingko trees, not a soul could be seen; the only presence was that of flitting moths attracted to the streetlights, shedding their tiny scales on the sidewalk below. The office district was so quiet that you could almost hear those moths bumping into the iron lampposts.
The dead of night made no difference to the big trading firms that supported the weight of the economy on their shoulders; there was still light coming from the twelfth floor of the Mitsune Productions building. The Third Export Division managed all trade with Europe. There were only two weeks left until August, when the EC Import Regulation Act would take effect. In a last-chance rush to get exports out, all the department's traders were being forced to work at full capacity around the clock.
Inevitably weary at this hour, some were taking catnaps on the sofa, whereas others had gone out for a bite at the ramen shops near Tokyo station. Inoue narrowed his bloodshot eyes and inputted the next day's projected exports into the workstation that connected him to the overseas export online system. His metal-framed glasses covered in fingerprints, he didn't look nearly his normal stylish self.
"How much is left?" Hashiguchi, who had been napping on the sofa, propped himself up on his elbow and called over to Inoue as he clearly stifled a yawn.
"It shouldn't take too long--all that's left are the household electronics slated for shipment to France." Using his vinyl code sheet as a fan, Inoue blew air onto his chest through his V-neck T-shirt.
"So, how much have the exports increased by?" Rubbing his swollen eyelids, Hashiguchi looked over Inoue's shoulder at the screen.
"200% more than last year, most likely. When I think that all this might get stopped at customs, it scares me."
"Some friction has to be expected. After all, in two weeks, we're going to take a 90% hit off of last year's exports."
"The kacho and the others are sure taking their time. How long does it take to eat a bowl of ramen? I bet they stopped for drinks afterwards."
Hashiguchi patted Inoue on the shoulder and smiled sympathetically."Why don't you have a rest? I'll take over with the data entry for a bit."
"OK then, thanks." As Inoue stood up and stretched, the modem rang. The LED that signaled data transfer from the national branch office lit up.
"What do they want at a time like this?" Hachiguchi asked.
"Oh, I'm sure they just want some of our leftover stock. Of course with all our efforts focusing on exports right now, this isn't the time for that." Already getting ready for a rest, Inoue had no other excuse to make.
"No need to get upset at them. The poor guys at the branch office are still working at this godforsaken hour, just like us."
As he soothed his coworker, Hashiguchi switched over to the disk drive and turned the computer over to receive mode. The list of enumerations vanished, and the screen turned completely green. Normally, the ID number of the person sending the transmission would be displayed onscreen at this point. Instead, the display was changing many colors and displaying strange unknown symbols.
"What the heck is this?"
Unusual letters scrolled down the screen, but the two of them had no way of recognizing ancient Hebrew. Presently, the screen displayed an image of statue of a man standing.
"I'd like to tell those guys at the branch office not to play stupid jokes in the middle of the night like this." Looking disinterestedly at the screen with a sidelong glance, Inoue lit a cigarette.
Still, even as a prank, this mysterious statue was pretty well-done CG. A body with the symmetry of an ancient Greek sculpture. Long, black hair. Vivid, rose-colored lips. And his deep black eyes had an unfathomable devilishness about them.
Perhaps it was due to the tobacco smoke, but the two men did not notice the musky smell that started seeping into the office.
"Not that it makes any difference, but this is some pretty high-level CG here," said Hashiguchi.
"Is it CG? It looks almost like a photo." As Inoue looked closely at the display, the unpleasant smell of singed cigarette filter wafted through the air.
"Oh! Sorry 'bout that."
While Inoue turned his attention to putting out his cigarette, the man drawn on the display smiled and pointed at Hashiguchi. His finger was tipped with a claw that looked almost like a bird of prey's talon. The concept of polygons were just starting to become widely-known, so Hashiguchi was enthralled by the graphics—graphics that would normally be impossible to display without the use of a massive supercomputer.
Hashiguchi abruptly noticed that the display looked like it was damp, as if it was covered in a layer of condensation. As he tried to wipe the screen off with his hand, he felt something stick to his fingertips, and jumped back in surprise. Something slimy was stuck to his fingers; as he shook them violently, a heavy, disgusting jelly-like substance fell to the floor with a splat.
"Ugh! What the hell is this!?"
Inoue turned around at Hashiguchi's cry and froze in shock. Beneath the skin of the pink protoplasm, a mesh of green-colored veins spread out as the whole blob pulsated like an organ torn out of its host. The repulsive lump of flesh made a squishing sound as it started to approach the two men. Backing up, Inoue stumbled over a chair and sprayed the contents of his stomach all over the floor.
"Inoue! Get a hold of yourself!" Grabbing his coworker's arm to keep him standing, Hashiguchi started to run toward the door. As he turned, the gelatinous blob lashed out; tentacles covered in a viscous sticky fluid like red jam grabbed onto the legs of both men in an instant.
"Shit!" Hashiguchi cursed as he grabbed files and the phone off his desk--any object within reach--and began throwing them at his attacker. When it showed no fear, he grabbed a chair, lifted it over his head, and brought it crashing down on top of the thing. However, the skin of the gelatinous blob simply pulled the steel chair into its body, where it was quickly dissolved right before Hashiguchi's eyes.
Hashiguchi could no longer tell whether the sound he heard was his own heart beating or the lump of flesh pulsating. He was brought back to his senses by a strange sensation emanating from his foot; the pink lump of flesh had enveloped his entire right leg. He tried to cry out, but terror had sealed his throat.
Steadily, greedily, the pink blob started to pull Hashiguchi's body into its own. He felt no pain. It was like sinking into warm mud; all he suffered was a boundless feeling of loss and the awareness of his impending death.
Help me... No longer able to speak, Hashiguchi clawed at the air, as if trying to find something to grab onto as a last resort. The blob suddenly clamped down on his torso with an incredible force.
The impact sent Hashiguchi's eyeballs flying out of their sockets as his crushed ribs shredded his internal organs. The blood that came pouring out of his body was absorbed by the blob. Only Hashiguchi's head protruded from the mound of flesh; pink tentacles started flowing out of his open mouth and eye sockets.
Now the only person on the deserted floor of the building, Inoue could hardly believe Hashiguchi's gruesome death was real. His capacity for rational thought completely gone, he stabbed madly at the tentacle grabbing his leg with a ballpoint pen, trying to tear it off. He felt someone looking at him and returned to his senses.
At some point, the gelatinous lump had grown an eyeball. Sinister and full of malice, it stared at Inoue. The tentacle slowly crawled up his leg to his chest.
Watching his body being sucked into the grotesque mass of protoplasm, something snapped inside Inoue. Overcome with a rush of madness, he let out a shriek of cackling laughter. The floor's elevator made a sound, opened, and his coworkers returned from their break.
"What's with those guys? What are they laughing at?"
"I bet they're slacking off on the job and watching TV."
The men looked at each other, not having any idea what was going on, unaware of the carnage that they were about to step into.