He was born in Kyoto at 1989. Living in Chiba City. His pen name is an anagram of “anagram”.
He participated Genron Ohomori Nozomi Sci-Fi Workshop in 2016. After graduation, he won the 58th Mephisto Award.
That’s it. I will quit this shitty job.
…Still, if I do, what about humankind?
Damn, why me? Why do I have to…?
It was nice at first. It’s been a long time since I started working here as a security guard, but there were no sensationalizing news reports about the virus when patients started coming in. It was quiet.
Patients are all gentle and likable. They are great people to talk to—although our conversation has to be a video chat to prevent viral transmission.
It was lucky that there were facilities left yet, initially used for COVID-19 patients. Each ward and the security office had a tablet, which allowed us to talk face-to-face. It was a good break from tedious hours.
But then, things became precarious around here.
It started with a few people circling around and watching from a distance outside the gate. But when I went out and asked, “What can I do for you?” they would break up timidly.
Now, after overheated media coverage, more people rushed in. No reserve. That’s just it. They flock to the gate, almost like zombies.
Still, they don’t hire security guards anymore here lest anyone should infiltrate the facility to meet the patients in person. In fact, a former colleague, Seki, was fired while trying to make physical contact with a patient. As if we are not short-handed already.
Phew. I sigh and lift my teacup. The sweet tea goes down the throat. Ahhh.
“It must be tough for you.”
At Mr. Maki’s concerned voice, I feign energy. “No, not at all.” Right. We were video-chatting when I left to stop a group of people trying to climb over the gate. We’re still connected. “But they are outrageous.” Looking at the gate, I try to speak vaguely.
“Don’t be! About what? Patients did nothing wrong here!”
Mr. Maki falls silent, looking apologetic. But even that face slowly soothes my heart. Why? Even the regretfully frowned forehead between his eyebrows makes me vividly feel a warm and firm happiness and assurance. I guess I can breathe only because I know that he feels happy and safe.
Yes, of course. I must protect them.
It’s downright stupid to call it a ‘life-fulfilling bacteria’ or ‘extrovert bacteria,’ although they use a bit more tempered term on TV. In any case, they all use instigating expressions on the pretext of avoiding bias.
People swarm all over because of those media reports. And these guys want to be touched by the virus….
I mean, I get it. I, too, sometimes think that if I catch that thing, the relationship with my wife may…. But no.
Even if the virus itself is harmless, it is dangerous when combined with others.
Amoravirus is said to be a perfect virus for human society.
For viral transmission among people, frequent and direct physical contact is the best condition. With amoravirus, you will have a slight fever, serotonin, and dopamine. The production of other neurotransmitters like oxytocin and hormones will increase, too. As a result—although it is still a theory—the person develops the passion and strong desire to communicate with others.
With enthusiasm and gentle disposition, the infected person will obtain outstanding communication skills.
When amoravirus was first discovered, it was presented as a good virus that we can live with. Soon, however, whispers of concern started floating in the air.
Twenty years ago, a traumatic memory was engraved in the human mind. The anxious whispers resulted from the memory of catastrophic COVID-19: As communications became deeper and more frequent due to amoravirus, direct physical contact increased. Wouldn’t it possibly cause another viral infection?
The concern became a reality. In 2042, headed by a double pandemic with influenza in America, a series of double pandemics broke out worldwide, combined with different viruses. The danger of amoravirus was recognized quickly, and the infected were isolated.
This is one of those quarantine facilities.
Still, the general public awareness about the danger has never improved. Amoravirus symptoms are beneficial for communication. Directly, it is not a risk. But when the virus sweeps across society, the amount of total communications exceeds a certain threshold. Then society becomes vulnerable to other viruses. The risk is indirect. So, people are eager to be exposed to the virus anyway.
I recall the memories of the catastrophic COVID-19, which keeps withering away.
We can’t let it happen again.
I’ve been easily frightened since I was a child. I don’t like night patrols.
The facility is zoned, and the night patrol is for the green zone only. This is also to take amoravirus patients—
The sound makes me point my flashlight instinctively in the direction, and by the window down the aisle, a dark outline reflects the light.
In front of the open window, a figure with long, black hair is standing quietly—a child.
I have goosebumps. Like a gust of wind blowing over a field at night, fear is about to overwhelm me, but I fight it off and reason with myself. No. It’s just a kid.
“What are you doing?”
I speak in a loud, probably intimidating voice. No reply.
“You can’t come in—”
The dark figure is running. The black hair is blowing, the skinny hands are flailing about, and it is drawing near.
I squeak. I retreat, but the figure is in front of my eyes—I lose balance and fall on my back. As the intruder mounts on my torso—who is very light—I reflexively cover my face, but there is no sign of beating. Instead, slender hands try to open my arms, and the face comes close to mine. What the…? And I get it. The brat is trying to kiss me forcibly—.
I take a deep breath and cry out loudly, and it stops. Shortly, teardrops fall.
The figure is crying.
“Amoravirus is transmitted by droplet infection, so you don’t have to do such a thing. I don’t even have it in the first place. And you don’t do those things without the other’s permission. Do you get it?”
I have taken the girl to the security office to hear her out. It turns out that she broke in to get amoravirus.
She is weeping without a sound now.
Many of those who want to have amoravirus feel insecure about their communication skills. The crowd who come to the gate every day must have that kind of self-perception. This girl is no different. The gist of her stammering words says so.
My life is hopeless. Amoravirus is the only hope.
I don’t know the whole story, but her self-perception must be something like that. But no. “I still can’t let you get infected. This is a problem of the human race as a whole.” After these words, I feel terrible that I sound as if we must sacrifice individuals for the common good.
The girl is bowing down her head and crying.
“Ms. Saito, I’m sorry to call you this late. Can we talk for a while? I noticed you hadn’t gone to bed yet.”
“Sure, it’s okay. I actually wanted to talk to someone.”
On the screen, Ms. Saito smiles. Her eyes turn to the left. She has a wondering look.
“Thank you. Now….” I glance at the girl sinking her head on her chest. “Can you please talk to this girl a bit?”
The girl looks up. Her face is tear-streaked.
“Oh.” Ms. Saito figures out something and smiles. “Yes, of course.”
I give my tablet to the girl and leave the office. A conversation between women will be better in this situation. Just the two of them.
Once outside the office, I turn my back on the door and smoke.
After a while, I hear laughter like a chime of bells.
Relieved, I blow out smoke.
From behind, the laughing voices grow louder. I look at my wristwatch to decide how long I should wait.
The girl is smiling as she comes out of the room. It’s still red around her eyes, but the traces of tears are gone from her cheeks.
“Thank you, Mr. Security Officer.”
“Do you think you’ll be okay? I mean, tomorrow.”
I don’t know what conversation she had with Ms. Saito. Still, her face looks as if she has received some of Ms. Saito’s light, and the flames of assurance and happiness are dimly lighted up. I think she will be okay.
Communication is transmitted. Walking the girl, Hirai Kaoru, to the gate, I think about this. When I talk to people with amoravirus like Mr. Maki or Ms. Saito, I sometimes feel the shiver down my spine. They are abnormal. You can say that they are communication monsters.
Even without amoravirus infection, you can get the assurance and warmth inside them through their faces and voices. They reach the others through words. And they are born inside the person they talk to.
“Thank you for everything. Good-bye.”
The girl bows her head to thank me, and I watch her as she walks away. I have a premonition that I may have done something of grave consequences.
If amoravirus works without infection and gets transmitted through communication… what will become of her?