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'We interrupt this programme to bring an emergency bulletin...'

'A massive earthquake has struck the Tokyo metropolitan region within the last sixty seconds. The National Bureau of Seismology reports a quake of 7.3 intensity on the Richter scale, which exceeds the Great Kansai Earthquake of 1995, and indicates extreme structural damage throughout the Kanto basin. Members of the public listening in the Tokyo region are requested to remain calm, and if possible, leave the building for open s.p.a.ce away from the danger of falling masonry, and be prepared for aftershocks. Do not use elevators. Turn off gas and electrical appliances. If possible, stay away from windows. The Rapid Earthquake Response Unit is assessing the tsunami risk. All programmes are cancelled until further notice. We will be broadcasting emergency updates nonstop, as we receive more news. I repeat...'

The room is cold. I turn the radio right down, and pick up the antique telephone. I try three times, but Ai's number is dead. So is Buntaro's. So is Nero's. No reply from Ueno. Nothing from the Tokyo operator.



I would give anything to be dreaming right now. Anything. Are the airwaves and cables jammed because half the phone users in the country are trying to call the capital, or because Tokyo is now a landscape of rubble under clouds of cement dust? Outside, a century of quiet rain is falling on all the leaves, stones and pine needles of the valley. Inside, the radio man announces that a state of emergency has been declared. I imagine a pane of glass exploding next to Ai's face, or a steel girder crashing through her piano. I imagine a thousand things. I grab my bag, slide down the hallway, scrunch my feet into my trainers, and sc.r.a.pe open the stubborn door. And I begin running.

Nine.





CHAPTER DISCUSSION