Shoji looked down at his hands. "There was someone else staying here a few weeks ago."
"Oh?" Marie looked up, straining to see young Shoji in the poor light of his hidden room. Food was running low, and they'd have to risk death in order to get more.
"Yes. He was a survivor from the school- one of perhaps three."
"It was attacked a few weeks ago...maybe a few months. He told me his story..."
"Hey. Do you hear that?"
Akihiko looked up from his test. One of the students was sranding straight up, head turned towards the door. His eyes were wide with fear, and his nails scratched restlessly against the wood of his desk.
The teacher looked up from his gradebook, clearly not amused. "Sit down and finish the test, Kenji. I won't have you distracting the rest of the class."
Kenji sat down, but his gaze was still fixated on the door. Honestly, his outburst was completely understandable. Akihiko knew as well as everyone else the stories that were told. People hardly went out anymore, and when they did they practically sprinted across the street, desperate to find cover. School had closed for a while, as it was best for everyone to stay scattered- however, there had not been a sighting in a while. Classes had been open for a few days, and everyone had been trying to make everything normal again...at least as normal as things could get. Still, all of them were still on edge, and probably would be for years to come.
A small voice spoke up from the corner of the room. "He's right."
Mutsuo Hoshino stared into nothingness, his eyes as dark and empty as the void of far-off space.
"Shut up, freak!"
"Who said you could talk?"
A rising tide of voices shouted insults at Mutsuo for daring to make his presence known, a cacophony which the teacher's protests could not stop. Mutsuo was the son of the hated Hoshino family, the scapegoats of this entire mess. It was sad, really. He had always been a kind enough kid, at least to Akihiko. His sister, though...Words could not describe the madness lurking behind the young cultist's eyes.
Mutsuo went on, oblivious to the others. His voice sent chills down Akihiko's spine- it was the same dreamy, monotone voice his sister had. "It's coming. He's coming. I feel it. We shall see that at which dogs howl in the dark, and that at which cats prick up their ears after midnight."
The class had fallen completely silent, as if a spell had been cast on all of them. Suddenly, Mutsuo's eyes lost their empty quality and he fell out of his chair, his face a horrible mask of abject horror and awe. He writhed in agony on the floor as if something was destroying him from the inside.
"The Prince! I see him! He's here! The Prince! O God of the stars, whose wrath destroys the soul of man!" He began screaming things in a language that none of them knew, something horribly inhuman and terrible to hear.
"Shut him up!" a student yelled. The entire classroom was now in a panic. Akihiko broke off from them and went to the suffering Mutsuo.
"Hoshino! Snap out of it! Hoshino!"
A scream broke out. One of the students was at the window of the door. "I-it can't..."
Akihiko quickly pushed his way through to look through the window.
He had never seen the katamari firsthand. It had grown, picking up debris from the hallway and other classrooms. Students were running through the hallway, trampling over each other in an attempt to get out. Those who made it to the end of the hallway, however, found themselves on the other end. The being controlling the katamari would not lose its quarry so easily.
The first person it took was a young freshman. Even through the door, Akihiko could hear his screams, cut short by the terrible squishing sound of his head being crushed under the weight.
It picked up speed, taking teachers and students alike. Nothing of the original structure was left- it was all just a bloody pulp, limbs and pieces sticking out like a madman's work of art.
His class was in a panic. "Kill the Hoshino! He brought it here! Kill him and it'll go away!"
"Are you all crazy?" Akihiko moved in front of Mutsuo. "Killing him won't solve anything! We need to-"
He stopped. There was a thump against the door. Through the window, a hand could be seen sticking out obscenely from a mass of destroyed bodies.
It hit the door again, harder this time. Akihiko directed everyone's attention away from the now silent Hoshino boy. "Press up against the door! Don't let it come in!"
His classmates rushed to push against the door, and despite the repeated knocks it was unable to enter. The window cleared, and the sound of a great object rolling could be heard fading off into the distance. Akihiko sighed. "Thank God."
Mutsuo turned his head towards the east wall. "Nothing stops a god," he whispered.
It all happened so fast. The wall bulged outward, then splintered into small pieces which rained painfully down on everyone. The katamari rushed in, the moans and screams of the survivors reaching a fever pitch. Akihiko grabbed Mutsuo and backed up as fast as he could, but there was nowhere to run. The door was blocked. His friends were being consumed by this...thing, and there was nothing he could do. He looked around in a panic.
"Mutsuo! Help me open the window! Quickly!"
The boy regained consciousness for a few precious seconds, and pulled with Akihiko against the stubborn window. Akihiko faintly heard the maddened yells of his teacher.
With a protesting squeal, the window slid open. It was so high up...but there was no time to think.
"Everyone!" He grabbed Mutsuo's hand and jumped out of the window. His legs made a sickening crunch sound as he hit the concrete below. Akihiko screamed in pain, his vision turning red. He could barely see his other classmates heading for the window, preparing to jump...
A disembodied hand appeared in front of the window, covering most of the school's wall.
"No! No! You bastard! You fucking bastard, I'll kill you! I'll kill you!" The absurdity of the statement hit him a second after he said it. Nothing stops a god.
Was Mutsuo right?
The Hoshino boy walked over to Akihiko's broken body, somehow completely unharmed. "You are brave."
"Tell me...Mutsuo...there has to be a way to destroy..."
"I'll get you somewhere safe. Thank you for helping me, but I can't stay around you very long. You'll be in danger now that it's back."
Akihiko looked up into the sky as a great, multicolored light shone down. "Beautiful..."
Everything went dark.
"I found him outside my front door, legs destroyed. I had to help him get around, but it was nice to have company. His legs had been recovering slowly, and I managed to find him a pair of crutches when I was searching for supplies."
"Where is he now?" Maria desperately wanted to see more people- even with Shoji here, the sense of isolation was overwhelming.
Shoji looked down. "One day he told me he was going to look for Mutsuo Hoshino. I told him not to,but he wouldn't listen and left...I could have caught him easily, but I was afraid. Afraid to go outside. And because of that he's probably a shell like the rest of them." Guilt overcame him and he buried his face in his hands.
Maria touched his shoulder tentatively. "Don't blame yourself. He probably had to do it. He would have found a way to escape." Her words sounded weak even to her, but they were all the comfort she could give.
Shoji did not look up. "But I think...I think Akihiko was on to something. From his story, it sounds like..." He paused for a while, and Maria had to prompt him.
"The only way to to find out what's going on, to find a way to escape, is to find Mutsuo Hoshino."