15 cm Between You and Me

 
 
 
 

15 cm Between You and Me story 1


Author: Ayasato Keishi

Illustrator: NOCO

Section.1


In an unfamiliar room, She and I were standing, facing each other. The distance between Us was at most fifteen centimeters. Also, She was pointing at Me a knife, the blade of which was at most seven centimeters long.

Meaning, it would be more accurate to say that We were eight centimeters apart, would it not?

Well, no, considering the thickness of bodies, We were even closer than that. And by chance, if She were to feel like lunging forward with that knife, the distance between Us would infinitely approach zero. I had not the desire to even imagine the sharp pain I would feel in the aftermath of it.

Such was the dangerous circumstance that We had been put in. Furthermore, there was the big question.

How did things end up like this? I was completely clueless here.

"--This is a simple Game."

Suddenly, She spoke. It appeared that She sensed My confusion. For the record, I knew nothing about this person I was referring to as She, either. But that voice, which I had just heard for the first time, was a perfect fit for Her face.

Refined, beautiful, and self-assertive. I got the exact same impression from Her disposition as from Her voice. Other than those, I suppose the only essential information would be the colors.

She was white. Her skin, Her hair, save for Her crimson eyes. As though She was an experimental life form, fresh out of a test tube. Shabby and weak was the physical impression. But even so, those fingers gripping the knife felt mysteriously powerful.

"All there are in this room are two people and one knife. The one who stabs the other to death will be able to leave. That is the Game."

Ah, so this is it. I nodded. A Death Game. A man and a woman, in a room. Me and You. And a knife. I am bothered a tad bit by how simple the rules are, though. Quite a common situation in manga, novels, and movies, is it not? She expressed surprise toward My verbal expression on the subject.

"You partake in the consumption of creative works?"

I do, I answered. Oh, I do. At the same time, fragmentary images surfaced within My mind.

An efficient, white shelf. Spines of recreational books that tightly lined its racks. A high-resolution screen affixed in a white wall. A latest model Blu-ray disc player. A mountain of gaudy packages left piling on the floor. Left quite a bad taste, I was convinced that they were not things I had collected.

At this point, I was finally aware of a certain dreadful truth. Aside from those irrelevant fragments, I had no memories of Myself. Why was I here? Before I was here, who was I? I knew not even that much. Who, why, where, ignorance in the air.

What? The Hell? Is Going On?

I directed My gaze at She who was in front of me. My only source of information was She who might kill me.

It was necessary to initiate a discussion. Immediately.

Section.2

Now, hold up. I appealed for attention. It appears that I am amnesiac. I was wondering if You knew who I was. And how We ended up like this, while We are at it. What kind of person was I?

"There is nothing to talk about."

In return, an unapproachable answer. She was itching to drive the pointed end of the knife into My abdomen, it seemed. Her not taking immediate action was due to the weighing of odds and timing, I reckon. Anyhow, She was a woman, and I was a man. And naturally, I would put up resistance against physical threats.

If that were to happen, She would be the one in danger instead. Still She showed no intention to converse. How obstinate. And to be fair, it was not in My power to change Her attitude.

Carefully, I averted My gaze to the rest of the room.

Any new information was essential. Anything could end up being the key to convincing Her.

Death Games, while appearing under absolute restrictions at a glance, often contained deliberate loopholes. A gray area, so to speak.

In most of such cases, the first hint would be from things hidden within the vicinity. Then the second or even third, in things connected to messages from the culprit or the degree of resistance from characters. If not, the movie would not even last eighty minutes.

So I scanned the whole room. And was mildly disappointed.

To detail, We were in a perfectly while, perfectly cubed room. No TV, no pipes, no urinal, no water container, no drainage, no dead bodies, no riddle numbers. Just an open knife box, left lying on the floor.

Knife box.

Without deviating My sight from Her, I slowly reached out with My arm. She kept still. As through She was a cowardly, perhaps deliberate, herbivore. With the chance given, I snatched the knife box from the floor.

The inner surface of its lid was a mirror. The mold where the knife would fit into was velvet. There seemed to be something in between the mold and the outer box, but it was rigidly sealed, unbreakable barehanded.

At this point, the idea occurred to Me. That We might be in a test to see if two people, designated to kill each other, could cooperate. 

I would like to borrow the knife, I appealed to She who had it. Here, there is something promising right here.

"There is nothing there."

She declared with baffling decisiveness. I was left dumbfounded. It was unreasonable to declare things as final without any attempts at proof. Once again, I appealed. There should be a significant meaning in the knife coming in this kind of box. She shook Her head. In this case, I was left with no choice.

For now, the truth She was so convinced of seemed more important than the nature of the box.

Things would not move forward if there was no discussion done. All I could do now was to try things from a new angle, I reckon.

Section.3

And what about You? Do You remember Yourself? Why You were brought here, what You were doing up until then, who You are, would You mind telling Me?

I wanted to extend the time before the tip of that knife touched me, even if for a single second. Which was why I changed where I invested my every into. It seemed that Her interest in interacting with Me was less than the degree of concern one would have toward the remains of an earthworm. But She might be more open for conversation when it concerned Herself.

And it appeared that My change of approach was the right choice. Out of surprise, the expression of Her face stiffened. Still not returning answers, however. Then it was when I expressed resignation. She finally opened up, raising Her high-pitched voice.

"You are interested in Me?"

Strange. At this point, it occurred to Me.

[You partake in the consumption of creative works?]

[You are interested in Me?]

The asking of both questions had a surprising ring to it. It seemed that She knew about Me, in one way or another. Moreover, it seemed that the difference between the image She had of Me and My current self was by no means small. How disturbing. My ignorance further accumulated.

Who are You, and who am I?

What kind of characters were we supposed to be?

In a demonstration of patience that astounded even Myself, I swallowed the question. Instead, I proceeded to inquire about other topics.

Could You tell me? By what means were You brought here?

"...Before I was brought here for this Experiment, I was sleeping in My room, on my bed. Then I woke up to what should have been a usual morning, but was enveloped by a white gas. When I came to, I was in this room, alongside You. Before You came to Your senses, I had taken the knife for Myself. That is all."

--Experiment.

I made sure to not let it slip past my ears. Just now, She certainly said Experiment. At this point, My assumption was off the mark.

This was supposed to be a simple Game. But it turned out not to be the case.

Besides, there was an obviously odd point in Her account just now. She had slept normally, and was kidnapped when She had woken up. Quite a common situation. However, afterward, She had not been given explanations from anyone regarding the conditions of release. Yet here She was, intending to stab Me to death without indecision.

I directed my gaze at Her. Then, at the knife in Her grip.

The distance between Us was at most fifteen centimeters. If the knife were to be taken into account, then it would instead be at most eight centimeters. In this point-blank range, would it suffice to say that She was in the same standpoint as I? I had never stopped to question that up until now.

Albeit quite late in the scene, I began to review My options. Surely, there was still meaning in maintaining Our discussion.

Discussion regarding what kind of Experiment this could be.

Section.4

This was a simple Game.

In a room, a man and a woman and a knife. The one who stabbed the other to death will be able to leave.

The rules were simple, or in other words, had no twists. Yet here I was, having difficulties maintaining discussions and finding gray areas in which We could break away from Our circumstance. At the present, the Game did not even seem to be an actual Game. I could not at all see the motivation behind those who had stolen My memories and taken Me captive in this room.

By any chance, if Their objective was not to carry out a Death Game, but rather film a Snuff Movie, the simpleness of Our circumstance would seem odd, but also perfectly reasonable. And the magnitude of despair would also be on a whole nother level.

It would be a different story for an Experiment, though.

It may have a sinister ring to it, but being an Experiment meant it was carried out with some sort of objective in mind.

And She who was in front of Me was perhaps not a mere subject.

This was only My conjecture, but that should influence the Experiment in one way or another.

Like Me, She had been put into a circumstance where She could die. It was unknown whether or not this was what She desired. At the very least, I was sure that She was withholding some sort of information that concerned Me. And Her attitude toward Me was not friendly by any means.

Now, what should I maximize my priorities on? Stop thinking and attempt to seize the knife for myself? She was pale and dainty and seemed frail. I felt that I would succeed if I decided to do it. However, just those fingers gripping the knife felt mysteriously powerful. Albeit quite late in the scene, I read the sentiment that radiated from there.

Murderous intent. Indeed, She was confronting Me with firm murderous intent.

It was foolish of Me to try and discuss things with such an Opponent. It was like trying to reach a mutual understanding with a starving lion. Now, this was not the time for Me to reflect upon my past choices. Seizing a lethal weapon from an Opponent who intended to kill Me would prove to be difficult. So what is it that I should do?

After thought after thought, I made an inquiry.

What is the goal of this Experiment?

"...Experiment?"

Yes, You said so just now. Before this Experiment, You said. This is not a Game. But some sort of Experiment. In that case, the mastermind should be seeking a result of some kind. What in the world could that be?

Do You happen to know?

With that, I seemed to have surprised Her. The asking of My question produced greater effect than I had expected. Her lips briefly twitched. I first thought it as sign of agitation, but was proven wrong.

What followed was, so to speak, worse.

In an eccentric direction, She opened wide and burst into laughter.

Section.5

Mad laughter echoed throughout the room. Starting from this point, I was overwhelmed by intense dread.

Anyhow, the Person who had been directing murderous intent toward Me with a knife in Her hands was now in a fit of laughter. If anyone could stand in My exact circumstance without being scared, I would be frank with them.

That they definitely had a few screws loose in their heads.

She laughed on, mouth and eyes opened wide and bright. But briefly, Her sight averted to the side. To verify, I snuck a glance at the direction Her eyes had turned to. Then I noticed for the first time that it was there.

An inorganic eye, a camera. In the wall of the white room, the Eye had been subtly concealed.

As I thought, someone was monitoring Us. But for what purpose?

What results did they expect from locking Me up with this mad Woman?

"Ahh, that was amusing! Very amusing! I had never expected You to make Me laugh this hard! So this is what it means to be delighted! This was the first time in my life I have felt appreciation toward someone!"

As tears welled up in Her eyes, She finally ceased Her laughter. It seemed that She was now in quite a good mood. I, on the contrary, was warier than ever. At this point, expecting a decent discussion out of Her would be unreasonable. But toward Me bracing for whatever came next, She took an unexpected turn of action.

She turned the tip of the knife away from Me.

I could not keep up pace with the sudden change. In Her act, the murderous intent toward Me dampened. Such a circumstance was a total disregard of the established formula.

She simply locked Her gaze on Me. It was now that my composure was completely taken away.

For whatever reason, Her eyes radiated a light of compassion.

"How pitiful. I will have You know that You were mistaken. From the very beginning, fatally, utterly mistaken."

Now, what in the world could She be talking about?

I just could not grasp any meaning. But it was natural to not understand the words of a deviant, was it not?

Then came the time I comprehended things. With the knife pointed away from Me, She spread Her arms. Casting aside Her dainty and frail image, She asked Me with a newfound air of confidence.

"Who are You?"

I do not know. I should have already said that.

"Who am I?"

I had already asked that, too. And You have yet to answer.

I responded so. That is not right, She shook Her head. Then, She continued.

"To start with, why did You not stop to ascertain Our name?"

Section.6

Name. I repeated. Our names.

True, names were important. There was nothing more convenient for the identification of individuals. The occasion when We were named would be akin to earning a valid means to recognize Ourselves. However, at this moment, We had mutual ignorance as to what Our names were.

I was all I was, and She was all She was. Of course.

I had no memories, after all.

"So, did You not feel any necessity in knowing My name, nor any desire to remember Your name?"

As She pointed out so, I crossed my arms. True, that was unnatural. But no, it was not out of the ordinary in this context.

Why, since She had initially refused to answer inquiries regarding Myself. At that stage, it was a natural response for Me to give up trying to acquire information regarding Myself, was it not?

I had asked. Asked what kind of person I was.

She had answered. Answered that there was nothing to talk about. 

Suddenly, I shuddered. It occurred to Me just now. That Her answer had two possible meanings.

In one way, it meant there is nothing to talk about with You.

In another, it meant there is nothing to talk about, period.

Meaning, there was a possibility that I was a nihility.

As ever, She looked on at Me as if looking at a pitiful creature.

Fitfully, I felt like screaming. That was not possible. I was right here. Roped into an outrageous Death Game. Targeted to be killed. I was a victim. And an Experiment subject.

She was withholding some sort of information that concerned Me.

So why did She talk as if I was a being with nothing to talk about?

It was obviously odd. The opposite of reason. While I thought on, my palpitation would not settle. Especially since She Herself said nothing. I just could not stop thinking unpleasant thoughts.

I was a victim. An Experiment subject. Or was I, really?

If I was, then what could the goal of the Experiment be?

Suddenly, a solid clang sounded. I looked, and saw that She had let go of the knife. The lethal weapon that had been pointing at me was now dropped onto the white floor. This change should have been a cause of delight, nothing else. However, for some reason, I did not feel as such. She stepped forward.

The distance of fifteen centimeters was closed in an instant.

Then She seized the knife box from My hand.

Section.7

"I said this, did I not? There is nothing in here. And You said this, did You not? There is a significant meaning, not in the knife itself, but in the knife being in the box. Truth be told, that is the case. So please tell Me. Why did You not feel that things were out of place?"

I could not comprehend the intention behind that question. I had guessed that there was something in between the mold and the outer box. Was it not Her who had refused to help verify it?

And She dared to, once again, directed a gaze of compassion my way.

"The possibility of there being something in between the mold and the outer box was irrelevant. There was a bigger abnormality to be noticed, was there not? Why did You ignore that the inner surface of its lid was a mirror?"

Ah, yes. That is right, I nodded, albeit quite late in the scene.

The knife box was not a cosmetics case nor anything of the sort. There was no need for the inner surface of its lid to be a mirror. So why make it so?

As I thought about it, She shoved the box right before my face. Her hands felt far more powerful compared to when She had been pointing the knife at Me. In reflex, I turned my face away.

It was the same earlier. While I was regarding the mirror, I had completely ignored what had been reflected in it. I had not even brought up such information.

Now, hold up. To whom?

This whole time, to whom had I been reporting every single detail of My present conditions?

"You were always like this. Well, You did show some change in this iteration, but at the end of the day, You were the same. This is why the Experiment was redone time and time again. Everything was Your fault... or, no, I wanted them to be all Your fault?"

She proceeded to grumble out complaints. I, on the other hand, was overwhelmed by intense dread. What was it that I was at fault for? After all, I was a victim. And an Experiment subject. Should be. It would not make sense otherwise.

Originally, I had been a being unrelated to this Experiment. I even had some memories from outside this room.

An efficient, white shelf. Spines of recreational books that tightly lined its racks. A high-resolution screen affixed in a white wall. A latest model Blu-ray disc player. A mountain of gaudy packages left piling on the floor. Left quite a bad taste, I was convinced that they were not things I had collected.

So who was the one that had collected them?

Besides, the wall the screen had been affixed in was white...

"Gah, good gracious, enough!"

She screeched,

And shoved the inner surface of the box lid right before my face.

Section.8

I saw white hair and skin, and red eyes. A beautiful, but weak looking, face.

Her face was reflected in the mirror. No, to be accurate, it was My face, which was totally the same as Hers.

"I had told You that there are two people within this room. The one who had arbitrarily decided that You were a man, and that I was a woman, was You. The one who was particular about one and the other being a man or a woman was You."

She indicated with a dispirited voice. Ah, that is right, I nodded. That was it. We...

"We are not gendered."

But I could not deem that acceptable. I was a man, and She was a woman. That had to be the case. I had learned so from manga, novels, and movies, after all.

This world had men and women. Artificial asexuals such as I and Her did not exist. Which was why I had identified Her as the woman. Which meant I had consequently deemed it appropriate that I was the man. With that, even without names for the identification of individuals, We could be differentiated from each other by gender.

She had said that there was nothing to talk about. And had shown surprise at my interest in Her.

That, too, was natural. After all, We had been the exact same being all along.

This was an Experiment.

In a room, a man and a woman and a knife. The one who stabbed the other to death will be able to leave.

The catch was that the two were identical individuals.

We were copies of a human, created via unnatural means. Currently, every nation was moving forward with the development of Us, as replacement for human soldiers. However, until We were deemed practical, many tests had yet to be carried out. This, too, was one of such processes. In iterations, We were put into a circumstance where We had to kill each other, to see how far We would develop senses of fellowship, opposition toward humans, and desire for survival, and the capacity of emotional burden.

The one left alive were put into the next Experiment. The dead one, either disposed of, or had Their consciousness transferred into another individual, and studied for causes of memory deficit or elevation of survival learning ability.

To this simple Experiment, I had already died five-hundred and thirty-four times. My opponent could have been Her all the while, or perhaps a different person altogether. However, there was no meaning in that distinction. I was We, and so was She. Children who had never been given gender. Recycled experimental bodies.

For this iteration, I had been made to consume a great quantity of creative works. Surely, they were expecting Me, who had been fed with information, to come up with a breakthrough solution for this simple circumstance. But the result was a failure. I had acted with reliance on the information I had been fed. I could only move in the mold of this circumstance. Because of that, I, upon being presented with a single mirror, had fallen into a complete state of confusion.

Before long, I opened my mouth. Hey, what should I do?

What should I, a defect who had gotten even My memories erased, do?

Section.9

Without answering, She stooped down. Then, as if in a reasonable course of action, picked up the knife.

Aha, I nodded. She wanted to live. It was only natural. I, too, did not want to die. Death was painful, frightening, and generally unpleasant. The experimenters were quite foolish. While giving new information, they had left those who could recognize Their selves to lie dormant, repeating the same thing time and time again.

No matter what, We would never be their ideal soldiers.

Surely, you all would be examining my memories, my consciousness that had described things sincerely, from this point on.

Now, it was about time this was understood.

From now on, no matter how many times We were tested.

We would only repeat similar backs and forths, nothing more.

"--Farewell."

The distance between Me and Her was at most fifteen centimeters. Also, She was pointing at Me a knife, the blade of which was at most seven centimeters long. Meaning, it would be more accurate to say that We were at most eight centimeters apart. And since She was now lunging forward with that knife, the distance between Us was, without pause, approaching zero.

However, from the very beginning, there had never been any distance between Me and Her.

I was not all I was, and She was not all She was.

The difference between us had been zero all along.

--Even now.

And at the end of the sharp pain, I was disconnected from My consciousness.

WOOSH.

Section.10

In an unfamiliar room, She and I were standing, facing each other. The distance between Us was at most fifteen centimeters. Also, She was pointing toward Me a knife, the blade of which was at most seven centimeters long.

Meaning, it would be more accurate to say that We were eight centimeters apart, would it not?

Well, no, considering the thickness of bodies, We were even closer than that. And by chance, if She were to feel like lunging forward with that knife, the distance between Us would infinitely approach zero. I had not the desire to even imagine the sharp pain I would feel in the aftermath of it.

Such was the dangerous circumstance that We had been put in. Furthermore, there was the big question.

How did things end up like this? I was completely clueless here.

"--This is a simple Game."

Suddenly, She spoke. I turned to Her.

The distance between Us was still at most fifteen centimeters.


 
 
 
 


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