A jabbing pain in the stomach forced me to seat myself on some stone steps, heedless of the thick layer of ash settled on them. It was a dry, powdery ash like buckwheat flour. Dabbing at it with my finger, I found I could draw scrolls and write letters in it. I wrote all kinds of things. I visualized the blackboard at school in my childhood, and started to draw the diagram for Pythagoras’ theorem, but gave up halfway. I turned around to see where I was, and found it was the front entrance of the city hall, littered now with pieces of charred timbers lying here, there and everywhere. It was a desolate sight: the outer wall, a tasteful shade of cream until only the other day, was burned to a grayish-brown, and all the window frames, not to speak of the windows themselves, were gone.
Just then, I was surprised to hear someone call my name: “Mr. Shizuma! Where are you going?”
It was Mr. Tashiro, an elderly technologist from the Ujina canning factory.
“I’m supposed to go to the Coal Control Corporation, but I’ve not the faintest idea where it is.”
“They’ve had it, the same as everybody else. I don’t even know where the employees have gone to. So I tried coming to the city hall.”
“So the upshot is that I’ve come to the city hall to complain,” Tashiro said. “But you know,” said Tashiro as we walked, “it puzzles me why an important place like a control corporation still hasn’t put up a notice saying where it’s moved to. There must be some explanation for it, don’t you think?”
Together with Tashiro, I obtained an interview with Lieutenant Sasatake of the Control Section and tried to get a ration of coal, but we were told that permission to broach the reserves of coal at Ujina was absolutely out of the question.
“Concerning coal, as I have said many times already,” he said, “we must hold a conference before we can come to any conclusion. Anyway, I have to ask my superiors. The question of transport, for one thing, involves various technical considerations. And we have to weigh your request against the requirements of other firms, too. I’m afraid you’ll have to wait until we’ve held our conference.”
Black Rain, Chapter 12