Under the warm summer night
While the flames dance for the bonfire
The crickets sing their eulogy
What is eternal life? Can somebody actually live forever?
When I was a little girl I asked my teachers questions like that and they always gave me the exact same answer every time, “Something like that is impossible”.
Everybody has to die one day, they told me.
When you die that’s it, your story ends, you’re gone forever to the wind. Immortality is only something told of in stories, no matter how you fight it death will come to you. That’s an unquestionable, indisputable fact.
However, when I matured into a woman I started to question my teachers. The very people who I was conditioned into never questioning. The very people that seemed infallible to a child.
That’s the beauty of growing up, you begin to question everything you believed in so deeply when you were younger. Instead of allowing your betters to come up with the answers for you, you begin to come up with your own.
And so when I became 15 years old and finally entered high school I came up with my own answer. Immortality isn’t impossible, it’s only improbable. Most people when they die will be forgotten by time and lost to history. They’ll die and their stories will forever be buried within the sands of time. But what if you are never forgotten?
Could it be possible to live forever?
Despite your consciousness fading away, your memory still lives on. People will still talk about you, you will still continue on existing. Even though death comes, you don’t really die. It’s pretty common with great historical figures. For example the man who conquered a third of Japan, Oda Nobunaga. Despite being one of Japan’s greatest villains we are still taught about him in our Japanese history classes. Most citizens of our country have probably heard of him even before then.
Even non-Japanese figures such as Homer have found their way into some of the books I’ve read. He’s been forever immortalized in his timeless stories, such as the epics the Iliad and the Odyssey. The same goes for Mary Shelly and Bram Stoker. Although I haven’t read any of their legendary stories myself even I know their names. See, despite not knowing what they’re famous for you still know them. In other words…
Memory is the key to immortality. As long as somebody remembers you you’re still alive. So that begs the question, can anybody become immortal? Most people can’t reach this level of humanity no matter how hard they try.
Even people who were formally famous fade into obscurity and die forever. In other words you have to have a special talent. Only the talented can reach true immortality. And so I wonder… Can I become immortal, or will I be lost forever to the sands of time?
Knowing me I… I would…
I was woken from my rest to find my surroundings shrouded in darkness. The scent of aged wood flooded into my nose as I fumbled around blindly. Eventually I felt the shape of my glasses and placed them back on the bridge of my nose. Sitting up I looked around, my eyes adjusting to the lack of light.
It wasn’t accurate to say it was completely dark, there was a faint light from a window helping to brighten up my view. But it was very dim. From what I could tell the sun was just about to set.
From what little I could make out I seemed to be lying at the bottom of a stairwell, it looked a little like it belonged to a school. It was an old, archaic building, seemingly built from wood.
An old school building made out of wood… There were only two high schools in the town that i lived in, a recently built middle school/High school hybrid, and the one I attended. Sendou academy.
So I was in my school’s stairwell? Why would I be sleeping out in the open, during school no less? Gently pushing myself off of the ground I took a step forward, however my foot got caught on my yukata and thus I fell to the floor a second time.
My glasses flew off of my face yet again and skidded across the floor landing against a wall. Thankfully I seemed to be on the first floor or else I would have taken a bad tumble. Who knew what else could have happened, I’d rather not deal with a broken bone for the whole semester.
Pushing myself to my knees I rub my lip, I could see a faint trace of deep red on my finger. Oh no, I must have split my lip on that fall. Crawling across the floor I made it back to my glasses and put them on, yet a second time. This time I noticed a crack across the glass. It wasn’t a large crack however it was still fairly noticeable.
Was this punishment for coming to school during the middle of Oban? Why was I even in school in the first place? Ah yes I remembered … I needed to fetch something for the homework I was assigned over break. So I asked one of the faculty who stayed over the weekend if I could come in and pick it up. I must have tripped on the stairs and blacked out while I was retrieving it.
I pushed through my long black hair and ran a hand through my scalp, checking for any bumps I might have suffered. A sigh of relief escaped my lips when I realized that aside from my lip I was left unharmed. Standing up I lifted up the side of my orange flower patterned yukata and began to sprint.
Being out this late wasn’t a good thing. If somebody discovered me leaving school so late I could have gotten in trouble. Sprinting as fast as I could I ran down the hall, until I noticed a broken window.
As opposed to the other windows it looked as if something had crashed into it. As I said the building was old, so the glass wasn’t as reinforced as a regular building.
Deciding to risk further injury I carefully made my way to the window and reached my hand through the empty space.
At least it should have gone through.
Despite the glass having shattered, my hand pressed up against some invisible force. No that would be inaccurate to say. It would be more accurate that my hand simply didn’t move no matter how hard I pushed it. As I bit my lip I could feel taste iron on my tongue. Steeling my body I rushed forward and slammed myself against the empty window. Again I didn’t move.
I didn’t collide with anything I just couldn’t move. As if I were simply stalled.
As if I was being held back.
Turning away from the window I lifted up my Yukata again and began to take off into a sprint. Every so often I would stumble and grip the wall for support. If only my yukata was a little shorter I wouldn’t be having this problem. It’s all my mother’s fault that I have to deal with something so cumbersome.
I knew where my goal was, the front entrance. Surely it wasn’t going to be locked too, I’d have a way out. However if it as unlocked would I… Be able to escape or would I be held back just like the window? No I couldn’t think such negative thoughts. There had to be some logical solution to all of this.
It was impossible to not be able to pass through empty space. There was no feasible explanation for any of this. Me waking up mysteriously at sunset, not being able to pass through the window, it was all impossible.
No, not impossible.
The fact that this was happening to me made it completely possible… I think. There was a distinct line between impossibility and improbability. Once you saw something with your own two eyes, it denied impossibility.
A shiver ran down my spine as I gazed at the outside world, the sunlight gradually dying. Despite it being the middle of summer, I felt the chill of autumn creeping up my back.
Closing my eyes I ran off in a sprint, ignoring the tears that were starting to form. I was having enough of this, I just wanted to go home.
I wanted nothing more than to be free of this school, to break free and enjoy my festival. Why did this have to happen every year? Last year it was homework, and this year school trapped me again.
A loud creaking sound disturbed me from my thoughts. I almost forgot, despite it being regularly maintained this was still an old building. It was unsafe to fumble in the dark. When I opened my eyes again however, I found it too late. I crashed into something.
For the third time today I found myself on the ground, sitting on my bottom. Three times I had some form of accident. That’s three times too many for any given day.
“Shit!” I heard a voice call out from above me. Squinting I looked up to find a light shining on my face. As my eyes adjusted I realized it was a flash light being carried by a young man wearing a school uniform, a uniform from another school.
“S-sorry…” I mumbled quickly before looking down at the floor, away from the boy.
“Unless you’re some kind of masochist that enjoys screwing around in a place like this, you should be careful around here.” The light moved away from my face and I felt a warmth embrace my left wrist. When I glanced back up to face him I saw the boy peering down at me, lightly raising my arm into the air.
It was now that I could get a good look at him. His eyes seemed severe, as if indicating he was in a bad mood. And his hair, was it blonde? He was definitely Japanese, so there was no other conclusion other than that he’d dyed it.
I was absolutely certain I had encountered a delinquent.
“Think you can stand up?” He asked, keeping his grip firm but gentle, contrasting his harsh look. Avoiding his gaze I looked off to one of the walls, nodding my head.
“Y-yes, I think I’m fine. I’m not hurt.” That was not completely true, I could still feel pain in my lip. However it was hardly anything serious.
“Good, getting hurt in a place like this would be a pain, can’t exactly call an ambulance.” After placing his flashlight in his pocket the boy grabbed my wrist with his both hands and started pulling. “Hold on tight.”
Following his movements I stood up, stumbling slightly before I caught my balance.
“Good looks like you didn’t break anything. Be more careful next time alright? We both could have been shit out of luck.” Despite sounding annoyed he seemed worried about me?
“Y-yes I understand.” Rubbing my wrist I look to the floor. That was the first time I had such direct contact with a boy. Even though I’m a third year I never had much experience with boys in general.
I was happy he couldn’t see my face, I wondered what kind of pathetic expression I was making.
“Whew, good to see I’m not the only person stuck here.”
“Stuck here? You mean, you can’t get out of here either?”
Shaking his head he shrugged his shoulders. “Nope, been trapped here the past three hours and haven’t found an exit.”
Clutching my hand tighter I leaned forward, attempting to stare him in the eye. Wait, he was trapped for three hours?
“It’s…Not just the window but the other exits too!?”
“Ah so you’ve noticed the window? Yeah it was completely smashed. Can’t find any way to get out of it. Somebody must’ve had some anger problems.” I heard him chuckle softly to himself. “Have you tried any of the doors? They were completely shut when I checked.”
Shut, in other words… They were completely closed. No, that’s not it. I wondered, if they just wouldn’t move in the first place, as opposed to being closed shut or locked. The same force was preventing them from moving in the first place.
From all angles were we… Stuck?
“T-that’s impossible. There has to be someway out. M-maybe we should wait for somebody to come along and help us?” I clutched my wrist so tight I could feel it growing numb. “Y-yeah they’ll help us and open the doors and get us out of here!”
“… I don’t think so. You saw that window right? If we absolutely can’t get out then nobody else can get in.” He pulled the flashlight out of his pocket and pointed it towards me. I jumped back as the light assaulted my eyes.
“Yes but… It’s impossible for us to get stuck like this in the first place!” Reaching up I grabbed my head, feeling my legs about to buckle. “Why can’t we just escape from the window? There shouldn’t be anything keeping us here.”
“You can say that it’s impossible all you want but it’s happening right now. Like some crap you’d read online.” Walking closer to me he placed his hand on my shoulder.
“Look, this is a pretty bad situation alright but we have to relax and try to think of our own escape route alright? I hate it as much as you, but panicking would be the death of us.”
His scowl morphed into a warm looking smile.
For some reason, when I looked at that smile, I could feel my anxiety wash away.
“Y-Yes… You’re right.” I paused for a brief moment. Oh that’s right, we haven’t done introductions. “O-oh, I don’t think I know your name.”
It was very faint but… I thought I saw the boy’s mouth twitch ever so slightly.
“Uh well that…” He trailed off, his voice growing strained. “Listen my name sucks so don’t laugh or anything right?”
I gave a nod of my head, a flat expression on my face. There would be no laughter from me.
“My family name is Arimoto, my given name is Arihiro.”
“Arimoto Arihiro?” I asked tilting my head to the side. Arimoto… Arimoto… Something about that name seemed familiar to me. Where did I hear it before?
For such a unique family name one would think they would recognize it on the spot if they’d heard it before. It was likely nothing, yet it kept on clawing away at me.
“Yeah got a problem with it?”
“O-oh it’s just… An old sounding name.”
“Hey I told you it was stupid sounding! Just ignore it alright?”
“You are probably the only person in this town named Arihiro…”
“Hey I told you to cut it out alright? If I could punish my parents for that name I would. In fact they’re number one on my grudge list.”
This boy had an entire grudge list!?
“You’re mad at your parents for just a name?”
“Listen it’s a really bad name.”
“I think it’s cute.” I closed my eyes and smiled. “It’s Arimoto and Arihiro, Ari Ari.”
“Shit, don’t call me that. It sounds like something you’d name your pet.”
“Like Pon Pon?” I opened my eyes, placing a finger on my chin.
His face contorted into what I would assume is something of pure disgust. “What do I sound like to you, some kind of dog? Who’d name an animal something like that anyway?”
“I have an aunt who named her cat neko, so it’s not too weird, I’d think.”
“Nope that’s even stupider than my name!” He leaned backwards a bit hiding his face with his hand. “Just give your pet a normal human name and not something completely pants on head stupid.”
“Um what’s your pet’s name?”
“Never had one but if did I’d name it Joshua.”
A soft chuckle escaped my lips. “An English name? T-that’s rather unusual. I-I would use a Japanese name.”
“It doesn’t matter since I’m never going to get one in the first place.”
Frowning I folded my arms behind my back. What a sad person, not wanting a pet. I wondered how lonely of a person could be. Personally if my mother would allow it I would love to get a pet… Although knowing my mother it’s impossible.
“Well still, I like your name Arimoto-san. At least It’s unique.”
“Yeah I guess. Forget being the only person in town, I bet I’m one of five people with the name Arihiro on the planet.” Sighing he removed his hand from his face. “So what’s your name?”
I lowered my gaze biting down on my lip again. “P-promise you won’t make fun of me…”
“I’d be a hypocrite if I did, what is it?”
Keeping my eyes down cast I opened my mouth again and slowly spoke my name. “Inoue Otsuyu.”
That dreaded name. That wicked name. That cursed name.
“And here you are calling my name weird. I’ve literally never heard of anybody named Otsuyu. It’s even more archaic sounding than mine.”
“H-huh you have never heard of it before!?” I was astounded, to say the least. I was sure every Japanese citizen would have heard my name at least sometime in their lives.
“Should I have? I’m not missing out on some big thing that flew above my radar right?”
Tracing a finger across my chin I shook my head, a smile finding its way to my lips. “Oh no it’s fine that you don’t know. It’s just from a Kabuki play my mother enjoys.”
“You’re named after a character from a Kabuki play?” He raised an eyebrow, his face contorting into a frown. There was something about his expression that made my heart sink a little. Was he going to start judging me too? “That’s pretty bizarre. But hey who am I to judge. You know what they say birds of a feather stick together.”
“H-huh birds of a feather?” What was he talking about? I felt my heart jump just a little.
“Yeah we’re both bound by our weird sounding names. Anyway I think if your Mom named you after her favorite play then it has to be really meaningful right?”
Chuckling I look away from him, back down on the floor. I just glanced at my feet, trying to break eye contact as much as possible.
“Y-yeah it is… A really special name. My mother loves these plays so… It must be something important to her.”
“Yeah so don’t worry about people giving you shit about it. Both of us having whacky names makes me sympathize with you a lot more anyway.”
I couldn’t help but look up again. Despite wanting to look away as much as possible, our eyes locked again. “I-is it because the two of us are… B-birds of a feather?”
“In terms of names at least. And…” He looked up at the ceiling, before pounding one of the walls with his fist. “Being trapped in this school together. We can’t find a way out alone, right?”
“Y-yes… I agree, Mister Arimoto!”
Strangely Arimoto clicked his tongue, and began to rub the back of his neck. “Don’t call me that. Just call me Arihiro alright?”
W-wait huh what???
He wanted me to call him by his given name so casually? Shouldn’t he be a little less intimate? Did he do this towards everybody he met or was it just me? Based on my own first impression, I feel that it would be arrogant to assume he’s acting this way just towards me. Just because it’s me. Nobody would be so intimate with somebody such as myself, especially a stranger.
“Okay then Mister Arihiro“
“Just Arihiro, alright?”
“I understand. Well Arihiro….” Twiddling my thumbs my smile had returned to my face. “If it would be okay with you, would you just call me Otsuyu?”
“Yeah sure, My dear Otsuyu~“
“N-n-no j-just Otsuyu!” Placing my hands on my cheeks I shook my head. I didn’t want a boy I just met adding honorifics like that to my name so freely. If somebody else was around they would get the wrong idea! Although, having no honorifics is more embarrassing now that I took the time to think about it.
“Alright gotcha, Otsuyu it is then.” He gave me a thumbs up before flashing his light behind me. “Are you here all by yourself then?”
“Y-yes… I just woke up to find myself trapped alone.” Well that wasn’t entirely true but I woke up to find myself alone. It’d be best if I didn’t tell Arihiro the full story as not to make him worry.
“That sucks… I searched this whole place besides the third floor and couldn’t find anybody. Hey Otsuyu, do you know a place where we can sit down and rest for a bit? You know a safe place.”
“Um… The school cafeteria seems fairly safe. There’s a door that leads to the gym and courtyard through it.”
“Why didn’t you say so before? I actually didn’t notice a cafeteria. Shit guess I didn’t check everywhere after all.” He placed his hand over his face, grumbling something incomprehensible. “Alright I’m going to give you the flashlight can you lead the way?”
“Y-you’re giving me your flashlight? You don’t have a spare?”
“I didn’t bring enough for two people, I thought it would just be me.”
Now that was suspicious. Why would he even bring a flashlight to our academy in the first place? It was almost as if he was prepared to come around here during the night. Wait, now that I thought about it…
“Why is it so dark in here? Do you think we’re able to turn the lights back on?”
He took a step back, looking up at the ceiling. His flashlight shredded through the darkness and illuminated the ceiling. “I don’t think that’ll be possible, in a decrepit place like this.”
Bringing my hand to my chest I narrowed my eyes at him, although I doubted he could see me. By this point the sun had gone completely down and aside from the flashlight and faint moonlight we were encased in shadows. The dark brown of the walls and wooden floor boards only helped add to the pitch blackness. Without his flashlight he couldn’t see me.
It was impossible.
There was still a possibility he could see me. I just hoped he wasn’t paying attention, I feared what kind of expression I was making. We’d only just met, I didn’t want Arihiro to hate me already.
Hate was better neglect, I suppose.
“C-couldn’t we just c-check to see if the custodian rooms are unlocked so we can turn on the lights?”
“Oh yeah that’s what you mean uh…. I don’t think it’s possible. They’re probably all locked we’d have to smash them down.”
“O-oh we wouldn’t want to do that…” I didn’t have the heart to confront him about calling our school a ‘decrepit place’. I thought it was a well-designed building, with decades of history. But again I was going to hold my tongue on the matter.
“Yeah that would be a complete pain in the ass. Let’s just regroup at the cafeteria and go about our game plan there, alright?”
Without warning I saw the light fly into the air, flailing around as it flew towards me. Shrieking, I covered my face as the light flew past me, landing on the floor. Removing my arms from my face I looked at the floor. There was the flashlight, completely unharmed illuminating the wooden floorboards.
“S-sorry!” I shouted as I scrambled to the floor to pick it up. Lifting the device in my hands I shine it on Arihrio, causing him to flinch and cover his eyes.
“Look it’s fine. As long as it’s not broken we’re fine. So stop shining that in my face!!!”
Giving a nod of my head I walk past Arihiro, making sure to keep myself from tripping all over my Yukata again. If I fell for a fourth time I would really seem like a clutz and I didn’t want Arihiro seeing me in such a state again. He might have gotten some strange ideas about me.
“Just this way Arihiro.” I let the name hang on my lips. Arihiro… It was fun to say almost. Even though we’d only just met minutes before I’d never before had a friend who let me use their given name. I smiled, feeling a skip in my step. “Just follow me Arihiro… Arihiro…”
“Hey can you stop randomly saying my name like that you’re kind of weirding me out. Makes you sound like some kind of yandere character.”
“Yandere? I don’t understand.”
“… I take it you don’t watch a lot of anime.”
“No my mother doesn’t let me.”
“You should watch some while she isn’t looking.”
“N-no she says something like that will rot your brain!”
“Hey my brain isn’t rotten yet.”
“Hm… W-well not to sound rude Arihiro… You don’t know the origin of the name Otsuyu.”
“Ignorance isn’t a symptom of a fried brain.”
“You also um…Not to sound rude but um… Threw that flashlight at me.”
“Hey I got caught up in the moment. Not to sound rude but I really thought you’d catch it.”
“I-I’m not that agile… I’m sorry!”
“… Look like you said you don’t have to worry about it. Anyway what do you do for entertainment?”
“W-what do you mean?”
“I mean do you like to watch movies or anything?”
“Um movies… Sometimes. My mother likes it better when I’m reading rather than watching something.”
“She sounds like a load of fun.”
“…” I stared at the hall in front of me, pausing for just a brief moment. My mother, she… I doubt she’d even noticed I was gone yet.
“Hey you’re awfully quiet.”
“S-sorry I was just thinking. Do you think your parents are worried you are gone??”
“… If I’m gone for too long they’ll be notified by a certain somebody and we’ll have a whole search party looking for me.”
“A c-certain somebody? W-what are you talking about?”
“My family has a special system put in place.”
“R-really can you elaborate? It sounds a little strange that they wouldn’t notice themselves.”
“You see my parents are busy as hell all the time so they have somebody else keeping an eye on me, some girl who lives with us.”
“S-some girl who lives with you, your sister?”
“No, she’s not family, just somebody my parents are looking after.”
“Why?” I turned my head slightly to steal a glance at him but it was hard to see him through the darkness. I couldn’t make out what kind of expression he had on his face. “Oh did her parents leave the country on a business trip and have to leave her with your family for a year? D-did she transfer in from the big city and now has to adjust to life i-in a small town like ours?”
“…You’re making her sound like the main character of some novel, besides our town isn’t that small, we don’t live in the boonies.”
“S-sorry well… I j-just wanted to put a romantic spin on it.”
“There’s nothing romantic about it. As novel as it sounds, having a cute girl living in the same house as you isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, it’s a pain in the ass.”
“You two… Aren’t that close?”
“I wouldn’t say that but… It ties into the system I was talking about earlier.”
“W-where she’s keeping an eye on you?”
“She always makes a note whenever I don’t come home. When I’m gone for three days she’ll tell my parents about my disappearance. My parents will then in turn contact a certain other person. And after that person has been contacted…All hell will break loose until I return home. This happens every time I’m gone for three days without fail.”
“I see… S-so in three days we’ll be rescued?”
“I didn’t say that, just that there will be a search party.”
“So the police are… Going to get involved then?” Sighing I walked carefully through the dark, turning around a corner.
“I never said that either, were you paying attention to me? My family doesn’t like the cops too much. I’m pretty sure your mom or something will file a missing persons report if you’re gone too long anyway.”
“I don’t think… She’ll notice.”
“What she busy too?”
“You could say that…” Stopping I turned around to face Arihiro pointing the flashlight on him, a bright smile on my face. “Anyway, the teachers should be here by the end of Oban so we’ll be let out by then…”
“Like I said before what makes you think anybody’s going to get in here in the first place. Like I said if we’re trapped other people are probably going to be locked out.”
“We don’t know that for sure yet…”
“It’s just an assumption I’m working under. Besides I think it will be a long time until anybody shows up here.”
I let his words hang in the air as I continued to walk in silence, eventually stopping in front of the cafeteria doors. Was he right? Was nobody really going to show up? No, even tomorrow there had to be some staff to check in. It was impossible that nobody else was going to show up.
No… It was just highly improbable we’d get no help.
“Hey this is the place right?” I heard a voice call out from behind me.
Jumping I reach a hand out towards the door, giving a quick nod.
“Y-yes it’s right through here.” Steeling myself I pressed against the doors, expecting at least some resistance. To my surprise the door flew open. Again I stumbled, struggling to catch my footing. Sighing in relief I took another step forward. I was doing good at keeping myself from looking like a fool in front of Arihiro.
The room was bathed in moonlight due to the abundance of windows. It pierced through the moonlight showing us the abundance of tables through the room, and the number of vending machines adorning the walls. I took a step forward, before turning to face Arihiro. Closing my eyes, I gave him a smile.
“And here we are, Arihiro.”
“This place Is a hell of a lot spacier than that musty old hallway.” Walking past me he headed over towards one of the tables and ran a finger over it. I don’t know what he was expecting to find. These tables were cleaned every day, he was not going to find any dirt no matter how hard he looked.
“Um… I suppose so. Now we can rest.” Sighing, I walked over towards the table and sat down, relief washing over my tired legs. I didn’t notice just how exhausted I was until I got a chance to sit down.
Deciding to take a seat next to me, Arihiro kicked his feet up onto the table leaning back. “Alright, let’s start with the beginning. Let’s assess our situation alright Otsuyu.”
“Alright… first, I want to ask a question that’s been on my mind. I-if you don’t mind.”
“Arihiro please don’t hate me for asking this but… What are you doing in this school?” As I turned to look at him I swore I saw him freeze. Feet slamming to the floor he fell forward, his hand hitting the table to support himself.
“S-shit well you see uh…What do you mean?”
“Your uniform, it’s different from the boy’s uniform for this school. You’re not a student here in the first place, are you?”
Slowly his head tuned towards me, his eyes wide and open like a book. Try as he might to hide it, I could still read it clear as day. Arimoto Arihiro… Didn’t belong to this school. I knew this from the first moment I saw him I just never confronted him on it until now.
“S-shit I shouldn’t have come here wearing my school uniform should I?” Running a hand through his hair he turned away from me to face the table. “Look I came here looking for something for the girl who lives at my house. She Goes to this school and forgot something.”
I narrowed my eyes. That seemed far fetched, why didn’t she get it herself? I could have confronted him about it but… It didn’t matter I guess. It was better not to question him if it would result in me losing my only ally.
“I see… And why are you wearing your school uniform in the first place?”
“What, is it so weird for a high school student to wear a school uniform? It’s like a doctor wearing a doctor’s uniform.”
“Would he really be dressed up like a doctor on his time off, I wonder?”
“Maybe he just wants to show off, you never know.”
“I know I wouldn’t want to be dressed in uniform all day. I-it would be impractical.”
“But wearing yuakatas all the time don’t get in the way huh? They seem more like a pain in the ass than a school uniform.”
“M-my mother just loves the attire, she dresses like this too!”
“You must be a weird family to watch go shopping together.”
“W-we’re not that weird!”
“In this day and age you guys are pretty weird. You’d fit in around 70-80 years ago.”
“T-that sounds like a horrible time period to live in… Besides it’s the first day of Oban, I wanted to get dressed for the festival.”
“Oban?” He turned back to look at me, quirking an eyebrow. “At this time of year?”
“Y-yes what other time would I be talking about? That is what today is, r-right? O-oh no was my calendar wrong?”
He glanced off to the side, rapping his fingers against the tabletop. “No you’re right… It’s Oban.”
“Y-yes so that leads to my earlier question. Why are you wearing a school uniform?”
Rubbing his cheek Arihiro forced out a strained laugh “W-well you see…”
“All of my clothes were dirty so I decided to wear my uniform.”
“Alright…” That sounded plausible except for one thing. “Why are you wearing your winter uniform in the middle of summer?”
“Easy!” He pointed towards me, standing up. He was getting… A little too carried away! “My summer uniform was in the wash. All I had left was my normal uniform for the cold weather.”
“I-I’m sorry for asking so many questions but what about the flashlight then?” Everything about Arihiro was so strange. Now that I had the time to think about it I would at least like to get some answers out of him, as improbable as they are.
“I carry one around with me just in case. I like to stay out late at night and sometimes you get stuck in the dark. It’s a pain in the ass wandering around lost without a light so I just carry one around with me.” He spoke quickly, almost as if he’d had this whole speech rehearsed. “This town’s still small enough for it to get pretty dark at night.”
That was a nice answer, however I still wasn’t satisfied. “Does… The girl who lives with you try to get you to come home early?”
“She tried but gave up during first year. Anyway…” He coughed into his hand, eyes darting around. “Let’s assess our situation.”
“A-alright… Well, should we talk about the obvious? We’re trapped here aren’t we, without any way of escape?”
“As far as I know yeah. Doors won’t open at all, and we can’t escape through the one broken window. Think there are any avenues of escape?”
Placing a finger on my lip I hummed in contemplation. I traced my finger against the spot that I split open, seeing how bad the injury was. It felt as if it had stopped bleeding at this point. Good, now all I just had to worry about was it getting infected.
“Well, The courtyard is just beyond the back doors leading to the gym. We could um… Try leaving through the courtyard. It’s technically a part of the school so there might be some loop hole to our captivity. I-it’s improbable that it will work but it fits our improbable situation.”
“Yeah probably… We shouldn’t make assumptions or anything though. We don’t even know why we’re trapped here in the first place.”
“That’s true but… We can hope can’t we? I mean, I don’t want to think about what would happen if we don’t escape.” I wondered for a brief moment, if I were unable to escape how quickly would I be forgotten? Would I just fade away, unable to leave or change my destiny? I could feel my breath grow heavier. “We have to get out of here.”
“Yeah I agree but I don’t have the first clue on how we’re supposed to get out. We should plan for a long stay in this shithole.”
“Oh you’re right… Well, there are vending machines all over this place. We could eat and get something to drink from them.”
“Nope not eating from those.”
“Don’t have any cash on me, I’m completely broke.”
“Oh… Well I have some money on me.”
“Then you can eat from there.” He dismissed the cafeteria food completely and utterly.
I slowly nodded my head, looking away from my companion. I couldn’t force him to eat but… He needed to eat or drink something. “O-oh did you bring anything with you?”
Smirking he patted the book bag strapped to his side. “Yup, I have a couple of snack bars in my bag and three bottles of water. So if we ration it out we should be good.”
“How many snack bars do you have?”
“About ten. We can split it two ways. Five each.” Pulling five bars out of his bag he handed them to me. Smiling, I took the bars and stuffed them away inside of my Yukata. Standing up I dust myself off. “W-well let’s try getting to the gym? It should be safe.”
“Yeah, rodger.” He gave me a salute before jumping out of his seat, stretching his right arm. “Lead the way.”
Waving around the flashlight like some protective charm I lead the way towards the two large doors in the back. Shoving them open we were greeted to a beautiful courtyard covered in flowers with a small stone path leading to the gym out back. They looked pretty during the day but during the night they were absolutely beautiful.
It was as if a little piece of heaven was planted in our own courtyard. If only the other students could see this-
No. I don’t think they deserved to.
“Alriiiight, we actually managed to get out of here.”Arihrio cut through the silence, pulling me from my thoughts. Stepping forward he attempted to walk past the stone steps however he suddenly just… Stopped.
No it would be more accurate to say he attempted to move forward, but no matter how hard he struggled he wouldn’t move a single inch.
Arihiro was completely stuck in place.
Taking a step back Arihiro punched the empty air. “Shit and here I thought it’d really be that easy.”
“… Arihiro, can you step back?”
“I have an idea. I hope… I’m right about something.” I closed my eyes and bent down, picking up a small stone on the road.
Taking in a deep breath I opened my eyes and tossed the stone away from the path. It sailed through the air onto the grass below. “I see, so it’s only us that are getting stuck here…”
“Smart thinking! I knew I could count on you Otsuyu!” Suddenly I felt a hand come into contact with my back. Yelping I jumped forward, quickly turning around. There I saw Arihiro closing his eyes, his right thumb sticking in the air. “So now we know objects can escape, just not us.”
“Y-yeah. I wonder why it’s just us? Are we being specifically targeted?”
“Yeah probably. I mean I thought it was obvious that something was specifically tying us, any or just any human here down.”
“You seem awfully calm about this Arihiro.”
“Do I? Well, I mean I read a lot of ghost stories so something like this doesn’t spook me too bad.”
He read a lot of ghost stories? Somehow I doubted that. After all he didn’t know the name Otsuyu. Otsuyu, such a famous name, such a cursed name.
“Well if you say so, but what can we do with this information? I don’t see how knowing we can get objects out of here can help us.” It really was more of an act of curiosity. I wanted to know exactly how strict this barrier was.
“You got a point but… Maybe if we can get a rope or something we can use it to grab objects, or toss something out of that broken window to grab some sucker’s attention.”
“Oh you’re right! If we’re lucky we can get help earlier! Oh but…What time is it?”
“Yeah, if it’s too late we’re probably not going to catch anybody walking by, right?”
“Yes, right.” Pulling out my cellphone from my Yukata I take a quick glance down at the time. 11:30. “It’s… Eleven at night.”
“Then we should probably prepare to spend the night in this place, not looking forward to that.”
“Spending the night? Shouldn’t we look around a little more?” I unconsciously flip my cellphone open and closed, my free hand finding it’s way to my chest. “I w-want to get out of here!”
If I didn’t get out of here I’d fade away. I would become just a statistic. Statistics aren’t remembered for that long. They never reach true immortality. They’ll be forgotten. Even with time I’ll be forgotten. I know even she won’t remember me.
I felt a pair of hands place themselves on my shoulders, instantly breaking me from my thoughts. Looking up I saw Ahirhiro frowning down at me.
“Look I hate the idea as much as you but it’s dangerous flailing around through the dark. We’ll probably notice something easier during the day. So just stay calm. Alright?”
I nodded my head, taking in a deep breath. A smile returned to my face as I replaced my phone back into my Yukata. Placing my hand on my chin I looked away. There was something about Arihiro’s words that put me at ease.
“Arihiro, are you sure that girl living with you isn’t your sister?”
“Huh why are you asking that?”
“Well, you seem like you know j-just what to say to somebody. L-like you’ve had a lot of practice.
Running a hand through the back of his head he looked off to the side, his lips twitching into a smile. “H-hey don’t say such embarrassing stuff alright? If somebody was around they’d get the totally wrong idea.”
“O-oh, I’m sorry. I won’t do it again!”
“You don’t need to worry about it.”
“Okay.” Pointing the flashlight in front of me I started carefully leading the way across the stone cobbled path. We walked in silence the rest of the way until we stopped in front of the gym doors. Praying the door wasn’t locked, Arihiro and I pushed the door with our bodies, forcing it open.
Compared to the cafeteria the gym was far, far darker due to the lack of windows. Peeking my head in I shined the flashlight through the room to make sure it was safe, before walking in.
There were several lockers that contained gym goods adoring the walls. Shining my flashlight I noticed a fire extinguisher placed next to it. Due to the age of our building these were placed everywhere through the building.
Turning around I gave Arihiro a nod of my head.
“It’s safe in here. There’s nobody dangerous. I think we could spend the night here if we’re careful.”
“You think so? What makes you so sure?”
“Well, the building only has the one entrance. S-so it will be safe. We can block it in case a-anything suspicious tries to get in.”
“I don’t think we have anything to worry about, but whatever. This isn’t some kind of horror game where some psychotic janitor or zombie is lurking around.”
“Are those things common in horror games!?”
“They’re pretty common in manga too. But you wouldn’t know.”
“Since it rots your brain.”
“… W-well I’ve read manga once or twice!”
“So manga’s alright but anime isn’t? Your mom has weird priorities.”
“U-um don’t tell anybody , but reading manga is a personal secret of mine.”
“So your mom doesn’t know?”
“The entire class doesn’t know… I don’t want them finding out. So if you’ll keep it a secret, I’d be most grateful.”
“I mean I don’t go to the same school as you so I don’t know who I’d tell.” Again he shrugged his shoulders and walked past me, heading over towards one of the walls and dropping his book bag.
Quickly following after him, making sure not to trip all over myself, I sat down, hugging my knees.
“Yes but you know that girl who goes to this school.”
“Oh yeah her. Don’t worry, my lips are sealed. We don’t talk much anyway.”
Don’t talk much? Just what sort of relationship do these two have? How could you be so cold to a housemate?
If I live with somebody else other than my mother I’d make sure to talk to them everyday. It’s like having a friend you can hang out with all day.
What kind of person would waste something like that?
“Thank you, Mister Arihiro.” I pressed my back up against the wall staring up at him.
“Hey like I said just call me Arihiro, no honorifics. If you start calling me that I’ll start calling you dear Otsuyu again.”
“A-anything but that!” That would be too embarrassing. But wait, didn’t I decide earlier that it was more embarrassing that he wasn’t using honorifics? Oh I wish I could just make up my mind.
“Heh, let’s just focus on sleeping alright? Get some rest.” He sat down next to me, only a foot keeping us apart. “It’s going to feel uncomfortable as shit though.”
“You’re right, I wish we had something to sleep with.”
“Well we have each other.” He answered so casually.
“W-w-w-w-w-what do you mean!?” I shot out turning to him flabbergasted. I could feel my blood rushing to my face.
“Well we’re a boy and a girl, all alone with no parental supervision. Nobody’s going to know.” He answered with no shame.
“U-um I’m sorry I can’t. I…” My heart pounded in my chest as I scooted away from him.
“Relax I’m just kidding. I just mean huddling for warmth. “
“O-oh yeah huddling, Um, maybe?” Even that seemed pretty risky!!!
“Yeah it won’t be so bad.” He raised his hand dismissively.
“Maybe but…” I trailed off. I’ve barely touched a boy before so I was a bit hesitant but… Since this was something mother would never allow I couldn’t refuse. “A-as long as you won’t try anything.”
“Don’t worry I’m not that kind of guy.”
“A-alright thank you Ari-“
“I’ll just use your lap as a pillow.”
“Hey what else am I supposed to lay my head on. Trust me, it’s only for practicality.”
“A-are you sure!? You’re sounding suspicious!?” Were all guys like this or was it just him? I hoped he was just kidding or else… I would have to be careful.
“I’ve done it dozens of times.”
“W-with all sorts of girls? Are you that kind of guy Arihiro? T-the kind I hear rumors about in class?” He certainly looked it. The dreaded delinquent type.
“I don’t want to know what rumors you hear about, but I think you’re getting the wrong idea. It’s only been with one woman and it was never romantic…” He paused for a moment, letting his words hang in the air.“At least on my end.”
“W-what do you mean by that?”
“You don’t need to worry about that! Anyway obviously I know using your lap as a pillow isn’t a good idea.”
“T-thank you , I was scared for a sec-“
“Because my lap\ would be a million times better.”
“…” It was just him I was convinced of it! No other guy could be as shameless. “N-no I’m sorry you can’t.”
“You sure? I’m making a huge sacrifice here.”
“N-no!” Shaking my head vigorously I pushed myself further up against the wall, shutting my eyes tight. That’s when a thought occurred to me. A test, a devilish test indeed.
“W-well… Maybe I won’t sleep on YOUR lap but…”
“You can… Rest your head on mine. That’s what you wanted in the first place. C-correct?.”
“W-whoa I was just kidding about the lap thing!” He raised his voice, holding out a hand in front of me, as if to maintain distance.
“Well your head won’t be locked between it, you’ll be just sleeping on my lap. I-it’s a lot safer. People who are dating do it all the time.” Ke ke ke~
“Well we’re not dating are we?”
“Still it’s a lot more comfortable than the floor.”
“Hng!” I saw his back straighten as he placed his hands on his knees. He kept from looking at me, licking his lips. “C-can’t do it I was only joking around.”
“Huh what was that?” I asked, leaning my head forward. I heard him just fine but… I got a jolt of excitement seeing him like that! An energy I’ve never felt before, not even from sneaking manga into our house.
“I was only joking. Sheesh.” I noticed the shape of his shoulders tensing up, despite his attempt at sounding relaxed. “I was supposed to freak you out then laugh it off afterwards.”
“Hee hee, are you sure? You had me very scared for a moment.”
“One hundred percent, what about you? You seemed stupidly. convincing.”
“Half and half… But you know. You passed the test.”
“Test, what test?”
“W-well since you didn’t give into temptation you’re a safe person to be around. If you started um, forcing yourself upon me and took my offer and then some I’d have something to worry about. I m-might have to resort to burning you with this.”
Giving him the kindest smile I can, I pull a lighter out of my clothes. While it was a good thing it didn’t come to me using it, I felt a little disappointed that he declined despite myself.
“What the hell you’re the scary one! Do you really have to go that far!?”
“Well you were making all of those jokes so I had to make sure they were just jokes.”
“Then why the hell do you have a lighter?”
I never considered how weird it would be to reveal something so scary out of nowhere… “It’s for lighting sparklers, my friends said they were bringing some.“
That should be a good enough alibi.
“… Ha ha yeah.” He looked off to the side before I could feel standing up, walking towards the door. “Looking cuddling’s a bad idea in the first place, I’m gonna check the cafeteria for something comfortable that’s easy to access.”
“H-huh are you sure?”
“Yeah we need something to sleep with.” I heard the sound of his fingers snapping in front of me. “Flash light?”
I could feel that chill return again. No no no no no no no! I didn’t want to be left alone again. Jumping up I rush over towards him, grabbing his arm.
Of my own volition.
“I’m coming with you!”
“Eh, you sure? It’s probably way past twelve now, why don’t you get some rest and-”
“No!” I shouted, cutting him off without thinking. Biting my lip I aggravated my wound again, casting my gaze to the floor. “I don’t want to… I don’t want to…”
Sigh. “I got it, you don’t want to be left alone, right?”
Even though he likely couldn’t see it, I nodded my head.
The gym door opening, Arihiro looked back at me, grinning softly. “Lead the way then.”
Without a word we made our way through the courtyard, entering the cafeteria without incident. It wasn’t until we closed the doors that a faint smell entered my nostrils.
Something akin to the bonfire usually held at the end of the school festival. Raising my hand to my chest, I griped at my heart tightly.
“Arihiro do you smell… Smoke?”
“Eh?” He leaned forward, sniffing twice. “Listen I have a good sniffer and I don’t smell anything, what are you talking about?”
“Smoke… I s-smell smoke.”
“Huh where?” Looking back and forth Arihiro seemed to be looking for some sort of trace of a fire, or some such. At least that’s what I assumed he was doing. After all where there’s smoke… There’s fire!
“Over there.” I pointed towards the door leading towards the main hall. Yes that’s where the smell was coming from, I was sure of it.
As if compelled I took one step forward, then another until I was at the door, pushing it open.
“Hey Otsuyu wait up!” Arihiro shouted after me, following close behind.
Once we made it into the halls, the flashlight began to pick up traces of smoke wafting in the air. Yet still I continued onward. Even as Arihiro complained behind me, I ignored him and continued onward.
I turned down the hall, passing straight by the broken window. Despite the smoke growing thicker and thicker, I simply covered my mouth with my sleeve and continued onward.
As an orange light came closer into view, I understood what the source of the smoke was. The stairwell I woke up on was engulfed in flames. Even from this distance the heat stung my face, however I made no attempt to move.
No, I simply stood there, a tightness growing in my heart.
Why, why did the dancing of these flames enchant me so?
It was as if the fire was performing a ballad, and I was given a VIP seat.
There a sole actor decided to enter center stage. Creeping down from the stair case, a charred figure emerged. Race, sex, age, everything about it had been burned away, leaving this walking, darkened husk.
And yet even as it approached, I felt no fear.
Even as it reached it’s hand towards me, I simply stood there and accepted it. Whether or not it meant to harm me, I was under its spell.
Suddenly the sound of shattering glass entered my ears as something grabbed the back of my yukata and slammed me to the ground.
By time I could realize what was going on, I saw Arihiro towering in front of me, holding one of the fire extinguishers littered around the school. “Stay down!”
Violently shaking the fire extinguisher, he points it towards the fire shooting coolant towards it. As Arihiro’s makeshift weapon begins to empty, the embers slowly fizzled out. All that remained was the broken remains of the stairwell.
Wait… That wasn’t right!
Where was it!?
Grabbing the flashlight I frantically flail it around. “Where is it!?”
“That figure, where is that figure!?” That figure in the flames shouldn’t have just disappeared. We should still see it’s bones and flesh.
“What the hell are you talking about? Calm down!” Arihiro grabbed both of my wrists tightly, trying to keep me still. “There was no figure there!”
“There was just a fire, nobody else was there!”
Did I just imagine the whole thing?
I got limp in Arihiro’s grip, no longer resisting. This was… Too much. I was so tired. This entire experience was starting to make me feel sick. I could hear Arihiro speaking to me, however I was unable to bring myself to listen. I simply let him guide me back to the gym.
When we returned, I sat against the wall, hugged my legs, and drifted off into an uncomfortable sleep.
I was always alone. My mother would never tell me my father’s name nor show me a picture of his face. Who could remember a man they’d never met. No matter how much they tried it wasn’t possible. It wasn’t even simply improbable. It was completely and utterly impossible.
She made it impossible.
“Otsuyu you don’t need such men in your life. Men who can’t hold a commitment aren’t worth anybody’s time. You’d best not bother interacting with them in the first place.”
That’s what she always told me. She was never happy about me making male friends, at least male friends that she hadn’t handpicked herself. Boys that were the children of her close, personal friends. Instead of taking care of me herself she dumped me off on woman to woman, baby sitter to sitter. Careless friend to careless friend who just dumped me off on their child to talk to.
I can count the times I’ve had a proper conversation with my mother on my fingers, after I entered high school. Contact grew less and less frequent and she started staying out later and later. Eventually I only saw her on the rare occasion I came home early, not counting phone calls of course.
She was very restrictive of my possessions so I couldn’t hide anything like manga, I had to read all of that at a bookstore if I ever found something I was interested in. I have to wonder, however. How much did my mother remember me? Could it be that she…. Has fully forgotten about me?
It was impossible. No improbable. No it was highly likely.
I wondered… Was there something I could do to force her, and everybody else in my life to remember me?
Good or bad I didn’t care.
It was then one summer morning, I had an idea…
I awoke to the sun’s rays gently caressing my face through the open gym door. Eyes opening I pushed myself off the hard floory. Yawning I pulled off my glasses and wiped the sleep off of my eyes. I had almost forgotten that I’d cracked the lens slightly.
I wondered when I’d be able to get them replaced, likely not for a while. Looking down at the jacket a smile creeped across my lips, and I called out to my companion.
“A-arihiro are you awake? Sorry for my behaviour last night.” Taking a quick glance around I would soon realize that my words would fall on deaf ears. Arihiro was nowhere to be seen. Quickly I stood up.
Just to be sure I looked around the room. Nothing, there was no Arihiro, nor any other human, I was alone by myself. Taking a step back I rushed towards the entrance to0 the gym, flinging it open. There I saw Arihiro with some square, flat, black device pressed to his ear.
“Yeah I got it. If I get out of here alive I’ll see you again… Stop saying such embarrassing shit.” He pulled the device away from his ear tapping the screen and placed it in his pocket. Sighing he rubbed the back of his head before turning back to me. “O-oh hey…”
“What were you doing?”
“Nothing just enjoying the morning air…”
“L-lair… You were talking to somebody.”
Sighing, he closed his eyes and turned his head to look up at the cloudless sky. Opening them again a sigh escaped his mouth. “I guess I can’t hide it from you. Yeah I managed to get into contact with the outside world.”
“Great that means we can get somebody to get us out of here!”
The sound of him wincing crushed any little bit of hope his words had built up.
“A-arihiro, what’s wrong?”
“Well the person I called tried to get in a few hours ago. She wasn’t able to make it in no matter what we tried.”
“Was she the girl that you live with?”
“No somebody else.”
I quirked an eyebrow. “You sure do know a lot of girls…”
“Don’t get any weird ideas, it’s only just the two. Besides if I had it my way I wouldn’t have to deal with any of them.”
That was a very cold thing to say about two of your friends. I wondered if Arihiro was a person like me, someone who didn’t belong with other people.
Gathering my courage I decided to ask him. “What about me, Arihiro? Are you um… Sick of me?”
“Of course not, you’re actually pretty okay by my books. Anyway that’s not the point. I think the woman I called can help us with our situation.”
“But you said she couldn’t get in.”
“She can’t, but she told me a few ways we can get out. It’s simple, first we need to find out why you’re stuck here in the first place.”
“… Me? What about you?”
“We’ll worry about me later. What’s more important is why YOU’RE stuck here.”
I didn’t understand. Why I was stuck here? “H-how am I supposed to know that!?”
“Look let’s just start off with why you’re even in here in the first place. We’re both going to be honest here.”
“Yeah, you’ll have to tell me the reason you’re here.” His words were firm and strict.
Freezing , I looked down at my feet, clutching the edges of my yukata tightly. “Alright only if you’ll be honest with me too.”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re not really here to pick up your housemate’s things are you?”
“… Shit you really see through me don’t you?” He ran a hand through his hair, sweat starting to stick to it.
“W-well um…It’s a little obvious. You’re a bad liar. If she lives with you why doesn’t she just attend the same school?”
“… I mean it’s possible that we don’t?”
“I-it’s possible but highly improbable.”
“… Fine, we go to the same school. You happy?”
“Yes, now… Why are you in this school?”
“…I’ll tell you when we find a way out of here alright?” His eyes darted down to look at me, away from the sky and straight at me. Straight into my eyes.
“…” Hopping towards him I let go of my yukata and hold out my pinky. “P-promise?”
“Yeah, I promise.” And so his pinky intertwined with mine. “As long as you tell me why you’re here.”
“W-what do you mean I’m here to grab some homework, I told my teachers-“
“You really don’t need to lie alright? Especially about how you broke that window.”
I felt my entire body freeze up. “I-it was broken when I found it.”
“Liar you should be more honest with me. The window being broken in the first place was how I got in. I’m not that much of a delinquent to break it myself.” He picked his ear with his free hand. “ If it was already broken when I got in and you’re the only other person here, then obviously only one person could have broken the window.”
Biting my lip I slowly nodded my head. “Y-yes I… Broke the window, but what does this have to do with anything?”
“It has to do with everything. What’s so important to you that you’d have to break a window over it? I’m thinking that it’s the reason you’re stuck here. So tell me, why are you here Otsuyu?.”
“I… I want to get it back. My… My proof of my existence.” Shutting my eyes tight I felt tears well up at the pits of my eyes. I needed it, the only legacy I’ll leave when I die.
He lowered his head, shoving a hand into his pocket. “Your proof of existence? “
“My notebook full of stories… The only thing I’ll leave behind when I die.”
“Your notebook? You broke all the way in here for something you wrote? That’s pretty damn extreme.”
“I-it’s not like that I thought it might be… Destroyed.”
“Who would have destroyed it, the teachers? A janitor? I don’t really understand.”
Pulling my hand away from his I took a step back, grabbing at the sides of my Yukata. I kept my vision downcast, away from Arihiro. “You want me to be perfectly honest with you?”
“That’s all I want, it’s the most likely way to get us the hell out of here. After all I think the best way for me to escape is by getting you to escape.”
“Then let me tell you my story, the story of what happened on the first day of oban.”
And so I told him my story of the day before.
I say it’s the day before but actually the story starts the day before the day before. I was in class getting ready for our three day break. That’s when I made a mistake, a fatal error.
As I was packing everything up from my desk and back into my folder I let something drop to the floor, out of my grasp.
A book full of the writing that I kept behind my mother’s back. My mother… I had to keep that book away from my mother at all costs. The entire book was my hopes and dreams.
If she got a hold of it she would burn them for sure. My hopes and dreams burned into cinders and scattered to the winds.
Still no matter how much I wanted to protect it I forgot it after I was heading home for the day, and dropped it on the ground. Dropped it for anybody to lay their hands on it, and lay their hands on it somebody did.
One of my classmates picked it up and read through it’s contents. At least that’s what they told me on the first day of Oban, during the festival.
“Hey Inoue I found your book.” They told me. I of course asked them where it was and how they found it.
“I don’t know check the school, of course it might be in tatters by now.” With their words weighing heavy in my heart I infiltrated the school and awoke to find myself at the bottom of the first floor staircase.
“And that is my story, Arihiro.” I finished, taking in a relaxed sigh.
“So what you’re saying is, you’re here to find your notebook full of stories right?”
I gave a small nod of my head. “Y-yeah if it’s…Not ripped to shreds.”
“So we can assume that’s why you’re stuck here if what the witch says is right.”
“Are you sure you can trust her?”
“… Absolutely. She knows all about the paranormal. She’s helped me out with it for years.”
“Years…? The Paranormal?” I took a step away from Arihiro. “Arihiro, just who exactly are you?”
Turning away from he rubbed the back of his neck before turning his head to glance at me from the side. From that angle I could have sworn I caught the hints of a dark smirk. “Like I said, I’ll tell you when we get out of here.”
And so we made a list of places where my notebook could be that we haven’t already checked. Arihiro checked the first two floors. I checked most of the third floor as that was the floor where the third years had their classes. That left very few places, either the Gym or the roof to be exact.
We did a quick look through the gym and came up empty handed. We even checked the storage closet and still nothing.
That left only one place, the roof. Due to last night’s fire, we had to take the stair case on the opposite side of the school. Before we left, Arihiro stored the gym’s fire extinguisher into his bag, in case we needed it. Steeling myself we walked through the halls, compared to yesterday they were easier to navigate. I preferred the day to the night any time.
“So Otstuyu, I’m kind of curious.” Arihiro asked, following my lead. He kept close behind me, closer than usual. Were we just that good of friends now that he decided to close the distance between us?
That’s how friendship worked right? Either way I was honored.
“Hm… What is it Arihiro?”
“That person who picked up your notebook and read it, did they say what they felt about it?”
“O-oh you mean whether they liked it or not?”
“Yeah, they had to say something about it if they threatened to get rid of it.”
“They hated it obviously.”
“Is that what they said?”
“Well no but, they had to have hated it if they hid it from me.”
“I mean, they could have just disliked you, didn’t have to have anything to do about hating it or not.”
“But why would she like my work if she doesn’t like me?”
“Well I mean you can still like something somebody wrote without liking the person. For example I like B*rserk but I think it’s author sucks for not updating it and being a lazy dick.”
“That’s rather harsh don’t you think? Some people need a break from working sometimes.”
“Don’t give a shit.”
“W-well can the reverse be true?”
“You mean somebody hating the work but liking the author? Well yeah. I don’t like B*each, it’s boring shit, but I think K*bo’s a cool guy.”
Tightening my fists I feel my breath grow faint. “So could you say… Even if nobody likes the work they’ll remember the creator?”
“Uh, maybe? But it’s way less common than the alternative you know.”
“You mean, the creator being forgotten and the work being immortalized? So in other words, the creator dies and isn’t remembered while the work is immortalized?”
“Hey I wouldn’t word it like that, but kind of? I mean I’ve heard about the epic of Gilgamesh in class but for the life of me I can’t remember who wrote it.”
“So even if I write something and it gets popular, I won’t become immortal? I won’t be remembered?”
“Uh…” I could sense hesitance in his voice. “It’s really fifty fifty. If you keep on making more than one thing your name will become more well known, people will recognize you for hit after hit. Like that american dude St*phen K*ng. On the other hand if only one work becomes a hit that’ll eclipse everything else. Then you have to take into account waning popularity. Where something becomes popular for a few months then is just dumped and totally forgotten.”
“So what you’re saying is that it’s highly improbable that I’ll become somebody forever remembered.”
“Yeah but not impossible. As long as there’s some small possibility, I say go for it.”
“Even if it’s absolutely miniscule?”
“Yeah, you’d be throwing everything away if you didn’t at least try. Even if what you made is an abject failure you fail yourself for not trying..”
Giving a nod of my head I beamed brightly. “Thank you… Arihiro. H-hey I have a question.”
“Yeah go ahead, shoot.”
“If we find my notebook can I get you… To read my story?”
“Yeah sure but expect me to be brutally honest about it alright?”
“Okay! And… Arihiro?”
“After this can we…Stay friends?”
There was a brief silence before a response. “Yeah, of course. Even though I’ve only known you for a day you’re already a pretty okay friend I guess?”
“When I get to know you longer you’ll be bumped up to good friend.”
“H-how much is longer?’
“An hour or two.”
“Then I hope we’re stuck here for another hour.”
“You shouldn’t want to be here any longer just for a reason like that!”
“Haha okay… I’m sorry. Hey Arihiro…”
“Yeah what is it now?”
“I’m glad I got stuck in here with you.” I decided to brave a little closer, smiling ear to ear.
And so we traveled up the stairs and to the third floor. As I was walking across the hall,I felt a rough hand grab my shoulder. It was Arihiro’s.
“Hey be careful!”
“The floor’s collapsed over there.”
“H-huh?” When I looked down at the floor below I found that Arihiro was right. The floor was collapsed. “B-but when I was walking I saw…“
When I checked the third floor earlier and I was just walking I saw that the floor was there, how did it exactly disappear?
“…Relax it’s just probably because of last night’s fire. We’ll walk around the hole.”
Nodding my head the two of us began to hug the wall, carefully side stepping the hole. We would have broken down one of the doors to the classroom however that would be damaging school property. Of course Arihiro commented that the school was damaged enough already.
It didn’t take us long to make it to the rooftop. Surprisingly the door was unlocked.
As soon as we stepped onto the roof a rush of air greeted us, almost sweeping me off my feet. Still I kept my footing and walked forward.
“So Otsu, where should we check first?” I hear Arihiro call out from behind me.
“S-since when did you start calling me Otsu?”
“Since now. I thought it sounded cute.”
What a hypocrite. Still, I guess it did sound cute. Maybe this was for the best.
“… H-heh you can call me that.”
“Hey did I just get a laugh out of you?”
“I g-guess you did…” Smiling, I turned around to face him. “Let’s check out the ledges, there are spots to stuff small objects into them all over the place.”
“You think we’ll be able to grab them?”
“Well I would not see why we would be unable to.”
“Well, the barriers keeping us back for one, we don’t know exactly how far they extend to out here.”
“T-there has to be some way if that’s the case.”
“I’m not saying there isn’t. I’m just saying we’ll have to be careful, and crafty as hell.”
We began to search around the ledges of the roof. The only thing protecting the students from falling was a small ledge reaching up to our stomachs. It didn’t extend any higher than that. Thankfully our school was never recorded to have many severe injuries.
Safety issues aside, this design flaw seemed to work to our benefit. We searched for about ten minutes before I heard Arihiro call out from the wall adjacent to the one I was searching.
“Hey I think I found something? Not sure yet.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just get over here and take a look.”
Walking over I peeked over the ledge. Stuffed into a crevice that poked out of the edge of the wall… Was a plastic baggie that looked as if it hid away a notebook sealed inside of it.
“Is that…My notebook?”
“But why is it wrapped up in a bag?”
“For protection, obviously.”
“But why would the person who did this want to protect my writing?” This didn’t make sense! You’d think they’d be happy to let it be exposed to the elements.
“Like I said maybe they didn’t hate it.”
Could that be possible? Then why… Did they do this to me in the first place?
“W-well how are we supposed to secure it? Do we reach down and grab it?”
“I tried but that’ll be impossible.”
“… Let me guess, the barriers got in the way?”
“Exactly. I could reach forward but I can’t reach downward. It’ll let me go forward a few feet, but it won’t let me go down, so I can’t reach it.”
I placed a chin on my hand, thinking. There had to be a way for us to grab it, there just had to. Soon, an idea came to mind.
“A-arihiro would you please give me your bag?”
“Sure, what for Otsu?”
“Y-you’ll see, it’s very risky though.”
“L-let’s just keep that a secret, so you don’t get worried.”
“That just worries me even more.” Groaning he shook his head disapprovingly. Still he decided to relent.
After Arihiro handed me his bag I held it tightly and walked towards the ledge. Taking a deep breath I crawled atop the stone guard of the roof and stood there, tilting back and forth as I teetered between the air and the ground. Between life and death.
“Hey Otsu-chan what the hell are you doing!?”
Not responding I took a step forward, a leap of faith and… Tripped on my Yukata and fell forward. I fell until I hit the ground. Or should I say the invisible barrier that stood between me and the ground below. It was just as Arihiro had said, we were able to move forward ever so slightly but the building wouldn’t let us go down.
Probably because if we went down we’ed technically be escaping the school. I could only speculate of course.
“Hey Otsu are you okay!?” I heard Arhiro call from behind me.
“Y-yes I’m fine!” I called. The bag dangled from my arms, causing me to carefully fish it up. If I dropped it, arihiro would be mad at me. Carefully I opened the bag making sure that I didn’t drop and of it’s contents.
As I pushed aside the fire extinguisher for room I noticed a stack of paper with odd writing on it. Hm… That was a little odd, but I really shouldn’t be prying.
Slowly I lowered the bag far enough for it to just barely touch the plastic bag that contained my hopes and dreams. The open end of the book bag scooped my note book into it. Taking in another deep break I reeled it in and crawled back to saftey, falling back onto the floor of the roof.
“Hey Otsu are you alright?” Rushing over towards me Arihiro knelt down and gently placed a hand on my shoulder. I pushed myself up, shoving the bag towards him. “I did it… I have my dreams back. W-we can get out of here.”
After being handed the notebook the two of us rushed down to the first floor again. It was Arihiro’s idea that we leave through the window since there was a chance that the doors still might be locked. As soon as we arrived at the window I swiveled around, smiling at Arihiro who stopped centimeters away from me.
“Hey Arihiro um…T-thank you for all of your help.”
“Don’t worry about it. Let’s just get out of here now. I just want to go home and take a shower.” Laughing he closed his eyes, rubbing the back of his head. “I probably reek.”
“Y-yes I need to take a bath as well. U-um, see you on the other side, Arihiro.”
“… Yeah see you.”
And so I climbed out of the window into freedom. Arihiro and I stayed friends and I became a successful novelist.
That’s how things would normally have ended, is it not?
That’s how things should have ended.
That was the absolute novel ending.
Instead my body was held back and I was prevented from leaving.
After all of this I was still stuck.
I took a step backwards, my back bumping into Arihiro. I clutched my head, biting down on my lip , opening the wound from yesterday. “Why why why why!? We should be out of here, we found the reason I’m stuck here!”
“I’m sorry I figured it would be like this…”
I turned around staring up at Arihiro. “W-what do you mean?”
“I wanted to end things happily ever after kinda not, so I wanted to prove her wrong and that we could get out of here by simply solving your problem.” His teeth clenched together as his voice grew lower. “But I guess we have to end things her way… God damn it!”
His fists clenched tightly as he looked off to the side.
I Grabbed a hold of Arihiro’s jacket and stared up at him, my eyes like daggers. “Please Arihiro just tell me, what are you talking about?”
“… Yeah I said I’d tell you the whole truth right? Well now’s as good a time as any.” His kind looking face turned grim as he looked away from me, his lips contorting into a dark smile. “But first I want to know, are you ready? I don’t think you’ll like it.”
“Just tell me, I w-want to know!”
“… I know of a way that can make you leave, I knew it since this morning but… Even though you can leave you can never see the outside ever again.”
I felt a chill run down my body. I let go of his jacket and walked backwards until my back hit the barrier that was the window. “W-what do you mean I’m stuck here forever!?”
“That’s not what I said. I said you can leave, just that you can’t see the outside again.”
“What do you mean!? What you’re saying doesn’t make any sense!”
“I have a question to ask you. Please just trust me, I’m going somewhere. What month is it?”
“W-why are you asking?”
“Please just answer.”
“W-well it’s july…”
“What’s the year?”
“Bzzzt wrong both times.” He held up two fingers.
I grabbed at my chest, finding it difficult to breathe. “H-huh?”
“The date is the 4th, the month is September and the year…” He took in a deep breath. “The year is 2018.”
I felt something shatter in my head. Something break apart. Suddenly the pieces were starting to come together. “N-no… That can’t be right.”
“Didn’t you think it was weird that I came in after you but I didn’t find you lying down in front of the staircase, despite having visited the second floor?”
“A-arihiro please be quiet…”
“You must have found it weird I wasn’t in a summer uniform. You even questioned why I was wearing a school uniform in the first place.”
“A-arihiro I don’t want to hear anymore!”
“Oh and that lighter you’re holding? It’d be pretty good at burning a place like this. That staircase was screwed up from the moment I got here.”
“That doesn’t make sense!”
“To tell you the truth. I didn’t get any sleep around here last night, mainly because I couldn’t sleep in a rundown building like this.”
“Yeah this school closed nine years ago. They say a ghost haunts the building cursing everybody who enters. I’m guessing by now you figured out who it was.”
By now tears were freely flowing down my eyes. I shook my head and shouted as loud as my lungs would let me. “N-no Arihiro stop! Please stop!”
However he wouldn’t heed my pleas. Instead he pointed towards me, shutting his eyes tightly. “It’s a girl named Inoue Otsuyu, in other words… You, Otsu.”
That’s when I realized it. This wasn’t my story. It couldn’t possibly be. After all the dead don’t have stories to tell. Once your life is over your story ends. This wasn’t the story of a girl trapped inside of a school, of a girl who wanted to achieve immortality through her writing.
This was the story of a boy who had been spirited away by a ghost.
-Scorpion grass 01-
How long did I know that Otsu was a ghost? Well I’d have to say almost at the very beginning.
I came here in the first place because I heard from some rumors that this school was haunted. Stories said that on Oban a girl snuck into the school building with the intent on committing arson, however she tripped down a flight of stairs, spilled lamp oil on herself and burned to death.Thankfully a helpful groundskeeper was able to keep the fire from spreading.
After reports of her death strange incidents happened around school. Students kept on having and no matter how many times they replaced one of the windows it kept on breaking.
Due to a lack of confirmation, the body wasn’t immediately identified. It wasn’t until ne of her teachers reported her missing that she was identified as Inoue Otsuyu. Apparently her mother hadn’t even noticed her absence.
The public safety committee used the incident as an excuse to close the school down three weeks later, however the hauntings never stopped. Those who snuck into the school always got into accidents and they swear a ghost wearing a yukata was the cause.
Of course having past experience with the paranormal I decided to check it out myself. I prepared myself by bringing along some snacks and a flashlight in case I stayed out late. I pretty much went as soon as school ended.
I only expected to be there for a few hours. So I was pissed to find myself actually trapped in the school. I thought I was going to be stuck without any clues until I met her, Otsu.
I wasn’t absolutely sure she was a ghost at first, that is until I touched her. Her skin was completely cold to the touch.
Completely and utterly deathly cold.
It was then that I knew she was a cadaver. Still, I played along and even had some fun hanging out with her. That was something I was genuine about, at the very least.
After that incident with the fire Otsuyu went to sleep and I stayed up all night, until calling a certain witch in the morning. I quickly told her about my situation and was met with mocking words as usual.
“My my boy, it seems as if you’ve gotten yourself in quite the predicament. You want me to help you?”
“Yeah normally I’d solve it but for once I’m totally freakin’ stumped. I don’t know how this works.”
“Well if you wish for me to get in myself I’m afraid I cannot do that. I attempted so after you first graced me with a text.”
“Well instead of you getting in can you tell me how I can get out?”
“Well perhaps but for a price.”
“Shit I knew it you always want something don’t you, you devil. Name your price alright?”
“You must be exhausted from your harrowing experience, and I missed having a conversation partner yesterday. How about you spend several hours resting at my store today?”
“Hm… Let me think about that. No I wanna go home.”
“Oh, you wound me boy, do not be like that it will only be for a few hours.”
“Do I have any other choice?”
“I could tell Chihiro you were with a woman all night, that would-“
“Fine I’ll take full advantage of that cuddle. Great now can you help me get the hell out of here? Preferably in a way that will help Otsuyu too.”
“Well, you said the girl’s name was Otsuyu right? That is an interesting name. Her parents must have held a sort of grudge against her.”
“What do you mean?”
“You earnestly do not know the origins of the name Otsuyu? It is only the name of one of the most important yokai in your country.”
“Really? Otyusyu said her name was based off some kinda Kabuki play. I knew it was famous but not that famous.”
“It is like an Irishmen not knowing what a banshee is. Either way she is technically right. Otsuyu’s story was adapted into several plays, including kabuki. I do not know anything about the alternate versions except for a rumor…”
“Well it is more of a stage taboo. Everybody who plays the ghosts in the play is met with misfortune. Whoever gave their child that name must have despised them.”
“…I refuse to believe that.”
“Just because your parents love you, you expect others to be treated the same? How naive, boy. It amuses me to know that no matter how much you grow up you are still a child.”
“S-shut up it’s not like that. Anyway you haven’t told me the first thing about getting out of here.”
“Very well, but first…I have to congratulate you Boy!”
“The story of Otsuyu is a love story. If this Otsuyu lives up to her namesake you could end up with a girlfriend out of this, boy.”
“No thanks, I’m not a necrophile, just tell me how to get out of here.”
“You are rather dull, you know. There are two things you can do. The simple way and the hard way.”
“What’s the simple way?”
“Find out why she broke into the school in the first place. Put her soul at ease.”
“And if that doesn’t work?”
“Exorcise her. Simple as that.You did bring those paper talismans with you, did you not?”
“… That’s only a last resort.”
“I understand your feelings, but those are your two options, do you understand boy?”
“Also be careful about confronting her about her nature as a ghost. You’d be smart if you kept it a secret as long as possible. When ghosts hear the truth they can get violent. I’d rather not see you die and join her in the afterlife. The life of a witch is a lonely one indeed.”
“Yeah I got it. If I get out of here alive I’ll see you again…”
“I’ll be seeing you boy. I cannot wait to snuggle with you~”
“Stop saying such embarrassing shit.” And so I hung up, leaving the witch to her own devices.
After that I helped Otsuyu retrieve her notebook. Her hopes and dreams. But that wasn’t enough. It’s never enough.
I was left with the worst case scenario, the saddest possible ending to this entire story. I was going to have to get rid of her. I wasn’t even going to properly put her to rest.
Effectively, like all of the others, I was going to kill her.
And that’s where we are now, with shit hitting the proverbial fan.
“Hey look, I’m sorry.” I muttered that halfhearted apology without even looking her in the eye. “I’m sorry for all of this. I’m sorry for not being able to save you.”
“Why? Why? Why? Why? WHY!?”I felt a gust of wind blow past me causing me to take a step back. A few more windows shattered into a million pieces. Shit was she going to attack me? “WHY DOES IT ALWAYS HAVE TO BE THIS WAY!? NOW NOBODY WILL REMEMBER ME!”
“Shut up! What do you care!? All you want to do is escape! All you did was lie to me this entire time! Why Arihiro Why!?” Smoke started to rise from her body.
“I tried my best-“
I opened my mouth to try to combat her words but I was unable to. All I did this entire time was lie to her. Lie lie lie. I only told her the truth when I planned to get rid of her. Shit if only there was another way.
Instinctively I took a step back, furthering the distance between us.
“Hey… Arihiro… Say something Arihiro!” It seemed she noticed my silence as she had become even more frantic. I noticed tiny sparks starting to emit from her body.“Please say something… Please say something to make me trust you again. You seemed so nice! I w-wanted to believe we were friends!”
“We really were friends. At least I want to believe so…”
“Then why didn’t you tell me the truth sooner!?” She moved to rush at me. Because I kept talismans on me to deal with low level ghosts, I reached into my book bag to grab one before realizing… The fire extinguisher was crushing the stack of talismans underneath it.
I must be the biggest idiot in the world for shoving that damn thing in my bag.
I must be the biggest idiot for not hiding a talisman in my pocket earlier.
I must be the biggest idiot for not realizing the origin behind Otsu’s name. The name of a misfortunate girl. Maybe she was right, anime did rot your brain.
My brain was almost certainly rotten.
Before I had any time to react I felt her hands wrap around my neck, squeezing the life out of me. Gasping for air like a fish out of water I grasped at her arms trying to pry them away from my neck.
However, despite seeming like a very frail person she had completely overpowered me. Now keep in mind I’m no pushover, she really was that strong. I felt my back slam against the wall as I struggled with her.
Not only that… But I felt my neck begin to burn and blister as she held onto me. Gah what the hell was this!?
No good if I didn’t break free that would be it for me. I’d be joining Otsu in the afterlife, likely trapped in this school. Or hell maybe worse would happen to me. As my head grew foggy I thought and thought…
There had to some solution to this, some solution to all of this to give Otsu a happy passing on. I just had to think. What was her goal in being here. It was the notebook right?
No, I had to think about what the notebook represented. What was the notebook to Inoue Otsuyu? It was more than just a bunch of stories. What had she called it? Ah yes I remember now, her hopes and dreams.
What were her hopes and dreams? What did she want most of all? That’s when It clicked for me. I knew how to free Otsu without obliterating her soul.
“I w-will… R-remember you…” I choked out, struggling to say anything.
I felt the death grip on my throat begin to weaken. “W-what did you say?”
“I said that no matter what happens to you even if you disappear, I will remember you, Otsu.”
“H-how do I know you are not just going to forget about me?” Her voice was barely above a whisper.
Still gripping onto her hands I gave her my reply. “After this adventure… Never. If you give me your book I’ll make sure to read it every once in a while until it’s burned into my memory.”
“…Promise?” She finally let go of my neck completely. Finally that burning sensation was gone.
Smiling I reach down and pat her head. “Yeah I promise.”
Looking up at me she gave me the most genuine smile she’d given me in the entire time we’d been together, tears freely flowing down her face. “T-thank you! Arihiro!”
And so time passed as I waited for her tears to subside. Now I’m not an expert on her life story, but I could assume that was the happiest she’d ever been. So there we stood, me standing next to the broken set of windows and she standing across from me.
“S-so I guess it’s probably time for me to pass on now, is it not?” Otsu asked, her hands clasped together.
“Yeah it’ll be better for you. Hell of a lot better than staying in this crappy old school. Are you afraid at all?”
“A little but… As long as you can make sure I won’t be forgotten I don’t see it as turely dying. Even if I won’t… Be thinking anymore.”
Not thinking anymore… I don’t know if I’d be satisfied with anything like that. “Yeah I promise I won’t forget. But first I’ll need my book bag back, alright? Your notebook is in there anyway.”
“O-oh right, I’m sorry!” Quickly she muttered that apology as she handed my bag back to me. Slinging it over my shoulder I shrugged.
“Hey don’t worry about it. Can’t say this was the best experience of my life but hey, I had fun. I’ll miss you when I get out of here.”
“T-thank you… Hey Arihiro?”
“Yeah what’s up?”
“Am I still an okay friend or am I a good friend now?”
“Hm…” I rubbed my chin before smirking, giving her a thumbs up. “I’d say you bumped straight past good friend all the way over to great friend.”
Her face grew as bright as the sun. “R-really?”
“Yeah I wouldn’t have gone so far as to save you if it were anybody else!”
“T-thank you Arihiro.” Shuffling around her feet she stared down at the ground. “Um… I have a favor. Actually it’s more of a last request.”
“Shoot, what is it?”
“O-oh this is going to s-sound weird but… C-can I give you a hug?”
“Huh where did that come from?”
“W-well you see I’ve never hugged a friend before so, I wanted to do it before I passed on.”
A sigh escaping his lips. “Sure I don’t mind. What’s one hug after all?
“Thank you! O-oh just be sure to close your eyes alright?”
“Huh why? That’s a little weird.”
“Well I’m just a little nervous is all…”
“Fine I get it I won’t be looking.”
I closed my eyes waiting for her to approach me. Instead of feeling her arms wrap around my body I felt a weird pressure against my cheeks. It was soft yet cold to the touch. “I r-really wish I could have gotten to know you better Arihiro. F-from what I knew of you I… Really liked you.”
Before I can get a response out I felt a pressure against my lips. The feeling of somebody else pushing their lips against mine. What the hell this wasn’t a hug!? This was far more intimate than a hug! As soon as I felt her lips part from mine I opened my eyes.
“Hey Otsu what the hell was up with tha-“ However I soon noticed she was gone. I was standing alone in a room with nobody else. Had I always been alone in that place? Sighing I stared up at the ceiling. “Good bye, Otsu.”
And that was how my adventure of being trapped in an abandoned school alone with a ghost had come it’s conclusion.
Over all, a nice, if exhausting diversion.
Calling Otsuyu’s personal story a mere diversion… I must be absolutely terrible.
And yet as I crawled through the window and entered reality, I couldn’t help but think that in the bloody history of this cursed town the entire ordeal was nothing more than a footnote.
This wicked village of Karasu. A town where devils and monsters congregate to celebrate a perverse festival.
As I stared up at the dull noon sky, my positive feelings slowly began to slip by. In its stead a black sludge of emotions oozed into me, the toxicity beginning to spread through my body.
Perhaps such a sinful town was perfect for somebody who bore the sinful name of Arimoto. Such a thought caused my stomach to grow sicker and sicker.
“Caw caw!” A single black crow cried above, circling around me.
Christ that witch was an impatient woman, wasn’t she? Kicking the ground in front of me, I followed after the crow.
The old school building was a little ways at the edge of town, so it took twenty minutes or so to arrive at our destination.
A small, well kept fortune telling shop. Without even bothering to knock I entered, the crow flying into the building and perching onto it’s master’s shoulder.
In a dimly lit room, sitting on a dull purple cushion was a woman in a black and red kimono. Her long dark hair draped onto the floor, and an ornate blindfold covered her eyes. There was something otherworldly about her beauty, as if she had stepped out of time. There sitting before me, was the witch who resided in this village.
Her lips curled into a grin when she noticed my presence. “Come, boy we have much to talk about.”
And talk we did. We discussed the past days’ events as well as many other pointless topics. When I asked her why a fire started despite the stairs already being burnt, she brought up the idea of Otsuyu creating the illusion more for herself than for me.
As a complimentary service she let me use her shower to clean myself up without any additional charge. She even let me rest while I was there, under the condition I use her lap as a pillow. It was as uncomfortable as you’d imagine. Despite that I slept longer than I intended to and woke up around 11:50 PM.
On my way out, the witch stopped me for a moment. “Boy, do you have a moment?”
“What is it? Chihiro’s gonna be pissed as it is.”
“That girl’s problem, are you sure you solved it?”
“Huh the hell are you talking about?”
“The issue of her being remembered. You cannot exactly guarantee it, can you? At the end of the day, those were nothing but sweet lies you told her to get her to pass on. Nobody will truly remember her.”
Silence hangs in the air before I cut in. “I will.”
The witch brought her hand to her mouth and chuckled. “Fu fu fu… I wonder if you can bear the responsibility of that…”
And with that I promptly made my way home, only for a new horror to await me.
Waiting for me I saw a girl around my age with long, orange hair standing in our entrance hall. There she was, Arimoto Chihiro, as angry as I expected her to be. “Hiro… You were gone for two days without calling, you had me worried sick!”
“Yeah sorry I thought I’d be gone for a couple of hours then I got caught up in something.”
“You could have called!” Wagging her finger she leaned forward. Just because she was technically older than me she sure like acting like my mother.
“Yeah, yeah sorry.” I moved to walk past her and approached the stair case before stopping on the first step. “Oh hey, have you heard the legend?”
“Legend? What legend?”
“You know the abandoned school right? Legend says that a ghost haunts the halls and spirits away anybody who trespasses.”
“Oh interesting! I’ll go visit myself sometime!”
“I recommend you wouldn’t. Anyway I’m going to my room.”
“Alright there’s food in the fridge if you’re hungry!”
Giving her a wave of my hand I retreat to my room and sit on my bed. Opening my book bag I pull out Otsu’s notebook, a small frown on my face. Only very few people could become immortal. Only those forever remembered could become truly immortal.
That’s what she said at least.
It was a pretty stupid notion, honestly. Memory was not the same as life you know.
Ah well, what the hell, might as well try if it’ll give her peace.
I could do as much as I could, but no matter how much I spread her legend I couldn’t guarantee if Otsu could become immortal or not.
Honestly from what I’ve read of her story, her legend as a ghost is way more entertaining than her writing. As much as I hate to say it.
Although you know, ghost stories tend to have more longevity than ammature stories tend to. As long as that school stays undemolished, she should be fine.
“At the very least all that matters is that I remember I guess.”
That’s when I smelled it, a very distinct scent… “Smoke?”
“You won’t forget will you Arihiro?”
I heard a raspy voice coming from my closet. The door opened ever so slowly, a pale skinned girl with brittle black hair wearing white robes and a triangle headband poking her head out. With narrow eyes and a smile that went ear to ear she whispered. “I’ll make sure you remember forever…”
That face, that voice I could remember it anywhere, it was Otsuyu.
So in short, I went from being trapped in a haunted school to being haunted myself.
Raising my head towards the ceiling I groan in exasperation.
“Man I hate this town.”
Story: Sad scientist
Art: Melty dubs https://twitter.com/MeltyDub