The warm summer night sheltered the vivid fireflies as they swirled over a shallow little lake that began to reflect the full moon light silently, as it peeked out gingerly from the clouds.
Glancing at the seemingly shimmering lake of water at the city limits, the small luminous insects lost their presence when the moonlight prevailed over the entire mountainous surroundings of this place, away from any noise or light from the city.
Lying on a piece of cloth that I brought on my own on this trip, I simply observed the surroundings; the moon, the transparent and completely still waters, the animals that kept hovering over the small lake...
... And, above all, the old-looking structure that inevitably caught my attention, being discovered among the trees by my peripheral vision, going almost unnoticed if it weren’t for the glass of a window that stood out when hit by the clear cold light of the night.
But despite having caught my attention, I didn’t move a single muscle due to the curiosity triggered by a mansion giving off such a sorry aura, that provoked disquiet just by looking at it.
Broken glasses, detached tiles, holes in the roof, a leaky front door, boards nailed to some window frames... One might think maybe inside it wouldn’t be so bad, but when I stood on the cloth cover, the view that the ground floor windows gave me was no better, with debris everywhere and other things that I can’t appreciate too well due to the distance between the dilapidated house taken from a horror tale.
While observing at the ruined place, a cold wind blew from my back, beating the trees around me and making me shiver slightly as I seriously considered leaving the place, the sun had already set couple of hours ago and it wouldn’t be good get home so late since, as usual, tomorrow I have to go class.
Letting out a small sigh I decided to go back, and began to fold up the symmetrical cloth of about three meters long and putting it in my bag, I took the way back home, but not before giving one last look at the house which, in its prime, must have looked like a luxurious mountain mansion.
What will its history be?
It’s been a couple of days since my last visit to that isolated place that I usually frequent once a week. The regnant silence in the classroom, accompanied only by the sound of pencils moving quickly on the sheet full of questions still unanswered, reminded me the heavy atmosphere generated by a difficult exam, it’s almost like being able to hear the sweat running down the foreheads of the less prepared, yelling through the pencils that seems they might start burning the white paper sheet by friction.
The newly received exam sheet over my polished and shimmery wooden desk, was already filled in with a few data, name among others: Hayashi Noboru.
Leaning my head on my left arm, I looked at the test sheet filled with questions and began writing with my right hand, filling the boxes with numbers and math formulas.
After about half an hour, bells echoed through the entire school complex and everyone stopped while the teacher got up from his place and went to the seats of each, picking up the exams.
That would be the last class of the day. After picking up each exam, our math teacher gave us some brief guidelines for the next class and sat at his desk at the same time that a buzz arose in the room, my classmates getting up and gathering their stuff, our teacher organizing the sheets to put them in a folder and then in his bag.
Despite the fact that all the students exchanged words among themselves and laughed, expressing in different ways, I stayed seated for a little longer, picking up my stuff and putting them in my bag. When I finished, I thought about getting up and going home... but just then, something unexpected happened.
I turned around, somehow surprised in response to my name being mentioned from behind, just to meet two girls and three boys together. The voice that called me out belonged to an energic looking girl, Watanabe Mana, while she placed her open palms both sides of her waist and watched me with a lively smile a short distance from my seat.
I watched the quintet in silence, somewhat amazed by their sudden call; I might look like stupid from their perspective, but there is no other way, I don’t feel much comfortable talking to others.
“As quiet as ever, huh?”
The rest of people kept talking to each other and leaving the classroom little by little, leaving the place progressively emptier while I had been requested by a group of people, something that doesn’t usually happen.
If there’s one thing I should be thinking about, it’s that this is one of those embarrassing situations where the social group in the classroom approach you to make you open up to them in an absurdly awkward way, displaying a zero-point level of tact, the zero written with phosphorescent and permanent marker, and believing that for everyone it’s as easy to speak, as it is for them.
But the truth is that I know these people, they are not so unknown and not so tactless, Watanabe’s group… well… is particular.
I arrived at this city recently for certain reasons. I started my third year of high school as a transfer student, so it has been quite difficult for me to fit into the mood of the class. Joining a school when you go to third year is... difficult, everyone has already done their groups for two years, in the last year everyone prefers keep going with their well-defined groups, instead of inviting new people since they will not have much time to empathize, and seeing it like this, it’s natural.
“...” Sighing, Watanabe closed her eyes for a moment before opening them again and smiling. “Would you like to go out with us today?”
“Huh?” I couldn’t help but let out a sound out of sheer surprise at what I heard her say.
“You are always alone, right? We are about to finish first period and I’ve never seen you speak to anyone.”
One of the boys in the group, handsome and fair-haired, smiled too before speaking, what was his name? Iwasaki? The only reason I know Watanabe’s full name is because the girl is very popular in our class and since she sits close to me, I can hear her friends naming her all the time... it’s not like if I pay much attention about other’s names when attendance roll call.
“Don’t worry, don’t think we’re forcing you to come with us, it’s just an invitation... if you don’t want to join us that’s perfectly fine. We have nothing against shy people.”
“That’s right!” Watanabe affirmed. “So, will you join us?”
Even though they were very considerate with the words they used to invite me, I still felt like I was in a compromising situation.
“I...” Lowering down my head, I did my best to look upon several factors before nervously replying. “I-I can’t go... I have something to do today...”
I could picture their disappointed faces in my mind as I still have my gaze fixed on their slippers, however....
“That’s too bad... but that’s okay, if you ever change your mind, let us know” turning around, she gave her friends a look and they all started walking beside her towards the exit. “We’ll have fun together if you decide to come in the future!”
So, her group disappeared behind the sliding door and I stood gawking, looking at it, like if they were going to come back at any moment.
I… I knew they weren’t bad people, but…
There is something about them that made me feel comforted, their aura? Their kindness?
Shaking my head from side to side as I got strange thoughts, I picked up my bag and got up from my spot, heading home... of course, I have things to do.
That same night I saw the same landscape as a few days ago, the city night light in the distance, and the stars on the firmament, the fireflies being overshadowed by a clear night sky and the calm reflective water of a small lake.
Even though I’ve known this place only recently since I moved to this city not too long ago, it has a kind of energy someway manages to calm me down when I’m having a bad day or just need to clear my mind. The place itself is quite far away from the city, going into the mountains, and although it can be a bit dangerous been around here at night, the calmness it provides me makes up for it; not that I care much about danger either.
Lying on the soft fabric on the floor, I remained inert watching the moon far above me, thinking about what had happened at school.
I was asked out, by Watanabe Mana’s group... and they didn’t look at all intimidating or apathetic, on the contrary, it seems they invited me simply because they felt I was lonely and needed some company. Usually, those kinds of actions would be tainted with ulterior motives to make fun of the concerned person, still... although perhaps those might have been their true reasons, they didn’t appear to have that rotten personality at all.
I can’t help but feel a little bad about turning them down like that... and not only the fact I turned them down, but also that I lied about my plans, instead of saying I didn’t want to go, I decided to say I had something to do when it was a complete lie... If I had told them the truth, would their response have been different? Would they’ve dislike me? That was the main reason I lied. The blond guy said it was okay if I didn’t want to go with them... But what if it was a lie? Or maybe I’m just being too suspicious when they just wanted to be nice to me?
Even though we are in our third year and the first period is about to end, they came over and reached out to me, still, I....
Suddenly, a grinding sound caught my attention while I was still deep in my musings and guilt feelings, I couldn’t help but jump up at the sound and started looking around.
A couple of seconds later I caught the source of the ominous noise; the old structure front door which looks like an antique mansion, was slowly opening, letting out an annoying squeaky noise, indicative of hinges that hadn’t been oiled for who knows how long.
Was anyone there?
Looking at the door, now wide open, I thought to myself a set of issues that anyone normal would think of in a situation like this: ghosts? Someone living at the place? Or someone exploring it? I doubt it’s the last option as I’ve been here for a couple of hours now and aside from not having seen anyone coming inside, I haven’t heard anyone making noises from within either so far... and judging for how old the structure looks, a single step should make the floor creak considerably.
Due to curiosity... or stupidity, two sides of the same coin, my feet started moving on their own towards the place; I felt how an invisible but powerful energy began to attract me unto the structure, even though I was aware of what I was doing, a part of my brain was still questioning if it was right... nevertheless in the end, curiosity killed the cat, and it took me to the abandoned mansion.
Climbing a couple of steps, I placed myself on the porch; holes in the wood floor, a smell of dust and dampness caressed my nose and made me sneeze. I stood firmly in front of the open-door frame, piles of wood and debris could be seen from outside, the moonlight coming in from some of the windows that weren’t sealed by planks, partially lit the inside, showing the dust in the air through and giving a sense of mysticism to the hardship that was welling up from inside the place.
Swallowing a clump of saliva that formed in my mouth before I realized it, I remembered the energy that brought me here originally, taking the two steps that would get me through the great portal.
Once inside I stopped, looking around me more closely, I saw exactly the same things I saw from the outside, wooden planks piled up, small stones scattered everywhere and broken wooden furniture dispersed around the place... and of course, everything was covered with dust. It would’ve been optimal to bring a mask with me, although I’d never have imagined ending up in here. I also noticed some tree branches going through walls.
Seeing such amount of dust in the air I couldn’t help but sneeze again... I’m sure I must have lifted up a bunch just by setting foot inside.
As I recalled the reason why I ventured going in, I looked around without seeing a single person who could be the origin of the door opening at first... to say it was the wind is not an option, I clearly remember when the door started creaking, there was no wind at all... Or maybe I was just distracted?
Thinking of climbing the stairs to check the upper floor, I was about to take the next step to move through the maze of debris and dust, when I heard a forceful blow from my back.
Turning as fast as I could, I found the door closed behind me.
I started having a bad feeling in all this and reconsidering my options and priorities, I decided that it would be better to stop it here and leave the place as soon as possible, but...
“Huh…? I can’t open it...” I instinctively voiced out of sheer surprise.
My voice was an unconscious way to confirm with myself, inside the abandoned mansion, the current state of the main door, as much as I pulled on the old, rusty doorknob of the double-leaf door, it moved slightly, but without opening, making a noise every time I pulled it.
This time it could be the wind... Right? The door won’t budge because it’s rusty, right?
But... why was it opened at first if it was rusty?
Turning to see the mansion mystic inner plunged into gloom, an even stronger energy was applied on me now that I was locked in the heart of the beast.
Actually... Is there anybody in here?