Chapter 13:

What's a Hertz?

52 Hertz

The library had that familiar sunlight pooling in. It was once again that time of the day, when the school slowly started to become deserted. You could hear the sports club students shouting in the field. Haruko hadn’t moved from her position on the floor since Itsuki had left. After Taichi had stopped talking, he moved awkwardly to get his bag and left to find Itsuki. Now Haruko was alone.

The windows were open, letting the breeze scatter a few of Haruko’s envelopes. The ones she’d taken from Yulan’s apartment. The white papers resembled a thousand small paper planes, the ones all the kids back in elementary school used to fold. They flew around the library as Haruko’s dead eyes suddenly became alive, letting small drops of water drop from her face. She stood quietly and slowly, picked up the envelope closest to her and continued on to find the other pieces of paper in the rows of books. Her legs were wobbly and her face was as pale as snow. Suddenly, she tripped over a pile of books, crashing face first onto the floor. She didn’t get up. The whole situation sounded fake. Clearly, it was a coincidence that the student who jumped had the same name as Yulan. So why did she have such a strange feeling in her chest?

As Haruko pushed herself up, a thick, black book with gold lettering fell from the shelf, knocking her on the head. Her patience now was really low but she didn’t have the energy to get mad. Instead, she kicked the book far away, where it hit the corner of a table. Instantly, the book opened as hundreds and hundreds of blank pages started flying straight out, like a volcanic explosion. They shot all the way up into the air, before gracefully fluttering to the ground. Haruko gasped loudly but stayed motionless on the ground.

“...What just happened.”

She said, spooked.

Grabbing one of the pages from the floor, Haruko read the handwritten text:

Thursday, June 2nd

Today, I met Kiyoshi-kun at the park. Apparently, he stayed up all night studying for the EIKEN*. He was so confident, boasting about how his score must be a perfect 4.

Haruko kept reading down the page.

Sunday, June 5th

Today, Suki-chan showed up at my door. She wasn’t even carrying an umbrella, even though it was raining so much. She said that boy broke up with her. Now, she won’t be able to spend her vacation with him. They’re done for good.

Monday, June 6th

Today, I caught an eel behind the convenience store. The guys said there was no way I could catch it with my bare hands. When I caught it, the boys all cheered for me like we just won KOSHIEN*.”

Haruko stopped reading and looked for the other pages. They were all out of order after flying out of the book. She bent down and grabbed the black cover. The title of the book was plastered on the front. It was titled: “52 Hertz, the loneliest man in the world”, written by “Sekai”.

“Never heard of him.”

Haruko muttered.

“Never heard of who?”

Haruko jumped, dropping the book. She looked towards the door. It was Shun, wearing the baseball club’s jersey and pants.

“...How long have you been here?”

“Long enough to see what a mess you’ve made of the place.”

Haruko looked around. The library floor was littered with papers and books. The bag Itsuki threw was gone at least, Taichi had picked it up while leaving. Shun shouldn’t suspect a thing about the fight-

“Who’d you beat up now? Or did you get beat up?”

Haruko subconsciously rubbed her face, which she now remembered had a few scratches.

Shun strode past Haruko and picked up the book.

52 Hertz, the loneliest man in the world, by Sekai. Is it good?”

“I wouldn't know.”

“Sounds terrible to me,”

Shun announced,

“I think only the nerds in the science club would read this kind of junk. Or, you know, those theatre kids who keep putting on angsty shows-”

“What do you mean by that?”

Shun snickered and placed his baseball bat and bag on the floor.

“Just look at the title. Hertz. You pay attention in science class right? A hertz is a frequency right? To measure sound.”

It was Haruko’s turn to snicker now.

“I didn’t expect you to be smart.”

“Well, I am.”

“Why would the theatre kids read it?”

The loneliest man in the world. Isn’t that, like, kind of cringe?”

Haruko looked at the cover. 52 Hertz was written in golden ink, yet the second part of the title, the lonely part, looked hastily scribbled off to the side. Almost like someone vandalized it.

“Obviously someone added that to the title. It’s so obvious.”

She snatched the book from Shun.

“Ohh. I guess.”

Shun shrugged and picked his bag back up. As he started out the door, Haruko grabbed his shirt, holding him back. Shun turned around.

“What? Let go.”

“... What was your impression of Yulan? Back then, in the principal’s office two years ago.”

“Hah? What kind of question is that? I don’t have any obligation to answer that, do I?”

Shun slapped Haruko’s hand out of the way. He made a “cheh!” sound and walked away. Haruko looked down at her shoes and her dirty gym uniform. She didn’t have time to wash her clothes after leaving Yulan’s apartment last night. So much for an uneventful last year of school.

Haruko was reading the strange book alone in the apartment that night. It was now 1am, yet the more she read, the more she became interested. Truly, 52 Hertz was nothing more than a personal diary. It didn’t feel fake either, it was really a diary recording the life of a high school student. Haruko couldn’t figure out if the author was a woman or a man. Not that it mattered, it wouldn’t make a difference to the content. Firstly, from what she’d read so far, the author seemed to have frequented Miyazaki High as well. The pages described the halls of the school, the courtyard, the cafeteria and the field perfectly. Secondly, the author seemed to have had two close friends, Suki, a girl, and Kiyoshi, a boy.

“Kiyoshi… just like Kiyoshi-sensei.”

Haruko said to herself.

“What was Kiyoshi-sensei’s first name again? I don’t remember…”

She shuffled through the pages. There were no records of these two’s family names, though Haruko was sure she was missing a page. When the pages flew in the library, she must’ve missed one… though she was sure she’d picked them all up. The 70th page was missing. Suddenly, she stumbled across a page written in blue ink instead of black.

Wednesday, June 1st

The Astronomy club went on a strike today. The teachers wouldn’t let them go to Hokkaido to study the meteor shower. What’s the name of those meteors again? Persei? Persa? I don’t remember… I saw them with their signs in the hallway this morning, they looked so determined. But then, the history teacher came and told them off. I hope they’ll get to go in the end…”

Haruko laughed. It seemed Miyazaki High had an astronomy club since long ago. Though Haruko couldn’t find the year… each entry only had the day of the week, number and month. She looked at the calendar on the wall. Today was actually June 1st. 1am.

“Wow look at the time…”

SHe put the book next to her pillow and tried to sleep. Despite her efforts, she couldn't… Itsuki’s angry face was haunting her. Haruko tossed and turned for the entire night. The next morning, she stumbled into the school right before the second bell. She was exhausted for the first time, for not sleeping. She was usually tired, but it was never this bad… as she made her way to homeroom, a group of students were causing a commotion near her classroom. As she looked over the shoulders of the others, she saw Taichi along with five other boys from the astronomy club, all carrying big signs which read “Help us sign the petition, let us go to Hokkaido! Go Go!”

Haruko was confused. She looked at her flip phone. June 1st. She looked at the boys, carrying the signs. Astronomy club members.

“Huh… why does this scene look familiar?”

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