Chapter 4:

I think I'm dying

School For The Mediums

My feet moved faster and stomped down harder. My grip on my schoolbag was increasing with every tap of my foot on the pavement.

‘Everything would have been a lot better if she were still here.’

I heard those words echoing and pounding in my aching head.

‘Everything would have been a lot better if she were still here.’

I tried to swallow, by my throat felt tight and tangled.

‘Everything would have been a lot better if she were still here.’

My heart was thumping.

‘Everything would have been a lot better if she were still here.’

They were right. Everything would have been a lot better if she were still here, and If I wasn’t here, she would’ve been.

Ouch.” My nails dug too deep a sharp pain striking me.


In shock from the pain, I dropped my schoolbag and it landed with a resounding hard thud. With it, school books splattered out, pens and erasers rolling everywhere.

“Crap,” I sighed, rubbing the sides of my forehead.

At this rate, I might as well be late for school.

Pressing my lips together, I glanced around checking for the signs of Shizuko’s pink hair, or the glare of Hiroto’s glasses refraction, but they were nowhere around. They didn’t catch up to me yet, which was fine. Sometimes it was better for me to be away from everyone. All I do is make it harder. I remind them that she’s gone and I’m here instead.

Bending down to my knees, I quickly started picking up my things and stuffing them back into my bag. I was packing the last few pens back inside when I saw it: the palm of my right hand.

Light nail marks dented my scar. It had healed some. Before it was a nasty gnarly looking mess of blood, skin, and muscle. Now it was just a faded black line across my palm. Yet, even though it had healed, the pain still felt like it was throbbing fresh.

“Hey, kid!” A man’s voice tore me from my thoughts. “Hey, kid!”

I recognized the sound of that scratchy throaty smoker’s voice, so I stood and looked for the source.

“This yours?” An older man with unkempt hair and an overgrown bread was coming toward me. He was dressed in black and white rags, that is, a heavily dirty white shirt and black suit pants that were utterly wrinkled. His shoes were the only thing clean but even they were put on the wrong way.

“This your book?” he asked, my mechanical pencil tightly clutched in his fist.

“Fuji-san,” I said, trying not to think about the stench wafting off him. “Yeah, that’s my pencil.”

He glanced at his fist. “No, it’s a book. You write things to make a book. It’s a book. Isn’t it a book, Yuuko?” He looked to his side, muttering to the air.

Toro Fuji. Amazing how he used to be a businessman with a big car and one of the biggest houses in the neighborhood. He was different before his wife took off with the kids and died in a car crash.

“Yuuko says it’s a book! It’s a book then!” He was now shouting to himself. “Who’s talking? Let Yuuko talk!” He was screaming so hard that spit was flying and his veins were popping in his neck.

These days, I don’t remember what he was like before.

“Fuji-san.” I frowned.

“Namiko!” He sternly pointed to nothing. “Why are you talking? I know you want the book, but you can’t have the book. Yuuko says we have to give it back.”


“Stop talking over Yuuko! Let Yuuko speak! Let her speak!” He shook his fists as he yelled.


“Hey! You don’t say that! I said to let Yuuko speak! You heard me right?!”


“Listen to me already! Listen! Yuuko should talk!”

My quiet calls to his sanity were doing nothing. So, I fell silent, watching the man continue rambling and spitting to nothing, ready to strangle the non-existent people he was arguing with.

“Just shut up! You shut up back there! Yuuko? Where are you Yuuko? Yuuko come back! Come back! Yuuko!”


There goes my mechanical pencil.

In his clenched fists, the plastic shell of my pencil shattered.

“Yuuko! Please where did you go? Yuuko?” He pounded the top of his head with his free hand. “Yuuko!”

With a sharp breath, I turned from the Fuji-san. The scene he was causing was only growing in intensity and frustration.

I quickly picked up my bag and packed the rest of my surviving items back inside.

I don’t have time for this, anyway. Toro Fuji was crazy. Everyone knew that. He was the roaming neighborhood loony. What could anyone do to help him? Or rather, what did they even want to do to help him. Everyone just wanted to forget or ignore him.

Slipping my bag over my shoulder, I straightened and glanced back at him.

It’s not like I blame them.

“Yuuko? Is that you?” His smile was crooked, and his eyes were wild. He was a desperate man who had lost it all and shattered into a million confused and fragile pieces.

He was lost.

He got caught in a spiral and couldn’t get himself out. I know. I almost lost myself too.

I gripped my bag strap. “Fuji-san, you should get home. You don’t want the police to have to come and take you back home again.”

“Huh?” For the first time since he approached him, he met my eyes with familiarity. “H-Hara-san?” His eyes blew up into saucers and he took in my image with dedicated attention.

I wasn’t expecting him to recognize me---or even come back to reality. “Yeah, it’s me, Hara-san.”

He blinked. “You….” He came closer. “Yuuko, she told me.”

“Told you?” I furrowed my brows.

He took another step closer, our small distance shrinking. “Yuuko, she said, she said to tell you something.”

I stepped back; he was much closer than I appreciated. “Tell me what?”

“To tell you they’re waiting for you…to die.”

“What?” I muttered, his eyes drilling into mine.

“You’re not supposed to be here.” He was moving in closer again.

“W-what?” My voice was dying and the longer we held eye contact my chest burned. “What are you saying?”

He smiled; lips stretched like plastic against his yellow teeth. “You were supposed to die. You know, right? Yuuko said you know. That's why now you have to die---.”

He reached out and I don’t know if it was to grab me or simply give me back the broken pencil. Whatever it was, I couldn’t tell because I took off running before I could find out.

And that’s all I did. Run. Run as fast as my legs could hammer and as fast as my heart could pump.

By the time I had gotten to school, I felt like I had run a marathon barefoot in the desert.


I slid open the classroom door.

“Yamamoto-san---?” Tanaka-sensei stopped calling attendance as I stumbled inside.

The brief look she gave me definitely had questions as to why I was a panicked mess, but she went back to her attendance sheet. “Yamamoto-san?”



“Here!” a voice in the back of the classroom replied.

Taking deep breaths, I quietly lowered my head and went to my seat.

“Hadi-chan?” The moment I sat down; Shizuko whispered to me. “Are you okay? You look….” She glanced me up and down.

I know what she saw. I was breathing heavily, but my breaths were shallow. There was sweat dripping down my forehead and a pool forming on the back of my uniform. My curly hair was turning a frizzy tangled knot, and there was terror in my eyes and alarm all over my burning flushed face.

“I’m fine.” I hooked my bag onto the side of my desk. “Totally fine.”

“You sure? Your face looks kinda red and puffy. Your eyes too. They look really, really red. Like bloodshot.”

“I’m fine,” I firmly confirmed, pulling my schoolbooks with a slam.

“You sure?” She peered deeply at me.



“Yeah, I’m fine.”

My whole body was aching. My chest was throbbing, my eyes stinging, my mouth tingling, and just about every limb on me was hurting.

Maybe I had pushed running too much. I already had a bit of headache before, and now that headache was making me feel lightheaded.

“You sure you’re fine?”

“Yeah.” I scratched my neck but just as I did, I felt something bumpy.

“Okay, but is your neck, okay? It looks rashly.”

I rubbed the skin, and sure enough, sore blisters and bumps felt like they had formed along my neck.


“Here, sensei!”

My chest was starting to feel weird. My heart felt like it was beating but my blood pressure was sinking. It was making me feel like I was being held upside down.

“Hadi-chan?” Shizuko tapped my desk. “You sure you’re good?”

“…H-Huh?” There were two Shizukos.


I blinked and she was back to one, but my head still felt like it was spinning and shaking at the same time.


“I’m here!”

“Hadi-chan? Did you hear me?”

“Y-yeah.” I blinked hard.

Was I having a heat stroke?

I scratched my neck again. But I don’t remember heat strokes giving me a rash.

“Hadi-chan are you---?”


Shizuko bounced up from her seat. “Yes, I’m here!”

Nor do I remember it making my throat get so tight. It felt a little strange earlier, but now it was---


I stood from my desk. “I’m her---.” I couldn’t make out another word because my throat locked.

And I believe the correct word to describe it was stronger. The strange reactions were stronger.


My knees gave out and in a chaotic disorienting bomb of movement, I crashed into some desks, frightened and erupted the classroom into screams, and seizured on the ground choking for air.

I couldn’t breathe as I flailed around grabbing at my neck, kicking my feet, and gasping like a fish on land.

I think I’m dying. 

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