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. Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

My heart was thumping. Bookmark here

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

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

Thud!Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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

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

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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

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

“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. Bookmark here

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

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

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. Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

“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. Bookmark here

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

“Fuji-san.” I frowned. Bookmark here

“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.” Bookmark here

“Fuji-san.” Bookmark here

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

“Fuji-san.” Bookmark here

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

“Fuji---.” Bookmark here

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

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.Bookmark here

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

Crack!Bookmark here

There goes my mechanical pencil. Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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. Bookmark here

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

It’s not like I blame them. Bookmark here

“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. Bookmark here

He was lost. Bookmark here

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

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.” Bookmark here

“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. Bookmark here

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

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

“Told you?” I furrowed my brows. Bookmark here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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---.”Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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

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

Schhhzir!Bookmark here

I slid open the classroom door. Bookmark here

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

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?” Bookmark here

“Here!”Bookmark here

“Tamaki-san?” Bookmark here

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

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

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

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. Bookmark here

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

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

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

“You sure?” She peered deeply at me. Bookmark here

“Furukawa-san?” Bookmark here

“Here!”Bookmark here

“Yeah, I’m fine.” Bookmark here

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

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

“You sure you’re fine?” Bookmark here

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

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

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

“Minato-san?”Bookmark here

“Here, sensei!” Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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

“…H-Huh?” There were two Shizukos. Bookmark here

“Hadi-chan?” Bookmark here

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

“Nagasaki-san?”Bookmark here

“I’m here!” Bookmark here

“Hadi-chan? Did you hear me?”Bookmark here

“Y-yeah.” I blinked hard. Bookmark here

Was I having a heat stroke?Bookmark here

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

“Hadi-chan are you---?”Bookmark here

“---Fujita-san?”Bookmark here

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

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

--“Hara-san?” Bookmark here

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

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

BAM!Bookmark here

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. Bookmark here

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

Bookmark here

I think I’m dying. Bookmark here

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