Chapter 10:

It Couldn't Really Be Over

School For The Mediums

*forgive any spelling or grammar errors you see, I will be going in and editing all of the chapters in the next few weeks. 

I snuggled my feet into the Kotatsu. The warmth from the table-blanket hybrid warmer tickled my skin.

“Listen, you won’t believe how magical it was!” Shizuko squealed. She sat opposite to me, her feet moving around underneath the kotatsu.

“Yeah?” I leaned against the table with my elbow.

“Yes, so, so, magical!” She swayed placing a hand on her cheek. “He is just like, sooooo amazing!” She stressed with joyful gush. “I mean, I mean, like, did I tell you we already exchanged numbers? And he already sent me a text. Do you know what he said?”

I popped a potato chip into my mouth. “Hi?”

“Yes!” She nodded with another squeal. “He’s just so amazing, handsome, and amazing and…haah.” She trailed off into a dazed dreamy sigh.

“Shizuko?” I snapped my fingers, pulling her back to reality.

“Oh yeah!” She came back down with goofy smile. “It’s just amazing, Hadi-chan. It’s like I’m in my own Shoujo girls’ anime or something! I feel really happy about it!”

“Mhm.” I crunched on another potato chip.

She was bouncing like a kid in a candy shop. No parental supervision. Unlimited cash. Unlimited options.

“Hiroto?” I turned my eye to the other kid in the candy shop. This time no cash, metaphorical parents behind him, and cavities littered in his teeth.

Or putting it simple, he was looking mopey and sad.

He sat a little distance from Shizuko.

“Hadiza?” He answered with scrunched-up lips.

“You don’t have anything to say about Mister Transfer Student and Shizuko?”

“Nope.” He shrugged.

“He sits by the window seat,” I added.

“Nothing.” He leaned back on his arms.

“Oh, it’s not nothing! He’s been complaining all day that Haru-san and I had just a ‘moment’ and nothing more! He’s jealous!”

“Jealous?” He scoffed, taking off his glasses. “I’m jealous?”

“Yes, yes you are!” She glared him down. “Haru-san and I did not have ‘just’ have a moment! We have something special!”

“Okay, so what? He saved you from some creep on the train, and now he’s ‘something special’? How many times have I done that for you?”

“Haru-san is sweet, nice, funny, and handsome. You are not. So, when you did it meant nothing.”

Hiroto rolled his eyes. “Oh please, do you know how many girls I’ve had confess to me? Face it, this face---.” He stopped to proudly point at himself. “---Is irresistible, and my head? Too hot to handle.” He slid his glasses on with a wiggle of his brow.

A look of horror took over Shizuko. “Don’t ever say that in public, please.”

“And how many confessions have you had?”

“Me?” Her eyes went wide. “I’ve had a bunch! Hadi-chan knows!” She turned to me for backup, but all I could do was give her a quiet shrug.

“Uh huh.” Hiroto rolled his eyes again. “I bet that was back in middle school.”

Shizuko’s eyes were turning fiery, her cheeks flushed red. “No, it wasn’t!”

“Sure, it was.” He nonchalantly hummed.

And, here we go.

I watched the two of them, their bickering unfolding.

“You’re just jealous!”

“Jealous of an inexperienced, loudmouthed, immature girl who still wears kids’ patterned underwear, sure.”

She was burning red as a tomato. “You said you didn’t see!”

“No, I said to stop using my bathroom.”

“This is why no girl would ever like you!”

“This is why no guy would ever like you.”

“You’re awful!”

“Awful when provoked. You started it.”

“No, you started this!”

“No, you.”

Their eyes challenged each other.

“No, you!”

“No, it’s always you. Always.”

“No, you’re the one who always starts something and---!”

I couldn’t hold it in anymore. A burst of uncontrollable laughter escaped from my throat. “Ahahaha!” I smacked a hand over my mouth, the laughter coming in waves. “Ahahaha!”


I heard Shizuko but I couldn’t answer her when the laughter just kept coming. It was impossible to hold back.

“Ahahaha!” I clutched my stomach, chuckles and giggles just spilling out from me.

“Did we…say something funny?” I could hear Shizuko.

“Ahahahaha!” I hooted and hollered.

“I don’t think we did.” Hiroto replied. I could feel his eyes on me. Both of their eyes on me.

I know what they were both thinking.

What was so funny? After all, they didn’t say anything that would cause me to be rolling with this much joy. In fact, I’ve always found Shizuko and Hiroto’s cat and dog barking and hissing to be mildly annoying before anything funny. Yet right now?

“Ahahahaha!” I covered my face, happiness and laughter pouring out from me as easy as liquid.

How can I explain to them that I’m laughing because my life is absurd? I thought I was crazy. I thought I was hearing things. But really, I was just freaking out and my head and brain were all kinds of messed up because my heart stopped for 3 minutes.

Then, I told the imaginary voices to shut up---they did and now I’m back to normal and life is back to normal.

I don’t hear anything and I can talk to myself in my head freely, and even listen to the people around me speak or argue and hear every bit of it.

There’s no more strange voices sobbing, men and woman yelling, and horrible singers singing their heart out. None of it anymore. I’m suddenly normal as if none of this ever happened.

It’s amazing. Life is absurd and it’s amazing.


How could I explain that?


And how do I explain why my joyful laughter is turning into tears and sobs.

I don’t know. I don’t how to explain it. I don’t think I want to know. All I know is that it’s over.

“…Hadi-chan.” Shizuko hurried to me. “What’s going on? What’s wrong?”

“I’m fine---.” Sniffles and muted sobbing cut up my shaking voice. “…I-I I’m fine and I---.” More tears were pouring from eyes in gallons.

“Shut up.” Shizuko spat. “You’re not fine, stupid. You almost died!” She throws her arms around me enveloping me into another bear hug. “We thought we almost lost you and we can’t lose anyone else again! We just can’t!”

“Shiz---,” I try to speak through sniffles but Shizuko smothers me tighter.

“I was so scared! You really, really scared us and I’m trying to pretend like it’s normal but I’m still scared Hadi-chan.” She snuggles into my chest, cool water damp on my shirt.

“I know.” I hug back, feeling her small body against me tremble.

I took a deep shaky breath, and as I did, I caught a glimpse of Hiroto quiet and glassy eyed in his own little corner.

“..Pfft.” I almost laugh through the tears.

Ironic, how familiar this is. We cried, sniffled, and sputtered like this at Aoko’s funeral procession.

I remember that day imagining all the ways how that could’ve been me in Aoko’s coffin. I remember thinking how nice it would have been to switch places---for Aoko and I to trade. Me, dead and her, alive. I pictured my own funeral so many times before that now, the idea of it being a near miss is ironically terrifying.

Today we’re all crying for me as if I did die. In fact, these past few days it’s all been tears, emotion, and pain. It hurts but it seems so natural at this point.

These misses I keep having with death…I wonder which one of these days will it catch up with me and my borrowed time?


With a clearing of my throat, and a large sniffle, I wiped away my tears. “…Sorry for scaring everyone.” I looked down to Shizuko and up to Hiroto.

“Yeah, we know it wasn’t your fault,” he said, pinching the core of his nose bridge.

That again. It was a trick Aoko told him about. Pinch the core of nose bridge and it’ll stop you from crying anymore.

He adjusted his glasses. “If anything, it was probably that Mystery Junk crap’s fault.”

Still clinging onto to me, Shizuko lifted her head. “Excuse me? Are you blaming me for Hadi-chan’s allergic reaction!”

I felt the volume of her voice against my chest.

“Did I even say your name?” He titled his head.

“Well, you’re implying!”


“Listen,” he said gesturing with his hands. “I’m just saying maybe if you hadn’t making her your experimental guinea pig for that toxic mass, they call candy she wouldn’t have gotten sick.”

“Mystery Bites are edible!” Shizuko barks.

“Yeah, only to you and your iron stomach.”

“Shut up!” She bounces off me, fully enraged and engaged with Hiroto.

“You eat like absolutely everything. It’s a wonder as to how you haven’t bloated into a whale.” He makes an expanding motion.

“I do not eat everything!”

And here we go again.

Oddly enough, I can’t help but to smile.


“I wonder what ‘handsome transfer student’ will think once he takes you out for a date and sees that you order the entire menu.”

“Oh, and says you!” She puffs out her cheeks. “You’re the guy who organizes and color codes his foods!”

“Hey, that’s a serious matter. The foods can’t mix together or it won’t taste right.”

Knock! Knock! Knock!

I heard heavy knocks coming from the door.

“No, no, no!” Shizuko shakes her head. “Who in their right mind eats by first chewing rice and then eating the sauce after? That’s a sin. That’s sin to do to food.”

“I can’t have them mix.”

“But you’re chewing them in your mouth!”

“In a certain order,” he clarifies.

“Takahashi, you’re literally the dumbest smartest person ever. All of the foods mix in your mouth, no matter the order.”

“Nope. The order matters.” He says with a deadpan straight face.

“It does not!”

“I’ll get the door,” I mutter, mostly to myself since their argument was just beginning.

“It does.”

“It does not!”

Their voices fade into the background as I headed over from sitting area to shoe hall and finally to the doors.

Knock! Knock! Kno---Click!

I open the door to see Mom juggling some groceries.

“I picked up some stuff from the store. I thought maybe I’d make something for your discharge for hospital,” she says immediately shoving the load of paper bags onto me.

“Okay.” I adjust my new load of items and step back and Mom pushes her way inside.

She glanced up to me as she spoke between sliding her shoes off, “Also, I was---.”


With a little pause, she peers over me into the distance of the house. “Your friends are here?”

“Yup.” I nodded with a little press of my lips.

“Well, I’ll make something for those two newlyweds as well.” She finishes putting on her indoor slippers and takes some bags back from me. “Everyone’s favorites. I’ll make it.”

Before I know it, she’s smiling bright and hurrying past me to the kitchen. She went about her way so quickly to adore us with food, she left the house door wide open.

Haaah,” I exhaled a light sigh. “You forgot to close the door!” I shout back to her.

“Sorry!” Her yell echoes back.

“Yeah, yeah.” I shake my head and set the bags down to have some free hands to grab the door handle.


Just before I swing it close, I see them; on the empty street the same weird duo that in the crowd earlier. They stuck out like a sore thumb before and now, they do even more now that everyone’s gone. Their black suits and black sunglasses contrasted with their sliver like pale skin. In the daylight of the sun, they had to be cooking. So why were they still here?




I could still faintly hear the popping of bubble gum as she continued to chew while her matching partner remained like stone. Together they just stood there standing and staring.





Just as they watched me, I watched them.




What were they even doing here?




To get a scoop story on me?




They had to be.

I felt a cool draft of air tickle my ears.

I mean what else could they be here for?




I slammed the door shut.

Whatever they were here for, they’ll leave eventually. They had to.

“Hadiza?” Mom called me.

“Yeah?” I tightened the door locks.

“You got the rest of my groceries!”

“Yeah, coming.” I picked the bags back up and headed back to the everyone.

Tsssch! Cling! Clatter!

Mom was already buzzing, humming, and bouncing around the kitchen cleaning vegetables, preparing pots and plates. Meanwhile, Hiroto and Shizuko were still right where I left them.

“That’s not it. That’s not it at all! I’m telling you that it doesn’t matter which order. Eventually all of the food is going to mix.” Shizuko was steaming red faced.

“Nope. It’s like a ‘Is Water Wet’ situation. There is some form of technicality that draws the boundaries.”


“That’s the way it is.”

This is the way it is. I looked around. Normal. Weird how strange it seems. I feel almost of out place looking around and seeing and hearing all of these familiar things when just a few hours ago I was in a hospital hearing voices.


I’m not sure I can really believe I’m here right now. But I am. I need to let go of the shock, confusion, the questions in the back of my mind---all the hows, whys, and whats. It’s not important right now.


Things are normal. Normal as they can be.


If Aoko were in this type of situation I wonder what she would say. Maybe she wouldn’t say anything. Maybe she wouldn’t keep going in circles like I am. Maybe she’d just say, stop hesitating and smile.


And I think that’s what I need to try.

“Hadiza, my groceries,” Mom asks again with a little hum.

“Yeah.” I step over into the kitchen and set the bags on the counter. “Need any help cleaning vegetables or anything?”

She sets some onions on the cutting board. “No, it’s alright. I don’t want you doing anything too much from the hospital.”

“No, um, I think I’m okay.” I meet her eyes face on.

Mom stops cutting her onion midway. She sits her knife down and looks to me. “You are?”

“…Yeah.” That’s what I hear myself say, but all I can see next are flames.

“AHHH!” my screams come automatically.

There’s fire everywhere on me. I can see burning glow all over my hands, arms, and feet. I can feel the burning sting of hear all over while the smell of cooking flesh burns my nostrils.

“GET IT OFF ME!” I flail backwards trying to stop the fire from consuming me whole. But my kicking, running, and screaming does nothing. I can feel myself melting, heat seeping into my bones.

I’m beyond burning, I’m blazing into a seared crisp.

“SOMEBODY HELP ME! PLEASE! IT BURNS!” My tears are hot as I scramble around trying to stop it all.

HAD--- ZA--I was---lonely--man.

There were noises clashing with the crackle of the flames growing like a beast around me. It was worse than the fire that day, these flames were violent and hungry.

All I could do was scream and crash from wall to wall. “AHHH!”

I’M SORRY—CAN’T---STAY—CAN’T---KEEP THEM---AW-AY---I thought that he was the one for me. I spent my entire life chasing after him but I----

--“AHHH!” It burned so awful. The pain was more than I could handle.

I’LL—HURT—YOU---BY STAY—ING---FIND—IZ-U-MI—WILL—HELP----I want another chance at life. Can I just have another chance? I didn’t do anything wrong. I didn’t!---“AHHHH! AHHH! AHHH!”



“What’s wrong with her now?”


“I don’t know she just started screaming. Hadiza?”

“I’m calling the ambulance!”


“AHH---.” I stop screaming when the realization hits me. I’m not burning. I’m not on fire.

No, instead I’m on the kitchen floor with everyone huddled around me. Mom and Hiroto terrified, and Shizuko is crying again as she dials for help on her phone.

They’re all out of breath with wide eyes, a mixture of confusion and pain in their furrowed eyebrows.

They’re scared.

I’m scared.

I should’ve married a rich old guy. That way I would have had some money before I died.

And the voices are back as if they never left. 

Shahi John
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