Chapter 3:

Fade To Black

66 Hours

I pace back and forth in front of the school gate, in a state of mid-panic.

Is this for real? Is this invisible wall for real?!

I practically scream inside my head. Something is clearly, and abnormally wrong here. What are the possibilities of an invisible wall appearing out of nowhere?

After a good couple of minutes of just aimlessly drawing circles in front of the gate, I decide to calm down and think straight for a second.

“Relax, Hideki… Relax.” I mutter to myself, in order to calm my beating hard down. “First, let’s check if anyone is still inside the school. There is no way Mochizuki-senpai left, without me seeing her...”

I really don’t want to go back inside…

My gut basically calls out to me but I can’t afford to sit this one out, so I begrudgingly pick up the pace and head back inside the main school building.

I have no trouble getting inside through the main entrance, and everything, for better or for worse, seems exactly the same as I left it. I don’t know why exactly, but I half expected to see someone panicking. Was I, by any chance, alone? The math teacher that up and vanished, seemingly with his tail tucked between his legs… Mayu, who was nowhere to be found... The lack of club activities… It all seemed to align so conveniently.

Maybe I’m overthinking…

Just as I shake that thought away and move past the shoe lockers, I hear the sound of rushing footsteps. As I look up to the source of the noise, I see a familiar figure descend, in a hasty manner.

“MAYU!” I call out to her, a rare surprise in my voice.

“Hideki! Thank God!” She runs straight at me… and envelopes me in a hug.

“Woah, hey there…” I voice, and take a small step back in the face of the sudden weight against me.. “Why are you here? I thought you would already be home by now…”

I ask, as it feels like she’s clinging to me for dear life.

“I was about to ask you the same thing! The talk with Matsumoto-sensei took more time than I expected and I thought you would have already left! But in the off-chance you didn’t I couldn’t just leave without you so I searched the school! But when I was convinced you weren’t here I tried to leave but I couldn’t!! I couldn’t walk out the school gate! I constantly bump into something that’s not even there!” Mayu explains in a lightning-fast pace clearly anxious beyond comprehension. Having separated slightly from my chest, she’s now looking at me through her shiny, upturned eyes, a couple of tears threatening to spill over her rosy cheeks.

“Hey, it’s okay… We’ll figure something out?” Before Mayu can pull away, I instinctively wrap my arm around her, in an attempt to comfort her.

Despite the fact that I refrained from doing this earlier thinking it might make things awkward, this feeling of… comfort, and warmth is not half bad. I had never hugged her like that, despite us being childhood friends. To be honest, I always felt awkward when it came to physical touch. But right now this whole thing was… different. I couldn’t let Mayu get any more anxious and concerned than she already was. And the feeling I got from that embrace wasn’t unpleasant either. It felt relaxing, and it somehow soothed my nerves. Maybe seeing a familiar face during this confusing situation was helping after all. As we stayed like that for a few seconds, a strange feeling of relief washed over me. I’m not alone.

“Yeah… We’ll figure this out.” Mayu finally spoke up, and I felt like her usual tone returned to her voice. She separated from me, and after a small sniffle, she wiped her eyes with her sleeve, and put on a brave, Mayu-like smile. “Thanks I’m all better now. I’m so glad you’re here!”

That’s the Mayu I want to see…

Suddenly, the fact that I hugged my childhood friend started to sink in. I could feel the heat rise to my face, as I cleared my throat, trying to avert my attention from that very fact.

“Great, uhm…” I stumble over my words, scratching the back of my head, as if doing that will help me get it together.

“Oh, someone’s blushing… Mufufu…” Mayu is now chuckling like a witch, having turned to the annoying energetic rascal we all know.

“Shut up…” I turn away in a huff, staying true to my edgy protagonist role model.

“So did you hit that invisible wall too? And wait, why are you here in the first place?” Mayu changes the subject, which I’m actually grateful for.

With a mutual nod, we walk up the stairs towards the student council room as I explain to her exactly what happened.

“Oh so you lost your phone and then had to play the knight in shining armor… That’s why you forgot about little ol’ me!”

“Yeah because every knight in shining armor knocks down the damsel in distress or something …” Right as I voice my protest, a voice cuts our conversation short. But that voice didn’t come from either of us. Instead it was…

“Hey, over there! Thank God there’s still some people left…” Soon, both a male and a female student walk up to us, the relief clearly visible in their expressions.

At closer inspection, they seem older than me and Mayu. Maybe by one year.

“Oh, Ishikawa-senpai? You’re here too!” Mayu brightens up at the sight of the older girl in front of her.

Senpai? My guess was spot on, then.

“Oh, Nakajima. So it is you.” Our upperclassman gives her a small smile.

Mayu, ever the social butterfly.

“This here is my classmate and friend, Kobayashi Hideki! And the senpai with you?”

“Kurosawa Ryota.” The guy speaks up, his voice husky and somewhat flat. Behind his dark brown eyes, his gaze seems sharp, yet uninterested at the same time. His hair is black, much like mine, but his is cut shorter both on the sides and top, giving it a spiky look. His frame is muscular, yet lean, and he’s a tad taller than me, despite me being quite tall myself. If I had to guess, I’d say he was in the basketball team.

“And I’m Ishikawa Yoko. We’re both from class 3-B.” Then, it was time for the girl by his side to speak up yet again. Her tone was sharp, but it held no hostility behind it. She felt like the strict, but caring type of upperclassman. She’s quite tall for a girl, not taller than me, but certainly taller than the petite Mayu. Her bleached blonde hair is tied neatly in a ponytail, and her bangs are withheld from falling onto her forehead by a thick pink band. Her eyes are a normal dark shade of black, much like her eyebrows.

These two seemed awfully close at a glance, from body language and positioning alone.

“Nice to meet you, senpai-tachi.” I bow my head briefly, my tone low.

“So, did you see… or maybe, feel the wall at the gate too?” Mayu straightens up, trying to act all cool in front of her upperclassmen.

Although she was panicking just a short while ago...

Despite that though, Mayu is a natural leader, so she was bound to bounce back sooner or later.

“Yeah we kinda got held back because we were… uhm, talking and time kinda flew by. But when we tried to leave the school, something was blocking the way!” Ishikawa-senpai’s face flashes red momentarily, as she explains. Or at least tries to.

Talking she says… I bet it was a great talking session…

Suddenly, my suspicions of them being a thing, intensify.

Shaking off the temptation to ask for further details, I cut straight to the chase. “So I’m guessing you haven’t found anyone else, right?”

“No we haven’t…” Kurosawa-senpai voices yet again, looking a tad bit dejected.

“Kobayashi right?” Kurosawa-senpai asks furrowing his eyebrows at me.

I give a brief nod at the mention of my name.

“Have you or your girlfriend seen Mochizuki-san?”

“Mochizuki-senpai? I bumped into her a while ago, before I noticed the invisible wall thing. She said she had some student council business to attend to, and that she would stay a while longer.”

“Wait, up?! Girlfriend?!” This time, it’s Mayu’s turn to be flustered.

For some reason, I completely ignored the comment, though. Maybe I felt like locating everyone in the school took priority.

“Great, then she must be here still.” Kurosawa-senpai nodded to himself. Now that I think about it, they must be on the same class with Mochizuki-senpai.

“It would be better to stick together, right?” Mayu shakes the redness off her face, as she suggests.

“Sounds good to me.” Ishikawa-senpai replies while I and Kurosawa-senpai nod in unison.

“Am I the only one who’s got no signal in here?” Ishikawa-senpai asks while holding up her phone. The four of us are currently walking down the hallway of the second floor, after deciding to do things as a group.

“Me neither.” Mayu voices, checking herself.

I’m about to make a joke about phones being prohibited in school grounds, but I quickly decide against it. No one would laugh anyway.

“No signal here either.” Instead, I decide to be useful.

“Great.” Kurosawa-senpai just sighs.

“Did you, by any chance, try the principal’s office Senpai?” I turn to the two of them.

“Yeah, we did actually. But the door was locked.”

“He was actually about to break it down with how hard he was pounding it…”

Ishikawa-senpai chuckles, while her (boy)friend passes her a glare.

“He must have left already then…” Mayu chimes in.

“If the principal left then who the hell locks the school up?” I find myself asking.

“We in the basketball team mostly practice until late so when the principal needs to leave early, a security guard comes by at night and locks everything up.” Kurosawa-senpai explains, walking with his hands stuffed in pockets. But now that club activities are suspended, they don’t have to practice until late. Not to mention the security guard isn’t only here to lock up, but to actually guard the place too. Something doesn’t quite add up.

“So what if we wait for the security guard to come? I mean won’t he realize he can’t get inside the school and call for help?” Mayu suggests cocking her head to the side.

“That’s a solid idea. But we can’t just stand here for 3 or 4 hours.”

“Yeah I’ve got stuff I wanna do I can’t waste my day here!”

Ishikawa-senpai seems to agree with me, albeit ultimately missing my point.

“…Hey look, isn’t that the new transfer student from your class?” Kurosawa-senpai cuts us off, as he points onwards. Without really caring as to how he actually knows about Himura-san, I follow the direction his index finger is pointing at, and that’s when I see a familiar silhouette. A slim figure of a girl with long black hair and pale skin, can be made out at the end of the hallway. As I try to study her expression, I notice she’s basically staring off into space, her eyes vacant, as her mouth forms a thin line.

Yeah, that’s definitely her.

“Uhm… Himura-san?” I call out to her, as we approach.

“Oh…” She seemingly snaps out of her trance, as she turns to our group.”…Kobayashi-kun?” Her tone is inquisitive.

“Yeah it’s me. You okay? ‘Cause you seemed kinda lost there…” I ask, taking a step closer to her.

Out of reflex, she takes one back. “Oh yeah. I’m okay. I was… just sensing things…” She mutters loud enough for me to hear, as she looks down at her feet, a red color rising to her pale cheeks, matching her crimson red eyes.

Did she just blush? Maybe I can be cool after all…

“Wow, talk about creepy. Stop invading her personal space, you idiot.” Mayu instantly passes me a disapproving look, crushing my fantasies.

Just as instantly, I find myself heaving a sigh.

Why do you have to ruin it, Oh sweet childhood friend of mine?

“Did you say you… sensed things? Uhm…” Ishikawa-senpai starts, but comes to a halt right at Himura-san’s name.

“Himura Noriko.” The transfer student timidly adds. “And yes, the darkness in this school is growing. I feel it. We’re most likely in grave danger.”

But when Himura-san finally replies, her answer feels me with a sense of dread. Danger… I’m suddenly reminded of everything that happened today. The mysterious figure in the morning. The incidents in the biology lab. And finally, the uneasiness growing within me, right from the moment we were released from class.

I suddenly want to snap at her for saying things like that in such a crucial moment, but I quickly decide against it. That would only make things worse after all.

“Haha, silly Himura-san. Don’t mind her.” Mayu tries to ease the tension, the transfer student had created. But Kurosawa-senpai wouldn’t let the statement go just like that.

“What? Darkness? Danger? What is she on about?”

“Hey Ryota, relax.” Ishikawa-senpai put a comforting hand on his back.

Hey, they’re definitely an item.

Seeing as it’s not the time for gossip, I shift back to the conversation.

“Relax?! An invisible force’s literally trapping us inside the school for crying out loud!” The brawny upperclassman snaps. “Not to mention, that this creepy looking girl, just happened to transfer at the same day as this whole incident! And on top of that, she’s even talking about darkness and danger and whatnot?!” He finally turns and points an accusing finger at her. “If she is not suspicious then I don’t know who is!”

On the other hand, in the face of such strong accusations, Himura-san looks down at her feet, her jaw clenching slightly.

I can’t deny that there’s logic behind his reasoning, but there are some things that don’t make sense. Not to mention, that fighting amongst ourselves is one of the last things we should be doing right now.

“Hey, back off, Senpai!” I call out to him, without having the time to process what I’m even saying. “Himura-san didn’t trap us here and it’s obviously not her fault!” For some reason, I find myself defending the transfer student. Logically, inner conflicts in situations like these are something that should be avoided. But, there’s also something deep within me, that makes the unfair treatment of others, leave a bitter taste in my mouth. Actually, I can’t stomach it. Before I know it, I have already given senpai a piece of my mind. “If she really wanted to trap us here then why trap herself as well? And why try to warn us about the danger, if she means us harm?”

“You little!” This time turning to me, and clearly having the logic in his accusations broken down, he gives me a deathly glare. “…Back off? Don’t you know you should show respect to your upperclassmen?” Kurosawa-senpai snatches me by the collar, and I instinctively grab his forearm in defense.

“Ryota!” “Hideki!” “Kobayashi-kun!”

The three girls cry out in shock.

Despite being the shorter, and less muscular between us, I like to believe I stand my ground, refusing to break eye contact.

You’re just gonna treat others unfairly when it suits you, huh? Everyone’s the same…

“Stop that!” Ishikawa-senpai is the first to come between us.

“Tch…” The brawny upperclassman releases me, before clicking his tongue. Seems to me like he’s got anger issues.

“What was that?!” As Ishikawa-senpai scolds her boyfriend, Mayu and Himura-san come over to me.

“Thank you, Kobayashi-kun…” Himura-san smiles somewhat timidly at me, and I find myself returning the smile.

“Don’t mention it.”

“Are you okay?” Mayu touches my arm, a hint of concern in her tone.

“Yeah. Sorry about the commotion.” I shrug, refusing to look over to our upperclassmen.

“No, I’m sorry about that. That was a bit… uncalled for.” Kurosawa-senpai, clearly having regained his composure turns to the three of us. “Both of you. Sorry. I went a little overboard.”


As senpai finally apologizes, the other senpai behind him smirks proudly.

Mayu throws a glare his way, before turning back to me. Soon, the hostility in her eyes disappears.

“Okay, with this settled then. Himura-san!” Mayu turns to our new classmate, as if nothing ever happened. “We figured we should team up with everyone still remaining inside the school, so if you’d like to join us you’d be more than welcome!” She finally grabs hold of Himura-san’s hand.

That’s Mayu for you, easily making friends with everyone.

“So is there anything you’d like to tell us about this sixth sense of yours?” Ishikawa-senpai chimed in, showing no sign of opposing the idea of her joining us. Though, I feel like the same can’t be said about the other upperclassman.

“Okay, if you think it will help…” Himura-san turns to Mayu, who nods in reassurance. “It’s something that I had since I was pretty young. I can sense supernatural forces… but also danger and misfortune, like accidents about to happen to people or people who have ill intent.”

“So if you can sense these things can’t you warn people, and possibly prevent them?” Kurosawa-senpai inquires, this time not looking like he’s about to rip her head off.

“I try to, but most of the times people don’t believe me and when, what I warn them about actually happens, they treat me as if I’m responsible…” The bitterness in her voice is apparent, as she replies.

“Okay, so you can actually warn us before something bad happens? That’s actually pretty cool. Not to mention useful.” I voice, pleasantly surprised.

“Oh…” Himura-san looks down yet again. This time her expression is one of embarrassment and slight surprise.

“What’s wrong?” Mayu touches her shoulder.

“Nothing it’s just… that this is the first time someone has complimented my weird powers so I’m not quite sure how to react but… thank you…” The girl explains, a rosy tint coloring her face.

“Okay then, shall we go check the student council room?” Ishikawa-senpai cuts this sweet moment short, but everyone nods nonetheless.

Everyone but Kurosawa-senpai that is.

“Oh damn it!” He clicks his tongue yet again.

We all turn to him.

“I forgot something back in class! I’m gonna go grab that real quick.” He turns to us, seeming apologetic yet again.

“Wait. We’ll all go. Right?” Ishikawa-senpai looks at Mayu with a pleading look.

Wow, someone’s not giving her hubby enough space.

Sure…” Mayu says with a furrowed brow and a smile, making for a weird combination.

As we walk down the stairs of the 2nd floor Himura-san seems to be lagging behind, which if I had to guess would be because of her ability.

On the other side, literally, Kurosawa-senpai is speeding up.

Heck, he really doesn’t like her.

I try to catch up to him, hoping to learn if he still doesn’t trust us.

I know I may not be the most social person in the world, but I at least got to try. Conflicts breed negative emotions after all.

“Everything okay, Kurosawa-senpai?”

“Kobayashi, trust me, I know I sound paranoid but a ton of shit happened today so I’m kinda on edge.” He mutters somewhat lowly so only I can hear, as we walk ahead of everyone else.

“I mean everyone’s on edge…” I reply, as I heave a sigh.

“You’re right. And I’m sorry about earlier. We cool?” He turns to me, a hint of a smile on his face.

I wonder if he’ll turn on us when he next gets the chance.

Despite that thought, I decide it’s best to put all that behind us.

“We’re cool.” I shrug at him, and reply nonchalantly. Having cleared the atmosphere between us, I feel a sense of relief, as we tread wordlessly down the hallway.

Soon, the two of us reach a door at the end of the long corridor, which I assume leads to 3-B’s classroom. Without even standing around for a moment, Kurosawa-senpai puts his hand on the handle, and slides it open in a quick motion. As the both of us are about to step inside, a loud voice makes its way to our ears.

“NO WAIT!!” Himura-san literally screams. But, her shriek of warning, has barely any time to register with me, as we cross the threshold.

Beneath our feet, and right in front of my very eyes, the floor of the classroom shakes and cracks ripple through its surface. Not a second later, the floor has collapsed, and I find myself staring at a vast, seemingly endless void, stretching beneath my feet. In a matter of a moment, I feel this same darkness, ready to swallow me whole.