Every single one of us is frozen in place, unable to process the sight of the translucent figure drifting ever closer to us.
“Eep!” Mochizuki-senpai draws a sharp breath and shrieks, digging her nails on my forearm somewhat instinctively. Without having the time to process what’s happening, I quickly stand on my feet. In less than a second, the others follow suit and we scramble towards the door in a panicked manner, in between startled noises and shrieks. We step out of the classroom and start running as if our lives depend on it. And frankly, the might very well be. As we’re running, I turn around to notice the ghost is about to exit the room, hot on our tails.
It’s following us!?
“Wait…” An unfamiliar voice echoes from behind me, and across the hallway.
Wait my ass!
I for one couldn’t care less about what she just said, and that probably holds true for the rest of us, as we continue sprinting, unfazed. Everyone but Himura-san that is, who’s just stopped in her tracks, and has turned to face the ghost. “Everyone, wait! I don’t think she means us any harm.” She voices quite calmly, despite the situation.
“…What?” I mutter, my breathing heavy, as I stop a few ways ahead of her.
“WHAT?!” Tanaka-san repeats after me, albeit a little more exaggerated.
“I don’t sense any immediate danger from her. We should see what she wants.” She proposes, as the semi-transparent figure continues hovering towards us.
“I don’t mean you harm.” It voices, tone dry and detached.
“…Maybe it knows about what’s happening in here?” Mayu suggests bravely, despite her shaking hands.
“Maybe it knows… about Ryota?” Ishikawa-senpai, gulps audibly, sticking close to Mayu herself.
“Are you crazy?!” Mochizuki-senpai yells at us, seemingly one step away from short-circuiting.
Can’t really blame her…
“We’re going to wait for a ghost just because it SAYS so?!”
Mochizuki-senpai’s gaze falls on all of us, one by one, her eyes wide in disbelief.
“Calm down Mochizuki-senpai. I know it sounds crazy but Himura-san can sense danger!” I explain as simply as I can, as we all turn towards the mysterious figure.
“It’s like a sixth sense… I know it sounds crazy, but please, trust me!”
I plead, with an honest cry.
“O-okay…” Despite her troubled expression, she nods.
With Mochizuki-senpai settled down, I turn to look at all the other members of our group. Tanaka-san looks ready to jump out the window in a moment’s notice, while Mayu and Ishikawa-senpai look on bravely, in spite of their clear distress. Himura-san is the calmest out of all of us,
As we watch the floating figure approach, my subconscious screams at me to run, but nonetheless I keep my feet firmly rooted to the ground.
HOLY. SHIT. I can’t believe I’m actually going through with this!
“Thank you, for not running away…” The ghost now closer than ever, speaks up, as we all jolt in response. Instinctively, I dig my nails into my palm, anticipating an attack, a lunge, a spell (!), anything. But, to all our relief, nothing of the sort happens.
“Don’t be afraid. I was a student just like you once. My name is… was Kumagai Mei.” The ghost speaks in a hushed, plain manner. Her tone feels more comforting, than sinister.
Still, hearing a GHOST telling us to NOT be afraid isn’t helping much.
“Do you know what’s going on here?” Himura-san steps up, since she is the calmest out of the group.
“Somewhat. I’ve come to warn you. You’re all in grave danger.” She spells out, and I can feel my heart sinking.
I had a feeling, but having it spelled out for us, makes me feel hopeless in a whole new way.
“Grave… danger…?” Tanaka-san repeats after her, his voice shaky.
“… I sense a deep darkness within the school. Do you know what’s causing it?” As if brushing that scary statement aside, Himura-san continues trying to extract all the information she can get.
How on Earth is she so calm?
“No, I’m afraid I don’t. But I’ve seen this before. This exact same thing. Ten years ago I was also trapped here along some of my classmates. Just like you are, right now.” Kumagai Mei, or more likely her spirit, voices in an attempt to explain.
So we ARE trapped? And that… ghost, is claiming this has happened before?
Whatever her story is, she has my undivided attention.
“And… what happened if I may ask?” My curiosity prevails over my hesitation, and I manage to spell out.
Although since she is a ghost I’m assuming it didn’t go very well…
The ghost turns towards me, before directing her gaze to the ground, as if to escape the truth. As she answers, her voice slightly trails off “None of us made it out alive…” For a moment, the only sound is the violent banging of the rain against the windows.
“Oh no…” Ishikawa-senpai mutters, bringing her palm over her mouth.
“W-Why is that?” Mochizuki-senpai voices, her expression one of pure confusion.
Suddenly I come to a realization. As far we know, Mochizuki-senpai has been cooped up in the student council room, and has only been startled by the appearance of this ghost. She doesn’t know anything about the collapsed floor, or the invisible wall.
“My despair over OUR failure has kept my soul here, unable to move on. Maybe, if I can help you escape, I can finally find peace. That’s why I want to help you.” Mei-san explains, a hint of regret in her voice. I know one shouldn’t trust ghosts but the situation doesn’t leave much room for debate.
“Escape?” Mochizuki-senpai asks yet again, prompting me to explain.
“We’re trapped inside the school, that’s why we came looking for you.” I whisper, trying not to interrupt the important discussion between the living and a… spirit.
“Do you perhaps know, how we can get out of here?” Mayu joins in, posing a question of her own. “Follow me.” Kumagai Mei voices flatly, and hovers past us. Soon, after a nod we all trail behind her.
Mei-san leads us up to the top floor, then to another set of stairs and after that, a door comes into view.
Isn’t that the door to the rooftop?
But what catches my eye, is the strange lock that’s attached to the seemingly normal door. An ornate bronze lock with four keyholes. “This lock… It doesn’t feel normal.” Himura-san spells out, before shifting into thinking gear.
“What is this?” Tanaka-san asks, still looking creeped out.
“You need to find four keys hidden somewhere within this school. Then you need to use them to open this door and escape.” Mei-san explains plainly, still leaving questions unanswered.
We need to find keys to escape?
“And do you happen to know WHERE these keys are?” Mayu asks cocking her head to the side.
“I’m sure you’ve already noticed that there are deadly traps laying around, and sinister supernatural forces at play, here inside this school.”
I think back to Kurosawa-senpai falling to his death…
“T-Traps??” Mochizuki-senpai breaks her silence, her eyes as wide as can be, yet again. If I didn’t know better I’d think that was her default expression.
“Deadly… yes… We already encountered one of those.” Ishikawa-senpai clenches her jaw, and looks down. “…A deadly trap.”
“But how are we supposed to GET to the keys if the traps are deadly?” Tanaka-san asks. Behind his serious expression, lies a hidden layer of fear.
“There should be a way around for each trap. But it’s still pretty dangerous. The traps and keys are only laid out onto the main building, here. The rest of the buildings, are “cut out” from this realm.” The ghost replies, before hesitating for a moment. “I forgot to mention, but… You don’t have forever to find the keys either. There’s a time limit.” Mei-san spells out and I find myself nervously gulping in anticipation. “You’ve only got 66 hours by the time the clock strikes 12 tonight. As time passes and you remain trapped in here, the dark forces responsible will grow stronger and stronger, until the shallow you whole.” We all freeze at her words.
So even if we cut it close to the time limit, this place might be even more dangerous than it already is…!
Doing the math quickly inside my head I arrive at a conclusion. “So if the countdown starts at midnight, that means we have 2 and a half days to find the keys, excluding sleep and rest time.” I say partly on impulse. “Not quite. I wouldn’t advice you searching for the keys after midnight. The supernatural forces are a lot more potent at that time at night.” She adds to her explanation, cutting off my advances.
So, assuming it’s safe after 5 am… We have exactly 48 hours. 2 days…
“Then… we have, two days?”
“Two days?! You have to be kidding!” Suddenly, Tanaka-san stomps closer to Mei, his anger stemming from frustration.
“You expect us to believe all this crap about ghosts and keys?! I have a family to get to! Let me out!” He barks angrily.
Uh-oh, I figured this would happen, but not so soon!
“I know it’s-“
“You don’t know anything!”
“Tanaka-san, please!” I find myself raising my voice, as he turns to look at me, his expression a mix of confusion and despair.
A family, huh?
Suddenly the image of my mother flashes before my eyes. What about Kurosawa-senpai’s mother? I wonder how she must feel when someone breaks the news to her.
“Tanaka-san, we all need to get back to our families. But shouting won’t help.” Mayu comes to the rescue, leading by example.
“…You… You’re right.” The grown man shakes his head, hoping to dispel the negativity from his body with a sigh.
“…If you all work together, finding all 4 of them is quite possible.” Mei-san states, in an attempt to reassure us. The others fidget around, clearly pondering on what to do.
“If I may, what happened 10 years ago?” I come right out and ask a hard, but necessary question.
We need to know everything we can if we really want a chance of getting out of here.
“We tried to find the keys, but we died with only one key in our possession. At first we lost two classmates to the trap protecting the first key we encountered but…” She trails off slightly hovering away from us. “…Then we… we started to argue and…” She draws a breath to compose herself. “Our group wasn’t unified. The trust we had in each other vanished and all of a sudden what we called a team, fractured. Some of my classmates turned against the rest of us.”
As she explains, I feel a chilling sensation run down my spine.
“Turned against you?” Mochizuki-senpai repeated, confused.
“Surely you don’t mean…you killed each other, right?” I ask, trying to convince myself otherwise.
“Yes... That’s how I died… alone and betrayed…” Her voice loses even the slight bit of light it had, as she nods. I imagine how painful it must be to remember all this.
“This must be part of the darkness I sense. Such a terrible tragedy…” Himura-san replies, clearly sympathizing with the unfortunate victim of a conflict that happened long ago.
“I don’t understand. You were all on the same side! You were trying to escape together! What changed..?” Ishikawa-senpai speaks up, the frustration visibly etched on her face.
“You’ll find that when people are in danger, it’s easy for paranoia to take root.” Mei-san states and we all grow silent. “Can you truly say that there are no divisions among your group?” She gazes down at us, one by one. I think back to when Ishikawa-senpai snapped at Himura-san. When she pointed that deathly glare at me. And just now, when Tanaka-san seemed to lose his mind. Will we be able to stay united?
“No. We’re going to get through this. All together.” Mayu states, her face brimming with determination.
“That is my hope. That you’ll succeed, where we failed.” Mei-san spells out, a hint of hope in her tone.
“Well now that we have a somewhat clearer view of what we need to do, let’s begin the search.” Mayu suggests, shifting into calm-and-collected mode.
As we’re all ready to nod, I decide to check the time on my phone. “Already 10 o’clock?” I mutter to myself.
“What do you say we find a safe room to spend the night in when midnight comes around?” The cheery-looking leader of ours, asks.
“Something like a home base?” Ishikawa-senpai inquires, while Mayu nods. “Yeah you can think of it like that.” She smiles.
Wow, she really is a ray of sunshine, even in this mess. I hope she’s not trying too hard…
Mei-san shifts closer and speaks up “I’m assuming you can use the Home Economics classroom.”
Nice one, Mei-san!
I can’t believe I’m on first name basis with a ghost…
“That sounds like it would work.” Mochizuki-senpai nods as well.
“Assuming its safe, there’s a fridge, a kitchen and a bunch of other supplies there.” Mayu agrees with her.
“I can make sure it’s safe.” Himura-san joins in on the plan.
“We’ve got a plan then. Let’s do this…” I turn to everyone, making sure I lock eyes with both Tanaka-san and Ishikawa-senpai. “…Together.”
Everyone gives a firm nod, and we all turn to Kumagai Mei. Before she can fade away, Ishikawa-senpai speaks up.
“You wouldn’t happen to know, about a boy our age…” She furrows her brows, as if she is in physical pain, her voice trailing off.
“Ishikawa-senpai…” Mayu mutters in concern.
“He fell through that pit on the second floor, but he might have…”
“I’m sorry. Although I couldn’t manifest yet, I sensed one less soul, during that time.”
Even Mei’s expression is grim, as she replies.
Ishikawa-senpai doesn’t speak, but nods in response. Her expression is unreadable, and her pain, probably unfathomable.
“Ishikawa-senpai. Let’s do this. Let’s get out of here. Together.” Mayu squeezes her upperclassman’s shoulder in response, who manages to nod through her silent tears.
There’s a momentary pause before we wave Mei goodbye, and she mutters something underneath her breath, before she disappears into thin air.
“Maybe you can do this, after all…”
Something tells me it won’t be the last time we see her…
With zero delay, we all set out towards the Home Ec classroom.
We’ve got only 66 Hours to escape...
Please log in to leave a comment.