Chapter 1:

001 ┃ After a year

The Isle of the Forgotten

He woke up immediately. He was breathing as if he had just run a marathon and was drenched in sweat. He blinked a couple of times, looking at the clear sky. Had he fallen asleep outside?

He took a deep breath as he tried to calm down, and a salty smell flooded his senses. Now that he thought about it, the repetitive and reassuring noise he had been hearing for a while wasn't a dream. It was the waves of the sea.

He sat up and looked around. He was lying a few meters from the shore. He brushed the sand off his hands and uniform with disgust. He hated the beach with all his being. Too much sand, sun, and people for his liking, although there didn't seem to be anyone there but him. Why had he gone to a...?

A sharp pain attacked his head, making him bring his hands to his temples. The simple act of thinking already caused pain, so he blanked his mind for a few seconds. The pain subsided until it was little more than dizziness.

He got up and tried to keep his balance. He almost made it. He spent the next few seconds spitting out sand and trying not to faint. He didn't know what it was like to get drunk, but he imagined it would feel something like that. He hadn't been so dizzy since... Hmm, he couldn't remember.

With his face covered in sand, he approached the shore and washed it with seawater. The water was so salty and freezing that it made him want to vomit. Everything on the beach was terrible. Couldn't he have just stayed at home?

He dried his face with the sleeves of his uniform but stopped as soon as he saw what clothes he was wearing. It looked like a black school uniform, with all the buttons fastened up to the collar. He had a white rose in the upper pocket of his jacket. Had he come from some important place?

The headache came back again as he tried to situate himself. He had the answers on the tip of his tongue, but he was unable to think clearly. "Calm down. There must be a perfectly rational explanation for this," he said to himself. He focused as if he were taking an exam and tried to think about how he had gotten there, but all he got was a headache.

After several minutes of dizziness and mental fog, he decided to give up. Until his headache went away, at least, he couldn't think clearly.

He looked around to see what options he had. Inland, a dense forest covered everything as far as he could see. Following the shore, only sand and water in both directions. Walking along the beach seemed like the best option. It would be easier to walk in a straight line until he found a town than to wander aimlessly through an unknown forest.

However, something made him change his mind. He approached the first trees, drawn to an object that stood out among the undergrowth. Although it was almost decomposed and the letters had faded, it was definitely a sign. Behind it, one could observe the remains of a path now covered in grass. "Suspicious path through the forest or beach? That's an easy answer," he thought out loud as he ventured into the forest.

He walked down the path for at least half an hour. The autumn colors were beginning to dominate the landscape, although there were only trees and shrubs as far as the eye could see. "At least it's better than sand," he thought.

He had been rummaging through the pockets of his uniform as he walked and had found some interesting things. A mobile phone without any battery, a silly keychain with some keys, and a crumpled piece of paper. When he unfolded the paper out of curiosity, he was able to read what was written on it:

“I have something to tell you. I'll meet you on the rooftop after graduation.


Next to the name, a heart was drawn. He felt a little guilty for not remembering who the note was from, nor to which rooftop it referred. Perhaps he had stood up that poor girl, and now he didn't even know where he was supposed to meet her. In any case, he had more pressing problems right now.

Something in the distance pulled him from his thoughts. Now the path had widened to be more like a dirt road. At the end of the path, barely distinguishable through the dense forest, there was some kind of building. The boy held his breath for a moment out of surprise.

“Finally,” he said exasperatedly. He started running as fast as he could towards the place, with all sorts of thoughts flooding his head. He hoped his family would be there and that they could take him to the hospital. Most likely the amnesia was something temporary and would heal soon, so everything would remain just a bad memory.

When he arrived at the village, silence welcomed him. There was no sound to be heard except for birds singing and the wind blowing. Yes, he was in a village, but many of the houses were in ruins and others looked like they were about to collapse. Nature had consumed much of the place as if slowly erasing traces of civilization.

The entire village had an old-fashioned look, without public lighting or roads beyond cracked stone tiles. He had the impression he was walking through a place where he shouldn't be.

He was almost trembling, but the curiosity he felt made him continue exploring. How long had this place been in ruins? He approached one of the remaining standing buildings. It had a large sign at the entrance, but he was unable to understand it due to the moss and vegetation that covered it. There were long slashes on the walls, like claw marks that seemed to tear the stone. A chill ran down his spine thinking about what could have done that.

He entered the building somewhat unsure. If it was in poor condition on the outside, the inside was even worse. The smell of mold and rot was like a slap in the face as he entered. There were destroyed tables and chairs all over the place, along with pieces of broken glass. It was hard to make out the interior due to the little light that entered, but it had undoubtedly been a bar in the past. You could still recognize the counter where drinks were served, and there were some intact glass cups on it along with empty bottles.

He ventured a little further to observe the place better. It was more than creepy to be in a place like that, but something inside him pushed him to want to discover what had happened there. That did not mean he was comfortable, far from it. The ominous silence made it so he could practically hear his own heartbeat. Maybe the beach wasn't such a bad place after all.

He took another step and the sound of breaking glass echoed throughout the place. Something was not right. He felt like someone was watching him. This place was too unsettling.

A noise sounded among the debris, putting the boy on edge. His rational side was telling him to get out of there, and it usually was right. He was about to turn around, but he remained silent for a few seconds, staring at the corner from where he had heard the noise. Suddenly, a shadow darted out at full speed emitting a chilling shriek. The creature ran past his feet and toward the door before he could react. In fright, he tried to move out of the animal's path, stumbling and falling to the ground while hearing the creature scurry away. It was just a rat.

The boy took a deep breath, relieved. A rat was among the least terrifying things he expected to find in an abandoned village. Even so, he had lost the desire to continue exploring. He wouldn't describe himself as brave, and as much as an abandoned village piqued his curiosity, he was way out of his comfort zone. The best thing would be to get as far away from there as possible.

He leaned on the ground to get up but noticed a dry crunch as he moved a little. It was different from the noise of the glass and the broken wood he had stepped on when he entered. Intrigued, he looked down, and his blood ran cold at recognizing what it was. His heart began to beat quickly, and cold sweat started to drip from his forehead.

The noise he had heard was a bone breaking under his body. A few inches from his hand, staring directly into his eyes, was a human skull.

A. Hoshino