Chapter 2:

002 ┃ When the night falls

The Isle of the Forgotten

A chill ran down his spine as he gazed at the skull without looking away. His mind tried to convince him that this wasn't real. Surely he was dreaming, or perhaps this was the most elaborate prank he'd ever seen. But no, this was real. He clumsily got up and ran outside.

He leaned against the building wall, his breath ragged. There was a dead body in there. A real dead body. He placed his hand on his chest, now overtaken by anxiety. He could overlook waking up on the beach, the amnesia, and even the abandoned town. But a human skeleton? For that, he had no explanation.

If that person was among the rubble, and not in a cemetery, it meant something bad had happened in that town. In fact, if no one had bothered to bury the body, it was most likely that no one had been there for years.

He shook his head sharply as if trying to shake that thought from his mind. Surely someone would find him soon, and take him home where he could see his family.

Dismissing any thought other than that, he entered another house nearby. He needed to find a phone line or a power socket. Anything. He moved quickly through the rooms, sweeping the interior with his gaze... until he reached the living room. There, two more skeletons laid on the floor.

He stifled a scream at the sight of them. Without bothering to study the scene, he turned around and left the house as quickly as he had entered.

He refused to stand still. He staggered around the town, clinging to any hope his imagination could give him. He knew he wasn't good at being optimistic, but the alternative was too hard to accept.

Like a light bulb in the dark leading him to salvation, he spotted his last hope. At the end of the main street, much taller than the surrounding houses, stood an imposing bell tower. He instinctively ran towards it.

The building had a large white symbol carved above the entrance, but he couldn't recognize what it was. Besides, he didn't have time for observations.

He scanned the area until his eyes landed on the stairs. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw more skeletons among the rubble, but he pushed that thought out of his mind. "The bell, I have to reach the bell," he repeated to himself as he ascended.

When he reached the top of the tower, his lungs were burning and the edges of his vision were turning black, but he didn't stop to recover. A thick rope hung from the massive bell, which was the only thing up there. He could see the entire town and the surrounding forest, but there was no sign of civilization beyond the deserted roads leading out of the town.

Almost crying with frustration, he grabbed the rope with both hands and pulled hard. The bell barely moved. That stupid bell was his last option. Someone would hear the sound and come to rescue him. He refused to believe he was alone in that macabre place.

He grunted as he strained as much as possible to move the bell enough, and when he was about to pass out, he let go of the rope and fell to the ground with a grunt.

Several bell tolls reverberated around the place, so loud that the boy thought his ears would explode. His whole body vibrated with each toll. They rang for long seconds, almost as if mocking the haste he had had in getting up there.

As they lessened in intensity, the boy gradually relaxed his breathing. Maybe it was the soothing sound of the bells or the fatigue after everything he had gone through, but he felt his body stop shaking and calm down.

The boy closed his eyes and took a deep breath as the last toll sounded. After all, his rational side was right. Not only was he in an abandoned town, but something horrible had happened there many years ago. There was no point in being optimistic in a place like this. His salvation was not there.

Getting so nervous wouldn't help him find a way to get home. If he wanted to survive in that strange place, he had to calm down and think things through rationally.

Feeling somewhat more at ease, he stood up and descended from the bell tower. When he went outside, he was surprised to see that it was already getting dark. He must have been so engrossed in trying to ask for help that he hadn't noticed.

A breeze froze his face, and at that moment he was grateful for wearing the uniform jacket. However, he doubted it would be enough to keep him warm during the night. He would have to find a safe place to sleep, although the idea of spending the night in a town full of the dead didn't appeal to him. He could try to go back the way he had come, but it was already too late.

"God, how I wish I could go back to that stupid beach," he murmured.

Without any other options, he walked down the main street while looking for a house that was in good condition. He could stay in the house he had been in before, but there was no way he could sleep knowing there were two skeletons in the next room.

He quickly found a good candidate to spend the night in. The house was on the outskirts of the town, and maybe that's why it was almost intact. Sure, it had broken windows and a shattered door, but all things considered, it seemed like a very nice house. The interior of the house was much better than he had expected. There were some stains of what appeared to be blood on the walls, which made him a little nervous. However, there was no debris or glass on the floor and he could walk easily. It even looked like someone had cleaned it up.

He moved almost blindly inside. The sun had completely set, and now the only source of light he had was the full moon. "An abandoned house in a ghost town? What a great idea," he joked while trying not to trip. Perhaps it was because of the creepiness of his situation, but talking (even though he was alone) made him feel safer.

A reflection near the dining room caught his attention. The moonlight was coming in through the window like a spotlight, illuminating the table and the book that was on it.

He approached, almost excited by his discovery. The cover of the book was full of dust, but it seemed to be in good condition. It was a thick volume with the corners covered in metal, which gave it a mysterious air.

He approached the window to try and read what was on the cover, but he couldn't understand anything. He didn't even know how to pronounce those words. He opened the book halfway and searched through the pages for something legible. There were some detailed drawings of plants, but the text was a complete mystery to him.

Puzzled, he took out the note he had found in his uniform and placed it next to the book. They were different languages. Was he in a foreign country? He was eager to travel to another country, but this was not his idea of a "perfect vacation."

He flipped through the book a little more, now in a better mood. Although he couldn't understand anything that was written, he was drawn to the words, the shape of the letters, and the drawings. He wanted to understand what it said. He decided that he would investigate more about it the next day.

A dull sound brought him back to reality. It was similar to a snap, but it was repeated rhythmically and quickly. He didn't know of any animal that made a sound like that. It seemed to follow a pattern as if it were a call or something similar. Could it be Morse code?

He grabbed the book firmly and exited the house as fast as he could, running towards the sound. If he was correct, it could be a person. Even though it sounded strange to him, it was not out of the question that he was speaking a language he did not understand. He couldn't pass up the possibility of finding someone else in that deserted town.

He turned through the streets as he ran, getting closer and closer to the sound. Maybe it was a survivor of the disaster that seemed to have devastated the town, or maybe it was someone who had heard the bell and had come to rescue him. "Please," he murmured, with a spark of hope. He was so close that he could almost see it. He made the turn onto the town's main street with a big smile on his face, expecting to see a group of people. But there was no one there.

In front of him was a monstrous creature about four meters tall. It was turned away, but as soon as it heard the boy it stopped snapping and slowly turned around until it made eye contact with him. It had a humanoid appearance, though its skin was all of a grayish color. At the end of its hands, it had long, sharp claws like knives that shone under the moonlight. It had a skeletal torso, but it looked dirty and slimy. The worst of all was its face. It looked like a human face, but it was grotesquely deformed to the point where it looked like it was screaming permanently. Its eyes were completely white and instead of hair, it had several horns protruding from its head.

The monster stared at him while it started to emit a deep sound, like a moan. The boy stood still. He wanted to run, but his body had stopped responding. There was no rational explanation for this. The monster's moan grew louder and louder until it abruptly stopped. They stared at each other for a few seconds, expectant.

With a bizarre head movement, the monster broke its silence to emit a terrifying shriek that froze the boy's blood. Its limbs began to move independently as if the monster was convulsing, then it started running towards the boy at full speed.

Peace Sign
A. Hoshino
A. Hoshino