Fuyu woke with her arms spread across the desk in front of her. Dazed, she tried to get a grasp of her surroundings. A classroom that felt all too familiar.
Each breath she took felt as though she was forcing air through a sheet of plastic. Struggling each time as the density of her chest grew. Trying to stand she stumbled from her chair and slammed against the hard, wooden floor.
Slowly she began to feel a sense of ease and her senses gradually returned to her. She could see a woman’s face drifting away from her. Her mouth was moving but Fuyu could barely make out the words. “Don’t… leave…
Who was this woman and what was she trying to tell me? What did she mean by don’t leave?
As Fuyu’s vision fully came to, she found herself laying on the ground of an old classroom in between two rows of desks. I feel like I’ve been here before… she thought back to herself. “No!” she then reconsidered; I know I’ve been here already.
The words don’t leave echoed through her head once again and she made the quick decision to begin writing it down. She stood herself up and could immediately feel that that her strength hadn’t entirely caught up with the rest of her. Making her way to the chalkboard at the front of the class she grabbed a single piece of chalk resting on the chalk ledge. She began writing it down letter by letter. Imagining the woman’s mouth moving as she attempted to make out the whole sentence. The more she tried to picture it clearly, the more pain she found herself in as a throbbing headache sought to derail her. Fuyu became so caught up in her own thoughts that a faint shadow casting over her hand as it shifted across the board went completely unnoticed.
Even the slight creeks in the floorboard failed to catch her attention. She pushed the chalk to the right and swung it back around completing the letter ‘e’. She read through the words once more. “Don’t leave.” She could picture the woman speaking it clearly, but the following words fell completely incomprehensible. She closed her eyes to try and get a better visual when another creek in the floorboard finally manage to alert her.
Ducking out the way just in time, she barely managed to stay alive as a sharp object grazed the side of her neck. Sending a streak of blood across the chalkboard.
Fuyu lunged backwards nearly tripping over a chair just beneath her. The room reverberated with the sound of wheels rolling across the floor as the chair slowly slid towards the window. She carefully turned her eyes up towards a reflection of herself staring her in the face. Blood running off her fingertips and down a jagged, broken piece of glass. Dried vomit plastered down the side of her mouth. As she glared at the reflection’s face, something became clear to her. She’d seen this before. She’d seen all of it before.
The reflection’s eyes spoke to Fuyu with pain, confusion, and hopelessness. Worst of all, Fuyu felt no sense of humanity in the reflection’s visage. That terrified her. As she fixed her lips to speak the reflection lunged at her once again.
Fuyu leaped out the way, hopping on top of the teacher’s desk beside her. She shuffled her way over it and dashed for the exit.
Flying down flights of stairs, she could hear footsteps pattering behind her. Fuyu’s yearning to flee to safety had grown so thick her legs almost began to glide as she sprinted for her life. She jumped to the bottom level, stumbling to the ground; only needing mere moments before she was on her feet once again. She sped straight for the main lobby. Double doors to her left, a vast hallway to her right. Something deep within her spoke to her in that very moment. Not left, It’s a dead end. Go right. And without hesitation she darted to her right and made off down the hall. Far too afraid to even as much as glance behind her.
A door to the left. Use it!
Her mind running nonstop, she tore through the doors into an old nurses office. Spotting a closet in the back of the room she swiftly stashed away inside it. Through the gap in between the closet doors, she fixed herself to get a clear view of the doorway. “Shit!” she whispered in frustration. The door had been left wide open. As if calling the reflection towards her location. Could it be enough? She fearfully asked herself. Footsteps began making its way down the hall. Getting closer bit by bit, Fuyu’s heart paced faster with each step. Then momentarily, her heart stopped. The reflection passed by the office. Panting and searching around. She let off an infuriated cry as she trekked down the hall before screaming out, “Please. Get me out of here!”
Fuyu felt a strong familiarity with the reflection. She began to have flashbacks of repeatedly waking up in class 6-2; and with it, all of the pain she’d endured. If she thought about it too strongly, she could almost feel herself slipping as well.
The reflection finally made her way off down the hallway. Her footsteps fading with her increasing distance. Fuyu carefully stepped out from the closet. Ensuring that not even as much as the sound of her breathing could be heard.
Fuyu peaked outside into the hallway ensuring that it was clear. With a bit of relief, she slid the door closed. For some reason, the room being closed helped give her a perception of calmness. As her nerves began to settle, she could feel the blood trickling down the side of her neck.
She turned back towards interior of the office and walked towards a desk a few feet up ahead. Scanning the room for bandages or any kind of first aid she could come across. As she approached the table, she found herself gravitating towards the old chair that sat right in front of it. She placed her hand gently on top of it and spun it around.
A somber expression flowed over her face.
“I remember this place…”
She walked over to the windows along the back wall and peered outside to the strange nighttime that lurked beyond the walls of the school. The school playground could be seen in its entirety from where she stood. She could imagine the sun pouring over it from up above, casting shadows from the trees that lined the back fence.
“You’ll be able to do whatever it is that you want one day.” A voice suddenly spoke out from behind.
Fuyu turned towards a now brightly lit room. She had no way of being certain, but the time of day felt right around noon.
A lady in a doctors coat looked towards her from her seat. Slightly turning her chair towards Fuyu. She made a subtle smile as she pulled another chair over beside her.
“You’ll be sitting under those cherry blossoms that you love so much from sunrise to sundown… But, for today, you just need to be a little patient.”
Fuyu slowly walked over towards the lady and sat down in the chair in front of her. Both looking at each other the entire time.
The lady the reached over towards Fuyu with a gauze and carefully wiped the wound on her neck. Fuyu didn’t feel the need to flinch or move away. All she felt was… calmness. The lady placed a bandage on Fuyu’s neck and gave her cheek a slight pinch.
“You’re doing better each day so really; you have nothing to worry about sweetheart.”
The lady followed her statement with another warm smile.
Fuyu’s lips quivered. She could feel her heart trying to speak out.
“Your father will be back from Kyoto later tonight so maybe we’ll all watch a movie or something. I mean, he’s usually busy preparing for our move to Korea but I’m sure I can convince him to spare an hour or two”
She kept with her usual behavior of ending each sentence with a gentle smile.
Fuyu’s eyes began to swell with tears. Her emotions were struggling to remain steady. Pushing against her best attempts to stay relaxed.
The nurse stood from her seat and headed towards the door. “You can go play upstairs in the classroom with your friends but for today no playground. Okay? Wait here one moment while I go grab you a new mask. It seems like I ran out”
Fuyu watched her make off down the hallway with a face full of sorrow. “Mom… please don’t leave,” she finally pleaded.
The sunlight gradually dissipated, and the room faded back to its dark decrepit atmosphere. Fuyu sat in the chair unmoving, and alone.
As the tears barely hanging over the edge of her eyelids broke free and began pushing down the sides of her cheeks, Fuyu closed her eyes and just let the moment pass by. As she opened them, she looked upon the lonely, rugged chair in front of her. The fabric decaying and littered with dust and mold. She ran her hand against the cut on her neck and realized that it had practically healed. Before contemplating the details, a sudden urge to check the time overcame her and she immediately searched around the room for a clock. Finding one hanging on the wall just above the window. The time was 5:38pm.
12 minutes! She thought to herself.
“I still have time!”
She stepped out into the hallway and peered in the direction leading towards the main lobby, but after remembering her mother walk in the opposite direction, she had a change of mind.
After anxiously making her way down the hall Fuyu arrived at a home economics classroom. She walked in and a waft of nostalgia breezed through her. Vague memories of her and her classmates from her elementary school years began painting themselves in front of her. Like a slideshow of old videos playing one after the other.
She headed towards the corner of the room where the table seemed conspicuously out of place. Laid across the tabletop were numerous polaroid photos. She looked at them closely. One by one. All wearing the same uniform, all girls, all of them with their faces blurred, but…. all seemingly her. However, one thing did stand out. Each photograph was taken in a different location. As to where exactly, though, remained a mystery.
No matter how many clues she tried to pinpoint, she could never be certain as to exactly where those photographs were taken. She had a gut feeling that they were all within the school, but that was as far as her analysis would take her. One picture, however, didn’t quite feel like the others.
“It always happens… different place, probably a different scenario. But always… It always happens.”
Fuyu nearly jumped at the sight of her reflection standing in front of her once again. Slowly stepping towards the exit her reflection menacingly always turned itself to keep Fuyu in front of her. “What are you talking about?” Fuyu questioned her for the first time. Somehow, the idea of a conversation with this character seemed ludicrous.
She held out a polaroid towards Fuyu with the face blurred just like the rest. “Except for this one… I know how you die in this one,” the reflection taunted.
Fuyu darted for the door and the reflection lunged at her. Grabbing her just in time.
“No matter how hard I try I either kill myself or end up dying by one of you!” the reflection cried.
Fuyu screamed out and tried with all her might to fight back.
“So, maybe I’ll live if I just kill you all first!” the reflection chanted as she raised the bloody glass shard and forced it into Fuyu’s side. Fuyu managed to push back with just enough strength to break free and run towards the lobby. Clutching the photograph in one hand and pressing against her side with the other. Barely able to walk she looked at the photo as carefully as she could manage but is startled when the reflection dashed past the other end of the hallway. She doesn’t seem to know where she is, so that may by her some time.
Fuyu continued towards the lobby until she finally arrived back at the usual intersection. Double doors heading towards the gym just up ahead. Blood gushing out her side. She felt her consciousness slipping. She looked down at the photo one last time. The girl in a school uniform, sitting in a pool of water. No… a pond… This one wasn’t taken at this school.
Just then footsteps grabbed her attention once again as her reflection began heading her way. Fuyu hadn’t realized the trail of blood that she began leaving behind her halfway down the hall.
Disbelief in her eyes, she sprinted back down the center hall. Initially intent on making her way back towards the staircase, she found two large doors at the end of the hall that she had yet to notice. She was almost certainly out of time. 12 minutes had to have passed by now, but if there was a sliver of a chance that she could break free she had to take it. Any longer at this pace and she’d be dead just from the blood loss.
Without hesitation she slammed through the doors and was utterly surprised when her feet landed on pavement. Genuine, outdoor pavement. She looked out to the courtyard, noting a memorable clock that stood right in the center at about 10 meters high. She glanced back before the doors closed behind her and saw her reflection gunning straight for her. No time to spare, she eyed the front gates and made a straight line for it. The night increasingly encroaching upon her. Like her reality was being funneled into an abyss.
Suddenly, she heard a voice yell out to her, “Don’t!”
Fuyu turned towards the voice and saw someone on the third floor. A girl. However, her warnings were too late as she was already past the gate. She stepped forward as to get a closer look at the person’s face. A reflection? No, it wasn’t. For once it was someone else. She gestured to call out to her, but her luck ran short as she was run over by a passing vehicle.
The large clock in the center of the school courtyard shifted to exactly 5:42pm.