Fuyu made her way outside the classroom.
“12 minutes…” she spoke to herself, “What am I supposed to figure out in twelve minutes?”
As she stepped forward through the doorway, she felt something faintly slip from her fingertips and caught sight of the moment a single polaroid landed on the floor. Resting directly underneath the wavering chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
The loops that had been haunting her time and time again were still churning, with Fuyu staged to endlessly be at the center of it all.
She turned forward to someone in the distance. A reflection of herself dragging its wrist across the walls languidly as it wavered onwards. Staring at it quietly, Fuyu contemplated how to undo the knot and slip in between the perpetual loop that was cause and effect. How could she stop herself from doing the same thing over and over again? How could she prevent herself from becoming the tortured soul that she now witnessed a mere few feet in front of her? She glanced down into her empty hands. The cherry blossom pedal from before had vanished. A false image… A materialization of her thoughts blending in with the environment. Crafted in her head like a dream. A deception.
Looking back at the reflection, Fuyu called out to gauge a response. Without much of a reaction, the reflection casually made off in the opposite direction. Walking away into the depths of the solemn and grim halls.
Fuyu began to follow her. Approaching the walls that the reflection stood just moments prior. A bloody arrow pointing straight ahead… into the palpable dark cavities that faintly resembled a school hallway. Taking a single step backwards, Fuyu looked into the encroaching darkness and nearly felt its breath walk across her skin. As though it was alive. Without hesitation, she made an about-face turn and headed into the opposite direction. She pushed forward down the hall, past classroom 6-2 and through the double doors. She continued until she landed at a set of stairs at the end of the hall.
Heading down, a faint whiff of nostalgia overcame her with each step she descended. Docking on the lower level she looked out to yet an all too familiar sight. The children’s shoe boxes.
A wall plastered with windows on her right-hand side and rows of shoe boxes to her left. The shadows of the old school garden drew itself in a dark contour across the floor beneath Fuyu’s feet as she walked steadily forward. Halfway through the hall she paused and gazed up at the ceiling. A voice crept into her ear and whispered lightly, “He was just staring at the ceiling the whole time.” the young voice murmured in a concerned tone. Fuyu peeked over out the corner of her eyes to see Toki grasping her by the shoulders, glancing up at the roof just above them. As if she was chiming along the script of a predetermined melody, Fuyu stepped towards the shoe boxes and carefully climbed her way to the top. Reaching over slightly, she began ramming one of the old ceiling tiles upwards; trying to nudge it loose. Barely able to reach, she managed to knock it with just enough force to have it come tumbling down to the ground. But aside from the dust that scuttled out, the distinct sound of something different… something metal, could be heard striking the floor. Fuyu climbed down off the boxes and stood over the fallen tile. Carefully scanning the debris, a small object gave the slightest shimmer from the moonlight that crawled through the windows.
A thread and needle.
She reached for it, and upon picking it up, gazed upon it like an archaeologist analyzing an excavated Egyptian artifact. A thread and needle, like any other would be… except for one small detail. The needle had been bent… and threaded with a red string.
She kept her eyes glued to the needle as she stood to her feet. Finally breaking her obsession, she redirected her focus unto the hole in the ceiling. A pained face with its mouth sewn together peered down back at her with its lifeless gawk, and then vanished with a blink.
She closed her eyes for a moment and imagined the lady in the kimono. Polaroid camera held up to her face as she snapped an image. The flash illuminated the space with a momentary blinding light. As the white fog dissipated the lady lowered the camera and revealed a horrifying appearance beneath.
Dead in front of her, Fuyu stared into the eyes of her own mother.
Like a dream within a dream Fuyu opened her eyes to the same daunting vicinity but saw nothing in front of her… except for a reflection of her own self. As swiftly as her reflexes could manage, she quickly shifted a step backwards as the reflection made a move towards her. They both paused and remained as still as time itself.
5:42… The clock hanging from the wall above the doorway just beyond the reflection read 5:42 perpetually.
Time was up…
The reflection made another step forward and Fuyu another step back. “This shit isn’t real,” Fuyu muttered as she observed the blood running from the reflection’s broken and mangled left hand. Unconsciously caressing her own as she imagined herself at some point having to suffer that same fate. “It never was,” the reflection purported as she suddenly lunged for Fuyu.
Caught on her back foot, Fuyu nearly fell over when she was grasped by the collar and her head swung through the window beside her. Flustered by the sudden impact, Fuyu forced whatever strength she could garner into her legs and attempted to stand upright, but her feet were swiped from beneath her. Followed by the full force of the reflection’s body pushing down on her as her neck pierced through a jagged window shard.
Speechless, Fuyu’s vision withered away as the reflection herself collapsed from blood loss. The thread and needle slipping from Fuyu’s grasp as she took her last breath.
She took another.