Proofreaders: Allie, Delilah S, Gwen, Hiro, and Red
Surprise!!! To start off our Halloween celebration, here's our 1st release. Enjoy. 8D
A drop of water falls into the sink and causes a ring of ripples. I tighten the tap and one last drop drips out slowly before it falls quiet again.
“Hurry up, Sunny! We’re leaving!”
I hear Chief’s voice coming from the stairs and I rush over with my lunch. All six of my roommates are standing by the stairs as they roll their eyes or give me a slap for my sloth-like speed.
My name is Xiao Yu and I am a newbie freshman at the prestigious Northern Yu Institution, majoring in engineering physics.
NY is a modern experimental institution that has its own junior high, senior high and college. The requirements to enter are impossibly high but it hasn’t stopped the crowds of applicants from trying to enter. I was lucky to squeeze by and get into NY’s senior high by a single point and then easily into the college with a fifteen-mark freebie for NY senior high students.
My dorm is Room 308 in the Engineering Physics Men’s Dormitory building. The washrooms are right across from our room door. It’s pretty convenient for a midnight piss but not that great when you want to eat, especially when a certain smell wafts in through the wide open door in the summertime.
Perhaps it’s not the best idea to talk about that this close to dinnertime.
The person mumbling while pushing his glasses is the Chief, Wu Fan. He’s obviously our dorm chief since he’s the oldest.
He is two years older than us and is the current Vice Secretary Treasurer of our Student Council. He’s an extremely naggy person and his vision is so horrible that he’s even had surgery done. His glasses have always been one of our prank tools. We would sneakily put them on the target while they are asleep and wake them up. Then we would simply wait, two seconds at the most, for them to howl in confusion and dizziness－it works every time without fail.
The two walking really close together in the forefront are Cheng and Eng. Their real names are Mu Mu and Kong Linglin. Both of them are ethnic minorities; Mu Mu is Uyghur and Kong Linglin is Hui, I believe.
Mu Mu has a light and slightly shy-looking complexion while Kong Linglin looks like a typical person of minority race－you can tell right away he isn’t Han. But the two of them are a good match for some reason. Mu Mu isn’t from a pure Uyghur background so he isn’t restricted to certain foods and would always fight us for hotdogs. Even so, he always gets food from the cafeteria with Kong Linglin so we jokingly call them Cheng and Eng after the famous conjoined twins.
The quiet one in the back is Glooms and he’s kind of gloomy. I personally feel that he’s not a person you would want to be around. His name is Xu Ping, a name that’s as plain as his looks. His academic grades are average; he’s okay at sports; it seems as if he’s mediocre at everything and he never stands out. There’s not much difference whether he attends our group activities or not. He’s just a person you could easily forget about.
Furthermore, there are burn marks all over his neck, hands and feet. There’s no way these marks could be covered up and people always give him strange glances. Plus he’s not good with socializing so it’s as if there’s always a wall around him.
And Casanova, one moment please…
There, there! That tall guy over there getting surrounded by girls the moment he steps out of the dormitory building is Yuan Fei, a.k.a. Casanova.
He’s the evil love child of nasty looks and vain personality. Why does he look nasty, you might ask? See, I’ve always believed that guys who are too good-looking are just trouble for our fellow female students, especially this Casanova, whose moral level is zero and who keeps switching girlfriends every other day! And I say vain personality because this guy is super duper annoying! He’s the stuck up type who can utter one thing and drive you nuts.
In conclusion, this person is less than a piece of shit in the mind of yours truly.
And Sunny would be me, all things to all people, naturally, because of my awesome people skills and charming good looks.
Cubs is the youngest in 308. He’s actually a year younger than me because he started school early, I think. See this little obedient guy beside me? Isn’t he cute? Don’t you just want to pinch his chubby little cheeks? His real name is Jin Can. It’s kind of silly but I don’t put him down because he’s my young grasshopper.
All right. Introductions, complete. Trek for food, also complete. We always eat in the cafeteria due to the unique geographical location of our room and today is no exception.
Mu Mu goes with Kong Linglin to Hui People’s Cafeteria to get food and they meet up with us afterwards. A rough battle is inevitable with seven guys and one table full of food. I know Cubs likes chicken so I put my chicken on his plate; Cubs knows I like fish so he sneaks his fillets over to me. We share a knowing smile and dig in.
“Hey Chief, could we use the meeting room t’night?” Kong Linglin asks through a mouthful of roasted beef.
“No activities planned tonight, why?” Wu Fan pushes his glasses.
Kong Linglin flashes a mysterious smile as if he knows some juicy secret. “Mu Mu heard about this super cool spirit game and you need an unused rectangular room. We wanna try it out t’night.”
“Oh, really? How do you play?”
I’m immediately intrigued; I have always been interested in spirit games like these. I wouldn’t be exagerrating when I say I have tried every single one out there. Sadly nothing’s ever came from playing them but I’ve never gotten bored of them.
Mu Mu hurriedly wolfs down the roasted eggplant he had in his mouth and starts explaining. “You get a really dark rectangular room and four people to stand, one in each corner of the room, and then the first person would start running. The first person taps the back of the second person when he gets there, and he says ‘tagged’. Then the second person runs and gets to the third person and says ‘tagged’. After one lap, there’ll be one person who reaches the wall and he says ‘touched’. Then this person keeps going and says ‘tagged’ when he taps someone. Then after a few laps no one will say ‘touched’ anymore…”
He flashes a creepy smile. “Meaning another person appears outta nowhere!”
“Oh, oh, I’ve heard about this before,” Cubs exclaims, “I read it somewhere in a book.”
“Sounds fun. I’m in!” I raise my hand right away.
“Alright! You, me, Mu Mu－that makes three. Who else?” Kong Linglin is practically jumping up and down with excitement.
“No!” Wu Fan, our party-pooper Chief, says, “I can’t grant access to the meeting room for personal purposes. It’s against school policy. Not to mention you should stay away from these games—who knows what might happen?”
“Yeah, Sunny, I don’t think it’s a good idea either.” Cubs tugs on my sleeve cautiously. “I heard people who play that kinda stuff run into weird things. Some even lose their lives. Don’t do it.”
“What’s there to be afraid of? What you heard’s prolly just bullshit people say on the internet.” I pat my chest confidently. “I’ve played them all. All the talk about your hands moving by themselves is bullshit. Once I asked who my future wife is, then I secretly pushed it in the way I wanted and I ended up with the school cheerleader! Can you believe it?”
“That’s right. She’s never been single－the board doesn’t work.” Someone says in a condescending tone.
My anger flares and I glare at the owner of said voice－Yuan Fei. “Shut up Flying Ape, unless you’re coming with us tonight!”
“Psh, I wouldn’t bother with such stupidity.”
“Chicken!” I narrow my eyes. “I suggest you stay on your planet of the apes if you’re too scared to play human games. Earth’s a dangerous place, you know!”
“Reverse psychology won’t work on me, child.” He smirks.
This guy’s just asking for it, isn’t he?
“Okay, settle down.” Wu Fan says impatiently, nudging his glasses again. “If you want to play, go find your own room; I can’t give you access to the meeting room.”
“Oh c’mon please, Chief, you got the keys in your pocket!” I beg in a soft, whiny voice.
“No means no. As a member of the student council, I can’t let you guys use it for personal purposes; as Chief, even though I’m an atheist, I still think there are just too many strange things humans can’t explain…”
I, being a smart cookie, cover my ears while the others all lower their heads in unison and pretend to not hear him, but Chief just goes on with his long winded lecture as if nothing has happened. Chief’s lecture skills are probably the best in the whole school. From natural sciences to cosmic energy, from feudal imperialism to modern society, he can make any little small issue sound directly related to the end of humanity itself, as if us hypothetically summoning anything would turn the world back fifty years.
I sneak a peek at Kong Linglin and Mu Mu, and they give me a look that I return. We then raise our hands in surrender, saying that we will not play that game for the sake of mankind. Unfortunately for us, once Chief gets going it’s hard for him to stop, and he doesn’t give up even when we have returned to our room to do homework.
Chief leaves for the night study block with an armful of books a bit past seven o’clock, and after, Xu Ping the Gloomy leaves without a word and doesn’t come back. Thereafter Kong Linglin, Mu Mu and I start discussing where we can find a rectangular classroom.
“C’mon Cubs, we need a fourth person.”
I try to get him to fill in the fourth spot, but neither threats nor bribes work with the little scaredy-cat. I guess even my obedient grasshopper has his limits.
I push. “What’re you worried about? You got the three of us going with you. C’mon, don’t be so superstitious. It’ll be fun; nothing’ll happen!”
“I said, no!” Cubs shouts and digs in his heels, leaving me hot under the collar. “You guys shouldn’t play it either, Sunny. You never know.”
“Scaredy-cat! Chicken! Shoo, shoo, shoo. Get outta here!” I hiss, frustrated.
I think he is taken back by my anger and he deflates like a pin-pricked balloon. He droops down over his homework though his pen barely moves. I can tell he has a sad expression on his face.
But I stand my ground.
“You can’t play without a classroom anyway…” Cubs mutters with a slight sniffle.
“Hey, hey, let’s not make things hard fer anyone.” Kong Linglin budges in. “And Xiao Yu, go easy on ‘im. B’sides it’s only seven-thirty. We’ll find someone in time for sure.”
“But what about the room?” Mu Mu asks. “We can’t get any room without a key. Not to mention we need a room that’s unused; the whole school’s locked down by then.”
“We can always hide in a classroom and come out when night study’s over,” I suggest.
“Then don’t count on sleeping in our beds tonight,” Mu Mu sighs.
Then, Yuan Fei shuts his book, goes over and pulls open Chief’s drawer. He fishes out a ring of keys with a pompous look. “Is this what you’re looking for?”
“Ah!” I let out a yelp－How come we didn’t think of that?
I immediately reach out to snatch it from him but, being taller, that stupid monkey raises it high above me like it’s his treasured banana.
“Say! Isn’t it time for you to go back to where you came from, King Kong?” I spit between my clenched teeth. “You better hurry back before your passport expires!”
“Just how many nicknames do I have?”
For once, he doesn’t look so good, and that in turn makes me feel especially good.
“Oh, I’m sorry. I just have a habit of calling it how I see it. It’s not your fault you look how you look.”
“Oh is that so?” He gives a careless shrug. “Well, it seems like Chief forgot his keys. I better get it to him in case anybody has ill intents.”
“Oi!” Mu Mu pulls me back before I tackle that stupid gorilla. “Why can’t you guys just get along for once?”
Said gorilla puts on a contemplating face. “Probably murdered his whole family in my past life.”
I spit, “And I’mma make it even in this life!”
Kong Linglin interrupts. “Alright, quit bickerin’, you’re not in first grade no more.”
He puts an arm around Yuan Fei with a smile so delightful I swear I can see his saliva pooling. “So how ‘bout it, Casanova? We might even summon some spirit babes, iunno, maybe Nefertiti or Phryne. We’ll let ya have dibs.”
“No, thanks.” He turns him down without a thought.
I stare daggers at him. “Then give us the key!”
He casually glances over at me. “Why should I? It wasn’t yours to begin with.”
“You’re just asking for it, aren’t you?” I threaten.
“Is this how you beg?”
“What? Who’s begging? You’re the chicken who’s too scared to play,” I retort.
“No, I’ve played it, and it was lame.”
“Wait,” I do a double take, “you have?”
“Well, duh. It’s been around for a while,” he explains unenthusiastically. “I was in high school. The four of us ran around a room for a couple dozen times but nothing happened. In the end we gave up ‘cause we got tired of running. It was a waste of time.”
“Maybe you did somethin’ wrong?” Mu Mu says suspiciously. “Didn’t follow all the rules?”
“Cheng!” Cubs looks anxious and his voice jumps an octave. “You make it sound like you want something to come out!”
Sigh. Cubs, you just made the entire male population look bad.
Yuan Fei shrugs. “Whatever the reason, it was lame.”
“What was that I heard? Tired?” I cackle. “I guess things aren’t always as they seem－tired after couple dozen laps around a room? I think you should just stay outta this. I sure don’t want little missy here fainting on us and end up having us carry her back.”
“Oh yeah? Let’s see who faints first!” Yuan Fei’s face darkens and his brows arch up in challenge. All of a sudden, a thunderstorm seems to brew between us.
“Hey, Casanova, Sunny, let’s behave.” Mu Mu tries to break us up.
“Leave it. We finally got four now anyway,” Kong Linglin dissuades.
Mu Mu and Kong Linglin are sure glad to avoid the crossfire, watching WWIII about to go down with a bag of popcorn in their hands. Oh, how much I’d give to punch those two in the smacker－what have they been teaching kids these days?
Four suspicious figures quietly slip out the dorm after the lights go out at eleven o’clock and head straight for the meeting room on the top floor of the classroom block.
The desolate NY school yard in the dead of night makes my skin crawl. Only the shuffling of leaves from the bristling wind whooshing between branches resonates throughout the enormous school yard. Dark clouds enshroud the moon and the wind seems especially cold. I can’t help but shiver with goose bumps all over me. In summary: creepy.
I might be braver than most but don’t all scary stuff happen on nights as pitch black as this? Plus the moon’s nowhere to be found while the cold wind blows tonight; certainly sounds like the setting of many horror stories out there.
“You’re sure holding on awfully tight. You’re not scared, are you?” Yuan Fei’s ridiculing voice interrupts my thoughts.
Huh? Wasn’t it Mu Mu who was beside me?
I quickly let go and yell in complaint. “Open the goddamn light, Cheng! I almost ran into a wall, for god’s sakes.”
A beam of light appears and I sigh in relief, but Mu Mu covers it with his hands again.
“It’s too bright.”
“What’re you talking ‘bout? It’s so quiet; there’s not a soul!” I hiss.
“I hope not. Or else our brave Sunny won’t have a chance to scream his lungs out,” Yuan Fei taunts.
“You stupid Ape! You just do nothing all day but cross me, don’t you?” I spit.
“But it’s my biggest contribution for the advancement of socialism,” he retorts.
“Put a lid on it, both of you.” Kong Linglin grabs me by my collar and straight out drags me into the corridor of the classroom block.
I think the clouds has been blown away because the silvery moonlight is peeking through some windows at the end of the dark corridor. Oddly shaped clouds slowly float across the sky and contorts the thin, long shadows casted by the hazy moonlight. The light and shadow play off the ever-changing shapes like a kaleidoscope. Our leather shoes make sharp squeaks against the floor and send it far into the darkness.
The four of us glance at each other and take off our shoes in unison－R.I.P. here lies four good pairs of socks.
With cold marble underneath my feet I suddenly feel appreciation for my school’s unique school motto: cleanliness. If you run a white gloved finger over things it might not be white after, but you can at least be assured that there won’t be anything on the floor. No need to worry about stepping on glass or anything like that.
When we finally get to the fifth floor, Mu Mu opens the door carefully and the four of us slide in, shutting the door behind us.
“Alright! Step 1: Success.”
The four of us bump our right fists together－the way we celebrate victory in 308.
“We’ll head to the back. You guys figure out where you’re standing,” says Kong Linglin before he drags Mu Mu to the back of the room.
“You go behind me; I don’t wanna touch you.” I shoot a glare at Yuan Fei even if I’m not sure he can see it.
“Whatever,” he replies indifferently.
Hah, I knew you were a ‘whatever’ kind of person.
“Xiao Yu!” Kong Linglin lowers his voice but it still echoes a little in the quiet meeting room. “Close those curtains over there. We can’t have any light.”
As soon as we close the curtains of the only two windows in the room, it becomes pitch black—so dark I can’t see my own fingers.
“So we all know the rules, right?” I hear Mu Mu’s voice from the other side of the room.
“I’ll start first. The person ahead of me is Yuan Fei, the person ahead of him is Xiao Yu, and Kong Linglin is ahead of Xiao Yu. There will be three ‘tagged’ and then one ‘touched.’ Stop if you don’t hear ‘touched’ anymore and rendezvous at the podium and we get the hell outta here!”
“Got it.” I jiggle my legs around impatiently. “Let’s start already.”
I can’t believe Mu Mu has thought so far ahead; he doesn’t think something will actually happen, does he?
“I’mma say this beforehand: you’re dead if you call out the wrong thing on purpose!” Kong Linglin threatens. “I’mma hunt you down myself.”
My shoulders droop down in the dark－I was planning to pull a prank on them after a couple of laps.
After Mu Mu’s ‘ready-set-go’, all that’s left in the dark room are running sounds. First, I hear Mu Mu say ‘tagged,’ then after I hear Yuan Fei from behind me I run along the wall to the other corner.
“Tagged!” I call out after touching someone’s plushy back.
I hear that person take off and soon I hear Kong Linglin’s voice.
Rinse and repeat.
What a boring game! I have touched the wall four times so far. Other than that it’s just been running and more running and calling out ‘tagged’…
I bet the other guys think it’s boring, too. It’s just that no one wants to be the first to say it so we keep going around the room. The only way of telling one person from another in the dark is from their footsteps, pants and calls.
Thump, thump, thump.
Heavy footsteps approach from behind and my shoulder gets tapped lightly.
I continue running, secretly regretting agreeing to this game, until I reach a plushy back.
“Tagged.” I drawl.
When is this gonna end?
Minutes slip by but I’ve made up my mind on not being the first to crack. I just run forward without thinking and by the time I snap back to reality I realise I haven’t heard ‘touched’ for a long time.
“Tagged,” a voice calls out behind me.
I start running and I say my line when I tag someone.
But wait, there should be a “touched” for every three ‘tagged,’ and I should’ve hit the wall for every three times I say ‘tagged.’ But I haven’t! There has to be someone ahead of me so that I never touch the wall!
But how is that possible?
After someone says ‘tagged’ behind me, I start running, but slower this time.
Who’s ahead of me? Is it Kong Linglin or…
Touching the back before me sends a numbing chill straight down my spine. I strain my ears and listen; if, for some reason, there really is a fifth person, I should be able to tell their voice apart from the others.
“Tagged,” says Kong Linglin.
“Tagged,” says Mu Mu.
“Tagged,” says Yuan Fei.
Hold it right there! Yuan Fei is supposed to be behind me! But I didn’t get tapped!
“Tagged.” A voice rings from behind me.
It’s slightly off-key because everyone is trying to keep their voice low, but I can clearly tell that it’s Mu Mu.
I suddenly feel soft in my knees. It should be Yuan Fei who is behind me! I leap forward and hold my hand out instinctively but my arm is shaking. I pull back sharply when I touch something.
The person takes off.
“Tagged.” It’s Kong Linglin’s voice.
“Tagged.” It’s Yuan Fei’s.
Mu Mu should be the one after Kong Linglin!
Who’s messing our order up?
“Tagged.” Someone lightly touches my back.
I don’t even bother listening to the voice; I just want to stop, I want to yell ‘stop!’ But the words get stuck in my mouth while my legs continue to run.
I can’t stop shaking but I’m don’t dare to call out. It’s not about losing to Yuan Fei anymore－I’m scared shitless! Am I the only one who’s notice this? The others haven’t yet? What would that thing do if I call it quits now? I don’t want that thing to notice me!
Xiao Yu courage level: 0.
“Tagged.” I swallow some saliva to moisten my parched throat.
Did they not notice my wavering voice? Why didn’t they take a second to tease me about it? Not even Flying Ape? What’s wrong with them?
The room is still pitch black. No matter how much I squint or stare I can only make out unknown blackish shadowy figures, that is, until the next round when the person behind me stops and remains silent. My heartbeat quickens to the point I have difficulty breathing.
Then, a hand is on my shoulder. I’m rooted to the spot, scared stiff.
“Let’s stop.” It’s Yuan Fei! “Mu Mu, open the flashlight.”
I can hear the wavering in his voice from where I am. I guess he noticed, too, that there was one extra ‘person.’
A beam of light flickers on from another corner of the room and I hear Kong Linglin’s voice. “Everyone to the podium.”
I instinctively grab on to Yuan Fei’s hand, too scared to consider it embarrassing. He holds on tightly, the sweat collecting between our palms revealing our unsettled nerves. We head towards the podium under the guidance of Mu Mu’s flashlight but at snail’s pace.
What about…Is it heading over there too?
My legs are spaghetti right now. I’ve done tons of dangerous stuff in my almost twenty years, whether it’s bungee jumping and roller coasters or spirit games. I love that rush of adrenaline and sense of accomplishment when you’ve overcome something dangerous.
But I’ve never thought about the other world.
Humans are the rulers of this earth, no? All the horror stories of ghosts and spirits and demons are all fictitious, no? The so called supernatural phenomena are just what we call what we can’t explain, no? How could they actually exist?
Mom used to whisper by my ear when I was young: If you don’t behave…the big bad wolf is gonna eat you! Despite this I would wait countless nights for anything to crawl through my window but to no prevail. I actually teased wild captive wolves in the zoo with a branch when I was seven, but that was because I knew there was no danger, not because I was brave.
Roller coasters operate on the laws of physics; bungee jumping takes many safety precautions; wild beasts cannot escape the confines of their cages. Whether it’s Flying over Yellow River or Tight Roping Across the Great Wall, all you have to do is use bravery to accept the possibility of failure under extremely high safety factors. Therefore, bravery is just doing something that others don’t dare to do.
I’m brave because I dare to. I dare to because I understand the risks and dangers and when I know there’s no immediate threat on my life I can dive right into it.
But I’ve never considered the existence of another independent factor.
What is it? What kind of power does it possess? Will it harm me? Will it kill me? Am I its match? Can I escape?
The most feared in this world is the unknown.
Mu Mu carefully sweeps the flashlight across the room. There are no suspicious figures or things other than the four of us. I let out a sigh of relief.
“Let’s head back.” Kong Linglin’s voice is very calm, and it is because it’s too calm that I suspect he noticed the fifth ‘person’ too.
His proposal gets immediate approval from everyone and Mu Mu keeps the light on, not worrying about getting caught. The four of us huddle close around the only light source. No one says another word.
Then a crisp, clear sound resonates in the quiet building.
My footsteps falter. “What was that?”
“Huh?” Mu Mu turns to me with a highly-strung look. “Quit it. I’m so tired I could drop so quit playin’!”
I can hear fatigue in his voice; I can tell he’s on the brink of snapping. I guess they all noticed, huh.
“Oh, nothing. Just heard some water dripping. Don’t worry ‘bout it.” I quickly give him a reassuring pat.
“Probably just a loose faucet in some lab.” Yuan Fei pushes me forward. “Let’s hurry, don’t wanna bump into the night watch.”
I lean against the wall to get more support for my wobbly legs. I can feel Yuan Fei’s hands shaking ever so slightly on my shoulders but I take some comfort from the warmth. I suppose even my arch nemesis can be useful once in a while.
The sound of water droplets echoes throughout the fifth floor. Its acuity makes it sound close but the empty echoes sound distant.
I look back at the staircase and leave the building with the guys in silence, but somehow that tinkling sound keeps ringing in my ears.
Dairytea's comment: Wh-what does you guys think of it so far? There's more to come very, very soon.
The Water Goes Drip-Drop - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.