Proofreaders: Dairytea, Gwen, Hiro, and Red
What's gonna happen?! Read on to find out!
I hear Yuan Fei’s concerned voice beside me as I blink my eyes in confusion. Dazed, I survey my surroundings to find myself in the infirmary.
“You prolly feel a bit weak now ‘cause the nurse gave you a shot. Go back to sleep, ‘kay?”
“Cubs…” My voice is impossibly raspy.
“Chief tried calling again but no one picked up.”
The persistent yet mysterious drip-drop echoes in my mind and my head clears up in a flash. I jerk up and get off the bed but my legs collapse under me almost once they touch the ground. Only then I feel that my limbs are completely out of juice, and my temples throbbing hard.
“Xiao Yu! You okay?” He rushes over and helps me up. My hands are shaking as I grab on to his arm instinctively to keep my centre of gravity.
“Quick. To Cubs’. Quickly.”
I’ve had an ominous feeling ever since the drip-drop sound had started. I don’t know what it is. It might even be a thing of my imagination for all I know. But I can’t just hide and tremble in fear. Because it’s Cubs! Cubs, who is like a brother to me!
Yuan Fei tries to dissuade me since I can barely walk right now but I’m so concerned I could kill. So I shove him aside with all my strength and teeter out of the infirmary, only to fall again from my legs giving out on me once more.
I’ve never felt this useless before. I can’t do anything but beat my fists on the ground. The pain coming from them is nothing compared to the suffocating feeling in my chest. My eyes are already brimming with tears against my will.
Why did I have to run into this shit? Why can’t I fight off the ghouls and demons like the brave protagonists in novels? Why can’t I do anything but worry and fear, not even able to be by Cubs’ side.
I hate this! This useless, wimpy me. How I can’t do anything to change this. How I can’t even find the tiniest shred of courage.
I beat the floor even more furiously, treating it like my punching bag.
“Stop it! I’ll take ya there, okay?”
Yuan Fei takes my hands tightly into his and I notice it isn’t only mine that are doing the trembling.
We walk out, Yuan Fei supporting most of my weight. The students that we happen to pass by all give us odd looks. I guess both of our faces are fairly ghastly. Yuan Fei calls and gets Cubs’ address from Chief and we get on a cab.
The city zooms by the car window but I see none of it. I make a fist so tight that my nails are digging into my palms. I can’t tell whether the stickiness is sweat or blood. I just keep holding my fist for no reason really, as if I’m holding my erratic heartbeat within it.
Cubs lives in a well-known garden-styled community in the south of the city but our cab gets stopped by security before we even get near the gates. Seeing the crowd of people squished up against the heavy, metal gates and the police cars parked before them, my anxious heart actually miraculously slows down.
I- I guess I was right.
I feel a lump in my throat. I really wish Cubs would give me hard smack on the back and greet me with that silly smile of his.
But I know, from the bottom of my heart, that it won’t be possible. Ever.
“It might be someone else. Don’t get ahead of yourself.” Yuan Fei places his hand on my shoulder like he thinks I’m going to faint on him again.
I shake my head. I’m calm as can be. None of the worry or anxiety that I had in the beginning. None of the fear or sorrow from earlier. It’s like my senses have gone numb.
The process can’t possibly induce any more reactions if you already know the outcome.
I watch, dumbfounded, at the crowd, not knowing what to do. Just then, a familiar car slowly rolls through the crowd towards the gates. I linger for a moment, and then dart out after it. Fortunately, the crowd is making it hard for the car to go faster than snail speed. I knock on the window and a nervous-looking man glances at me. It takes him a moment to roll down the windows.
“You’re…Can’s roommate, right?” Cubs’ father asks.
“Yes! Mr. Jin, I’m Xiao Yu.” I’m not sure how to explain my presence so I just think of something on the spot. “I was talking with Can on the phone when I heard a noise and he hung up. I got worried so I came over.”
“Come, get in.” Mr. Jin’s expression becomes tense once more.
I hop in with Yuan Fei and we get in with no problem. There’s already several police cars parked in front of Cubs’ mansion. Mr. Jin gets out in a hurry as soon as the chauffeur parks the car and runs straight towards a huddle of people.
That woman bawling her eyes out is probably Cubs’ mom. She runs into Mr. Jin’s embrace once she spots him and starts crying harder.
Suddenly, there’s a movement in the huddle of people as police officers guide them apart. Then, medical staff in white coats comes walking out with a cot. I can’t recognize the person on it because the body’s completely covered with a piece of white cloth, including the face.
And that means, that it’s not a wounded person on the cot but a corpse.
I watch, stunned, as they lift the cot into the ambulance, slam the doors shut, and drive off. Somehow I’m not able to reattach myself with reality, and I continue to look in the direction off to where the ambulance disappeared. Yuan Fei gently holds my shoulder. I really appreciate this small act of his that is giving me some sort of support.
“Are you the roommates of the deceased?” An officer in casual wear questions with a notebook in hand. “The receiver wasn’t replaced properly when we got here. Seems like the deceased had been on the phone. We traced the call back to dorm 501 of the Engineering Physics Men’s Dormitory building at Northern Yu College, which is the dorm room that the deceased was staying in prior. Mr. Jin tells us you are roommates of the deceased. We hope you’ll cooperate in our investigation.”
“What d’you say? ‘Deceased’? ‘Prior’?” I grab his collar in anger, shouting. “‘Jin Can!’ He has a name, dammit!”
“Xiao Yu!” Yuan Fei snaps and drags me away.
The other officers are already around us and Yuan Fei is apologizing furiously on my behalf. I’m shaking from fury and my vision gets misty, obscuring the scene before my eyes.
But Cubs was a living human being! And all he gets in the end is an abbreviation: the deceased.
As if to declare to the world, Cubs is no more.
“Xiao Yu,” Mr. Jin grabs my arms, his eyes bloodshot. “What was happening at the time? What was it that you heard? What happened exactly to your dorm? First that guy and now Can—Why? Tell me. Why?”
I stand here, mouth agape.
Mrs. Jin stumbles forth, sobbing, and almost falls on her knees.
“He was such a sweetheart. Why did this have to happen? His kidney was pierced! He didn't deserve it. Why? Why?” She howls.
“Mrs. Jin, please get yourself together,” Yuan Fei gently comforts. “I’m deeply saddened by your loss.”
I, on the other hand, can’t get a single sound out.
Soon after, the officers sit us down at the community security office and jots down our accounts. I only tell them about hearing a loud crash over the phone before rushing over, leaving out, unknowingly or knowingly, the mysterious dripping sound.
Finally, we sign and fingerprint on the records. They remind us again not to leave town for a while so they can contact us again if necessary. I can tell this case is on the top of their list. Cubs’ family background aside, the fact that the two victims of coldblooded homicide were from the same dorm can’t possibly be pure coincidence.
Cubs’ cause of death was quite peculiar. The shower door made of reinforced plate glass somehow cracked. Cubs, who ran in to check, slipped on some water and ended up falling onto shattered but still erect glass which pierced through his kidney. Instant death.
Even the expression of the detectives who came up with this notion was one of disbelief. It was simply too coincidental for all that to happen. I study physics and I know I’m far from being an expert but I cannot imagine for my life what sort of angle that shard of glass had to be in to have cracked but not fallen over. If, for some reason, equilibrium was reached and it stayed balanced, then it should have been knocked over by Cubs and not impaled him. It is just a normal piece of normal reinforced glass, right?
Furthermore, is it even possible to have something stab through the kidney at a right angle when the person crashed on it from momentum?
And that eerie sound. Was it just my imagination? Or did it actually…?
Chief and Glooms are solemnly waiting for us when we return to our dorm.
“The police came,” Wu Fan says plainly.
Hah. The police in this city sure are efficient.
Wu Fan and Xu Ping most likely heard from the officers so neither of them tries to talk to me or Yuan Fei about it. Of course, we don’t say a word either. I carefully sit down on Cubs’ bed, gently stroking the surface.
Just this morning, I was sitting here helping him pack. Just earlier, he was alive and kicking like the Energizer bunny.
Gone. In the blink of an eye. Gone.
Life turns out to be such a fragile thing, not much stronger than a candle flame. It’ll be extinguished by a breath just as easily.
“I went to the school archives and looked through the student records.” Wu Fan’s voice interrupts the silence, and everyone’s ears perk up.
“I thought maybe something happened in 308 before and that’s why we’re being haunted, but I read through all the records since the school was established. And nothing. There’s always one or two who die of various reasons every year but they’re all normal ones like car accidents or illnesses. And they’re not from 308. I’ve considered spirits from other dorms but I didn’t find anything suspicious either. Our school is fairly avant-garde so there haven’t been many suicides.”
“You sure nothing weird’s ever happened in 308?” I ask in disbelief. I also thought that maybe someone from 308 died and continued to haunt the place, and that’s how we summoned it.
Somehow I’ve become spiritual from an atheist merely in a few days. Ironic.
Wu Fan certainly shakes his head. “Nuh-uh, nil.”
“Then it’s from somewhere else,” Xu Ping comments. “And it just got summoned by your game?”
I shudder. I’d just wanted to try an exciting game. Nothing else. I didn’t know there would be such consequences. I’d thought then that the worst case scenario would be getting caught by the school and maybe getting suspended. But now, our lives are on the line.
“I don’t know on what principle ghosts operate but from the looks of folktales and internet stories, one of us from 308 had a conflict with someone at some point in time, that’s why we’re being haunted now.” Wu Fan suggests.
I notice he said ‘we’ and not ‘you.’ This unsettles me.
Cubs’ death has poked holes in our previous prediction—its target is not only the four of us who have played the game, but the others too. It might be very dastardly of me but I heaved a sigh of relief. Having more people on board equals a lower chance of dying.
But on what basis does it even have targets? What did Cubs and Kong Linglin do to become one?
“I don’t know if it’ll help but I snuck the files of students who committed suicide in recent years back with me.” Wu Fan delegates a few files to us. “Let’s go through it and see if there’s anything useful.”
I can’t help but gape at the amount of files. To think a school like ours would have so many students commit suicide.
I don’t plan on dying.
I want to live on but the fear of death lurks right around the corner, yet the people in these pictures all chose death themselves.
If they’re given another chance, would they still choose to do so? Did they lose the hope to live because of some argument with other students, academic grades, or relationship problems? But those are obviously not what life is all about, only small parts of. But life is the beginning and end of a person. Like a single-use switch, once you flip the switch there’s no way to do it again.
Perhaps they had doubts moments before their life ended. They were just past the point of no return.
I flip through over the files carefully. Nothing catches my attention until a picture appears before me. My eyes linger on it.
A very good-looking guy. Sweet and cute like a girl. He even has a ponytail. I would’ve thought he was a pretty lady if not for the ‘male’ under the gender box.
“This guy’s…” I rack my memory. “Isn’t he that junior in Painting that everyone called the school hottie? He’s dead? I thought he graduated!”
“Who?” Wu Fan takes the file. “Oh, Sun Le.”
Flumppf. Yuan Fei’s files scatter across the floor.
“What’s wrong?” I look at him worriedly.
He forces his pale face into a smile. “It’s nothin’. Just a bit drowsy. Guess I didn’t sleep well.”
“Then go get some rest. You can read later. Gotta take care of yourself first.”
He picks up the files and starts reading again, but I swear his hands are shaking involuntarily.
“I think he had some romantic problems and jumped off a building last summer. Not many people knew about it because it was during break.” Wu Fan sighs. “Sun Le was an orphan so only the police took note of it. Even his cremation was paid for out of charity by the hospital. He might’ve not fit in well, but it was still pretty sad.”
“Again with the romantic stuff.” I breathe out sorrowfully. “It’s not like he couldn’t find a girlfriend with his looks. How pessimistic was he to have commit-”
“Hey!” Yuan Fei suddenly snaps at me and Wu Fan. “We’re the ones in shit right now, not these people. Quit wasting your breath.”
Wu Fan and I zip up right away and return to our files. I sneak a glance at Yuan Fei. What he said was true, all right, but my sixth sense tells me something’s out of place.
The room falls silent once more, save the sound of paper being flipped.
Then, out of nowhere.
My blood freezes at the bone-chilling sound. I feel the hair on my nape rising.
Without a moment’s notice, Yuan Fei lets out a yelp, shoots up and swats at the air like he’s trying to get away from something. The others and I watch, shocked. Then, after a few shrieks, he starts darting out the door, knocking me who was beside him on to the ground. He almost falls on his face, too, but he sprints out the door without stopping.
“After him!” Ignoring the burn on my palms, I yell at Wu Fan and Xu Ping, bringing them out of their stupor.
The two rush out while I painstakingly get up from the floor. I brush the dirt off my palms. Pink is showing through the abrasion. I hiss in pain.
What’s wrong with that guy? That expression… It was the same as the day he fell down the stairs. Was it because of the dripping sound? Could he hear it too? So he got scared and lost his cool?
I’m baffled. Yuan Fei isn’t someone who’s easily scared. Then again, he’s been looking more fragile than any one of us. It’s as if he’s enduring a fear on an entirely different level than ours.
What could it be?
I quiver as I look around frantically.
Impossible! It’s broad daylight right now. Shouldn’t it only appear at night time? It must be the tap! It must be!
The sound enters my senses again, as if to prove to me its existence. Just as I’m caught off guard, something chilly brushes my nape.
It’s right next to me!
Without thinking, I bolt to the door where a broom lays unused. I take it in my hands and swing madly at the air with it.
There is something in here! There must be!
I don’t know what I’m fighting against. I’m just swinging it for the sake of.
“Go away! Whaddaya want? Go back t’ where ya came from! Stay the hell away from me!”
I think my heart stopped when I realised it can appear not only during night time. I’m not going to have even one moment of peace if it won’t give me time to catch my breath during the day. How could I possibly live then? Perhaps I was the target of its tormenting all along. It doesn’t want to kill me; it wants to drive me insane!
“I ain’t scared o’ you! C’mon! Come at me!”
I have no idea what I’m saying or what I’m doing. My mind’s completely blank. If every individual has a line between sanity and insanity, then I’m on that line right now.
Shouts of the caretaker and banging on the door bring me back to reality. There’s only heavy panting coming from me in the room. That sound that drove me crazy is nowhere to be found. That chilly feeling has also disappeared.
My legs give out under me. My hands start hurting from holding on too tightly but I can’t straighten my curled fingers, just like how I can’t control my shaking. The dorm room is supposed to be warm but I only feel like I’m in an icehouse.
The lock opens with a click and the door hits me, but I don’t even have the strength to get out of the way.
I hear Chief’s soft voice calling by my ears. I turn my head over stiffly. There’re a lot of people standing outside the door. Xu Ping has a distressed Yuan Fei in his arms. Chief is watching me with a worried look. The rest all sneak whispers and glances with each other as they watch me. I scoff and cover my eyes.
What’s happening to us? What the hell’s happening?
Dairytea's comment: R.I.P. Cubs ; w ;
The Water Goes Drip-Drop - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.