Proofreaders: Gwen, Hiro, and Red
Is someone going to die? Read on to find out!
Chief shuts the door. It seems that he’s explaining something quietly to the nosy people outside. I sit robotically on Cubs’ bed and glance at Yuan Fei.
“What’s wrong, Yuan Fei?” I whisper.
He’s sitting on a chair, head low and sighing. He shakes his head.
“Xiao Yu, did somethin’ happen when you’re in here?” Xu Ping frowns.
I shake my head and it hits me that Yuan Fei’s shake might’ve meant the same thing.
What’s the point of saying it? How could anyone rid this fear in our hearts?
The dorm falls silent again, only to be broken by Chief’s opening the door. Then it falls silent once more. We stay quiet for so long that I think we all forgot there’s this thing called language. It’s only then that Chief speaks.
“You two are hiding something from us, aren’t you?”
Suffocating silence once more.
“How do you expect us to help? We’re in this together now. Two heads are always better than one. Are you just trying to get on my nerves by not telling me anything?”
Wu Fan starts pacing the room anxiously. If the level-headed Chief has become this way, we’re not far off.
I look at Yuan Fei without thinking. He’s gotten thinner the past few days and always has his head lowered, always looking run down. I can’t help but wonder why his fear is so obvious. I might be scared, too, but I’m scared because of how the unforeseeable future makes me uneasy. But that doesn’t seem to be the only thing for him.
Our silence makes Chief more worked up while Glooms is rather composed.
“We won’t force you to tell us if you don’t wanna, but you gotta know, none of us are safe now and any clue is better than none. The smallest piece of information might become the key to our safety. You can save it if you’re not telling us because you don’t wanna scare or worry us. If we’re gonna die anyway I’d rather die knowing what got me.”
“I agree!” Chief holds eye contact with us.
I hesitate, more or less, seeing how they aren’t going to stop until they get to the bottom of this. I’m not entirely sure whether I’ve been too sensitive these days but I guess it wouldn’t hurt to tell Chief and Glooms in case it just so happens to be true.
“A shadow…” I mumble.
It’s all I have the strength to say. The memory is too much to describe.
“What shadow?” Chief nudges his spectacles and frowns.
I sigh. “I dunno, but both Yuan Fei and I saw it. Both of the times before Kong Linglin and Cubs…”
After those words escape my mouth, I feel as if I’ve been washed and wrung dry. I’ve accepted the existence of that phantom-like shadow. That it’s not part of my dreams. That it’s not some kind of illusion we saw.
And that it’s the cause of all this tragedy.
“Why are we only hearing about this now?!” Chief rages.
On the other hand, Glooms has his head down, pondering. I do, too. I still haven’t mentioned anything about the eerie sound. I’m sure Yuan Fei can hear it as well but as my ally he’s never said anything about it either. Therefore I’m not sure if I should or not.
“So does that mean that thing also followed us to 501?” Glooms mutters.
“Xiao Yu. Yuan Fei. If you see it again, you must tell us immediately, no matter whose bed it’s beside,” Chief orders.
After his emotions settle, he says seriously. “From now on, no one shall act alone. Xiao Yu and Yuan Fei, you two are in the same class. Don’t go anywhere alone, not even the washroom. Xu Ping, you skip class for a couple of days and come with me to the archives.
Glooms nods hesitantly and then I follow suit. Yuan Fei is the last to do so. I can feel his gaze on me and I catch him looking away when I look at him but I can sense worry.
Is he worried about me? Or something else?
Soon the sun is falling to the west. All of us go to get food. We wanted to get it over with at the caf but it appears 308’s former occupants have become creatures for display. Not being able to stand the looks and stares, we end up bringing the food back to 501. Thank goodness we’re not at 308 anymore. If not, we’d have an even harder time eating with the peculiar scent from the washroom across the hall.
None of us eat much. I even leave my favourite fish fillets after a few nibbles, going instead for some plain rice and a few gulps of hot water. Yuan Fei eats the least; only one or two grains of rice, not touching the other stuff at all. Now he’s already cleaning up and getting his books for night study block.
“Yuan Fei! Wait up. We gotta go together,” I call out as I toss the lid on my box and grab my books.
What the hell? Chief just said to not act alone! And now he’s run off by himself.
I catch up to him at the stairwell with great effort but he just speeds up when he notices me. I pause, shocked. I shoot forward and grab him.
“Yo! What the hell? It’s not like I wanna be with you either! If not for Chief.”
He warns lowly. “Stay away from me.”
I’m taken back from his sudden comment and he slips away. I get even more furious and rush ahead of him with my nose in the air.
Stupid jerk! I thought we called it truce! I thought we could become friends through thick and thin. I guess I gave you too much credit. Fucking Flying Ape. Go off being scared by yourself because I won’t give a shit about you anymore.
Other than labs, studios and computer labs, the entire Engineering Physics teaching block is open for students to come and go freely to study. I head for our department’s big lecture hall. There’s already a dozen or so students inside, heads buried in books, studying or doing homework.
I sit in a front-row seat near the door and not even half a minute pass when I hear:
I stare wide-eyed at the door.
“Excuse me. Could you turn the tap off properly?” A teacher calls out from the washroom down the hall.
A student answers soon after. Then a tap is turned. Then the sound is no more.
The hallways are so quiet that noise from the washroom sounds clear. Too clear. Like its right by my ears. My legs give out and I plop down in my seat. My heart’s beating so fast it’s suffocating.
I pant for air with my arms over my head. I’m quaking in my boots.
I must be going insane.
I’m already nuts.
I can’t anymore.
I quickly snatch my books and find a seat near the other students. I sit with my back to a wall. I never knew sitting with your back against a wall could be so relieving. You don’t have to worry about anything approaching you from behind.
I flip open a book and stare at a page full of English. I don’t see a single letter. People glance over at me from time to time and then chat quietly with the people beside them.
The reason why I chose this place was because it’s the favourite study spot for the graduating class. Almost all of them have left so I thought I would get the least amount of attention here.
Out of nowhere, Yuan Fei bursts in the door, looking around frantically. His expression somewhat relaxes when our eyes meet, clearly more at ease. He randomly takes a seat without a word. Seeing him panting and wiping his sweat, I suspect he just ran a marathon.
I take a peek at my watch and fish the train ticket out from my pocket. My gaze lingers on the departure time and I end up ripping it apart.
I’ve realised after Cubs incident that escape is not the answer. I’d rather die at school where lots of people are than losing my marbles alone at home. At least, then, I wouldn’t be alone in my final moments.
I think I’ve already accepted the fact that I’m going to die. I’ve always been scared of dying but I only hope I can be the last one. I know I’m dead anyway, but I’ll fight until the last second. But I really don’t know whether I should just give up and take the easy route, or fight until the end, until I can’t anymore.
It hits me that, out of my many realisations, none of them says that I’ll be the lucky winner. During this whole thing, I’ve never once thought that it would skip me, no matter how much I wished it would go after the others. That’s because I know the chances for that is beyond miniscule and who’s to say I’ll be the numerator and not the denominator of that fraction?
I suppose I’ve never been a romanticist.
Something flashes. I look up to see the bulbs flashing a few times before going out. Instantly, students start making a racket. Some are even banging on the tables in discontent. It sounds like the other classes are as well. Some guy is even doing wolf howls. I chuckle along.
The lights don’t come back on for quite some time. The teaching supervisor ends up coming by with a flashlight telling us to go back to our dorms because it seems like it won’t be fixed anytime soon. My eyes are getting accustomed to the dark and I can kind of make out the other students getting up and leaving so I start packing up, too.
Suddenly, it’s right by my ears.
My hands freeze in mid-motion and I glance up. Everyone’s laughing and talking as they’re leaving but none of it compares to that sound. I’m sure it’s not the tap this time because it overrides all other noises, going straight into my head.
Could it be…
I hold my books in front of my chest. My teeth start chattering.
I fall back into my chair, shaking and staring wide-eyed at the podium. I don’t know what I’m looking at but I can’t peel my eyes away.
Gradually, everyone leaves and the room falls silent. Even the hallway seems to be unusually quiet. They all left, not aware of that bone-chilling sound. They left, unbothered. Perhaps in this dark, quiet building, there’s only me…and it.
I slowly slide down along the back of the chair and under the table, the constricting space actually providing me some feeling of security. I’m curled up as I cling on to my books, the thick covers and pages already curving under pressure, but I can do nothing but hold on to something, anything.
My eyes shut. I bite my lip to stop myself from shrieking.
Maybe it’s just passing by. Maybe it didn’t even notice me. Maybe it just wants to give me a little scare and leave. Maybe…
Absurd theories jumble my brain and my heartbeat is just as erratic. My rushed inhales and exhales sound so loud in the silence, but I can’t control what I already lost grip on, just like how I can’t control this terror that strikes me.
I sense another breathing organism approaching and I instinctively hold my breath. Then a black shadow jumps up me and covers my mouth before I can yell out in shock. The next moment I’m in its grasp.
It’s Yuan Fei! He’s still here! Recognizing the voice, I hug him tight.
“You can hear it too, can’t you? You can hear the sound, right?” His voice shakes, but he repeatedly searches for my confirmation.
I nod furiously and his arms pull me in tighter.
“I can’t believe we were hiding the same thing. Has it been bothering you as well? It’s been dogging me so I thought I was the next one. I didn’t want it to get you, too, but now…”
“You didn’t want me to follow you because you thought you’re the next victim?” I question. “Didn’t want it to get me?”
I feel his head nodding, and instantly my throat itches and my eyes feel wet. I dig into his clothes. I can feel our trembling bodies and wild heartbeats. I had no idea it would be this comforting to have someone beside you when you’re scared out of your wits.
Our wild heartbeats gradually slow down along with our steady breaths. It’s only then that we realise that the sound has disappeared. We’re looking at each other, wondering how we made it out of this one.
“D-did it leave?” I ask, my voice barely a whisper.
He gets up halfway and calls out. “Ah!”
I quickly grab his arm.
He retreats back and chuckles. “I’m fine. Just sore and tingly all over.”
I falter and then punch him in annoyance. “What the hell! You had me worried there!”
“Should be fine now.” He gets up again, slowly this time, and helps me up.
I find that I have pins and needles, too.
“Let’s head back.”
We walk out, shoulder to shoulder.
We’re halfway when I notice that we’re walking hand in hand. My face turns red. He’s the first guy other than my father to walk hand in hand with me. Something’s definitely off about two grown men holding hands.
I jerk my hand back a little and his grip tightens right away.
He whips around. “What’s wrong?”
I shake my head hard. “Nothing!”
He’s only holding my hand…because he’s scared, right? I can’t believe I’m thinking about that kind of stuff at a time like this. I bottle up my frustrations and follow him with my eyes glued to the ground.
Well, it’s not bad having a warm hand on a chilly night after such an encounter.
Chief has a flashlight in hand when we return, about to go out looking for us. That period of panic and fear apparently lasted one and a half hour; it’s well past nine o’clock now.
I remember how I stayed frozen on my bed, afraid to even breathe, when the black figure stood by my bed. Perhaps it was merely a few seconds but it felt longer than a century. Tonight, however, felt different. There was something else other than fear.
My eyes wander over to Yuan Fei. Is it because of him? His tight embrace? It reminded me of the strong, warm arms of my father’s in which I would hide during thunderstorms and which brought me a sense of security like no other.
Somehow, I’m not too against this possibility.
People tend to go sleep earlier when the power goes out. The halls has become deserted and it’s barely ten right now.
I lie on my top bunk, watching the night sky through the window. I can’t tell whether it’s the cloud or my drowsiness that makes the stars twinkle in and out of existence. I force my eyes shut. Biological fatigue overpowers any fear of the night, and soon I’m half asleep.
Then, I feel my hair being pulled.
My eyes shoot open.
All drowsiness gone.
“Xiao Yu…” Yuan Fei whispers. “Are you awake?”
I squeeze my eyes shut exasperatedly, hand on my chest, feeling its violent rise and fall. My teeth grind together.
“Fuck! Are you tryna gimme a heart attack?”
I just want to give him a black eye right now—he’s lucky Chief and Glooms are asleep across the room. I might have mistaken friend for foe but how can you help it when you’re on the brink of insanity and you get touched when you’re half asleep and completely defenceless? It feels like someone dumping ice down your shirt or pushing you into a pool in winter—the cold eats you up and your heart pounds like crazy.
My god, I can’t be anymore thankful that I don’t have any heart diseases.
“Can you sleep with me?” Yuan Fei’s voice is wavering.
This reminds me of that night when I kicked my blankets off in a panicked daze. He was the only one who didn’t wake up. This reminds me of his dark circles and bloodshot eyes every morning.
I finally realise that his fear of the night exceeds mine by far.
I still remember his trembling but delighted voice: ‘You can hear it too right?’ He’s been going through this all by himself, hearing sounds no one else can hear and seeing things no one else can see. When he found someone who could hear and see all those things, his walls came crashing down. He’s sending me an SOS right now. This means he has entrusted himself to me and sees me as a partner at last.
I scoff. Should I happy or sad? I found a desperate ally at the most frightening time, the two of us finding comfort with each other.
I get up, grab my pillow and step down to his bunk. A random question pops into my mind: What if I was sleeping in the top bunk across from his or the lower bunk diagonally across from him and not the one beside him? How would he have asked me then?
He lifts a corner of his blanket up. I put my pillow beside his and wiggle in. He then puts the covers back over the both of us. So warm.
I smile and toss the haphazard thoughts away.
Out of nowhere, I feel his arm on my waist and before I know it he has already pulled me in, his head right up against my chest like a child.
“Hey,” I complain in a tiny voice.
“Thank god I still got you.”
His muffled words tug at my heartstrings and I stop squirming.
“Or else, I really dunno if I can do it.”
It’s the least I can do for him in return for the sense of safety that he gave earlier.
But whose heart is this I’m hearing beating so strongly in the silence?
His warm breath hits my chest, a dubious sensation discreetly mixed in. My body stiffens, a strange emotion settling in. Perhaps he notices this change, because he turns his head towards me. Nervous, I try to avoid his gaze but he grabs my head and forces me to look at him.
“W-what?” I stutter.
“W-what i-is it?”
“Thank you for being here for me.”
I don’t know how to respond to that so I just flash a silly grin and fidget awkwardly with my hair. Yuan Fei quickly snatches my hand. The burning heat from his hand unsettles me for some reason.
Just as I have no idea what’s going on, his face suddenly enlarges and before I realise it, our lips are touching.
I stay glued to the spot feeling the wetness on my lips. Instincts tell me to get away and my brain is yelling at me ‘Run away! Go! Go!’ but my body stays frozen in place.
He leaves after a short, light kiss. Under the hazy moonlight, I can see him looking straight at me. My heart starts beating nervously again.
“Y-you, I-I never knew, th-that you’re…” I don’t even know what I want to say.
He watches me for a moment before rolling away to face the wall.
“S-sorry. I just. All of a sudden. You know I’m not. I have a lotta girlfriends.”
“Of course.” I nibble on my still-moist lips, turn the opposite direction and mutter. “You just need some rest.”
“Sorry,” he then adds in a murmur.
I’m still awake when he says this, but I don’t know what to reply so I choose silence.
Slowly, my eyes get drier and drier. It’s still dim and hazy outside; even the moon’s gone into hiding behind the clouds. Chief’s seems really exhausted from the past few days. I’m surprised that Glooms hasn’t been woken up by his thunderous snores. Yuan Fei has been motionless like a statue for some time, not even flipping around. I have slipped halfway into sleep when that sound echoes in my mind once more.
I’m instantly wide awake. It’s standing beside the bed. Right by Yuan Fei’s bed!
What is this supposed to mean? Is it looking for its next prey? If so, would it be Yuan Fei, to whom the bed belongs? Or would it be me, who is sleeping on the bed?
Yuan Fei suddenly turns around and wraps a trembling arm around me. I can easily sense his body tensing against my back.
So he was awake the whole time?
It occurs to me that his horrible state recently must be from being in constant fear and stress every night. He could only lie there in his bed with no one there to support him, shivering, trying his hardest not to lose it.
Even his whisper is wavering.
“Don’t, don’t hurt’im.”
I do a double take.
“Please. Don’t hurt’im. Please.”
His arm squeezes tighter and tighter but my heart amazingly slows down. I open my eyes and stare at the wall before me with Yuan Fei and it both behind me.
I’m actually curious as to what the thing is and why in the world is Yuan Fei so scared of it. It seems that he’s been driven up the wall ever since jumping off of his bed that time. I’m afraid of the unknown while he, on the other hand, seems to be afraid of the known so he’s had to bear far more than anyone else.
I turn around for some odd reason and roll right into Yuan Fei’s arms. I can only see a bit of the bedside over his shoulders.
He tenses up even more and holds me tighter while I stare wide-eyed before me.
I can see it! A human figure. A black shape. Nothing else.
I can’t distinguish any features even with the moonlight shining bright. No contour. It doesn’t even look three-dimensional. Just black. Like it doesn’t really exist. Just a cloud of black smoke. Not concave; not convex. Just black like a black hole.
My eyes start to feel sore and water. I’m very much conscious but my eyes try closing as if they’re being smoked. I squint, trying to make out its appearance, because I think all this can come to an end if I find out its identity. My eyes, however, get more and more unfocused as I stare at the entrancing black blob.
I mutter just before losing consciousness.
Dairytea's comment: Exactly! Who are you?! D8 ( And they finally kissed! *flails* )
ayszhang's comment: The author knows, and I know...but I won't tell any of you! >8) edit: A rough drawing of their room and their beds as requested. Ones on the top means top bunk.
The Water Goes Drip-Drop - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.