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Sometimes Life will write the strangest stories. Looking back on the events now I can’t help but wonder about some of the things I did, a few of the things I allowed to happen, and wait in expectation of things to come.
It started after I had moved to Japan for attending graduate school. No, maybe it started even before that, but this way makes it easier to tell. My new home was in a small suburb of one of the bigger cities on the Sea of Japan, close to the mountain range, and a river just a few feet from my place. It was a typical two-story building you see in a lot of movies; jokingly I had made the remark that it almost looked like a haunted house from one of the horror movies I had seen growing up. The landlord laughed at me, obviously mocking my active imagination, so I chose not to comment any further.
The entrance was a winding corridor, passing the door leading to the bathroom and the stairs to the upstairs, ending up in the surprisingly big kitchen. The second floor housed my room and an unused room, which led to a small balcony, which gave me a view of my neighbor’s windows and nothing else.
It must have been a few weeks after I had moved in and had made it a habit to pass the junior high school on my way back home in the evening. An old postwar monstrosity of yellowish-grey concrete, clearly too big now for the few students I saw running around every morning.
Normally almost all students have already left the building at that point and only a few are running out of the gate after sports practice or some club activity. Today was different though. I saw a light in one of the third floor rooms and the vague shapes of people dancing around. If it was a dance club, why didn’t they use the now empty sports hall?
I kept staring up at the row of dirty windows until one of the students seemed to notice me. She came close to the window, rested her hand on the glass first and then started motioning, as if she was waving. I nodded, just not to seem rude, and headed my way.
Somehow this strange encounter didn’t leave my mind, so I decided to try look it up on the Internet. Not that I actually had that much free time, but a little procrastination couldn’t hurt.
My search for the school’s name left me with meager results, though. They didn’t seem to have a dance club, or any clubs that would require dancing for that matter. So maybe it was preparation for a school event coming up, so I decided to go into more details and added the keyword “dancing” in Japanese. I would have prepared some coffee, had I known how long this would keep me up.
The first few pages didn’t give any proper results. Either the search engine gave me only parts of the words I had searched for, or redirected me to the homepage of the school. Only some ten pages later did I stumble upon an obscure little message board, clearly no longer operated, with a message from a good five years ago that caught my interest.
7 wonders of XX junior high school
No.4: The after-dark dancing club
Did anybody ever actually see this one? I heard about it from one of the older students, but this is so obviously bullshit. Must have been some people who were into playing pranks.
In Japan there is this superstition that almost every school has a set of seven ghost stories, the so-called seven wonders. Usually it’s the same stories over and over again, Hanako in the Toilet-Stall, the Girl in the Mirror, Red Paper or Blue Paper, but I had never heard of a dancing club.
I opened the page and was disappointed by how few entries there actually seemed to be in this topic. Yet at least I found an outline of this ghost story.
Name: kimon4444@AE-D0-B6-DE-B4-D9 Date: 20XX/07/15 (Fri) 02:00
The After-Dark Dance Club
After it gets dark and all the clubs have ended, the lights in the 3rd floor classroom, in the northeastern wing of the school turn on and shadowy figures start dancing. People unlucky enough to see this will have bad luck for the next month. It is said that these are the ghosts of all the students who died since the school opened.
Who wants to check this out with me. The school building isn’t open at night, but maybe we can see it from the street or the yard.
The replies appeared to be from students of the school. The site was one of many “occult phenomena” message boards that many people are crazy about even today. Even the very few there were didn’t seem too fond of the story, declaring it a hoax or made up.
Name: nikuman89 Date: 20XX/07/16 (Sat) 16:53
I asked my mom and she said she never heard of that story. You’re full of shit man, go to hell.
Name: sakuramankai Date: 20XX/07/16 (Sat) 18:02
I never even heard of our school having any ghost stories, let alone all seven wonders. Post the other ones or I won’t believe any of this.
This went on for a few more days, then people stopped caring and the original poster didn’t seem to have much investment either. I wouldn’t have given it much attention, if it hadn’t been for another messaged that had been posted four years later
Name: kimon4444@AE-D0-B6-DE-B4-D9 Date: 20XX/07/15 (Wed) 02:00
The Afte-D#rk DAnce ClUb After it gets dark dark and all clubs have enddddd, the LIghts in the 3 floor classroom, in the NORTHeast of school turn on and shadow starstart dancing. People unlucky bad luck 444444. It is said that these are the ghosts of all the students who died since.
with me open it
The post seemed like it was written in a hurry, or at least by somebody who did not know how to write properly; but it was the same content, the same user. Why did he or she go through the trouble of posting again? Four years later, no less. And what was the meaning of this ominous last line? Open what?
This was when a sudden noise ripped me from my thoughts. No, not a noise, a sound I had grown so used to associate with a certain time, it made my skin crawl. It was the familiar sound of the school chime.
I looked at my clock and it assured me that it was 2:04 in the night. Maybe I had imagined hearing it. Maybe my headphones made me mishear something. Maybe I left a video or program running in the background.
And still I couldn’t shake off this feeling of unease, clawing at my nerves like a ferocious animal. My palms had become sweaty and my eyes shifted to the milk-glass windows in my door. I almost expected an inhuman shape to rise up behind them. I did not know where this sudden sensation of terror came from, but it would not cease.
In my mind I heard scratching on the other side of the walls around my room. I felt as if suffocating. Eyes were peaking through the cracks of the sliding door. The wet sound of something dead, being dragged along the floor outside my door, made my skin crawl with an icy fever.
It took me an eternity to muster up enough courage to rip open my door. Staring out into the all-consuming darkness of the corridor outside, I started wondering if there was even anything to be afraid of.
Something drew me to the empty room next to mine, through the small door leading to the balcony. Outside I looked at the starless sky, pitch-black and foreboding, stretching out towards the pale walls of the school building. The light in the third floor classroom, in the northeastern wing was burning bright and yellow in the darkness.
I saw them waving to me and I was waving back. Their long white arms stretching out to me, beckoning me to come and dance with them. Their spindly legs, bending and flailing to the tune.
They smiled so widely, stretching beyond the reaches of their face, the edges ripping and their grin pouring out. Their eyes were doorways, wide and open. Dancing with blazing passion, unable to stop, unwilling to stop, unstoppable. Contorting their bodies to the maddening beat of the drums and the monotonous whine of the ancient flutes.
The school chime whispered in the dark.
Soon they would be coming out of the gates.
But it is closed now.
Somebody has to open it.
I have to open it.
I hit my knee on the table when I jumped up from this very weird dream. I looked at my computer screen, swished the mouse around to see the time, and noticed I must have fallen asleep while thinking about this message board. The weird newer post was still in focus and must have been the root of my absurd dream.
Summer was around the corner and though it was still only early morning it was unbelievably hot and humid. It was almost mid July and I was already hoping for the summer to end. I went out of my room and to the balcony to check the temperature outside. I let out a laughter that ended up sounding more like a snort remembering my silly dream.
That’s when I noticed a piece of paper, clinging to the railing. It must have been blown over by the wind from one of my neighbor’s houses. I picked it up. Nothing special. Apparently ripped in half. But looking at it closer sent a shiver down my spine, and it was as if I was in my dream again. On the paper was a single word, in childish writing.
Did it mean anything? It wasn’t a word that I immediately knew. I rushed back to my computer, wanting to know, wanting to extinguish this burning worry in the back of my chest.
What I did find made me understand. No, not understand, I could feel what this was about but I did not understand. There was nothing to understand.
In that moment the school chime resounded. It was as I was used to. It was time for the students to attend their first class of the morning. And yet it was as if I heard a faint drum and the whistle of a pipe riding on the sound of the bell. There is a lot to fear, I suppose.
I still think I should search for more, but the etymology of that word and the one newspaper article, released 28 years ago, I found make me unsure if I want to know more.
- In the Ying-Yang practice of Onmyoudou, the cursed direction (or places) of the Northeast from which all wickedness and evil demons enter.
- A place where misfortune befalls the one who enters.
July 17th 198X (Wed)
Unexplained Fire claims 7 Victims
Yesterday morning the unidentified bodies of 7 people were discovered in an upstairs classroom of XX junior high school. The fire apparently broke out in the late night and trapped the group in the room. The source of the fire, the reason for the victims being in the building during holidays, as well as their identities are being researched by local police. Further information on the case is expected to follow.
No article seems to have ever followed.