‘Lay the young blue bodies with the old red violets’
- The National.
I am writing this down because I am terrified. Maybe if I can write down the events that have occurred this past week, I can gauge some understanding of the situation, or at least try and work out what I can do to try and save myself. I don’t even know what is real anymore. Maybe I’ve gone mad. Perhaps this nightmare is exactly that, just a bad dream that I will wake up from. But the problem is, I can’t wake up from this. So it must be real. If anybody is reading this, please find a way to help me. Please. I am begging you.
My name is Saskia Wong, I am fifteen years old and I live in Tokyo, Japan. It was about a week ago when I first noticed something out of the ordinary.
I was sitting in math class, next to my best friend Sunni, daydreaming about everything except maths and doodling all over my exercise book, when something in my peripheral vision attracted my attention. Someone. Hiro, the boy known as the ‘class clown’, had twitched violently. I looked over, filled with a mixture of curiosity and confusion. Hiro looked completely mortified and I noticed that the pencil in his left hand shook fiercely. I poked Sunni with my ruler and nodded my head over in his direction. I have never seen anyone look so terrified in all of my life. Suddenly, Hiro twitched again but with such vivacity that he fell off his chair and knocked over his desk. A whimper escaped his lips as he pulled himself up, quickly picked up his desk and sat back down. The teacher, Mr Gardner, scolded him for his persistent attention-seeking behaviour before continuing to lecture about trigonometry in his monotone drawl. A couple of people in the class sniggered at Hiro. The rest completely ignored him like nothing had happened. Hiro looked down at the floor, visibly shaking. I felt a pang of concern. He was not joking around. Something had scared the life out of him.
Sunni passed a note to me across her desk: ‘Hiro really needs to grow up. We have exams coming up, and he won’t pass maths by telling a couple of jokes. It’s not even funny anymore. I’m getting sick of his desperate attempts at attention.’ I looked back up at Hiro. He may play the fool at times, but whatever had made him fall off his desk was definitely not a joke. I noticed that his eyes kept fearfully darting up to look at something next to him, but I couldn’t work out what it was. There was nothing there.
At the end of class, I watched Hiro as he gathered up his books and turned around to leave the classroom. What I saw disturbed me. I noticed a dark substance seeping through his grey school jumper over his left arm. Blood. He tightly wrapped his hand around the wound, roughly trying to conceal it. A wave of perplexity struck me. What could have caused that? He fell over on his right side, not his left. The wound looked disturbingly fresh.
I hurried out of the classroom after him. I tapped him on the shoulder, determined to find out what was wrong. I have always been too curious for my own good. He almost jumped out of his skin at my touch, and all the blood drained from his face. He turned around, a look of utter panic on his face, his pupils dilating.
‘Hiro, are you okay? What happened in class? Why were you so frightened?’
‘Oh, S-S-Saskia, it’s just you.' Upon recognising me, a look of relief evidently washed over him. Hiro looked around nervously, almost as if he was scared someone would overhear what he had to say. ‘It’s no-no-nothing. I’m f-f -f-f-fine, honestly.’ He attempted and failed at holding a smile. I was far from convinced.
‘Look, it’s okay. You can tell me. What is it? And what happened to your arm? It’s bleeding. I want to help.’
He looked down at his arm and rearranged his fingers over the blood, trying to obscure the wound better. ‘ I was j-just being silly. I stabbed myself with a c-c-compass.’ I raised one eyebrow at him and crossed my arms. He got the message that I wasn’t buying it. ‘Look, I c-can’t tell y-y-you. It will put you in d-d-danger.’
‘Oh come on Hiro. You can’t tell me that and then expect me just to walk away. You have to tell me now. You can confide in me. It’s okay.’ I put my hand upon his shoulder, a gesture of support and encouragement.
He took a deep breath and dragged me to the corner of the corridor, lowering his voice to a whisper.‘He is tormenting me. I think he’s trying to k-k-k-kill me.'
‘What?! Who is trying to kill you?’
‘The man at my desk.’
My heart stopped. I looked through the classroom window at Hiro’s desk. There was no one there. ‘What are you talking about? There is nothing there Hiro. Stop playing games with me.’
Hiro’s eyes darted into the classroom, making sure he wasn’t overheard. He began to talk faster. ‘I’m not! He is invisible to most p-people. That’s why he’s called “The Man Who Isn’t There”. Only those being haunted by him can see him. And n-n-now that you know about him, he will probably come after y-y-you. I t-tried to warn you. He moves onto a new victim once he gets bored of his current one. Or...once he...he..... He’s w-w-working his way through our class. He sits by the desk of his next victim. Haven’t you ever w-w-wondered why everyone has been getting hurt lately?’ Hiro gave up trying to hide his wound and began to count the students off on his bloodied hand. ‘Katie, who broke her leg l-l-last week? Rio, who had stitches in his cheek the week before? Kia, s-s-suddenly stopped turning up for school because she moved house?... She didn’t move house Saskia.’
A shiver trickled down my spine. I couldn’t muster any words. I just stared at Hiro, trying to see if he was joking. He did not blink once. And the fear was clear within his eyes. He did not have the eyes of a liar.
‘I-I-I’ve said too much,’ Hiro choked out. ‘I h-have to go.’
He then rushed off down the corridor. All I could do was stare after him, struggling to process everything he had just said to me. I don’t know how long I stayed there, frozen to the spot. It felt like an eternity.
Over the next few days, I felt an unnerving sensation, as if something was watching me. No, more than that. Like something was penetrating my soul with their glare. Someone. But whenever I looked around, I found nothing. I would also sense movement in my peripheral vision. A swish of black hair, a sweep of a long black coat. But again, whenever I looked toward it, there was nothing there. I put it down to paranoia. Making something out of nothing.
Eventually, having no evidence to go on, I had put all of Hiro’s words to the back of my mind. I hadn’t seen him much since he had spoken to me, but when I did see him around school he seemed a lot calmer and less on edge than before. I even entertained the idea that it was just a really, really bad joke of his. He didn’t seem to have any fresh injuries. Maybe he did just stab himself with a compass. It was reassuring to think like that. Rationally. A few days had passed and nothing bad had happened. And as it tends to, life got in the way of my worrying, my thoughts overtaken by homework and weekend plans.
But then yesterday, everything changed.
I was walking to class with Sunni, and we reached the classroom early. We looked through the classroom window to see if the teacher was already there. The room was empty. Every desk was neatly laid out, a chair positioned behind it, ready for its student to sit upon it. The windows looking out onto the school field were all open, forcing the blinds to sway occasionally in synchronicity. The fresh breeze also made the black coats hung upon the coat rack move gently from side to side. Peacefully.
And that’s when I saw him.
Standing between two long black coats was a tall, imposing figure. He was wearing a long black cloak, which camouflaged him perfectly against the coat rack. The only part of him that stood out was his face. His skin was almost impossibly white, emphasised more by his long, midnight black hair that fell over his shoulders like curtains. He was still as a statue, but there was no question that he was there. More than anything else, it was his expression that paralysed me with total fear. His mouth was contorted into a wide maniacal grin. He was staring undeniably, at me. And there was no question who he was. The Man Who Isn’t There.
I stared at him, in absolute horror. I blinked forcefully, determined that once I had re-opened my eyes, he would be gone. A terrifying figment of my imagination. But as my eyes opened desperately, he was still there. Still grinning. Still staring.
Slowly, he raised his right arm. Even from a distance, I saw that his fingernails were abnormally long and distinctly sharp. He extended his index finger, uncurling it leisurely. I knew exactly what he was pointing at. The desk of his next victim. I didn’t even need to look to know that the desk that he was pointing at was mine.