In school, there were always a few shocking rumors.
There was no evidence to actually support the story of the student who jumped, it was just passed down from previous students. Rumor had it there had been no report because the school had suppressed this event in order to preserve its reputation.
The reason behind the suicide was also subject to a lot of discussion. Academic pressure, bad romantic luck, family bankruptcy, school bullying…
The more Wan Da and the others talked about it, the more excited they got. They talked about the dormitory building as if it were a haunted house. To create atmosphere, he also turned off the lights with a snap.
At eight at night, it was pitch black outside and you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Only the lights and the stars in the sky were visible. A tall building near the school was currently hosting an anniversary celebration, and it was lit up with red lights. Now that the lights in the classroom were off, the sea of red that shone over from the other side looked especially strange.
A girl screamed out loud, “Wan Da, what are you doing?!”
“Are you sick?!”
“Turn on the lights, quick, turn on the lights!”
Wan Da remained unmoved and persistent. “Atmosphere is important when telling stories. Atmosphere.”
The instant the lights went out, He Zhao grabbed Xie Yu’s wrist and cursed softly. “Fuck.”
The phone game had ended and Xie Yu’s phone screen was dark. He turned but didn’t shake off He Zhao’s hand. Instead, he asked with some interest, “You’re scared of ghosts?”
Wan Da wasn’t aware of what was happening in the corner of the last row. He prepared to start the story of a scary hair salon and called the two big brothers over to listen: “Zhao-ge, Yu-ge, join us? It’s absolutely terrifying and very exciting. If you dare to sleep alone after hearing this, I’ll give you fifty cents.”
He Zhao hadn’t even had the opportunity to refuse when he heard a reply from his especially antisocial, loner-to-a-fault deskmate who never liked to join the crowds. “Sure.”
There were just twelve people in the classroom.
Eight guys and four girls.
Wan Da sat in the middle and the remaining people forming a circle around him. The girls formed a tight group, and those who didn’t have a place found chairs to pull over, looking for a spot.
Xie Yu sat at the very outer edge, near the corner. He Zhao was next to him.
Xie Yu glanced down. He Zhao’s hand was still holding his. “So you don’t intend to let go?”
The supernatural story of the horrifying hair salon started. Wan Da deliberately spoke in a tragic tone: “Xiao Jie was a very pretty girl, with a head of long, shining jet-black hair. Everyone who saw her had a deep impression of her beautiful hair…”
Xie Yu frowned. He Zhao’s fingers, wrapped painfully around his wrist, also left a deep impression.
Wan Da’s storytelling ability was pretty ordinary, but he was very earnest and never dropped the act. Besides, the atmosphere was very good. So, in the middle of the story, the four girls screamed in unison.
The girls’ screams were much more terrifying than the contents of the story.
To an attentive listener, suddenly hearing that sound would cause their heart to jump.
Xie Yu thought that He Zhao should go and sit with the girls and scream with them, but He Zhao’s body language radiated, “The big bro needs to save face.” Though he went rigid, he didn’t make a sound and pretended to be calm.
“…The hairdresser turned around, a very strange smile surfacing on his face. The corner of his lips lifted a little, then a little more. He picked up the scissors and stood in the doorway of the storage room. His bangs, which were very long, covered one eye. That totally dead look… he didn’t look like a normal person. He didn’t even look like a live person.”
Wan Da’s voice got lower and lower, but his voice suddenly lilted in emphasis as the story climaxed: “He opened the door! In the storage room was a row of shelves packed full of—human heads!”
He Zhao’s hand moved down a few inches and caught hold of Xie Yu’s.
Xie Yu shook his hand a few times but couldn’t shake the other’s hand off.
“Attached to the scalps, jet-black hair hung down on either side of their faces. Their agonized expressions showed how much they suffered in the moment they died. Terrifying, scared, and twisted.”
“Let go,” Xie Yu said. “Are you going to let go?”
He Zhao: “No.”
“…You’re really scared of this?”
“Who said I’m scared?”
“Then let go.”
Just as Wan Da was painstakingly describing how terrifying those decapitated human heads were, a face appeared in the classroom window.
The face was half hidden by the blinds, the other half just barely visible.
The features weren’t clear and only the silhouette could be seen.
But it was visibly a man.
After a beat, the man asked, “—What are you doing?”
Wan Da had been halfway through the story when the face appeared in the window. Even he jumped from fright. “Damn.”
The girls screamed in unison. “Aah!”
“What are you screaming about?” Dean Jiang pushed open the door and walked in. He felt for the light switch and flicked it on. “What are you all doing? It’s evening self-study. Have you finished your homework? Ah? Having a tea party here?”
This noisy lot was giving him a headache. He rapped the podium with his book. “I could hear your class from across the hall. Do you not have enough homework to do? Tell me and I’ll pass the message on to your teacher.”
Wan Da said, “No, no, no, no need, Dean Jiang. We have enough homework, really, enough. If we have any more we won’t be able to handle it.”
Before Dean Jiang left work, he routinely made several rounds of the classrooms. Perhaps he was in a good mood from being about to get off work: he didn’t pursue the matter further and only reminded everyone: “Be quiet and respect the peace. If I find you doing this again…”
“Yes, yes, yes, yes.”
When Dean Jiang left, the class let out a breath. They were about to pull their chairs back to their seats when a girl suddenly screamed again.
“Order, order, be quiet,” Wan Da said. “Xu Qingqing, is my story really so terrifying?”
Xu Qingqing said that she wasn’t nearly as timid as he thought she was. Then she looked pointedly in a certain direction and successfully drew everyone’s eyes to the tightly linked hands of the two big bros.
Wan Da and the other students: “……!”
Xie Yu had been held onto for a very long time and didn’t notice anything wrong.
He Zhao was still remembering the story details. “In the end, she managed to get out?”
“If she’s not dead, she went mad,” Xie Yu said calmly. “If not, it’s not a horror story, is it?”
He Zhao and Xie Yu. Aside from their titles of ‘problem youth,’ their appearances were also rather striking.
In their first year, when the school forum was picking a school beau, these two were at the top of the list. Most of the students didn’t quite have the nerve to interact with them, but perhaps because all things looked better from a distance, students from other schools constantly posted, “Can I get the contact details of XX from your school? They’re s cool (*/ω＼*)”
There were many rumors, but the romantic histories of these two were a mystery.
Since being put in Class 3, many girls whom Wan Da had connections to, or didn’t have connections to, all swarmed to him. He thought about it: now he could finally give them an answer: Forget it. Our class will probably take care of them on its own.
At eight-thirty, evening self-study period ended.
Wan Da packed up his things and left with the rest of the class. After these few days, he felt that the class was as close knit as a family. Following the incident with changing teachers, they were war comrades.
“Telling you first.” Wan Da walked ahead. “During the monthly exams next week, I heard from Mr. Tang’s office that the teachers of every year are writing their own questions. They’ll look at Sizhong for the base difficulty. At any rate, it’ll be more difficult than the ones we usually do.”
Xie Yu: “You’re telling me this information?”
He Zhao found it inexplicable, too. All year round, he and Xie Yu placed last and second-to-last in the school. Exams, to them, were nothing at all. “What’s the point of this information?”
Wan Da said, “I’m reminding you to prepare your cheating early. This time, the consequences for getting caught cheating are very serious. I heard there will be three teachers overseeing every exam room.”
In the school district, only the streetlights were on, accompanied by the soft cry of insects. The beautiful summer was about to end, and the wind that rushed up towards their faces held a hint of a chill.
He Zhao said, “Ah.”
Xie Yu said, “Really, thank you.”
Xie Yu went back, washed up, and flipped open “Mock Exams: Monthly Papers.” It was a collection of the monthly exams from all the high schools in A City. He found Sizhong’s questions from last year and looked at them.
He glossed over the simple questions, and when he encountered an interesting or difficult one he stopped to do it.
Time passed quickly and it was soon time for lights-out. Xie Yu felt that this portable light could probably last another hour. He kept doing questions when suddenly his phone screen lit up.
A QQ message.
He Zhao: Asleep?
Xie Yu: ?
He Zhao: Lonely night. Chat with me.
Xie Yu: No time. Not chatting. Get lost.
He Zhao had already gotten used to his deskmate’s aloof way of speaking. He seemed not to notice that the quality of this conversation was terrible and replied: What are you doing?
Xie Yu looked at the thick stack of math papers and the functions question he had solved halfway. He wrote back, blank-faced: Gaming.
He Zhao: What game is it?
These four words held a strong undercurrent of, ‘Let me join in and we can play together.’ Xie Yu remained deathly calm and resolved to kill the conversation stone cold dead in the water: Single-player game.
He Zhao: ……
Xie Yu put down his phone and suddenly remembered He Zhao’s words and actions during evening self-study. He replied again: So scared you can’t sleep?
This time, He Zhao didn’t keep looking for conversation where there was none.
He Zhao: [/Smile]
He Zhao: Ha ha, funny joke. What have I ever been scared of?
He Zhao: [/Wave]
Xie Yu hadn’t taken Know-It-All’s supernatural dorm story seriously at all. He treated it only as a story. Just like the story of the scary hair salon, Xie Yu had just listened to it for entertainment.
He had lived at school in first year, too, and nothing had happened the entire year.
Strange knocking at the door. What rich imagination.
When Xie Yu lay down, it was close to midnight. He lay on the bed flicking through his messages. He saw Zhou Dalei’s photo of Aunt Mei pinning a shady-looking young man on the floor with the caption: Catching a thief bare-handed. Badass, badass.
In the chat, Aunt Mei was judging Dalei’s photography skills.
Lei’s mom fiercely protected her son: It’s about the person, not about the skill! Look at how good my son’s photo is!
Xie Yu looked at it for a long time. In the end, he didn’t respond with anything, only gave it a like. He had just put down his phone when he heard a sound in the originally quiet corridor.
—It seemed to be very, very slow footsteps.
The sound drew closer.
Then stopped in front of a door.
Xie Yu clearly heard two knocks on the door.