Quality Checker: Isalee
First Published on Chaleuria.
Shi Yitong nodded. Then he lowered his voice and whispered, “Sometimes, there are sounds coming out of that room at midnight.
I felt my blood run cold after hearing it, “Sounds?”
Shi Yitong nodded. “I heard the strange sounds for the first time when I was in junior high, not long after I transferred here. I drank a little too much water that night, so I got up in the middle of the night to use the toilet. The toilet in my grandfather’s home is right behind that storage house. While I was passing by, I heard strange sounds coming out of that room. It was a ‘knock knock’ sound, one after another, very rhythmical, sounded like someone was knocking on a wooden board. Throughout the entire time, the sound was neither loud nor soft. It sometimes stopped for a while, but then continued again. At that time I was afraid, but also very curious, so I snuck back into my room to get a flashlight and approached that storage house, trembling with fear.”
I swallowed and nodded, signaling him to continue the story.
“But I soon discovered that the sound came from one of the empty coffins. That coffin was right next to the doorway, so the sound came across extremely clear. I got up the courage to walk over. As the light hit the coffin, it suddenly stopped making sounds. It made no reaction even when I knocked on it. I lifted it open and peeked through the slit, but it was empty inside. There was nothing in it. I couldn’t do anything else, so I just let it go and went back to sleep after using the toilet.”
“This… Could it be the wind? Or maybe the sound created by the wood plank of the coffin when it cracked?” I suggested.
But Shi Yitong shook his head. “Unlikely. No wind would sound like that, and wood cracking does not make that kind of sound either. But the most important thing was that the very next day, a family suddenly visited my grandfather, saying that someone had passed away, therefore they needed to buy a coffin for the funeral. I secretly followed my grandfather, watching that family pick a coffin. The coffin they chose was the exact same one making the ‘knock knock’ sound the night before. My grandfather told me later that it was not people that picked coffins, but it was in fact coffins that picked people. The kind of coffin that a person lies in always matches the kind of person one is. There has never been a mistake.”
I nodded in a half-understood manner, but I still didn’t understand what Shi Yitong meant. The story was a fantastic story indeed, but judging from his tone, it sounded like this was something that his family was already used to. What, then, was he afraid of?
“However, this is exactly where the problem lies.” Shi Yitong rubbed his hands, his expression becoming even more anxious as if he was hesitating how to explain it to me. “In the past, whenever an empty coffin started to knock, it was certain that someone would lie in that coffin the following day. But, a week ago… One of the coffins in the storage house started knocking. It’s made of Chinese cedar, more or less one of the best coffins in regards to workmanship and material used in grandfather’s house. The price is also relatively high, therefore it has been there for quite a while without a buyer. Both my grandmother and I thought that the coffin would finally be sold, but nobody dropped by to buy a coffin the next day.”
“The day passed just like that, and the coffin started to make the ‘knock knock’ sounds again at night. I did not sleep well the whole night, only hoping that someone would pick up that coffin the next day. But still, nobody came to buy the coffin the second day. Things went on like this to the third day, and the fourth day… The coffin would make sounds every night, but still, no one would show up to buy the coffin. It was also around the time when I started to feel that something was not right with grandpa.
“What… was not right?”
“How should I put it? It just didn’t feel right.” Shi Yitong was trying hard to organize his thoughts. “Oftentimes, he would become absent-minded, locking himself up in the room all the time refusing to eat anything, saying that he doesn’t have the appetite. Also, he would often say things that don’t make sense.”
“Things that don’t make sense?”
“Yeah, didn’t you also see it? Like what he just said, supernatural things like ‘destiny’, or ‘treasure’. Sometimes he would ask us questions that we don’t even understand. I have also asked him a few times about the coffin, but he simply smiled, mumbling all kinds of nonsense, as if his thoughts weren’t on this topic at all. Moreover, grandfather even stopped practicing his favorite Tai Chi recently. He just stares blankly at books all day long. It’s really… too strange for me to even put it in words.
After Shi Yitong finished his story, I felt the hair on my back standing on their ends. There was a strange indescribable feeling inside me and I felt somewhat regretful that I followed Shi Yitong to his home. But after seeing Shi Yitong’s face filled with anxiety, I could not help but sympathize with him, wanting to help him out.
“I’m not gonna lie to you. I’m now too afraid to sleep at night. There were couple times when I got up and stood guard around that coffin, but it would still knock when the time came. When I lifted open its lid, there was nothing in it as usual. After that, this weird situation still hasn’t changed a bit.” Shi Yitong scratched his head hard. I could see the desperation on his face. “… My grandfather has said this before, ‘People in our profession will have retribution sooner or later.’ I’ve also heard many cases of ghosts taking revenge on people in the funeral business and they end up having horrible and bizarre deaths. But now, this kind of weird thing is happening to my family, yet I’m utterly helpless. I don’t even know what to do except to hide in my blanket and shiver like a coward. I’m really way too useless.”
The expression on Shi Yitong’s face made him appear like an entirely different person from the guy who had picked me up at the train station. I stared at the sorrowful expression on his face, feeling that my heart had become heavy together with him.
“Ah, it’s fine.” I gently patted his shoulder, “After all, nothing has happened till now, right? Maybe you’re merely being oversensitive. It’s normal for old people to dislike moving about. If you still feel worried, then you should go have a candid talk with him tomorrow.”
My words of consolation sounded lousy even to myself, but Shi Yitong seemed to actually calm down and nodded lightly.
At night, Shi Yitong and I chatted for a long time again about all sorts of random things, until the drowsiness overtook us and we finally fell asleep on the bed, sprawled out in all directions.
I didn’t know what time it was when I suddenly woke up for no reason. It was pitch-black outside of the window. I turned my head and saw Shi Yitong was still by my side, sleeping soundly. I sat up in bed, put on my shoes, then pushed open the door and walked out of the room to use the toilet. For some unknown reason, my consciousness was extremely clear. I was not sleepy at all.
As I walked to the center of the courtyard, I heard a voice right next to my ear.
“Isn’t the moon bright tonight?”