Authors: Sam Ayers
Back in Tokyo, Alex was ready to pull his hair out. His cousin was a slave driver. The minute they reached the hotel, he took just ten minutes to freshen up and started discussing the points of the meeting with Nakamura.
“Alex, are you even listening?” Alex turned to see Aiden glaring at him.
“Yeah, yeah – huge turnover, good location – I already read all this on the flight, Aido.” Alex sighed.
And then there was the actual meeting. Mr. Perfectionist wanted everything a certain way – every clause he scrutinized to the extent that, in the end, Alex thought they agreed just to stop him from asking more questions.
“So gentlemen, thank you for taking time out to meet us. We will be leaving now. We still have to check the site, right, Alex?” Aiden asked.
Alex internally groaned before giving a wide smile and nodding. “Yeah, site check it is . . .”
Ryu had to leave because his mother was ill, so he apologized for being unable to accompany them. Aiden wanted him to be there because they couldn’t speak Japanese and it would be hard to find the location. But Alex had his old Japanese phrase book and he thought it would be useful. After convincing Aiden that he could manage with the phrase book, they decided to leave.
After two hours of travelling, Aiden could feel there was something wrong with the car. Suddenly, it stopped moving and the driver found out that it broke down; they were near a small village. The driver told them that it would take him time to get help and fix the car.
Alex heard Aiden arguing that they had to be at the site on time.
He had to knock some sense into this guy.
“Hey, moron, don’t you see that we are stuck? It’ll take some time to get this thing fixed,” Alex yelled.
“But we have to get going. Let’s walk,” Aiden said and turned towards the driver. “Please fix the car as soon as possible and return to the company. We’ll be on our way. Thank you.” Saying that, he started walking in the opposite direction.
“Hey, Aiden! Wait up, dude. Where the hell do you think you’re going?”
“We’ll find another means of transport if we keep walking. See, this is a village; there must be some kind of local transport. Let’s go, Al.”
After walking for almost twenty minutes, they reached a small bus stop; well, it had a huge bus sign. Aiden looked around when he heard a noise. “I guess the bus is here,” he said. And it was; they got in and with the phrase book Alex managed to say something and they sat down. After some time, they reached some place; the driver stopped the bus, said something and pointed towards the door.
“Did the bus break down, too? Should we get down and see?” Alex asked Aiden, who just nodded and so, they got down and waited for other people to come down too, but the bus started moving.
“Hey, wait! Where do you think you’re going?” Alex called after the bus.
Aiden raked his hand through his hair. “This was the stop you asked for, Alex. I think you said to stop at some place and this is that godforsaken place.” He groaned and walked towards a small path ahead.
“Aido, listen to me. I read out what was written in this phrase book. Oh God! Where are we?”
“We are nowhere,” he shouted. “See – no one is here, we are lost!”
“Let’s go further to see if we can find someone,” Alex said, walking away.
It was evening already. They kept walking for what seemed to be a very long time. Exhausted, Aiden couldn’t walk fast; it was his leg – he couldn’t strain it because he injured it during an accident. Suddenly, they came near a small old building; it looked like an inn, those old ones that had hot springs.
“Aid, see that,” Alex called, pointing towards the old building.
“Is that an inn? A hotel in this deserted place?” he asked Alex.
“I guess so; let’s go see if we can find someone to help us get back,” Alex replied. Deciding this was their only option, they walked towards that place, not knowing what they were about to face.
- Chapter 9 -
It was happening again – I could feel her. Why was I thinking about her again?
Aiden knew she existed, and it riled him a little when Alex said that she was just his imagination. He wanted to scream and tell the world that he wasn’t lying and making this up. But he couldn’t move on. If she was real –
no, she is
. She is real and she was a part of his life. He had to find her. He also knew that the attraction between him and Jo was hard to ignore. He liked her, but he knew it wasn’t mutual. He was confused, and his thoughts were interrupted when Alex called his name.
“Aid, let’s go. The sun is setting and I think we might get lost if we move on,” he said.
“Sure, let’s give it a try.”
Walking in, they saw that it was indeed an inn – old and almost falling apart, but still an inn with an onsen sitting between a small compound almost completely hidden behind enormous trees. It looked like they had walked into an Edo-era set, only a more contemporary version of it. The sign was hanging crooked over the entrance, the wording faded – almost rubbed out. Walking in, they looked around trying to find someone. Near the counter they saw a girl in a kimono standing, writing something in a book.
“Hi, we were wondering if you could help us,” Alex called as he moved forward.
“Al, does she speak English?” Aiden asked, confused.
A Japanese girl in this village may not speak English.
“I have no idea, Aid.”
“Welcome, how can I help you?” she asked politely, noticing them.
“Wow! You speak English? Great! We are lost and need to get back to Tokyo. Is there any way to get back?” Alex asked. She shook her head.
“No, there are no buses at this time. But if you wish you can stay here until tomorrow morning,” she said.
“I guess we have no other choice. We will take two rooms, then,” Alex said as Aiden looked around. This place gave him the creeps. He sighed, seeing as they really didn’t have a choice.
Aiden tugged at Alex’s coat. “Take one room. I have a weird feeling about this place and I don’t want to be alone at night.”
“Err . . . we’ll take one room, please.” She nodded and gestured for them to follow her.
The room was pretty old. There was something weird about this place; it was so cold. The girl laid down two futons and as she was about to leave, Aiden stopped her.
“Aren’t there any other guests here?” He asked. He hadn’t really seen anyone else here – even for an old place like this, shouldn’t there be some other people around? Where were the other visitors?
“They are in their rooms. We maintain privacy for every customer. I’ll bring some refreshments for you.” She bowed and walked away.
Aiden sighed and looked at Alex. “Did you bring your mobile?”
He checked the pocket of his jeans and jacket, but he couldn’t find it.
Of course he wouldn
t find it.
Aiden shook his head.
“Here!” He handed him the phone.
“It’s dead! No battery.”
Aiden sighed and sat down near the window.
“Then where is yours?” Alex asked Aiden, confused.
“I thought that was mine, so I guess I left mine at the hotel,” Aiden said. “We should have bought different colors at least.”
Alex smacked his head. It had been a mistake to buy the same black iPhones; this wasn’t the first time this had happened. He sighed and sat next to Aiden.
“Don’t you think it’s weird that we didn’t see or hear anyone here?” he murmured.
Aiden wasn’t paying attention, so Alex shook his shoulder. “Everything alright, Aido?”
“Huh? No . . . This place is giving me a weird vibe. I think something is wrong.” Aiden shuddered, as he felt uneasy.
“No, it’s just real old, and definitely not the Ritz. But hey, it would have been worse if this place were shut down or something, right? I’m going to check out the hot springs. See you later,” Alex said as he walked away. This guy never feared – he sure loved spooky places.
“Yeah, see you,” Aiden said lying down on the futon. This was going to be a very long day. They were stuck in an isolated place in middle of nowhere and he was having the worst headache ever.
Bad day? Ha.
Alex wandered around for a while. This place sure was old and creepy. He came near the reception and saw the girl who welcomed them.
“Hey, I forgot to ask your name,” he grinned.
“My name is Miho.”
“Well, Miho, I was wondering if you would show me around. I would like to check out the hot springs.”
She was quiet for a while and looked around before answering.
“Yes, please follow me,” she said, walking towards the opposite direction he came from. He followed her and they came to the hot springs. There were no guests here either.
Weird. Did everyone go missing?
So he had it to himself. He smirked at the thought of the privacy he would have here. There were towels and bathrobes near the door. Miho left after she showed him the way; she acted like she was being forced – weird girl. Alex lowered himself into the hot water and it felt amazing. And even in this weird place he was thinking about the conversation he had with Aiden. He still liked her, that mystery girl. Alex knew that Aiden also liked Jo, but he would never accept it. He had to do something. Maybe set them up on a blind date? That wasn’t a bad idea, but would they be okay with it? He kept thinking about so many things.
It was getting dark. He decided to go check on Aiden; maybe he was sick or just jet-lagged.
As Alex got out and changed his clothes, he heard a weird noise. It had come from the trees near the springs. The whole place was dark now except few lanterns here and there. Looking up, he saw the smoke a little thicker around the bushes. Curious, he moved towards it only to trip back when he heard a snarl come from it. It wasn’t even animalistic, but the sound echoed through the whole area and he saw the mist somehow floating in his direction.
Something told him it was high time he found Aiden, and this time, he listened to it and ran towards the room, the slow weird noise floating hauntingly behind him. He swore he could feel something following him, but there was no way in hell he was turning back to look.
It had been a while since Alex was gone.
Where the heck did he go? Did he fall asleep in the hot spring?
Aiden made his way out of the room and walked down the hallway feeling a cold breeze. He shook it off, as just the weather, but then it got clammy – almost like at the cabin five years ago. Alex wanted to have fun, so they decided to explore and found out it was really haunted. Aiden remember they almost died there and now that feeling was just coming back.
Turning around, he felt someone push him, almost toppling him over. He looked up to see red eyes glaring at him from the shadows. Gulping, he turned and started running without looking back, shouting Alex’s name again and again.
Where was he?
“Alex? Where are you?” Aiden shouted again. He didn’t hear a reply, but as he rounded the hallway, he knocked into someone. It was Alex. “Where were you?” Aiden asked.
“Are you alright?” Alex asked him.
Suddenly, they heard a growl from the other end of the hallway. Aiden looked at Alex, who was as pale as he was.
“I think there are—”
“—GHOSTS IN THIS PLACE!” Alex cut him off and screamed.
They looked at each other and screamed together. “RUN!!!”
They ran as fast as they could. Whenever Aiden turned to look at that
, he saw a black-cloaked figure behind them.
It was bloodcurdling.
Now he could only think of one thing. Death. The thought of dying was terrible. But he had already been in his deathbed once and escaped. What if he could do it again?
“Aiden, we are running in circles. And I already tried the door, it’s locked.” Alex shouted.
“The window . . . in our room,” Aiden said, panting, “I think that’s opened, let’s go.”
They reached the room and felt it go cold. Alex grabbed Aiden’s bag and pushed him towards the window. It was big enough to fit the both of them.
“Stop pushing, you moron,” Aiden shouted.
“Get out before we get caught, idiot; move now,” he shouted right back at Aiden.
He knew that Aiden couldn’t run as fast as him. Aiden may need a doctor when he got back home. The window was a great escape, but they found themselves stuck in a forest – dense, huge and completely dead – with no sounds of the little creatures usually in the forest. Even as their eyes were adjusting to the darkness, Aiden felt Alex pull him. Just in time, too.
Where he had stood, a huge branch had fallen. He gulped; he didn’t even want to consider the state he would have been in if Alex hadn’t acted.
As they walked, they stumbled and tripped. The trees seemed to be slowly coming alive around them, veins shooting at them, roots tripping them and branches almost grasping them. Suddenly the atmosphere became more dense, a sense of danger surrounding them to the extent that they couldn’t take a breath. They heard a low noise – a growl, but much more fearsome in its timber. Aiden stared at Alex just to see the fear reflect in his eyes. Alex didn’t bother looking back. By mutual consent, he pulled more of Aiden’s weight on him and they ran as fast as they could, the trees seeming to move to block their path to escape. Aiden was almost giving up hope when they saw the trees thin out to an open space where there was what looked like a playground.
Alex turned to look behind them and whatever he saw had his eyes going wide in fear. He pulled at Aiden’s hand as he skidded in the narrow entrance. He stumbled and even as he crawled in, he felt something clamp on his foot and a searing hot pain shot through his leg; he almost screamed at the agony he felt. Alex pulled at him with all his might and Aiden slowly felt his foot slipping in. Looking down, he saw scratches and gouge marks all over it; from the way it was twisted he could tell that it was broken – or at least sprained real bad.
Aiden groaned and slid down to the ground near the wall, a wary eye out looking at the door. But whatever it was was either too big to enter or couldn’t enter because this was a shrine. Whatever the reason, they heard growls and scratches and all sorts of noises for what felt like hours before it stopped abruptly.
Alex, ever the cautious one, slowly slid his sock out and when nothing happened to that he slipped his foot out. He looked at Aiden and grinned. It looked like the thing was gone; they looked outside to see the sun slowly rising over the horizon. Aiden was stumbling, and with Alex heavily supporting him they walked away from the forest and started walking a little faster when they saw what looked like a road ahead of them.
Alex looked at Aiden when he suddenly felt him droop. To his horror, he saw him stoop down in a faint. He tried to shake him awake while looking at the road for anybody passing by.
“C’mon, Aido, we got out of there. Don’t give up now!” Alex urged.
Finally seeing a car driving down the road, his heart sung in joy and he waved. The car stopped near them and a man and a woman got down from it.
“Hai, daijoubu desuka? (Hello, are you okay)?” the man leaned down, looking at Aiden.
“Watashitachi ha ushinawa re ta tasuketewoshite kudasai (Please help us, we are lost),” Alex read out from his torn phrase book. Surprisingly, it was still in his pocket. He seriously wished that what he had said were right.
The woman smiled. “You speak English?”
“Oh, thank God, English – yes, we are lost. Please, could you get us to Tokyo? My brother needs immediate medical attention.”
They nodded, helping him carry Aiden to the car.
“Hello! My name is Kazuma, and this is my wife, Megumi,” the man said.
“Hey, I’m Alex, and this is my brother, Aiden.”
Megumi turned around, looking at Aiden before bending down to take his pulse. Her eyes narrowed when she looked at his foot.
Kazuma looked at Alex and said, “Don’t worry. Your brother is in safe hands; my wife is a doctor.”
“He has a concussion. Must have hit his head somewhere. And I also think his left foot might be broken,” Megumi spoke. She turned a concerned eye towards Alex, “What happened to you?”
“Trust me, you won’t believe it.” He sighed. The whole tale spilled out even as they entered the city limits.
“You actually went into the black onsen and survived!” She looked at them wide eyed.
“Yes. Years ago, on the night of a fearsome storm, every single person in that inn died,” she said.
Alex gulped. “Guess whatever killed them stayed behind.”
* * *
Back in Toronto, Adele was walking across the room, shouting, “Where the hell is he? Why isn’t he answering his phone?”
“Ady, calm down. Maybe he’s in continuous meetings and forgot to charge his phone. You know how he is when he’s working,” Gabe said calmly.