By Mochizuki Masako
There`s a big yard surrounded by a wooden fence on the way to Takuya and his friend’s Tuesday cram school. It`s said nobody lives there, so they call it “the haunted house”. Word around town is the house will be demolished and a large apartment building be put up in its place.
“Hey, before they tear down the haunted house, let’s go in and explore it,” Takuya suggests. He and his two best friends, Shingo and Shizuka, decide they`ll do it once summer vacation starts. The three slip into the haunted house’s yard through a crack in the wooden fence next to the gate. Moths flitter around. Mosquitoes buzz nearby.
“We’d probably see a snake before we would spot a ghost!” The house is big, but it’s old and falling apart, like the wood walls and window frames are about to crumble.
“We could probably enter from anywhere.”
“It’s not our house, so we have to go through the front door.” When they pull on the door handle the entire door comes off the hinges.
“Excuse me. Is anyone here?” the three say as they enter, just in case. Puffs of dust rise into the air.
“There aren’t any slippers, are there?” The three nod to each other and enter wearing their regular shoes. There is nothing but tattered curtains in the rooms, curtains which look like they’re about to fall off the rods. With only dust and wicker baskets in the rooms, the air has become stale and musty.
“I wonder if there`s such a thing as a mold ghost,” Shizuka says in a quiet voice.
“I doubt we’ll see anything at all.”
Takuya opens the sliding paper door leading to the next room. Shingo uses a flashlight even though a beam of light pours in from a crack in the storm shutter. Something gleams in an alcove on the wall. It’s a doll in a glass case.
“Oh my god! I thought it was a ghost.”
“This is creepy. It feels like there’s something here.”
The three enter a hallway that leads to a kitchen and a room with a table, some chairs, and a desk. On top of the desk is a black rotary phone with its cable wrapped around it tightly. After passing through two more rooms, they walk into a room which looks like it had been recently used; a room with a bed, desk, and a shelf piled with picture books and stuffed animals.
“It’s a kid’s room. It looks like a girl lived here.”
“Why do you think this is the only room with normal stuff in it?”
“Um, that’s a good question.”
“Why don’t we leave before we find out?”
Suddenly there is a ring that sounds like an old-style alarm clock. The three jump. The black rotary phone in the other room is ringing. The cord is wrapped around the phone, so there`s no way the phone could be plugged in. The three are paralyzed. Ring—ring— The three grab for each other`s hands and begin to flee when the Doraemon anime theme song starts playing. It comes from the pocket where Takuya keeps his phone. It only connects to his parents` lines. He fumbles and answers in a hurry.
“Hey, it’s mom. Sorry, but I have to work late, so microwave the food in the fridge for dinner,” she says. He lets out a sigh of relief. The spooky atmosphere fades away. When he hangs up, the black rotary phone rings again.
“What should we do?” The three exchange glances and nod to one another. Takuya unravels the cord and picks up the receiver.
“I’m coming home, so wait for me. Wait for me,” says the faint voice of a child.
Takuya drops the receiver from his ear, and Shizuka and Shingo hear the voice echo, “Wait for me.”
The three book it and are soaked in sweat by the time the plunk down on a bench in the shade of the trees in the nearby park. After calming down, the three interrupt some elderly men conversing nearby and ask about the house.
“It must have been over 20 years ago. A married couple and their son died in a car accident. After that, an elderly couple and their granddaughter lived there. The granddaughter got sick and died and the elderly couple must have moved away somewhere. That house has been empty since then.”
“No way, then that phone must have been in the granddaughter’s room.” Takuya and his friends exchange glances.
“So, the house isn’t haunted by a bunch of monsters—it really is haunted by a spirit.” At that moment, the Doraemon theme song starts playing cheerily.
“Mom?” Takuya says, answering it.
“Even though I told you to wait for me…” a girl’s voice speaks.
When summer vacation is nearly over, they see a bulldozer in the yard and in the blink of an eye the haunted house becomes a vacant lot. Takuya’s phone goes back to normal and doesn`t get calls from outside lines. Takuya’s heart still skips a beat when he hears the Doraemon theme song.
…..*Translator’s Notes* I want to thank my friends Anastasia, Tim, and Chris for solving the translation puzzle of this story: どの部屋もぼろぼろのカーテンだけが、ずりおちそうにひっかかっている。。。。 as “In all the rooms there is nothing but tattered curtains which look like they’re about to fall off the curtain rods”. At random moments throughout the project I feel rather lost on English. Thanks guys!