31/10/2021 - Cursed Photograph
Everyone wouldn't shut up about this girl in our class called Asuka, so much so that the class idol Reiko would get jealous about just how much attention she would get. Why was she so popular? Everyone believed she was psychic.
Every day someone would challenge her to write what they were writing without her looking and she would guess right every time. At first people thought that she was faking it ‐ it must have been some sort of elaborate trick people thought at first ‐ but the more she got right, the more people came to believe that she had psychic powers. She got into a relationship with known delinquent Soji and the two of them hit it off well enough. They had some heated arguments at some points, but what couple doesn't argue? Eventually though, she stopped coming to school. Everyone looked to Soji for answers, but he always said he was waiting to see if she would come back. That lasted only for a while as he found himself another girl to dote on. After some time however, Asuka's existence became a faint memory but I would soon find out what exactly happened to her.
A photograph started circulating around my school. I never saw that photograph so I didn't know exactly what was on it. From what I gathered, the photograph either showed a victim of a grisly murder or a prank that was a little too early for Halloween. A few even brought up that this had something to do with the disappearance of Asuka. This should have all blown over like with many of the other games and rumours that pervaded the school, but someone reported himself being pricked as he held the photograph. That guy was Shinji, a classmate of mine. He also tried to show everyone that there was a black mark on his hand, but everyone told him that he was seeing things. After that day, the photograph disappeared. I thought Shinji must have taken it home and I thought that was going to be the last of it. Unfortunately that was not to be.
As the days went by, Shinji started going on about how he was seeing some strange woman all around him. At first we all laughed it off. He was saying she was appearing in billboards and advertisements all around him, and that she would occasionally disappear when he wasn't looking or when he blinked. I started to believe his story when I realised that his fear was genuine. Every day he would phone one of his mates so that the two of them could walk together. One day he called me to see if I could go with him as his friend was sick. I agreed. I came to regret that decision.
He came out of his house a nervous wreck. Sweat poured from his face like a waterfall and his twitchy wide eyes put me on edge. At random points, he would stop walking and point at random points in the street, all the while screaming like a banshee about how someone was there. He screamed at whatever it was to go away but I couldn't see anything. Had he gone mad? Needless to say we attracted stares from passers-by so I made an effort to hurry him along. Eventually we got to school. I hoped that things would change for the better, but things did not.
Class was interrupted every few minutes by his screaming and abrupt pointing. It irritated us all, students and teachers alike. I elected to take him to the school nurse. Along the way, his eyes would dart all over the place maniacally. Just watching him jitter about put me on edge; every moment I spent with that guy made me fear for my life. All I had to do was make a false move or say the wrong thing and maybe Shinji would lash out against me. I kept my mouth shut and I refrained from any sudden movements as I took him to the nurse's office.
The nurse was aghast when he came in screaming about how some other girl was in the room and that he wasn't safe. She tried to reassure him that he was alright and that he would be fine but he kept on pointing at a corner of the room, screaming at the top of his lungs. The screaming got louder and louder as he crawled up into a corner of the bed. Unsure of what to do and visibly distressed, the nurse ushered me out.
She explained that she would call someone to take care of him. "M-maybe he can be cured," she stammered as his howling filled the halls. The nurse struggled to keep her phone from slipping between her shaking hands. She said she would call someone more experienced, someone who would be able to deal with mental problems. As the dial tone was going off however, the hallway fell silent. The screams of Shinji dissipated. The nurse took a sigh of relief, but I thought that something might be amiss; Shinji hadn't stopped going on loudly since I met up with him that morning. I went inside to check on him.
Shinji was dead, his face contorted in fear and pain. The nurse wandered in shortly afterwards before running towards the body and confirming what I already knew. Within moments she was ringing the emergency services. All I could do was stare at his body in a stupor. It was only when the nurse grabbed my arm that I escaped that stupor. She said that I wouldn't have to worry about what had happened and that the staff would take things into account from here on out.
News of Shinji's death spread rapidly throughout the school. It was on the tips of everyone's tongue. Most irritating for me was the fact that everyone was asking me how he died when I didn't know what even happened in that room when he died. I also didn't want to talk about it, let alone think about it, but they kept bugging me about it to no end. Their incessant demands eventually wore me down and I started to go on about how he went on about how he saw some girl in the room with him before he died. This continued until the end of the school day.
The English club wasn't ran on that fateful day so I decided to go home, but my plans were forced to change. One of the members of the photo club just so happened to be coming through the hallway, carrying a stack of paper. She bumped into me, sending all her photo paper flying all down the halls. Immediately she pointed at me and blamed me for what happened and she demanded that I help her. With a shrug, I obliged. As we picked up the photos and as she grumbled all the way, I found myself picking up a strange dark photograph.
All I could see was a bit of blood and what appeared to be someone's arm. Perhaps this was the photograph that got everyone's attention so long ago. I continued to stare at the picture, hoping to find some new details would uncover what was going on in it. As I did, I felt a harsh prick in the palm of my hand. Immediately I dropped the picture before checking my hand. I could see a black mark etched into my hand. The girl from the photo club suddenly asked me about what was keeping me up so long, so I quickly handed the papers back to the girl. She thanked me begrudgingly before she went on her way. I too had somewhere to be and that was home. Along the way, I forgot all about the prick on my finger, and I did so the next day as well. On the day after that however, I would soon find myself unable to forget.
On that day, two days after I was pricked by that photograph, I saw an advertisement featuring someone with long dark hair that covered her face while on the way to school. She was also wearing a dirty blood stained black dress. The rest of the advert was pitch black. When I first saw her, I thought nothing of it. Just another advertisement to sell something.
In the day's history class, I got a little bored and I started flicking through the textbook with an absent mind. I stopped when I saw an unusually dark page. Not recognising it, I went back to check. I was so alarmed when I did that I slammed the book shut. The teacher gave me a funny look and I reluctantly reopened the textbook. The girl I saw in the advertisement was there. It was the same girl with the same bloody dress. I vowed not to reopen it but my curiosity soon wore me downs. I had to check to see if it was real or just me seeing things. So I did. She wasn't there any more. I let out a huge sigh of relief. I wouldn't see her again, not until I got home.
When I did, I turned on my computer just the same as I usually do. As the screen started going through the various BIOS screens, the girl's face filled my computer monitor. I jumped back at the sight and, in the blink of an eye, she vanished. The computer turned on as normal leaving me wondering if I was going crazy. With the rest of the day going by without me seeing her in anything else, I thought things would go back to normal the next day. How wrong I was.
The next day, I found the words "I'm coming for you," etched onto the ceiling of my bedroom. Cold chills ran down my body as I read it. Thoughts of Shinji and his fate filled my head. With that came a sense of dread. I would share his fate.
Even though all of this was going on, I still had to make appearances at school. While on the commute to school I could see her in the newspapers of the commuters, in more advertisements and billboards. I could also see her face in the phones and tablets of the people on the street. Multiple times I felt like asking others if they were able to see her, but I had a feeling that nobody else could. I couldn't see what Shinji had seen so I thought that everyone else couldn't see what I was seeing. She started appearing more often at school as well. I could see her across more of the textbook pages and, in the art room after school, I caught a glimpse of one of the students painting her picture. They were painting something else, but I couldn't see what they were really doing. Every time I saw her, I felt the day get longer and longer. When club activities came to a halt, I made a dash for home, trying to avoid even catching glimpses of adverts, phones and newspapers along the way. Even when I got home I didn't turn on my computer. I just went straight to bed.
I had a dream that night. I could see someone, a girl lying down in a bed getting ready to sleep. I watched her close her eyes. Suddenly a door swung open, a tall silhouette walked in. I watched it go down to her face and violently grab on to her face. I could hear painful shrieking as I watched blood drip down onto her black dress. Then I heard the girl struggling for breath and writhing around as if being choked. She struggled for breath but, in between those breaths, I heard her call out for someone. "Mister Fujita" she wearily called out. Then I heard her try to scream with a most strained voice. "Soji!" All fell silent after that.
The next day the words scrawled on my ceiling multiplied to the point where they were indistinguishable from each other. They were also starting to drip down the walls like paint. I took a quick look out of my window and I could see a thick wall of darkness around everything. I could still see the sky above, but it was a much darker shade of blue than it should have been. It looked more like the night, only without the street lights on. Then I looked down at the street. The girl that I had seen many times before was looking into my apartment. Her long hair draped down to the ground, I could see the blood stains and dirt all over her dress and I could see that she was looking straight at me. I shuddered with terror at the thought of leaving my house, but I had to do it.
The darkened sky served as a reminder that she was close. Now I was sharing the train platform with her. Sure she was still staying a fair distance away from me, but she was still there darkening the area around us with her presence alone. Others on the platform would pass through her as if she wasn't there while others would walk through the wall of darkness oblivious to what I was seeing. There was no doubt in my mind that I was the only person that could see her and the darkness that she brought. When I got to school, I could see her standing in the hallways, watching my every move through the curtain of hair that shrouded her face. I quickly moved on.
I could see that the classroom had darkened significantly. I looked up to see her staring at me through the door to the class. Still I tried to knuckle down and do my schoolwork. Only thing was it was impossible; every page bore her menacing face as well as every other book and blackboard. One of the students asked me what was up and couldn't even reply because I was so terrified. My eyes were fixated on her ghastly appearance. Then I tried to focus on the areas outside but they were being engulfed in a wall of darkness. It got so dark that I couldn't see what was going on at all. At points I was starting to wonder if I was still in the same world as everyone else, but I could still hear the occasional voice calling out to me. I closed my eyes in an attempt to find a happier place, but the dream flooded back to my eyes. I could hear that weak voice calling out for Mister Fujita and Soji over and over again.
"Soji Fujita, go take him to the nurse's office," I heard the teacher say. He bemoaned having to help me out as he stood up, but the teacher told me that I was calling for him so obviously he was the best man for the job. At first he refused to help but eventually he turned around and helped me on my way.
The hallways were now almost completely dark. I could only see a few metres ahead of me. About half way towards the nurse's office, we suddenly took a turn to the stairs. Soji threw me into a corner before voicing his irritation at having being called by me to help me out when I had done nothing for him. At first he demanded my cash but, when he realised I had nothing, he started going through my bag for valuables with a malicious grin. That grin was wiped in a flash however.
He picked out the strange photograph. Horror and panic gripped his face the longer he stared at it. "How did you get this?" he asked. I tried to tell him that I found it in school one day but he wasn't having any of it. He kept asking me how I got a hold of that photo. No matter how many times I repeated myself, he just punched me for playing stupid games with him. All of a sudden, just as he was getting ready to punch me once again, he yelped in pain before dropping the photo. Then he started asking me what I did before he started roughing me up more. In-between those blows however, I saw her approaching from the darkness.
I stuck my finger out, trying to warn him of what was approaching, but he refused to listen. As she approached, I started panicking. Stuck between Soji and her, I felt that my death was more than certain. I almost screamed at the top of my lungs but he covered my mouth and warned me that, if I screamed, he would kill me. Then he repeated the question about how I got the photograph. I tried to tell him once again that I just found it when one of the girls in the photo club dropped it by accident. He then screamed that the photo shouldn't even exist. "They had no way of obtaining that photograph so you must be lying," he said. He was ready to punch my lights out once and for all until I saw a hand touch his shoulder. He turned around slowly.
His scream told me that he could see her too. The curtain of hair flew up, revealing that her face was hollow and black. The only thing that proved that I was looking at her face were two white dots that stood where her eyes should be. The lower half of her jaw remained visible but it looked like it was broken, as if someone dropped a porcelain bust on the floor. "I found you!" she screeched before she dug her fingers into Soji's chest. Immediately he gasped in acute pain before he spat out blood. He grabbed her hand and he struggled with all his might to try and pull it away. He tried to kick her off, push her off and even bite her fingers, but he couldn't lay a finger on her. It was as if he was swiping at the wind. "My heart!" he squealed as more blood filled his throat. "Asuka… Stop it!" With a final cough, he fell limp before my eyes, his face twisted in pain and misery much like Shinji's when he perished. The girl pulled her bloodied hand out of his chest before she walked away. I dared not chase after her. The darkness started to lift but I still just sat there in the corner, unsure of what to do. The last thing I saw was the photo disappear from the photo paper as if it never existed. I was so terrified by the events that unfolded that I just sat there for what felt like hours.
A teacher found me sitting next to Soji's corpse. Soji was quickly taken to the nurse and I was too. They asked me questions about what happened but I couldn't even open my mouth to speak. I was trembling with fear even then. It wasn't until the next day that I was able to talk to anybody. Even then I kept my answers short and sweet. Some people thought that I killed Soji but those rumour came to an end when the autopsy report said he died of heart failure. In it's place a new rumour started. All of a sudden I became some kind of spiritual medium who could call on otherworldly powers to smite my foes. Other students even asked me about how I attained such powers but I told them to quit it. I just wanted to forget everything and I just wanted the rumours to end. It took a long time but eventually I became a normal high school student once again.
After Soji's death, a news article came out about how Asuka Igawa was found dead in the fields just outside of Tokyo. The photo in the papers proved that it was my old classmate. As for me, I never saw the mysterious photograph again and I stopped seeing that ghost girl too. My hand was also free of the black mark that I got from that photograph. As far as I was concerned, I was in the clear. But I never felt that way. I still don't now.