I haven’t met my close friend Zhao for quite a long time. When I saw him again on a late autumn evening he looked pale and tired as any fresh graduate who made it through one of the most prestigious institutions in China: Fudan University. We talked a bit, wrapped in the warmth of a cozy cafe, the branch of a tree ticking on the semi-opened window. It was getting colder outside.
I kept staring at him for a long while. I barely could recognize the friend who once used to spent bunches of his free time with me. Back then we nicknamed Zhao Splinter due to him being quite a thin chap. He was much happier, too. A diligent guy who poured tons of motivation and passion into everything he did. I didn’t realize I was losing him little by little ’till the day he completely disappeared for four long years. All my calls rejected, all my knocks at his door politely dismissed by his over controlling mother. Perhaps he was just trying to please his parents who always pushed him hard with the studies. But he left me empty, desperate and alone with the certainty I have lost a friend. A good one.
Then, few days ago, the phone ringing broke the numbness of a lazy weekend. I answered, listless. The voice was unclear at first, it sounded worried. It took me a while to put together my thoughts and catch a peculiar accent that seemed so familiar to me. My eyes wide opened when the light in my mind turned on.
And there he was, days later, sitting right in front of me in a lonely cafe. The chair cracking several times under his substantial weight. Definitely, he wasn’t Splinter anymore.
I was still trying to figure out the purpose of the meeting when Zhao grimaced. He pressed against his temples like if a headache struck him on that very moment. His arm was shaking when he tried to reach to the mug of not so hot chocolate. Finally he grabbed it firmly, sticking the hand around it. He closed his eyes, motionless for an endless instant.
I didn’t know what to say, feeling slightly uneasy.
“Have you ever heard about them?” he suddenly asked.
“What?” I felt confused not knowing what he was referring to.
“Fudan Six Mysteries” he continued.
I had vague memories about that. I knew students often spent long nights telling urban legends, the so called Fudan Six Mysteries, of what supposedly happened there. Rumors, I thought.
He sighed, relaxing his body on the chair and this time staring at me. His mouth moved, releasing imperceptible words then growing into a slow, trembling voice. He started his story and I was careful like a little girl listening to a bedtime fairy tale. I rested on the table, head laying on my arms. I focused on a bizarre statuette standing on the fireplace on my right side. It had a big face, a funny smile and eyes almost popping out. It was laughing at me. Weird decor, I thought.
My vision blurred. I was tired, yet relaxed, carried by the pace of Zhao’s voice.
“It’s true” he said.
“It’s all true…”
The Shadow in the Corner
Building #6 is a relatively new structure in Fudan University, with a peculiar classroom known as room 115 that not many people know because its door connects to the corridor behind classroom 113 and 117. It’s basically a storage room with no window and not visually accessible from the main hall. There is actually nothing stored inside so students could still go there to find a quiet, special spot for their home-works.
It was late in the evening when a tall guy was studying in room 115 under the weak light of a desk lamp. Other students left already, leaving him alone in the room. He looked at the opposite corner of the room only to realize he wasn’t really alone: someone’s silhouette was lying very close to the room’s wall.
Tired, he stood up, walking around the room to relax. Out of kindness, he was about to walk over to the silent student to ask if he was alright with taking a short walk together. He only covered a few steps when he froze in mid way, staring at the guy, horrified.
The student was not lying against the wall, instead he was one thing with the wall, protruding out of it like if his body was somehow still not detached from the matrix. The tall guy ran as hell through the school dark corridors, occasionally looking back.
“Was that thing following him?” he couldn’t stop thinking.
An Unfortunate Ending
Days later, he heard from other students that an accident happened during the construction of building 6. One student accidentally got tangled in the concrete mixer machine leading him to an atrocious death. The construction workers didn’t realize it until they used half of the concrete they made that day noticing some body parts in the remaining concrete, but it was too late and they couldn’t move the “human concrete” out of the construction anymore. All they could do was finishing the construction like nothing ever happened.
Coming from a poor family the unlucky student studied extremely hard to make a difference, people said. During the night patrol the campus securities avoid room 115 like a pest. If you get closer to the room you could hear someone scratching from inside the wall, perhaps willing to come out and go on with his study for a better future.
A future that will never see a beginning.