A little note on nicknames, as it is used frequently throughout this novel: Ah, Da (big), Xiao (little) are attached to the beginning of a name as a more endearing form of calling someone. There are times when names are repeated twice, such as our MC Shen Mo, who is called Xiao Mo Mo. Of course, there are times when those are their actual names, in which case the names will not be separated (eg. He (surname) Xiaowei (given name))
'kun' as in Friend A/Mr A. The original text writes it as A
After graduating from my fourth year of college, I, like many of the other graduates, was confronted with the awkward situation of being unemployed.
To find a job that I liked, and one with a pay that could ensure me a living in today's compet.i.tive and non-prosperous economy wasn't something that was easy to do.
I spent almost a month 'idling' at my house, and my parents urgently pressed me day and night for me to find a job. They pressed and pressed, and on behalf of their anxious faces, I grudgingly let loose a lie.
I lied that I had found a job, put on a suit and tie every morning, and pretended to go to work.
But the moment I stepped out the house, I had nowhere to go, and could only rush about the Employment Agency sending out resumes. Just like this, the days pa.s.sed by one after another.
After that, my parents asked incessantly about my situation at work, about the company I worked at, was I getting along well with my colleagues, was the person in charge of me good-natured or not
The questions shot one after another at me in quick-fire succession, it was hard for me to ward them off.
I got sick of their questions, and thus, told a second lie. I said my company was sending me on a business trip, packed my stuff, and haggardly escaped from my house.
I moved into kun's house.
kun was a friend that I had met on an online chat platform. We had previously met up to eat a few meals, drink a few drinks, and had conversed on congenial terms. Our personalities fit well together, and we got along pretty well.
kun's place was quite a distance away from the city and was a detached two-storied villa.
The first time I stepped into his house, I couldn't help but sigh in admiration, "Woah, your house is huge! So you were a wealthy young master, huh! It's no wonder you can live so freely without working!"
kun just smiled. He did not say anything.
Compared to me, he was a reticent individual, his appearance cultured and gentle, with facial features that were also incredibly charming. It belonged to the type that was very popular with girls.
I had never asked for his age, but guessed that he was probably around the same age as me.
On the first night I moved into kun's house, I couldn't sleep well. I had a lot on my mind, and tossed around in my bed, unable to doze off.
What to do henceforth still troubled me.
Right until two in the morning, my eyes were still wide open. I knew I wasn't going to be sleeping anytime soon. I then climbed up from my bed, walking down a floor to the drawing-room, intending to check for any news from the Employment Agency.
I never expected to see kun sitting by the fireplace when I walked down the stairs.
It was currently summertime, but for some reason, this house was always cool and windy.
The fireplace sparked with the glow of fire, the flames within it jumping about.
kun sat in a comfortable-looking leather sofa, carrying a thick book.
He lifted his head, looking at me with some surprise. He said, "It's pretty late, why aren't you asleep?"
"I can't sleep."
I smiled wryly, stepping slowly down the staircase.
kun closed the book in his hands, saying with a smile, "I'm not feeling sleepy either. How about drinking some red wine?"
"That's a great idea." I nodded my head.
With that, kun went to fetch a bottle of excellent wine. He uncorked it and poured us a gla.s.s each.
"What kind of book are you reading?"
As I sat by the fireplace, savouring the wine, I pointed at the voluminous book placed on the cabinet.
kun shook his head with a smile, saying, "That isn't a book, its a journal."
"Oh? A journal?"
I looked at him with astonishment.
He flipped through the thick book, saying indifferently, "Throughout these years, I have gathered a few peculiar stories. Some of these stories are from my own experiences, some were experienced by my friends, and some were heard from others. I've recorded every single one in here, and whenever I cannot sleep at night, I will look through this journal."
"Oh? There must be quite a number of records, to fill up such a thick book."
I stared at that journal with overflowing interest.
kun turned his head to look at me, his gaze filled with a subtle emotion.
After a few seconds of silence, he asked, "Do you want to hear a story?"
I instantly agreed without thinking about it.
kun smiled soundlessly.
With that, the two of us gathered around the fireplace and started the tale.
This story was about one of kun's friends, namedXiao Lu.
Xiao Lu was an editor for a website, and loved to film things. Although he wasn't a photographer, he could more or less be considered a photography hobbyist.
Why 'more or less'? It was not because his photography skills were terrible, but because he had a peculiar habit he loved to shoot at strange and mysterious locations.
Whenever he read a rumour spread about a haunted place, or hear of an unidentified object appearing somewhere, he would bring his camera and rush excitedly there to stay overnight by himself. But, his intentions were not to capture supernatural occurrences, he wanted to expel the rumours of the haunted site.
Xiao Lu was a person who did not believe in the supernatural. He did not believe in G.o.d or Buddha, he only trusted his own pair of eyes.
Simply put, he was a 'firm believer of science', a materialist through and through.
He was convinced that every inconceivable occurrence had its scientific explanation, so, he would often bring the photos he caught, and find the ones who had started the rumours.
And this time, he had found a popular post on the forum, that told of an abandoned orphanage in K City District T, where there were rumours of a child's crying noises being heard often at night.
There were many conversing in the forum who confirmed this, saying this wasn't just a rumour.
And yet all Xiao Lu wanted to do after reading this was smile.
Whether there was a woman's crying voice in the hospital, or a child crying for his mother in the toilet, all these were just all lies told by people who had nothing to do with their lives!
Nothing but attention-seeking liars.
Xiao Lu scoffed through his nose, then glanced at the address for that rumoured orphanage.
Coincidentally, his apartment flat was situated in K City District T, and there was indeed an abandoned orphanage near his house.
It was an old and tattered-looking building, its walls fumigated black by condensed smoke. On that pitch-black outer wall, vines climbed densely over it.
Apparently, a great fire had happened to this orphanage many years ago. The merciless fire had consumed many homeless children, and even the head of the orphanage had died along in the sea of flames.
So, was the sound of a crying child referring to those unlucky children who had perished in the fire?
To prove that thatpost had just been a pack of lies, that night, as usual, Xiao Lu brought a camera to the abandoned orphanage all by himself.
That hazy night, Xiao Lu stood before the building of the orphanage and snapped a picture of the entire building, then hid into an underbrush, silently waiting for the 'child's cries' to appear.
But after waiting an entire night, all according to his expectations, not a single voice was heard, and absolutely nothing had appeared.
He knew it!
Xiao Lu laughed disdainfully.
On the morning of the second day, he posted the picture of the orphanage on the forum, intending to tell everyone that he had gone there, and that anyone talking about a child's cries were just outright lying.
But for some reason, no matter how much he tried to upload the photo, it just wouldn't upload.
Was the internet having problems?
He thought that, and could only save that picture onto his laptop, waiting for the internet to gain a better connection before trying again.
However, when he came home from work at night, once again turning on his laptop, he felt that there was something amiss about the picture when he opened his files to look at it.
The photo was still that photo.
A gloomy building stood under the clear moonlight, and walls covered full of vines.
What was wrong with this picture then?
Xiao Lu momentarily did not see it, but that odd feeling kept lingering on his heart.
That night, that picture was still unable to be posted on the forum.
On the third day, Xiao Lu once again, after opening that file, felt that there was something odd about that photo. He tilted his head, attentively scrutinizing the screen. A sudden realization hit him, could it be could it be that there was something wrong with the angle of the photo?
He remembered that he had captured the photo from the front, but right now, why did it feel feel like the building had been shot from a little ways from the centre?
Or was it just him?
Xiao Lu frowned, and after staring at it for a long time, couldn't figure out a reason why.
And thus the next day, he developed the photo, clipping it into his work bag, bringing it along with him to work.
That afternoon, having nothing to do after eating lunch, he took the photo out to have a look at it.
He shouldn't have looked. He jumped, because that building h-had moved again?
The building had originally been upfront and centre, and the one he had seen yesterday had moved to the side a little, but now, a third of it seemed to have gone askew!
And following the orphanage's 'movements', the underbrush on the left that hadn't originally been on it had appeared!
Goodness! How could this happen, was the building moving?
How could a photo move!
Xiao Lu was shocked still.
Was he seeing things? Had something gone wrong with his eyes?
He rubbed his eyes, hard, then opened his eyes once more. The windows of the orphanage seemed to have gained a tiny black shadow. The shadow closed up on the withered vines, and adding on to the fact that this was taken during nighttime, the lighting was pretty bad, so it didn't seem very clear.
Maybe this wasn't a shadow, but a mark left by the smoke
Xiao Lu shook his head, shoving the photo back into his work bag.
When it was time for him to get off work, he sat on the shaky bus, having nothing to do, and so picked up the photo once again. This time, he was thoroughly stupefied.
The orphanage w-was gone!
The photograph was a patch of pitch black from the underbrush, the distant sky, the roundish moon shooting its wobbling rays to the ground.
Goodness! What happened? Why did the orphanage disappear?
Xiao Lu sat there, almost losing it and crying out in fear.
He covered his mouth tightly, feeling his heart thumping wildly in his chest.
He looked at the photo in his hands in shock, and after thinking about it for a long time, suddenly realized a problem.
Maybe, it wasn't that the orphanage had vanished, but the angle of the shoot had changed. Just like someone holding the camera from the orphanage and slowly sliding to the side, the image in the camera lens had followed along with it.
But How had this happened?
The hands holding on to the photo trembled slightly, and the shadow that had once been in the windows of the building had now arrived at the underbrush. As if the lens was not focused, the image was blurred, it was hard to see what it was.
Xiao Lu looked at that blurry shadow, a sliver of dread gradually emerging within his heart.
Disembarking the bus, he rolled the photo into a ball, throwing it into a nearby bin.
Feeling apprehensive throughout the entire walk back home, he used his key to enter the house. The moment the door cracked open, a thin piece of paper floated through the slit of it, dropping onto the floor.
Xiao Lu lowered his head, and was overwhelmed with horror. He cried out and fell back a step.
The piece of paper that had floated onto the ground, wasn't that the photo that he'd thrown into the trash earlier?!
He froze in his place for a very long time, then shakily picked up the photo. He looked at it.
The location of the underbrush had moved by more than a half, and the left side of the photo revealed a perfectly straight little path, the road having a few muddy yellow street lights on both sides.
And under that lighting, was a lumpy black shadow in the middle of the road.
It had a round head, a slender neck, a smallish body, and a pair of legs.
Xiao Lu exhaled a breath of cold air, ripping the photo apart with his hands without even thinking about it. He was still uneasy after tearing it, though, so he used a lighter to burn those pieces to ashes, finally flus.h.i.+ng those ashes into the toilet bowl.
Seeing those blackened ashes being sucked away by the water, Xiao Lu breathed a sigh of relief. He splashed cold water on his face, walked back to the living room, and sat on the sofa anxiously.
But the moment he sat down, he felt the sensation of sitting on something.
His hands shook, feeling the s.p.a.ce between his bottom and the sofa, and slowly, slowly pulled out a photo.
The underbrush on the photo had vanished, with just the little pathway remaining on it.
The dark figure on the road proceeded forward unhurriedly.
He recognized that road.
Forint North Road, one of the roads one had to take to travel between the orphanage and his house.
For the next half-hour, the road slowly moved to the centre, the photograph displaying a compressed little residential area. The black silhouette perched on top of its encircling walls.
He cried out in shock, dropping the cup in his hands.
The residential area in the photo, was unquestionably and undeniably the place where Xiao Lu lived.
He stared at the photo, dumbstruck, backing away little by little. And the photo, too, moved forwards slowly.
The scenery of the residential area magnified, magnified, and magnified
From the entrance of the residential area and through the avenue, it turned, following through a tiny little pond, then turned left, and the photo ill.u.s.trated a very familiar-looking apartment flat.
The scene displayed the walls of the building, and slowly went up At last, it closed up on the windows of the sixth floor.
The black figure put both hands on the windows, peeping into the house.
Xiao Lu's heart skipped a beat, and the realization hit him. He turned his head to see the face of a child scorched black at his own window.
That child gurgled and smiled, its widened eyeb.a.l.l.s staring right at him, and p.r.o.nounced word by word: "Found. You."
Xiao Lu screamed hysterically, hugging his head.
kun's words dropped gently.
There were s.h.i.+vers on my back from hearing it, and couldn't help but lean near the fireplace.
"W-what happened after that?" I asked.
kun smiled, slowly flipping the next page of the journal.
"There is no after that." He said, "Xiao Lu disappeared from that day onwards."
"He disappeared?" I was astonished, then asked frantically, "HeWas there anything left behind from him?"
kun looked at me, then took out a photograph from the journal.
I took the photo doubtfully.
It was a photo of a run-down building, its walls mottled black, with vines climbing over them. Big blurry words could be seen in the centre Suns.h.i.+ne Welfare Orphanage.
"When I arrived at Xiao Lu's place, he was already gone, and all that was left was this photograph."
kun pointed to a window in that photo.
"Do you see those two shadows over here? Xiao Lu was taken away."
kun said this calmly, drinking a sip of his wine.
I looked at the photo with astonishment.
Indeed, the window he had pointed to had two blurry black figures, and if you looked closer, you would find that those two silhouettes, were shaped like a human's
"Uh, this story Is it really true?"
I pursed my lips in disbelief.
kun did not reply, only giving me a profound little smile.
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