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Scream Fest By Forest Walker

Scream Fest

14

Hitobashira

1

0

The hallway was unusually quiet, with only a few lights left on to guide Grace Tetangco as she walked down the empty corridor. 


She had stayed late at the advertising agency she managed, which was located in a small building owned by a Japanese man named Mr. Akira Kobayashi.


Although they had only been in the building for a week, Grace had grown accustomed to working long hours. 


She had no family or partner waiting for her at home and had chosen to remain in the Philippines while her parents and siblings migrated abroad. Grace had often been told that she was foolish for choosing to stay in the Philippines instead of pursuing a career in Europe.


The office on the third floor was the only one with light spilling out from the windows. 


She wasn’t bothered by the fact that she was alone in the building - in fact, she found the quiet and stillness to be a source of solace. It allowed her to focus on her work.


“Excuse me, Ma’am. I’m just wondering how much longer are you planning to work?” Grace hadn’t noticed the arrival of Mr. Reuben in her office.  She had been so focused on her work that she didn’t even hear him knock. Mr. Reuben was the security guard at the small building, and he looked a little uncomfortable as he shifted from foot to foot. “It’s just that my wife has been waiting for me at home, and my shift ended a while ago.”


Grace felt a twinge of guilt as she glanced at the security guard. She had been so wrapped up in her work that she hadn’t even considered that Mr. Reuben would be waiting for her to finish.


Her works were almost done, but she knew that she needed to be considerate of the man who stood before her. After all, he was a family man, and it wasn’t his fault that Grace had chosen to work overtime.


“I’m sorry, Mr. Reuben,” she said, closing her laptop. “I didn’t mean to keep you waiting. You can just leave the lock here, I’ll be done in a while.”


The security guard carefully put down the four locks on top of Grace’s desk. He grabbed the key and politely said goodbye before leaving the office. As Grace returned to her work, she couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. She had just settled back into her task when she heard the sound of running footsteps coming down the stairs.


“Mr. Reuben?” she called out, a hint of confusion in her voice. The footsteps didn’t sound like they belonged to a large person - they were too light and quick. It was almost as if a child were running down the stairs.


Grace called out again, but there was no response. She began to feel uneasy, wondering if someone else had entered the building. She sat frozen in her chair for a moment, listening intently for any other sounds. When none came, she stood up and slowly made her way to the door, her heart racing in her chest.


Grace frantically searched her office for something to defend herself with, but all she could find was an old umbrella leaning against the wall. She grabbed it and held it tightly, her knuckles turning white as she clutched the handle. She took one last look around the hallway before gathering the courage to step out of her office.


As she descended the stairs, she called out again, her voice shaking with fear. “Is anyone there? Mr. Reuben?” There was no response, and the silence was deafening. She took each step slowly, her heart pounding in her chest.


When she reached the second floor, it was so dark that she could barely see. She fumbled for the light switch, her hands shaking as she turned it on. The fluorescent bulbs flickered to life, illuminating a young child - no more than ten years old - running towards the fire exit.


“Hey! You’re not allowed to play here!” Grace’s fear was quickly replaced by anger. She couldn’t believe that her work had been interrupted by a misbehaving child, and the thought of almost dying from fear of an intruder made her blood boil.


Grace’s heart raced as she sprinted towards the fire exit. When she flung the door open, she saw the child’s small figure darting down the stairs, laughing as if he was enjoying some private joke. “I’m not playing around. This isn’t a playground,” Grace shouted, her face red with anger. She tried to chase after the child, but he was too fast and had already slipped out the door by the time she reached it.


As she stepped outside, the darkness enveloped her, making it difficult to see. “Hello?” she called out, but there was no response except for the fading sound of the child’s laughter. “I’m not amused. If you’re out there, come out now. If you don’t, I’ll call the police.”


“Go ahead and call the police. That way, I’ll be forced to come out,” a small voice replied from behind her. Grace turned to see the child standing there, a mischievous glint in his eyes. He took off running again, and Grace chased after him, her heart pounding in her chest.


She had to be careful not to trip and fall in the darkness, but she was determined to catch the little troublemaker. “Kid, wait. Are you trying to be annoying? I’m really going to call the police,” she shouted, her voice laced with anger.


All she could see was the blur of the child’s clothes as he ran, disappearing into the darkness.


Grace’s legs were trembling with exhaustion and her vision was starting to blur. She couldn’t believe she had been foolish enough to chase after the child without turning on the lights first.


“If I catch you, you’re in big trouble,” she threatened, her voice shaking with anger and fatigue.


As she stumbled blindly through the darkness, she didn’t see the pillar of the building until she ran straight into it. The child she had been chasing seemed to have vanished into thin air. Gritting her teeth in frustration, Grace leaned against the pillar, rubbing her sore hand.


That’s when she noticed something strange about the surface of the pillar. She couldn’t see it, but it felt uneven, almost as if it had been carved with a human face. She explored the rough patch with her hand and gasped in shock. It felt like a small, child-sized face was etched into the stone. Trembling with fear, Grace backed away slowly, wondering how long the face had been there and how she could have missed it before.


“Help me, I want to get out of this building,” a voice suddenly spoke up, causing Grace to jump in surprise. She had no idea where the voice was coming from, but it seemed to be coming from the direction of the pillar.


Her heart was pounding in her chest and her hands were shaking as she tightly clutched the umbrella. She couldn’t believe what was happening. She slowly backed away towards the stairs. She didn’t want to make any noise, not until she knew what was lurking in the darkness with her. She couldn’t shake the feeling that she was being watched by unseen eyes.


After a few steps, Grace saw the dim light of the stairs and rushed towards it, taking the stairs two at a time up to the third floor. She burst into her office, slamming the door behind her and locking it before leaning against it, finally allowing herself to take a deep, steadying breath.


Her heart was pounding in her chest and her hands were shaking as she frantically gathered her things, stuffing them haphazardly into her bag. She grabbed the building’s lock and was about to leave when she saw the child standing inside, looking pale and ghostly.


The child’s face was sad and haunted, and Grace felt a mix of fear and sympathy wash over her. She didn’t know what to do or say, and for a moment, she just stood there staring at the child, unsure of what to do next.


“Don’t leave me here,” the child begged, tears streaming down his face. “I want to get out of this place. Please help me.”


Grace hesitated for a moment before slowly opening the door. She didn’t know why, but she felt drawn to the child and wanted to help him in any way she could.


“How can I help you? I don’t even know you. You should just go home,” Grace said softly.


“My body is on the pillar. They put me there. Please help me escape,” the child said, his voice shaking with fear.


“Pillar? You need to go home to your parents,” Grace urged.


“My father put me there. He works as a construction worker for this building. He sent me here to bring food, but I never made it home after that. If you demolish the pillar on the left, you’ll find me. Please help me,” the child begged.


Grace was about to open the door further and try to talk to the child when she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned around to see Mr. Kobayashi standing behind her, a concerned look on his face.


“Thank God you’re here, Mr. Kobayashi. There was a child in my office just now...,” Grace opened the door to her office to show the child to Mr. Kobayashi, but the child was not there. “Where did the child go?” she called out, but no child emerged.


“What child are you talking about, Grace?” Mr. Akira asked.


“There was a child here. He said his body was on the pillar of the building. We have to help him.”


“You’re not being rational, Grace. How could a child end up on a pillar in the building? If he was there, he would surely be dead by now. Having a dead body in the building brings bad luck to our business.”


Grace’s head spun as she tried to process the child’s words. Akira’s words made sense. But how does she explain what happened earlier? How much of this is true? Had a crime been committed in this very building?


Without a second thought, she grabbed her phone from her bag and began dialing the police. But before she could complete the call, a hard, blunt object struck the back of her head, causing her to crumple to the floor. She struggled to stay conscious, her ears ringing as Mr. Akira’s voice drifted towards her.


“I won’t let you ruin everything I’ve worked for. That child’s body is what holds this building together, keeping it safe from calamities. You won’t expose my sacrifice to the authorities.”


Grace’s vision faded to black. That was the last time someone saw Grace. Rumors circulated that Grace had either fled or taken her own life, unable to handle the financial ruin of her company.


But the truth was far more sinister. Mr. Akira had silenced Grace, ensuring that she would never reveal the dark secrets of the building. And as he moved on to his next project, who knew how many more bodies would be cemented into the walls, their fates sealed forever.

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