Right, and we are back. Continuing on from where we left off last night.
Before doing so however, I’d just like to say that this challenge is turning out to be a lot more fun than I originally anticipated. Maybe because for the past five days, it has been a literal challenge. To myself.
I begin writing around 9 or 10 pm (it’s currently 9:14 pm) with the intention of posting before midnight. I am racking my brain and just letting it flow authentically, from pen to paper to computer keyboard. It really is impressive what you can pull off when you fully commit and set your mind to a singular goal.
I’m going to need to keep these same positive vibes going next month for NaNoWriMo.
Any who, I’ve got the Abzu soundtrack playing in the background and clock’s a tickin. So time to get started.
I creeped myself out last night. Recounting this story, that is.
I decided to sit in partial darkness, typing the words I would like to bring to you to in turn bring to life.
Watching the darkness dance out of the corner of my eye, I saw one of the racks in the kitchen spinning. The fans were off, it was at least 40°f and after a day of 90 degree weather and sweating to sleep, I froze to death. I don’t know why the rack was spinning, but I guess that’s just how things are sometimes.
They happen on their own, and sometimes there truly is no excuse for the phenomenon we experience.
God, I feel like some edgy “teenager” from a show like Riverdale sitting here typing this. I can hear the snarky, somewhat condescending voice narration and everything in my head. Blegh.
Seriously though, strange events tend to happen – with no explanation to offer.
It was a weekend when I experienced the next phenomenon at the cultural center, months after the first noticeable, distinct, incident.
I was alone, as usual in the building. I don’t think security had even arrived yet, as it was the male that day and he mainly talked on his phone, played obscure computer games, and sat around and stared at me when he thought I wasn’t looking. He was rarely on time for his shifts.
Maintenance let me in the doors, and after greeting them I headed upstairs to the kitchen. I put on a pot of coffee and then backtracked across the empty cubicles and dimmed private offices. I went into the bathroom and decided to fix my makeup while I waited for the pot of joe to finish.
The thing about the maintenance staff, is that they each had their quirks. One clanked and janked as the keys in his pocket met his thighs. One was always making his presence known by either talking loudly (to himself or otherwise) or playing music, and one was usually furtively cursing at some perceived slight. My point being, I could usually tell if one was on their way. The radios often cued on static unprompted now and again, so that was another indicator.
I had turned around away from the mirror to look out the window, as I heard a siren passing by. When I turned back there were tissues on the floor. The bathrooms had been clean when I entered, and the tissues were those thick kind that are used at train stations or airports.
Not something flimsy you would buy when you’re down on your luck or money from a…let’s say dollar store. And some dollar stores have pretty nice knock off items, so we’re talking about the extremely cheap kind that you touch and they rip. You look too hard at them and the material decides to de-materialize itself. That type of thin and cheap.
I remember picking up the thick tissue-like paper, shrugging, and vaguely wondering if someone was playing a trick on me before entering a stall to do some business. I remembered all of the times security has knocked on the bathroom door when they needed to come in and change something, needing to make sure it was clear to do so first. I hadn’t even heard the elevator or footsteps, so I was positive maybe I just missed something.
I exit the stall to wash my hands and there is a pile of tissues on the ground. It looked like a scene out of those unrealistic high school teen movies where everyone makes paper airplanes and throws up sheets of loose leaf once the clock signals dismissal and school was out for the summer. But on a smaller scale, of course.
(Unrelated note: who cleans that up in the movies? I know the janitor probably leaves as well…does it just stay there until the next school year?)
I looked around, now remembering all of the Japanese bathroom ghost stories I read years ago and had mocked. I mean really, a bathroom ghost that asks you which color you like before it kills you? One that has no legs and sports a stylish bob? One that licks the damn floor clean? It always seemed like a joke to me in the most ridiculous way possible, until that incident happened.
I know it sounds stupid, it still sounds stupid to me. But I was alone on that floor. The tissues were in their container untouched. I know nothing was broken in the bathroom and if it had been there would have been some sort of sign. No one was messing with me, that really happened.
Not wanting to find out if a ghost was going to show up and quiz me on my favorite colors, I hightailed it out of there. I left the papers as-is, because I felt like if I bent down to pick them up when I turned around again there would just be more and it’d be a pointless, endless cycle. Besides, I had coffee to look forward to.
I walked slowly through the floor this time, on the way back to the kitchen. I peeked down a corridor with a slightly ajar door, pausing for half a second and muffling my footsteps to stain my ears. To listen for some unknown assailant. For the maintenance guys who I expected to come out laughing saying they had got me. For anyone.
But, no one came.
I tried my best to scan the tops and sides of the cubicles from a diagonal angle. It wasn’t possible to see all of them just walking by, and it would look suspicious if I just walked into another team’s work area while I was alone in the building (again, I was most likely being watched).
I saw nothing, and exhaled. I texted my mom about the incident when I got into the kitchen. I put my bags down and went past the water cooler and over to the stove. By this cooler, there is a little tray with sugars, assorted condiment packets leftover from other staff member’s lunches, stirrers, and the same grade of tissue as the bathroom. These were neatly stacked in a pile closest to the wall, a sugar jar in front acted as a wind barrier – along with a cup for stirrers.
Opening the cabinets I found a plastic cup and went to grab a stirrer and napkin to situation things on. A few napkins had blown to the ground. In the same fashion as the bathroom.
I looked around the small kitchen this time, turning in a circle before cleaning the papers up and peeking out the door and down the hallway before throwing them in the trash. There was no one there. I eyed the tissues again, placing the sugar jar and stirrer cup closer to the tissues. I didn’t think it was, but I still slowed my movements in case the wind had somehow blown them over.
I made my coffee and looked at the tissues, which were still neatly stacked. I turned my back and slowly walked across the room to sit down at a table and text my mom back. When I looked up again towards the area, there were scattered tissues everywhere. I texted my mom again about what was going on and she suggested that I go back downstairs and leave the area alone. I obliged and grabbed my things before walking out.
I felt insanely paranoid waiting for the elevator. I kept teetering back and forth, pretending to stretch while I checked each direction. I thought about the materials used to make the old building coming from Japan. I also remembered hearing about how attached certain patrons were to the place. When one elderly sponsor had passed, a joke was made that maybe he would still come to see the shows in the afterlife.
Had I pissed someone off?
If I didn’t, what if someone actually was in the building. There were so many nutcases and threats against the area in general, it wouldn’t surprise me if that was so. In which case, I was close to one exit – but the other was across the hall. Could I get out in time if an assailant was hiding on the floor with me? The cubicles were a maze, and the room at the end of the hall was a dead end. If I screamed, nobody would hear me. I had no radio, and even when I did sometimes maintenance didn’t hear a call because they would be playing music or chatting with the volume turned down low.
All of these thoughts ran across my mind as I waited for the elevator. Until finally, it came.
I went downstairs and when asked why I was down there so early I gave some excuse about being ready to work – to much eye rolling afterward. I took extra time cleaning off the desk, charged my phone, even walked around the public area of the building until the docents showed up.
That day, I didn’t go back upstairs, even when my bottle ran out of water and I was thirsty. I only utilized the second floor when the docents were on the clock, once they left I stayed seated at the desk. The security guard was weird and not like the female one, so I kept the experience to myself.
I refused to go up there for a very long time when I was alone in the building after that. I never told anyone why, and I don’t know if they noticed. Something wasn’t right that day, and soon after I ended up quitting anyway but…the experience has stayed with me.
Just the sheer stupidity of it, the immaturity of turning around and seeing tissues scattered everywhere. Tissues you have to tug out of a dispenser in the bathroom. Or trying to drink coffee only to have the same thing happen. It was stupid, I still don’t want to believe in Japanese bathroom spirits but I can believe in a poltergeist. Or a spirit just passing by looking to cause mayhem.
This may not be as scary as other things you’ll find on the web (or the news), but it was scary to me. I was alone when these things happened, with no option to readily find help or escape if necessary. I guess that is the most unsettling to me, not having options. Being at the whim of someone or something messing me that I can’t see or properly react to.
When I do visit Japan, I will be cautious of the restrooms. I never want to experience something like that ever again.
Has anything strange ever happened to you before? Even if it sounds stupid, did it terrify you? And, would you confront the threat, or leave?
Let me know in the comment section below. And until next time ~
☆ In Asian Spaces
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Recommended Reading: If you have any interest in reading about Japanese scary stories and folktales, you could always pick up Kwaidan by (good ‘ol) Lafcadio Hearn. My best friend in high school got me a copy for Christmas one year. This version has curated illustrations to aid in visualization of the legends and adds a basis for your imagination to explore and dwell on these topics.