Mamiko felt the hairs on her neck rise as the older girl turned and fixed her with a playful yet malevolent smile. The flames flickered across her face, adding to the demonic glint in her eye. Realising the hold she had over Mamiko, she licked her lips slowly before speaking in a, sing-song voice,
    “And the girl, Yuki, went into the toilet… she went to the third door and knocked , ‘Hanako San, come out to play!’” As the other girls gasped, Mamiko squealed,
    “No, Ayaka, stop… I know about this and it’s true…” The group huddled together in the flickering candlelight, as Ayaka continued slowly, sounding each syllable like a drop of water,
    “Yes Mamiko, it is true… but you must hear it all… those are the rules!”
Mamiko shuddered. She hated this. One every holiday someone would suggest telling these stupid ghost stories. In the old days, it was called hyakumonogatari kaidankai and there were 100 candles in a dark room and people told ghost stories, extinguishing one candle after each tale until there was only one left and then, following the final story, it too was extinguished, leaving the audience in total darkness. Sometimes they stopped at ninety-nine because after the last one was put out it was supposed to be possible to call the spirits. There were only four of them here now, but it still gave Mamiko the creeps, and all the others knew it. Ayaka continued,
    “… and when Yuki called, a little voice said, ‘I am here…’ As she opened the door, Yuki saw a smiling little girl in a pretty red skirt…”
“Sometimes she wears white!” a third girl, Keiko, chipped in, only to be hushed into silence by the single boy in the company.
    “Shhhh! Let her finish!” he snapped. Ayaka continued without breaking rythym,
    “slowly Yuki opened the door… ‘Are you Hanako-San?’ she asked. The little girl turned and smiled‘Yes, I am…’” The girls gasped at the revelation. Looking at each of them slowly, Ayaka smiled, showing her teeth in the yellow- dance of the flame, before continuing,
    “Yuki wanted to scream… the little girl’s eyes were blood red… (more gasps from the audience)  She tried to turn and run, but Hanako-san grabbed her tightly and said, ‘No, you can’t go… you called me… now you have to play with me… Forever!’ and she pulled Yuki down into the toilet… and when her friends came, all they found was Yuki’s handkerchief… covered in… BLOOD!” she concluded, blowing out the candle in her hand to a shriek from the girls and a loud laugh from the boy. The trembling girls began to calm down as the boy, holding the last remaining candle, said,
    “That was good, but do you know the story of Aka Manto?”
    “No!” choired the girls (except Mamiko), “Tell us, Goichi!” Mamiko clenched her teeth… one more story and then they could put the lights on… but she knew Goichi would drag this one out, just for her.
Goichi smiled at them, the shadows dancing across his face. He paused a second before letting his face go blank, betraying no emotion. Then he began,
    “Aka Manto is a charming man, who wears a mask and a red cloak…”
    “But who is he?” Ayaka asked.
    “Nobody knows,” Goichi replied, “but he has the name Aka Manto… ‘Red Coat’, because of the red coat he always wears… along with his silver mask, so nobody sees his face, which is said to be… horrible…”
    “What does he do?” Mamiko squeaked, knowing she would wish she hadn’t asked. The boy continued,
    “Well, one day a girl went to the toilets in her school, it was an old building…”
    “Why do all these ghosts live in toilets?” Mamiko moaned, whose legs had already been crossed for some time.
    “So when they scare you, you are in the right place to pee your pants.” Keiko replied.
    “Quiet!” Ayaka hissed, “Let him tell the story.”
    “I don’t want to hear it if it’s too scary,” Mamiko whimpered, “I’m almost peeing my pants now!”
    “Are you going to let me continue?” Goichi sighed,
    “Go on…” Keiko nodded. Taking a breath and resuming his former composure, Goichi went on,
    “Well, the girl was looking in the mirror and she heard a handsome man’s voice say, ‘You look very beautiful, would you like a red scarf… or a blue one?’ Without thinking, she said she’d like a red one… and they found her… dead.” The girls gasped once more. Mousily, Mamiko enquired,
    “But how do they know she asked for a red one if she was dead?”
    “Because,” Goichi whispered, “ her throat was cut open so wide, that all the blood looked like a red scarf. That is what Aka Manto does… that is how they know.”
    “It’s not true!… is it?” Mamiko demanded, pleadingly. Ayaka put a hand on her shoulder and nodded,
    “It is, it happened at my cousin’s school as well… I heard about it!” she confirmed. Mamiko’s eyes widened. Keiko snorted scornfully,
    “But it’s easy, don’t ask for a red scarf… what else can he do?” Goichi smiled knowingly, shaking his head,
    “That’s not a good idea either,” he cautioned, “Another girl heard about Aka Manto and thought the same thing… she went to the toilets and she also heard a voice asking, ‘Would you like the red scarf or the blue one?’”
    “What did she do?” asked Ayaka.
    “Well, the police say she must have asked for the blue scarf… because when they found her…” Goichi said, suddenly standing up with his arm above his head and his head on one side, “she was hanging by a scarf… and her face was blue!” He blew out the candle. The girls screamed satisfyingly. In the darkeness, Mamiko felt a cold shudder go down her back. After a second, Ayaka went to turn the lights on.
    “Oh man, that’s weird…” murmed Keiko, “Is it true?” Pleased with his triumphant ending, Goichi sat down.
    “Yeah, he’s never been caught… and he’s been seen all round the country.”
    “Stop it,” groaned Mamiko, “I’m scared… and I need the toilet.” Chuckling, Goichi rose from his seat and moved out of the circle,
    “Do you want something to drink? I’m going to the kitchen…” he declared, walking out before anyone had time to answer.
    “In a minute… I really do need to pee…” moaned Mamiko. Ayaka laughed tauntingly,
    “Haha! Those stories really scared you, didn’t they?” Mamiko shook her head defiantly,
    “NO! I just had too much Coke… do you want to go with me?”  she asked. Ayaka and Keiko shrieked with laughter, taunting her together,
    “Ha, you are scared… ooooh, scaredy cat!”Mamiko clamped her jaw and shook her head angrily.
    “No I’m not…” She snorted, stamping a foot, “ I’ll go alone then, see if I care…” and she stormed out of the room, trying to convince herself as much as the two older girls, who stood watching for a second before spluttering out into fits of giggles. Eventually Ayaka pulled Keiko towards the kitchen,
    “Come on, let’s fix something to eat”.
*
Mamiko sneaked down the corridor of the hostel. This was always the other worst part of these school holidays, staying in these creepy old buildings with faulty lighting. They made you believe the stories…
Eventually she reached the communal bathroom. Slowly, gingerly, Mamiko pushed the door open. There was a toilet next to a shower cubicle and a wall sink with a mirror. Mamiko fumbled for the light switch, waiting in dread to feel something grab her hand. Finding the cord, she pulled it and checked the bathroom once again… Her reason for coming was getting more pressing and she was less worried about ghosts than the amount of Coke she’d drunk. Scanning the room once more, she went to the sink and splashed some water on her face as if to give herself some courage. Suddenly she thought she saw a movement behind her in the mirror. She snapped her head around but saw nothing, just the slight motion of  the shower curtain as the breeze from the window caressed it. Angrily, she scolded her reflection,
    “You’re so stupid… there’s nothing to be scared of… it’s just a game and there’s nothing real… grow up… or you will wet yourself!” Half believing her new courage, she moved to the toilet and, checking once more, slipped her shorts and panties down to her knees before sitting down.
As she began to relieve herself, a deep, male voice crooned softly from behind the shower,
    “You look very beautiful… would you like a red scarf… or a blue one?”
Mamiko stiffened, her shoulders rising and her breath quickening… for a second all she could hear was the beat of her own heart pounding over the dribbling sound in the toilet. From the corner of her eye she could see a red cloak and a silver mask moving slowly from behind the curtain. She tried to speak but produced nothing more than a guttural squeak. Once more the voice crooned,
    “Come my dear… I have a lovely… red scarf just for YOU!” at which a cold, wet hand stroked her neck.
The coldness shocked her into a reaction and Mamiko let loose a piercing shriek of terror and sprang from the toilet. Shrieking again, she ran, only to trip over her shorts as they fell around her ankles. Screaming and sobbing continuously, she crawled madly towards the door before pulling herself up, one hand madly trying to tug up her shorts, before running, shrieking, down the corridor followed by the wild laughter of the red cloaked man, who held onto the sink whilst doubling up with mirth.
Eventually, still laughing, Goichi removed his mask and staggered backwards, sitting on the toilet as he began to calm himself down,
    “Hahaha! Oh god, that was so funny… she really fell for it… whooooo! Aka Manto is coming to get you… silly little cow! Oh I wish I’d seen her face… haha! Whooooooh! Come out to play…”
After a few minutes, he rose and, still chuckling, moved towards the door. Suddenly, he jerked back, his cloak snagging on something. He pulled on it only to find the cloak being tugged back harder, wrenching him backwards. He tried to jump forward but something seized his legs, whipping them from underneath him so that he fell face forward onto the hard, cold tiles of the floor. Before he could move, a small but heavy object landed forcefully on his back and Goichi felt a cold , wet thing slithering up his neck, under his chin. The little hand clamped his jaw and forced his head backwards.
Unable to speak or move his head, Goichi peered out of the corner of his eye, to see a small white face with dripping wet hair that stank of urine. He smelt the stagnant, dank breath as the face came to rest against his, staring from the corner of its own blood red eye into his tearful one. A second slimy little hand snaked over his face and forced itself between his teeth, slowly beginning to prize his mouth open.
The little faced smiled a malevolent yet playful grin as the sing-song little voice giggled,
    “You can’t go… you called me…” Then the demonically strong hands wrenched his mouth open and the upper part of his face backwards. As Goichi felt his jaw joint begin to crack and the corners of his mouth tearing apart, Hanako continued in her giggling song, “… now you have to play with me… FOREVER!”

Owner of Dedman Productions, a small production company that focuses on bringing entertainment in both fiction and film.

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