lacewood: (Default)
Pei Yi ([personal profile] lacewood) wrote in [community profile] toxicskyremix2005-09-22 07:21 pm
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gokusen - the naming of the horror

For [ profile] memlu (who I swear was trying to KILL ME)


It began, some would say, in a time past man's imagining. The human mind is small; incapable of comprehending the vast, terrifying secrets of the world's history, of beholding the monsters that walked this earth before them. O, such tales have we lost, how deep the seas of our ignorance.

But this is not the day to go into the secret histories of our lost and most ancient fathers. To bring the tale to the present time and place, one could say it began in the year 199-, in the city of Tokyo, Japan, in a school called Shirokin High School. It had long held a reputation for taking students who could find nowhere else to go; the unsavoury tint of the student body was without compare.

This could not have been said to have changed with the hiring of one teacher, named Yamaguchi Kumiko, age 23, the young, determined possessor of a teaching degree in Mathematics. There are stories told of her exploits, and other implausible tales whispered of that bear no connection to her, but seem to be linked to her in some way nonetheless. But our tale, while featuring her prominently, is not here to dwell on the mysteries surrounding Shirokin High's junior Maths teacher.

In the winter of 199-, some months after Yamaguchi Kumiko's appearance, a boiler, situated in the school basement, broke down during the Christmas break, leaving the school with little heating when it returned for the spring semester. Students and staff alike went about their work in heavy sweaters and coats and much grumbling was heard, but little, it seemed, was done to correct the situation.

Being new to the institution, Kumiko was naturally puzzled at such inaction; but older, more experienced faculty would only shake their heads. The workmen had long since, they explained, refused to go anywhere near the school basement during the winter months. The boiler would have to wait until spring, if not summer, if it was to be fixed. She knit her eyebrows at the knowledge, surprised, but could not argue.

Things might have continued in this unsatisfactory but still tolerable vein, as it was, were it not for one of Kumiko's students getting a mild case of frostbite one lesson. Inuzaka had to be sent to the nurse's office (which had been equipped with a small electric heater of its own for such cases) and missed a day of school afterward.

Whatever her flaws, Kumiko's concern for her students was sincere and beyond doubt. Unhappy at what, to her mind, was a completely unnecessary danger to her students, she spoke to the school principal of it.

"Principal, you have to do something! It's only January, the whole school will freeze before spring if something isn't done!"

The principal sighed, long and deep. "I know that the problem of the heater is very serious," he admitted, even as he shivered and turned the small heater he'd placed on his desk up. "I've tried to talk to the workmen but they refused unless we paid them more money than this school has. And I don't blame them," he added, looking nervous.

"What? But why? Is this some ploy by your brother to close the school down again?" Kumiko exclaimed, indignant.

"I wish it was," the principal said, glancing over his shoulder for all that there was no one else in the office. "But this is beyond even my brother's means. I'm sure even he couldn't manage to...." he stopped.

"He couldn't what?" Kumiko asked. She had ever been a frank and straightforward person, and patience was not one of her virtues.

The principal hesitated, but was forced to speak. "Ah, well. I'm not sure, but... but you see, two years ago, the boiler broke down, also in winter, and we got a workman in to look at it. Izumi-sensei went with him to take a look at it..."

He stopped and drew a handkerchief from a pocket to wipe the thin sheen or nervous perspiration glistening on his brow. He had to stop himself from peering over his shoulder again.

"Izumi-sensei? I don't think I know -"

"He left not long after," he explained. "No one really knows what happened... but they went down sometime in the afternoon, when most of the classes were over. I was just leaving the school myself, when I heard the roar, and the screams... It was like nothing we'd ever heard before," he whispered, almost again his will, before he stopped himself and tried to look calm; but the wind murmured at the window just then and he jumped.

"We sent some teachers down to look, and they brought Izumi-sensei up, unconscious. He'd... apparently, he'd er, been so terrified he'd urinated on himself, but other than that, there was nothing wrong with him. However, the workman... We never found any signs of him, and he was... they say he was never seen again."

Silence filled the room as he stopped. The story done, the principal clasped his hands and studied Kumiko worriedly. She had heard the story in silence, her amazement clear on her face.

"Never seen again?" she echoed.

The principal nodded sadly. "We tried to search the basement, but we found no trace of him, beyond a few scattered tools. The company was very unhappy about it, and I think our reputation has... ah, spread a bit since then. Izumi-sensei could never tell us what had happened, or what he'd seen. He transferred soon after, and I hear he quit completely six months later."

Kumiko took a moment to consider this. "So you think there's... there's a monster in the basement?" she said, serious.

"Ah... well... I know it sounds silly, but truly... that sound... and Izumi-sensei was never the same afterwards, and... I'm sure spring will be here soon, Yamaguchi-sensei! I'm very sorry to hear about Inuzaka's injury, but a few days and he should be fine, and... it's only two more months... maybe only one, if it's early this year! And..."

Kumiko stood then, her face firm and set. "I understand. It's clearly very serious, and something should be done!"

"Er, Yamaguchi-sensei, that's not quite what I meant..."

"We can't let whatever it is that's down there to continue. What if it gets worse, or it hurts the students? This has to be stopped!"

"Yamaguchi-sensei, please don't do anythi-"

The door swung gently shut behind her. He stared at it and looked down at his desk, clasping his hands. "And she was such a nice girl too," he mourned.

Behind him, the window rattled and he jumped again. He shivered and gave it a nervous glance, peering around the office, but there was clearly no one there. He was alone.

"A monster? In the school basement?"

Class 3-4, despite some claims to the contrary, was neither the best nor the worst class in the school. Its 25 students were rough, rude, impulsive, rash and, to sum it up, callow, as all youth must be, but Kumiko believed in seeing the best in her students and she did not consider them completely lacking in the qualities of courage and concern for the well-being of their fellow men.

"You've never heard of it?" she asked them now.

"That's ridiculous!" Uchiyama proclaimed. "That's stupid, why the hell would there be a monster in the basement?!"

"Er..." Kuma did not look as certain of this comfortable fact as his classmate. "I think I heard some third years say something once, but I never knew it was..."

"Well, the principal seems to think that there's something there, and the workmen won't be coming to fix the boiler until we can tell them there's nothing there. We have to do something."

Her class looked wary, having long learned something of Kumiko, or as they commonly called her, 'Yankumi', and her, to their minds, unnecessary overenthusiasm for unusual adventures.

"Today, after school, a group of us will go down and take a look at whatever it is that's down there. Who wants to volunteer?" she announced. The lack of offers did not surprise her; she simply carried on. "I'll see you all after class then!"

Her students tried to make their escape as soon as the lesson ended. Some number managed to duck out of the classroom in time, but at least five of them found themselves cornered as Kumiko picked up her books and barred the door.

"Why the hell's this our business anyway?!" some of them tried to protest.

"If the school boiler doesn't get fixed, the school is going to keep freezing for almost two more months. Inuzaka almost had to go to the hospital because of his fingers the other day," she pointed out.

She ignored the rebellious mutters of "he should've known better" and "he'd get frostbite from an ice-cube" and marshalled her forces.

"Anyway, most of you don't believe that there's anything down there, right? So there should be no problem!" she beamed. "We'll just go down, check everything, and then go tell the principal that it's safe for the workmen to go down."

"So why don't you get the teachers to go, why's it always us?" someone muttered, still sulky.

The recalcitrant student found himself in a firm headlock. "Noda, do you really want to freeze for the next two months?" Kumiko asked him. "And you should think of the weaker students! A lot of them have been falling ill, it's silly to let this continue. I tried asking a few teachers, but they were busy with after-school clubs."

"They just didn't want t-"

The argument might have well continued all afternoon, but some of the other students were growing impatient. One of them stood with a resigned air and tapped the back of Kumiko's head.

"Oi. Let's go," Shin, who was not known for his politeness to his elders, said as he went to the door. "We'll be here all afternoon if you two don't start moving," he added over his shoulder.

The other students followed him reluctantly, and they all trailed after Kumiko as she led the way to the school basement.

Shirokin High School's architecture was not exciting; not even interesting. The basement door led to grey concrete stairs, which in turn went down into the grey concrete expanse of the basement, divided only by pillars and shadows. The school buildings had been erected sometime in the 1970s, and twenty years had been time aplenty for all the debris and rubbish of school life to slowly make its way down into its bowels and accumulate. There were old tables and chairs, covered in graffitti, cupboards bulging with abandoned art projects and dusty uniforms, antiquated gym equipment and cracked blackboards; even the skeleton remains of what had once been a grand piano.

It was lit by bare bulbs that dangled from the ceiling like rare, alien fruit, swinging gently in a non-existent breeze so the shadows swayed and rippled around them. Dust lay thick on the floor, swirling up to meet them as they stumped through it.

It was exceedingly cold.

Kumiko had found a torch somewhere in the teacher's lounge. Now, she shone it around them, peering at the corners too far for the light to reach. From the distance, occasional faint noises came to them, the sighing, shifting sounds of old things long unused, disturbed by their intrusion and now settling back into sleep.

A distant whisper made Uchiyama jump and squeak.

"It's... it's cold down here," he said, teeth beginning to chatter. Indeed, something in the air around them seemed strange, foreign - it was not just the cold, but the weight of it, pressing into them, raising the hairs at the backs of their necks for no reason they could see.

The students closed behind Kumiko; she made a noise to protest their retreat, but then took a step into the expanse.

"Hello!" she shouted. Her voice was swallowed by the space, which threw odd whispers and murmurs back in return.

"Argh! What'd you do that for?" her students demanded behind her.

"Had to check if there was anyone down here," she said to them.

There came no answer from the shadows. At her order, her students fanned out again, venturing into the labyrinth of old furniture and rotten rolls of carpeting, though always taking care not to go too far out of sight. For an hour, they wandered through the chaos of their school's forgotten history, and soon, they had reached the edges of what portion of the basement had been equipped with adequate lighting.

It was Shin, prowling the narrow alleys of abandoned cupboards, who found a trail where the dust had been scuffed by feet not their own. Following it, he discovered a door, half hidden behind a ripped paper screen. The knob turned under his hand and he called the others over, and they filled the cramped space around it as best they could.

Armed with the torch, Kumiko ventured first into the corridor, so narrow they could only pass long it in a single file. Ahead, she could just see a door.

That was when the noises started.

It began as a faint scritching - nails on a blackboard, perhaps, filling the close air of the tunnel. They jumped, looked askance around them; but the sound had come from no one among them. Someone began to whimper.

Then a longer, louder scraaaaatch of something dragged against raw concrete.

They jumped, and Uchiyama howled. The boys behind Kumiko surged towards the door they had come through, drawn by one instinct, but Kumai, who had been the last to enter, blocked the way. In his own panic at the mindless onslaught descending on him, he found himself frozen, unable to move, even as his classmates roared at him.

"Dammit, Kuma, move your fat ass!"

"Quiet!" Kumiko shouted over the panic.

They fell silent long enough for a new sound - the rhythmic grind of stone against stone, with steady intervals, like footsteps, like something dragging itself across the floor -

A void of sound, of breaths not drawn, of a horror with no name.

"We're all going to die..." someone began to moan.

"Shut up, it'll hear you!"

All that stood between the door from whence the noises came, and the boys behind her - her students, she reminded herself, who she had drawn into this herself - was Kumiko herself.

The torch in her hand did not tremble as she steeled her nerves and began to creep along the tunnel again, drawing ever close to The Door.

"What is she d-"



The faint thump of a fist against the back of someone's head.

The door was before her. If she thought, carefully, she could still remember to take deep breaths that hissed through her clenched teeth.

The knob was in her hand.

For a moment, she stood frozen. A turn of her wrist and it gave, slowly, slowly.

The torch in her hand wavered, then began to flicker, for all that she was sure she had checked the batteries before she'd come down. She had more batteries in her pocket, but the door was opening, and she could not take her fingers from it now.

It opened, and for a moment, they saw.

The torch struck the floor and went out, but no one heard the crack of breaking plastic, for screams had already filled the tunnel, the screams of true, primal fear and madness, so long hidden from the modern man's consciousness but never, truly, lost--

an epilogue

"... Lovecraft Appreciation Club? What the hell is that?!"

In light of its student body, Shirokin High School had always had an unusually well-stocked sick room. It had not, however, been built to hold more than ten students at a time, two of them unconscious, all of them bruised, at least half of them suffering from what could have been described as a mild case of post-traumatic shock, and all of them deeply unhappy.

This did not include the teacher, who the nurse had personally thought could do with a tranquiliser before other, more urgent matters had flooded her office.

"It's ruined!"

Three boys sat sobbing, broken past all consolation. The fourth member of the club had been laid on a bed, together with the wreckage of what had once been a costume that would have made all tremble before it in blind adulation. The fifth was the only one approaching coherence; he sat in a chair, holding the broken remains of his glasses, and glowered portentously at a sceptical Kumiko.

"It was going to take the top prize at the Elder Gods Worship Convention in April. We'd only to get the sound effects and the skin texture just right, and Anazuki was getting really good at moving the head, and..."

"What were you doing in the basement?" Kumiko interrupted.

The boy looked wounded. "When our founders requested that the club be recognised as a school activity, the principal told us that there were no teachers to spare to make it official and that we could just use what space we could find. The basement was ideal. No one went down there, our rituals were never disturbed, the conditions were perfect for studying the most efficient methods of inducing terror, the--"

"What did you do to the workman?" Kumiko inquired in suspicious tones.

The boy blinked. "The workman?"

"When the school boiler broke down two years ago!"

He stopped and appeared to be sink into deep thought. "There might be a record in the Annals," he admitted. "There was a mention of two people coming down. One ran away, I think, even before the full God had been revealed to him, and the other swooned. My seniors were very pleased with the effect of the costume, I believe it took second pri-"

Shin interrupted his litany by standing. "Che," he said. "Is that all." Hands in pockets, he left the office. Those members of class 3-4 still capable of walking followed.

Kumiko pushed her glasses up, studied the room and sighed. At least they could get the boiler fixed now.

(The Lovecraft Appreciation Club was eventually, in the light of its achievements, given a room at the back of the school to use. Requests for students to practice "effects" on had to be turned down in the end when parents complained of the nightmares and horrors thus induced. The basement was declared out of bounds for school activities, and teachers were regularly sent down to check that it was not being occupied.)

And down, down, down in the depths, beneath the paltry concrete and cement and steel, under the earth, it waited.

O, the ignorance of men.


September 2005