My colleague’s death wasn’t normal

The company office I was working for was located out in the countryside, and I lived in a dorm about a 15-minute walk from it. Last week A-san, a 35-year-old colleague who also lived in the dorm, passed away. I heard about the way he died from another colleague, B-san, at the funeral, and it wasn’t funny.

To begin with, the way he died wasn’t normal at all.

To get to the dorms from the office, you have to go out the back gate, through the residential area, walk along the prefectural road for a bit and then enter another narrow road. There’s a stream that runs at a right angle to the prefectural road, and on the way to the dorms you have to cross a bridge to get over it.

A-san fell over the edge of that bridge into the shallow stream below and died. I say the word ‘bridge’ but it’s really quite tiny, and at best it’s only 3-4 metres from the guardrail to the water below. It’s a height that, if you jumped over feet first, you wouldn’t even injure yourself, but A-san fell over head first, and apparently he hit his head rather forcefully on the riverbed and died. There was no evidence of a struggle, but it wasn’t really a place you would think one would choose to commit suicide either. He also didn’t leave a will. The police were investigating the possibility that it was a crime, but at the end of the day it was all rather strange.

A-san’s funeral, held in his hometown over 30 km away, was a painful event. I couldn’t bear to look at his parents who lost their only child, their 35-year-old son. B-san, who drove me there, was also close friends with A-san, so it was a terribly sad event. To be honest, I never had a lot of contact with A-san myself, but looking at his parents and B-san, my heart felt heavy.

When it was time to return B-san seemed mentally broken down. I asked if he wanted me to drive on the way back, but he said he was okay, and so we returned the same way we came. But on the way he suddenly pulled over on the side of the road and started sobbing.

“A was murdered.”

“What?” I couldn’t get any words out, but B-san started to tell me his story.

The occurrence of these events dates back to two weeks before A-san’s death.

On this day, A-san, B-san and several other colleagues were drinking at a bar near the office just after 11 pm. When it was time to go their separate ways those who were drinking got taxis and rides home, but A-san walked, cutting through the office, heading out through the back gate and approached the residential area there.

It was the countryside, so there were few streetlights. As he walked along the dark road A-san felt something strange and looked over at a nearby house’s fence. Someone’s face was poking over the top of the fence, looking directly at him. He stopped without thinking, staring fixedly at the figure. It was a woman in her 40s, but her expression was strange. She was grinning, an unpleasant smile on her face as she looked at him.

“What’s her deal?” A-san thought. He decided she probably had a few mental issues, and though he wanted to know more, he averted his eyes and walked away. When he was several metres away he turned back, and as he expected the woman was still staring at him, grinning. The pleasant mood he was in vanished, and A-san returned home.

B-san heard about what happened to him the following Monday. He warned him to be careful and not get involved, and that was supposed to be the end of the conversation. But four days later A-san approached him with an urgent look on his face, asking him to listen to what he had to say at the company drinking party after. A-san, feeling something wasn’t right, quickly finished his work for the day, put the rest off until the following day, and left work early to head to the bar.

“What happened?”

“That woman was there! Grinning and staring at me.”

“Where?”

“Tokyo. I was on the Yamanote Line and she was in the crowd on the opposing platform, sticking her face out from behind a rubbish bin and grinning at me.”

According to his story, A-san was on his way back from a business trip when he saw her. The train was already on the move, so there was nothing he could do about it. B-san started to doubt him, wondering if he was suffering from stress. Supposing this psychotic woman was following A-san, there’s no way an outsider would know where he would be on his business trip and when, and even if she followed him, it was impossible for her to know what train car he would be in and what time it would pass for her to see him.

Was the woman really just a figment of his imagination?

“Has something been bothering you lately?”

But A-san said there was nothing on his mind but that woman, and in reality his work and private life were going well. B-san didn’t know what to say, so he warned him in any case that if he saw her again not to go near her, because she might be dangerous. But a few days later, B-san himself was also to see her.

On this particular day he was heading towards the Chinese restaurant near the office to have lunch with A-san. A-san suddenly stopped and silently pointed ahead of them. When B-san looked over, there she was. Her face was sticking up behind the fence about 20 metres away, grinning at them. B-san froze for just a moment, but seeing her like that brought out an irrational anger in him and suddenly he ran, intending to ask her just what the hell she was doing. But the woman quickly withdrew, and the lot was forbidden to enter. They went around the back, but there was no sign of her. She was gone.

Realising that the woman was real, B-san tried to think of ways to deal with her. If they called the police to report her as a stalker, they had no evidence to prove she really was. They thought about what to do for several days, and then while B-san was at home one night he suddenly got a phone call from A-san.

“Help me! She’s not human!”

“What’s wrong?! What happened?”

“She’s inside my house!”

“Seriously? Where are you?!”

“I’m outside. Can I stay at your place?”

“Of course. Go wait for me at the convenience store.”

B-san told his wife what was happening, got in the car and drove along the prefectural road to the convenience store to pick A-san up, talking to him on the phone the whole way. What follows is what A-san told him about what happened on the way.

After he arrived home A-san got in the bath, returned to his room wearing a T-short and shorts, then got into bed to check his phone. When he grabbed his phone he saw it. From between his jackets and shirts hanging in the closet he saw that face again, grinning at him. But even though he should have been able to see her body from beneath the hanging clothes, he could see nothing. Although he was scared, anger won out, and he screamed, “Hey you!” and pulled the clothes apart.

There was nothing but a face. Just the woman’s grinning face was floating in mid-air.

A-san scrambled out of the room, and with his phone in hand he called B-san. After telling B-san all of this, he suddenly fell quiet.

“… hey, what’s wrong?”

“Uwaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” There was a scream and then the sound of a large impact on the other end of the phone, and then it went silent.

His heart pounding, B-san arrived at the convenience store, but A-san was nowhere to be seen. He grabbed his flashlight from the car and ran around looking for him. He found A-san’s phone by the bridge, and worried that he’d fallen over the edge, he shone his flashlight to the ground below. A-san was lying there, unmoving.

The police arrived and investigated the area and questioned B-san several times, but no matter how many times he told them what happened they refused to believe him (in fact, B-san thought they suspected him instead). B-san had no idea who the woman was, or why she targetted A-san like that.

B-san was worried that he might meet the same fate, having seen her himself, but so far he’s been okay. But what’s scariest of all for me is that that thing was in the same building I currently live in.

Thankfully I haven’t seen her yet though.

 

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