Ryokan Job Offer

This all took place exactly two years ago. I wanted to travel, so I was looking for a part-time job. The days were hot and sweat poured off me as I phoned about jobs. But, for some reason, nobody had anything. I threw myself on the floor, worn out, and muttered expletives as I thumbed through the pages of a magazine advertising jobs.

What a shitty job market… In order to save money, I didn’t use any electricity during the day. Light from the setting sun that didn’t seem to want to go down streamed into my dim room. The window panes case a shadow like a cross on the floor… In the distance, a train rumbled.

When I closed my eyes, I could smell dinner cooking in another apartment. “What do I have, cup noodles?” I dragged my lethargic body up and went to put the magazine away. Suddenly, the page flicked over.

There was an ad for a job working at a ryokan in a certain prefecture (I won’t say which). It was the exact place I was thinking I wanted to visit. The job was only for summer and the pay not very good, but… It had a place to sleep and food to eat, so it strongly grabbed my attention.

I’d been eating nothing but cup noodles. There, I’d be able to eat catering or homemade food, not to mention it was a place I wanted to visit in the first place. I called immediately.

“Yes, thank you for calling, this is the OO ryokan.”

“Uh, hi. I saw your job ad, are you still looking for people.”

“Oh, please wait a moment.”

She sounded like a young woman. I heard a low male voice on the other end, perhaps the owner of the ryokan, as they whispered. My heart beat wildly in my chest, and for some reason I found myself sitting up straight and polite while I waited. Finally someone returned to the phone. It was a different voice.

“Hello? You’re enquiring about the job?”

“Yes. I saw you were looking for workers. I’d love to work if the position is still open.”

“Ah, thank you. We’d love to have you. When can you start?”

“Anytime,” I replied.

“Okay, well, how about tomorrow? I’m sorry, what’s your name?”

“Kamio.”

“Kamio-kun, huh? We’re looking forward to seeing you soon…”

Everything went swimmingly. What luck. I always recorded my calls so I didn’t forget what was said. I played the call back and noted down the important parts. I would be staying there for the duration, so I made sure to note that I needed my insurance card as well. There was a black and white photo of the inn on the magazine ad. It looked cosy and surrounded by nature.

My job having been decided so suddenly, and where I wanted to go, no less, was a huge relief. But something was odd. I hummed while making my cup noodles. Even the humming seemed odd. The sun had disappeared at some point, and a warm, damp breeze was blowing in the open window. While slurping my noodles, I suddenly realised what was wrong.

The terms were great, I could save money and travel at the same time. Plus there was a girl there. It was a ryokan, so you never knew what might happen. But, something was odd. The window glass became a mirror in the darkness. My face reflected in it.

For some reason, I wasn’t happy at all. I didn’t know why, but I was actually really depressed. The fact that looked back at me in the window was lifeless and old.

The next day, I woke up with a raging headache. The pain was debilitating. Was it a cold? I staggered to the bathroom to brush my teeth. My gums were bleeding. I looked in the mirror and was shocked. There were massive bags under my eyes, and my skin was white. I looked just like a…

I have to refuse the job, I thought, but I’d already packed everything to go the night before. But… I didn’t want to go. Then the phone rang.

“Good morning, I’m from the OO ryokan, is this Kamio-san?”

“Yes. I’m just about to leave.”

“Okay. Are you alright? My apologies, but you sound a little…”

“Ah, I’m sorry. I just woke up, so…”

“Don’t push yourself too hard. When you get here, feel free to use the hot spring first. It’s your first day, so take your time. We’re not that busy anyway.”

“Ah, I’m okay, but thank you.”

I hung up and got ready to leave. I was grateful for their kindness. As soon as I hung up the phone, however, I was overcome with a shivering fit. My head swam as I opened the door.

“I… just gotta get to the ryokan first…”

I staggered towards the station, so much that people turned back to look at me as they passed.

Soon, it started to rain. I didn’t have an umbrella on me, so by the time I reached the station I was drenched. Painful coughs racked my body.

“…I don’t want to go…”

I finally reached the station, dripping wet, and bought my ticket. When I saw my own hand, I was shocked. It was dry and cracked. I was wet, but the skin was all cracked. Just like an old person.

“Have I come down with something bad? I hope I can safely make it to the ryokan…”

Clinging to the handrails, I dragged myself up the stairs, taking numerous breaks along the way. I had some time until the train arrived. I collapsed on the bench and sat there, struggling to breathe…

My voice rasped. My hands and feet were numb. My head pounded with waves of pain and when I coughed, blood landed at my feet. I wiped my mouth with my handkerchief. It was covered in blood.

I looked at the platform through cloudy eyes.

“Just gotta… get to the ryokan…”

Finally the train roared into the station and the doors opened. I watched the people getting on and off and then got up off the bench. My back was in agony. I staggered towards the door. My entire body hurt. Just gotta get on the train…

When I reached the door, an old woman with a face like a demon suddenly rushed at me. I went flying back onto the platform. The old woman stumbled, but then she charged at me again. I started scuffling with her on the platform. It’s a little sad, but I was no match for her.

“Stop! Just stop it! I need to get on the train!”

“Why? Why?” She pinned me to the ground and glared at me.

“I… I need to get to the ryokan!”

Finally a station attendant came running over and pulled her off. The train was already gone. I couldn’t stand up, so I sat in the middle of the gathering crowd. The old lady caught her breath, and then finally spoke.

“You were being drawn there. That was too close.”

Then she left.

The station attendant asked me a few questions, and then let me go. I left the station to returned home. When I did, I suddenly felt better, and my voice went back to normal. I looked in the mirror and my complexion looked better as well. How odd.

I put my stuff down when I got home and stopped to have a cigarette. After a short break I decided to call the ryokan and let them know I couldn’t go. When I called, an emotionless voice answered.

“This phone number is not currently in use.”

I tried again.

“This phone number is not currently in use.”

I was confused. That number called me just that morning. How odd. Then I remembered the recording I made of the call. I pressed rewind.

The phone rang and then picked up.

“Yes, thank you for calling, this is the OO ryokan.”

A chill ran through my body. I remembered speaking to a woman, but the voice on the recording was that of a man.

“Yes. I saw you were looking for workers. I’d love to work if the position is still open.”

“Oh, please wait a moment.”

There was some background noise, and then I heard something. I rewound again.

“Oh, please wait a moment… …ld… …eeze…”

I rewound.

“…old… nna freeze…”

I rewound.

“So cold… I’m gonna freeze…”

It was a child’s voice. Not only that, but I could hear the voices of numerous people in the background moaning. Sweat dripped off my forehead. I jumped back from the phone. The recording continued.

“Ah, thank you. We’d love to have you. When can you start?”

“Anytime.”

It was the conversation I remembered having, but I had spoken with a man. This voice was that of an old person.

“Kamio-kun, huh? We’re looking forward to seeing you soon…”

Then the call ended. I broke out into a cold sweat and it started pouring rain outside. I was unable to move, frozen to the spot, but then I finally started to calm down. Then, the recording started again. It was the call from that morning, but I was the only one talking…

“Die die die die die die.”

“Yes. I’m just about to leave.”

“Die die die die die die die.”

“Ah, I’m sorry. I just woke up, so…”

“Die die die die die die die die die die die die.”

“Ah, I’m okay, but thank you.”

I pulled the battery out of the phone. I screamed, my throat hoarse. What the hell was that? What the hell? What was going on?

I grabbed the magazine and searched for the ad with trembling hands. Something wasn’t right. My hands shook. Then I found it.

The page with the ryokan was crinkled and old, even though it had been fine the day before. It was covered in creases and yellowed. Only that page looked old and faded, like it was from a magazine decades ago. A burnt down ryokan looked back at me from the photo.

An article was written beside it. 30 dead. The kitchen went up in flames. The burnt corpse of what they assumed to be the owner was found in the kitchen, so they thought it happened while he was cooking. The customers were too slow in escaping, and so they were also burnt to death.

What the… it wasn’t a job ad… I sat there in silence. The wind blew the pages of the magazine over. Tired, I put a stone on top of it and it stopped.

The rain outside weakened. Suddenly I was wrapped in silence.

Then the phone rang.

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