Daruma-san ga Koronda

“Daruma-san ga koronda!”

At the chosen phrase, I turned around. As evening fell, the shrine grounds turned red. Six of us from elementary school stopped by to play on our way home, and for our final game, we decided to play Statues.

“Daruma-san ga koronda!”

I called out a little faster this time. Six figures stopped on the spot as I turned around. As the sun set behind him, casting their faces in shadows, I couldn’t see them very well. I could only attempt a guess from their silhouettes. I was definitely at a disadvantage here.

I turned back to the tree I was using to cover my face… For just a moment, I had sensed something strange. What was it?

“Daruma-san ga…” I started the next turn. This time I understood exactly what was wrong, like an electrical current running through my body.

…There was one person too many. When I turned around before, there were six people. Including myself there should only have been six people. At some point an extra person had joined… It had to be another classmate who was passing by and decided to join in. That’s what I told myself, but in my throat I felt sick.

“…koronda!” I turned around.

Everyone stopped. I counted six figures. There really was one person too many. This time they were a lot closer to me. As evening approached, it grew harder to tell them apart. It felt like they were closing in on me. I was so scared I wanted nothing more than to run. I wanted to say that I gave up, but my body refused to listen to me and let me say the words.

“Daruma-san ga koronda!”

One shadow was remarkably closer than the others, but I couldn’t see their face. After perhaps two more turns they would reach me. …Was it one of my classmates? Before I knew it, I’d broken out in a sweat.

“Daruma-san ga… koronda!”

When I turned around, everything was black. The six figures had completely surrounded me. Even though they stood right in front of me, I couldn’t make out their faces. But I knew they were all smiling… And not a single one of them was my classmates…

Next thing I knew, I was lying on the ground in the forest by the shrine. Seemed I’d passed out. I could hear my classmates calling for me some distance away.

…I was saved. Tears fell down my cheeks.

I later heard that I’d gone missing during hide and seek and nobody knew where I went. Right on twilight. The witching hour. As evening falls, they say that our world and the other side briefly cross paths. After that, I always made sure to get home before evening fell…

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