Secret Sign

There are probably a lot of people who made secret hideouts when they were younger. For me, I had a cabin in the nearby mountains. When I was in the fourth grade, I was playing with my classmates A-kun and B-kun when we stumbled across an abandoned mountain hut. It was covered in spiderwebs and it kinda looked like a dungeon you might find in a video game. Maybe someone had once lived there in the past. It was made of wood and there was a table and other furniture inside. Most of it was broken and unusable, but we were excited to have found a secret hideout we could use.

After that, we spent most of our time after school at the secret hideout. We’d lay out a sheet and read comics while eating snacks. It was an extremely comfy space. We wanted to keep it as our little secret; not our classmates nor any adults were allowed to know about it. We went to the home centre and bought a lock to keep it shut. Whoever was going to the cabin first would be the one to take the key and unlock it. Then whoever came afterwards would have to give a sign and whoever was inside would unlock the door for them.

The sign was simple. We just had to knock on the door. Bang bang… Bang… Bang bang bang. Knock twice, once, then three times. That was it.

On this particular day, A-kun and myself reached the secret hideout first. We read comics and played cards inside. B-kun was supposed to meet up with us once the committee meeting was finished at school.

Before long, we heard a knock. It was B-kun. I stood up to open the door, but then A-kun grabbed my arm and stopped me.

“The sign was different.”

Come to think of it, he’d only knocked three times.

“Hey, open up!”

I could hear B-kun’s voice coming from the other side.

Bang bang bang.

“See, it is him.”

“But the sign is wrong. Something’s wrong. B was the one who said we should come up with a sign in the first place.”

“But…”

Bang bang bang.

“He might be with someone, so this is his sign not to open up,” A-kun said. Yeah, that was certainly possible, I thought.

Bang bang bang bang.

B-kun continued with the wrong sign.

Bang bang bang bang.

“Open up!”

A-kun and I tried not to pay much attention, but he wouldn’t stop knocking.

Bang bang bang bang.

“Why won’t you open up?”

It didn’t seem like he was going to stop. Maybe it really was him on the other side but he’d just forgotten about the signs to get in. I thought about opening the door for him numerous times, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Something felt off.

“Open up!!”

I’d never heard him sound so angry before.

Bang bang!

He started punching and kicking the door. …After that, the knocks stopped. Seemed like he’d left. A-kun and I opened the door and peeked outside. Neither B-kun nor anybody else was there.

We quickly left the cabin and made our way towards B-kun’s house. We ran into his mother just as she was getting ready to go out. Apparently B-kun had suddenly broken out into a fever at school. One of the teachers had taken him to the hospital and she was on her way there. Chills ran down my spine.

It wasn’t B-kun who knocked on the door. No wonder they didn’t know what the sign was. So then, who on earth was it?

“…Thank god we didn’t open the door.”

“I don’t think we should use that cabin anymore.”

“Yeah, I think so too.”

With that, we went our separate ways.

The sun was setting as I got home. My mother was still at work and hadn’t come home yet. I put my bag down in the living room and took a bottle of tea out of the fridge. I was exhausted. I lay on the couch and tried to fall asleep.

At that moment, something knocked on the front door. Whoever it was should have just used the intercom, but there were occasionally people who didn’t use it. Maybe it was someone from the neighbourhood with a notice to pass around. I got up and made my way towards the door when I suddenly realised something.

The knocks. Bang bang… Bang… Bang bang bang. Twice, once, three times. It was our secret sign. Why? My head was full of questions.

Bang bang… Bang… Bang bang bang.

There was no way it was a coincidence. Maybe whoever had impersonated B-kun at the cabin had followed me home? That was what I felt. I could see a dark figure on the other side of the frosted glass door.

I panicked and called A-kun’s house. After a few rings, someone picked up.

“Hello?! A-kun?”

“What?”

It was A-kun’s voice, but I couldn’t believe my ears.

“What what… What… What what what?” …Twice, once, and then three times…

“Open the door.”

That was as much as I remembered. When I came back to, I was lying on the couch. I later heard that whatever it was had visited A-kun’s house as well. Maybe it was a yokai who lived in the mountains? Even now we still don’t know.

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