I’m a third grade university student, and in October of this year I moved into my current apartment. My old apartment got caught up in some road expansion so they had to tear it down. They informed me beforehand, so around August I started looking for a new place to live.
I visited various real estates and found one place that looked amazing. It was closer to my university than my last place, and close enough to reach without using the train, plus the rent was 10,000 yen cheaper a month. It may have been a little rude, but when we went out to see the place, I asked the real estate, “Is there a particular reason why this place is so cheap?”
He looked troubled for a moment before going outside to the back of the place. There was a cemetery on either side of the road. It was surrounded by a large fence, so you couldn’t tell it was one from the outside.
But that didn’t bother me too much. I mean, the vacant apartment was at the end of the second floor and you couldn’t even see the cemetery from the windows.
“We haven’t heard the exact details from the owner, but apparently it’s because of that cemetery that the rent is cheaper,” the real estate agent said. My eviction date was rapidly approaching, so I decided to take it.
When he showed me the kitchen, I noticed a red metal box above the stove, just to the side of the ventilation fan. It was about 10 centimetres below the room, at a height that a person couldn’t reach even with a chair.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Ah, that’s the gas detector,” the agent answered. It did have a small flashing light in the middle, so that made sense. At the time I was convinced, but looking back on it now, it’s strange that it was red.
And so, I moved in. I didn’t have much stuff, so I asked one of my university friends with a license to help me move it over rather than hiring a moving company.
That night I bought him pizza as thanks and we drank some sake in my new apartment. “There’s something about this place…” he said suddenly.
“Don’t take this the wrong way or anything, but doesn’t this place feel a little… dark?”
To tell you the truth, I felt the same way, but I thought it was because the lights were old. They were old fluorescent lights, so I decided to talk to the landlord about changing them to LED at some point.
A month passed peacefully. The lights were old-fashioned so they couldn’t be changed to LED, but when I changed the tubes they brightened up anyway.
Then last month, at about 8 p.m. one night, I got home from my part-time job and was cooking in the kitchen. It was a simple meal, and I cooked at home every day to save money. Suddenly some oil spat out of the pan and hit me on the face. I hit the wall in surprise. A siren started going off above my head, and when I looked up, the gas detector light was flashing furiously.
I panicked and quickly turned the stove off, but I couldn’t smell any gas. Maybe it went off because I hit the wall, I thought, and grabbed the chair from my desk to check it. By the time I came back, the light had stopped flashing.
About two weeks after that, I got home late one night, around 11 p.m. or so. I took a drink out of the fridge and then my phone rang. It was my mother.
“Ah, Mum, why are you calling me this late?” Usually she was in bed by this time.
“You’re father’s not feeling well,” she said in her usual carefree voice.
“Huh? What are you talking about?”
My father had died four years earlier. What on earth was she talking about? My mother lived with my older brother and his family.
After a short silence she finally spoke. “…Have you lost power there as well?”
“What are you talking about, Mum? We don’t live even vaguely near each other anymore. Have you lost power over there?”
“I see, so you haven’t lost power… Well, night is coming.” Then she hung up. At that very moment, the lights in my room went out.
“Huh? What the…? A blackout, for real?”
The gas detector started ringing. The red light flashed on and off, lighting up the roof.
“Crap, what do I do?”
I made my way into the kitchen in the dark, but of course the gas wasn’t on. My first thought was that I had to stop it somehow, but while I was confused about what to do the noise and blinking stopped and I was thrown into pitch black darkness.
I opened the curtain. I should have been able to see the streetlights down below, but they were also off, meaning the entire area was suffering a blackout. But there hadn’t been an earthquake and there certainly wasn’t a typhoon. At any rate, there was nothing I could do about it, so I fumbled around for my desk and pulled out a torch. I turned it on and for a moment the light flashed before it too went off and plunged me back into darkness.
Flat batteries at a time like this, really?
I opened the front door and went out into the corridor. Seemed like the entire city had lost power.
“Oh yeah, I should check next door.” I introduced myself to my neighbour when I first moved in, they were another student from my university. I pushed the doorbell, but there was no sound. Ah, it must have gone out with the power as well. I knocked on the door instead.
The door opened slightly and a voice called out, “Who is it?”
“It’s Yamao from next door,” I said.
I heard the chain lock being removed and then the door opened.
“Sorry, the power suddenly went out, so I was wondering if you might know what was going on.”
“Come on in.”
The room was cast in an orange light. A candle flickered on the TV stand.
“Ah, you’re nice and prepared. My torch wouldn’t even work. Do you know why the power went out?”
“…Because night is coming.”
“Huh? What do you mean?”
“Look, come over here.”
He slid his curtain over and I looked outside. The graveyard, which I couldn’t see from my apartment, shone a pale colour and looked to be full of people.
“The dead are coming out. It’s night, after all.”
I suddenly grew very scared. In the candlelight, my neighbour looked like an entirely different person.
“I’ll be going home now,” I said and ran out of the room. Of course, it was still pitch black. My phone suddenly rang again. It was from backhome. I nervously answered, and as I thought, it was my mother.
“Mum, we’ve lost power too! What’s going on?”
“I told you, night is coming. Your father will be there shortly.”
I threw my phone, locked the front door and dove into bed. I pulled the blanket up over my head and then something started banging on my front door. The knocks soon turned into the sound of kicking. I stayed under the blankets, and before long the sounds stopped. I couldn’t bring myself to come out from under the blankets, and like that I fell asleep.
When I woke up, it seemed to be morning. Yeah, it was bright outside. It was past 9 a.m., but I didn’t have any classes till that afternoon anyway.
I picked up my phone. There was no call in the history from my mother. The electricity was also back. I was terrified, but I went next door and rang the doorbell again.
“What’s wrong?” my neighbour answered.
“Was there a blackout last night?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t notice anything,” he said. Which meant he would probably say that I didn’t go into his apartment last night either. I decided not to say anything.
…It had to have been a dream. When I got home the night before, it was late and I must have fallen asleep straight away. Then I dreamt it all.
That was the only way I could explain it. Just in case, I called my mother.
“I’m just about to head to work, what’s wrong?” she said.
“Did you call me last night?”
…All that left was the gas detector. I glimbed on a chain to get a closer look. Four screws held the metal box in place. I couldn’t do anything at the time, but on my way home I bought a screwdriver and when I got back, I opened it.
Inside was a single large switch, like a breaker. It was sitting in the up position. Beneath it was a piece of white paper with the character for “night” written on it.
I tried calling the landlord but there was no answer, so I called the real estate instead. The person in charge answered so I told them I wanted to cancel my contract. When they asked me why, I said, “I looked inside the gas detector box.”
“…Oh, I see. We’ll cancel your contract for you. Have you decided on your next apartment yet?”
I was so angry that I hung up.