· Secret of Aokigahara

I carefully walked along the corridor hugging my perfectly balanced stack of books and papers. When I reached my room, I put my books down and unlocked the door. I fumbled with the keys for a while before I entered. I shoved my books into my shelf. I collapsed onto my double-decker bed and heaved a sigh of relief. I untied my jet-black hair and put the hairband around my wrist. As I stare upon the pink-coated ceiling, I thought of how lonely I was in London. London is filled with people yet; I didn’t have any friends. I missed Singapore. I didn’t dare talk to anyone as I felt it was awkward.
My roommate Lisa barged in my room totally ignoring him. She was playing an imaginary guitar humming the music. She jumped on the second level of my bed and started typing on her laptop. The room was silent. Only the faint sound of Lisa’s music could be heard. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.
“Duk! Duk! Duk!”
“Hi! Lonnie! Remember me?”
“Who are you again?”
“I’ll assume the only friend you ever had,”
A tall good-looking man stood at my door. He wore a brown a parka and a leather flat cap. He had a warm smile and looked strangely familiar. The man even caught Lisa’s attention. I thought long and hard. I looked at him again and it hit me. I knew only one person who would wear both a parka and a flat cap.
“Clayton!”
He nodded. I was very excited to see him. We were best of friends during primary and secondary school. We were inseparable. Even our parents got our names mixed up. He would protect me from bullies and I would let him copy my homework. He asked me if I had free time after class. We set a time at seven and he was off. Lisa looked at me with a cheeky smile. I raised a brow.
“Can you introduce me to this ‘Clayton’”
“Haha! Dream on!”
A few hours later, Clayton and I met at a nearby park. It was a small park along the beach. The smell of the salty sea made me in the mood for swimming. He wore his usual parka and cap. He greeted me politely and sat we sat on a bench. The moon was shining brightly casting long shadows in the chilly night. I asked him what he wanted to talk about. Clayton adjusted his cap and asked me if I was free during the upcoming holiday. I didn’t really have anything to do during the holidays. Usually, I would go to a cat café or just study so I nodded and asked why. He invited me to go to Japan with him.
“Japan?! Why?”
“I got a friend who works as a scientist. He accidentally bought two extra plane tickets and, of course, invited me. He allowed me to invite anyone for the extra one ticket so I picked you,”
“Where exactly in Japan?”
“The famous Aokigahara. My friend wants to study a type of insect there. Three days and two nights, so, you want to go?”
I had nothing on my plate so I agreed. He punched his fist in the air in happiness. I was equally as happy as I had not been invited to anything in years. He informed me of the time to get to the airport. He even put an alarm on my phone so I won’t oversleep or forget. I was offended he would think so badly of me. I turned around flicking my hair at him and left. Once I walked far enough so Clayton won’t see me, I jumped up and down like a kangaroo in excitement. I squealed loudly and received stares from the people around me. I took a deep breath and I calmed myself down. I couldn’t wait for the holidays.
“It’s true. She became so excited, some people taught that she was either high or possessed,”
“Hey! I don’t drink and why have I not heard of this rumour!”
Clayton shrugged and asked me to continue the story. When I was just about to start, Wolf stopped me.
“Wait! I have to refill my coffee,”
I rolled my eyes. I didn’t even realise that he made coffee. A few minutes later he came back with a cup filled with coffee to the brim. The aroma of the coffee lingered. Clayton and I looked at each other as if reading each other’s minds. We rushed to the kitchen and made coffee. After that, I continued.
The rest of the week passed by pretty slow. I kept counting down to the number of days till I go to Japan with Clayton and his friend. I was quite jumpy the next few days. My roommate and a lot of other people noticed. Probably how the rumour started. I couldn’t really concentrate on the lectures at all.
“Miss Lonnie? Miss Lonnie? Do you have the answer?”
“Pssst! Lonnie! Lecturer’s calling you!”
Lisa shook me. I snapped out and saw the question given to me on the projector. I couldn’t answer the question. I stalled by making an ‘umm’ sound.
“You have not been listening, have you? Please don’t repeat this mistake,”
I nodded. I heard some snickering at the back. I blushed in embarrassment made myself as small as possible so no one would notice me. After the lecture, I slapped my face and took a deep breath. What is wrong with you? I thought. I put my determined face on and the rest of the days, I was myself. I could finally concentrate. Before I knew it, the week had ended. It was the holidays! I went to my room and changed. Lisa was typing on her laptop furiously. I greeted her but she totally ignored me. I sat on my bed and started packing. I didn’t really know what to bring so I bought binoculars, hiking boots, a torchlight and a first-aid kit.
I stuffed them into my backpack and went to the library to pass the time. I had read at least ten books and the librarian announced that the library was closing in five minutes. I put my books back and left. I walked back to my room and Lisa was still on her computer. I wonder how long she can be on her computer. I climbed up her bed and looked at her laptop. She was playing some video game. I thought it was a late assignment or something. I went to bed early.
I was awoken to the sound of my alarm. I was grateful Clayton set the alarm as I would have forgotten. I met Clayton at the entrance of the nearby airport. Standing beside him was a short blonde man with curly hair. He wore big, round glasses and introduced himself as Henry. I introduced myself and offered my hand. He shook my arm gently. His arm was no stronger than a strand of spaghetti. We headed to our plane. We sat down next to each other. Clayton asked Henry how he was going to find his way around Aokigahara. He took out a spray can and said that he would use this to spray on trees like Hansel and Gretal sprinkled bread crumbs. Henry also said that he is not planning to go so deep into the forest. After that, Henry took out a laptop and started typing.
“Hey Lonnie, how have you been doing without me?”
“Okay, I guess. Just lonely. How about you?”
“I’m not like you but I managed to do my assignments on time,”
“Yay, I’m so proud,”
Clayton said that he would sleep for the whole journey. He asked me to wake him up when the flight is over. I took out a book and started reading.

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