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N’sC Chapter 3

After spending a busy day in school, Lin Sheng declined Shen Yan’s invitation to go snacking in the afternoon.

It was not that he was not interested—he loved the food on the snack street near his school. But he could only spend ¥3 a day; he could not be spendthrift. Therefore, he boarded the free shuttle and went home.

Lin Sheng sat in a window seat, looking at the old streets that swiftly flew past him. The curvy reliefs of flowers and birds on the edge of plaques and the corners of walls reminded him of his nightmare from last night.

Doo.

“Next stop, Old Town Textile Factory.” The female voice speaking standard Xilin dialect jolted Lin Sheng out of his daze. He grabbed his grayish-white bag, got to his feet, and gave his seat to an old lady who had just boarded the bus. Then he held the overhead handrail and moved slowly through the crowded bus toward the exit.

“Stop pushing!”

“Young man, be careful! Don’t piss people off.”

“Ouch, my foot! You’ve stepped on my foot! Are you dreaming?”

People began to grumble and make noises like touch-activated toys.

Lin Sheng could not care less. He was 1.75 meters in height and possessed a body with healthy muscles beneath his uniform. Besides his fair skin, he looked pretty ordinary.

The automatic door swung open with a hiss. Lin Sheng jumped off the bus, took a deep breath, and looked back into the coach.

Seven to eight people boarded the bus that he had just gotten off. It was packed like a can of sardines. The door slowly shut and the bus left the bus stop.

His home was just in the Huilian residential area, which was ten meters right of the bus stop. The gate to the residential area was an iron arc, and on it, a sign that read “Huilian Neighborhood” hung askew. Every day, vegetable sellers would bring vegetables in their bamboo baskets and sell them on both sides of the gate. People would stop by and haggle with the sellers.

The temperature in the late afternoon had dropped to the mid-twenties on the Celsius scale, which was not as hot as the temperature during midday.

Lin Sheng walked past the rusty red iron gates straight down the slope into the neighborhood and came to the fifth block. He turned right into the stairwell of Block 11. There were advertisements of every kind—locksmiths, plumbing, moving services, and what not—covering the walls of the corridor.

Lin Sheng walked up the stairs and suddenly felt something slimy under his foot. He raised his foot and found that he had stepped on ice cream with the white creamy stuff staining the sole of his white sneakers.

He knitted his brows as he scraped the sticky stuff off his shoe on the staircase. He had barely cleaned it up before he continued his climb.

Arriving on the third floor, Lin Sheng took out his key, deftly opened the security door of the first unit on the left, and walked in.

“Dad,” Lin Sheng stood at the doorway and called out. But there was no one at home. After he changed into his slippers and closed the door behind him, Lin Sheng walked straight past the living room into his bedroom.

In his room, he could not help but look at the desk, which reminded him of the figure who had sat in the chair in his dream the previous night.

He remained silent as he walked over and gently pulled the chair out to sit on it. He snugged down on the soft fabric cushion and the hard seatback.

Sitting down after a long day at school, he felt drowsy.

So, Lin Sheng got back up. He did not dare sleep at the table because the scene from last night’s nightmare made him uneasy.

He would usually take a short half-an-hour nap when he got home every afternoon. The nightmare from the previous night may have been scary, but it was just a dream, Lin Sheng thought.

He hesitated but still approached the bedside. He took off his school uniform, climbed into bed, and pulled the quilt over his belly.

The red sunset outside the window spilled into the bedroom like blood, splashing on the desk and floor tiles. In his stupor, Lin Sheng’s consciousness slowly drifted away. He had no idea how long he ended up sleeping.

A soft cry suddenly woke him from his slumber. It sounded like a woman was sobbing, or was she singing? He was not sure.

Sadness, desperation, and shrill cries were accompanied by occasional rapid breathing.

Lin Sheng slowly opened his eyes. Again, he was lying in bed, unable to move.

There she was. From the corner of his eyes, he saw the white figure at the desk. But unlike the last time, the woman in white was moving her shoulders rapidly and sobbing softly, as though she was in fear.

Tack, tack.

Tack, tack.

Tack, tack.

There were footsteps again.

Lin Sheng could feel someone approaching from the corridor. The person was coming through the living room toward his bedroom, and the footsteps were growing clearer as well as more thunderous.

Meanwhile, the woman at the desk sobbed even louder, and her shoulders twitched even faster. It was as if she was about to get up and run.

The footsteps were now very close. When the door slowly swung open with a click, Lin Sheng’s blood ran cold.

There was silence for a while.

Suddenly, someone lifted the quilt.

Lin Sheng’s body felt numb. His eyes were wide open, and his pupils contracted.

Before he knew it, his quilt was tossed away and a figure pounced on him.

“Aah!”

Lin Sheng screamed and jolted up from his bed with his head in a muddle.

He panted. His body and T-shirt were soaked in sweat.

“I… I…” He wanted to say something but could not utter a word.

His mind went blank.

Lin Sheng sat motionless in bed for ten minutes.

He calmed his breathing until his heartbeat slowed down, no longer thumping like a drum. He then looked around.

There was nothing unusual in his bedroom, only the faint glow of the silvery moonlight scattered through the window.

Lin Sheng wiped the sweat off his forehead. Even his hands were wet with sweat.

“Hell, I even dreamt of that thing during a short nap.” He slowly leaned against the headboard and took a deep breath.

“It was the same dream, but this time, it was closer.” The dream gave him the heebie-jeebies.

Nevertheless, he quickly calmed the rapid thumping of his heartbeat.

“Fear isn’t going to solve anything. I have to keep calm.”

Lin Sheng knew that since he was little. The more panicked he was, the more likely he would make mistakes, wasting time and energy.

It was only by calming down that he could quickly find the solution to a problem.

Lin Sheng took a deep breath while he leaned on the bed to calm his pounding heart.

About five minutes later, his mind was clear, and his emotions returned to normal.

“It gets closer with each dream. At first, the footsteps were only outside the door. Now, it has entered the room, and the entity even flipped over my quilt!” Lin Sheng’s intuition told him that it was some kind of sign.

He had the feeling that if he allowed the owner of the footsteps to flip his quilt over and grab him, something unimaginable would happen.

He had a hunch that it was a bad omen.

“I have to think of something should the same dream occur again.” Lin Sheng decided. When memories from his past life could even be awakened, anything was possible.

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