A Guest in a Ghost House - Chapter 8

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Chapter 8 Rujia Buddha
The old woman looked at me with a smile . She opened her toothless mouth, saying “You know . ”
It seemed like the old woman was going to keep quiet no matter what I said . She slowly continued to fold more golden paper ingots .
“I gave you more money than you asked for, but you still won’t speak to me . I wasn’t born yesterday; you can’t just rip me off . ” It was no use . She just continued to fold her ingots .
I was getting hungry while waiting around for the sun to go down . Finally, I stood up and picked up my belongings left the store .
The old woman didn’t want to tell me anything else and I had no idea what else to do . I went back home and put the paper ingots and paper clothes in the box with the letters . After that, I quickly cooked something for dinner .
After finishing the meal, I sat in front of the computer with a full stomach . The WeChat app was flashing . I clicked it . It was Rujia Buddha who had sent me a message .
Rujia Buddha: OP, did you visit the house?
Rujia Buddha: OP, are you online?
I saw the timestamp . The messages had been sent at noon . So I hurried to reply: “Yes, I was forced to buy some stuff . ”
Obviously, Rujia Buddha was still online . He replied immediately: “Forced to buy stuff? Did you visit the ghost house?”
I replied: “Yes, I was at the shroud store next to it . That old woman was cunning . She made me buy a bunch of stuff for no reason . ”
Rujia Buddha: “Shroud store? There is no shroud store by the ghost house . The police would never allow that kind of store to exist in the city center .
I was stunned and quickly replied: “It was next to the ghost house . There was a watch stall on one side and a shroud store on the other side . ”
Rujia Buddha: “OP, you might be drunk . I am in the building opposite the ghost house, the phone store . There is in fact a watch stall, but there is no shroud store . I can prove it”
Shortly after he sent the message, Rujia Buddha sent me a photo .
According to the sky, the photo must have been taken just a few moments ago . The street was still crowded . The ghost house stood quietly among many dim street lamps . The building next to it was a dilapidated shack . There was a huge hole in the wall letting in the dim light of the street lamps .
Looking through its open door, I could see the shack had the same layout as the shroud store .
I felt a chill run up my spine, and my whole body became cold . At that moment, my blood felt like it was frozen and I could barely move .
There was no shroud store .
WeChat was still ringing . The sound seemed to ring further and further away from me . In my mind I could still clearly see the old woman in the shroud store smile, opening her toothless mouth .
I stood up, taking out a cigarette with shivering hands after fumbling with the cigarette box for a while . The bag filled with paper ingots was still on the desk . Everything that had happened today had been real .
I was getting upset, his picture seemed to mock reality .
The burning cigarette butt hurt my hand . That’s what it took to wake me up from my stupor, so I went back to the computer . A string of messages from Rujia Buddha had been delivered to my phone .
Rujia Buddha: “Did you really find a shroud store, OP?”
Rujia Buddha: “Wait a moment . ”
Rujia Buddha: “I asked around . It seems there actually was a shroud store at the time when the brothel still existed . It was destroyed by the Japanese during the war, though . ”
Rujia Buddha: “I am not certain whether the owner of the shroud store was an old woman . ”
Rujia Buddha: “You might have met a ghost . How exciting!”
Exciting! I forced a smile . I wouldn’t go as far as calling it exciting . I thought for a moment and chose to answer Rujia Buddha . I told Rujia Buddha everything that happened .
I needed a person who could listen to me, make me feel alive in the world .
Rujia Buddha’s reply was strange .
Rujia Buddha: “Are you serious?”
Me: “You think I’m lying to you?”
Rujia Buddha: “No, I didn’t mean that . OP, do you really plan to burn the paper money?”
Burn the paper money? I immediately became hesitant . The old woman told me to burn paper money . Now, I thought it seemed like a trap, pushing me into a huge web .
What would happen if I didn’t do it? The image of my mom and Xue`er appeared in my mind . As the only man in my family, could I let them get hurt by those strange things because of my fear?
Rujia Buddha continued writing after I hadn’t replied for a while .
Rujia Buddha: “OP, I believe it’s your responsibility as a man to not let your family get hurt . You should go . Don’t worry, I’ll go with you . ”
Me: “You’ll come with me to the ghost house?”
Rujia Buddha: “Yeah . Don’t you think meeting a ghost is exciting? OMG, although I’m still pretty scared, I will gladly go as a friend, for moral support . ”
Rujia Buddha’s words made me feel like we were just going to explore . It was difficult to understand his train of thought . Many people loved to watch horror movies, but I’d probably be frightened to death if I met a real ghost . I hated having to make such a horrifying decision . It reminded me of the story of Lord Ye, who claimed to be fond of dragons but was scared out of his wits when a real one appeared .
Me: “Are you scared at all?”
Rujia Buddha: “A little scared . I’ve been wanting to go in the ghost house for a long time, but I’ve never been brave enough . I was hoping you could help me scratch this off the bucket list . ”
Rujia Buddha was offering me help so he could scratch something off his bucket list .
I didn’t answer him right away . Rujia Buddha continued to write .
Rujia Buddha: “OP, I don’t think the ghost wants to kill you, judging by the pictures you received and your visit to the shroud store, I think there must be another reason . Are you curious at all?”
It’s said that curiosity killed the cat . However, I had become less scared after talking to Rujia Buddha .
Me: “Fine, let’s go together . ”
Rujia Buddha: “Um, but don’t trick me or mug me, otherwise⋯”
Me: “Never . ”
Rujia Buddha: “Bring the photos . I will wait for you tomorrow night at the phone store opposite the ghost house . The owner leaves at 9 o’clock . We should discuss things clearly then . Alright, it’s time to clock out . See you tomorrow . ”
His portrait went dark before I could reply . I looked at the time on the computer, it was half past nine .
My horror faded away after hearing his jokes . It was still early, so I researched the ghost house .
There was a lot of information about the ghost house . Most of them were from others’ posts on forums . It was impossible to find any information from news reports .
I worked up the courage to go through those posts . Many horrible stories in the forums were pure fiction, but I could discern a small kernel of truth in some of them .
The story of the ghost house became clearer . At first, the ghost house was indeed a brothel . It was true that many people had been killed there, tortured by the Japanese . It was true that many people who wanted to live in the ghost house died . Nevertheless, there many other stories that proved to be false .
The strangest thing was that I found a ground plan of the ghost house in the supernatural BBS titled “Zui Tang Chinese network” .
The lines were drawn by hand . However, I could make out the whole layout of the brothel .
I took photos of the layout with my phone, thinking it might be useful . It eased my heart and made me feel a lot safer .

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