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Graveyard Whistling

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Thrice Hunted group chat

 

minho

our plane takes off in an hour @ felix wya

[8:14 a.m]

 

felix

i had to run back home to grab extra batteries for the camera

i just got through security no need to worry

[8:17 a.m]

 

hyunjin

u are aware we can just buy batteries when we get there right

they’re not hard to find

they’re just batteries

[8:19 a.m]

 

felix

hyunjin,,,,,,

what if they’re like $10 more expensive there tho

its a small town

demand is high supply is low

[8:22 a.m]

 

minho

is that seriously your argument

[8:23 a.m]

Felix

well ghosts drain batteries too u know that

its happened before.. remember the m&ms incident

ill never live that down

[8:25 a.m]

 

Hyunjin

tbh that still doesn’t help ur argument sorry dude

also we board super soon you’d better get here within the next 5 minutes or                      

we leave without you

[8:31 a.m]

 

Minho glanced up from his phone to spot a head of orange hair bobbing towards where he and Hyunjin were sitting. Eventually the crowd parted and revealed Felix, who proudly waved a pack of batteries over his head. Hyunjin sighed and returned to scrolling through an old website about their destination.

Outside, the city bustled with movement; skyscrapers disappeared into the clouds as traffic grew congested and sidewalks filled with people from all walks of life. The airport was no different, at least in the foot traffic department; the constant grate of suitcases and voices was occasionally interrupted by announcements made over the tinny intercom, or the rise and fall of a particularly noisy pair of shoes.

Minho had always lived in the city, but more often than not found himself wondering how it would be to live somewhere quieter, where angry drivers tended to speed off in a hurry instead of festering in traffic, or where the dominant color was something bright and lively, as opposed to the drab grey of most of the city. This curiosity was part of why he loved his job/hobby so much- in order to investigate haunted locations, they had to travel to them first. Of course, this wasn’t always a completely pleasant experience, but Minho would be lying if he didn’t prefer it over being stuck at some desk doing something useless and boring in some forty story building downtown.

Right as Felix rolled up to the duo, a calm female voice sounded through the air over their heads.

“Flight 3859, we will begin boarding in just a few moments; our guests with disabilities or young children are welcome to board now.”

Hyunjin shot a pointed look at Felix, who was still breathing heavily from his power walk through the airport; and with that, the three young men joined the throng of travelers waiting to embark.

——

The moment they escaped the miniscule plane, Felix was off and careening the halls of the equally miniscule airport. Hyunjin and Minho shared an exasperated glance before hauling their luggage after Felix at a considerably slower pace.


    When they arrived at the entrance, they found Felix leaning against the wall of pale cinder blocks. His casual air spoiled by his chest, which heaved from his manic sprint. His surly attitude from the plane was gone, and Hyunjin reminded himself to keep long distance trips to a minimum, for the sanity of all those who interacted with Felix during the dreaded travel.


    "What took you guys so long? I've been waiting for-" the ginger checked his phone- "two minutes.”


    Minho tossed Felix his duffel bag, who caught it with a whumpf and a stagger. "We were carrying this. For you."


    A short verbal sparring match ensued, being quickly cut off by Hyunjin.


    "Our hotel is two blocks away on main street, if we get going now we'll make it before the café next door closes. I don't know about you two, but I'm starving- airplane peanuts are not enough to keep a guy going for a whole day."


    Curt nods followed, and promptly the trio was making their way down the cracked, overgrown sidewalk.


    Despite a strange silence spurred by an absence of human life, it was a beautiful morning; a dozen songs from a dozen birds welcomed the newcomers to the small town. The sun beat down on the small valley, making the asphalt red-hot enough to threaten the soles of their shoes, but the climate itself was neither hot nor cold. A few wispy clouds lazed their way through the sky and left shallow but formidable shadows on the mountains.


    Minho, suddenly noticing the mountains, stopped abruptly to examine them. Being an avid adventurer, he had experienced all kinds of mountains, but never any like these. They erupted dramatically from the gentle valley on which the town stood. They were monstrous, gigantic, prickling with desaturated pines and pale, jagged cliffs, and they almost leaned inward, as if they were about to crush the town. The gentle breeze flowing down the slopes wafted a clean and refreshing scent to his nose, but something about it made Minho shudder. He hurried after the other two, pursing his lips and hoping, praying, that wherever their leads took them, they would never enter the jagged peaks.

———

    An exhausted man with thick, raven black hair and an impressive tattoo peeking out from under his black t-shirt welcomed Felix, Minho, and Hyunjin as they stepped over the threshold into the small café.


    "Welcome to Beans and Breakfast. How many are we serving today?"


    After they confirmed that there were just three of them, the man led them past the only other patrons- a couple in the corner- to a table next to a large, panoramic window.


    "My name is Yongguk and, as we are short on staff this morning, I will also be your waiter." He set down three ragged menus, then continued. "I'll give you a few minutes to decide what you want."


    He left, then the couple in the corner left, and suddenly the boys were alone, save for a busboy piling plates and mugs.

The café itself was the epitome of rustic comfort, constructed with logs and decorated with paintings of the mountains and various taxidermied animal heads. Felix glanced at a disembodied elk, his eyes following the graceful curve of its neck before grimacing and looking away. "Why is it that everywhere we go, the towns use dead animals as decoration and the waiters are dead on their feet?"

Hyunjin picked up the menu, glanced over it, and set it down. Felix shrugged to avoid looking awkward when no one answered his question. Minho kept his eyes on the mountains.


    A sudden "Oh!" pulled them out of their reverie, and their heads turned in unison as the busboy flushed and floundered at the sudden attention.


    "I-i'm sorry, I don't mean to bother you, but would you guys happen to be from Thrice-Hunted?"


    Felix raised his eyebrows and glanced at Hyunjin and Minho with an impressed expression. The immediate recognition and excited countenance of the boy was a testament to their hard work- if a teenager in a tiny town in the middle of nowhere knew who they were, their success was great.


    "Yeah, I guess."


    The boy made a sound like a few audible exclamation marks, then said, "I am, like, a HUGE fan of your work! I mean, not every ghost-hunting show actually manages to catch a ghost on tape! Did you come here to investigate our hauntings? I thought you were on hiatus! Oh, wait a second, shows record new episodes while they're on hiatus. When did you-"


    His voice cut off when a hand landed on his arm,  Yongguk's head appearing over his shoulder.


    "Jeongin, buddy, give me a second to take their orders and then you can continue your conversation."


    The boy named Jeongin sheepishly backed away as Yongguk moved forward.
The boys at the table had been so lost in Jeongin's tirade that they had completely forgotten the whole reason why they were at the cafe in the first place. Panicked, they all ordered at random (apart from Hyunjin, who had wisely looked at the menu when they had arrived), and Yongguk gave them a tired smile as he left to relay the order to the kitchen. Jeongin, a bright shade of red after having spilled his heart to his idols, was quietly trying to slip away, but a call from Felix had him slowly turning on his heels to face the paranormal investigators.

Felix patted the empty chair next to him. “First of all, we call them spirits. Or remnants. Anything but ghosts, really. It feels unprofessional. Secondly, you brought up the hauntings here, right? Do you know anything about them?”

Jeongin took his seat slowly, as if he was afraid the chair would buckle under him if he was too hasty. His tight lips revealed a pair of dimples that most likely were more pleasant when Jeongin was smiling comfortably.

Hyunjin tapped Minho's shoulder, the other boy jumping and turning away from the window. After a confused glance directed towards Hyunjin, his face cleared and he reached for a notepad and his trusty pen (which he had grabbed at a bank sometime, and had kept on him ever since).

Jeongin cast shy glances at the older men, then took a deep breath. Minho clicked his pen.

“Yeah, I know about the ghosts- uh, spirits. I actually knew about them before you guys even started your channel. They're somewhat a fact of life around here.”

“So, other people believe in their existence?” Hyunjin sipped his water.

“Believe? No, the entire town knows they exist. The only skeptics are those new to town. I mean, you guys probably believe too. Except for Hyunjin, I guess. You've always been the skeptic of the group.”

Hyunjin nodded in affirmation.

“What happened to make an entire town believe in the paranormal?”

Minho had murmured this to himself, and Jeongin knew this, but he answered the question anyways.

“Well, if you’ve done your research into this area, you would know it's fairly old.”

Felix thought back on the withered old lady they had passed on the sidewalk, the only sign of human life visible to the outside world, and nodded to himself.

“Well, most of the time it’s a peaceful place, but every thirteen years  something absolutely dreadful happens, and someone dies. Every time. We know it isn’t just a coincidence because it's happened nineteen times.”

Minho paused in his note writing. There was a blue stain on the side of his left hand, where in its haste it had brushed over wet ink. “Thirteen years is a little cliche, don't you think?”

Jeongin shrugged. “Tell that to the demon.”

Felix gave a very expressive and very nervous side-eye. “Demon? We only ever read about spirits, dead humans who have yet to pass on.”

“Well, it's either a demon or a curse. Either way, it’s been happening for centuries.” He leaned closer, furtively glancing at Yongguk, who was puttering about the café. His shoes dragged on the ground. “It's actually due to happen at any moment, since this is the thirteenth year. People are starting to distance themselves, staying inside to avoid external threats and each other. You guys should be careful. Although, given these circumstances, the chances that you will find something are much higher than usual, so you may, you know, get some good material. I know a lot of the places you've been weren't truly haunted- they didn’t show any true signs of haunting- and you like to taunt whatever you're looking for, but you need to be careful here. Something could actually happen.”

Hyunjin scoffed, while Minho and Felix threw each other worried glances.

“No worries, Jeongin, we'll be fine. I'm sure these accidents are just a coincidence.”

“Sure, a coincidence that's happened nineteen times.” Yongguk arrived with three plates of decent looking food and set them down. Instead of leaving to return to his lonely outpost at the entrance, he remained by the table. “That's a cute thought, but I'm afraid there really is something happening here. If you've come to help, I'd like to give you a piece of advice.”

Four sets of quizzical eyes trained themselves on Yongguk.

“Whatever you do, stay away from the settlement in the mountains. No one's lived there for years, so the structures are really unstable. Also-”

He cut himself off; whatever he had been about to say died in his throat.

“Uh, nevermind, that's not important. Jeongin, I'm headed out. Could you close up once they're done?”

Jeongin gave a salute and, with that, Yongguk grabbed a jean jacket from a hanger on the wall and left. Jeongin watched him leave with a sad expression.

Felix took a furtive bite of omelet, grimaced, and began picking out the onions. “Is he always that tired?”

Jeongin sighed. “He usually gets here at around four in the morning, to help Junhong get started on the baked goods. It doesn't help that today is the anniversary of the day.”

“The day?”

“I’m… I'm  not sure I should tell this story, since it's not mine to tell. Actually, I'm surprised Guk didn't mention this, since it kinda relates to our demon situation.” Jeongin checked his phone, swiped away a few notifications, then held it up so the other three could see the date. June nineteenth. “Guk's mom is the one you'll want to speak to, but we should wait a few days. The anniversary is always the hardest.”

 

¤▪¤▪¤▪¤▪¤▪¤▪¤

 

“The anniversary,” Hyunjin mused. His hands were intertwined under his chin, his elbows resting on his crossed legs. “I wonder what happened.”

"The curse,” Minho said plainly. He sat in a chair in the corner of their hotel room, shoulders stiff and eyes closed, pen millimeters from contact with the legal pad on the rickety table.

“Right. The curse.”

“I know you're skeptical, Hyunjin, but I'm getting a feeling from this place. You know what I mean.” The pen skittered across the page in large sweeps.

“You may be a certified psychic, Minho, but that doesn't mean I have to believe everything you ‘ feel .’”

“You just say that because you don’t like not being able to experience and confirm its validity yourself.”

Felix entered the room as they bickered, various snacks in a grocery bag hanging by his side. After a brief pause in which he discerned the topic of their conversation, he sighed, interrupting their hollow argument. “Here we are, back to the age-old ‘psychics are fake’ debate.” Setting the bag on one of the beds, where it slumped like Yongguk's tired shoulders, he crossed the room to look at what Minho had written on his notepad.

There were three words, the color inconsistent as if the ink was afraid to manifest what Minho had been compelled to write. The script was large and blocky, quite unlike Minho's neat and even scrawl.

SOURCE

SACRIFICE

DANGER

The hair on Felix's neck rose as he stared at the last two words in dismay. Sacrifice wasn't a pleasant word in any context, and danger was worrisome, given that none of Minho's readings in the past- whether successful or not- had ever included such a dire warning. The closest they had ever gotten was “M&M'S OR DEATH”, which had resulted in a pack of the candy flying off the shelf of the gift shop and thwacking Felix in the back of his head. Just their luck, this had happened while they were changing the batteries in the cameras, so they didn’t even have evidence to justify Felix's over exaggerated head trauma. Minho had sheepishly commented that it was possible he had misinterpreted and the message had really been “M&M's OF death”.

“Well,” Felix said, returning to the present. “That isn't good.”

Hyunjin stole a glance at the paper, then sighed. “I'll believe it when I see it, but for now, I think we should record some audio for the show, then go to bed. There isn't enough information yet to discern or worry about the meanings of these words. We can investigate more tomorrow.”

“When do you suppose we'll be able to talk to Yongguk's mom?” Minho asked, ripping the ominous sheet off the pad, giving it a date and a location, carefully inserting it into a clear plastic sleeve, then snapping that into a three ring binder that contained his other readings.

“Jeongin says she’s at work in the city until Saturday, so three days. Until then, we can ask around and get further context from other locals.”

Felix moved back over to the bed to grab the snacks and a leather bound journal, then sat on the floor. The other two sat as well, forming a triangle. Felix pulled out a small recorder and hit the red button.

Reading from a mixture of Minho’s notes and a script he had written earlier that evening, and with occasional interjections from the older boys, he began their narrative.

“June nineteenth. Our plane landed in a small mountain town, where the locals claim to be haunted by not only spirits of the departed dead, but a malevolent, murderous dark energy as well…”

 

¤▪¤▪¤▪¤▪¤▪¤▪¤

 

chaotic stupid group chat

 

nyeongin:

FELLAS

FELLAS GUESS WHO I JUST RAN INTO

THIS ISNT A DRILL

[1:20 pm]

 

FELLAS!!!

[6:26 pm]

uwujin:

who????

[7:48 pm]

 

seowongmin:

^^

[7:48 pm]

 

nyeongin:

thrice hunted is HERE IN TOWN

[8:30 pm]

seowongmin:

WHAT

Lies

dont get our hopes up

[8:31 pm]

 

nyeongin:

SEUNGMIN RHEY WERE LITERALLY AT THE CAFE THEYRE LOOKING INTO THE HAUNTINGS HERE

it looks like I may end up being one of their Witnesses

guk too

[8:34 pm]

 

uwujin:

o o f

I can't believe they're here omg

[8:35 pm]

 

seowongmin:

dude what r u waiting for… drop their hotel address coward!!!

[8:37 pm]

 

nyeongin:

absolutely Not I will Not be associated with a stalker

[8:37 pm]

 

seowongmin:

:(

[8:38 pm]

 

uwujin:

it's ok min… we don't need jeongins help

[8:42 pm]

 

seowongmin:

ur right let's go!!

[8:47 pm]

 

Jeongin scoffed at his friend's antics. If Woojin and Seungmin really did scour the town to find whatever hotel Felix, Hyunjin, and Minho were staying in, they could say goodbye to day-old pastries snuck from the cafe.

They were most likely just joking, but Jeongin still found himself wondering how a first meeting between his friends and the paranormal investigators would go. After all, he and Seungmin were nearly Felix's age; they would have no trouble finding conversation topics. But then he remembered Seungmin's strange attachment to Hyunjin in particular, and decided that would probably override the age kinship.

Woojin would probably get along best with Minho, since they were both wise and generally carried themselves with an elegance that belied their youth.

While daydreaming up scenarios, as one does, a light bulb flicked on in his head. Jeongin grabbed his phone from his bed stand.

 

chaotic stupid group chat

 

nyeongin:

ok guys here's an idea

dont go stalking 3hunted bc they'll most likely be out and about tomorrow anyways

u know they're good researchers, they wouldn't base an entire episode off of the testimony of two café workers

[8:53 pm]

 

uwujin:

so ur saying tomorrow is a loitering day

[9:02 pm]

 

nyeongin:

pretty much

[9:03 pm]

seowongmin:

smh…

I guess I can go a few hours without meeting them..

I'm gonna invite The Gals if that's ok?? idk if they watch 3hunted but they do rlly like paranormal investigation shows

[9:05]

nyeongin:

o yea they watch yyxy right??

sounds good I like to appear like im popular to famous people

[9:06]  

 

Knowing now that he could rest without worrying about a possible stalking situation, Jeongin turned off the lamp beside his bed and pulled his arms under the covers. His eyelashes dusted his cheeks as he fell asleep.