The classroom was located deep in the heart of the city, down in an unused forgotten basement. It was often damp and moldy, with a door whose hinges creaked ominously whenever opened. But the students never complained any of that. In fact, the setting was perfect for the subject matter being taught. And no one ever used the rusty old door anyway.
Who needed it when you could just float right through the walls?
Chinen hid in a dark corner of the room and watched as his newest batch of students arrived. They trickled in one by one, some rushing in to take a seat while others leisurely strolled through the wall. Only eight students total, but Chinen had a feeling they were going to be an interesting bunch.
Once everyone was finally settled at their desks, Chinen knew it was time to make his grand entrance, his favorite part of any new class. He used his ghostly powers to first make the lights start flickering, and then he conjured a gust of wind just to up the spook factor. And then finally he let out his most evil sounding laugh as he appeared in front of the classroom.
“What the heck!” one of the ghosts near the front exclaimed and then ducked underneath his desk for protection until the student beside him coaxed him back out. Chinen recognized the startled student from his information as Takaki Yuya. The one trying to reassure him that everything was okay was Arioka Daiki.
“Welcome to Chinen’s Remedial School for Haunting, kids,” he announced as he hovered around the front of the room before he settled for floating above the teacher’s desk. “I’m Chinen Yuri.”
He knew all of their faces from their file folders. Yaotome Hikaru had taken the desk at the front of the class and looked wholly unimpressed with Chinen’s entrance. Beside him, Nakajima Yuto looked super excited to see more of Chinen’s tricks. Inoo Kei, sitting on the edge of the classroom, looked more interested in examining the classroom than the class itself. Yabu Kota was in a desk on the other side of the classroom, looking concerned. In the back Okamoto Keito piled a bunch of notebooks onto his desk, looking ready for class to begin while the guy beside him, Yamada Ryosuke, looked like he might try to take a nap in class if Chinen wasn’t interesting enough.
They weren’t the toughest class he’d ever had, but they were certainly had potential to be challenging.
“Okay class,” Chinen began, folding his arms to look more authoritative, “you’re all here because you’ve failed to properly haunt your assigned spaces. But not to worry because everyone can learn to be scary and haunt the living. It just takes practice and a good strategy. Now—”
“Hey, I’ve got a question,” Yamada interrupted without even bothering to raise his hand. “What are your credentials to teach us? You don’t look very scary.”
Chinen rolled his eyes. He always had at least one student who questioned him.
“Yeah, you’re kinda tiny and cute,” Hikaru chimed in.
Chinen cleared his throat, trying to sound as convincing as possible. “I’ll have you know I have been the recipient of the Most Terrifying Ghoul award from the World Ghost Association five times in a row. I also won Japan’s Best Haunter of Public Places award, appeared in three different Hollywood movies unbeknownst to all of the movie executives, and was given the Nobel Death Prize for advances in scare theory in 2014.” He concluded his explanation and waited for the students to be awed by his accomplishments.
“Are half of those things even real awards?” Yamada asked, eyes narrowed.
“They’re all over here on the wall,” Inoo answered, pointing to the certificates hanging up.
Yamada scowled but didn’t argue anymore. Instead, Takaki raised his hand to speak. “Is that going to be on the test?”
Chinen shook his head. “There isn’t a test. Real life is all the test you need. Or afterlife, I suppose if you want to be technical.”
Takaki let out a huge sigh of relief and relaxed. In the back of the class, Keito tried to subtly put away the notebook he’d been using to take notes in, his eyes darting around embarrassed and hoping nobody had seen him.
“So let’s begin by arranging your desks into a semi-circle. This is going to be a discussion-based class,” Chinen directed. They all seemed annoyed but moved the desks anyway. Once that was taken care of, Chinen grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote something on the board.
“Can anyone tell me what this is?” He pointed to what he’d written in giant letters.
“Ooh, I know!” Yuto said, practically bouncing through his seat. He raised his hand and accidentally put his arm through Daiki’s head in the process. Daiki scooted his desk over a smidge to the left. “It says cute. It’s a description of yourself,” he answered proudly.
“Wrong!” Chinen exclaimed with annoyance, but then softened a bit. “But thank you for the compliment. I am cute.”
“Scary things can come in cute packages,” Inoo chimed in, nodding very seriously. “I mean, just look at baby bunnies.”
The whole class turned to stare at Inoo who only shuddered and said he didn’t want to talk about it.
Chinen tapped on the chalkboard to get his students’ attention again. He pointed to the letters on the board again to explain. “It’s not cute. It’s an acronym that stands for Creepy Unending Terror Eternally.”
“Isn’t that kind of redundant?” Yabu asked. “The word unending already kind of implies eternally, right?”
Hikaru slammed his hand on his desk like he had sudden inspiration, although his hand just sank right through it. “The e could stand for ectoplasm instead,” he suggested, looking pleased with his idea.
Chinen felt like he was fighting a losing battle, so he decided to switch tactics. “Okay, forget about CUTE for now. Let’s talk about everyone’s haunting spots. Takaki, you go first.”
“Uh,” Takaki wasn’t expecting to be called out so he was caught off guard at first. He straightened up in his desk and then finally began to explain. “Well I haunt a nice little section of road outside the city. I like it. Has a nice view of the ocean, got lots of trees beside it, not too much traffic.”
“How are you supposed to haunt a road?” Yamada asked.
Takaki shrugged. “I don’t know. Mostly I just give people directions when they’re lost and then disappear before they can say thank you.”
Chinen figured that Takaki was probably too nice to think of scary ghostly things to do. “So, class, any suggestions for Takaki? Remember, think CUTE.”
“Maybe you should just stand on the side of the road and make a scary face at all the cars driving by?” Inoo suggested. He demonstrated his own scary face as an example, but other than putting a lot of wrinkles into his forehead, it wasn’t all that terrifying. Takaki tried to mimic the facial expression, but he just looked like he was going to sneeze.
“Try showing all your teeth like you’re an angry tiger,” Daiki suggested.
“Can I have a better suggestion?” Takaki complained, voice coming out slightly stilted because he was trying to not move and ruin his scary face. “This makes my face hurt.”
“What you should do is hitch a ride with passing cars, tell them a scary story, and then disappear,” Yuto said. “What’s creepier than looking in your backseat and discovering your passenger isn’t there anymore?”
Chinen nodded. “That’s not bad.”
“Can I still give my driver directions if he’s lost?” Takaki asked.
“Sure, I guess,” Chinen answered. Truly, Takaki was too nice to be a very good ghost. Since he figured he was a lost cause, he moved onto the next student. “So next, we’ll help out Yabu. What place are you haunting?”
“A hotel,” he explained right away. “I’ve tried being scary by going oooOOOooOOooooOOOOooh late at night, but it never works.” He waved his long arms around in the hopes that would make him look more terrifying.
“Just a ghostly wail? Really?” Chinen was unimpressed. These were the kinds of things that got ghosts sent to his class.
“Should I try WoOOOooooOOooo instead?” He pitched his voice a little bit higher, but it still sounded like a guy trying too hard to play a prank.
“I’ve got a scary suggestion,” Yamada piped up, seemingly just waking up from dozing off at his desk. “You should make all the free hotel soap and shampoo disappear. Nothing sucks more than expecting free stuff and then not getting it.”
“That’s just mean,” Keito said quietly to himself.
“And also, you should write scary messages in the steam on the mirror in the bathroom,” Hikaru added. “Stuff like you can check out any time but you can never leave.”
“Or beware the waffle maker at breakfast downstairs,” Inoo said too. Again, everyone looked to Inoo in confusion but no one questioned him.
Chinen was pleased with the class’s progress so far. He hadn’t really had to teach anything yet, and that was always his favorite kind of class when that happened. “So who wants to go next? How about you, Yamada?”
Yamada scowled because he was about to go back to sleep and ignore the rest of class but now he couldn’t. He sighed and picked his head up from his desk. “I haunt a men’s clothing store. And I’ve already done everything I could think of to haunt them. I even made blood drip down the walls for dramatic effect, but they just thought it was paint from the art studio upstairs.”
“Sounds like a challenge,” Yuto remarked thoughtfully. “But did you try moving the mannequins around to different spots in the store at night? Maybe put one behind the cash register to look extra weird.”
Yamada opened his mouth to answer but then paused to consider it. If a ghost was capable of blushing in embarrassment, he probably would be right then. “I will try that,” Yamada finally admitted. “Move on to someone else,” he snapped quickly. Keito flashed him a comforting smile to cheer him up.
“Okay, how about Inoo?”
“That’s me!” Inoo replied cheerfully with a smile. “I’m stuck with an amusement park.”
Daiki looked jealous. “That sounds awesome.”
“But I hate rollercoasters,” Inoo explained, suddenly frowning like he was remembering something unpleasant. “They’re so scary and they make me sick.”
“How can you get motion sick as a ghost?” Keito asked quietly.
“A mystery of the universe,” Inoo just shrugged. “I don’t make the rules.”
Chinen clapped his hands to get everyone’s attention again. He could tell that his students had a hard time staying on topic and focused. He couldn’t blame them. No one really wanted to go to school after they were already dead. But haunting was important for ghosts so he still had to teach them. “So what do we suggest for Inoo to do?”
“The easiest thing would be to ride in the empty seat on the rollercoaster and show up in the souvenir photos,” Takaki said. “That happened to one of my friends when I was living and it was super weird.”
“But I don’t wanna ride the rollercoasters,” Inoo whined. He dramatically threw himself onto his desk but accidentally passed right through and ended up lying on the floor. He popped back up, looked around like he hoped no one had seen that, and then sat back down like nothing had happened.
“Maybe you can haunt the carousel instead?” Yuto suggested. “Does it have horses to ride on? You could make them move a bit to be more frightening. And also kinda cool.” He added that last statement as more a whisper to himself than anything else.
Inoo crinkled his nose as he considered it. “Sounds like a lot of work to make inanimate objects move.”
“You could just hang out in the mirror in the middle and stare out creepily at all the people on the ride,” Yabu said.
Inoo gets that cheerful look on his face again. “That I can do. Easy.”
“Poor traumatized kids,” Keito muttered but no one heard him.
“Good work everyone. All these suggestions sound very CUTE,” Chinen said to throw in some encouragement. His students always responded better when he gave them compliments. And gold star stickers, but he’d run out of those last week. “How about Yuto goes next?”
“I haunt a cemetery so I feel like I really don’t have to do that much,” Yuto explained with a shrug. “It’s already pretty spooky anyway.”
“It’s that kind of attitude that got you sent to my school in the first place,” Chinen pointed out.
“I can’t help it if emo kids and hipsters think hanging out there is pretty cool,” Yuto added, waving his arms around for emphasis. He accidentally put his arm through Daiki’s head again. Daiki scooted his desk over some more, bumping into Yamada’s desk which woke him up from another nap.
“Have you tried just going oooOOOooOoooOOOh?” Yabu asked.
“Don’t do that,” Chinen said really quickly before the idea could get support from anyone.
“I’ve got an idea,” Hikaru thankfully spoke up for Yuto. “You should hide underground and pop up from the grave like a zombie.” Hikaru did his best zombie impression by sticking his arms out and putting a blank look on his face. He let out a loud undead groan, and Keito hid behind his notebook.
Daiki nodded in agreement. “Lots of blood would add to the scene too.”
Yuto tried to mimic Hikaru’s zombie posture. “I think the kids might think this would be cool too, but I’ll try it.”
Chinen sighed. “Better than nothing, I suppose. Daiki, you’re up.”
“Up where??” Daiki suddenly exclaimed like he was concerned before he laughed. “I know what you meant. I’m just joking.”
“Your bad jokes are scary,” Yamada muttered.
“I haunt the food court at the mall,” Daiki explained. “Any suggestions? I really don’t know how to compete with the terror that is the mystery meat being served at the restaurant in the corner. I’m like 110% certain that place is being run by the yakuza and it’s a front for something.”
The whole class just stared at him.
“You haunt… a food court?” Inoo questioned him with narrowed eyes. “Seriously?”
Daiki nodded like this wasn’t a weird place for a ghost at all. The whole group seemed at a loss about how to go about haunting the place. Everyone just wordlessly glanced at each other while they tried to think of something. Even Chinen didn’t have anything to say. He hoped someone would speak up soon.
“Melt all the ice in people’s drinks?” Yabu suggested somewhat hesitantly. “Nothing is more annoying than watery drinks.”
Daiki shook his head. “I don’t want anyone to lose business because the drinks are bad. Except for maybe that sketchy restaurant. I’ll try it for them.”
So there was silence again while everyone was thinking until Takaki finally spoke up with an idea. “Um… maybe you can pretend to be a customer and order something and then never come back to pick it up?”
“Sounds spooky,” Inoo said gleefully rubbing his hands together. “A few weeks of that and there would be a legend about you spreading around the whole mall.” Daiki looked excited about this possibility.
Chinen was pleased with how well his students were catching on to the subject matter now that they had someone to bounce ideas off of. “A ghost story is always a good sign that your haunting skills are working well,” he explained. “What about you, Hikaru? How about you go next?”
Hikaru sighed and rubbed his temples like he had a headache even though ghosts didn’t really get those. “I haunt a theater. Not a movie theater, I mean. It’s one that does stage performances and stuff like that.” He sounded exasperated just mentioning it.
“That sounds pretty cool,” Keito said, actually taking the opportunity to speak up. “You get to see all kinds of performances all the time, yeah?”
Hikaru sort of grimaced. “Well it’s mostly community theater so…” he trailed off to let that sink in. “Do you know how many times I’ve had to see Cats?”
“Too many times?” Yabu began.
“Too! Many! Times!” Hikaru repeated with emphasis, fruitlessly trying to slam his hand on his desk.
“Shouldn’t you obviously just be doing a Phantom of the Opera style haunting?” Inoo asked. “All you gotta do is drop a chandelier during a performance, right?” The rest of the class nodded in agreement. Some of them even looked jealous because Hikaru had such an easy place to haunt compared to a lot of them.
Hikaru shook his head. “But it’s such a nice chandelier, you know,” he explained while rubbing his forehead. “I’d feel bad about destroying it. Plus it would leave this huge mess of glass shards behind too. I should do something like…” he trailed off again, looking very thoughtful. And then his face lit up with an idea. “But there are some fancy light fixtures in the dressing room I could mess with…”
“Also, also,” Daiki interrupted, looking excited. “You could make fart noises whenever people in the audience sit down in their seats.” Yuto gave Daiki a judging side-eye stare and then scooted his desk a tiny bit away.
“Superb idea!” Hikaru agreed. He had the most devious look on his face that almost concerned even Chinen. But he decided it was best not to dwell on it since the suggestion did, technically, qualify as a haunting technique.
Chinen turned his attention towards Keito, his quietest student and the only one left to share his haunting space. “Keito, it’s your turn now. Everyone is sure to have lots of CUTE suggestions for you.”
Keito shrank back in his desk in embarrassment, looking very reluctant to tell the class anything. All eyes were on him even as he sank lower and lower into his desk until finally he passed through the seat so that no one could see him.
“Don’t be like that, Keito,” Chinen floated over to him and pulled him back up. “It can’t be that embarrassing.”
Keito nervously clasped his hands together. “Well, I…” They all leaned forward, eager to hear what he had to say. “I… haunt a public bathroom.” He put his head down on his desk so he couldn’t see if anyone was laughing at him.
Instead, the room was actually filled with a sympathetic silence. Until of course Daiki broke it with an overly enthusiastic question of “is it a girls’ bathroom?”
“No!” Keito replied immediately, head shooting back up from the desk in his haste to clarify the situation.
“That’s rough, buddy,” Hikaru said, reaching awkwardly through Yamada to pat Keito’s shoulder. “Rougher than having to listen to people butcher songs from Cats on a daily basis.”
“I don’t want to haunt people while they’re trying to pee,” Keito complained. “It’s like a weird invasion of privacy.”
The class seemed at a loss for suggestions. They agreed with Keito. A bathroom was not an ideal haunting location, especially for someone who didn’t really want to be a mean haunter. After a few minutes of silence, Chinen decided it was finally time for him to actually contribute to the discussion instead of letting his students do all the work.
“How good are you at doing an evil laugh?” Chinen asked.
“Um… I don’t really know?”
“Oh, that’s a great idea,” Yamada (who was surprisingly awake again) chimed in, catching on to Chinen’s suggestion first. “Just do an evil laugh every now and then. It’s harmless and you could even do that with your eyes closed.”
“Yeah,” Takaki agreed. “Just make it a really good cackle. That’ll be very spooky.”
Keito attempted to produce a scary evil laugh, and the class immediately got excited giving him tips to improve his technique.
“You gotta really use your diaphragm,” Yabu said.
“And hand gestures!” Yuto said, waving his arms wide. (Daiki managed to duck in time.) “It sounds more evil somehow if you move your hands too.”
“Think about evil things,” Inoo began, “like shoplifting and vandalism and people who stick their chips back into salsa after they’ve already taken a bite.”
The class cheered Keito on in several attempts until he finally perfected the technique for a perfect evil laugh.
“Good job everyone,” Chinen said to get their attention once the cheering had settled down. “I think you’re all ready to go back and make the ghost world proud. Class is dismissed. Go forth and be CUTE.”
“You really ought to rethink that acronym,” Yamada suggested as he and the rest of the class floated away through the walls just as they had arrived.
Chinen hovered over his desk chair and settled down to relax, kicking his legs up on the desk. He was pleased that his students were such fast learners that they practically did all the work themselves.
Teaching was such a joy.