As Lou Yan’s words sank in, Lu Haoxiu belatedly caught the scent of the sweet metallic tang in the air.
Indeed, it was the smell of blood.
The dense fog slowly seeped into the room through the window crack. Lu Haoxiu looked at this strange fog and muttered, “Could it be the smell of the fog?”
“No,” Lou Yan decisively overturned this speculation, “it’s the smell in the room.”
Lu Haoxiu became even more confused. His puppy-like eyes looked at Lou Yan with a mixture of fear and pleading, desperately seeking Lou Yan’s confirmation. “The smell of blood in the room, maybe my mom’s period arrived? That must be it, right!”
Lou Yan glanced at Lu Haoxiu’s slightly trembling hand, knowing he felt scared and uneasy, deliberately pretending to be clueless. A high school student who had just entered high school had already keenly sensed that something was wrong—no, perhaps Lu Haoxiu had even smelled the blood in the room before him.
The smell of blood in the room, the strange fog outside the window, and Lou Yan’s abnormal behavior were all stimulating the tender heart of a child. Lou Yan was sure that Lu Haoxiu’s mind had already generated various ominous associations. The active thinking of young people often brought about more powerful imaginations. However, in Lu Haoxiu’s eyes, this “imagination” was undoubtedly a betrayal of his brain. “How can you think like that?” “There’s nothing in the room.” “It’s just a misunderstanding!” Lu Haoxiu’s expression already conveyed his attempt to deceive himself with words.
Lou Yan wasn’t cruel enough to force Lu Haoxiu to face reality. Alone, he followed the scent of blood in the air, trying to find its source.
Passing the dressing table and the double bed, Lou Yan approached the wardrobe step by step. The wardrobe had a top-mounted sliding door that effectively sealed off the spread of the odor. However, no matter how it was isolated, when approaching the wardrobe, the increasingly strong smell of blood became clearer.
Lou Yan could already imagine what the scene inside the wardrobe would be like, and he knew exactly where the hidden anomaly was. This was a good thing, but Lou Yan didn’t feel too happy about it because he knew that on this night of anomaly revival, another child would fall into a dark and terrifying h*ll—just like he once did.
As Lou Yan was about to open the wardrobe, Lu Haoxiu suddenly stepped forward to take over the task. He forced a strained smile, more pitiful than crying, “Brother Lou, let me do it.”
After saying that, Lu Haoxiu took a deep breath after a few seconds of silence and abruptly opened the wardrobe door.
The strong smell of blood rushed out!
Two skinned bodies hung in the wardrobe like clothes on hooks. The red, white, and yellow flesh, veins, and fat trembled sharply in front of the eyes. The faces of the skinned corpses, devoid of facial skin, turned towards Lou Yan and Lu Haoxiu, their dark hollow eye sockets appearing as if they were still alive, sending shivers down one’s spine.
Lu Haoxiu’s pupils trembled greatly. Even without their skin, he recognized the terrifying flesh sticks in the first glance – they were his parents.
The visual nerves transmitted this scene to the brain, and emotions correspondingly surged in Lu Haoxiu’s mind. Intense fear, despair, and anger rushed into Lu Haoxiu’s heart, causing his body to shake violently. Pain blocked his throat, making it difficult to swallow or speak, choking him into silence. The brain’s self-protective emotions processed the excessive stimuli with a momentary delay. Several seconds later, these intense emotions gathered in Lu Haoxiu’s chest, turning into a pale and sorrowful howl.
However, before the howl could be uttered, a hand tightly covered Lu Haoxiu’s mouth, turning the powerless wail into a forced swallow of agony.
“Don’t make a sound,” Lou Yan said.
Lu Haoxiu’s eyes widened, gripping Lou Yan’s hand as if holding onto a lifeline. In an instant, tears and snot streamed down uncontrollably.
Children who dreamt of their parents’ death scenes would wake up abruptly, grateful that it was just a dream. However, when faced with the real death of parents, they might not even be able to utter a single scream. Lu Haoxiu’s mind went blank, staring fixedly at his parents’ bodies. The brain’s self-protective mechanism once again played its role, numbing and distancing the overwhelming pain and despair. Lu Haoxiu even began to doubt whether everything before him was just a dream.
In the midst of this doubt, both Lu Haoxiu and Lou Yan simultaneously heard footsteps outside the master bedroom. The anomaly’s voice, pretending to be Lu Haoxiu’s father, approached. Although the voice had the same tone and intonation, it sounded more sinister at this moment. “Son, where did you take the guest? Supper is almost ready!”
Lu Haoxiu stiffened, not daring to move under Lou Yan’s control. Lou Yan stared at the bedroom door and quickly whispered to Lu Haoxiu, “If you want to survive, don’t make any unusual movements. This thing is trying to deceive us by pretending to be your parents. It’s better not to expose their true identity. I know you’re in pain, but Lu Haoxiu, there’s no time for you to compose yourself now. If you don’t want your parents to die in vain, then live and escape! I will release you now. Wipe your face, pretend to be similar to before, and just take me to your room to discuss the next steps. Understand?”
Two seconds passed before Lu Haoxiu slowly nodded.
Lou Yan released the hand covering his mouth. Lu Haoxiu buried his head in Lou Yan’s shoulder, rubbed it against him, sobbed with a few sounds of grievance, then forcefully held it back. His body was trembling, then he grabbed his clothes and wiped away the tears and snot. He ran to the bathroom, washed his face, and came out looking all wet and messy. “Brother Lou, I’m fine.”
His eyes were red, his nose too, like a lonely child abandoned at a bustling intersection, exuding a sense of confusion and grievance. His hair was limp, but apart from these, Lu Haoxiu’s emotions seemed to have calmed down.
In the face of imminent life-threatening danger, the urgent survival instinct can dampen grief. From a certain perspective, this is a good thing. It is this resilient human spirit that has allowed humanity to survive for so long in the face of strange forces.
Lou Yan wanted to say something, but the father’s voice suddenly came from outside the master bedroom, now very close, “Son, did you bring the guest into my room?”
Lu Haoxiu shuddered, glanced at Lou Yan, and, after Lou Yan nodded, sniffled, rubbed his face, and then opened the bedroom door. He complained with all his might, “Dad, look at what your room has become, water is all over the place. Was it you or mom who forgot to turn off the tap? I heard the sound of water just now, came in, and even my shoes got wet. Slipped on the floor. To unclog the drain, look at my clothes, all wet.”
Seeing Lu Haoxiu like this, his father was also taken aback. He pushed Lu Haoxiu and Lou Yan out, saying, “Quick, go back and change your clothes. I’ll take care of this. Hurry up, don’t catch a cold. Oh, this is not my doing. It must be your mom who forgot to turn off the tap while washing her face.”
The familiar tone and actions made Lu Haoxiu feel dazed. His nose suddenly felt sour. “Dad…”
His father turned around, smiling with yellowed teeth, “Son, what’s wrong?”
Turning his head, Lou Yan patted Lu Haoxiu’s shoulder. Lu Haoxiu, suddenly awakened, averted his eyes, forced a smile, and said, “It’s a bit cold. I’ll go change my clothes first.”
Without waiting for his father’s reply, Lu Haoxiu pulled Lou Yan towards his bedroom. He dared not reveal any abnormalities but couldn’t help glancing at his father’s figure behind. He saw his father standing still, only the eyeballs moving as he followed their figures.
Lu Haoxiu quickly lowered his head.
His bedroom was only three or four meters away from the master bedroom, but these three or four meters seemed exceptionally long to Lu Haoxiu. When he finally grasped the doorknob of his own room, Lu Haoxiu breathed a sigh of relief in his heart. Only then did he realize that his palms were full of cold sweat.
However, as he opened the door, a harsh ringtone suddenly sounded from his phone.
“Ding Ling Ling, Ding Ling Ling.”
Lou Yan turned to look, seeing Lu Haoxiu’s father staring at them while taking out his phone to answer a call. After a few words, he unexpectedly walked towards Lou Yan and Lu Haoxiu.
Lu Haoxiu instinctively grabbed Lou Yan’s arm. Lou Yan comfortingly glanced at him, stepped forward, and shielded Lu Haoxiu. Calmly, he said, “Uncle Lu, what’s the matter?”
His father gave a simple and honest smile, raising the phone and handing it to Lou Yan, “Your dad is calling you.”
Lou Yan frowned, feeling skeptical. Why would my dad have your phone number?
But then he thought about it. His dad was usually warm and liked making friends. When Lou Yan bought the house in this neighborhood, his dad personally supervised the entire decorating every day. With his dad’s temperament, it wouldn’t be difficult to get to know people in this building, let alone exchange phone numbers.
This ghost, wearing the skin of Lu Haoxiu’s father, should also be holding Lu Haoxiu’s father’s phone. Thinking about it, this phone call is very likely from his father.
After a moment of contemplation, Lou Yan still took the seemingly familiar phone and cautiously held it at a distance to his ear. “Hello?”
“Son, it’s your dad!” The familiar voice came through the phone. “Today, I stewed a big goose and wanted to bring you some. I didn’t see the lights on in your room downstairs in the community just now. Fortunately, I know your neighbor in the building; otherwise, I wouldn’t know you went to someone else’s place for a meal.”
Lou Yan confirmed that it was indeed his father, his brows furrowing tightly. “Don’t come over, go back quickly.”
Dad, puzzled, said, “What kind of rationale is there for you to chase your dad away when he comes? I even brought two bottles of wine! Wait, I’ll come up later, and we can have supper together. Haha.”
“Dad, go back,” Lou Yan suppressed his urgency, patiently advising, “Listen to me, leave the community now!”
Dad said, “You stinky kid, alright, don’t say anything. I’ll be there in a while!”
After saying this, the other party hung up the phone. Lou Yan listened to the busy tone, his face becoming particularly ugly.
“Brother Lou?” Lu Haoxiu whispered to Lou Yan.
Lou Yan took a deep breath, his face returning to calm. He handed the phone back to “Lu Haoxiu’s father” and followed Lu Haoxiu into the bedroom.
As soon as the bedroom door closed, Lou Yan sat calmly on the edge of the bed.
Lu Haoxiu wiped away his tears. His heart, shattered into eight pieces, was not yet repaired. He looked at Lou Yan with concern and worry, crouching beside Lou Yan. With a damp voice, he asked softly, “Brother Lou, what’s wrong?”
“My dad is coming over in a while,” Lou Yan closed his eyes, pursing his dry lips. “I have to figure out a way to make him go back.”
After a while, Lou Yan took out his phone and called his friend Li Sanxin.
The call was quickly answered. Before Li Sanxin could speak, Lou Yan said, “Sanxin, quickly drive to the entrance of my community to pick someone up.”
Li Sanxin seemed to be ready for bed, his voice carrying sleepiness and confusion. “It’s late at night, where do you plan to go?”
“Not me, it’s my dad,” Lou Yan pressed his eyebrows, saying helplessly. “He insists on coming over to bring me food, but it’s not safe here. First, take him to your place, and I’ll go somewhere else later.”
After hearing this, Li Sanxin remained silent for a while.
Lou Yan frowned, feeling that something was wrong. “Li Sanxin?”
Several more seconds passed before Li Sanxin’s hesitant voice finally came, “Yan Zi, did I mishear or something? Your dad… didn’t your dad die when you were in high school?”