Inside the darkened bathroom, Chen Ge sat alone inside the bathtub. He breathed in and out, circulating the air inside his lungs. The time noted on the black phone was precisely 3:42 am. He only had one chance, so he had to be careful.
The room was quiet, and he could not hear anything from outside the corridor; the monster from the mirror did not seem to be around.
Time ticked by. Chen Ge put the electronic watch he had brought purposely for this occasion on his side. When the digits changed to 3:43, he trained his focus and opened his mouth wide to slowly take in his breath.
As the candlelight flickered, Chen Ge slowly submerged his body into the water. His eyes were glued to the electronic watch; he had never been so focused in his life before. When the digit changed again, Chen Ge slipped underneath the water surface without hesitation.
It was finally 3:44 am!
The icy water flooded him from all sides. Submerging oneself in a bathtub filled with water in the middle of the night, the experience was unique to say the least.
The water numbed the senses, and it felt like there was nothing but darkness and oneself slowly falling into the abyss; there was complete silence other than the pounding of one's heart inside one's ears. The icy water pulled every sensory receptor in one's body taut.
Lying inside the bathtub, Chen Ge abandoned all thoughts as he listened to his heartbeat and started the countdown.
Sixty seconds, I only need to hold on for sixty seconds.
This was the first time he had done something like this as well. The surface of the water seemed to merge with the darkness. The candlelight, which felt like it was going out, drifted away from Chen Ge like he was slowly falling into the ocean.
After the initial ten seconds, time seemed to have slowed down. The sound of water attempted to swallow even his heartbeat. All he could see was darkness. Chen Ge repeated his parents' names in his heart and held his pose with both his hands holding the cleavers and allowing his body to be carried along by the flow of the water.
The oxygen in his lungs was fast depleting. Chen Ge was starting to feel uncomfortable, like something heavy was pressing down on his body.
Every time his heart pumped, it exhausted the oxygen inside his lungs. As his heart slowed, so did the time; every second felt like an eternity. The feeling of discomfort intensified. It felt like a pair of hands was pressing down on his neck, slowly tightening around it.
Chen Ge opened his eyes, but underneath the water, he was unable to see anything. It felt like he had travelled to another world and was trapped in it. Three or four seconds later, his face turned startlingly white.
How long has it been? Should be over soon, right?
Suddenly, there was a violent ripple that crossed the surface, and a weird sound crossed through the heavy silence. The sound seemed to come from the outside corridor. Chen Ge had no idea how he managed to hear it so clearly... perhaps it was something done on purpose to distract his focus.
Footsteps? Someone is walking outside the corridor?
His heartbeat, which had slowed, started to race, and his body tensed involuntarily.
That is probably the mirror monster. Hopefully the dolls will be able to hold it off for another thirty seconds for me to finish the mission!
His brain slowed to a crawl, and a buzzing sound appeared in his ears. Chen Ge was not doing so well, and the footsteps from the corridor only made it worse. He tried his best to focus and continued to repeat his parents' names internally as he returned to counting his heartbeat.
Chen Ge was unable to tell whether it was the water that had distorted the sound, but he swore the footsteps had begun to speed up, as if the opposite party was desperately trying to get into the bathroom.
Several seconds later, Chen Ge felt like a heavy piece of boulder was falling on top of his chest. The blood vessels on his neck started to pop. His limbs were going weak with cold. His brain was slowing down, and only Chen Ge's determination was making him hold on.
BANG! BANG! BANG!
Something slammed into the bathroom door without warning. Chen Ge felt like his heart was in a vice; the thing outside the door had lost its patience!
The opponent gave up after slamming the door a few more times. Perhaps it was the doll behind the door that had saved Chen Ge again. Silence returned to the room. Everything reverted to normal, or as normal as it could have been considering the circumstances. Normally, Chen Ge could easily hold his breath for a minute, but the footsteps from the corridor and the slamming on the doors had broken his composure. The degree of oxygen exhaustion increased when an animal was in distress.
He knew he was reaching his limit. The last wisp of oxygen inside his lungs had been depleted. Every second was torment.
When he counted to forty, Chen Ge's brain started to shut down. He had lost the ability to even keep the countdown going. If he allowed the little focus that he had left to waver, Chen Ge was sure he would drown. The sense of asphyxiation blotted out his thoughts, and all that remained in his head were his childhood memories with his parents.
A vein was pulsing weakly on Chen Ge's neck, and his hands that held the cleavers started to relax. He felt himself drifting toward the edge of death, and it was not until then that he truly understood the meaning of that sentence inside the mission description.
"It can allow you to bypass the line between the living and the dead, giving you the opportunity to see those who have unfortunately passed away."
What it really meant was, as night changed into day, those on the brink of death could peer into the other world!
Chen Ge stared unblinkingly at the surface of the water. His pupils were dilated, and it felt like he was pulling away from the surface. However, he could not see anything or anyone other than darkness, a darkness that was so quiet and yet filled with so much despair.
The feeling of one's lungs being squeezed by an invisible hand was a sensation that could not be put into words.
No, if I stay down here any longer, I really will die in this bathtub.
He believed he had survived half a minute already, and the people that Chen Ge wanted to see had not appeared. He had given up hope, or rather, he was glad that his parents did not appear; this meant that they were still alive.
His arms touched the cold surface of the bathtub's bottom. Using the last vestige of rationality, Chen Ge decided it was time to give up. His arms increased in strength to push himself out of the water when Chen Ge felt something was wrong!
Something was pressing down on his head, stopping him from coming up to the surface. His dilated pupils focused to one point as Chen Ge looked up, but there was nothing there!
The dolls had sealed the door and the area surrounding the bathtub; the mirror monster should not have been able to come in, so who was behind this?
More veins started to pop on Chen Ge's neck; his face was pretty much lifeless. At the very last minute, he used the last trace of energy in his body to grip the cleaver and wave it above his head.
The extended period of oxygen deprivation had pushed his body and spirit to their limits; like a string pulled taut, they could snap at any moment.
The cleaver cut through the surface, causing the water to splash all around. Chen Ge felt like he made contact with something, and he heard a crisp snap beside his ears before the mysterious force above his head suddenly disappeared.
Without hindrance, Chen Ge sat up in the bathtub immediately, gasping for air as he broke the surface!