“This problem can’t be solved? I have to do it myself? You can’t come over? Uhm, I’ve already sent you the pictures to see, the situation has really gotten serious now… ”
Feeling a headache, he raised his hand to pinch the space between his eyebrows and Xia Lian decided to just hang up the call with his landlord.
Regarding the mold’s growth in the house, the landlord’s attitude was to completely refuse coming over. Even with pictures and videos of him reacting to the problem, the landlord still perfunctorily replied on the phone that the situation is still normal, that Xia Lian should man up and not be too concerned about it.
Since renting the house, the agent has all but disappeared, and he can only contact the landlord if any problem arises. Meanwhile the landlord ‘s attitude seems to only care about collecting rent money, not wanting to pay any heed to other things. If Xia Lian really could not stand it, he would be charged less rent the next month in exchange for taking care of the mold problem himself.
Actually he has asked people around about thoroughly exterminating mold spots, mentioning how he really wanted to clean it up. But needing to tear down the wall and completely repaint it was a bit too much work for himself. Asking for professionals to take care of it would certainly not be cheap, and the landlord will not repaint the house just because of a mold problem in one (small) area. So by the end of the conversation, he chose to ignore the mold problem, telling himself that it would improve more by this season, or he’ll continue to clean it by himself. no more sticking things over the spots to cover it up and feign blindness.
It really wasn’t Xia Lian being a clean freak, it was the mold growth in the house that has gotten much worse these days. After days of trying to scrub the walls and disinfect it, the mold in the bathroom still continued to grow and expand.
Spots even began to spread in the living room while mold stains started to appear on his ceiling, patch after patch of oval-shaped mold spots looking extremely striking against the white ceiling. At this time he already gave up on the idea of scrubbing the mildew, because after a few days of continually scrubbing the walls, he learned no matter how much he tried cleaning, it was useless effort.
The only comfort he has was that the mold spots haven’t spread into the bedroom yet. But even so, standing in the bathtub while taking a shower and glimpsing that large spot of gray mold in the corner of the wall, his heart still felt fully disgusted.
Other than the mold infestation problem, these days Xia Lian could always feel a faint throbbing headache, likely caused by his poor quality of sleep. Every night he’d always start dreaming of strange and unexplainable things. In this dream, he could hear that rustling sound extremely close to his ears. Each night the sound in his dreams would get progressively louder, but he was still stuck deep in the nothingness of the dark abyss, where no exit could be found. Such meaningless dreams, but extremely exhausting to his mental state. Each day, Xia Lian felt as if he wasn’t getting any sleep at all. At work he was unable to concentrate, leading the colleagues who usually end their interactions after a simple greeting to be worried and ask if he had slept well recently as his eyebags look a bit too serious.
Staring at himself in the mirror, the pale complexion and dark blue-black shadows under his eyes, he looked quite scary. Using both hands, he picked up a handful of tap water to splash and pat his face vigorously. Xia Lian glanced through the mirror at the mold spot by the bathtub and felt that the shape of the mold had morphed, slowly transforming into a head, hands, feet. As if it was a person standing in the corner…
Xia Lian turned his head abruptly, carefully observing the mold figure that’s almost taller than him, extremely anxious. He felt as if he personified the mold too much. After all, as he gazed at clouds, he would always imagine what objects they looked like. This time, looking at some mold spots, he was also imagining things. This is very normal, nothing strange about it. Like this, he calmed himself down, while he decided to also video call his friend.
Although it has been said before that he wasn’t the overwhelmingly popular type among others, he wasn’t entirely socially incompetent that he had no friends at all. During university, he had a classmate who was also coincidentally his roommate that he still keeps in touch with to this day. It wasn’t a friendship close enough that they spoke everyday, but if they had anything in their minds, they could still find each other. Looking at the current time, Xia Lian sent out a video call request to his friend Huang Hao, who works in the next town over and shouldn’t be busy right now.
As they haven’t spoken for quite a while, Xia Lian held back in mentioning his problem with the landlord and house right away. Rather they exchanged pleasantries, asking each other about their current work and life situation. Because Huang Hao had a habit of of usually talking too much, an hour passed quickly. Xia Lian nearly forgot what he needed to say during the video call, but he now knew Huang Hao’s girlfriend’s current favorite snacks and lipstick shade. What Huang Hao’s girlfriend ate or used, he actually didn’t really care about any of those. But really, he couldn’t stop someone who was currently in the middle of a sweet relationship and wanted to strongly say everything about their couple.
But the unceasing torrent of words eventually made Huang Hao gradually realise that he was showing off way too much, so he coughed a bit as he cooled off his love-filled brain as he finally sensed Xia Lian’s unusual response. Being Xia Lian’s classmate for many years back then, it wasn’t impossible to understand him. To see Xia Lian taking the initiative to contact him was something extremely rare. Looking at Xia Lian through the video screen, Huang Hao seemed to understand something. With a playful smile, he asks: “Hey, is it because I stole your spotlight and spoke about my own girlfriend first and didn’t let you announce your own good news about finally getting your own girlfriend-ah?”
“?” Xia Lian’s head became full of question marks.
“No?” Huang Hao’s right eye twitched as he deliberately winked at the camera.
Mouth pursed, Xia Lian frowned as he kept staring at Huang Hao’s exaggerated facial expression from inside the phone. Recalling that he was leaning against the headboard in front of the camera, and behind him was the gaudy/dazzling pink wallpaper, he reckoned that was what made Huang Hao misunderstand. After all, he wasn’t the type of person who would decorate their room in such a way.
“No, not that, the pink wallpaper behind me was already here when I rented the place, I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Ei? Don’t be shy~ If you’re at your girlfriend’s house, you’re at your girlfriend’s house- pei! Bro, how can I laugh at you, this is a good thing-ah! Congrats, congrats!”
“No, I’m currently alone at my own place.” Xia Lian clarified things further by raising his phone to move around his room for Huang Hao to see. Besides the pink wallpaper, the interior made it obvious that he was single.
“Really? But I obviously just saw someone leaning beside you-ah?” It wasn’t from seeing Xia Lian’s pink background did Huang Hao misunderstand. Rather, it was because he saw a black haired person beside Xia Lian, and he thought anyone who is pressed so close against Xia Lian’s body, can only be someone like a girlfriend. Although the figure quickly disappeared from the camera lens, Huang Hao merely thought she was a shy one.
“…….You really saw someone beside me?” Heartbeat suddenly jumping, Xia Lian turned his head around the room. Obviously, it was only him inside the room, where did the other person come from? Once again, his mind trailed to the mold patch in the bathroom. The more it seemed to resemble a human, the more frightened he became.
“You’re really not lying to me? There’s no girlfriend there?” Seeing Xia Lian’s complexion becoming bad in an instant through the video, Huang Hao who was previously still joking around, can’t help but ask hesitantly.
“I also want to ask you the same thing, are you lying to me?”
“See….But I just clearly saw something~~”,
“What did it look like?”
“It’s… It’s just someone I couldn’t see clearly, standing and almost leaning against you (ne), but it was gone in an instant.” Huang Hao thought about it more and more, blurting out what exactly he felt in his mind: “Could it be… a ghost?”
“Let’s end today’s talk here, I’ll be hanging up first.”
Obviously he contacted his friend to make himself feel better?. He didn’t expect to finish the call with his mood in a deeper pitfall. The mold has unceasingly spread all over, and his friend just mentioned that he saw a figure appearing next to him.
How could ghosts appear/ exist in this world? Unconsciously, his fingertips that felt hot in the scorching heat turned ice cold. Xia Lian might appear calm on the outside, but inside his heart, he felt like it was as messy as if was going through a Category 8 typhoon.