Over the course of the week that followed his decision, the teen tried his best to get the arrangements in order. He consistently checked to make sure the nail clippers were still in the bathroom, and took the time to find the abandoned matchbox left in the back of the kitchen cabinet. He already had enough salt and rice in the house to get by, and purchasing a needle along with a spool of red thread was easy.
Though he owed a few favors in doing so, Alfred managed to persuade Matthew and Toris's friends to convince them to stay over for the weekend. It was a necessary precaution, as there was absolutely no way they would ever let him mess around with anything connected with ghosts. With them gone on the day of the ritual, there was nobody to stop him, and Alfred meticulously checked over the necessary items exactly four times.
Picking up the blade he chose as the stabbing implement, the blond swallowed as his own sky blue hues stared back at him in the reflection of the cold, polished metal. It was a sharp, serrated knife with a dark ruby embedded in the obsidian hilt. Simply holding it unnerved him, but he figured that such a strange blade would be fitting. After all, it had been a gift given to him on his fifteenth birthday—July 4th—by his friend's brother, and he considered it to be a real weapon.
Alfred looked out the window, giving a sigh as he saw a blend of red, orange, and yellow on the horizon. Gathering up his materials, he headed for the bathroom, a makeshift spot where he would perform the ritual. He set the bag of rice down beside the tub, placed scissors, a needle, and a spool of thread on the counter, and opened the medicine cabinet where the nail clippers were stored one more time just to make sure.
Taking in a deep breath, he ventured outside to the kitchen. The blond poured a good portion of salt into a plastic cup and left it in the sink to fill with water. As he did so, he pocketed the box of matches and pulled out a spoon, turning off the faucet and stirring the salt. Silently, he watched the swirling white crystals dissolve in the liquid.
"Alright," he muttered aloud, his hands trembling slightly as he carried the cup upstairs to the room where he intended on hiding, "this is it, I'm really doing it; no backing down now." He placed it in the corner of his own emptied closet, taking great care to not spill the contents. Slowly, he closed the wardrobe.
Alfred returned to the bathroom with two new items, gathering up his courage and beginning to prepare for the ritual. He exchanged the dagger in his right hand for the pair of scissors, swallowing as he turned his gaze to the strange little doll he held in his left.
The beady black eyes of the fox plush stared back at him, and he had to avert his gaze from the silken animal. The blond took in a deep breath, convincing himself he could do this. After all, it was for his own satisfaction, and he had to prove he was brave enough to himself. Using the scissors, he snipped through the golden fabric, jumping back and dropping the doll when white and black blobs spilled out.
"Shit!" Alfred swore, backing away from the mess, "the hell is up with this?!" He spent a few minutes trying to steady his breathing, staring at the dark mass of rice weevils—both dead and alive. "Oh, that's so gross, what the heck…"
Grumbling under his breath with the setback, Alfred ventured back to the kitchen, grabbing a broom and a dustpan to clean up the mess before the nasty insects crawled everywhere. He had a ritual to perform, and no amount of bugs was going to deter him after he had gotten this far. Furiously, he swept up the disarray, dumping all of the unwanted pests into the garbage and closing the lid. He would empty that out later.
The blond returned to the nine-tailed plush, quickly clipping his nails and filling the doll with the rice. He narrowed his eyes with concentration as he took on the tedious task of sewing the silk back together, inevitably pricking himself and swearing with frustration and pain in the process. However, he paid the blood no mind as he finished up and wrapped the remaining red thread around the limbs of the fox. It had taken him a long time, but it was still nowhere near the time he needed to start the ritual.
Alfred returned to the kitchen, not knowing what to do aside from mill around for awhile. He sighed, preparing a cup of coffee for himself in order to survive the night. After all, he needed to stay awake to see what would happen. He had gone through all of the effort in preparing, so there really was no way he would back down at this point.
Ugh, what am I doing? he thought to himself, glaring at nothing as he sipped at the bitter drink. I can't believe I'm wasting this much time over something that isn't even going to work. Seriously, why am I doing this?
The bespectacled blond sighed with annoyance as he set down the emptied mug, deciding he would wash it later. He would have to play the waiting game. How much time would it be until he would finish up with the ritual? How much time until the dreaded deadline?
Alfred glanced down at his watch. "Where did all the time go?" he questioned aloud. "Wasn't it eleven like three seconds ago?" How had he not noticed the passage of time? Without a moment's hesitation, the blond dashed off to truly begin the ritual.
The fox plush, now with rice filling and red thread wrapped around its limbs, laid on the floor beside the empty tub. Alfred checked his watch again. Ten minutes to three. He started by filling the tub with water before picking up the fox plush, which now looked more demented than innocent. Alfred frowned and adjusted his glasses while trying to think of a name for the stuffed animal. The game was Japanese, so a name of that same origin would be fitting…
"I'm gonna call you..." He thought for a few seconds, staring at the beady black eyes. "... Kiku. It means chrysanthemum, doesn't it? Seems 'bout right."
Alfred checked his watch again. One minute from three. It was now or never. He quickly ran outside to turn off all the lights in the house while leaving the televisions on. Once he returned, it was exactly three o'clock in the morning. Alfred picked up the fox plush and submerged it in the now-filled tub. He gulped before hardening his resolve and speaking.
"Alfred is going to be it. Alfred is going to be it. Alfred is going to be it," he declared confidently before running out the room. He quietly counted to ten outside before going back inside the bathroom, picking up the knife, looking for a moment at the bright ruby in its hilt while regretting everything, and stabbing the fox plush in the abdomen.
"Now Kiku is it. Now Kiku is it. Now Kiku is it."
Alfred raced out of the bathroom, bolting to the closet in his room and hiding inside. He struggled for a few moments, trying to steady his ragged breathing before calming and putting some of the salt water in his mouth.
He waited. Time passed. He heard nothing.
Alfred was beginning to worry. What had happened? Did he do the ritual wrong? No, it was just an elaborate hoax he had tricked himself into believing was worth something. There was nothing to be waiting for in the first place. He was about to leave his hiding spot and go to sleep when he heard a noise and froze.
The television in the living room downstairs had changed sound, the difference striking in the previous silence. Alfred had left all the televisions on static channels, though it now appeared to have changed to a different channel that he could not currently identify.
He heard slow footsteps creep up the stairs. There was no way that was the fox plush; the footsteps were too heavy and loud to possibly be it. Alfred fought the urge to cry from fright as he realized that the spirit he had summoned was both real and not confined to the little stuffed animal. He was completely and totally doomed.
Alfred nearly forgot to breathe when he heard the door to his room open. He had the salt water in his mouth; the spirit should not be able to sense him, right? The television in his room changed channels.
"Hello?" came a voice from the television, almost as if the spirit was using the channels to communicate. "Is this your room?"
Alfred tried his best not to make any noise. His heart was racing. Every creak caused by the house was amplified to a deafening degree of noise.
"... I guess not." The television turned itself off and Alfred heard the door close.
He tried his best to resist the urge to relax in relief; he could not be heard, especially when he had such a close encounter. Carefully checking his watch, Alfred saw that it had been half an hour already. He was so glad he drank the coffee; if he had not, he would very likely be snoring away.
Alfred remained quiet as he heard things being moved around in both Toris and Matthew's rooms, which were next to his own. He was extremely glad the spirit had not searched his room; he would have been found in a heartbeat!
The noises stopped and Alfred heard footsteps going down the hall before going back down the stairs. The spirit was no longer on the same floor as him. He strained his ears to hear anything on the first floor, but whatever noises the spirit was making were drowned out by the television downstairs, which was then turned off.
There was a long silence.
Was it safe to come out now? Alfred had not heard anything for a very long time. Tentatively, he opened the door of the closet by a small crack, trying to make as little noise as possible. When he peeked out, Alfred nearly choked on the water in his mouth as he stifled a shriek.
The fox plush was in his room, sitting innocently on top of the television.
Had the spirit known he was here all along? No, there's no way, Alfred thought. He had kept the salt water in his mouth the entire time, and if the spirit had known, it would have killed him, right?
He stayed silent for a few more moments. No footsteps. No signs of any disturbance both downstairs and upstairs. He risked it. Alfred bursted out of his hiding place and reached for the stuffed animal, throwing it on the floor and spitting salt water on it. He poured the rest of the water onto the fox plush, completely soaking it.
"I win! I win! I win!" Alfred screamed.
Complete silence settled upon the house. The game had to be over.
Picking up the drenched fox plush, Alfred raced downstairs, turning on all the lights as he went. Nothing jumped out or attacked him. He arrived at the bathroom and shivered when he noticed the floor was wet. Avoiding the patches of water that looked suspiciously like footprints, Alfred opened the cabinet and pulled out a hair dryer. Quickly drying off the fox plush, he hastily pulled out some oil left in one of the kitchen cabinets before throwing open the door and breathing in the crisp air of the morning.
"Burn," he growled, pouring the oil on the silk and taking the matches out of his pocket. His bright blue hues were cold as he struck a match, throwing it down.
Alfred watched the stuffed animal burn until it was nothing but smoldering ashes. He looked up. It was nearing dawn; six o'clock. Trembling, Alfred went back inside. He went ahead and put all of his materials away, draining the bathtub and wiping up the watery footprints afterwards. He turned off all the televisions after that, and finally went around the house to check and fix anything that was misplaced.
Alfred was dead tired, but as he went to sleep, he felt something was still off. His eyes widened when he realized what was wrong.
Though he had searched through the entire house, cleaning things up and looking in every nook and cranny...
He had not found the knife.