One day, after classes had ended at a certain girls' school, two students chatted inside their classroom. Leading the conversation was C, a lover of gossip. She brought up a topic fresh off the grapevine she had only just learned that day. "Hey, have you heard about this?" she asked Y, sitting opposite with a desk between them. "About what?" Y asked, looking dubious.
"I heard this from one of the seniors today... Well, to be more precise, it was a story that their friend had heard from their friend."
"Hmph. So you mean it's gossip, then."
"Well, either way, just hear me out. Hey, Y, didn't you say you bought a PC recently?"
"Yeah. If I'm being precise, too, my dad bought it for me, though."
"It's connected to the internet, right?"
"Yeah. I've started getting used to a lot of things on there lately, and I get so lost in surfing the web that I'm not getting enough sleep. What about it?"
"It's a story about surfing the web. Apparently, there's a weird website somewhere on the net."
"Weird...? The internet's full of stuff like that. There are sites collecting photos of people destroying ant colonies, ones written about how to use toilet paper... There's all sorts of stuff out there that makes no sense."
"I don't mean like that. There are loads of things you have to do before you can even find the site... Anyway, it's just weird."
"You're making no sense. What do you mean?"
"There's only a teeny little bit of information known about the site. It's apparently tough to find it even using search engines. They say that there are only a few people in the whole world who've found it. You have to type in the site's name properly, or even a search engine won't be able to find it."
"Normally, if you knew the keywords used on the site, you'd be able to just search for it like that."
"Yeah! Exactly. Isn't that weird on its own? Oh, and about the title of the page. It's a line of English text that you can't pronounce no matter how you read it, with hiragana and numbers mixed in, and even some hangul and other stuff. There's "qz" in there somewhere, and the old hiragana "we" right in the middle, with a total of three strange symbols... apparently. Stuff like a sharp symbol or an "at" sign. Either way, you only get a few little hints at a time."
"...I've actually heard that story, too."
"Whaat, really? Hmph. Then do you know the story about N who really found the page, too?"
"A person who found it? I... don't think so. The one I know is the story about a weird site like that existing."
"Really? Then let me tell you the rest. So, N used the rumour and search software to go through hundreds and thousands of search patterns, and finally found it! There was some sort of cryptic text shown on the screen. Nothing else. There wasn't even a counter, so there's no way to tell how many people had seen it before.
"So N thought, huh, I wonder what this is? The letters looked weird, so she thought that maybe the page hadn't loaded properly and clicked 'refresh' to reload it. But nothing changed... or so she thought. When she looked at the bottom right of the screen, she saw something like a dot had appeared there. N pressed the refresh button again. The dot from before had got a bit bigger. So N pressed 'refresh' again. Each time she pressed the button, the dot began to shift into a rectangular shape, and eventually a field appeared where you could enter text and numbers.
"There was a long line of weird characters there, too, and she had no idea what to enter. But since the only keys on the keyboard that responded were apparently the number keys, N realised that it wanted her to input a number. Right away, she put in the numbers that came into her head at random. I hear she entered her birthday."
"She entered her birthday... huh. And then?"
"Alright, alright, I'm getting to it. So once she was done entering the numbers, the screen was of course filled with meaningless characters. But there was one phrase among them that she could understand: 'Reservation complete.'"
"Yeah. This is the good bit. A few hours after entering the numbers, N received an email on her PC. It was only a title, with an empty body. The all-important title? 'Thank you for your reservation.'"
"That's it? Nothing else happened?"
"Yeah... After that, N forgot all about the site and lived a normal life."
"No. Nothing at all."
"Nothing at all... huh. Really..."
"But, you know... One day, those normal days of nothingness changed. N started to sense something. She kept getting the feeling that someone was nearby."
"Yeah. Someone was obviously nearby. She could sense it. Weirdly, the presence got stronger each day. It was like something invisible was slowly approaching her."
"Yeah. It slowly, slowly drew closer, until it was right behind N. And then she heard it―the heavy breathing on the back of her neck. Hah, hah, hah, hah. But she couldn't see who it was at all."
"Finally, the presence moved around to her front... And N died. 122 days after entering those numbers into the weird website."
"122 days later? What's that about? Didn't N put in her birthday?"
"Right. The 122nd day after she entered the numbers was N's birthday. Apparently, the police showed up and did a bunch of investigating after that, but her cause of death was unknown. I hear that in the end, they wrote it off as a heart attack."
"What was the presence that was approaching her?"
"We don't know. The only clue... Well, I'm not sure whether or not 'clue' is the right word to use, but an email arrived at the exact time of N's death: 'Thank you for choosing us.'"
"What does that mean? ...Hey, what was that page?"
"The page... was a page for you to book your own death."
"...You're kidding, right? That's just a rumour, isn't it?"
"Who can say?"
C wrapped up the story there. The end, she said to Y with a smile. But Y went pale and repeated over and over, "It's... just a rumour." Then, her eyes darted over to the classroom doorway. C followed her gaze, but no one was there and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Y, however, was clearly afraid of something. It was almost like she could sense something invisible...