In Virtual Reality
n the ground proudly barked at Cao Wei Min.
“Humans, I got your backs/buts!”
The elevator's bright lights still shone above, yet Huang Yang felt a chill creeping up his neck, causing him to furrow his brows in discomfort.
“The ventilation in this lift is excessive,” he muttered, his hand still rubbing his nape.
Balancing a customer's scorching hot pot in his left hand, he idly scrolled through his phone with his right, absently refreshing the screen.
But alas, no response came from the device.
Huang Yang realized that most elevators had weak signal reception, leaving him with no choice but to stow away his phone.
“This elevator is moving at a snail's pace,” he complained, his mind drifting away as he glanced up at the towering display screen, desperate to catch a glimpse of the floor they had reached.
Huang Yang's thoughts were interrupted by confusion.
“Why are we still on the first floor?” he questioned, doubting himself.
He had been confident that he had pressed the button for the 32nd floor upon entering the elevator.
Could he have misremembered?
His eyes fell upon the buttons, arranged sequentially, and the circular one for the 32nd floor glowed with a brilliant white light.
Dong, dong, dong…!
Huang Yang's heart leapt into his throat, a sharp ache surging through his chest as it pounded with an accelerated rhythm.
The elevator was indeed ascending, and the button for the 32nd floor gleamed white, indicating that it had been activated.
So why did the display stubbornly read “1”?
Had it malfunctioned?
Swallowing hard, Huang Yang reached over and pressed the button for the 32nd floor once again, hoping for a different outcome.
As Huang Yang relentlessly pounded on the elevator button, his eyes were fixated on the display screen, which still showed the elevator on the first floor.
What on earth was happening? A sense of panic slowly crept over him, engulfing him in its icy grip.
Suddenly, the elevator jolted to a halt, and its polished silver doors slid open with a hiss.
Huang Yang looked up, hoping for some explanation, only to be met with the sight of a boy entering the elevator while absorbed in his own world and carrying a camera.
He paid Huang Yang no heed and, without a second thought, pressed the button for the fourth floor.
As the doors gradually closed, the light in Huang Yang's eyes faded, replaced by a sense of foreboding that sent a shiver down his spine.
The sight outside the elevator starkly contrasted with the average apartment building's first floor.
Instead, Huang Yang found himself staring at an abandoned building with solidified grey mud and a solitary rectangular pillar standing in the distance.
It was as if he had been transported to another world.
As he took in the scene, he realized with horror that it was now nighttime outside.
He remembered seeing a girl with a dog outside the elevator in the daytime just moments ago.
The sudden and dramatic environmental change was more jarring than a solar eclipse.
How could it turn from day to night in the blink of an eye and from the first-floor lobby to an abandoned building?
Fear gripped Huang Yang's heart as he huddled in the elevator's corner, his hands shaking as he fumbled for his phone.
He needed to call the police, but when he tried to make the call, he couldn't.
Despite the weak signal, he should have been able to make the call.
But now, he was cut off from the outside world, trapped in an elevator that seemed to be moving through time and space.
Huang Yang's hand trembled as he watched the call he had just dialled abruptly hang up.
He struggled to steady his nerves, barely able to hold onto his phone.
The elevator continued its ascent, its movement slow and deliberate.
Finally, it stopped on the fourth floor, and Huang Yang's heart skipped a beat.
He had to remind himself that the boy who had entered the elevator with him was still there, a living presence in this surreal and nightmarish situation.
Summoning all his courage, Huang Yang spoke up, his voice barely above a whisper.
The boy pressed the button for the second floor; his demeanour was inscrutable.
Huang Yang found himself at a loss for words as if his throat had suddenly constricted.
The boy's actions left him baffled.
What could he be doing in this strange and terrifying place?
“My bros, I have discovered a newly refurbished edifice with barebones infrastructure, replete with an elevator,” Zeng Zhi declared, holding his handheld camera and sauntering into the empty lift with an air of playful mischief.
“Today, I've snuck in here to test an urban legend about elevators,” he continued, his voice light with laughter as he spoke to the camera, pressing the button for the fourth floor.
As the floor display rose, he raised the camera lens to capture the moment.
“The fourth floor,” he announced with a grin.
They arrived at the fourth floor, greeted by an unfinished cement wall outside the elevator.
Zeng Zhi remained inside the lift, pressing the button for the second floor.
“And now, the second floor,” he intoned with a hint of theatricality as the elevator descended.
They arrived at the second floor, and without missing a beat, Zeng Zhi announced, “The sixth floor.” The elevator ascended, and soon they arrived at the sixth floor.
Zeng Zhi then pressed the button for the second floor once again, and the elevator descended to its destination.
Zeng Zhi looked down as the elevator doors glided open, intending to press the button for the tenth floor.
But what he saw made him freeze in his tracks: a foot.
It was a foot unlike any he had ever seen, with blackened nails, bulging veins, and dry, calloused skin creased with deep wrinkles.
Zeng Zhi stood there in stunned silence, his mind reeling.
Finally, he managed to stammer out a single word: “…what?”
His mind was a blank canvas as he slowly raised his head, only to be confronted by a dishevelled person standing before him.
The person walked into the elevator slowly and jerkily, sending chills down Zeng Zhi's spine.
With a modicum of reason controlling his body, he felt stiff all over.
He moved in the opposite direction, trying to avoid contact with the person.
The person walked to the lower left corner of the elevator, where a horizontal row of elevator buttons designed for visually impaired and disabled individuals was located.
Nervously watching, Zeng Zhi saw the figure suddenly make a “click clack” sound.
Then the head, initially facing away from him, rotated 180 degrees to look at him! A gap in the person's fine black hair revealed a black and white eye.
Zeng Zhi pressed himself against the cold inner wall of the elevator, too scared to move, and dared not take his eyes off the figure.
Then he saw the black and white eye completely filled with crimson colour!
It was a double-critical hit!!
Zeng Zhi was scared out of his wits.
Were there really ghosts in the world he lived in?! What about science?
The figure suddenly grinned, then returned to the horizontal elevator button and pressed many buttons randomly with its grey, dusty hands and feet, all amid Zeng Zhi's terrified gaze.
4, 9, 13, 17, 18, 22, 23, 29…
The elevator doors closed, but the ghost didn't leave.
Instead, it stood in the elevator with Zeng Zhi.
Zeng Zhi could not utter a word.
All he wanted was to escape this nightmarish situation.
Zeng Zhi's brain was experiencing a storm of rage and powerlessness, but his body was honestly turned away from the ghost, trembling with his head lowered.
According to the urban legend about elevators, a woman was supposed to appear when he pressed the 5th-floor button.
However, he only pressed the 2nd-floor button, and a person appeared instead.
Let the urban legend exist as an urban legend; what was the point of it being real?!
He really wanted to escape!
Suddenly, he saw a person squatting behind him in the elevator corner.
It scared him out of his wits.
The guy who came to film the urban legend video moved forward again, pressing against the cold elevator wall and praying to God for protection.
The elevator stopped again, but this time it wasn't the 4th floor that the black-haired ghost had pressed, but a button that had never appeared on the elevator before — The negative18th floor.
The elevator door slowly opened, and Zeng Zhi's eyes lit up.
He subconsciously wanted to rush out without seeing the floor number displayed on the screen.
Suddenly, a touch of tender pink broke into his vision and directly bumped Zeng Zhi, who was already standing unsteadily, back into the elevator.
The elevator door slowly closed behind the newcomer.
Zeng Zhi, sitting on the ground hugging his camera, could now feel the presence of the two “things” behind him up close.
Zeng Zhi, who was already completely desperate, gave up hope and looked up — 'Let me see what kind of ghost thing came in this time!'
——— Translator's Notes ———
“Ghost Blows Out the Light” refers to a popular Chinese novel and its adaptations that feature treasure hunting and supernatural elements.
鬼吹灯 (Guǐ chuī dēng) 鬼 (Guǐ) – ghost 吹 (chuī) – to blow 灯 (dēng) – lamp or light
“田园犬” (countryside dog) is a Chinese slang term for mixed-breed dogs that are often found in rural areas.
Huang Yang 黄扬 曾 (zēng) is a surname and it can also mean “previously” or “once”.
智 (zhì) means “wisdom” or “intelligence”.
Zeng Zhi 曾智 could be translated as “previously wise” or “wise from the past”.
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