차가운 세상 두 눈을 감고
침대에 누워 두 귀를 막고
In this cold world, I’m closing my eyes
Laying down in bed, covering my ears
Lee Taeyong stared blankly into the darkness, listening to the low hum of the furnace. There was no difference when he closed his eyes versus when he opened them, so he kept them open, hoping either dawn would soon break into his infinite brooding or an angel of death would come down to take him away from his aching human shell.
He lied on his back, limbs outstretched on his bed. Judging from the times he jolted awake, he could deduce that it was approximately four-thirty in the morning. It was always this ungodly hour that he experienced such numbing, disassociating madness. His head spun and the bed felt like it was shifting to the left, yet he could not move to stabilize himself. The night had paralyzed all but mind, which ran at a hundred miles per hour and his heart, which dragged behind, yearning for something dear. Such feelings of longing had increased in their frequency and intensity within the past year, and Taeyong believed they were the source of his immense pain. With each attempt to dismiss these emotions, his chest tightened and even breathing burned his throat. He hoped dearly that Death would take him by the hand in the moments when he remembered her.
It had been a year since he had last seen her, and he could still taste her cherry lips on his own, her voice whispering into his ear.
“Did you miss me?” The voice pierced through the silence and lodged itself right in Taeyong’s heart. He recognized it immediately.
His eyes scanned the darkness for some kind of flaw, a glitch in the ebony air to indicate her presence. He wished to sit up, but his body defied all orders. “Is that really you, Jennie?” he managed to ask.
A cold hand cupped his face, and he felt her breath on his cheek. “Yes.”
“How did you find me?”
He felt her weight on top of him, and her hair fell over his arm as she rested her head on his shoulder. “Love,” she said. “Always finds a way.”
Taeyong exhaled and closed his eyes. “And you still love me?”
“More than anything else.”
Her entire body, which was pressed against his, was ice cold, but insead of causing discomfort, the difference in her temperature brought an overwhelming sense of relief to him.
“Then, will you stay tonight?” he dared to ask.
Jennie Kim was silent for a moment. “If you promise not to hurt me.”
Taeyong let out a chuckle. “I would never hurt you, Jennie.”
He felt her fingers through his shirt, tracing patterns on his chest. “But you did,” she said. “Because you do not love me.”
A lead ball dropped in Taeyong’s stomach. He wanted to reach for her face and her hair, but his arms refused to move. “How can you say that?”
She did not reply. Her breathing became labored, short, and raspy; she was gasping for air. She grabbed his shirt.
Still no reply. After a couple shallow breaths, Taeyong heard an unsettling clicking in her breathing, as if there were fluid in her lungs. Then, her hand fell away and he heard nothing at all.
“Jennie?” he said more urgently.
Something hot ran down the side of his stomach, the scent of Jennie’s hair became overwhelmed by a more nauseating scent, the rustic, salty scent of blood.
“Jennie!” Taeyong cried. He could not sit up. His body was disconnected from his mind.
A bright light hit him and he was entirely blinded. Sirens sounded in the background. Both brought an immense and searing pain into his head, as if someone had taken a metal rod and drilled it into his skull. He could no longer feel Jennie’s weight upon him.
“Hold him down,” he heard someone say.
As he tried to move, he realized his hands and feet were handcuffed to the bed. He thrashed and attempted to free himself.
“We have to put him out,” he heard another voice say.
“Taeyong, Taeyong, can you hear me?” the first voice asked.
He continued to fight with the handcuffs. Jennie was losing too much blood, he had to help her. He had to tell her that--
“Do it,” the voice said. “Now.”
A dizzying rush ran through his head, the tightening sensation on his chest stopped, and his breathing slowed. Blurry silhouettes faded in and out of his vision, and he fell back.
“I'm sorry,” he whispered as his eyes slowly shut.
저 시계는 나를 비웃듯 한 치 오차 없이 가
The clock laughs at me, it does not give a single error
“State your name and date of birth into the recorder please,” a woman's voice said through the speakers. It echoed off the solid forest green walls and the hideous linoleum floor.
“Do you know why you are here?”
“Yes.” he said in a defeated voice. He began counting the scratches on the metal table before him.
“Why are you here?”
“Because you brought me here,” he said.
“Don’t be so cocky, I asked, why are you here?”
Taeyong put his head in his hands. “Does it matter? She is dead.”
“Do you know what happened to her?”
Taeyong covered his ears. These were the same questions the lady asked, and his answer was always the same: no, he did not know.
A sickening sensation filled his stomach. All he knew was that they were coming for her and now they could come for him in the same way. The way the woman was asking questions only exposed his location. The room could very well be wiretapped. If he talked any further, they could find him here and kill him the way they killed Jennie. He set his jaw to prevent his head from bursting from his splitting headache.
“Do you remember what happened?” he still managed to hear through his hands over his ears.
He shook his head.
“You were there that night, what happened?” the woman pressed.
“I told you.” Taeyong banged his head against the table. “I. Don’t. Know.”
There was a hissing noise in the vent high on the wall on his left. Taeyong’s head snapped up in response. A dim grey mist was falling out of the vent. His heart began pounding. Everything smelled like a mixture of sterile hospital air and rust and salt. He recognized this--
He jumped out of his chair. “Please,” he said into the speakers. I have to get out of here.”
The speakers crackled. “Taeyong, please be seated again.”
He squinted and could swear for a second he saw a blinking red light. It was either a bomb or a wiretapping device. Either way, he could not stay in the room for another minute. It was not safe here.
The fog grew closer, it’s shapeless limbs reaching out for his throat. His eyes widened and he banged on the door, shook the latch, but it would not budge. “They are going to kill me, please, please let me out of here,” he begged.
“Who? Who is after you?”
Taeyong grabbed his hair and walked in rapid circles. “They are,” he stressed. The fog almost reached him and it suddenly became harder to breathe. “You have to believe me, they’ve killed Jennie, they’re here for me too. Next thing you know--”
The lady in the speakers cut him off. “Did you say they killed Jennie?”
He grabbed the metal chair and threw it at the door. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you!”
The heavy grey door opened, and Taeyong saw his chance. He broke into a run towards it and attempted to dive between the two figures in white, but they quickly grabbed him by both arms and pushed him back to the table. He kicked and struggled to break free, but someone pressed their forearm to his neck, blocking his airway.
The room spun and for a moment, Taeyong saw stars.
He pushed again, and this time, they slammed him against the table even harder. His head whipped back on the metal surface, and that was the last he felt before the darkness overcame him once again.
We’ll take it slow.
It was a fine December evening, and Taeyong was taking a casual stroll around the city park. Both of his hands were shoved into his coat pockets and his red scarf was wrapped around his neck all the way up to his nose. Snow lightly fell and landed into his upswept black hair, speckling it in the way dandruff would. The frost kissed his cheek, and his breath lingered in the Arctic canvas of the night.
Often times our lives cross in the strangest ways. In the case of Lee Taeyong and Jennie Kim, they both happened to be pondering on the matters of life and death. For Lee Taeyong, he was thinking about life and how nearly mathematically impossible it was for the stars to align and for him to exist as he does, in his form, with his emotions. For Jennie Kim, she was thinking about death, and whether we walk into its midst or it comes to collect us.
“Maybe neither,” she mumbled. She rubbed her hands together and blew on them. They were starting to feel numb. Although, if I stay here, I would definitely be walking into its midst, she thought bitterly.
“Excuse me,” a male voice said behind her.
Jennie tensed, a response learned by many girls when they are out and about in the dark. Or if I stay here, death could come find me. She stood up and turned to face the owner of the voice.
“You could use these,” the young man said, taking off his gloves.
She looked at the black leather gloves he was holding out, and then at him. Frost built on his hair, from the roots to the tips. His face appeared incredibly smooth and his jawline was noticeably pronounced. His eyes were blacker than the night, and she could not read his expression.
Jennie took a step back and clutched her bag. “No, thank you,” she said. “I was just about to leave.”
Taeyong stepped forward-- to which Jennie visibly went rigid-- and placed the pair of gloves into her bag. “There,” he smiled. “Just in case you decide to stay in the cold again.”
“Wait--” she began.
But he had already walked past her. “Have a good night,” he said over his shoulder.
Days crawled by, then weeks. On Christmas Eve, Jennie Kim, gladly felt the paycheck in her pocket. A small smile broke across her lips as she put on her maroon jacket.
“Headed home early?” her co-worker, Lisa, asked her. She emptied a bag of coffee beans into the coffee machine and closed the lid.
Jennie nodded. “I’m going to grab a couple last minute gifts.”
Lisa laughed, her large eyes crinkling at the corners. “Good luck,” she said. “It’s a madhouse out there.”
The door opened and a tall customer walked in.
“I’ll see you soon,” Jennie said as she walked towards the door. “And have a Merry Christmas.”
Jennie turned and bumped into the customer. “Sorry--”
One look at his eyes and she knew right away who he was. The man pulled down his black face mask and waved.
“Taeyong! What brings you here today?” Lisa called.
Jennie stared as he bought a bag of roasted premium coffee beans. He caught her eye as he turned and put the receipt in his wallet. He was admittedly, very attractive. She felt her face redden when she realized that she had held eye contact for more than five seconds with this stranger. Jennie averted her gaze and ducked out the door. She took long strides down the sidewalk towards the subway station.
“I didn’t think I’d be seeing you again,” Taeyong said as he caught up to her.
She didn’t look at him. “Me neither,” she mumbled. “Thank you for the gloves, by the way.”
“I’m glad you use them,” he said. “May I ask what you were doing out so late in the cold?”
“I could ask you the same.”
Taeyong laughed. “I was reflecting.”
“As was I.”
“What about?” he asked.
Jennie shook her head. “It’s not important.”
“It must have been if you were enduring the snow like that,” he said. “I’ll share my thoughts if you share yours.”
She raised an eyebrow. “What are we, five?”
Taeyong shrugged. “I just want to know.”
“I was thinking about death,” she finally said. When a concerned look passed across his face, Jennie quickly added. “No, not like that.”