confusion is a luxury
which only the very, very young
can possibly afford
They’ve been walking for hours, Yubin and Handong trying to match Gahyeon’s pace as she hurries through the forest, shoulders tense and perhaps even a bit panicked because Yubin could barely get a word out from the girl since the explosion they’ve felt hours ago.
“It’s getting dark,” Handong whispers beside her and sure enough, the sun was already starting to set.
Yubin nods, gently grabbing Gahyeon’s arm to stop the girl, “Maybe we should rest for a bit.”
Gahyeon whips her head towards them, the idea of stopping seemed to silence her for a few seconds in disbelief.
“You’re the one that said we should find the unnies fast, unnie,” Gahyeon finally says, barely hiding the panic in her voice.
Yubin doesn’t have any argument. She did say that but she’s also aware that Handong is getting annoyed at just following Gahyeon without her providing any explanation where they were going other than that it was obvious the younger girl was heading towards the explosion site.
“We can continue this tomorrow. We don’t know how long these flashlights from the supplies you found will last us, Gahyeon.”
Gahyeon frowned at her, “Well it really won’t last if we keep stopping every chance we get! What’s wrong with you?!”
Yubin steps back, startled at the normally polite girl raising her voice at her. Handong steps in.
“No what’s wrong with you?” Handong throws back, every bit as irritated as Gahyeon is although her tone remains steady and calm.
Gahyeon doesn’t relent, eyes meeting Handong’s in defiance.
“Okay stop this now,” Yubin interjects, trying to sound as authoritative as possible and hide the anxiety she’s feeling at seeing these sides of her friends, “Running around in the dark won’t really get us anywhere but fighting with each other isn’t going to help too.”
Handong sighs, and Gahyeon finally looks down, “Fine.”
They wordlessly work after that, Yubin and Handong making shelter while Gahyeon starts a small campfire. Half an hour later, Yubin manages to finish an imperfect debris hut. It wasn't stable but it could last them a night at least. Fortunately for them, there was enough woods and grass to make one.
By the time they're finished finalizing everything to make sure the hut doesn't drop on their head, it was already pitch black dark and a chill runs up her spine, Yubin finally feeling the night breeze after such hard work and she heaves a sigh of relief as she warms herself by the campfire. She feels herself getting drowsy by the minute while waiting for Handong, eyes starting to drop close when the older girl finally sits beside her.
Maybe it was the exhaustion of a whole day of walking or maybe it was the hopelessness Yubin sometimes feels that had her so drained but she’d found herself mesmerized by the crackling fire in front of her, watching the shadows dance around themselves, silhouettes of imaginary people grappling at each other, trying to outdo one another, the crackling becoming more like screaming and shouting each passing second but Yubin couldn’t look away.
“Let it go, Siyeon!”
Yubin rubs her eyes. A dizzying blur of images flashes behind her eyes. What was that?
She's about to reach out to Handong's arm to steady herself when the girl beats her to it, fingers tugging at Yubin's sleeves.
“Where’s Gahyeon?” Handong whispers and suddenly Yubin’s forgotten all about the shadows and fire.
Sure enough, their youngest was nowhere to be found. The only sign that she had been with them at all was the supply bag she was kind enough to leave behind. Cursing, Yubin moves to search the bag, hoping Gahyeon left something like a note for them to at least find her in the morning but none came up.
Instead, the markings on the bag made her pause, stomach churning in an uncomfortable feeling.
‘a gift from LOTUS LAND’
Her heart is pounding.
The darkness of the forest is more eerie than magical within the thick dense trees as compared to when they found themselves in a clearing, every shadow tricking her senses, every crunch of her shoes against the leaves deceiving her into hearing non-existent monsters chasing her through the forest.
Gahyeon picks up her pace, partly because of her growing paranoia and partly making sure that there is enough distance between her and Yubin and Handong. Somehow, the intense need to find a clearer part is pushing down the sinking feeling in her stomach. She has no time to process anything other than she really hates the unending towering trees.
Her flashlight flickers. Gahyeon feels a tiny bit of regret in leaving all the supplies with the older girls but it helps elevate the small trickle of guilt that she feels, a form of peace offering and apology on her part. Still, she’s running out of time.
Up ahead there’s a small trace of light from what looks to be a recently put out campfire and Gahyeon follows the trail with a hint of confusion. She’s pretty sure they would’ve wanted to meet by the beach. But then again, she’s not sure of anything at the moment, flashes of the message across the skies comes to memory and her confusion’s added by a great deal of trepidation. No one ever mentioned a game being played while they were here and the questions in her mind keeps growing.
A flashlight flickers, this time not coming from hers and Gahyeon stumbles to try and hide herself, barely running behind a massive tree before she sees and recognizes someone coming out of a temporary shelter.
Gahyeon could pick out the older girl’s silver hair anywhere, eyes wandering throughout the surroundings. Yoohyeon probably heard her footsteps, Gahyeon concluded. She’s about to show herself to Yoohyeon and at least find herself somewhere to stay because she's now regretting leaving Yubin and Handong like that when someone calls older girl from inside and she sees Jiu’s red hair in a flash, head poking out.
Gahyeon flinched. Both of them looked pretty roughened up, Yoohyeon’s clothes slightly torn and remnants of dust and ashes on her skin. Jiu looked even worse, the bandage wrapped around her head almost blending in with her red hair as blood soaked through it and what looks to be a discoloration on the skin from where part of her temples isn’t covered by bandages.
Gahyeon tries to swallow the nauseating feeling that’s crawling up , a wave of guilt hitting her like a speeding truck and she’s unconsciously backing away, legs shaking underneath her. She’d expected to fall and alert the two girls, her entire body already out of her control as a sob threatens to escape but before she could, someone steadies her, her back hitting someone’s body as they wrap their arm around Gahyeon’s shoulders. Before she could scream for help, a hand reaches out to cover , muffling any trace of noise from her silent and maybe it’s only fitting.
Maybe it’s karma for the part she’d played. Or the part she’d refused to play, always politely following and keeping silent. Gahyeon’s not a player, she never have and never wanted to be but maybe if she did something, maybe she wouldn’t be in her situation right now, vision blurring as the hand covering her face restricts her breathing and she’s falling and the silhouettes of all her nightmares closes in on her, her mind descending into darkness and the last thing she sees before she falls into the hands of the stranger is midnight blue, like despair, like the dark skies.
Gahyeon smiles in relief.
Wₑₗcₒₘₑ ₜₒ ₗₒₜᵤₛ ₗₐₙD
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