"Why did we ever think that everything was perfect? Why did we ever think that loss wasn’t part of what it is to be a human being? Why does it come as such a shock to us? Actually, the good and bad things that happen give us a great opportunity to connect with the world and to others." -Conversations on Love
1 music. A more or less independent passage, at the end of a composition, introduced to
bring it to a satisfactory close
2 CODA, an acronym that stands for child or deaf adult, typically used to specifically refer
To a hearing person who has a deaf parent or parents or a deaf guardian or guardians.
part one, the immanence of rain
“When God or the Divine is experienced right here where you are, within time and space, within the natural world, this is immanence. “
"After my boyfriend leaves me, I realize that the lifetime of our being will be filled with convictions that we won't ever be okay, and that's okay."
A friend at work once told Irene the content of a dream; the same that she also told to the rest of the team. The dream always starts at the same point; she finds herself standing in front of a house, falling for the magnetic pull from the building itself, for the feeling of getting home at last. The unfortunate part is when she wakes up and remembers the dream in fragments, for dreams usually grow legs and leave you before you recognize its true form.
"It's okay not to be okay, and we just have to be patient with our current life. No effort will be wasted."
Everytime Irene hears something like it, her mind feels like reaching beyond time and getting lost.
The idea that divine presence not only dwells in small, fleeting moments, like when she got to settle her laundry on time and having a nice cup of tea in the morning can represent His existence, but also come with a warning to not forget the unseen force that encompass it all.
It is not a principle she can really fathom, until that day.
"Tell me what God looks like, because I'm starting to forget."
Irene never sees anyone look so miserable her whole life, like every hope has been taken away from her, so she mutters words without knowing.
"God is… omniscient."
She is not sure of her own words, yet it doesn't stop her anyway.
"God is in everything we do, everything we hold, everything around us. Maybe…"
It's all made up on the spot, but Irene cannot deny the fragment of truth spilling from every word. It's like she lost control of her own will. Her eyes look upwards, sneaking a little peek behind the umbrella, eyes persisting on droplets falling in a constant rhythm, covering the whole city in refractions.
"Maybe, God is in the rain."
Is this woman looking for answers? For some reason, as they reach her apartment, there's nothing else that concerns Irene more than to become someone who can provide all the answers she possibly needs.
The memory of the past jolts her awake, sending shivers along her spine that instantly wake her from the deep slumber. Her tongue is covered in ash and it sends bitter aftertaste to her synapses, and she puts behind her hand, holding back the need to gorge things out of the system.
She takes a tentative look at her surroundings.
Saplings and trees with intricate patterns covering the whole scene around her feet, and as she tries to stand up,her leg has sapped off strength, so much so that she grabs onto a bark nearby, holding herself together, prevention from falling face first. How long has the time passed, to the point that she faintly remembers how to stand properly?
A hand holds hers before she falls back the second time.
This time, Irene got her breath knocked out.
Bae Yoonjung's hold on her wrist is firm, but it was betrayed by the forlorn eyes.
"Joohyun." She pulls Irene to her side, the latter is at a loss of words. "Finally, you came." She clicked her tongue, eyes full of regret and guilt. Same expression and wrinkles around her lids that signifies the grace that can't wear with age.
She is just as beautiful as Irene recollects.
Looking back at her as an adult, Irene recognizes the similarities in their features. Standing to each other making it seem like they were stopped in time. Irene can't take her eyes away from the metal shackle circling her neck; a sign with a faint presence that she swore Byulyi has.
"You shouldn't be here—"
Irene threw herself forward, lunging to her mother full-speed for a hug.
"Of course I come." Her voice muffled into Yoonjung's neck, and the older woman caressed the strands of her hair and made calming circles on her back. "I miss you, mom, so… much. Where did you go?"
Yoonjung pulls herself and pat Irene's head in a supposedly calming effect.
"Hyun-ah, I have to. As much as I want to stay by you and your father's side always, I do not have the right to hope." As the tip of her fingers trace along Irene's temple, a yellow light emanates. "I am a sinner, and that will never change. This," Her arms stretched upon the vast, barren land they stood on, "is where I belong."
Irene didn't understand. Her mother knows that she will never leave Hell without an explanation. This gaunt, gray structure with nothing on sight but dust and ashes. Irene half-expected flames and cries of the tortured. As that thought crosses her mind, a sharp ring impales her eardrum and she collapses with a shriek.
"Don't fight it, Hyun-ah!" Yoonjung's concerned face blurred in the background, words slowly undeciphered to her hearing. "Hades, he tailored Hell based on each individual's worst dreams, weaknesses and faults. Give in to it, if you want to be relieved of its clutches, even just for a little bit."
Irene snaps a look at her mom like she's insane. The ring repeated itself mercilessly, like it would tighten in a noose-like manner if she turned her attention away just for a second. "Mom, I wish to take you with me—"
"You're here for a reason, right?" The resolution and firmness of a mother hidden in her calm demeanor. "In order to do that, you have to go to the past. Nahas…" Yoonjung closed her eyes at the thought of the serpent, this close to giving up. "That child… I am unforgiven."
Before Irene can ask what that means, she was taken to the blank slate, to where it started.
THE PAVILLION OF GODS
Now we are taken to somewhere in time, the place where it begins, the time when Adam and Eve fell into sins, expelled from Eden and someone has to be responsible for it.
The golden pillars surrounding us are gigantic as they are cold and unfeeling, forming a sanctuary where the gods gather for a trial, judging a certain serpent for the mistake she has done, the inability to carry her duty like God has willed it.
"Standing here is Nahas, the serpent who has her limbs cut off, destined to a life slithering with her belly against soil and eating dust."
Irene, the floating entity overviewing this one scene from the past, lunges forward to take a closer look as the subject in question slither into the light.
"God has created Adam and Eve to His likeness, to make them not unlike Himself, but now they were doomed, estranged to a life of continuous agony, stripped of their immortality." The voice went rough and a loud slam against the tile. "What do you have to say for yourself, Nahas the Deceiver?"
For a brief moment we can see no development, but soon we are faced with the fault in that assumption, when the subject in question shows her full form: her elongated, bluish color dancing against the light. The sinuous movements induce gasps from the audience (some opted for an indifferent stance) and much bigger in size, more than Irene can remember. This is the time we were encountered with her other form. The nature of her.
Adam's inclination to sin taint his own godliness. It was his choice to make.
The serpent’s hiss comes with her answer ringing in everyone’s minds.
"But you answer his questions. You appeal to that blasphemous idea. You play into his curiosity!"
Another god steps forward as everyone makes way for him. His steps create a trail of death behind him, the result of a millennia of inflicting agony on the dead. "God was irrevocably, irreparably saddened by this loss." Hades pulls his robe with a swing to the back and his face remains hidden from our vantage point of view. "Adam and Eve were created of His likeness, and losing parts of Himself put Him at a verge of despair."
The noise turns into a cacophony of exclamations, for His words are absolute. "By extension, this was blasphemy to us. Except, He's willing to give you another chance."
Another face appeared out of thin air, followed by her entire body covered in a tattered cloak, deserted next to the serpent. "Take the bluejay with you." Another voice roared, taunting this time.
"There has to be something else she can do besides staying next to her human in levels of Hell the entire time." The statement was soon followed by laughter and sneers. "The birdy will serve as your reminder for every mishap you're about to do. Our message will be transferred to it. Maybe this time, you ought to pay heed."
"Your next task is to protect what's left of Adam and Eve; the Goddess of Creation herself."
The serpent that coiled itself around the firmest branch it can find perk upon hearing the melodious call.
The name that always sounds heavenly when the goddess proclaims it out of her lips. In order to maintain Eden, the goddess stays in the garden for the sake of maintaining the Pavilion of the gods and most importantly, soothing God for as long as she possibly could. Her duty is to make amends for those who have escaped to the transient, mortal world of the living.
The serpent's eyes turn wider at the call as she slips down the tree, making its way among the grass and snuggling, curling on the goddess' lap. We have no way of knowing what her face looks like as she is backing us, obstructed by the tree she sits under.
A slender hand patted the serpent's hand from a lateral view. It was a languid sweep from its head to its spine.
"Nahas, Nahas, will you take care of me forever?"
There is no need to answer such a rhetorical question. We can easily see, from the dilated pupils and the tongue that slither out a little, that this serpent will gladly give a life for her.
"How would you like to be free?"
The Goddess sighs into the distance, her mind given a free rein to go far away. "Freedom, Nahas. Would you?"
My place, milady, is always next to you. That is what they asked me to do.
The hesitancy was palpable when the answer was given, which tempted the goddess to throw another question.
"Like the gods told you to do? To keep me forever?"
The teasing streak in her voice doesn't make the serpent less flustered.
I'm here because of you, milady. Everywhere you go, everything you do. It was the will of the gods.
The hand that gave slow patting since the very beginning paused.
"What is your will, Nahas?"
The absence of words in Irene's mind signifies the reluctance to answer. The Goddess sign an understanding. Although that doesn't make things less frustrating.
"Why isn't there freedom in this world?"
Her question flew away with the chirping of a bluejay that just came through and gone with the wind. We cannot see anything else from Irene's birdview as a blur of haze covered her sight, a push to her chest to the unknown world.
This world, in its entirety, is a giant ball of the unknown. Many people have a hard time accepting that. At least that's what Irene's mother kept telling her when she was little. When she doesn't have to think much of anything, Yoonjung will always give her food for thought.
One thing she does have an inkling of is her mother's place in the Lee empire. Lee Soo-man is a man who loves fully, so much, and is just as cruel. Too young of her to understand, and too young for her to do anything about it.
It doesn't take long for Yoonjung to disappear one day, as if she cannot wait for Irene any longer, longer enough for her to sew feathers into wings and strap it on her back, setting her mother free once and for all.
Part two, from time immemorial
Once again, the green pit viper finds herself on a podium in a trial. The pillars were higher than the last time Irene remembered it, flickering blue and red, and the gods casting shadows without revealing their faces or anything that resembles them, giving away the feeling of menace, rage, unfathomable repulse surrounding the reptile.
Is it true that,
in a fit of hunger and rage,
you rip Goddess of Creation to pieces,
flesh between your fangs,
her blood absorbed into the soil of Eden, turning it into a heartless bloodbath,
leaving not even a single part of a soul?
Irene covered behind her hands, eyes trembled. From above her hovering figure, we can see that Irene will need some time to overcome her shock. Except she cannot take her eyes from the figure inhabiting the podium, and we follow her sight.
The snake was painted in dried red to her prehensile tail, her cat-like pupils wavered and hidden, making sure no one can see the depth of sanity behind them. Her fork-like tongue slithered out with tick-tick and her whole feature turned grim. The council of gods reactions’ ranged from disgust to rage. The serpent has failed to fulfill her duty the second time. The serpent has to be banished to a life lower than worms. The serpent has to cease to exist under God!
"Goddess of Creation is an amalgamation of what we have left of Adam and Eve." One of the gods roared, voice laced with venom. A cacophony of noises once again filling the air, painted it with suspicion, almost malice. "Nahas will banish us all to dust! Nahas has abandoned God!"
The gravity of her sin was displayed for everyone to see that indeed, the serpent has no justification for what she has done. Flickering candles all around them, decorating the shadows of darkened gods, half-scared and half-hoped. The fervent pray not to be exiled into the void.
"God has given me His will."
Hades, the god of underworld, darkened the steps of The Court with tar behind him, oozing with acidity. No one dares to get closer, the crowd divides as he steps forward, standing at a fair distance to the serpent, the sinner herself.
"The serpent will receive exactly the same punishment she has inflicted upon the goddess of Creation."
The jaw ripped in two, oil-on-water effect of her iridescent scales, the spines smashed to pieces and blood swirling out of the podium, tainting the linoleum floor red. We watch as the disemboweled serpent reattached her spine with a loud, mind-numbing crack, for once immortality became her sworn enemy. Hades' death grip tightened around the elongate animal, flaunting the splashed blood for everyone to see.
The skull and spinal column smashed again and Irene muffled a shout.
"You're killing me, Nahas."
Hades' tone is cold and unforgiving. It represents the grim future they will be facing.
"You're killing us, really." He grabs the lower jaw and stretches it wider and wider, testing its elasticity until it tears apart. The forked tongue thrown aside with the abandoned lower flesh of a jaw. The heiress can't watch anymore.
The deafening silence in the room beaten by the plucked fangs dropped. "You will never die."
Hades sharpened his black-tipped fingers and burrowed into her flesh with a precision. The vigorous shake is incapacitated with the trachea under his feet. Between his fingers are the solitary beating muck of a veined heart.
"You are my slave now."
From the corner of her pupil is a bluejay perk on the blackened fingers, shout and swear thrown all around the spot. "You have to find sinners for the rest of your being. In order to protect God, in order to protect Eden, us…"
The scales are smooth and arranged in oblique rows. After crawling forever in dust, she will be lower than that. She will be banished for an eternity. "Sinners, Nahas. You want God to stay pure, don't you?"
The serpent spat blood against his feet.
Was God sin-free?
A collective gasps and Hades' picking the animal again, eyes darkened and gritted teeth—
part three, la fin de satan
It was the collective moment of a long dream.
Moon Byulyi is not sure where everything started. Is it when Kisum, the bluejay who has devoted herself for her love, is forced to consume her flesh and bound to the serpent-god for an eternity?
Her story was only of disobedience and its consequences.
Nahas awoke with pecks around her eyes, notifying trees in her surroundings, her solitary figure laid near the river, in front of her is a frog brought by the bluejay herself. The bluejay who has wailed for days and nights while she was unconscious, cursed to accompany her for the rest of her sentence.
That's right; until she collects enough sinners and makes them fall into it, there will be no way for her to escape this mortal world. As long as her heart is in Hades' hand. Bile rushed upwards and she hurled again.
When you are not allowed to die, there is only one thing to do.
After feeding on reptiles and worms, due to her inability to move a muscle, she even almost traps the bluejay between her jaw out of hunger.
Byulyi wide awake to a room.
In her mind, she was incapacitated. Incapacitated, still. Her arms feel like lead, and the only thing she can control is her neck, swinging to the right. A voice.
"Who are you?"
The serpent jolted.
A smaller version of the woman who was important to her now staring at her with doe-eyes.
"Why are you here?"
Byulyi soon pulls herself up and sweeps her hair to the back, tidying up for no reason. "I am Moon Byulyi. You can call me Byulyi." This place must be Lee's Manor. It's a place where she has been into in the past. And the little girl beside her. There's no mistaking it.
Bae Joohyun mulled and give her hand for Byulyi to take.
"You must be one of those drunk guests. Follow me."
Hands swinging back and forth as little red shoes stroll along the corridor. Nowhere else to do but peeking at Joohyun from the side. The girl is highly adaptable to situations and asks no questions. Like she has been trained to do her entire life.
"Is this a party?"
The little heiress gave her the weirdest look.
"Are you that drunk? Don't worry, when we arrive I can get you a glass of water." She quipped. "That's good for a hangover, or at least that's what I know."
Byulyi decided to play along. "How old are you?"
Byulyi doesn't know why it sounds so innocent in her ears. "Where are you taking me?"
"Back to the party. Someone will recognize you there."
"I don't bring a plus one."
With that knowledge they arrive at the ballroom. The interior is gaudy with black and grey interior, various people mingled and interspersed in conversations, champagne tinkling in the background. Litter of stars painting the ceilings when the saxophone tunes into the ambience.
"Can you dance with me?" For the first time Joohyun gave her a concerned look. "I don't want to join them. They're mean."
Behind her, within a distance are her stepbrothers and stepsisters, twirling their glass with permanent scowls and sneers crafting their faces. Byulyi looked down to her and nodded, lifting her in an instant as the song played.
Wider than a mile
With Irene's lithe hand wrapped in hers they make rounds, going for a whimsy tempo that makes Joohyun giggle in joy. Little red shoes hovered in the air within the bombardment of a melodious tune. They get lost in each other, or more like Moon Byulyi get lost in this fragment of a past dream.
In the child's eyes are the stars and moon. Both solemnly hope for the moment to last.
"Do I know you?"
She can't answer because the realm of dream won't allow any interruption, but if she were given the opportunity she would be like yes, we will meet and I will push you, loathe you but none of that will work. When the time comes I will never be able to endure it. I won't endure you any more. You can't stay here.
The white light permeated the whole scene. Byulyi squinted without letting go of the lady in her embrace, taking a minute to put her down and cover her eyes , a figure stepping down the circular stairs. Joohyun looked at the whole scene with reverence. "Mom."
Moon Byulyi feels her knees weakened.
The Goddess of Creation smiles and nods. "Long time no see, Byul."
The serpent cringed. "Call me by my past name, please."
She sighed as the time stopped in her presence. "Nahas is not your name anymore."
The rush of adrenaline and joy trickled in her spine and Byulyi knew it was inevitable. Yet the object of longing didn't move an inch. "Did you finally absolve yourself of the punishment?"
"With your daughter as the price." Byulyi wallowed bitterly. If she can turn back the time. "I have to get her back. She doesn't belong…" She spread her arms. "here, in Hell. she has to go back."
Byulyi takes calculated steps up the stairs and stands against a giant, golden framed mirror. The surface of the mirror reveals what happened behind them. Byulyi's mouth pulled to a scowl.