The piece of scrap paper was shoved underneath the gap in the front door at exactly 1am.
Yoongi hadn’t been paying much attention because he had been drifting in and out of consciousness, not really looking at the TV across the room but doing so only to keep himself awake. The lights from it blared enough so that with every change of scene the walls of the room seemed to flash with colour for a few seconds, burning the image onto his retinas so that when he blinked he would see the outlines of people or objects. He wasn’t sure what it was about the TV that managed to keep his attention, for there wasn’t a single interesting thing on it. Perhaps it was just the static drone from the speakers, the sound much like that of a swarm of annoying flies, or just the bright colours and lights that made his eyes latch onto it, but after nearly an hour of borderline vegetative staring he had finally gotten to his feet to leave the room. He hadn’t bothered turning the TV off, rather letting the white noise fill the house, and he had been in the act of going down the narrow hall when he had heard the scrabbling noise, and when he had looked over his shoulder he had seen it.
The tattered and wrinkled sheet of paper, slipping between the wooden bottom of the door and the bare concrete flooring.
Yoongi cocked his head and watched it slowly emerge through the gap, heard the slight rustle of it rubbing against the concrete until it was most certainly inside the hallway. For a second he was almost certain that he could see the slightest hints of fingertips holding onto the corner before whoever had shoved the sheet under let go and no doubt got upright to turn on their heel and step off the porch. He considered racing down the hall to open the door, to see who it was, and yet that seemed too much trouble. With the lights off, the only hints of illumination coming from the frosted glass window on the front door, he could barely see a thing and he didn’t want to end up tripping over one of the countless things left in the hallway. Whether it be shoes, boxes, an umbrella, there was so many things that he could trip on. So instead he waited a few seconds and then he slowly made his way down the hall to get to the door. After some momentary blind fumbling he stopped and bent down to snag hold of the sheet, holding it up so that he could use the light from the window, squinting to see what it said.
Trainyard, 4am. Wakey wakey!
The paper might have been white once upon a time, came from a notebook or perhaps a school exercise book, but in his fingertips it looked more grey with dirt. It was so badly wrinkled that if he put it down the sheet wouldn’t lie flat against a surface, rather parts of it would bump up from where the deep set creases refused to flatten out. The message wasn’t scrawled in pen but a thick smear of black that he knew would rub off against his fingertips if he touched it. Eyeliner. At least he had an idea who had left the message then, who would now be on their way across the rest of the city hastily shoving other sheets under doors, through letterboxes, climbing up trees to shove paper into the gaps in windowpanes.
4am? Well, that gave him enough time to get dressed and set out on foot. He might just get there by that time if he got his ass in gear.
Yoongi sighed and then scrunched the sheet up, tossing the ball over his shoulder so that it likely landed in the corner of the hallway, with the rest of the garbage that was cluttering the narrow area up. Then he made his way down the hall to get back into the sitting area. In front of the settee he had been lying on there was a small coffee table. The top was covered in random shit, newspapers, food wrappers and containers, a beer can or two, and just in front of it he spied his boots, so he bent down to grab hold of them and then perched on the edge of the settee. As he leaned forward to knot the laces he eyed the frayed twine wrapped around of one the legs to keep the table together, the thin material wrapped tightly and then snaking around and under the table top to snag onto the opposite leg and stop it from wobbling too much. Considering how bad it was he knew that a good hard kick would make the rickety leg snap clean off, so that the coffee table careened to the side and all of the shit on top would just crash to the floor with a thud like a bomb going off. He moved his eyes away from the table to study his boots, chin propped on his knee so that he felt the rough denim of his worn jeans rubbing against his skin. He knotted the first one securely and then moved onto the second. When he was done he shifted to look across the room before sighting his jacket tossed rather messily on top of broken lamp shade, so he got to his feet and shrugged it on, feeling the smooth polyester material rubbing against his bare lower arms as he did.
On the TV there was an advert playing for a cosmetic surgery clinic. He saw smiling, fake faces staring back at him from white backgrounds, hideously modified. He wondered how many other people were watching the TV like he was right now, how many were slack-jawed and struggling with insomnia or some other dreadful malady. How many were puffy-eyed just like he was, squinting out from under heavy eyelids that didn’t seem to want to close for more than a few minutes before shooting open again. He reached up to rub at his eyes before running a hand through his hair, feeling the messy lengths against his fingertips that were tousled from the cushion of the settee. Then he picked the remote up and hit the button to kill the machine, plunging the house into a silence that was no longer punctuated by the static sound of white noise.
It was time to head off to the trainyard.
The water in the bathtub that he was sitting in wasn’t clear or tinted from soak of any kind. It was practically a deep grey in colour from the dirt that had been coating his skin, that still was coating it in some parts. When he lifted his hand out from under the water he saw that his palm and the back of his hand were clean, but deep under the nails remained dirt: oil from the engine, dust from all of the old bolts that kept the car together. He had tried his hardest to help fix it, well and truly as hard as he could, and yet he knew that there was no way that the car was going to work again. There was only so much jerry-rigging and fiddling one could do with an engine before it really did need replacing, and yet a replacement cost money. A lot of money, of which his father most certainly did not have.
Jimin sighed and settled back against the rim of the porcelain tub, feeling that it was hard and cold against his bare back and neck. He wished that he could have taken a shower instead but of course that had been broken for few weeks now. On the grand scale of importance the shower attachment ranked rather low in regard to the busted car engine, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t irritate him. He didn’t feel clean sitting in the water and yet he needed to to let the dirt wash off his skin. The oil wouldn’t wash off so easily, it required scrubbing and soaking, and he knew that there would be smears of it all over his face too: on his chin from leaning forward to study the engine, on his cheeks and forehead from his fingers brushing against his skin to stop his hair falling in his eyes. Right now that could wait, he just needed to get the filth off his arms and neck first, from his stomach because a stupid valve had blown and spewed oil all over his tee, so much so that it had soaked through to his skin and had been dripping all over the floor of the garage. That had earned him the first slap upside the head of the evening, and by the time his father had given up on the stupid car he had managed to amass a grand total of four such knocks to the head.
That was actually a few less than usual.
He didn’t know why his father insisted on dragging him into the garage to help out, considering that no matter what he did it never seem to be enough for the man. Had he have somehow miraculously fixed the broken engine then there would have been something else wrong with it. A valve, the battery, a scratch on the paint job. And yet he still always demanded he help out. Jimin wasn’t sure whether or not it was so that his father could blame someone else when he couldn’t do something right, or whether the man really did think that one day he would do something helpful. Either way, he had told him to help fix the engine and by the time he was finished with it Jimin had managed to somehow make a valve explode and make it even worse.
Jimin reached over to grab the bar of soap, lathering it in his hands before spreading the mixture up his arms for the third time that evening. At least this time the smears finally decided to come free, turning the lather a milky grey colour before he washed it off. A quick glance over his skin showed no more obvious smears so he hastily got out of the tub, wrapping a towel around his waist securely. He pulled the plug and watched the filthy water draining for a moment before turning to face the sink. There was a mirror overhead and it was covered in a fine layer of steam so he rubbed it free with the palm of his hand, which felt wrinkled against the glass. His reflection stared back at him. He had brushed his damp hair back off his brow and it glistened in the light from the naked light bulb overhead. As he had predicted there were marks all over his face, light smears from the backs of his knuckles along his jawline and cheekbones, a few little smudges here and there on his hairline, and there was even a thumb-sized print on the tip of his nose. He hastily cleaned all of it off, rubbing a little roughly to ensure that it did, and when he was finished he settled for brushing his teeth before leaving the bathroom to go along the hall into his bedroom.
He could hear the TV from downstairs, likely his father watching it because it was a convenient distraction, and when he closed the door he could still hear it faintly.
Jimin sighed before getting dried and changing into something to sleep in, settling for a loose cotton shirt and his underwear because the weather was horribly warm. His room was a state like always, for he always told himself he would sort it out and yet never got around to it. He was always too busy trying to finish something else in time that he never managed to put aside an hour or two to just clean it up. It would be another thing that his father would get pissed at him for and yet he was too tired to do anything about it right now. Maybe another day, when he wasn’t breaking car valves and getting himself in even more trouble. He was about to climb into his bed when he noticed that the window, the one that he had left open to let in a breeze, was pulled down rather than open, and he studied this for a moment before crossing his room. When he got closer he saw why and he couldn’t stop a grin from appearing on his lips.
The window had been pulled down because it was currently holding a sheet of paper in place.
The other boy had reached inside from the outside with one of his arms, dangling over the gap between the blossom tree branch and his window, so that he could unlock the latch and lower the window down to stop the sheet from blowing away in the breeze. It was smart, very smart, and he pulled it free before fixing the window once more. He scanned the crumpled piece of paper to see a scrawled message on it.
Trainyard, 4am. Tidy ur room Dumbass!
Jimin’s grin widened somewhat as he scrunched the sheet of paper up and left it on the windowsill. 4am? Why, that was hours from now. He would be able to get a small nap to refresh himself before sneaking out, but first that required him doing something.
He crossed the room and pulled his wardrobe door open. Just like everything else it wasn’t entirely secure and creaked loudly as he did. He pulled out some clothing and lay it on the bottom of his bed and then he dropped to his knees to pull a pair of boots free along with something else. He got changed into his clothes to save him the trouble of doing so later, slipping into his polo shirt and jeans and leaving the boots because he couldn’t sleep in them too. Then he grabbed the other item he had pulled out of his wardrobe and set about unraveling it. He always made sure to roll the bed sheet rope up tightly and store it away so that his parents wouldn’t find it. When it was done, the lengths wrapped loosely in the crook of his elbow so that he couldn’t trip over them, he went back over to the window and leaned as far out of it as he could. After a little maneuvering he managed to toss the looped end and snag it on the end of the tree branch, and then he left the rest of it dangling across the gap between the tree and his window. Later, when he was using it, he would just toss the ends down and climb out onto the tree branch before shimmying down the rope. It was so much easier than trying to make his way down the trunk in the dark.
With that done he went back over and lay down on the bed, setting his mobile phone on a vibrating alarm for 2am just so it wouldn’t wake anyone else in the house up but him. He tried to settle down and sleep and yet he suddenly found it hard to do so, now that he had plans.
The sound of the kettle boiling filled the room and when he glanced across his shoulder he heard the crisp click of it turning itself off, the steam billowing out of the metal neck in great plumes. Hoseok studied this sight for a moment before crossing the room and picking it up from the port, tipping the kettle so that the boiling hot water poured out into the instant ramen polystyrene cup. He filled it up halfway and then put the object back down before folding the lid over to help speed up the cooking process. His chopsticks were to the side on the desk so he picked them up and placed them on top to hold the lid in place securely. Then he unplugged the kettle and went to go lie back down on his bed again, sketchbook left open on the covers along with a scattering of pencils and erasers, little nubs that were smeared with lead and practically nonexistent, and a sharpener that had a blunt blade.
The kettle was a new installation in his room, which was now something closer to a tiny apartment room than an actual bedroom. He had managed to fit a lot of things inside, potted plants on the windowsill so he felt like he got outside even when he didn’t really do that anymore; a medium-sized trash can by his door that would fill up and be left in the hallway to be emptied by someone else, usually his mother; and now a kettle so that he had his own mediocre kitchen. All he needed was to install a toilet and shower and he really didn’t need to leave his room any more.
That would be a blessing.
He knew that there was a cooked meal waiting for him downstairs at this hour but he didn’t want to go downstairs right now. He didn’t want to leave his bed at all if possible for the time being, whether that be hours, days, maybe even a week or two.
He lifted his pencil up and held it in front of the paper, staring at the sheet and trying to figure out where to pick up from where he had left off. He bit down on his lip and it was then that he dropped the pencil and instead tore the page out, crinkling it up into a ball and tossing it on the floor with the rest of the cast-off pages. His sketchbook was getting terribly thin because he kept tearing everything out, usually before he finished it but sometimes when he had finished a piece and hated it it went on the floor of his room too. Whenever he scrunched finished pieces up the lead would often smear all over his skin like blood, lifted from the porous paper by the palms of his hands. He watched it pathetically roll a few inches and then he was about to try another sketch when something caught his eye and he turned his head to see the leaves of one of his plants dancing. It was as if it was caught in a rather strong breeze from the window but he knew otherwise because he could see the paper aeroplane sticking out from the foliage. It had crashed right into the leaves and gotten stuck, so he got to his feet to collect it with a heavy sigh. Piece of paper just as crumpled and destroyed as the ten balls on the floor of his room, he unfolded it to read the message.
Trainyard, 4am. Bring ur sketchbook + pastels!
He folded it back into up into an aeroplane and then tossed the sheet of paper back down and he was just about to turn away from the window when he heard the other boy make a noise down below.
“That got me in the eye, you ass!”
“Don’t throw one in next time then!” he called back down, trying to keep his voice low as to not alert anyone of the other boy’s presence.
“C’mon, 4am, the trainyard. You know the drill.”
“What if I don’t want to follow the drill, huh? What then?”
“Then you’ll miss out, duh!” the younger boy shouted and his voice carried as if amplified by a megaphone. He could be so loud sometimes it was almost ridiculous. “Trust me, bring the pastels! Bring chalk! Bring a fucking easel and paint if you want!”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever...” He took a step back and the plane once again flew up into his window, this time not getting caught on the plants and instead landing on the floor, the nose of the creation crumpling as it crashed. If that had been a real plane then most of the people on-board would likely have died.
“Are you OK?” He heard his mother’s voice through the door and he mentally cursed his friend for making enough noise to alert her that he was awake in his room. The door across the room opened before stopping suddenly, the unmistakable sound of the metal chain getting in the way to stop it opening fully. He had drawn it across hours ago just in case, and it seemed that it had came in handy after all. “Hoseok, dear?”
“I’m OK,” Hoseok replied as he set his jaw and looked at the crumpled paper aeroplane by the window. “A friend just called to ask about a piece of homework so I was, uh, helping him.”
“That’s nice, aren’t you going to come down and eat dinner? There’s a lot still left, I could heat the noodles up for you and-”
“I have something to eat,” he replied as his eyes moved over to the kettle and the instant ramen that was most certainly cooked by now.
“Honey, I don’t think instant ramen counts as a proper meal. At least let me hand you some kimchi and maybe a little of the kalbi. Wouldn’t you like that, hmm?” Hoseok made a noise in agreement just so that she would leave him alone, and she replied in a tone that sounded both relieved and happy. “I’ll be right back.”
He heard her footsteps, light and delicate, going along the landing and then down the stairs and he knew that he was going to have to draw the chain lock across so he went over and did it. The links of metal felt a lot heavier between his fingertips then they had when he had drawn it across in the first place, almost like an anchor. He dropped his hand by his side and a moment later he heard her rapidly ascending the stairs again, no doubt wanting to get in his room before he changed his mind like last time. Hoseok pulled it open because he knew her hands would be full and he took hold of the tray before she could take more than a few steps into the room.
“You know it would be nice if you came downstairs every now and again, honey.”
“I’m busy,” he lied, the words rolling off his tongue with little effort, “with school work and everything. You know how crazy it is, with the summer coming up and-”
“The college entrance exams to cram for.”
“Exactly,” Hoseok offered her a smile that he had practiced enough times in the bathroom mirror this morning to know looked perfect, “very busy.”
“OK…well, make sure to get plenty of rest and try leaving your room on the weekend, when school is finished for the summer. You need a little sun, you look too pale these days and-”
“The headaches are pretty bad so, uh, I don’t really like going out in the sun.”
“You could always wear sunglasses, just like the doctor suggested,” his mother countered and he studied the tray for a moment before offering her that same dopey smile.
“Sure, I could.”
The minute she was gone he put the tray down on his bed and went over to his closet to grab something to wear over his pullover, pulling the khaki coat out without a second thought. It might be summer but he knew the streets outside would still be a bit cold and the walk to the trainyard was going to be a long one.
After all, his friend had told him that he was going to miss out on something good.
He turned the worn poker chip over in his fingers as he looked over the sheets of numbers, letting his eyes scan all of the odds and his brain calculate the rest of it. He knew that it wasn’t the best idea gambling the last of his cash away but the winnings would come in real handy in a week or two, when he would really need more than what he was currently stuck with. It sounded like a good excuse to him and it was the one that he was planning on sticking with because it was better than admitting to the actual reason that he was placing the bet in the first place. The cash, it was always the cash and that was a good enough excuse but it wasn’t the one that should be used this time around. If people thought that gambling was done in an emergency then it was more socially accepted, but gambling because of boredom? Well…that wasn’t a good reason at all.
Namjoon lifted his pen and hastily scrawled a circle around one of the entries, adding a quick number beside it, before moving his eyes back down the page to carry on looking at the odds. Quite a few goods one tonight at least, ones that he thought he might be able to work with unlike yesterday’s pitiful offerings. He would have had to have been desperate and crazy to attempt betting yesterday, or just plain stupid.
If there was one thing that he could admit about himself it was that he was most certainly not stupid. His exam results showed that, and his college credits would have too if he hadn’t spontaneously decided to not go. That probably wasn’t the best idea, but Namjoon had set his plans out pretty damn well. He was going to compose tracks for idol companies, ones that wanted to debut ‘hip hop’ idols without a shred of ‘hip hop’ in their bodies, and he was going to make a name for himself in the scene whilst he was doing so. But that required money, that required a studio and equipment of some sort. Of course he and Yoongi were going to put the cash together, it was just taking quite some time to do that. His friend spent hours crashing in hip hop clubs, spitting and dissing and trying to build up hype and a nice backing and then working as many shitty part-time jobs as he could handle, and he spent his time gambling in backstreet dens because there was no way they could afford a studio without a little bit of luck. They had 3,303,359₩ saved up so far and that was barely more than enough for three or so months of recording. They couldn’t use it all up until the time was right, until they could actually start selling the tracks and lyrics.
That required luck and attention, of which they both seemed to be greatly lacking in.
So of course, when he told his father he wasn’t going to college, even though he had been accepted into one of the most prestigious ones in the entire city, that had not ended well at all. Luckily for Namjoon however he had been working a part-time job of his own for the entire last year of high school, saving the cash up in advance because he knew that the moment he told the man he was out on his ass; which happened a grand total of three days after he had refused to go to the college. If only he was as good at predicting odds as he was at predicting his own sorry future.
Across the room from him was a man called Choi. He wouldn’t exactly call him a ‘friend’ but he often spoke to the man when crashing in the den, purely because he would at least talk back to him rather than glare like the rest of the bouncers. In fact Namjoon had made a habit of showing up only on days that the man was working just because it was a lot easier to concentrate without a shadow falling over his shoulder, telling him to cough up money or get out. At least the man let him study everything before betting, which was fair. The only kind of betting that should have been allowed should be fair but he knew that the den made more cash from intimidating people into tossing their bets without thinking, by turning the occasional regular into a compulsive and obsessive gambler in just a few visits. They got to the point where they wanted it all fast and easy, cash in hand, bets placed, cash lost, onto the next. Namjoon knew that that was not the way to go, it was no different from binge-drinking. How could one enjoy the taste of wine if they downed five glasses without taking the time to let it settle on their tongue?
No, gambling was a sport to be enjoyed for him; something that required time and effort or else it was a waste.
He was in the act of circling something when he saw Choi shifting to go across the room, in the direction of the front door where he could see a small crowd of people milling around. Was someone kicking off on the curb outside because they had been fleeced of cash? Was someone trying to get in when they weren’t allowed? He thought he could hear voices but he couldn’t even make words out so he just settled back into scanning the odds and sure enough a few minutes the bouncer reappeared and when he glanced up he saw that he was heading right towards him.
“Some kid outside making enough noise to raise the dead ‘cos we wouldn’t let him in.” Namjoon furrowed his brow at the description because that could have applied to a great many of the boys that he knew. But he had a particular idea in mind who he was talking about. “Told me to give you this.” And Choi reached into his suit jacket pocket to pull a card out and hold it in front of his face. He stared at the Joker card before taking it out of his hand and turning it over. On the red backing of the card he saw the smeared remains of a message, most of the eyeliner rubbing off onto his fingertips.
Trainyard, 4am. Y so serious???
“You know the kid?”
“Oh yeah, I know that stupid punk too well.”
“Yeah? Then tell him next time that kids ain’t allowed in a place like this, ‘specially not one as fucking loud as he is.”
“Got it,” Namjoon said as he shoved the card into the pocket of his checkered shirt, “but you know, you could get that kid to make you quite a bit of cash. Hire him to holler at the people in den, I bet a lot of them would make bets just to get him to shut the hell up, am I right?”
“Speaking of bets, you gonna actually make some tonight or you just gonna stare at the sheets of paper like yesterday?”
“Gambling, much like war, is a game of strategy,” he retorted as he glanced back at the pages, “and strategy takes time.” Choi made a noise at this remark that sounded stuck between a sigh and a groan.
“Ah yes, I forgot the great philosopher Kim is here tonight, ready to give us all words of wisdom whilst losing all of his spare change.” The remark made him snort laughter as he circled another set of odds. He had maybe thirty minutes before he would have to leave and make his way over to the trainyard, which he thought was enough time to at least pick one thing to bet on for the night.
“Nu-uh Choi, I’m not losing my change tonight. I’m gonna make a killing.”
The library was practically empty at this hour and he knew why. It was because there was a rather large party going on across the campus, the kind that was so loud that he could hear the music faintly through the open windows across the room, a dull pulse much like an irritating headache. It was the kind of volume that would no doubt result in complaints to the police soon enough, but it wouldn’t be a ‘proper’ college party if that didn’t happen. If someone didn’t end up arrested for indecency, if a few people didn’t need urgent medical treatment, and the grounds outside didn’t look like a hurricane had swept across the place and left shit everywhere. A brisk walk from his dorms to the library or the auditorium the day after such a party would reveal streamers hanging from blossom branches and the statue in the centre of the grounds which was usually also clad in clothing of some kind that was often a bra because someone thought that it was hilarious to leave leopard print bras on the brass statue of the founder of the college. Sometimes Seokjin wasn’t sure if he was in college or first year high school. He often felt like he was the only mature person in the entire current enrollment, that perhaps he should have been giving lectures rather than receiving them.
He glanced up at the window just in time to catch a gaggle of people passing, all of them talking loudly and laughing at something that probably wasn’t funny at all. When he dragged his eyes back to the stack of books in front of him he felt his stomach sinking. He had been sitting in this seat for nearly four hours now and yet he hadn’t done more than copy down a handful of references for his assignment, scrawled a detailed bibliography at the bottom of the page that he had smeared with the side of his hand that was barely legible. He picked up his bottle of water and took a sip, noting that it was nearly empty and that he could at least use that as an excuse to get up and stretch his legs to fill it up at the fountain in the small hallway just outside the room. His back was aching from sitting in the stiff chair and he thought that when he did stand up his legs would likely struggle to bend. He would walk like a wind-up toy.
Across the room he could see a young woman browsing the selection of art books, a pile already open on the floor at her feet, and she stood on tiptoe to try and get a rather large volume out. So Seokjin got to his feet to go over and get it for her when it was apparent that she really couldn’t get it on her own.
“Oh!” she said before letting out a surprised laugh, no doubt startled by his arm reaching over her shoulder. “Thank you.”
“I couldn’t just sit there and watch you struggle,” he said with a soft smile, “you were practically jumping.”
“The one day I don’t wear heels,” she said before rolling her eyes, accepting the book from him and hugging it against her chest for a moment. “Wait…don’t I know you?”
“Uh, I don’t think you do, I’m not an art student.”
“Me neither, I sketch as a hobby so I was just getting these out for reference. You’re in…philosophical studies right?”
“Yes, I am,” Seokjin said before cocking his head at her. He couldn’t recall seeing her before and yet she seemed to know him.
“My friend’s in that class, remember when Yoobin left her laptop when there was a presentation? And a friend came in to hand it to her and interrupted you in the middle of your presentation?”
“That was you?”
“Yes, sorry about that.”
“No need to apologise,” he said with a head shake, “I barely even registered it.”
“Aren’t you interested in parties?” she asked suddenly and he took a moment to reply, saying that he had no interest and also a rather large assignment that needed to be started. “It seems everyone is theee tonight, don’t know why. It’s just a party. All of my friends are there, I begged all of them to not go and offered them something else instead. Movie night on the dorm projector or something like that, and all of them said no.”
“I wouldn’t say no to you,” Seokjin remarked and this made her laugh sweetly, reaching up with one hand to cover her mouth, the other still clutching onto the art book. “But sadly I really can’t put this assignment off any longer.” She said that she understood completely, that she had been in his position a great many times too, and then she proceeded to sit down on the floor, cross-legged in her skinny jeans so that she could open the large book on her lap. He studied her for a moment before turning on his heel to go back over to the table he was sitting in, settling back down in the seat with another heavy sigh.
He didn’t want to write this stupid assignment. He didn’t want to spend several hours writing about dead old men when he should have been doing more interesting instead, but he had put it off for the last week and now he was rapidly running out of time. If he didn’t start it soon then he was in deep trouble, and if there was something he would prefer to avoid it was trouble.
Seokjin scanned the book in front of him before realising that he didn’t need it and closing it over, adding it to the small pile that he had already amassed that was by his left elbow. To his right and stacked by the corner of the table were the books that he still needed to check, lifting quotations and references from. It wouldn’t take that long to do but it required in depth reading to make sure that he didn’t miss anything, sometimes having to slowly read an entire chapter just to be able to pull out a single sentence. And then came the cross-referencing and bibliography. He thought that if he had to read another tiny footnote then he was going to get cross-eyed from it all.
Seokjin picked his pen up and held it over the notebook for a moment, forcing himself to at least think of the introduction for the assignment so that when he left the library tonight he wouldn’t just have a page full of quotes and nothing more than that; several hours just spent copying things down rather than doing the actual work himself.
What is a ‘soul’?
He paused and stared at this sentence before adding:
Such a concept has been the debate of philosophers for centuries.
He stopped and tapped his pen against his lower lip before closing his eyes. This was going to take forever, this was going to be the death of him. Had someone ever truly died of boredom? Was that something philosophers had debated on in the past? Why, the way he was feeling like now he thought that he could give a presentation on such a concept, write an entire dissertation.
Seokjin opened his eyes and glanced over at the young woman on the floor just a few feet away, who was preoccupied with looking at the book on her lap. Then he looked back at the page. Nothing. His brain had went blank, had dried up in his very skull. He shifted to sit back in his seat and that was when he caught sight of something in the window, something sticking in from outside that was undoubtedly an arm, one clad in a denim shirt so that the sleeve was rolled up to show a tanned skin tone. There was something clutched in their hand and he saw that it was a party streamer. Seokjin studied this for a moment before getting to his feet and going over to the window. He took hold of the streamer and pull it free and then arm withdrew. When he leaned out of the open gap he caught sight of a rather tall person quickly making their way across the lawn outside. In the lights on the footpath he could just see the back of a beanie hat and no face. He didn’t need one however, because he knew who exactly that had been. He lifted the streamer up and studied the scrawled message on the length of the crepe material.
Trainyard, 4am. It’s not ur party so u can’t cry, even if u want 2!
Seokjin couldn’t stop himself from grinning at the message and he quickly rolled it up before shoving it into his jeans pocket. If he was fast then he might just be able to jump a night bus most of the way there, because otherwise he was going to have walk pretty damn fast to get there in time. He went over to the table and got his satchel bag off the back of his chair before opening it and shoving his notebook inside. He didn’t even bother putting the books back as he shrugged it over his body and fixed the leather strap. As he went across the library he felt the other student’s eyes on him, no doubt wondering if he had had a sudden change of heart on her and was going to that stupid party after all.
He had plans, and they were a lot better then the party could possibly be.
The summer air wasn’t that cold on his skin because his bomber jacket was blocking most of the slight breeze that occasionally blew the stray trash in the gutters across the road to the other curb. Sometimes it was rather musical, a bottle rolling along the tarmac or a wrapper rustling like the sound leaves would make in the fall, but mostly the streets were rather quiet. Almost eerily so. He knew that soon enough he would start to see and hear signs of life however, because he was starting to get closer to the hub of the city. Soon club music would start pulsing not only in the air but also in the ground underneath his boots like tremors, soon there would be flashing neon signs like grotesque fireflies rather than just scant streetlights here and there, and soon he would start to walk past other humans rather than just have them pass in vehicles down the roads beside him. They would be one of three things: people coming back from work or in the midst of making their way to work, drunk, or just lonely people hitting the streets in the hopes of bumping into someone.
Or maybe they were like him, he didn’t know but he doubted that that was so.
If there was one thing Jungkook was not looking forward to it was the drunkards. He could walk past everyone else fine, even if he did sometimes feel lingering gazes on his back as he did from random men that were somewhat unsettling, but drunk people were another matter entirely. He couldn’t handle them deciding to latch onto him as he passed like they usually did, usually young women that did so to stop themselves staggering in high heels, or because they mistook him for some guy that they were supposed to be leaving with. He didn’t want to have to make his way around people lying on the pavement crying or puking or shouting, like human hurdles. But the worst of it all wasn’t the grabby hands or stepping over piles of vomit, it was most definitely the drunken men.
Jungkook knew that it was impossible to pass a club without at least a few hanging around outside, loudly goading each other on to do something stupid. Sometimes they were already arguing and fighting amongst themselves, but whatever the case it didn’t take much for them to get pissed off. He could walk past such a group and they could call out to him and if he ignored them then one would come walking after him demanding to know what his ‘problem’ was or asking him why he was acting like a ‘bitch’. If he responded to them then they would try and drag him into their little gang and if he refused and just tried to carry on walking then the same would happen too. Sometimes all he needed to do was look at them and they would think that he was trying to challenge them. They probably saw the expression on his face, the down-turned corners of his lips that likely looked like a scowl. Jungkook didn’t want to get involved in anything but he often found himself dragged into shit anyway because he couldn’t seem to avoid it.
Hell, maybe deep down he was after a little trouble and they could just sense it by looking at him. He wouldn’t be surprised if they did, for he had been told by quite a few too many teachers that he gave off a ‘threatening’ air towards the other students and that he needed to stop being so ‘aggressive’. Often times this was said when he was just sitting in his seat doing nothing. Jungkook often wondered if it was possible for someone to look aggressive when just staring at a wall and every time he tried to come up with an answer he found that he couldn’t quite figure it out.
It was the black hoodie he wore over his uniform shirt and loud rock music blaring from his headphones, that was it.
Jungkook shoved his hands into his pockets and carried on walking down the street at a moderate pace, not entirely sure where he was going but knowing that he would get there soon enough. It wasn’t like there were many places for him to end up in, and judging from where his feet seemed to be directing him it was likely the park. That meant very little chances of encounters with drunken men hanging around outside clubs, but he still needed to pass a street or two packed full of them to get there. He turned the corner at the end and carried on along the next street, deciding to lower his head in the hope that no eye contact would mean that people would just leave him alone. He didn’t look up any higher than knee-level and he could see that the entire stretch of road was packed full with vehicles: taxicabs, parked cars, friends or relatives coming to collect people from the clubs. The headlights flashed on and off sporadically as cars pulled up to the curb or pulled away and he felt himself squinting slightly just because the constant flashing made his eyes hurt. How people could stand being inside clubs with strobes light he could never understand. Didn’t their heads feel like exploding?
“Wooyoung, hey Wooyoung-” he felt a hand trying to snag onto his jacket and he just carried on walking, “Wooyoung! Don’t walk away from me after flirting with that bitch! You’re sleeping on the settee tonight if you don’t come back!”
“Don’t you mean park bench?” he muttered under his breath before biting down on his lip to stop himself from laughing out loud. Wherever Wooyoung was right now, he hoped it wasn’t with another woman or he was in a lot of trouble. Another woman stumbled and nearly fell on her face in front of him so he instinctively reached out and grabbed her upper arm to save her from doing so.
“Thank you hun...honey,” she slurred before getting upright and he let go of her arm, “you’re kinda cuh...cute and-” Jungkook barely broke stride as he just weaved around her and a small gang of people that were right in front of him, having to go right to the edge of the sidewalk to do so. He could feel his jaw aching from clenching it so hard and he knew that he just needed to get to the end of this stretch of street and the park was on the adjacent street. It was another minute of walking if that.
In that time he was called ‘Youngjae’, ‘Minho’, ‘Jaerim’, and ‘Sungmin’ by random women he didn’t know. He was referred to by several men as that ‘bastard that spilt soju on my shoes’, as the ‘son of a bitch that tried hitting on my girl’ and for some reason ‘that fucker from the bathroom’, and he just made sure to shove his way through any crowds that were present on the sidewalk to avoid any of them catching more of a glance of him before he vanished from view. When he finally got to the entrance gates of the park he actually stopped to sigh in relief, finally not needing to clench his jaw or fists in his pockets to make him just walk and ignore the hurled insults and swinging elbows and feet that annoyingly got in his way.
Jungkook glanced inside quickly to see if it was empty yet it was hard to tell. The gates were closed but he didn’t let that stop him from scaling them like usual, and he did so hastily and without fault. He did have a few years of experience. His boot soles came down on the tarmac path inside with a soft thump and he brushed his hands off before walking the length to get to the bench. The grass was perfectly manicured to not grow much higher than his ankle and he could see the thick bank of trees against the length of the metal fence, most of them blossoms judging from the scent in the air. There was a pond somewhere within the park because he often heard the sound of birds splashing around and occasionally making noises, yet he hadn’t been here in the day to try and locate it. He knew there was a small area that served as a rollerskating and skateboard pit but he hadn’t been there either.
He reached the bench and sat down with a sigh. Then he felt something strange underneath him, digging into his thigh. For a moment he thought that someone had been too lazy to get up and use the trash can a few feet away, that they had folded up their food wrapper and shoved it in the gap between the bench slats, so he shifted to look down at it and he saw a sheet of paper instead. Jungkook eyed it for a moment before letting out a soft laugh and then he stuck his fingers into the gap and slowly teased it free, having to pull quite a bit because it was shoved in rather tightly. When he managed to get it out he unfolded it and looked at the page.
Trainyard, 4am. No benches but u can sleep on the tracks if u want!
Jungkook rolled it into a ball and launched it at the trash can, seeing it land in it perfectly.
“4am, huh?” he said as he glanced back down at the slat in the bench. That gave him just an hour to get to the trainyard, and that meant one thing: he was going to have to run.
Taehyung had learnt a very important lesson in life quite some time ago and it was this: if you want something doing, do it yourself. He didn’t rely on text messages or phone calls to get himself across even if that was what the others liked to use, because it was quick and convenient. No, he rather liked making both his presence and his intentions clear and direct. It was so much easier to say no to someone on a phone, by typing two letters onto the touchscreen and hitting send, but if it was face to face then people suddenly found it hard to come up with decent enough excuses. He found that people were a lot more eager if he showed up and annoyed them enough. Which is exactly why he had created his own message system, one that usually varied depending on the time frame that he had to work with.
One time, a few months back, he had spontaneously showed up in all of their classrooms or workplaces like the most strangest and unwanted piece of mail, singing at the top of his lungs until he was either roughly escorted out by whoever was the most authoritative in the room or until his friends had agreed to his proposal. None of them said no to him then.
He had picked the locks on doors and let himself into houses during the night, often leaving with random shit he had managed to pilfer from the fridges before an adult threatened to call the police on him. Not a single no, though he had suffered a few bruises as a result of that one, mostly from Hoseok’s mother attacking him with a broom until her son had decided ten wallops had been enough and told her to stop.
He had contemplated doing something with animals because it seemed pretty cool and yet he couldn’t seem to figure that one out just yet. It was a grand plan that required much preparation, but he had found that the age-old paper through the door trick always worked perfectly well.
Mostly because he always timed it to perfectly coincide with most shittiest week of the month, when the bad got real bad and there seemed to be no good in sight. That was when the paper trick worked its finest, because none of them could possibly say no when they felt the ways that they did. That would be like turning down a free holiday.
Except Taehyung knew that the summer break was coming up in just a few days and he had the most perfect idea in his mind, something that he knew that none of them were possibly expecting. All that he required was for them to show up like always at the location of choice and then he could tell them, could share the idea at the most optimum time. None of them would be too busy with work to reply to his texts, would miss it and get back too late for it to work, or just plain ignore him because they weren’t in the mood for him.
Taehyung reached up to rub at his eye for a few seconds. It still stung slightly from where the stupid paper aeroplane had hit him and he wouldn’t be surprised if he had a paper cut on it, the thought enough to make him stick his tongue out and make a disgusted noise at the back of his throat. He couldn’t think of something more gross than that but he was willing to try.
He had already posted all of the pieces of paper except for Yoongi’s, for he knew that the young man wouldn’t be in his house until past midnight. He had planted Jungkook’s not too long after the park had been shut up in the evening, scaling the fence and landing on his ass on the other side, shoving the paper into the slat because he knew that the boy would end up there tonight without a doubt, like always. Then he had went to Jimin’s house, having to climb the blossom tree outside even when that meant scraping his palms on the bark and losing quite an amount of skin as he did, having to dangle over the precipice between the end of the branch and the window and pray that the stupid branch didn’t bend under his weight and make him slide right off it. Next had been Hoseok, who he had known would be refusing to leave his room. He hadn’t expected the paper plane to fly right back down seconds after he had tossed it however, standing on tiptoe to make sure that it actually went into the room only for it to drop down and the corner to poke him right in the eye. He hoped that Hoseok had decided to take his words to heart about not wanting to miss what was in store because he wasn’t that certain that the boy would actually leave his bedroom, never mind his house, if he didn’t. It was a good thing he had kept an eye on the meteorological calendar. He had followed this by picking Namjoon next, no doubt hanging in that stupid gambling den like always poring over papers like a professor. Getting inside had proved incredibly hard even with his height, and though he had lowered his voice down to a baritone the bouncer had taken one look at his face and refused to let him in. But at least the man had been willing enough to take the card and pass it along to his friend, even if he eyed it wearily as he did. Then it had been Seokjin’s. That hadn’t been hard at all, for he had gotten onto the campus rather easily, almost scarily easily. He had walked the campus grounds, hollering back whenever a drunken gaggle of people had started hollering random sports chants at him as if he was a student and not just crashing the place. He didn’t know if he got any of them right but the men and women had just cheered and laughed and wooped and he had walked as fast as he could to avoid them. He had been planning on using a plain sheet of paper but when he had found a long stretch of pink party streamer he had been unable to stop himself from scrawling on that instead. And now it was his time to leave Yoongi a message.
Taehyung dropped his skateboard from the crook of his elbow and jumped on it, practically sailing down the empty street in the direction of his friend’s house. The area he ended up in was nearly abandoned, most of the buildings and houses falling apart as if they were centuries old and not just mere decades. Nestled away in these boarded-up and desolate houses would be Yoongi’s house, but it was hardly the kind of place someone would look at it and assume to be inhabited. He jumped off the end of a curb and went across a road before jumping up onto the other curb, board flipping as he did. No, it looked rather empty and lonely, which was probably rather fitting all things considered.
“Pft, don’t think shit like that,” Taehyung muttered under his breath as he scanned the buildings to figure out which street he was on, “he’s not lonely he’s got us, right?” The question was enough to make him smirk to himself, for he didn’t need to answer it because he knew he was correct.
After another minute of scanning he located the right building and he let his board come to a stop just in front of the small gate, stepping down hard on the back so that it bounced up and into his hand as he stepped off it. He looked at the gate before deciding to not open it and rather just climb over the low brick wall to the side, placing his board down on it as he did so that he could pull his backpack off and open it, slipping the writing pad out and into his hands. He opened it, flipping past a few pages that still had his school work on even though it had been quite some time since he had sat behind a desk, and he got to a blank sheet before tearing it out, slipping his eyeliner pencil out and pulling the lid off with his teeth so he could hastily write a witty message on the sheet. The head was soft and the black kohl smudged rather messily but it didn’t matter because he had nothing else to write with. He recapped the pencil, shoved both it and the pad back into his bag before shrugging it up onto one shoulder, and then he went over to the door. No letter slot, but a rather sizable gap at the bottom between the wood and the porch. He dropped to his knees and started slipping it forward slowly, making sure that it wouldn’t hit a draft excluder of some sort and stop, unable to go through, but after a few seconds he felt his fingers slipping under the gap too so he knew that it would.
He got to his feet and went back down the short path to get to the gate, picking his board up and jumping the small wall before stopping on the sidewalk. He checked his watch, which was still working even though the screen was nothing more than cracked glass waiting to spill out next time he hit it hard on something. 1am. He was so far from the trainyard that it was almost laughable but he had his board and that meant that he could get there fast if he used all of the right roads. He wasn’t finished with his plan yet however, he had to hit up a few stores still.
Taehyung got back on the board and kicked off with a hard shove of his boot. The night was still young and there was some hours to go until the morning started to come.