The night falls away beneath her squealing tires, burnt rubber for the stars to smell. There’s a gun on the passenger seat wreaking of shots fired and revenge unfulfilled, pulsing at the back of her mind there are kills she was not born to make - the memory of missing time and time again. Regret tastes hot on the back of her tongue, the kind of pungent aroma that can only be drowned out by cheap sex and bottomless glasses. But out here in the backs of beyond half-forgotten mixtapes and cigarettes are all that’s available and so she makes do.
Smoke swells up towards infinity and Hyuna doesn't let herself cry.
The road looks longer than ever at night, stretching beyond the limits of her headlights. She doesn’t care though, really, if the road never came to an end she wouldn’t mind. Hyunseung always said it was the journey that was important, that destinations are finite but the roads to the top of the mountain cann’t be counted upon all the stars in the sky. Hyuna chokes on her own breath and lets her foot slide off the accelerator, just for a moment, delaying the inevitable.
Mentally, she retraces her steps back through the past twenty four hours, though every beat of her overworked heart urges her not to. Retrospect is the most powerful drug she’s ever taken, painting the world at a different angle with every reimagining of how she could have aimed slightly higher the first time, or hidden slightly faster the third time, or been just a little bit bolder the eighth time…
The numbers are all arbitrary of course, she wasn’t counting, not really. They’re just men and they can die, or so she’s heard. She’s seen bloodied bodies and missing limbs and faces too mutilated to put a name to and she’s heard that that’s death. Final and omnipotent, no one comes back.
Hyunseung showed her how to shoot a gun, a lifetime ago from the shelter of a place they had called home. He showed her how to run her eyes along the sight to find the kill-shot. “Learn the gun, learn a man’s tell, remember you hold his life in your hands baby, remember that and you can do anything.”
And Hyuna had aimed at the cars that passed by and the beasts that stopped too long and every time she thought she had been close enough to kill them, Hyunseung had smiled and told her not to shoot – “not yet” – she hadn’t known what he was waiting for until it was too late.
The lights of whatever small town she’s escaping tonight fade behind her. Hyuna sighs with relief and with despair. She remembers stories of the sun chasing the moon, eternally cursed to never gain an inch on each other as they turn the world through day and night. There isn’t cosmic change invoked in the action of her chase but she knows that longing all too well, she wants to catch and she wants to kill, she wants to see death paint finality on the faces of the men who dared to take something from her but she doesn’t know how to close the gap.
The cigarette between her fingers burns low and in the absolute darkness of the open road she becomes a self-contained outpost of light. Fading as surely as the energy of the headlamps dissipates in their eternal quest to spread entropy through the universe. Hyuna wonders how hard they’d have to work to rearrange time.
The alarm on the bedside table never worked properly. Hyuna lost track of the number of jobs she lost to lazy mornings melting into lazy afternoons. The jobs never mattered, the money wasn’t needed, Hyunseung made money doing things he’d never speak of but that were all too easy to guess but even that was too much. They had a roof and a bed and a pack of Malboros and each other. The work was just distraction, something to keep her heart from tearing through her chest – as if bars and checkout counters were enough for that.
Before her, the road splits in two. Her foot comes to rest on the brake pedal, so slowly, so very, very slowly; in her mind she re-writes the world so that the road keeps going straight until she rides up into the sky to take her place I the great race to catch the sun, or was it the moon? She can never remember which role was hers to play.
“We’ll flip a coin for it,” Hyunseung leans across from the passenger seat, “heads is right, tails is left, c’mon baby you can do it.” His hand reaches into the pocket of his jacket, the one she remembers finding him in, a hole in the head and a person no more. He holds out a closed fist and waits for her to take it, eyes shining through the dark.
Hyuna shakes her head, “you’re not real.”
Hyunseung smiles sadly at her, “I could be.”
He could be. Easy. Hyungseung is real and the road doesn’t end, take that universe! There could be days and weeks and months and years ahead of them, they could buy a worn out caravan and shack up outside some godforsaken armpit of a smalltown. They could be happy together, they could live, they could do it, they really could.
The pressure of his stare is overpowering, the cigarette between her lips burns down to a stub. She reaches out to the point where his hand should be and finds nothing but cold air, and just like that the illusion is broken.
Hyuna is alone in the dark, with nothing but the running of the engine to keep her company. Hyunseung is gone, back to wherever people go when they are Gone and for as long as she lives he will never return.
The gun glares at her from the its seat, urging her to make a decision and to continue the chase to whatever end may come. Hyuna blinks like she has seen it anew.
The worn out cassette in the stereo changes tune, something slow then fast, curling into her memories until she’s strangled by nostalgia. A bed that smelled of missed appointments, a trigger that felt like repressed triumph, a voice that could have scattered light across her darkness. Hyunseung, Hyunseung, Hyunseung.
“He’s dead,” the words fall heavy from her mouth. She feels numb.
The car pulls away, left or right – it’s not important, she just needs to get away. The gun lies in the dust by the side of the road, not forgotten, but already fading from her memory. The sun and moon can chase each other down the same damn roads every day for all she cares but she won’t be coming back this way. Even as her tears, scalding with the fury of the vengeance she will never have paint epic love poems across her cheeks she knows she’s done here. Hyunseung is gone and she will take her time to hurt, she will feel it so deep that there will be nights she worries it will strangle her, but she will find a world beyond his horizons.
His story is over, it’s time to write her own.