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The Uninhabited You

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It started with the little things.

Finding his key on the kitchen counter after he sworn he had put it on the nightstand in his bedroom instead; the TV mysteriously turning itself back on after he had turned it off and the channel flickering in and out with the occasional static clouding up the screen; eerie and unexplained noise in the dead of night that stirred his sleep; and the ever lingering phantom presence that filled up the room wherever he goes.

In hindsight, maybe the fact that a single bedroom loft in the middle of a busy downtown district with granite counter top and heated flooring could even be afforded with his measly salaries, between his sporadic freelancing work and working at a café, should have say something to him. 

But embarrassingly it takes him a while to realize there is something very, very strange about his apartment.

On one particular harrowing night that comes to define the inevitability of their meeting and relationship, Donghae is up at three AM on a Monday and just barely clinging to life on only six hours of sleep in the past three days because several of his freelance works decided to come at him all at once and he’s pushed into a tight schedule. Donghae is maybe a masochist because he didn’t even consider a no to the overflowing requests and now he has to finish these five articles for four difference newspaper’s circulations in the next hours and if that isn’t hard enough there are several annoyances that keep disrupting his work.

He gets up from his desk and closes the window for the six times in the last hours because it keeps being violently thrown open unassisted and Donghae made sure he had it locked it down each and every single time but still. He walks back to his desk fuming quietly and with dry eyes and weary soul seeking sleep and comfort in familiarity but the study desk, situated right next to the large two doors window so he can have full view of Seoul’s beautiful night sky and that overwhelming peace as he work, all it’s doing now is helping to build up that tired frustration that is now brimming at the surface and threatening to spill over.

He goes back to typing on his laptop, each finger a drag on the keyboard, and for a while all is quiet until the bedroom’s light keep wavering in and out, like it can’t make up its mind if it want to stay on or off. The temperature in the room abruptly drops and he feels the icy cold tendril of arctic whipping around him and suddenly he’s in the the middle of snowstorm in here and seeing his own ghostly breath and barely feeling his numbing fingers.

He stare down at his cold hands as if he can will itself to warm up again and consider throwing on another layer of jacket and maybe even a glove but window is once again pushed open with a loud bang and gust of cold wind blew into his room leaving him cold and empty and angry.

Enough is enough.

"Would you stop that already?!" Donghae snaps, jitters with nerves and on his seventh cup of coffee already and he does not have the patience to deal with this.

"I have to get this final article written in the next five hours or else I’m going to get chew out by the head editor of Seoul Time,” he huffs, the words funneling out of his mouth before he can even stop it as he turns his chair around to face his vacant bedroom. “I’m already on thin iced with him for the third time this month because he’s an ornery bastard who looks for the next headline in the ensuing celeb scandal instead of being interest in the twenty pages of report I have prepared about the Dduk-Do Plant skyrocketing in price of water and the lack of concern for the poorer districts who can’t afford such a costly price per gallon but I’m stuck writing articles about Cha Bong Soon’s next short live girlfriend because he can’t keep it in his pants or how Choi In Ha’s hiatus from the entertainment industry leads to wild speculation of pregnancy and secret marriage because we are literally that bored that we become invested in these larger than life personas instead of what truly matters.”

Donghae stares at the empty room, waiting and holding a tired breath and for a moment nothing but then the dresser near his bathroom drawers rattle uncontrollably, he can hears the water running simultaneously in the bathtub and sink in the distant, and the room seems to quake with the finest tremor.

Donghae lurches out of his seat and spins around manic and tense, with his hands pull tight at his side and shaking with a sweeping anger.

"Do not test me, okay," he bites out, glaring furiously at everything and nothing at once. "I have to go to work at the cafe in eight hours and I didn’t attend college and get my BA in journalism just so I can write trashy articles about the latest celeb gossip part-time and hope some news agency will pick it up but here I am living on take-outs, working as a barista full-time, and barely making the minimum wage to pay for this loft as I wait for the next great scoop to break me out of this horrid monotony because life will fuck you over sometimes and there’s nothing you can do about it so being annoyed at it won’t do you any good.” He shakes his fist upward in resentment.

“And the literal best thing in my life right now is this amazing and spacious apartment with is industrial kitchen and granite counter top!” he says, chest constricting and expanding at rapid interval that feels like an uncontrolled descent from 300 feet off the ground and his voice rises with each word till it’s a roar in his ear. “I don’t even need the granite counter top or industrial size refrigerator but you know what it’s nice to have them anyway because when spend your entire life scrambling for scraps this is the greatest thing to ever come into my life so you either learn to share it because if you for one second think you’re going to run me out of this apartment you are so wrong and if you are doing this out some petty reason, tangible or not, I’m going to find a way to get a hold of you and I will end you,” he pauses, and then adds, “more than you already are of course.”

The deafening silent that follows is admittedly awkward and embarrassing when the slow realization of what he had just done, spilling his entire life story and secrets to an empty room and shouting at an unfathomable thing that may or may not exist like a deranged person.

Oh god, he had gone mad because of sleep deprivation and is talking himself into a snit—what the hell but then he hears the water turning off in the bathroom and the lights coming back on indefinitely, and an almost sheepish knock against the door of his bedroom—apologetic and shamed.

“Sorry, that was terribly rude of me to yell at you like that,” says Donghae, chagrin and mortified at his own outburst.  He blames the overdose of coffee and the lack of sleep.

“Just give me a couple of hours and then you can bother me again and I’ll even pretend to be properly scared next time,” Donghae promises, putting one hand against his heart and the other palm up and out in front from him.  

He hears a slight miffed knock in respond but he’ll takes it. “Okay, I’m just going to assume that’s a yes,” he says and another firm knock settles it for him.

The phantom entity and him seems to have come to an understanding and it suddenly hits him how relieve he is now that he isn’t fighting, inch by inch to keep his apartment.  

"Oh and could you close the window also please?" he asks, feeling less fray around the edges now as the atmosphere of the room seems to open up and relaxes for the first time in a while and he thinks he could finish this article without any further interruption.

The window is gently shuts itself once again and this time Donghae knows it will stay that way. “Thank you,” he mumbles, before quickly back to work and in the next couple of hours he get so lost in it that he doesn’t hear the bell ringing at his door.

It isn’t until nearly seven in the morning when he typed the last word out and notices the inexplicable pounding of the door and thinks to himself, oh not again but Kyuhyun yelling his name clears any suspicion and doubt about his unnamed invisible roommate.

Donghae hurries to the door and opens it apprehensive to Kyuhyun’s glaring face. “I been calling for you for over an hour,” is the first thing Kyuhyun says as soon as he sees Donghae.

“I was working,” Donghae says, trying to hold back a yawn but failing miserably. “And I managed to finish all of them on time.”

"You really got to stop doing this. Don’t take more than you can handle," Kyuhyun says, eying his dishevel hair that look like it haven’t been touch by a comb in days and his probably dead-look on his face. “Because you look like you just came off from the street.”

Donghae roll his eyes. “Tell that to me again in three hours,” he say, wresting between wake and sleep now and the two easily blurring into one before his eyes. He could be dreaming for all he knows, having falling under the spell of sleep a long time ago, and Kyuhyun and his specter roommate is probably all just part of his dream conjuring up to fuck with him. “Wake me up when it’s ten.”

"Yea, yea," Kyuhyun says, waving his hand dismissively. “Just go to sleep already, you’re practically falling over. I’ll just get the articles myself.”

Donghae hums agreeably, dragging his tired self back into his bedroom as Kyuhyun follows him closely behind him.

“They are on the desk,” he says, pointing the pile of papers billowing on his desk.

“Ugh,” Kyuhyun complains, “can’t you keep your work neater?”  

“I could but I won’t,” Donghae says, heading toward the bed now and leaving Kyuhyun to his disaster of a working station.

Kyuhyun grumbles incoherently in the background and Donghae smiles, sweet and soft as he sees his bed right before his eyes. “Oh and I think my apartment is haunted,” he says causally and collapses on his bed with a loud thump, letting the bedding swallowing him completely as if he could melt into it.

"What?!" Kyuhyun demands, sudden and loud but Donghae is already feeling the pull of sleep calling to him and oh his bed smell so nice and it’s so comfy that he never want to leave it. "Donghae, Donghae, what do you mean—”

"Be nice to my ghost while you are here, okay?" he mumbles and hears the muffled horrified yell of Kyuhyun in reply as the darkness takes him under.