The scream pierced through the room as sharply as a freighted bee strings it’s prey. It was the first noise the room had heard in a while, having left the coffin there for the new morning. The fear overrode any rationality that Jimin normally would have boasted of. He kicked and he screamed until his voice hurt.
It did not take long for Jimin to realise he was enclosed in a tight space, he had woken from his deep slumber, stretched both of his arms out and felt the wood above him of. The blackness shrouded his mind of any clear thoughts. “Am I dead? Is this hell? Where am I?” were the only thoughts that circled in his mind, over and over again like the oxygen that he was recycling in his small wooden box. It took all the effort Jimin could muster to stop thrashing around, and to realise that the coffin shook as he moved. And that was what finally calmed him down enough to breath... and also to come to the conclusion that his breaths were numbered. This is what Jimin did not know of; the average casket is 84x28x23 inches, total volume of 886 litres, the average human body contains 66 litres leaving 820 litres of air, 1/5 of which is oxygen. If Jimin breathed 0.5 litres of oxygen per minute he would have 5.5 hours left in the coffin before the level of carbon dioxide overrode his life.
But all Jimin could think of was “I need to get out of here, and very quickly at that too.” His only motivation to keep going was the fact that he wasn’t already buried deep under the earth, but lying on a table. “I AM ALIVE, PLEASE GET ME OUT, I AM NOT DEAD” he hoped this simple words would alarm at least someone to come and help. He did not know how much more clearer he could get with what he wanted.
The security guard, on the other hand had been at his job for a little too long by now to be phased by such screams, his paranoia of the dead had reached a level to which he himself could not comprehend. He heard the dead all the time and even boasted of many ghost sightings. Night shifts at a morgue made you very different to the rest of mankind, so he thought it was just his overactive mind causing mischief again and took no heed of the shouts.
The tears felt hot on Jimins cheeks, he wanted to stop crying, he knew he had reserve his energy to get out but the damned tears would not stop spilling! He rubbed his cheeks hard and bit his tongue, the sharp pain made his mind a little clearer, so he hit harder on the wooden casket, until the pain was overpowering. Things were finally starting to come into context: he had been asleep due to the soulmate ceremony because 12 hours before your 21st birthday you had to be asleep, every family had their own traditional ways of doing this and Jimin’s was no different. Only fools that no longer wanted to be alive would not go to sleep on the 12:00 mark, things went wrong; very very wrong when you were awake during the midnight change, missing limbs, disjointed body parts and one thing was certain: death. The brain could not comprehend the transition whilst being awake. The sudden change of place within spilt seconds blew your mind: quite literally. It was meant to be Jimin’s birthday, and the most life changing at that; he was 21 and today was the day he found his soulmate... “Why am I in a coffin? How did my soulmate get stuck in a coffin? That fool.”
And then it hit Jimin. The scream that penetrated the room this time was so filled with agony that it made the hairs on everyone that heard it rise on their ends. People walked past the morgue and shivered, pulled their coats little tighter around them. Mothers pulled their children closer to them and lovers pressed into each other just a little bit more. The leaves on the floor seemed to stop swirling in the nights streets and the rain seemed to be stuck mid-way through the sky, not daring to fall. The world froze as Park Jimin realized the truth behind his position in the coffin.
For the first time Jimin wondered if he ought to try and get out of his wooden cell at all, what would the point be if his soulmate was already dead? How was he meant to go through his whole life knowing he will be alone? “Stop. Stop thinking.” Jimin breathed into the small space that he occupied. His back hurt from lying for so long and his throat hurt from the screaming. ‘I will suffocate and die in a coffin, people usually die before they get in here but-I’ve always been a special child’ he thought with a weak smile. That made him realise just why he had to get out of here: he had a family and his best friend relied on him. “Taehyung-ah” Jimin whispered, he needed him the most right now, both were known for always being able to read each other’s minds. For feeling each other’s emotions like their own and always having a gut feeling when the other was struggling. ‘Taehyung is probably worried sick, he hasn’t heard from me for hours, I wonder how he’ll react to me being stuck here’.
But there was one thing that jimin was certain of and that was Kim Taehyung would not live a day without Jimin. For love and because that boy relied on Jimin: Taehyung was deteriorating in front of his own eyes and there was nothing he could do but support him with every fibre of his being. The thought that Jimin’s family members would be able to continue their normal life after his death, after a few months of mourning, but Taehyung not living till the very next day without him made his muscles tighten, his breath quickened and Jimin was now determined to to escape. Even if he did not have his soulmate, he’d have one purpose in life: to keep his best friend alive.
And so the panic stricken boy calmed his voice and repeated “I have switched places with my soulmate, I am not dead” in a audible shout, but not enough to tire him out.
The guard was nodding off, his head slightly askew and his breathing becoming shallow. No one had ever broken into a morgue, but the job still needed to be done and so here he was, night after night, getting paid to keep guard on the dead. The repeated words he heard he attributed to the state between the living and the dreaming but something made the hair on his neck stick up, it was not so cold where he sat, but for some odd reason he felt himself shiver and withdraw into himself. ‘This will not do’ he thought as he got up from his chair. He was going to do something he had forsaken years ago, tonight he would walk around the building, his dreams were eerie and his thoughts wild with terror. The old guard was not as much scared of the dead as he was of the living: they were the ones capable of causing you pain. The dead had long lost the ability to strike new pains in his heart. There was not much time in the guard finding out the source of the sound and putting together the different pieces of information being said from the coffin in front of him, to Jimin being free.
Hearts pounding and hands shaking, they both sat on the floor. One from the exhaustion of getting a young boy out of a coffin, alive and all. The other from the lack of oxygen and swirling thoughts in his mind.
“My boy, you need to get checked up, you’ve been in that box for god knows how many hours, just let me catch my breath and I will drive you to the hospital,” the old guard had never had any children of his own, but the young boy in front of him made his parental instincts flare up like anger in a bulls eye at a red flag. The boy in front of him was motionless, his eyes were watching a distant pool of light at the edge of the room, his breathing was deep, compensating for the lack of oxygen from the last few hours. His clothes were torn at different points of his body; he had thrashed around as much as physically possible in that tight box he’d been imprisoned in. The old man could not even begin to imagine what the lost boy sat next to him was going through. ‘Bless the poor thing, he didn’t even get a chance to meet his soulmate,’ he thought to himself.
Jimin was frozen in his spot, he wanted to run, for however many hours it took for him to reach home because home was where Taehyung was and he had to get to him before the latter did something stupid. But his limbs failed to co-operate. They were still recovering from the lack of oxygen and the pain of being hurled at wood for so long. ‘Taehyung-ah, I’m coming home’ was all Jimin could think, maybe if he repeated it enough times he’d be home quicker? Maybe Taehyung could feel his thoughts, just maybe.
“I need to go but can I please have a glass of water first?” Jimin half choked on the words, his throat felt like someone had used a nail file all along it. The guard looked at Jimin again, the whole of the him, and shook his head, there was no way he’d let the boy go, not in the state that he was in. “Son, you’re not going anywhere, you won’t be able to take a step with all the bruises on you, your hands are shaking and you look like you’ve seen hell and come back, and honestly if I had gone through your experience I don’t think I would have coped this well.”
“There is someone waiting for me, I can’t let him down, he’s probably going crazy by now...”Jimin kept going, the sentences getting more and more incoherent as he spoke them, his mind growing more blurry with every image of Taehyung alone in their bedroom.
“Young man, i don’t know who this person is but they’d not appreciate you not visiting the hospital first, you ought to get an assessment done, see if something’s gone wrong somewhere from all the hours enclosed in that bloody coffin.”
Jimin didn’t care about himself, not when it came to Taehyung. He was willing to run along wild fires and swim across oceans if it meant he could be assured his Taehyung-ah was okay.
“Can you at least tell me where we are currently?” The guard told him. And that was the last he saw of the boy in the coffin.
Jimin ran blindly, not particularly out of choice. It was just into the am hours and the streetlights were not enough to lift off the heavy winter darkness that lay across the city. He also did not think a single thought whilst he crossed the city to Taehyung, again he had no choice in this either. Every single ounce of his energy was going into moving his limbs; his feet barely touched the ground. Each & every one of his cells was screaming in pain, in a competition for oxygen, which Jimin was not taking in much of; he just wanted to reach home.
On a normal run Jimin would have looked softly at the windows of the shops, stared deeply at posters to see what was going on around the city he loved and to appreciate the view, but today everything was a blur, like a smudged out line in charcoal. Out of focus, unimportant. There was the ice cream shop that he and Taehyung both frequently visited, the latter boy having a thing for late night sweet treats. Or the charity shop on the corner where they had gotten their second hand bed frame and table from. The teenage boys at the time had a very tight budget to adhere to. Jimin did not stop to notice the curb he had just passed was the same one he had cursed years ago, promising to never walk on it again. It had tripped his Taetae whilst the boys were practicing skateboarding, a new hobby that lasted only a few weeks.
The plant next to the door had two pots, but unless you looked very carefully you would have not known that. Jimin, like most normal people, did not sleep with his house keys in hand, and thus he lifted the first plant pot out, heavy with the weight of the soil. Enclosed and wedged between the two plant pots was where they kept the spare house key. Keeping it under the doormat was something everyone did, so the secrecy lost its weight. Jimin and Taehyung both had a habit of locking themselves out, they were both a bit clumsy and miss placed all most all of their belongings one time or another. Sometimes they forgot to put the spare key back into its hiding place which led to more bickering than one can imagine. Sat outside their shared one bedroom house, back pressed into the doorframe they would re-evaluate ways to get in without breaking the doorframe, which with Jimins anger he would have easily done so if Taehyung had not held him down, his hand on the formers stomach, in a way to say “we will figure this out, just keep calm!”
Until, one day, going against all of Jimin’s morals, they YouTubed how to pick locks. Jimin’s blush was bright enough to look like someone had dipped a red paint brush and drew the blush on for him. Taehyung’s laugh was hallow and loud, not the type Jimin was used to, and both knew exactly why. If the same painter had the chance to paint Taehyungs face, it would be with the darkest shade of black. Taehyung wore bright yellow and an even brighter smile wherever he went, to compensate for the blackness that shrouded his life and enveloped him in its dark cage. Smiling came easy to Taehyung, in the same way a bee is always bound to be found near a plantation of flowers, you could be sure to find a smile lingering near his mouth. It wasn’t necessary fake, it was his way of saying a big fuck you to his life, for getting him to the place he was at currently. He hated everything about his past. There was only one positive that came out of everything that occurred that night; he started a new life with his best friend Park Jimin. If it wasn’t for the latter, Taehyung would have ended it all that same night.
When Jimin, with shaky hands and heart beating so hard he thought it would surely escape his chest, put the key into the door he felt it slid into place, smoothly, but fear stopped him from pushing the door forward to enter his house, which until now, had been his safe place. Fear lined every inch of him, all the thoughts he had stopped on his run home until now were trying to make themselves heard. He wanted to scream, tell everything to stop, all he wanted was to open the door. His hands felt clammy and his breath sticky. ‘Just push the damn door open’. Every step he took from the front door to the bedroom felt weighted down by lead. It felt like the 13 steps between him and Taehyung were actually 13 universes he was crossing.
Some part of Jimin already knew what he was going to see, but standing by the door seeing Taehyung fully dressed on his side of the bed, Jimin thought his world had come to a stop.
The moment Jimin had realised his place in the coffin, and what it meant about his future soulmate, he had ruled out any possibility of it being Taehyung. Because Taehyung had promised to grow old with him. Jimin did not see a future without his best friend, and Taehyung never broke his promises, ever. They had sat on park benches, 5am in the morning, with the sun painting it’s vibrant colours onto the sky, promising and dreaming of a future where both were happy. With an abundance of laughter and grandchildren’s milling about by their foot. Of lazy days where they both sat by the fire and remembered their youths, over hot tea and homemade cakes. Their future was always written together, spoken into being.
In his casket, Jimin had screamed. But now, numbness enveloped him it’s it warm hug, promised to keep him safe, kissed his cheek and whispered that it would keep the pain away. Jimin had one purpose after finding out his soulmate was dead; to keep Taehyung alive and now standing by the door of his bedroom, he realised that even that flicker of hope that been taken out of his grasp. Jimin knew himself to be the person who got up quickly on the bus to let an elderly sit, the one who offered to help a struggling lady with their bags across the road, to smile at little children with messy hair in their prams until they grinned back. He brushed glass to one side of the road when there was an array of it on the street, pushed back thorny branches of trees away from the footpath. He knew he was not perfect, but he was a good person. ‘So why is this happening to me then?’ He thought whilst staring at Taehyung’s pale face across the room from him. Taehyung lie in the suit which Jimin had picked out for him, he had laughed his way through it, never knowing why the suit mattered to his best friend so much. If only he had known.
Losing your soulmate was one thing, but losing your best friend on the same night was another. And them both being the same person was worst of all.
Because Taehyung wasn’t sleeping at all; he was dead.