A scream of agony pierced the night.
“Once more, you’re doing a good job” the man encouraged. “Hold on now, you can do it.”
Another scream, more desperate this time, then silence.
“It’s a boy” The man’s voice came again, filled with nothing but love and warmth. He moved to wrap him in a shawl but came to a sudden stop when something caught his eye.
Fear flooded through his body and his breath caught in his throat as he stared at the tiny birthmark on the inside of the boy’s wrist.
“Magic” was the last word he uttered before the boy let out a cry and the tiny stone hut and the people inside were engulfed in vivid green flames.
Our story begins in a small town, located in the western region of the kingdom of Aredrinnor. A picturesque town surrounded by fields and mountains, with a sun that seems to shine eternally. At first glance it appears to be a perfectly normal dwelling. Farmers sow their fields and children play by the stream, mothers tuck their children in at night and families gather to eat hearty meals, but upon taking a closer look, at one little boy in particular, proves that not everything is as it seems.
At 5 years old, Myungjun heard the whispers of the trees for the first time. He couldn’t make out what they were saying, but somehow, he knew they were content. How he knew that, he wasn’t entirely sure, but he whispered back kind words and patted their trunks with his tiny hands. He stayed there, losing track of time, until a group of boys found him and chased him away, throwing insults for his weird behaviour. Myungjun was too young to understand their words but he didn’t care anyway. All he cared about was walking the short distance home to tell his mother of his new friends.
When he reached the small cottage, he ran inside and relayed his whole story excitedly, deciding to leave out the insults the boys had spoken. Halfway through, his mother had frozen in place and didn’t appear to move until he had finished. She swiftly crouched down to his level and gripped his arms tight.
“You are not to talk to the trees again, do you understand?” his mother exclaimed with a hint of fear. Her grip on his arms tightened and he winced in pain, trying to wriggle out of her grasp but she held tight.
“Do not talk to any plants at all” she continued. “The trees, the flowers, the shrubbery, NONE OF THEM or you will be in serious trouble. Now tell me you understand what I’m saying.”
He nodded his head automatically but remained confused and a little frightened at her sudden aggressiveness.
Later that night, after being tucked into bed, Myungjun thought back to what she had said. A small smile bloomed across his face.
“I can talk to flowers too?” He whispered to the stars through the tiny square window. He promised himself he would attempt that tomorrow and that no one would catch him doing so.
On the day of his eight birthday, Myungjun was running through a field on his way home with the eggs he had bought from the market for his birthday cake, when he heard a cry beneath his feet. He looked down to see a little flower, crumpled and broken. He dropped the eggs he was carrying and collapsed to the floor with a sob.
“I’m so sorry little flower” He managed to say through his tears. He closed his eyes and prayed to the deity to forgive him and bring the little flower back to life. When he opened his eyes, he was surrounded by flowers that hadn’t been there before. They withered just as quickly as they came, and he stared around himself in awe. He felt a tingle on the inside of his wrist, so he rolled up the sleeve of his cotton shirt and noticed there was a faint glow coming from his oddly shaped birthmark. As he went to touch it, he felt a tingle across his palms. As if by instinct he placed his hands onto the grass and visualized the flowers he had just seen. The tingle spread across his palms to the tips of his fingers and a single delicate flower sprouted through the earth into full bloom. He cried out in astonishment at what he had just done as he watched it wither, just as quickly as the others. Had he really just done that? He grinned brightly and stood up, full of excitement and staring down in wonder at his glowing mark. He heard voices coming his way and swiftly rolled down his sleeves before hurrying away.
On his way home, eggs long forgotten, he started to wonder if that was why his mother made him wear long sleeves even on a hot day like today. She always played it off as not wanting him to get burned from the summer sun, but he was beginning to suspect otherwise. Was it bad? It certainly wasn’t normal he guessed. He was eight, not stupid, and he’d never seen anyone else with a glowing birthmark that’s for sure.
He debated risking it and telling his mother what he had done. He usually got a smack on the back of the head when he was caught doing things he shouldn’t be doing. However, if she made him hide his birthmark it must be for a good reason…right? He could just leave out the part where he magically made flowers appear, seemingly out of nowhere. Then he wouldn’t technically be lying.
After deciding it was too important to keep from her, he wrung his little hands together and set off home. As he walked down the weathered path to the door, he tried to calm his nerves. He knocked three times and waited, scratching absently at the birthmark through his shirt until she opened the door expectantly.
“Junnie where are the eggs?” She asked, after realising he wasn’t carrying anything.
“Mother I need to talk to you.” He said in a small voice, walking past her into the house. He felt like he was going to be sick from the anxiousness.
His mother eyed him warily before leading him to sit down at the old rickety table in the kitchen. He thought it would be best to just get it over and done with, so he took a deep breath and blurted everything out. He cursed at himself internally for being weak when he realised he’d literally told her EVERYTHING. So much for leaving stuff out.
His mother grabbed his wrist and forced the sleeve up to look at his birthmark. It looked completely normal.
“I can show you” Myungjun said, before letting the tingling feeling spread through his palms again.
The birthmark began to glow faintly, and his mother dropped his hand to clutch at her heart.
“It’s happening.” she whispered shakily to herself.
He didn’t get a chance to ask for an explanation before she was up and dragging him towards her bedroom. She told him to wait as she pulled a carved wooden box out from underneath her bed. She had a determined glint in her eyes, but her hands still shook as she opened the lid. Myungjun automatically took a step back but the look she shot him made him freeze in place.
“This was going to happen sooner or later” she said, more to herself than him.
Myungjun finally opened his mouth to speak. “What’s happening to me? And what’s in that box?”
She ignored his questions and pulled out a vial filled with small white pellets. After shaking a few out onto her palm, she looked at him and held out her hand.
“Do not ask me any questions, just take this or you will have to leave this home, do you want that?” she threatened.
Myungjun didn’t understand but he didn’t want to leave, so he swallowed thickly before shaking his head and he took the pills from her hand. He looked them over carefully and not noticing anything too strange he swallowed them down. His mother smiled at him in relief and ruffled his fluffy hair.
“Good boy. Now you must come to me every morning to take your new medicine okay?”
He excused himself and went to his room to sit on his bed. He focused on making his birthmark glow and his palms began to tingle more strongly this time, before it quickly receded and completely disappeared. He tried again but nothing happened. He tried a few more times, panicking before giving up completely. It was strange, he felt numb, as if a part of him had be ripped away leaving behind a hollow shell.
He continued to take his ‘medicine’ everyday for the next 5 years and never felt that part of him come back. He closed in on himself and became broody and dark. If his mother noticed, she never said a thing. He tried so desperately for weeks after the first dosage to talk to the trees and the flowers, but it was like the whole world had gone silent. It was deafening.
The teachers at his school and his fellow classmates realised his change of attitude. Gone was the bright, bubbly ray of sunshine that laughed loudly and cracked jokes. Instead the teachers had to deal with him staring out of the windows during lessons and disappearing at lunchtime so he wouldn’t have to be near the other students. His mother was called in, but she just brushed it off as adolescence and promised to talk to him. She never did, there was nothing to say. She knew why he was acting so different and chose to keep it that way.
On his thirteenth birthday he returned to the field he had been in on the day his happiness was ripped away. He laid back on the grass and watched the clouds pass overhead. He threaded his fingers through the grass, and all too soon felt the familiar lump forming in the back of his throat as he blinked back tears. What would be the point of crying again? Nothing would change. He still had to wake up and take his medicine to make his mother happy. Could he even call it medicine? What sort of medicine makes a person so sad? He cursed her and rolled over onto his stomach. Smelling the earth up close like this always comforted him slightly but it was short lived. The sound of laughter in the distance broke through the silence and he tensed upon recognising who exactly it had come from. He thought about making a break for it, but it was too late. They’d already spotted him, and he wasn’t as fast as they were, if he did decide to run. So, he stood up, set his face into a stony expression and faced them boldly as they made their way over.
“Beautiful day isn’t it Myungjun?” asked Jung-hoon gleefully. “Want to know what we’ve been doing huh?”
Jung-hoon took his silence as a cue to continue and stepped closer as he opened his mouth to speak. His next words made Myungjun’s blood run cold.
“We’ve just been down to the river and stumbled across your little…project” He said with a smirk. “We’ve been watching you, watching how you went down there every day at lunchtime to plant your stupid little flowers and talk to them like they’re people, when you’re too stuck up to talk to any of us at school.” His tone took a bitter turn towards the end.
“What do you want?” Myungjun asked through gritted teeth.
“I want you to roll up your sleeves” said Jung-hoon casually.
Myungjun paused. Roll up his sleeves? Why would he want him to do that? Unless…
“Ahh look he’s catching on boys” said Jung-hoon with a chuckle to his two friends that flanked him on either side.
“I don’t have to do what you say” said Myungjun, sounding a lot braver than he felt.
“Why? Got something to hide?” asked Jung-hoon cockily.
“I..I... I don’t know what you mean” Myungjun stumbled. Great. Why did he have to sound weak now?
Jung-hoon laughed manically. “Sure you do, you know exactly what you are, you filthy magic user.”
The words cut deep and Myungjun flinched and took a step back. He’d tossed and turned every night in bed for years trying to come up with an explanation as to why he could talk to plants and why his birthmark used to glow. The only two reasons he could think of were either he was crazy and had imagined everything, which is why his mother gave him medicine, or he had some sort of magical powers. Either way the self-hatred he grew for being different in one way or another, to all the normal kids in town, felt confirmed with those harsh words from Jung-hoon. After all, he was just a freak who only found happiness in the mutterings of nature. But how did Jung-hoon know?
Jung-hoon didn’t give him a chance to talk before he was speaking again.
“You’re a filthy magic user who talks to plants because you have no friends. My mother told me that all magic users should die, and I agree,” He cracked his knuckles and stepped forward before lowering his voice. “but it wouldn’t be any fun if we killed you straight away. So, I thought to myself, how could I make you suffer? And that’s how I suddenly found myself down at the lake ripping out all of your little friends.”
Myungjun gasped and covered his mouth with his hands as tears sprung to his eyes. It felt like his heart had been ripped out. They didn’t need to kill him, it didn’t matter if they did because he was sure this was worse than death. His mind raced as he recalled all the time he had spent lovingly caring and nurturing those flowers, trying to find some form of happiness in his bleak life and even though it wasn’t the same as before when he could converse with them, it kept him sane. However, now that very sanity was slipping away as fast as the river water where they grew. He knew the flowers would have suffered being cruelly torn apart and he saw red. Gasps rose from the other boys as they pointed at the ground beneath his feet. He looked down to see flowers blooming and only allowed himself a second to smile.
With an anguished cry he flew at Jung-hoon and punched him in the jaw. Jung-hoon staggered back, and with a growl, he launched and bowled Myungjun over. They rolled around on the grass fighting and cursing until Myungjun got the upper hand and rained punch after angry punch onto the demon below him. He was swiftly pulled off by Jung-hoons lackeys and restrained, as they held his arms behind his back. Jung-hoon got up and rubbed at his bloody mouth with the back of his hand.
“You and your whore mother are going to rot in hell” He spat before punching Myungjun square in the face.
Myungjun felt his nose burst and his legs buckled. He felt the overwhelming urge to be sick as his head spun from the pain. Their laughter rang in his ears as he received punch after punch, kick after kick as he slowly slipped away from consciousness.