Murder: the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another.
You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.
What is humanity? A quality of life in which is only constructed to ensure the upkeep of righteousness, order and stability; or at least what we define as such. But those moral values are only what we apply because we have nothing else to rely and believe. Murder is considered the abandonment your humanity, in literal sense, the abandonment of a living human body into non-living. In fact, killing another is illogical for the sustainability of the human race. Humans are social, a collective, they depend on each other. Even the very idea of a lone wolf is contradictory, as a wolf travels in a pack.
So what happens when the human civilisation and society as you know it, is dismantled? What becomes humanity and what is to be human anymore? Well, adaption. Consequently there forms a separation between those who are and who are not. One could question if the separation from all definitions of humanity, creates something no longer human. Therefore, is it immoral to murder it? For it is no longer murder if it is not a brother at all.
The streets were empty and grey. The blue sky had become a distant memory that hovered over him as a reminder of what used to be. Distant cries and bullets ricocheted off buildings through the open space in which was once bustling and so full of life. He pulled the cigarette to his mouth and inhaled the smoke, tasting the fire in his lungs. He walked in a cloud of soot towards the cracked glass window of a corner shop. newspapers littered the concrete at his feet. Most had decomposed by the hands of the heavy climates, but the front page still remained in bold letters. ‘Prime minister declares all immigration illegal’. Another title read, ‘new medical research suggests vaccines only promote infection’.
“Chan hurry up!” He heard his friend yell, snapping back to reality.
He kicked the wet paper with his boot before dropping his cigarette butt onto it, crushing the embers into a charred black footprint as he walked.
Chapter 2: Bang Chan
Before the pandemic, Chan’s life was nothing particularly interesting. He spent his days looking for acting gigs or working backstage for shitty musicals. Although admittedly, acting wasn’t where he put most of his time and energy, in fact it was music. He lived for the stage and the cheering of dirty crowds in tightly camped rooms. Where the beats he produced would fill the walls with energy, blood and sweat. He could spit his emotions into a microphone and create momentum with just his words. Despite having many friends in high school, (or at least he thought he did), keeping in contact was a laughable promise. Honestly, strong friendships that last were difficult to come across. You could compare it to finding a flower in a bundle of weeds or a needle in a haystack, (since good friends are usually a pain in the ass). Or maybe his friends were more like weeds in a field of flowers. Either way, he was stuck with them. And most of the time they attached to his life just as weeds would. For instance, climbing up the escape ladder to his apartment and knocking on his window at three in the morning. Or eating all the food in his fridge. Or smoking all his cigarettes. But Jisung and Changbin were the best part of his life and he loved them with his entire being.
His apartment felt cold as he sat at his old wooden computer desk. The blue screen stung his eyes and he cursed at the words as they stood still on the document. He tapped his fingers impatiently on the space bar, staring at the letters, hoping they would write themselves. But there was nothing. His mind felt as blank as the page.
“Fuck this.” He cursed out loud before promptly stretching his legs to stand and stomping towards his bed. He plunged into it with a strangled noise. This caused his friend Jisung, who was comfortably tucked into his bed, to pull the newspaper he was reading down from his eyes. The young boy smacked Chan on his shittily bleached head with the paper and proceeded to make fun of him.
“Pathetic Chan, I would have written a book by now.” He licked his thumb to turn another page. “Your verse isn't going to write itself you know.”
“It’s too cold to write” Chan whined, muffled by the fabric.
“Well, when you get famous, then you can hire a ghostwriter.” Jisung exclaimed cockily, his tone mocking.
The older man huffed air out of his lungs. “Do you think the great Shakespeare had a ghostwriter?” He questioned in sarcasm.
Jisung looked away from the article he was reading for a second to think. “Well that's debatable.”
Their ridiculous argument was interrupted by Chan’s phone dramatically pestering their ears with his drake ringtone.
Jisung flailed his arms around enthusiastically to answered it. “Hello~ this is Bang Chan.” He barked into the speaker in a shrill attempt at imitation.
There was only silence on the other side of the line. “What have I told you about drinking?” A voice grumbled in a tepid tone.
Jisung furrowed his thin eyebrows. “Uh, who is this?” He asked, abandoning his pitiful inflection.
“Have you forgotten the voice of your own mother?”
The young man produced a high pitched shriek and almost threw the bloody thing half way across the room.
Chan sighed and put the phone to his ear. “Hello?”
“Yes Hello.” She repeated passive aggressively.
“Will you stop playing games with me.” Her voice commanded. “Anyway, how’s work going?”
Chan put his hand through his hair and pulled at the curls. He couldn't even remember the last time he’d gotten a half decent acting role. “It’s going.” He noted.
“Well, I would hope so!” She laughed at her own joke. “Your father and I would like you to spend some time with your grandmother. After all, you don’t have much time left with her these days.”
“Mum!” Chan huffed exasperatedly.
“Oh don’t pretend like it’s not true. Surprise her, she’ll appreciate it.”
Chan pulled in oxygen through his nose and then pushed it out again before speaking. He loved his grandma and had a bounty of fond memories locked away, but did he really want to travel all the way to another province just to see her? “Alright. I’ll visit but only briefly.”
His mother scoffed. “Yes, I’m sure you’re very busy.”
He could hear her roll her eyes by the sarcasm in her throat. “I have to go now. I love you.” He lied.
“Bye, bye sweet-heart.” Was the last thing she said before hanging up.
Chan threw the phone onto the grey duvet cover in frustration and pulled at his rapidly aging hair line once again.
“Hey look at this, there’s been 12 cases of an unknown disease overseas!” Jisung interrupted with his usual bad timing.
The older ripped his hands from his scalp to crinkle the irrelevant information. “Jisung, don’t you care that you won’t see me for a week?“
Jisung looked at him blankly with his round and misleadingly innocent eyes. “I won’t?”
God, did that kid give a single shit about him? Chan questioned in his mind. He arose from his depression session and flinched in discomfort as he stepped on the ice cold floor. He stammered in half paralysis towards his bedside table to pick up a packet of cigarettes. He opened the small red box to only wallow in dejection at the empty site in front of him. He crushed it with his boney fingers, letting it flail into the trash. Luck was not working in his favour.
“I’m going to the store.” He announced, not even looking back as he fitted on his shoes.
“Get me some ramen!” Jisung called out just before Chan could slam the door shut in a series of cringe worthy squeaks that ruined the dramatic impact.
Thank god he only had to walk a few metres in any direction to come across a convenience store. He walked into the nearest one, which he usually visited to buy his groceries. A high pitched bell chimed through the whole store as he entered and despite there being no one around to stare at him, he still felt like the world had its attention on him. It was quite a small store and smelled of green onions and cloves. He maneuvered his way through the aisles and swiftly picked up some cup noodles, cursing something about Jisung being a little leech. He planted the items on the counter and a young looked man looked up at him from his phone. The guy had healthy looking brown locks, a thick neck and a serious expression on his face. He scanned the items excruciatingly slow without so much as saying anything. To break the silence, Chan requested a packet and cigarettes and pulled out his license. The man’s expression didn’t waiver as he flicked his attention to the small card and did as he asked.
“You know those things kill right?” The man announced in a monotone voice.
The blonde couldn't help but be surprised at how smooth and unique his voice sounded, but simultaneously rolled his eyes at the comment. “Well, the grim reaper hasn’t caught me yet.” He pronounced, displaying his teeth in a fake smile.
The man looked back down and scanned them into the computer. “That’ll be ₩ 7000.”
Chan fiddled in his wallet for cash while the man judged him silently.
“Do you know how many young men die annually from smoki-”
“What makes you so qualified to tell me how to live, bro?” Chan snapped. He knew he shouldn’t take out his aggression on this poor guy, but he was gripping his brain like a claw machine.
The man raised his shoulders without an expression. “I’m studying to be a nurse.”
Chan didn’t feel like replying and finally shoved his money on the table. As he collected his receipt, he quickly bowed his head which pained his neck.
While gathered his apparent ‘cancer causing’ items, a smooth progression of vocal chords flooded his ears in a symphony of sweet honey. He paused in his movements as the music saturated his ears. “Who is this artist?” he asked, completely forgetting his previous aggressive exterior.
“Me.” The man answered bluntly with a small smile.
Chan was lost in his thoughts for a second and stammered to speak. “You?”
“I do busking sometimes” the man nodded.
The blonde was in complete awe, his mouth hung open like a fish out of water. “Your voice is amazing.” He blurted out.
“You should come sing for me.”
“No, no, I make hip hop music.” Chan explained.
The man curved his head to the side out of seeming curiosity. “For which company?” He asked with a chuckle.
Chan mentally bonked himself over the head with Jisung’s newspaper again. “Soundcloud...?” He cringed at himself as the word left his mouth.
“Well, I guess that makes us both professionals.” The man’s expression was coy. “Sure dude, why not.”
Chan searched his pockets for a piece of paper to write his number on, and pulled out the flyer to his upcoming rap gig. His face lit up in a spark as he grabbed a pen to write on the back of it before handing it to the cashier. “Hey, you should come see my show. It’s coming up soon.” Chan smiled proudly as he pointed to the 3racha logo on the pamphlet.
“I’ve got nothing to lose.” Said the man.
Chan couldn’t help but smile wider, “Great! I’ll see you there.”
“Try not to get cancer before then.” The man joked.
They shared a wave before Chan turned to leave.
“Wait, what’s your name?” The blonde had to turn back around to ask.
“Alright. Bye again.” Chan repeated, walking only another step before being interrupted again.
“Hey, wait. Who the hell are you?”
“Oh, I’m Chan.”
“Okay. You can leave now, Chan.”
So he did, finally making his departure. Maybe his luck was turning around after all.
Chapter 3: Kim Woojin
“5 reported cases of the unknown disease have been confirmed in Seoul as of last night. Authorities claim they can not pinpoint to exact time it entered the country however, they speculate it was brought over via boat. The questions we pose to our government now, is what measures should we be taking in order to ensure our safety? What does this mean for our futu-”
Woojin placed the remote to the television back onto his coffee table, where his cup of coffee had been congregating several colonies of bacteria through the night. He rubbed his eyes and cracked his back before obstinately pulling his body up from the coach. Fuck, he’d fallen asleep again. He squinted at the mess of papers that occupied the surface of the table. He struggled to look around and find his phone that had fallen onto the floor. As he turned it on, he cringed at the bright light.
“FUCK.” He said again, but this time out loud. He had 30 minutes to get to class and hadn’t even finished writing his paper. His hand fumbled around for a pen and he had to jolt himself awake every two seconds in order to scratch down any kind of jumble of words he could. Without thinking, he grabbed at the mug of coffee sitting next to him. He took a sip and immediately spat it back out with a cough and some more unholy words. Well, that definitely woke him up. He gathered the pages and shoved them into his bag, not skipping a beat to get himself out the door. When he locked it behind him, he was confronted with his neighbour’s face.
“Good morn-” She didn’t finish her sentence and seemed suddenly very distracted as she looked down. Woojin followed her actions and immediately opened the door to run back inside. Right, pants. Can’t forget those. But hey, it wasn’t like he really cared what she thought. He was sick of her raves at ridiculous hours in the morning and disturbingly loud intercourse, also at ridiculous hours in the morning.
The train ride to his university was packed as it always was. People from all walks of life shared the same depressed expression, trapped in their own little perceptions of the world. He wasn't indifferent to those people, although he preferred not to stare at his phone religiously as if it were a bible. When he arrived at the lecture room, the hustle and chatter was much more chaotic than usual.
“Professor, are you saying there’s no cure?” Someone asked.
The elderly man scratched at the stubble on his chin and thought wealthily about a reply. “Well we just don’t know.” He stuttered.
Students began to bombard him with questions and the noise escalated.
“Should we be preparing for the worst?”
“What will it do to us?”
“Oh my god we’re going to die.”
Sounds pulsed into Woojin’s brain feverishly.
“Alright kids listen, I shouldn’t be telling you this but you’ll need to know eventually. What we’ve found is the method of transmission is the mouth, specifically thorough bites.”
The crowd gasped in a disorganised manner.
“Yes that’s right. The pathogen seems be a parasite, latching onto the brain and controlling the host internally. We’re still currently studying it’s behaviours, although from what we can gather, the pathogen synthesises electro chemical signals to stimulate the body. The pathogen is observed to have difficulties with the frontal lobe, exercising poor control over motor functions and speech, furthermore difficulty with balance in the cerebellum. The spinal cord is also likely to be at risk. Often in cases the host will act irrationally or violent so if you do come into contact with it, notify authorities immediately.”
“So it’s like rabies!” Someone yelled out.
“It’s the fucking zombie apocalypse!” Another added.
The professor sighed. “It reproduces and makes offspring that move into the mouth ready to infect someone else.”
“That’s it, I'm going home.” He heard a women cry.
The Professor slammed his hand on the table causing an echo of vibrations and everyone to halt in place. “Listen here! You can not tell the public about this information, it is absolutely classified! Think about this logically, people are going to have the same reaction as you, they’re going to panic and before we all know it society will collapse. We need to be calm about thi-”
“Who’s going to protect us?”
The shouting continued in an eruption for the most part of the rest of the lecture. As a result, Woojin’s brain felt like a volcano ready to explode, he felt sick.
Even when the lecture ceased, the collective bickering continued all the way to the station. He stood in the train carriage, silently scrunching his face in pain until his phone vibrated from his back pocket. He pulled it out to see the dispiriting notification glare at him maliciously.
[Work this afternoon] it read.
The walk to work was much more peaceful and pleasant than the train. He could finally relax and expect the usually very few social encounters for the night.
When he arrived his manager greeted him. “You missed the rush hour.” He joked.
Woojin’s shoes squeaked as he halted in his tracks, noticing that shop actually looked emptier for once. “You must be joking.” He laughed.
“Really, it was packed, just a few hours ago.”
Woojin furrowed his eyebrows and turned his attention to the new stack of papers and magazines that adorned the display stand. ‘Unknown disease enters Korea’, ‘50 cases in Seoul alone’. He suddenly felt sick again.
“I’m heading off for the night, be sure to close up shop in two hours. Okay bud?” The manager tossed him the keys with a jingle of metal.
“No problem.” He replied.
The store was uncomfortably quiet. He stared at the magazine in front of him, but the words didn’t register in his mind. The constant drip of water from the overhang, never ended it’s ripple onto the outside pavement. He counted the splatters in his head to pass the time, but the clock stayed lulled in the present.
“Excuse me.” A voice shocked him out of his trance.
“Yes?” He looked up to see a boy with very dark chestnut locks planted onto his head, way too neatly. It looked more like an overgrown mushroom than a hairstyle.
When the boy asked him for cigarettes he was quick to pull a smile and ask him for some identification. The kid had a good try at rousing him around. He had fun giving him a lecture about the reality certain death and his medical expertise.
“Well, we’ll all probably be dead soon by that disease anyway.” The boy said.
Woojin felt stunned. “What did you just say?”
“If you’re so smart, why don’t you figure out a way to stop it.” Then he left just as abruptly as he had entered.
Woojin had to wonder if the kid had even been there at all.
Eventually his shift was over and he closed up the shop. The streets were so empty, you could hear a coin drop. He kicked a puddle of water and zipped up his jacket to hide from the cold hitting his face. The distant sound of music, shook the bodies of water on the concrete, making patterns with vibrations.
“Woojin!” He heard echo all around him. He frantically shook his head and body in every direction to find the source of the noise, but the street bore silence. Not even a footstep.
Woojin lifted his head to see a silhouette waving down at him from the apartment block across the road. Then he observed two more shadows and felt even more confused.
He did as the stranger requested, expecting to be murdered. After all, he didn’t have anything better to do that night other than sleep. It didn’t take long before he figure came forth from the darkness and appeared under the warm light of the street lamp.
“Woojin!” The blonde breathed obstreperously for a few seconds. He didn’t say anything and let Chan catch his breath.
“Who’s this Channie hyung?” Another voice verbalised into the chilled air, producing a puff of vapour as he spoke. The other two foreign bodies walked up calmly, looking much less frenzied than Chan did.
“This is our new vocalist.” Chan struggled to say.
Woojin squinted for his eyes to adjust in the darkness and he had to pinch himself when he saw the same mushroom fixed onto one of boy’s scalps. “It’s you!” He hollered at his small stature.
“It is me. Who are you?”
“He’s Woojin.” Chan replied.
“You’re the kid who tried to buy cigarettes from my store” Woojin remarked.
Chan snaked his neck around to face Jisung and flicked him in the forehead. “Are you trying to embarrass me you little shit?” He asked at the very confused and in pain young man.
“How was I supposed to know!” Jisung complained so loudly that a dog started barking in the distance. “You wouldn’t give me a single one today.” He whined as he rubbed the mark on his head.
“Get a job.”
The bickering continued on for a while and Woojin stood still, feeling awkward. The shortest guy reached out his gloved hand. He had jet black hair, a prominent chin and sullen eyes. In fact, they were all very small people. Must be a rapper thing, he thought.
“Hi, I’m Changbin.” He smiled.
Woojin complied to his friendliness and shook his hand. “Nice to meet you.” The older male reciprocated his small bow.
“I’m very sorry about this.”
“That’s alright. It happens a-...” He couldn’t bring himself to say it happened all the time. “It happens.” He decided to settle his sentence at that.
“Alright break it up.” Changbin yelled in a breath of fog at the two.
Chan cleared his throat and straightened his back. “So are you coming tonight?” He looked up at him with glee sparkling in his eyes.
“Where?” Woojin had to ask.
He heard Chan cough and force himself an unconfident fake smile. “To our gig.”
Woojin felt his face grow hot and his heart sink in blood. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry. I totally forgot.”
“Oh no, no it’s fine.”
“Really I swear, I’ve just been so caught up in my school work I haven't had time to think.”
“Well it must have been fate that we noticed you from all the way up there.” Jisung interrupted.
Chan stopped talking to look longingly at Woojin, like a stray dog trying to steal his steak sandwich. He went through his mind as if it were an atlas for a second to search for what he should do.
“Fuck it, alright.” He sighed. How could he say no?
The three erupted in a childish triumph and pulled him into the parking garage of the apartment building.
The scent of cigarettes coated the thick air of the club as Chan lead him by his wrist into the crowds of youth.
“Wait here.” Chan had to yell over the pulsations of the electronic dance music for him to hear. Woojin stood very still and tried not to get in the way of anyone unaware of what personal space was. It was definitely not his first choice of crowds.
“Want a drink?” He heard Jisung say, but without a physical form. He turned around and looked down to see him holding two glasses of whiskey on the rocks.
“Do you think I want a drink?” he questioned sarcastically.
“I don’t know, that’s why I asked.”
Woojin felt his eye twitch. “How old are you anyway kid?”
The brown haired boy didn’t bat an eye as he threw them both back one after the other. He didn’t say anything, all he did was pat the older on the shoulder, then flash his teeth before disappeared into the raving crowd. Woojin just watched him leave with a concerned expression. Kids these days, he thought. The music began to subside to a mute before clapping and cheering commenced as a large red stage curtain was drawn.
“Alright folks calms your tits and shut your grandmother’s mouth.” Said a very charismatic man through a microphone. “Tonight we have a very interesting line up for you.”
He continued to talk for a while and started rolling names of his tongue. Although, the only one he recognised was ‘3racha’ as Chan had pointed out to him on the pamphlet. Chan and his two stoogers eventually found their way back to him and decided to settle down on a table in the corner of the room, away from the bustling of the people. Majority of the performances were lacklustre, with only a couple of hits with the crowd. He even ended up ordering a few drinks just to keep himself entertained. When the words ‘3racha’ entered his ear drums, shortly thereafter came the cheers. He was shocked, they were popular with the locals. He couldn’t stop the smile plastering itself onto his face as he wished them luck. They all bounced with excitement as they made their way up to the stage. 3racha did not disappoint, not a single moment of their performance lacked in energy. The audience roared as each member took turns to throw out their verses. They twirled words around their teeth like dog with toys and barked into the microphones like they owned the place. And they truly did.
The night came to an end and Woojin felt spent to the last penny. Chan, who was thankfully sober, drove him home. As he exited the car, he shook the hands of each of the boys, partaking in their pretentious gang signs and they cooed him out the door. He stammered in bliss down the empty street, towards his apartment. He hummed a tune to himself, feeling foolish at how delinquent he must have looked. As he walked he could hear the sound of dragging in his upcoming forefront. But there was no one around to blame the sound on. The closer he got, the clearer it became. Perhaps it was just a cat. And then he saw something move, disjointedly in the blackness of a shadow. It jolted strangely and groaned. Drunks congregated around here all the time, he tried to assure himself. When he noticed it stopped moving, his legs automatically picked up the pace. He felt increasing uncomfortable like he was being watched. Once he reached the lobby door of his apartment and was sure to close it completely and rushed up the stairs a little faster than usual. His stupid neighbour was still blasting her god awful music, and he banged on her door for her to shut the hell up. He slipped the cold key into the door and slammed it shut, walking to his bed and slumping straight into it.
Chan awoke to the light of the morning sun bleeding through his blinds and into his sensitive eyes. He groaned loudly, feeling the weight of sleep try to pull him back to his dreams. He squinted an eye open to find a passed out Jisung spooning him like some kind of koala. Oh right, that would be why, he supposed.
“Get up.” He said in a scratchy voice.
His mouth tasted like grease and smoke. The body crushing him didn’t budge.
“I said wake up you little bitch.” This time he wasn't so friendly as he shook the boy by the shoulders to get him off.
“Don’t do that or i’ll throw up on you.” He heard the brunette slur, muffled by his shirt.
“Do that and you’ll be throwing up more than just vomit.” Chan threatened. “But seriously you have to get off me. I need to leave soon.”
Jisung eventually slopped over onto the other side of the bed and off of poor Chan, complaining about how cold it was in a mumble. Chan was happy to be free but not so happy to step foot on that same common cold ground he was always acquainted with so early in the morning.
When he was ready to leave, he looked over at the sleeping idiot and supposed it would be useful to try and set some rules for while he was gone. Although, in the past every rule he’s preached had just been broken by his hooligans of friends.
“Jisung, open your eyes.”
It took the younger man more effort than he’s ever used in his life to open just one. “Hmm?”
“No parties in my house, or so help me I will cut off the precious mop on your head. Always lock the door when you leave the apartment, and the windows. Do not let another homeless person in here, I already have enough of those with you two. And DO NOT LEAVE THE STOVE ON AGAIN. Got that?”
Jisung nodded his head half asleep and Chan supposed that was the best response he was going to get. Before leaving, he made sure to pour him a glass of water.
His car was old. So old, that it complained in a grumble of noises and black ash in the biting weather just as your grandpa might have. It look him 15 minutes to wake up the stupid thing. The sky shielded over him in a wash of pink and clouds danced around the suns rays. As he turned onto the main road he was surprised at the silence. The screeching of horns and the loud urban landscape was not uncommon for Seoul. He wasn't sure if he should have been worried or pleased. Although, it did make the drive divinely smooth; finally, being able to drive without being stuck in bumper to bumper traffic every 5 minutes.
An hour of driving passed by quickly, listening to the radio and singing along to old songs that flashed memories from his childhood into his mind. He loved his Grandmother and her farm, and he had to admit that he had begun to miss the smell of the fresh forest, and the large mountain ranges where the wind would whisper through his hair. He peered down at his fuel tank and mentally smacked himself in the head for not filling up earlier. Fuel would cost him an arm and a leg so far out. He pulled up at the nearest gas station, tires crunching the dry dirt.
Upon filling his tank with what would equate to gold, he pushed the heavy glass door of the small shop open and abruptly assumed a state of nausea. He forced himself to rub his eyes and awaken if he was still dreaming. But he wan’t. He was shocked at the sheer abundance of headlines, newspapers and magazine pages of the unknown disease that clustered the tight expanse. They covered the walls and windows, blocking the warm light from the outside sun trying to stretch its arms to invade the interior. A radio sat on the counter and sparked unintelligible nonsense into his ears like white noise.
“Jesus Christ...” he said out loud.
“Hello!” A gruff voice pounced into his eardrums, making him jolt in shock.
“You scared the shit out of me.” Chan said as he tried to control his breathing.
The man laughed loudly, his clouded lungs resembled an old trackers mumble. His bald head shone under the glow of a lantern. His long grey beard and puffy slim eyes, creased a permanent smile into his wrinkled face. “Sorry about that.” He grinned, with a black and yellow grin.
“I need to pay for gas,” Chan explained, pulling out his wallet.
“Easy enough young fellow.” The man rejoiced cheerily and turn away to peer under the registry.
Chan looked to his left and was surprised to notice a small glass jar in which confined a large green praying mantis inside it. He crept closer and inspected the creature. “What’s wrong with it?” he asked.
The man looked up from the register and grinned at his curiosity. “Ah well nothing on the surface, ay boy?”
Chan’s face contorted in confusion.
“Yes, everything seems to be fine on the outside, but it’s what’s on the inside that you need to worry about.”
The old man grabbed the jar and swivelled off the lid. He then lugged a glass of water out from behind the counter to poured some of it inside. “What you can’t see, is always much scarier than what you can.”
The insect’s thin legs struggled to keep itself out of the water. Chan felt cruel watching the poor thing slip on the glass as the man proclaimed his strange spells. Before he could proclaim his discouragement, his words choked his throat as he heed a long black worm crawl out of the poor creatures abdomen. He felt sick at the site of it. It just kept wriggling out until the mantis became empty, and it floated on the top of the water like a cicada shell. Chan closed his mouth that had been hanging open and swallowed a lump of words.
“It’s called a Chordodes Formosanus. Or a horse worm if you’d prefer. Nasty little bastards kill all the mantis’ and damage the ecosystems for crops round these parts.”
“What is it?” Were the only words Chan could utter.
“It’s a parasite, son. And a merciless one at that. It takes over the body and controls it from the inside, until it finishes its life cycle when it finds water and leaves. But he isn’t going to be heading anywhere soon. The only place this thing is going is in a fire.” The man smiled again and Chan placed the cash in his hand.
“So where are you headed to?” He asked as he fiddled with the cash register.
“A few hours up into the country.” Chan replied.
“Y’know a few cows have been missing up there.”
“Yes, really. And would you like to know what else has been happening to those cows?” The man placed his change and the receipt into Chan’s cold hand.
The man ushered him to come closer and leaned so that he could smell the tobacco on his breath. “Their brains are gone.” He whispered. “Alright, have fun out there young lad.”
The old man waved his goodbye and Chan stumbled out of the store, feeling all kinds of strange emotions.
The roads and the vacant fields of green soon began to all look the same. He sighed heavily as the radio began to sputter in static. He couldn’t help but worry. He wondered if the animals at the farm would be alright, or if that crazy old man was just rambling gibberish after all. Then again, he swore the paddocks that withered on the side of the road were once cluttered with animals.
Just as midday began to peak and the sun blistered through the sheets of clouds, he recognised the aged illustrious foliage that hid the old property that belonged to his grandmother. The car jolted down the overgrown tracks towards the petite cottage. He smiled as he passed the rent house, remembering how he would wake up his sister and how they’d climb onto the roof and slide down the tiles in sleeping bags. They would sneak off at night and sit up there watching the stars twinkle, being yelled at every time by the old crow, Mr. Park who used to live there. The wheels skidded when he pulled over at the front of the house. Upon opening the car door, he felt something rub against his calf and looked down to see a mess of black fur.
“Hello, Penny.” He greeted the cat, as he silked his hand along it’s perched back.
The cat trotted in the house's open door and waited for him to enter as if it were inviting him inside. He accepted the invitation and entered, feeling welcomed by the soft notes of a pastry baking in the oven.
“Christopher, Oh my god.” His grandmother pulled him down into her frail arms for a warm hug. “What in the hell are you doing here?”
“I just came to visit.” Chan replied bending down to kiss her cheek.
“Well, I’ll be damned.” A grim voice broke his concentration. He cocked his head to the side as he noticed the elderly man sitting down by the blue chequered table.
“Mr. Park?” He questioned, a little confused and slightly shocked that he was still alive.
“Yes, he’s been helping me pick the green apples and ring in the horses.” His grandmother stated.
Chan stood lost in his thought as the elderly women opened the radiating oven to place the pastries on a heat rack. “What’s wrong with the horses?” He blurted out.
Both individuals looked back at him with a blank expression.
“They’re little bastards is what’s wrong with them.” Mr. park wheezed and slapped his leg with his hand.
Chan felt a wave of reassurance overcome his racing mind. He hated to admit, but the old man from the shop had actually made an impression on him. “Well would you mind if I go visit the chickens?” He cleared his throat to ask.
“Knock yourself out” Mr. Park replied.
He walked over the wet grass that dripped with dew as he made his was towards the pen. Surely that man was full of it, he tried to ration in his increasing fret. He opened the latch of the cage to hear the moans and complaints of the hens, mentally collapsing in relievance. They were completely fine, nothing out of the ordinary. He visited the horses that ground their teeth at him from their sheds. Nothing at all. They all judged him silently, but at least they still had a brain lodged in their heads.
As he trudged his way back he stared at the darkening sky and the stars that shyly peeked into the atmosphere, reminiscing of his childhood. The chill of the crisp air began to rapidly temper the night. Before he could pull his hood over his head to warm his ears he caught a glimpse of a small green insect sticking the barbs from its legs into his jacket. Memories of the man from the shop invaded his mind once again, and the nausea indulged him shortly thereafter.
When he entered the cottage the fire crackled gently. He walked into the kitchen and poured a glass of water.
“Oh you have a friend with you” His grandmother smiled sweetly at the tiny insect that crawled on his hand.
“I heard somewhere that these things are pests.” Chan said, placing the glass on the counter.
“No, not at all.” She replied, sounding confused at his words.
“I mean the parasite they carry.”
She didn’t say anything else so Chan placed it into the water. It stammered around however, there was no horrific worm in sight. Chan scratched his head and plucked it from the liquid. He opened the kitchen window and let it crawl onto the waxy leaves of a tree that swayed just outside. He felt incredibly ridiculous and was now questioning if he hallucinated the entire encounter with the strange man.
“Sorry, I just heard about it from somewhere.”
“Y’know, not everything you read online is true, kid.” Said Mr. Park who was ironically reading the newspaper that displayed the words ‘Epidemic in Busan’ in bright red. “You were always a strange one.” He commented further.
“Shouldn’t you be going now?” Chan remarked becoming annoyed at his presents.
“I’ve invited him over for dinner, Christopher. Speaking of which are you going to stay the night?” She asked him holding his arm, silently asking him not to provoke the elderly man.
Chan peered out the white doilied curtains of the window, and noticed the darkness of the night through vapour that had collected on the glass. “I suppose I should.” He said flashing her a smile.
At dinner his appetite seemed to disappear as Mr. Park blathered on passive aggressively about him and his family. He was never one to take shit from people but he desperately didn’t want to ruin his grandma’s night, so he let the comments slide. After dinner, he bowed politely to Mr. Park as he thankfully left, only just holding himself from knocking the old prune out. He played chess with his grandmother by the fire and asked if she still had the spare rooms from when he and his family used to visit. She nodded and smiled diligently, his heart sunk. He felt so disgusted with himself. How could he leave his grandmother for so many years and not even so much as consider visiting her. It pained him to know that she still kept the spare rooms in tact, hoping that they would visit her one day. He felt sick again. He laid in an empty bed alone for the night without sleeping, constantly questioning himself and what he saw that day with his own two eyes.
Chapter 5: Seo Changbin
Changbin swung his arm around to punch the blaring alarm with his red knuckles.
His body moved on its own and he violently yanked the cord out from the snug powerpoint. But he didn’t stop there, he thrashed it into the dark wooden floor and was finally pleased when it broke in half and fizzled.
He took in a deep breath and blinked his eyes open. The room swirled and distorted through his hazed vision and the chandelier blared as he realised he’d forgotten to turn it off. He took in his surroundings and was disappointed to notice his own bedroom; rather than the usual, Chan’s place. He supposed that the older male dropped him home after last night's drunken chaos. He forced his legs to carry his weight and began to walk.
“Oh look who finally decided to show.” He heard his mother growl from the kitchen.
He ignored her as he walked past and poured himself some water.
“Don’t put that on the marble, I just had it polished.” She glared at him as he removed the glass from the counter.
He still didn’t speak or even look in her direction.
“What are you wearing? You look impoverished.” She spoke in a sour manner.
Changbin looked down to see one of Chan’s shirts clinging to his skin.
She scoffed and fussed with the ring that constricted the blood in her finger. “One day the government is going to notice we’ve been paying the school to fake your attendance records. And on that day, I will be going to jail. Have you ever considered that, Changbin?”
He sipped his water silently.
“Do you ever think about anyone other than yourself?”
He still didn’t reply but he decided to meet her gaze, noting how the bags under her eyes sagged more heavily than usual.
“Your sister’s going to be coming back from the United States soon.” She remarked. “You know, sometimes I wish-”
“Wish I was like my sister? Wish I could've been a lawyer? Wish I would carry around a big badge of honour to declare how much I love myself? Wish I would boast about how much money I make? Wish I would tell everyone on my quaint little street full of white picket fences, about how much I love my wife; who’s 20 years younger than me and cheats with the neighbour?.” He recited his words like a poem and took another sip of his water. “I’m going to be a rapper.” He announced with unwavering determination.
His mother made an annoyed noise with her lungs. “You’re going to school today. Or else you’ll be on the street. Then you can follow your dreams and join all the rest of the illiterate rappers out there.”
Changbin almost laughed, considering how useless it would be if a rapper couldn’t even read. Despite the tense situation, Changbin’s phone made a cute little noise and he glanced his attention to the screen.
I need to talk to you. Come to the
roof at school.
As he tucked the device back into his pocket, he finished his glass, placing it on the counter. He watched as the woman's face scrunched and she fizzled in anger, much like his alarm clock had. She smacked the glass onto the floor, making it crack into shards and speckles of glitter. Changbin stared at her and didn’t say anything else.
“Get your fucking uniform on.” She whispered like there was a weight holding down her vocal cords from exploding.
Although he was still hung over, he drove to school and managed to park very poorly. His school was far from boring, in fact it was extremely entertaining to watch the people bellow at each in their gangs. But he had no interest in school, so he simply didn’t go. He tried to avoid small talk with the janitor as he made his way up onto the roof where he was greeted with a familiar face. He walked over and promptly wrapped his arms around his tall friend. Seungmin was first to break the embrace and swiftly punched him in the shoulder.
“You’re such a douche for leaving me in this shit hole” Seungmin complained.
“Yeah, I missed you too.” Changbin smiled. “Anyway, what’s the news? I don’t want to be sticking around in this ‘shit hole’ for long.”
Seungmin’s smile struggled a bit as he explained how one of their close friends had become sick.
“Can I go and visit him?” Changbin’s voice broke, his eyes suddenly full of emotion.
“I called to ask and the receptionist told me he needs to be in quarantine.”
“Quarantine?” Changbin repeated.
“You know, it’s like the unknown disease.”
Changbin had to shake his head to knock his brain back together. “Shit!” He yelled out to the passers-by below.
Out of all the people in Korea, why did it have to be his friend?
“Are you sick too? Why are you wearing that?” Changbin asked as he pointed to the black mask that covered the taller boys mouth.
“It’s part of school regulation now. Creepy right?”
Changbin pretended to crush the tiny people on the street between his fingers. “What if it’s like the apocalypse or something bro?”
“It sure feels like it.” Seungmin said.
Changbin didn’t give him another chance to speak, “I have to go.” The raven haired boy rapidly decided.
“You can’t be serious, you literally just got here.”
“Exactly, and I’ve already had enough.”
As he walked back into the building, he heard his friend call out a goodbye in a defeated and unexpectant tone. He waved as he left.
He scuffed the rubber on his shoes on the pavement in frustration. He felt angry. Angry at his mother and angry and world. His tongue flicked the roof of his mouth in absence of a cigarette. He searched his pocket for the small box and opened it to only be disappointed. Well, Chan better have been expecting a visit, he thought to himself.
When he showed up at Chan’s shitty apartment complex he climbed the stairs with an increasingly bad attitude. Every step grew more forceful and echoed down the long room. Why did he have to live on one of the top floors? Eventually he made his way out of the tomb of liabilities and frantically bashed on the old wooden door.
“Channie hyung!” he yelled to no answer.
He knocked until his knuckles hurt, at which point he was ready to throw a tantrum. However, there was no reply from inside, in fact there was no sound at all. He huffed in an extremely dramatic sigh and made his way to the fire exit that lead to Chan’s window. He climbed the stairs and they wobbled under his weight and peered inside the window.
“YOU MOTHERFUCKER” he screeched onto the streets of bustling people below him, as he saw Jisung sleeping peacefully. He bashed at the window and screamed at the dormant idiot. “Jisung you better get your tiny legs over here now!”
The boy didn’t budge. Changbin fiddled with the flimsy excuse for a safety lock and managed to open the window so that he could climb inside. He walked over to the boy as he slept on Chan’s bed and grinned at the glass of water that sat, oh so conveniently on the bed side table. He did not hesitate to throw the water into his friends face, not caring to deal with the consequences of Chan who would probably beat him up. Jisung flung himself upright, eyes wide and disoriented.
“I was knocking for 10 minutes!” Changbin huffed.
Jisung coughed out the water in his nose before he could reply. “Chan told me not to open the door for anyone. Stranger, danger. ”
“You’re a damn liar.” Changbin said as he looked around the dark room. “Where the fuck is Chan anyway, I need a cigarette.”
“He’s gone to live in the woods or some shit, I don’t know.” Jisung exclaimed, wiping his face with Chan’s sheets.
“For how long?”
“A few days.”
“Days?!” The young man raised his voice. “And just what are we supposed to be doing in the meantime?” He asked in a very distressed affliction.
Chapter 6: Kim Seungmin
When Changbin left Seungmin standing vacant and alone, he couldn’t say he was surprised. After all, no matter what he protested he knew Changbin was a free soul, he conformed to his own way and moved like the wind. His stomach complained yet he didn’t feel like eating anything. The rough concrete wall grazed his shirt as he slid down it and closed his eyes to let the wind pet his fringe. Only one question remained lodged in his conscious, why him? Why did all his friends have to leave one way or another? Why did he clutch his phone in his shaking hand until his knuckles turned white? Maybe he was cursed to be alone for the rest of his life. He hated his school but he hated the people that inhabited it even more.
It was almost funny how you hear all about it when someone killed themselves from a public school, but you don’t hear shit from one like his. Even when you’ve attended more funerals than birthday parties. Because schools like that, they have more money to spare than lives of children. He couldn’t tell you how disgusting it felt to see messages infect his social media. Saying things like ‘we were such great friends, you will always be missed’ from the very bastards that witch hunted his friends with pitchforks and spat on them when they walked by. It was almost laughable. Why was It always him that had the pleasure of breaking the news to Changbin when another one of their friends had succumbed to the clutches of the rope? Why was it him that had the challenge of calming him as he flipped tables and punched kids until they were blue? Why him?
Just then, the screen of his phone flashed and a message appeared.
No one will be home tonight,
feel free to come over.
He couldn’t stop the grin from spreading across his cheeks and he dolled his head from side to side in bliss. His mood all of a sudden had lifted and he felt as if he were drifting on a cloud. Jeongin was one of the only people in his life that could make him smile in any situation, which was why he spent most of his time with him after school. Just looking at the way his sharp eyes would sparkle with all the stars in the galaxy made him feel like there were butterflies clogging his organs. It made him feel special, when they’d lie on top of the roof of his house and watch the stars twinkle and pretend they were the only ones left in the world. Jeongin was always smiling, he smiled when he had a bad day, he smiled when he had a good day, Jeongin smiled even when there was no reason to whatsoever. The boy had purity left in his soul, which Seungmin wanted to lock away forever and keep him frozen in time.
Tonight he’d planned to surprise the younger boy with tickets to the movie he’d been loquaciously desperate to see. It was no lie to say he’d been concerned lately at his friend’s constant postponing of events, saying he had exams or he was too tired. Jeongin seemed to loom over any excuse he could get his hands on. Seungmin played with the small charm of a pink dog that dangled from his phone and supposed he should get to class before they sent a search party after him.
The rest of the day went by slowly. His fingers restlessly twitched and he bounced his leg up and down impatiently, as the last few seconds of the day ticked along with the clock.
“Psst Seungmin” he heard a quiet whisper reach him from his left. He turned his head towards the direction to see one of his friends looking at him.
“Are you going to the party tomorrow?” She asked him.
“Who’s party?” He questioned.
“I couldn’t tell you because I have no clue. All I know is it’s going to be crazy and literally everyone is going to be there.”
Seungmin twirled the pencil in his fingers. “Sorry, but I’m busy.” he remarked.
She looked slightly disappointed but nodded her head and lowered it back down to the page in front of her.
No fucking way would he rather go to some rave over the movie he’d been planning to see with Jeongin for a week.
He felt giddy and excited even though his bus was stalled for ten minutes. The young man practically ran down the wet backs of alleyways and streets until he arrived at his friend’s small one story rental. He skipped up the tiny steps that lead to the room and knocked on the door softly. He jolted at how quickly it cracked open in front of him, being still restrained by a series of metal chains and locks. A thin eye made its way to watch him from the darkness inside.
“What’s the password?” he heard the young boy ask.
“What are you five?” Seungmin couldn’t help but grin at the childish front. “Uhhh, is the password, ‘your best friend for life’?”
Joeongin shook his head from behind the wood.
“Is it, ‘Seungmin I’m so sorry for ignoring you for two weeks straight’?”
The boy shook his head again but squished his eyes half-mast.
“Okay, well I guess I don’t know. I’ll just leave.” Seungmin said as he turned and pretended to walk away. The door slammed shut again and he heard the jingle of the chains being unlocked before it swung back open. Seungmin smiled in success.
“You’re no fun.” Joeongin frowned, pulling him in for a tight squeeze. “The password was you’re ugly.”
He felt the younger boy smile into his clothes. Seungmin squeezed him tighter so that his voice broke and he squealed in pain.
The city was rather quiet as they sat huddled together on the unstable roof of the small house. The stars glowed down peacefully like they always did and Seungmin felt at home. He looked over the see the younger studying them with his eyes, completely absorbed in the giant space.
“I missed you,” The older found himself saying out loud.
Jeongin dislodged himself from the sky to look at him, giving him a closed mouth upturn of his lips in silent endearment. “I’ve just been busy lately.” He said, making Seungmin’s heart hurt.
“Well you better not be tomorrow because we’re seeing a movie.”
“Wait, tomorrow? Hyung, I can’t” Jeongin suddenly sounded frantic.
“Why can’t you?”
“I’ve already promised to go to my friends house.”
Seungmin looked him deep in the eyes to try and find the lie, although all he saw was the stars. “Can’t you do that another time?”
“I’m sorry.” Jeongin confirmed strictly.
The older boy took a deep breath of the cold air into his lungs to hold his heart from sinking into the ground. He laid his body on the cold tiles to stare into the constellations once again. No, he wasn’t going to tell his friend that he’d already bought the tickets. If Jeongin didn’t want to see him that badly, then he figured it would probably hurt less if he just let it go.
Seungmin awoke with a shiver before realising he must’ve fallen asleep on top of the rickety home. Goosebumps covered his body as a harsh gust of wind wrapped around him. The darkness had now consumed as far as he could see and the various lights of street lamps and moving vehicles dwindled on the distant roads. He pulled off his jumper to place it over his friend’s sleeping body. As the wind blew against him harshly, he looked down at the vibrant, luminescent glow being emitted from his friend’s phone. His eyes battled with his brain as he considered reading the message it displayed. He clicked his tongue impatiently. He knew it was rude, but he couldn’t help but let the curiosity overpowered him.
What time are you showing up at
the party tomorrow?
The words forced him to swallow a lump in his oesophagus, that painfully travelled down into his veins and his beating heart. A fucking party? A party was more interesting to him than spending time together? He felt incredibly offended. Fine, he thought. If Jeongin didn’t want him around then he would just leave. So he did, not bothering to even say goodbye.
As he made his way home, the temperature seemed to feel colder. He couldn’t figure out which emotion he was feeling, whether it was sadness or anger. Why was it always him? He mind buzzed and the text stayed imprinted into the back of his eyeballs. He knew he should've just forgotten everything before he got himself hurt even more, but the pain of curiosity ate at him alive. Clicking his tongue, his stiff fingers quickly typed in the name ‘Hwang Hyunjin’ into the Facebook search bar. Immediately, the results bombarded his pupils with a ridiculous amount of overzealous posts, hyping up the dumb party. The dude seemed to be incredibly popular. Various flattering photos and modelling shots sat on his profile. He definitely looked the part of a model, with soft, dark brown hair, cat like eyes and thick moisturised lips. He felt his fist tighten in jealousy. Sure, it was unethical to make assumptions about people, but he had no damned time for popular kids. Memories flashed into his mind of the belligerent assholes that had given so many of his friends an easy excuse to end their lives. He couldn’t stand those that pretended to be a wolf in a sheep’s coat but were really all just sheep in a wolf's.
Chapter 7: Yang Jeongin
Jeongin blinked and he was awake. He was confused to notice his surrounds, as he felt the hard tiles of the roof push into his back. He was even more confused when he looked around at the absence of his friend. He pushed his head into his knees and felt his heart thump loudly, smelling the fresh linen of Seungmin’s jumper. Body feeling sluggish and sickly, thoughts swarmed back into his throbbing brain and haunted him like ghosts. Of course he wanted to go see the movie with Seungmin, but he knew he would be crucified alive if he did. He shivered in the cold, grabbing a hold of himself as he climbed down the various bits and pieces that stuck out of the tall buildings that overpowered his tiny home. He parasailed back into the window and felt overwhelmed, surrounded by the silence of the darkness. He wallowed in self pity and considered leaving the lights off, as he felt he didn’t even deserve to even see anymore. He kneeled down to slump his thin body on the bitterly chilled tiles and pushed his forehead into the floor. Although the walls were only a few meters apart, the room felt giant to him. Perhaps it was the absence of his family that made him feel so alone. His phone flashed the room with light and he quickly threw it away from him. He didn’t want to read it. Didn’t want to hear whatever bullshit his friends were trying to get him into anymore, all he wanted was it to end. He didn’t even notice the tear running from his eye until it softly patted onto the floor. He blinked, realising that he hadn’t since he’d woken up. He felt bad for Seungmin, but more than anything he felt bad for himself. He was pathetic.
The next morning was just as lonely as he got himself dressed in his pretentiously expensive uniform that was never warm enough. He didn’t eat anything, not because he didn’t want to, but because there was nothing in his fridge. Jeongin may have gone to one of the most expensive schools in Seoul, but that didn’t mean he could actually afford to. His mother was barely home anymore, working herself into a living skeleton. She was killing herself slowly just for his future, yet all he could do was cry pathetically onto the floor and come home with C grades. Of course she smiled and told him she was proud of any grade he got, but he knew he wasn’t good enough. He swore he’d sell himself to the devil if it meant his mother could be happy. Although he hurt a lot, he tired to smile for her. He smiled even if he’d been having a bad day, or wanted to break away from the world, because he wanted her to be happy.
The day rolled around much too quickly for Jeongin, as he dreaded hearing the squawks and banter from the people in the corridors. A few of his friends shouted at him to get his attention and he cringed, feeling his brain cells die. He sat down at the table where they had all congregated, laughing and being general nuisances to the other students. He kept his head down in procrastination, trying to block out all the noise and sink away into blankness.
“So you’ll be at my party tonight, right Jeongin?” Hyunjin asked him with his softly spoken voice.
He looked up and cracked out his iconic smile once again to hide his misery. It took him a second to build up the confidence to quietly speak. “I’m sorry but I don’t think I can make it.” He said with a small voice.
Hyunjin’s face twisted in exasperation. “What! Why didn’t you tell me earlier? I even texted you and you left me on fucking read.”
Jeongin pushed his eyebrows together in confusion. “What? I don’t even remember receiving a message from you.”
“Check your phone then.” The tall boy rolled his eyes dramatically.
Jeongin looked down at the cracked screen of the small device and searched through their conversations. Sure enough, he was right. Instantly, he felt sick and his face burned like stretched leather from the smile that was glued to his cheeks.
“I’m sorry I need to use the bathroom.”
As soon as he was out of sight from the group, he bolted into the bathroom and thrashed the door shut. He winced at the thick scent of cigarettes and the bright shapes of graffiti that penetrated his senses. His legs buckled under him and he hit his head on the wall on the way to the floor. The tears started to flow and he struggled to breath, sniffing silently and hoping that no one would hear him. No wonder Seungmin had abandoned him that night. He couldn’t even imagine how that must have hurt him, to see that he’d lied about ‘just going to a friends house’. He had to unhinge his fingers from gripping his phone so tightly that they had marks indented onto them. His index shook over the screen as he battled with his self control. All he wanted was to text Seungmin and tell him he was sorry.
His whole body jolted with electricity when he heard the cacophonously painful yelling of his friends as they entered the bathroom. They screamed some slurs at the people in the stalls to get the hell out, before violently kicking at the one he was in. Shit, he swore in his mind, gathering some tissues to try and will his stupid eyes from pitifully leaking liquid. He opened the latch and was careful not to get smacked in the face as it swung open forcefully and almost undid the screws from their hinges.
“Jeongin!” One of them laughed. “What the hell are you on, you’re eyes are blood red” He commented.
“I’m getting a cold.” The younger tried to lie, sniffling his nose.
His friend wheezed and coughed a lung out of his chest before speaking. “Whatever. And what in the fuck did you mean by, ‘you won’t be coming tonight’?”
Jeongin held his phone painfully compressed into his hand again to stop it from shaking. “I just feel sick.” He attempted to protest, trying to keep his voice from cracking.
“You’ll be there.” His so called ‘friend’ snapped without breaking eye contact.
Jeongin swallowed hard. “I’m not going.”
The group smiled at each other and leaned in close to whisper. “Listen, don’t think you have a damn choice. That fucking bastard is going to get exactly what he deserves, burnt right into his corpse so that he can prepare for hell. Don’t think you can ruin this for us you little freak.”
“You’re just as bad as he is.” Jeongin’s voice broke into a harsh sound.
“He’s caused so many split wrists you might as well consider him a murderer!”
“So you murder him? You can’t fight fire with fire!” Jeongin didn’t even notice he was screaming at this point.
The boy turned around to violently thrash his foot into a wall which prompted Jeongin to close his eyes. He didn’t want to see anymore. He didn’t want to hear anymore. But the yelling didn’t stop.
“So, you’re completely fine with him walking around with his cute little designer brands and bullying people, just as long as it’s not you? How fucking selfish can you be?” He spat into the younger’s face.
Jeongin felt like he wanted to vomit.
“We’re all done with his bullshit. Done with him sitting on his throne and treating everyone like peasants. I want to bash his pretty little face into the ground watch him realise he’s lost everything. If I don’t see you there tonight, consider yourself and the rest of your family dead.”
That was the last thing he said before leaving the youngster alone again. Jeongin struggled to carry his legs to the toilet to spill his guts. He hadn’t eaten anything so he heaved up stomach bile, which burnt his mouth. All he wanted was for everything to stop.
Chapter 8: Han Jisung
“What? What do you want?” The dark haired boy asked, whipping his head around from his phone to face his friend.
“I’m hungry.” Jisung complained from inside of the fort he’d made out of Chan’s bed sheets.
“So?” Changbin remarked, feeling well and truly tired of Jisung’s games.
“Can you go to the supermarket?”
Changbin slowly lowered his phone to glare into the young man’s eyes. “Look at yourself for a second. You’re a high school drop out who’s practically homeless and living off ramen every day. How are you supposed to survive when your daddy stops sending you money. Which, might I add, is supposed to be used to pursue your career.”
“I have seen myself and I’m very sexy” The younger man revoked. “And I don't see you pursuing a career.”
“Actually I’m writing lyrics right now.” Changbin rebutted sassily, flashing him the lines of text on his phone.
“Well, doesn’t change the fact that I’m not the one whose swimming in cash here.” Jisung pouted.
“Maybe you should stop spending it all on drugs and alcohol then.”
Jisung didn’t reply because he knew Changbin was right. He rolled around and moped as his stomach shook him like an earthquake. He began to produce a profusely loud groaning sound out of boredom. Still, he wasn’t getting enough attention so he began to scream out random lyrics and dramatically twist himself around the bed. “Changbin hyung~ don’t you know it’s good will to feed the homeless~.” He sung in a shitty melody.
Changbin bashed his phone down onto the table and stood up. “Okay fine I’ll go, but you have to come with me. And, you have to promise to do something productive for once.”
Jisung did a little dance in excitement and promptly raised himself to stand.
When they arrived at the small convenience store, Jisung noted the familiar overwhelming scent of fresh herbs and vegetables. He immediately walked inside and was shocked to notice how empty it looked, compared to just a couple days ago. He looked around to see if the man he’d met before was still working. He peered over the register to be acquainted with the lop of hair and then the rest of the tanned body that belonged to the man. He appeared to be asleep on the counter. Jisung considered robbing him for a second but didn’t want to risk Changbin’s wrath of impressively constructed insults. Instead, he looked around at the site in front of him, and then at the shiny, rotating glass cabinet of cool looking zippos. He flashed his reflection a smile and polished his large teeth a finger.
“Oh.” He heard Changbin remark in a surprised tone as he pushed a number of snacks onto the table where Woojin slept.
“Let’s just leave.” Jisung suggested.
“No, we’re paying for it.” The short man barked.
Jisung sighed and changed the position in which his hips were supporting his weight.
His friend moved unconfidently as he gently poked the sleeping bear, although his slumber didn’t waver. Jisung decided he would pick up one of the small plastic keychains that was sitting in a colourful basket by the cash register. He then bashed it loudly into the table and screamed.
Woojin awoke with impressive speed. A few strands of hair stuck to his forehead with sweat. The older (or elderly he should say), man shot them a confused look before realising what was going on.
“Welcome back.” The brown haired boy remarked, feeling extremely proud of himself for managing to wake the beast.
Woojin moved a bit like a sloth as he scanned the various items.
“I didn’t know you worked here.” Commented Changbin.
Woojin made a number of sounds that were probably words before anything actually sensical formed. “Didn’t Chan tell you?” He asked through thin eyes and a messy voice.
“No, I haven’t heard anything from Chan hyung since he left.” Changbin noted.
“Left? Where did he go?”
“To live in the woods, apparently.”
The older man looked even more disoriented than before at his comment. “Wait a second, why didn’t Jisung mention I worked here?”
Jisung leaned his ear over from the little gadgets he’d been playing with to listen, upon heeding Woojin mention his name.
“Have you seen the guy? I don’t think he’s… you know, all there.” Changbin whispered before promptly passing over some cash.
He insisted that Woojin keep the change, although the older refused to. They said their sweet goodbyes and wished their friend luck on getting back to sleep.
When they arrived back at Chan’s apartment, Jisung pulled a preposterous amount of things from under his jacket like Mary Poppins. Changbin opened his mouth wide.
“Did you steal those?” His friend asked him with a low tone that reminded him of his mother.
“Jisung! That’s our fucking friend you moron. Are you trying to get him fired?” Jisung looked over at him with his animalistic wide eyes as Changbin literally slapped himself in the face. “So anyway, you promised me you’d do something productive.” His friend remarked with a very tense looking expression.
“I just did.”
Changbin’s eyebrow twitched on his forehead. “What?”
“Don’t you remember, we just went to the store.” Jisung smiled as he spoke, watching fumes emit from his friend’s head.
“Oh course I remember, it was fucking 5 minutes ago! That wasn’t what I-”
They were interrupted by Changbin’s adorable text chime, which provoked him to run over and collect his phone.
I need you to drive me somewhere.
To a party.
Suddenly Changbin’s teeth grew wide into a smirk, and he lifted his deep set eyes from the screen to glimmer at Jisung. “Finally something fun to do.” He grinned.
Seungmin seemed nervous as they drove over to his house to kidnap him.
“Thanks for the lift.” He sighed, fixated on buttoning up his white shirt.
“You look dandy.” Jisung commented at the boy.
“Thank you” He politely bowed his head.
“So, who’s party is it?”
“A model’s.” The boy replied as he stared out the window.
He didn’t say much else for the rest of the ride which slightly killed Jisung’s vibe.
When they arrived, they knew they were in the right place by the amount of drunk idiots fumbling around the rich neighborhood. It was not surprising that the actual house was huge and literally crawling with people in every crevice. There were youth passed out on the lawn with cups and litter everywhere, even though the sun had barely just set, in a hue of orange. Changbin didn’t care to park properly and shoved his car on the plastic grass outside, burning it with the rubber tires.
Eventually, the gang made their way inside, to see barely anything at all. Loud sounds blared and blocked any resemblance of what Jisung remembered music used to sound like. LED lights flashed in high frequency, colourful patterns and made his eyes bleed. He looked around himself to notice that he’d already lost his friends into the crowd, so he shrugged his shoulders and made his way to anywhere alcohol was.
The night had progressed as smoothly as a party could’ve. After talking five shots and trying to swindle what appeared to be a women in his blurring vision, Jisung noticed Changbin’s dandy friend close by. His white shirt appeared illuminated by the black light and had managed to catch Jisung’s short spanning attention. He walked over to the boy and slurred some kind of words at him, limbs falling around everywhere. Expectedly, he was pushed away as the taller male resumed his very intense conversing with someone sporting sandy blonde hair and very sharp cheekbones that caught the purple dancing light.
“What the fuck are you doing here! you need to leave now.” The blonde guy yelled over the blaring music.
“Why, Do you hate me that much?!” He heard the Seungmin scream in a slurry of words.
“No. You don’t understand.”
“And who the fuck is this model guy? What does he have that I don’t!” This time Seungmin almost fell over into the punch bowl, causing Jisung to stumble towards it and cradle it like a child.
“Seungmin! It’s not safe here.”
“I don’t give a shit. Look, if you hate me that’s fine. But you could’ve at least had the decency to tell me before I made an idiot of myself.” The words left his mouth but they barely sounded like words anymore.
Jisung was rigorously enjoying the show and he sipped his child, feeling the alcohol tingle in his mouth.
As the clock struck [3:00AM] chaos shorty ensured, almost instantaneously. People started to scream and run in unapparent fear. Most of them toppled over each other and climbed out of windows as if they’d seen a dead person or something.
Jisung gripped his child and mumbled something along the lines of, ‘I’ll protect you’ before giving it a smooch.
“Unknown!” Someone screeched like a cat.
“It’s the Unknown.”
His eyes roamed the large and expensive looking room, before he noticed Changbin, hanging over a coach at the other end. He waddled over to him with a cheerful expression. The raven haired man was occupied with a body that laid on the sofa, unmoving.
As he stared at the site in front of him, someone had the audacity to bump into Jisung. He was quick to yell loudly at them. “Hey! Watch it, I have a child over er’.” He remarked. Jisung decided to introduce the punch bowl as his adopted son to Changbin who rubbed off his playfulness. “What’s wrong? You look a little distressed.” The younger man remarked to his friend.
“I think the cops are here.” Changbin said, looking around at the screaming crowd. “We should get going.”
Jisung peered his beady eyes over at the attractive young man who was passed the fuck out on the coach. He pointed to him. “Who’s that?”
“I have no idea. I think he’s been slipped something.” Changbin had to yell over the music that was still pumping.
Jisung squinted with his poor eyesight and noted how the poor man’s mouth hung open and one of his eyelids hadn’t closed completely. There was puke all over the floor and the side of the expensive furniture. “Probably.” He agreed.
Before anything else had the chance to happen, the attractive guy started to heave. Jisung placed his child under his mouth to catch the vomit and winced his face in the opposite direction. “Well, sucks to be him.” The brown haired boy said, nonchalantly, ready to grab Changbin and leave, before they got arrested.
“We’re not going to just leave him here.” Changbin whined.
Jisung had to roll his eyes. He was getting kind of sick of his friend always trying to be a knight in shining armor. Acutely, the presence Seungmin and the other blonde boy appeared, they shared the same concerned expression.
“Well, aren’t you going to help me?” Changbin yelled at the three of them, as he tried to pull the drugged man onto his shoulder.
“No fucking way are we bringing him!” Seungmin protested.
The blonde boy looked around frantically for a second before seemingly coming to a conclusion. “Alright, but we need to hurry” he said as he grabbed the other side of the man’s limp body.
Seungmin crossed his arms in frustration and turned to Jisung. “Can you believe this?”
Jisung didn’t reply.
It was a very difficult challenge to get out the door frame with so many drunk fools climbing all over each other.
“Why’d he have to be so tall.” Changbin complained as he lugged the heavy body into the confines of the tiny car.
Jisung wasn’t too excited about having to sit next to the anaesthetised boy, because he smelled so strongly of bodily fluids. As soon as the five of them had entered the vehicle, Changbin literally floored it out of the property. Jisung whined, and had to keep holding the boys brown hair out of his own face as he churned his guts.
“Can you not drive like an idiot? I don’t want to be covered in vomit by the end of this.” He howled sarcastically.
In a bright flash of a thunderous clap, a large cloud of smoke and fire engulfed the giant house and the entire neighbourhood erupted into screams.
“Holy shit!” Changbin yelled, abruptly skidding the tires on the asphalt. Unfortunately for Jisung, this sudden violent halt caused the boy to start throwing up more. Police sirens hollered and cop cars began to funnel to the area. Everyone was too in shock to even make a sound.
Chan hadn’t slept. He couldn’t. His heart set uncomfortably in his intestines, and kept him distracted with every beat of blood into his veins. The strange man's smiling face burned into his brain as if he’d been branded. He felt stupid and uncomfortable in his own suit of skin, so he kicked the blanket that covered him in a wrath of frustration. He had to leave, something didn’t feel right.
He shuffled his toes out of the room before peaking around the empty house. His grandmother had fallen asleep on her quilted, colourful coach, a brightly saturated blue book in her hand. Her glasses were still resting against the bridge of her nose as she calmly breathed. Leaving a note would have been a lot easier than saying goodbye, he figured.
Thank you for having me over, and I’m sorry to be leaving so soon but I feel unwell. I didn’t want to worry you. I’ll be back to visit soon, I promise.
He placed the note gently onto the freezing countertop and walked over to the sulking flames in the chimney, to place another log into its open mouth. The heat burned his face. With such gentle expertise, he displaced her wire rimmed glasses off of her nose to notice the book that barley remained in her hand. It was a photo album. He had to swallow his sorrow as he glazed his eyelids over the faded photographs of his family. The longer he procrastinated, the harder it would have been to leave, so he stepped towards the door and suited himself with his jacket, before opening it. Penny had to protest to him leaving and stared longingly with her large penetrating green eyes.
“I’m sorry but I can’t stay here.”
He shivered as the wind bit the pale skin on the end of his nose and he opened the car door. As he turned the cold metal of the key, the vehicle broke the silence of the night in a fierce rumble. He watched the condensation on the window, drip down the glass in an almost poetic fashion.
The world looked different in the night, shadows moved from the corner of his eye and wind swayed the leaves of trees as they waved in the light of his headlights. The constant jittering of anxiety made his heart make him feel high on caffeine as it pumped in his chest. Hours felt like days when there was nothing left to distract him from himself. He pushed the button for the radio on the control panel of the car to sway the path in which his head was destined to follow, before he become consumed with negativity. He fiddled restlessly with the channels until he landed on a peacefully calming classical European acoustra of sympathies. Finally, he could fill himself with nothing but the art of music.
He blinked and static was the only thing left. His body went limp and his teeth froze in his dry mouth as everything fell silent. He switched the channels in a fit of fear. Nothing but the headache of humming was feeding through his ears. In a second, he felt exactly like the blaring mess of the confusing sounds, brain glitching and eyes burning. He felt he was going to be sick.
The car rode on the lumps in the poorly constructed road and he jumped from his seat to empty his stomach. Oh now he was surely delirious. Lifting his heavy head, he noticed just parallel to him was that same gas station he’d visited the day before and promptly been given nightmares and ideas of constant self doubt. He was probably seeing things now.
He jogged in the yellow glow of the car lights towards the vacancy of the small service point. The thin skin over the bones of his knuckles almost split from the impact of his knocking. There was no reply from the door, not even a light. He knocked again, this time with greater force. This was ridiculous, he knew. Turning to leave felt foolish as a firm grip pulled him inside. It was dark and the only thing he could hear was his heart rapidly moving blood around him.
A bright light peered into his system and he squinted with a holler. “What the hell!”
The light lingered painfully for a few more moments and was then was consequently replaced with a flood of strain, as the whole room was illuminated. His eyebrows were tightly fixed, sharp over his eyelids to protect them but eventually he had to pry them open.
“Just what in the hell were you doing out there?” He heard that familiar gruff voice ask.
“What the fuck are you on about you old creep?”
“Out there. It’s not safe out there.”
Chan growled in deride. “Listen here, you crazy moron. That voodoo magic bullshit you cast on me has been keeping me from seeing straight! And you’re also full of shit-” He didn’t finish his argument as he looked around the room. “Just what on earth…”
Guns, cans, ammunition and boxes stacked inside the small space. It was practically claustrophobic compared to how he’d seen it just a day earlier.
“Are those guns?” He questioned, voice shrill and trapped.
The man laughed that same cackle of deserted moisture. “Come with me, kid.” He said, wriggling his wrinkled black nails into a dark doorway.
Afraid and confused, Chan’s body naturally followed. He couldn’t help but wonder just what other insane rituals the man was practicing; even though he knew he should’ve left long ago. He walked inside cautiously to see only a single bellowing low light burning. Papers on top of papers were dressed with pens and photos, all around and on every surface. The walls were covered with notes and detailed studies in a confusing pattern.
The man flailed a white sheet from a table that centred the room. There, a body laid, strapped and inhibited by it’s pale arms, legs and chest. It writhed in a groan upon the light bleaching it’s skin.
Okay nope. Chan was running in an instant, terror was the only thing left in his body. A sweaty palm latched to his arm, turning his flesh white as it clawed into him.
“No, you have to see this.” The man cried.
“Get off. Get the fuck off me!” The blonde tried to scream for no one to hear.
Old, yet strong, the man restricted his arms to drag him back inside the room. No way in hell was Chan about to go down without a fight. He wriggled with everything he had in him to free his limbs from the tight clasp. His hands shook as he pushed and pulled at the bastardly front door to budge. Fuck! it was locked. He turned abruptly, body pushed tight in panic against the wall.
“Please.” Was all the man said as he pointed a glock directly at him.
Chan’s spine shook his whole body with fear. He felt ill again, but was in such shock that his oesophagus clamped shut and everything was prevented from leaving. He shuffled forward into the room and did as the man wanted.
“Once you see it you can leave as you please.” The old guy explained calmly, not blinking to break a millisecond of eye contact.
Chan swallowed at the body on the metal table as it riled viciously through its teeth, clenching and unclenching its muscles against the straps holding it down. It’s tongue fell from it’s open mouth, teeth all broken and layered in stains. The sounds it made were obscenely grotesque, like it was choking on its own saliva.
“Just what the fuck is that?” He asked, breathing heavily.
“Would you believe me if I told you?” The man replied.
The man picked up a pen that was on a nearby desk and plunged it into the creatures thigh. Chan almost threw up on himself.
The body didn’t have much reaction but complained loudly against the restraints.
The man then veered the compact gun away from himself and towards the creature.
Chan felt frozen, his skin tightly pulling around his face as the thing was shot in the lung. He flinched, instinctively placing his hands over his ears to muffle the sing of the bullet, although it was only small and didn’t push completely through the figure. There was no blood, there was barely even a wound. He shot it again.
Chan was bloody horrified and pushed his eyes tightly closed as he heard three more pushes of the trigger. The thing still groaned but was acting as if nothing had happened.
“I knew this day would come but no one believed me.” The man uttered.
Chan could barely even form a sentence as he brain was wrecked.
“It’s the unknown. This is what it does to you.”
“You mean It turns you into a zombie?” Chan repelled in disgust.
“Yes that’s exactly what I mean.”
The man put the gun down from the table but Chan didn’t feel like running anymore.
“I’ve been studying them for over 30 years and the only way to kill it is through the brain. That’s where the power is.” The man explained, looking over the creature as it moaned.
“So what am I supposed to do?” Chan asked, gripping his hair between his shaking, cold fingertips.
The man just cackled. “Whatever you want son. Just know everything is about to change.”
As Chan opened the door of his car he heard the crunching of fast footsteps on the gravel.
“Wait!” The man yelled out.
The blonde wound down his window to squint in the dark as the figure approached him. He handed two large automatic weapons to Chan and said something about him needing them.
”You can’t be serious, I don’t even know how to use those stupid things.” He tried to refute taking them, although the elderly man insisted.
“Just in case.”
He looked into the deep eye sockets that held the old bastard’s beady piercing stare, and couldn’t refuse him. He thanked him and left.
He was still shaking of course, teeth tightly clenched and unable to move. He felt dead and he tried to process again and again but kept malfunctioning. He pulled his phone from his pocket and fuck, of course there was no reception. He feared for grandmother’s safety but at the same time his friend’s back in the city. He knew there was no way either could survive on their own. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
Sound was never forgiving to Woojin. No matter how little sleep he got, there was always noise that made its way straight to his brain. Instead of the usual hard thumping music from his neighbour, this was an incredibly foreign noise to him. A siren wound in circles and he could hear the muffled echo of someone yell into a speakerphone.
He wriggled around in his bed to try and block his ears, although the sound blared into him without mercy. Staggering, as if he’d broken a leg, he moved into the main room of his beaten up apartment to peer out his curtains. He squinted in the dark at the large number of figures that scouted outside his house. The clock ticked on the wall and he glanced at it.
The hour was ridiculous, he didn’t have the patience nor the energy to be wasting his sleep. He had university in a few hours and had already embarrassed himself as he’d fallen asleep at work that day. Interestingly the mess of noises from outside were the cause of soldiers, lining the road and shouting various incoherent things. Just what the hell were they doing in his part of town? He had to wonder. Perhaps there was some kind of emergency.
He quickly wrapped himself in the knee length coat that hung behind his door and pushed his feet into some slippers. He took note to shove his wallet and keys into his pocket before he forgot and then exited.
The corridor was dark of course, and it look a few seconds for the automated lighting to catch up with him in a flicker of yellow hue. He rubbed his sore eyes and held onto the wall for support to let his body wake up. He had to wince his hand away when he felt a wetness meet his fingers. He squinted in a blur but the red liquid on his hand was unmistakable. The wall had a horrific splatter that had dripped onto the floor. He followed the trail with his eyes, and promptly felt ill. The blood had soaked into the carpet, marinating it, and leading directly into the open door of his neighbours’ dorm. He processed his brain as it loaded what to do. This was probably something he’d expected to see in a horror film, but it was happening right in front of his eyes.
Despite being told in medical school, to never place himself in direct danger, he had to move quickly inside. The faster he moved, the quicker he could save her, he thought, un-frivolous. Peeking his head into the room, he felt all the thoughts in his head sink into nothingness. This couldn’t be fucking happening. There was a pungent thick air that invaded his sense and breathed onto his tongue. The woman laid on the floor with red crimson coating her pale skin. Chunks of her black hair and skull were slain across the floor. He watched in horror as some kind of creature, hovered over her to chew. It’s hands were covered in red and bits of brain matter like a butcher.
He didn’t hesitate to react, screaming at it to get the fuck away from her. The thing practically snapped its neck to look at him and began it’s disgusting approach. It had to be human, but it didn’t move like one. In fact, the thing crawled over towards him on all fours, one of its radii, stuck out of its swollen elbow. Woojin felt frantic, adrenaline poured through his veins as he ran around the room. The creature attempted to follow him, drooling with a blank face and unable to produce any expression. Shit, what could he do? He grabbed a wooden chair and waved it up and down, to warn it away. The creature was unrelenting so he decided to just smash the chair into its face. It’s vocals fried in a nauseating groan, but got right back up to his dismay. He swung the object hard, right into its tiny head. This time it screeched but the crawling continued. Running over the kitchen island, Woojin yanked a draw open, searching for anything he could before the strange creature could grip its sweaty claws into him.
“This is in self defence!” He screamed before thrusting a metal fork into its neck. It wasn’t difficult to penetrate the flesh, as it seemed the sack and break apart like a delicate fruit. He felt absolutely disgusted and his hands were now violently shaking to grab something else and stop the beast. It was a butter knife that he found himself holding onto for dear life. Again, he stuck it through its abdomen with such force, the creature was shoved backwards. He couldn’t believe his fucking eyes but the monster didn’t even bat an eye at the utensils sticking into it from multiple places. Grabbing a sharper knife this time, he felt the ting of the fucker’s ribs individually, as he stabbed it repeatedly in the torso. Everything seemed futile. The creature groaned in hideous contortion, unhinging its jaw to display layers of black and broken teeth. The man squirmed away before it could sink it’s muzzle into him, and looked around for anything he could. A television? The black box looked heavy enough to trap it, he thought.
Indeed it was extremely heavy, and he felt his muscles being pulled like duck breast as he heaved it. He managed to slam it straight down onto the crawling body. Glass and bones cracked as the thing wailed around upon impact. Honestly, the entire ordeal was getting ridiculous because it’s limbs still seized and dislocated, trying to claw at him; even from under the weight of the hearty object. That was no human. He felt deflated of all energy, breathing heavily and trying to calculate the events that had just taken place. Almost falling over, he struggled to the woman's body in which had been lying still since he’d arrived. His eyes flicked over the gruesome site and he bit his tongue. She was undeniably dead. Her head had been cracked open, blood clots and brain matter stuck to the skull and blood pooled onto the floor. It was not possible for her to still be alive but he checked the cold artery in her neck, just to be sure. As he feared, there was no response.
The street bore bright flashing lights and the siren ran straight through him as he stumbled out of the apartment. One of the men in uniform quickly made his was towards him to steady his arching body.
“There’s… someone and there was a creature..” he murmured between fat breaths of air.
The man waved at some other soldiers who took no time to pile drive past him and into the building, without hesitation. He was shocked and simultaneously thankful that they seemed to understand him.
“You right there pal?” He heard the man ask, patting his shoulder.
Woojin coughed and nodded. “I… tried to help.. but she was.. dead.”
The man sighed. “I'm surprised no one's collected you yet. We’re evaluating the area.”
Woojin looked up and swallowed. His throat felt as if there were grains of sand stuck in it. “What?” Was all he could manage out of his lungs.
The guy almost laughed. “You need to get to a bomb shelter man.”
“A bomb shelter?!”
The man just scratched his head. “Have you been living under a rock?”
Woojin could barely even answer the question, no sounds left his mouth.
The man sighed heavily before speaking. “Look, I’m not supposed to be telling you this because we were told not to scare the public into mayhem. But we’re going to be bombed. There’s already three confirmed missiles to drop around Seoul in the next half hour.”
Woojin’s mouth hung open. “Who the fuck would want to bomb Korea?” He yelled in disbelief.
“You really don’t know why?”
Woojin shook his head.
The soldier sighed in vapour, pulling a white cigarette to his lips, “It’s the unknown disease. There is no cure, and countries are panicking on what to do before it infects the entire world.” He flicked at the spark wheel on his chromatic lighter, emitting a tiny flame which fluttered in the wind.
Before he could even squeak, a series of bullets ruptured from his apartment building.
Woojin’s ankle rolled in fright, and the soldier pulled him back up by the forearm, blowing a cloud of thick ash into his face which burned his eyes.
“So they’re bombing us because of a disease we can’t control?” Woojin coughed.
The man lifted his shoulders, “I guess It’s more of an excuse to than anything. Bro, mark my words, this is only the beginning of the end. And it’s not even a war against the disease anymore, this is a war against the world.”
Woojin’s body felt nothing but gross. Coldness ran down his spine and through his lymph’s. He had to get out of there. His feet stumbled over each other as he began to sprint into the car park.
His fingers shook on the tepid upholstery of the car. His heart was still pounding against his rib cage in rapid succession, brain barely functioning to find some kind of stability as he sat blankly. His teeth cut a bite into his tongue as he thought about what to do. The coldness of the key burned his hand but he still started the rumble of the engine. No way was he going to stay in Seoul, for all he knew, if this was a war then the capital would be the first to go. He didn’t have anywhere to escape to, nor did he have any family or friends to check were safe. What to do. What to do. A face flashed through his eyes. Chan? But they were barely even friends? He stirred in silence at the thought of him, and then had to punch himself as he came to the realisation that Changbin had only just mentioned the blonde was out of town the day prior. Fuck, was he more or less safe out there? He questioned to himself.
He ran his hands through his pockets and pulled out his phone to make an attempt at texting the number he’d been given on the day they’d met. The screen blared, and he immediately felt cold upon seeing the ‘no service’ symbol haunt his vision. He turned on the radio to only static. Questions swarmed his brain with worry. Contact was down. He had to make a decision quickly. Right, Okay, he could just drive there, and see if Chan had arrived. If he wasn’t, then he would simply leave. If he was, then they would escape together. That was the consensus he came to, unable to even comprehend another thought, or else he’d probably pass out.
Chapter 11: Hwang Hyunjin
Hyunjin’s eyes were heavy and stuck closed in his skull with discomfort. A disarray of various voices presented into his ears like they were on a silver platter. He looked around at the room he was in, magazines, pizza boxes and unwashed dishes adorned the place. No one seemed to be around him, but a cluster of young men were arguing just across the way. It had been a while since he’d last ended up at a stranger’s house and he groaned, stretching his back in a knot of pops like his spine was made of bubble-wrap. Hyunjin shivered and pushed his hair back from his forehead, that had been matted with sweat. He noticed he was cold, incredibly so, using his fingernails to stroke the goosebumps on his arm.
“Guys he’s awake!” He heard a voice call out in his direction. He felt a warm hand on his back and used all of his strength to open his eyes. Many faces seemed to blur together in a mirage, although he was thankful that the constant bickering had finally stopped.
“How are you feeling?” He heard a young man with black hair and a sharp jawline ask in a nasally voice.
“Like shit.” He replied in a grumbling vocal fry.
“I’m not surprised.” Another voice made its way into his throbbing conscious. This time it was from a short looking guy who had an incredibly uniform brown bowl cut on his head. Hyunjin mentally retched at the horrid look.
“What happened last night?” He asked rubbing the sleep from his sore eyes.
“We found you unconscious. I think you were drugged or some shit bro.” The brown haired kid vocalised cheerfully.
“Yeah I noticed.” He could still remember it vividly, imprinted into his brain. One minute he was downing hard liquor with his friend like his life depended on it, and the next he was being tossed around like a tennis ball.
“I could still hear everything but I couldn’t open my eyes, talk or control my body. It was fucking terrifying.” He searched his memory and felt like throwing up. He vaguely recalled the room of his house beginning to swirl in circles and then followed constant, violent outbursts of vomiting that ripped out his nose so that he couldn’t breath. He shook his head and tried to refrain from the nausea that accompanied the thoughts. “How did I get here?”
Everyone in the room fell silent and looked around at each other for some kind of approval.
“We took you with us because we thought you wouldn’t be too thrilled about being arrested.” The blacked haired guy commented.
“Oh the police came?” He stated, obviously not too surprised. When his eyes finally adjusted, he was acquainted with the amicable sharp features of a familiar blonde boy. “Jeongin?”
The room looked at the blonde boy and he kind of half smiled.
“Uh, hey man.” The younger uttered quietly.
“You let them take me out of my own fucking house?” Hyunjin questioned.
Every pair of eyes drew their attention back to him, eagerly awaiting a reply.
“Wait, you knew this guy?” The raven haired man asked Jeongin, his voice raised in a confused tone.
Jeongin seemed to ignore the man and began his answer. “Hyunjin, you were out of it. I wasn’t going to just leave you there.”
“I don’t give a shit, I would’ve been fine. All my friends were there to look after me. Jesus, thanks a lot, now my house is probably on fucking fire or something.” Hyunjin groaned.
The brown haired boy with the hideous haircut, laughed out loud at his sentence, heaving uncontrollably. Everyone else had a blank expression on their face.
“They were never your friends.” Jeongin remarked, pulling at the hairs on his arms nervously.
“What the fuck did you just say to me?”
“They were trying to kill you, that’s why you were drugged.” He said without breaking eye contact, nor breaking the sincerity in his articulation. The entire room unsettled in a gasp of anarchy.
“Wait, Jeongin, so you knew the house would blow up and didn’t tell us?” Yelled a tall brown haired boy who was wearing an impressively white shirt. He appeared to cough on his own spit.
“No, Seungmin. Of course I didn’t fucking know that.” The younger asserted his voice. “I knew they were mad but I didn’t know they were also suicidal. And it wasn’t like I expected you would be coming anyway.”
“WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU JUST SAY?” Hyunjin screeched.
The brown haired boy erupted in a squeaky laugh again. “Jisung shut the hell up.” Everyone hushed his incessant irritating snickering.
“THAT WAS MY FUCKING HOUSE, WHAT DO YOU MEAN IT BLEW UP!?”
“Well it’s exactly what it sounds like.” The annoying boy who was apparently dubbed the title of Jisung, remarked nonchalantly. God, he wanted to smack the boy up the back of his bulbous head.
The door burst open into the apartment with such force that the windows shook in their frames. Everyone appeared startled as a gritty looking blonde man trudged through the door, stumbling over himself.
“Channie hyung, You’re alive!” Jisung merrily pursued at the guy.
“Only barely.” He remarked, although he paused as he looked around the mess of the apartment and then at the mess of teenagers that had gathered around the coach. “Jisung, you little shit! I told you no parties.” He yelled in outrage.
“I don’t know who half these fuckers are!” The short boy refuted with a snap of his large teeth.
“Then what are all these kids doing in my apartment?” The blonde dude revoked. A vein popped from his neck as he threw a large bag onto a crowded table with a thump. “I don’t have time for this crap. Listen, It’s the fucking end of the world. The unknown has taken over like it’s the bloody zombie apocalypse. I’m not making this shit up, in fact I wish I was.”
Hyunjin listened diligently to the man’s strange story, having barely any words floating in his brain to contribute.
“There’s no contact, no signal, it’s just static.” The man aggressively fumbled around the filthy room in search of the television remote. He turned it on and unfortunately, all that appeared was nothing. Silence emitted, painfully loud.
“Well fuck me.” The black haired man suggested, pushing his long nails through his locks of hair. “You wouldn’t happen to have a cigarette would you?” He asked the blonde man, worry written all over his face like a book.
Chan fiddled in his back pocket before opening a small red package and consequently shaking his head. “I don’t remember smoking them, I’m sorry.”
“How are we supposed to survive the apocalypse without cigarettes?”
Another sudden jolt, shook the entire room when the door swung open again, off its hinges. A fit of piercing screams broke the tension as a tanned man burst through the door, covered head to toe in blood.
“Zombie! It’s a fucking zombie” Jisung shouted, pathetically clawing for the remote, about to throw it at him. Someone grabbed his wrist before he could do so.
“No you idiot, that’s Woojin.”
“Woojin, are you a zombie?!” The short brunette frantically questioned as if a zombie would have had the ability to reply.
The man breathed heavily and held onto the wall for support.
“No… I’m not… a fucking.. zombie!...and why… is your… apartment.. on such a… high... floor?” He huffed in between phrases. “I came to warn you, it’s the unknown.”
“Yeah no shit, Chan just told us all about that.” Jisung scrutinised him sarcastically.
Woojin looked up and quickly ran over to the group, opening his arms to the blonde man for a hug. “Oh thank god you’re alive.” He smiled at Chan.
“Woah, woah there, how about a hug after you’ve taken a shower.”
Woojin looked down at himself and was shocked to notice his clothes completely soaked in vibrant red. “Oh sorry.”
Jisung didn’t waste any time to break the tone of the moment. “So, did you bring any food?” He asked Woojin.
“Does it fucking look like I had time to bring snacks?” The man scoffed gesturing to the turmoil he was covered in.
“Then we’re just going to have to eat each other because there’s nothing left in the fridge. I have dibs on the blonde one” He said looking at Jeongin, who just rolled his thin eyes.
“Right, what the hell are we going to do?” The black haired dude questioned. “Woojin, do you have the keys to the store you work at, across the road?”
The tall man looked disapproving but hesitated to grope the pockets of his long jacket, and retrieve his set of keys. “Well, I guess this is really it huh. This is going to be the rest of our lives.” He sighed, staring at the pointed metal between his fingers.
“I don’t give a fuck if it’s the apocalypse. You’re taking me back to my house, now.” Hyunjin demanded.
“Don’t be stupid, there’s nothing left of it. And besides, police have probably blocked off the whole neighbourhood by now.” Jeongin suddenly piped up into the conversation.
“But what about my family?”
“You can’t go out there or you’ll be killed or infected.” Inclined Woojin.
“And you think I care? You ruined my life!” Hyunjin pronounced, his vocal cords straining his throat.
“No, we saved your life.” Jeongin rebutted.
Hyunjin drove his shaking hands over his head as his voice cracked in a sob. “You should’ve just let me burn in that fire.”
Jisung didn’t share any sympathy. “Just let him go, I don’t care if he dies. I don’t even know this dude.”
“No, we’re not letting him leave.” Remarked Jeongin. “He may be an asshole but he’s my friend. If he goes then I go.”
“You can’t seriously be defending him. He almost got you killed.” Interfered Seungmin to the younger.
“Okay, for all I care you can both go!” Jisung sang.
“No Jeongin stays.” Seungmin dismissed his statement.
“Hell, you can all fucking leave then.”
“No! Seungmin’s my friend. We’re keeping that one.” The blacked haired man punched Jisung in the shoulder, to which he exhaled dramatically.
“Okay fine. I’ll drive around whoever wants to see their family so that you can decide your own fates. The rest of you can go rob the store. How does that sound?” Chan rolled his eyes as he suggested to come to a coalition.
There was barely a consensus, only arguing that ensured inside the tight room.
Woojin’s wet slipper mopped the hard floor with lingering stress. Just as Chan was about to reach for the door handle, his body seemed to move in possession, grabbing him by the sleeve of his black jacket.
“I don’t know you that well but, tell me you’ll be alright out there.” He remarked quietly to the blonde man.
Chan didn’t say much but he nodded, earnest in his expression.
Leaning in close to his ear, Woojin whispered, “You’ll need to hurry.”
He watched the young man’s face turned inside out to find a reply. “Why?” Was all he asked.
The older had to swallow loudly, as his salivary glands swarmed his mouth with moisture. His body seemed to not want to answer, but he did anyway “We’re being bombed.” He cleared his throat to say.
“Are you serious?” Chan ran his long veiny fingers through his scratchy hair.
“Unfortunately. There’s no cure to that stupid fucking disease and we’re sitting ducks just begging to get our brains blown out here.” Woojin Answered, staring at the floor and clenching his jaw so firmly that it hurt.
A series of questions regurgitated out of the blonde’s sewn mouth in a panic of emotions. “So what do you suggest, escaping to another country? How is that any safer?” He scoffed.
Of course Woojin didn’t exactly have a reply to those questions, all he knew was they weren’t safe where they currently stood. He swallowed again, “Well we need to be anywhere but Seoul. I have a feeling that the capital will be the first to go.” He declared.
Chan just looked off into the distance for a while before bringing himself back down to earth. “I think I know a place.” He announced with a face smitten with fear. “But how can I let any of these kids out of my sight?” He snapped his tense neck over to the rustling teenagers that were trying to kill each other at the opposite end of the room. His dark eyebrows were strung high on his pinned forehead.
Woojin thought lavishly about how to reply, “Maybe you should. We don’t have the right to tell them what to do.”
“I’m not going to be responsible for letting anyone die if I can help it. I think they should just come with us.” Chan quickly revoked.
His voice was outstanding loudly in the room so Woojin drew his finger to his lips to hush him back down. “We’re not going to kidnap anyone! Why don’t we just pick up strangers off the street while we’re at it.” The older announced, his tone coated in sarcasm.
Chan didn’t reply, but he walked over to the large bag in which he’d planted on the table a short time earlier. He unzipped it and lugged out a hand sized black gun.
Woojin felt speechless at the very sight of the foreign object. “Where did you get that?” He asked before Chan planted it into his shaking hands without a sound. The object felt heavier than it looked. “I can’t take this.” He said, tone pointed in despair.
“You might need it.”
“What if you need it?” He watched in unexpectant curiosity as his friend pulled out another small automatic.
“I’ll be set.” Chan replied, cocking his eyebrows with a serious tone.
Before anyone could leave into the unknown chaos, he felt compelled to yell out, “Just hurry!” His heart palpitated with stress and concern, still holding the metal of the gun in his red hands so delicately that it could be considered a newborn. As the door closed, the room felt emptier, and likewise much more cold. His coat lay heavy and wet on his shoulders, shirt sticky to his torso with blood. Perhaps a shower would do him good.
He walked through his friend’s apartment, the temperature of each room seemed to drop more and more the further he got from human life. Small intricate details subtly hinted at past memories and experiences. He couldn’t help the smile that draped over his cheeks as he noticed the small photographs of Chan’s family that sat in picture frames and clung onto the walls for dear life. The room felt loud. Scribbles of words covered old notepads and pictures of 3racha hugged the pin board on the wall. Small sad boxes of cigarettes overflowed a table and Woojin’s organs promptly felt heavy in his body. He searched around Chan’s room for anything that resembled a dresser. Honestly he was not surprised to see nothing but black consume the small space of the younger’s closet. In retrospect, he hadn’t seen the man wear anything but black since they'd met. It was almost endearing. The man took it upon himself to select a fresh pair of dark jeans and a long sleeved black shirt, hoping that they’d fit him.
Once in the bathroom, he peeled off the stained linen from his tired body and turned on the taps of the shower that squeaked loudly at him. He was thankful that the water was running at all, although still sighed, realising the ‘hot’ indicator had lied to him. He knew there would be no warm water but it didn’t hurt to hope. As he braced himself and climbed inside the tight box, the liquid was so cold that it burned his tight muscles. He whined contracting them on instinct as the temperature turned his skin white. Hands shaking, he pushed his palms over the dried blood that stuck to him as a vivid reminder of how useless he was. He couldn't help but let the thoughts of the women’s corpse flash through him. Even though the cream coloured tiles of the shower were also absent of any comfort, he pushed his head against them to let the water run down his eyeballs, unblinking, just as she was in his mind. The ache of tiredness finally caught up with him, he felt ill and heavy.
Fingers stiff with bone, he cut off the circuits, and grabbed a towel to scramble it through his brown hair. While pulling on Chan’s shirt, his senses were pleasantly surprised at the livelihood of the lingering scent of cologne. After all, the blonde probably sprayed that shit around religiously as if he were a teenager without deodorant. It smelled of passion, fresh and young with a hint of stinging hard liquor.
“Hyung!” A voice bounced from the walls of the apartment. His eyes rolled in the sockets at how impatient Jisung was.
“Just a second.” He called back. How in the hell did Chan put up with those bastards? He wondered, fixing the clothes that clung to him much too tightly for his comfort.
He opened the door and walked back through the rooms. The hallway wasn’t quiet, despite most people being absent from it. Jisung and Changbin were giggling with each other like five year olds playing dress up. They both sported backpacks and black beanies over their faces that had holes cut out of the for them to see and breath.
“You do this often?” He asked out of impulse. “I think the police have better things to do than arrest us. You know, since the country’s practically crawling with vectors.” He vocalised at the two.
Jisung looked up from fiddling in his bag to remark something childish. “Wow you’re educated.”
“Take those stupid things off, this isn’t a video game.”
Jisung gripped at the black fabric and lifted it onto his forehead with a sharp stare. “Fine dad.” He replied, pushing a large bag into Woojin’s hands. “So who are you cosplaying as, the shoeless bandit?” The younger suddenly mocked.
Woojin looked down at his bare feet and made an unimpressed face at the boy’s words, although he did ran back to Chan’s room to borrow anything that would fit him.
He wasn’t exactly excited to see the stairs again, but he did find it amusing how Jisung took no time to slide down the handrail. The kid may have been an idiot, but he sure was funny. The type of funny that didn’t even know he was funny. Seriously, he almost considered pushing the brat off, just to see how funny he’d look if karma wasn’t so kind. There was no noise apart from their feet pummelling down the concrete steps and the hum of the artificial light that flickered about them. He tried not to question it, he didn’t want to worry. But the absence of sound was probably because the block had been abandoned.
Out the door of the last floor, the street was practically barren. The smell of smoke and fire settled thick in the air and the thump of a helicopter waved overhead. They walked over the road to the little shop that was cut out of the wall like a piece of missing lego. Woojin patted his pockets and pulled out his set of keys, blinking a few times for his eyes to focus on which was which.
“Dude, hurry up.” Jisung huffed. God damn that kid needed some respect beaten into him. Woojin ignored his complaining and placed his attention back onto the ringing of the metal in his fingers. Eventually he found the correct one and unlocked the heavy protector, stringing it upwards to climb under. There was no light, so Woojin stumbled in the dark to find his torch. The three of the shined spotlights over the area. It all looked exactly how he’d left it, and he couldn’t help but pull a sweet smile knowing this was probably the last time he’d be acquainted with it. Sure, he’d had some shit experiences and gotten shit pay, but he’d still spent a portion of his life there. In fact the reality of change had barely settled into his brain in the first place.
He sighed his thoughts away, “Right we should start with necessiti-.” He postponed his own sentence as Jisung had already disappeared straight to the snack aisle. Pushing his eyelids closed, Woojin massaged his brain to calm his rapidly increasing blood pressure. A hand smashed onto his shoulder so he opened his eyes back up to see Changbin.
“Don’t worry, I'm listening.” The young man pronounced.
Woojin smiled at him sadly and pretended to be fine. “Just grab as many high fibrous things as you can. Like sealed cans or food that won’t go out of date.” He remarked. Changbin nodded and patted him on the back a few more times, before complying.
“Hey hold on.” He found himself muttering. “Can I ask you something?”
“Sure.” Changbin vocalised, shrugging his shoulders.
“What about your family?” He asked unconfidently, cautious of how the other might react.
Changbin smiled again. “They can rot in hell.” He replied without a break of character.
“Oh…” was all Woojin could mutter in response.
It was a bit awkward so Changbin spoke again, “Yeah, they’ve probably all caught a jet to some private island by now.” The young man’s eyes seemed to sulk but the smile stained his lips. “Not like I care really. I hope they’re dead.”
Woojin’s face was scrunched in silence, he didn’t exactly know what to say. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
Nasally laughter filled the space around them and Changbin hit him on the back repeatedly, much too hard. “No I’m sorry you had to hear that.” He emphasised, expelling the last few chuckles out of his chest.
“And him?” Woojin questioned pointing in the direction of various questionable crunches where Jisung was last seen.
“God knows what’s up with him.” Changbin shook his head with a smirk. “His family was probably a pack of wild squirrels. But I want to know about you.”
“Me?...” Woojin asked out loud, unsure if he was asking the man in front of him or if he was asking himself. “I don’t have any more family here.” He replied, sticking his eyes to the dirty ground.
Changbin hummed. It was surprisingly more comforting than him making something up about sympathy. “Well what are family’s good for anyway? Friends are your real brothers and sisters.”
“I don’t have any of those either.” Woojin commented, his head still bowed.
“So I’m nothing to you?” The young man smiled at him. That was the last thing he said before veering off to explore the aisles.
Woojin stood blankly with a smile that remained for an embarrassing amount of time. He shook his head to snap back to reality. Right supplies.
The brown haired man made his way to the end of the store, and flicked his light source to an old wooden door that had mould growing on the bottom of it. A sign hung sadly with the words ‘staff only’, seemingly inviting him to enter. He did so, and flashed the touch over the boxes that clustered the tight space. As he searched through them time efficiently, packing a few cans and bottles into the black bag he’d been given, he was pleasantly surprised to notice a familiar sight. A small red first aid kit lay at the bottom, staring at him. He unzipped it to note what was inside. An epipen, a series of different coloured bandages, a pen and notepad, alcohol swabs, scissors, metal tools and a number of other things wrapped in plastic. He zipped it back up and placed it into his backpack, hoping he’d never have to use it but feeling lucky that he’d found it.
Lol yeah my syntax is ridiculous and the dialogue is all over the place. Help how write. Drop me a comment if you’ve made it this far :| hhhhh I’m lonely. Be aware that I wrote Jeongin as a ray of sunshine but bad things always happen to him, poor guy. Explicit themes ahead.
Also the side effects mv and lyrics seem to go perfectly with this au so yeet.
The crack of daylight peaked onto the empty streets, only the distant richoches and rumble of gunfire was present. The road felt strangely lonely as the small car jolted and the indicator ticked, disassociating Chan’s messy head. His vision seemed to blur, reminding him of the sleep he’d missed for the past week. Despite the small space being occupied with people, no one said a word.
“Left.” Someone suddenly spoken.
Chan frowned before turning the wheel. “So how did you all end up in my apartment again?” He questioned at the bunch.
The tall one spoke again from the back seat. His arms were tightly crossed against his chest. “Yes Jeongin, please explain how I ended up on a strangers coach.” He professed.
“Well it wouldn’t be the first time.” Chan heard another voice but in. It appeared to have come from the boy in the passenger side. His hair was messy and blonde, sticking to the upholstery of the car seat.
“Left again.” Chan fixated his attention back to his mirror and observed the taller boy draw his top lip back like a snarling dog. “At least I have a life.” He snorted in a satirical sense. “And I don’t have to spend my time with losers.”
The comment seemed to be directed towards the brown haired boy who sat beside him. They’d both positioned themselves as far away from each other as possible, starring with constricting tension for a while as the car gently swayed them.
“Least he has a real friend.” rebutted the brunette, lips tightly pressed in aggression.
“Yeah he has plenty, and none of which include you. I’ve never even heard of you.” The taller revoked in disgust.
“For your information I never wanted to bring you along.”
Chan’s facial expression furrowed as the two bickered. “Is anyone going to answer my question?” He asked.
“Well I don’t know how they all ended up there because I was drugged and abducted.” The black haired one responded, his face displaying every repelling emotion. “And turn right here.” He added.
“Hyunijin, not this again.” Jeongin suddenly professed firmly from Chan’s side, rubbing his temples with his thin fingers.
Hyunjin practically laughed in retaliation, “Do you even know how much I spent on that party? I can’t believe you had to go and ruin it for me.” His tone was pointed as he criticised.
“I never even wanted to be there...” The younger squeaked quietly to himself, scrunching his legs close to his body and pushing his head into them.
“What?” Hyunjin yelled at him with piercing hostility.
“I said, otherwise you’d be dead.” Jeongin lied. His voice was weak and on the verge of breaking. Chan couldn’t help but feel sorry for the kid. From what little he could gather the boy was kind hearted. Yet he had to wonder how in the hell he’d managed to sink his hook into such shitty situations.
“You’re full of it.” Hyunjin chuffed in a mumble of words.
The younger whipped his neck around violently to look him in the eye. “You think I’m kidding? They were planning your fucking murder! Does that sound funny?” His voice had turned shrill as he raised it.
Chan didn’t exactly want to intervene with the conversation yet he didn’t know which direction to turn. “Which way?” he asked at the bustling gang.
“Why the fuck would my own friends want to kill me?” Hyunjin screamed at the blonde boy.
“Listen to yourself. Maybe it’s because you’re selfish asshole!”
Even though there were no vehicles on the road, Chan was getting sick of the teenagers and their persistent bitching. “Which way do I turn?!” He commanded an answer.
“JUST CRASH WHY DON’T YOU.” Hyunjin roared without thinking.
Luckily Jeongin was more civil in his reply, “Left.” He said, dulling his tone.
Unfortunately Hyunjin didn’t stop arguing for a second, voice full of deafening anger. “If you knew, why didn’t you tell me?!” He questioned and pointed his finger in condemnation.
“I don’t fucking know!” The younger yelled, expression now impatiently frantic, eyes wide without constraint. “I was scared. Too scared to say a thing, too scared to disappoint my mother, too scared to say no, too scared to stop smiling. I’m sorry okay? I never wanted to be a part of any of this. I never wanted to end up at a stranger’s house either. But now I have to be glad I did or else we’d all be dead.” The younger spat, his high voice cracking dryly like he was seconds away from a breakdown.
Chan felt his mouth turn dry at the poor boys words. He tried to piece the story together but It was all very confusing. The baring of a siren didn’t at all help his developing migraine. “Are you sure this is the right place?” He asked as the car approached a large temporary fence that was crawling with police officers. Hyunjin undid his seatbelt to push himself forward and get a better view of the blockade in front of them. ”Put your seatbelt back on!” Chan scolded at the boy who appeared to ignore him. An officer strode towards the vehicle, sporting immaculate uniform and an untamed eyebrows. Naturally, Chan rolled down his window.
“Can I help you?” The man asked.
Hyunjin took it upon himself to answer the question with another, “What the hell is going on here?” He snapped more bravery than Chan ever would’ve.
“This area has been blocked off.” The man replied.
“But I live here.” Hyunjin protested.
“Can I see some identification then?” He asked, cocking his thick eyebrow.
“Fuck no you can’t. This is a public suburb.” Hyunjin condemned without fear of repercussion. Chan made some kind of noise to display his disapproval of the profanity.
“I’m sorry but we’ve been requested to secure this area since there was an outbreak of the Unknown last night.” He peacefully established.
“There’s cases all over the damn country! My family is in ther-”
“-Sorry kid, but you’re all going to have to leave now.” The man interrupted.
Hyunjin’s mouth hung open in offense “You’re going letting me in there. Or I'll be in contact with my lawyers.” He warned.
“The only thing you’ll be doing is getting your asses out of here before I take some bloody action.” The officer spat back.
“They’re paying you aren’t they? You can’t just choose to protect the rich when there are people who need help out there.” The young man professed with quick wit. Chan thought the words were amusing, considering how unchivalrous the guy had been just a minute earlier.
The police officer wasn’t so discerning to his heroism. “Get the hell out of here now.”
Before Hyunjin could protest any further, the window wound back up. This elicited a very sporadic reaction from the boy, who tried to press at the window button and claw for the door.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing!” He screamed, trying to exit the car any way he could. He even crawled over the boy he’d given a fat lip to earlier but neither door would budge. “Let me out” He yelled, voice cracking.
“Get the hell off me.” The boy reacted, shoving him away.
“Just let it go Hyunjin.” Jeongin tried to calm the situation as the tall boy’s mouth practically foamed.
“-You’re going to be shot if you do anything else stupid.” Jeongin forcefully asserted his point.
As the car reversed from the area and began to roll away, Hyinjin squirmed around pathetically. “I’m seriously being kidnapped! Jeongin you’ve ruined my fucking life.” He sulked.
“Oh don’t kid yourself.” The younger muttered under his breath. “I’d hardly call getting high and drunk alone every night, a life.”
“Shut your fucking mouth! How can you talk about living when you practically live on the street?”
“Take that back.” The brunette commanded in defence of the younger. “His family works harder than you’ll ever know. Not everyone can afford to hate themselves as much as you.”
“Who the fuck do you think you are even talking to me? I’m surprised you haven’t killed yourself yet when you’re literally worthless to society.” Hyunjin barked and spat the words like it were second nature.
“Woah. That is quite enough.” Chan finally intervened, although the situation only seemed to get worse.
“I’ll kill you!” The brunette screeched. Chan watched as the kid undid his own seatbelt and grabbed for the tall boys throat. A mess of hands, teeth and clothing jumbled around just out of his view.
“Stop it Seungmin!” Jeongin screamed from the passenger side. To Chan’s dismay, he too undid his seatbelt to leap into the chaos and try to prevent the fight. The older man didn’t have any patience left for such bullshit. He abruptly skidded the wheels on the asphalt road and exited the car, wasting no time to rip open the back door and pull out the roughhouse of teenagers onto the hard ground. They didn’t seem to want to separate, as Seungmin latched his limbs over the young man and pinned him on the wet ground, nails strangling his arteries. Hyunjin choked and coughed, struggling to breath or wriggle his arms free from the brunettes weight. As he thrashed around against the rough texture of the asphalt, the skin on Hyunjin’s back ripped painfully. Both Jeongin and Chan had to put in a great deal of effort to subtract the boys, still beading with sweat and adrenaline in their hyperactive bodies. They pried against the constraints and inhaled to catch their breaths, hands slick and tattered with hyunjin’s blood that lined the road.
A shrill cry barated through the emptiness of the street. All men shook their heads towards the noise, wide eyed with distraction. A strange body crawled in manageled disfigurement, by it’s bruised arms. The thing’s legs appeared to be broken in many placed, fed with thick black veins that consumed the limbs.
“Ew what the fuck.” Hyunjin coughed, voice beaten and battered. It breathed in a groan of drool, eyes unblinking and whole; as it’s nails scraped slowly towards them. It was just a snap of a twig, but Chan forced his body to turn aroun. Another life form rushed straight towards them, head unnaturally docked to the side and legs dragging as if it had just learned to walk. Chan pulled the three kids away from the scene and shoved them towards the vehicle again. All climbed inside the back in a crowded and disorganised manner. The older man launched himself into the driver's seat and pushed the pedal with vigorous compulsion. The engine revved and abruptly sped down the road. As the gang of kids slid around in the back their arms fumbled around for something to hold onto as Chan turned a corner without mercy.
The rest of the drive was quiet, but they eventually ended up around Seungmin’s part of town. The sites became more and more harrowing as they slowly drove through. Bodies seemed to have limbs torn off completely, some screaming. Chan gulped feeling his ears ringing and body grow heavy. The area was badly broken, stores had smashed glass that draped over the streets. A dog howled a cry for help, to no one in particular. It was a truly depressing sight.
“Fuck.” He heard Seungmin mutter. Hands tightly gripping his chestnut hair as he looked out the window. The car kept on, and the sites slowly become more devastating. Huge chasms were blown from roads and houses, parts of what once was, littered the road with tarnish. Some buildings had completely crumbled all together. “What happened?” The young boy asked for anyone to answer, “No, no, no” He repeated, his hands holding on tighter, almost pulling some strands from his scalp.
“I’m sorry.” Chan tried to console the poor guy as it was obvious that the whole place had been obliterated.
“What. How. How could this happen?”
Jeongin tried to keep him from killing his brain cells any further by gently pulling his hand away from his hair. Surprisingly, Hyunjin didn’t utter much response at all. He definitely didn’t seem sympathetic to the crying boy, yet he sneaked his eye to stare at him occasionally, displaying some kind of emotion.
“Why wasn’t I here? Why didn’t I save them.” Tears formed and sparkled in the boys eyes.
“No you couldn’t have. It’s not your fault.” Jeongin tried to say anything he could to help. Seungmin didn’t reply, face paralysed in regret, fear and something like sadness. He tried to hide his face in his knees, curling over himself. Chan watched the steam rise peacefully from the cracks in the ground that surged through the broken streets. The whole area was completely gone. All that was left was the discourse of cracked concrete, broken buildings and the distant cry of those unfortunate enough to still be alive. Chan’s brain was throbbing against his skull and he bit the skin on his thumb. What Woojin had warned him about was right in front of him.
When they arrived in Jeongin’s washed up downtown area, it was thankfully still intact, aside from most buildings that had been ransacked. A few people still ran quickly around in the shadows, trapped in their own worlds of survival. “There, there!” Jeongin waved his finger in front of Chan’s nose. The older didn’t say anything and cautiously approached the small one story that seemed shoved onto the side of the street. The younger seemed excited, his nails digging into the car seat. Eventually Chan stopped to park and the younger didn’t hesitate to open the door and run inside.
“Hey kid, wait a second!” He tried to call out. Seungmin manoeuvred himself to follow the boy, but Chan recommended that he wait in the car. The older man moved quickly to exit the vehicle almost slipping on the wet ground to open the trunk. He lugged his bag over his shoulder and ran inside after the boy. Inside, Jeongin was frantically looking all around, calling for him mother and pinching the skin on his arm without notice it was turning purple.
“Mother, mother!” He echoed in the dark room to no response. The boys joyous smile was beginning to fade so Chan took it upon himself to help search for the women. The house was small but spacious, as there was barely any furniture in it. The place looked more sad than anything. Chan walked into the bedroom but it was too dark to see. He flailed his hand around in the large bag for a torch, gripping the heavy metal as it met his palm. As he shone the light onto the room, only a small desk supported a computer and two futons adorned the space. Still no signs of life. He felt himself swallow with the disheartening reality that he’d have to tell Jeongin she was gone. But suddenly he heard a sound, a thump, retch. A door sat quietly, just out of his peripheral.
He approached it with caution and knocked lightly. A struggling gasp retaliated from his gesture so he apprehensively slid the wood open, keeping the heavy metal of the torch tightly locked in his fingers. When he peered inside, light gliding to uncover the mystery of the darkness, he paused to take everything in. His leather boots squeaked on the blue tiles that crossed in a pattern on the floor. Looking left there wasn’t much, just a sink and a mirror that he flashed himself in the eyes with accidentally. He squinted for his poor pupils to recover and stared at his gruff appearance. Purple and blue embellished his drooping eyes, making him look a lot older than he previously remembered himself to be. His vision was blurry so he didn’t see it at first, but adrenaline poured into him with crippling panic. There, in the bathroom mirror he saw the hanging hunch of a silhouette, sway by a rope. Understandably, the denaturing of his nerves made it difficult to wake his body and turn around. He shined the light over it, unable to breathe, blink or look away. Her hair was dark and thinning, body weak and frail in an ironic tranquility. The rope had attached to an appendage in the roof, and she’d appeared to perform the unfathomable deed in the closure of the transparent shower glass. The body was brutally mutated in gore. The neck had snapped and the skin ripped to expose delicate tissue. The face was pale and the eyes glinted in red where blood vessels had popped from the pressure. Her body was slum and lifeless, burning into Chan’s stinging vision. As the touch travelled her freezing skin, he noticed a large chunk of flesh had been ripped out of her calf muscle, the blood around it had dried in clumps. A small note lay woeful on the windowsill, the words confusing and jarring to his eyes.
[Yang Jeongin, my sunshine my gracious]
The rest of the sentences trailed off into gibberish and incomprehensible squiggles on the page. Most phrases were disjointed or didn’t make any sense, but he could gather some things.
[It got me. I’m sorry (...) but I’m sorry. (...) I love you. (...) Turn (...) be good hurt (...)boy love.]
“Hyung?” Footsteps knocked against the hard floor in appending ascension.
No, he couldn’t let the kid see this. He slammed the door shut and held it between his quaking fingers, dropping the heavy metal torch in the process and cringing as the sound rang in his ears.
“What’s wrong, what is it?” Jeongin’s words were already tightly strained together in panic. He felt the boy attempt to pry the door open against Chan’s efforts. The body on the rope suddenly jolted in a groan, arms limply suspended in the air, fingerings crimping unnaturally. Chan’s body went into paralysis again.
“You don’t want to see this.” He uttered, voice rough and parched of moisture.
“Open the door!” The boy screamed.
“I can’t.” His body was conflicted on what to focus on, the door or the literal moving corpse that danced in the dark. A loud gurgle erupted from the woman's throat as the weight of her body put further pressure on the spine and neck. This caught Chan off guard, and in a moment of panic, Jeongin had the opportunity to vigorously slam open the door. He shoved the man out of his way to leap into the room and promptly feel to the floor at the site in front of him. Immediately, his hysterical cries bounced off the cold walls, and into the older’s poorly abused brain. Chan clamped his eyes shut as he couldn’t bare to hear the wallows of the poor boy, measly clumped and shaking uncontrollably.
“I’m sorry.” He tried to say but barely anything came out.
Again, the body shifted against the rope tied around it’s neck. Jeongin’s skinny legs scrambled towards his mother. Chan had to react quickly, grabbing him by his purple jumper and pulling him away to safety. The boy struggled against him, arms reaching to slide himself against the floor.
His words were muddled by his still flowing tears. “She’s alive, she’s still-“
“No she isn’t.” Chan tried to explain, having difficulty to find it in himself to restrain the poor soul.
“Look she’s moving.” He cried, hot liquid dropping onto Chan’s shaking hands.
“She’s gone, she’s infected.”
“No, no, no, no, no” He repeated hysterically, now seemingly defeated of energy and pathetically reaching his hands out to the corpse that poetically mimicked the same. It groaned, leaking fluid from it’s mouth. Chan hadn’t realised it himself but he was now hugging the boy for deal life, face pressed close to his ear and into his sweet smelling locks of hair. “No please let me just touch her.” he begged in between sobs. Chan rocked him back and forth as the kid broke in his arms. Oddly, he had the compulsion to cradle him as if Jeongin were his own younger brother.
“Oh my god Jeongin are you okay?” Seungmin rushed to his friend who had stained his face with tears and held his head tightly to the floor. Chan guided the kid back towards the vehicle to be consulted by the brunette. The second he was distracted by Seungmin’s inundation of worry, he rushed back inside. The gun stared motionlessly at him. Thoughts buzzed in his head as he held the cold metal, unable to make a decision on what to do. Should he? Was it worth killing the creature if it could kill someone else? His hands were pale but strict with veins, all fighting for blood. Cocking the barrel, he gently opened the shower door. The creature acted on impulse, trying to grab at him just out of reach. His grip shook as he pointed the object at the creature and loaded it like he’d seen it done movies. But this wasn’t a movie he realised as he lined it to the creatures head. He waited and watched it struggle, not it but her. Self doubt was not forgiving to him as he fought with himself to pull the trigger. No, all he saw was a frail old woman. How could he be so wise?
It was uncomfortably quiet in the dark apartment. The electricity was unresponsive so only the sunlight had a voice to speak. Woojin gnawed at his fingernail as he patiently waited for the door to budge, creak or even break open. Only the soft hum of Jisung’s voice covered the room in a melodramatic ambience. A flicker of warm light cast over Changbin’s face as he sparked the lighter in his hand to distracted himself. The door budged open, and Woojin’s face lit up to see his blonde friend in one piece, followed by three others.
“Didn’t do a very good job of ditching those kids.” Jisung remarked with sarcasm.
Chan didn’t reply as he looked around at the number of bags and boxes that covered the floor. “Do you think we’ll be okay with just this?” He asked towards Woojin.
“Well I don’t want to stay here to find out.” The taller man replied “Your friends are damn crazy you know?”
Chan sighed, “Yeah, tell me about it.” He lifted one of the heavy boxes filled with cans off the hard wood floor and lugged it under his arm. “We should just hurry up and leave before we’re obliterated. You should of seen the state of the places we saw man.” He spoke, looking into the older man’s eyes.
“You said you had someplace in mind?” Woojin asked him, disconcerted.
“My grandmother owns a farm.” He replied with an unwavering expression.
“Yeah, there’s barely anyone out that way so it’s pretty safe. But unless you have a better alternative-”
“-No, of course I don’t?” He interrupted the blonde man. The older thought hard for a good few moments before continuing, “My car hold five.”
Chan pulled his finger around the room to methodically count each person. “We’ll take two then.” He nodded to himself.
“I’ll just follow behind and you can lead the way, alright?”
“Out in the country it’s hard to get lost, trust me. You’ll be fine.” Chan’s laugh was brusque but still comforting to his nerves.
As they packed their shit into the two vehicles, Woojin rolled his eyes as he heard some of the kids began to bicker once again amongst each other.
“You can’t put Seungmin and Hyunjin in a car together or they’ll kill each other.” He heard Jeongin remark.
Jisung, of course would never miss an opportunity for a backhanded remark, “Might as well.” he snickered, being heavily animated in his gesticulations like he usually was.
“Fuck off.” Seungmin snapped at the short guy before storming off in tightly fashioned bitterness to sit in Chan’s car.
Changbin starred with an annoyed expression at Jisung, which evoked the small boy to say something
“What? It was just a joke.” He half smiled, to no response from anyone else. “What’s his problem anyway?”
Woojin didn’t want to be stuck with them fighting for another hour, so he bellowed out to summon the idiots, “Get in the car already or you’ll be staying here.” He slammed the car boot with unnecessary disturbance. Jisung, Changbin and Hyinjin crawled inside the tight space to the order’s dismay. Damn, how come he was always stuck with the loud ones?
About twenty minutes into the drive, the piercing vulgarity of the young boys was not in his best interest. Woojin tried to convince himself to at least try to like some of them, although it was quite an unrealistic task. Changbin was so far the highest on his list of likability, and unsurprisingly divergent to him; at the bottom was Jisung. Unfortunately, the radio still wasn’t working, so the boys had to create their own horrifying music. Jisung hollered out in ostentatious charisma, screaming some incomprehensible lyrics to a song that didn’t even exist, causing the older to roll his eyes and scrunch his nose. Changbin fed the kid’s dumb idea of entertainment and giggled at him scream the words like he was on American Broadway. It honestly gave him a headache. He noticed Hyunjin was sitting quietly but seemed to be enjoying the show, clinging to the black haired man’s muscular arm. Him and Changbin seemed to get along well, despite only knowing each other for an entirety of a few minutes and under questionable circumstances. Woojin skimmed his eyes over the road for only a moment, and then peered back into his mirror to see Jisung pulling out a cigarette.
“Excuse me? What the hell do you think you’re doing young man! Where did you even get that?” He asked a frenzy of impromptu questions at the youngster.
Jisung’s permanent cocky exterior didn’t even flinch. “From the store, duh.” He replied blankly.
“What! We’re in the middle of a world stage crisis and you fill your bag with cigarettes and snacks.” Woojin yelled in disbelief. No one seemed to take his disapproval seriously, as they kept their bastardly smiles plastered to their faces.
“Can I have one?” Hyunjin suddenly asked the brown haired boy.
“-No. You’re underage.” Woojin interrupted before he could receive a reply. “I mean, you can’t smoke in my car in the first place.”
Jisung laughed out loud, “Sorry bro, but you’re underage.” He shrugged his shoulders satirically towards Hyunjin.
Woojin mentally wanted to throttle the kid for mocking him. “Actually, you’re both underage.” He corrected himself, “just put those away before I throw them out the fucking window.”
Jisung didn’t pay any mind to his statement and lit the white stick of carcinogens in a blink.
“No, NO, no. Stop it right now!” Woojin yelled at the small boy as smoke stung the back of his throat.
“Relax man, I’ll smoke it outside.” Jisung assured him.
Woojin coughed out a reply, “What?”
He heard the small guy wind down the window and pull his small body to sit on the ledge, dangling half out of the car, limply and without any consideration for his safety. He screamed some kind of excited cowboy noise as the wind fought against him.
“What the fuck! Get your ass back in here!” The older man yelled, trying to assert his authority.
Laughter erupted from Changbin and Hyunjin, making the older man’s concentration on the road extremely difficult. He pressed a button on the control panel beside him and a yelp of fear emitted from the mischievous boy. Jisung managed to levy his body inside the window before it could automatically roll up and crush him. He pouted in contempt. The laugher was now louder and filling up the vehicle to drown him. Woojin couldn’t help but smile at how stupid the whole thing was, although he had to admit he did feel a little accomplished as no more putrid smoke was apprehending his senses.
He took a moment, away from the loud passengers, to take In the view. The road had thinned into dry grit and the surroundings were lush with large patches of land. But there was something scary about the scene. Woojin knew he’d never know the life of a street feline anymore and although the green was beautiful and expansive, he couldn’t help but feel trapped knowing it was the only choice they’d had. A horn blared a war cry and startled him. He watched Chan swirl his car around in front of him teasingly like a puppy wanting to play.
“Honk back!” Jisung insisted, still sitting without the precaution of a seatbelt.
“No.” Woojin replied blankly. He saw the boy frown a pout from his mirror.
“C’mon bro, how come you’re always so uptight? Chan’s never like this.” He whined dramatically and crossed his arms.
“Probably because I’m not Chan.”
“Yeah, you’re more like my dad.” He mumbled. “Just step on the gas for a second, it’ll be fun I promise!”
“No.” Woojin reaffirmed, he had confidence in his morals and no amount of childish whinging was about to change his mind.
Soon Changbin and Hyunjin were also in on the little plan. “You have to try it at least once in your life.” Changbin commented. Another honk could be heard from the other vehicle, coincidentally furthering the antagonism.
“There won’t be anyone on the road.” Jisung pulled himself out of his seat to flutter his eyelashes and the older man.
Woojin sighed heavily. “Put your seatbelt on.” He said quickly, but giving the kid literally no time to react before he slammed on the gas. The car produced an ear piercing wail and the boy knocked backwards into Changbin, quickly learning his lesson. The boys screamed and laughed as the cars smoked their tires in competition for the lead. Woojin eventually gave out and let Chan win, a smile hiding at the corners of his lips as Chan drove far ahead with victory. All these people were crazy.
“Do you feel better now Seungmin?” Chan asked with a smile at the boy, revving the engine a few more times.
Seungmin smiled with laughter as the breeze flew through his hair. “Yes, thank you.” He replied fondly.
Woojin’s car was slowly growing smaller in Chan’s back view mirror, and a sudden wave of nostalgia gripped him with claws. Memories of his father speeding along the same road flooded back to him momentarily, it was a similar thrill to that of himself as a child. He remembered how much fun it was when his dad would pump the gas down those vacant passages sometimes, when his family would visit his grandmother’s farm from Australia.
“My father used to do this with me.” He commented in the fresh air, looking over at Seungmin: who half smiled sweetly.
“Where is your family?” The question was sudden, catching Chan off guard.
He thought for a long while before replying, biting his cheek. “Safe I hope.”
“Did you see them often?”
“Well not as much as I should’ve. They were just… y'know, far away… and It was hard to keep in touch...” Chan swallowed harshly.
“Far away? Seungmin asked inquisitively.
“Yes.” Chan confirmed. “Australia.”
The kid didn’t say much else, which prompted the older man to feel slightly awkward at the silence. Without a thought, he quickly made an off comment to combat the uncomfortable air. “Yes, I miss them a lot...” Chan flicked his eyes back onto Seungmin to eagerly await a reply, but he quickly felt even more uncomfortable. Distress was painted all over the poor boy’s face. Fuck, Chan cursed to himself, realising that Seungmin didn’t have a family anymore. “I’m sorry.” He dared to say, but there was no other reply. He noticed Jeongin pulling at the hairs on his arm, staring blankly out the window.
“Are you alright?” Seungmin asked him, causing the boy to jolt his head and reveal his cripplingly traumatised face.
“I’m fine.” He answered before falling back into the emptiness of his mind and staring at the vacant scenery.
“You’re not fine.” Seungmin told him, undoing his seatbelt to climb into the back and comfort him.
Chan thought it was sweet how much he seemed to care so much for the younger. He felt inclined to speak to Jeongin, “I’m sorry about your mother. I just didn’t want you to get hurt.”
There was a long and drawn pause that hovered before the young man emitted a reply “It’s okay.” He said, looking down and pushing his head against the glass with a thump. They all knew it really wasn’t okay, nothing that had happened since they’d met was okay.
Eventually the car trotted toward a familiar scene. The horrific gas station that had been haunting Chan’s restless body for hours, was once again sadly overlooking the dry terrain and staring him in the face. He tapped his nail on the steering wheel and squinted at the fuel meter. Almost empty, already? Chan wondered if he’d done something to piss of karma or if his shitty car was playing tricks on him. He fought with himself whether or not to go through the mental anguish of meeting that leather face and those black teeth once again. Despite how much he resented the idea, he decided it would probably be wise fill up and wait for Woojin’s car, just in case they’d somehow gotten lost already.
“We’re pulling over for gas.” He announced in the quiet vehicle, shuffling the wheel in his cold hands to pull up onto the gravel. He exited the vehicle swiftly, and was surprised when Seungin did the same.
“I’m going inside.” The young boy told him, already crunching his feet on the orange dirt toward the small building.
“Don’t go in there.” Chan had to call quickly out to him.
“It might not be safe.” The older yelled. He wasn’t necessarily going to admit that it wasn’t the unknown disease that he was scared of, it was interacting with the strange man again.
Seungmin crossed his arms and stared with a condescending expression. “What am I supposed to stay away from everything for the rest of my life?”
Chan couldn’t gather a reply fast enough to stop him, so he slowly followed behind and shuffled in a gentle cloud of orange dust. They didn’t even have to open the door because it was wedged ajar.
Crawling inside there wasn’t much to see, mostly because it was dark.
Seungmin didn’t hesitate to turn to the blonde man and ask, “Do you have a lighter?” Chan felt kind of set back at his forwardness yet fumbled in his pocket to retrieve the desired object, handing it to him. It was sparked quickly and glowed in a small warm hue over the area, but none of it look the same. The papers that had previously covered the walls had been teared and ripped apart. The boxes and clusters of things that fitted compactly on shelves and tables were also gone.
Seungmin, of course noticed the small mysterious door, and took no time to approach it, “Wait a second.” Chan whispered harshly, gripping his arm to slow the guy. “I’ll go in there first.”
It was eerily dark for just one second as Chan took the lighter between his own fingers and was relieved when the flame flickered, still unrequited any zombies or disturbing old men. There was no such creature, nor any sight of the old bastard around the room. Even the questionable boxes, filled with guns and the metal table was missing.
“We should use these.” He suddenly heard Seungmin suggest as he rumbled his hands around in the dark. He turned around, holding with two large red plastic petrol tanks and looked into Chan’s eyes for a response.
When they thankfully made it back outside, Chan squinted at the blaring sun, and covered his eyes. There was still no sign of the other vehicle yet, and the only sound that could be heard was the sweeping of the soft wind, that lifted the dust off the ground. Chan was both curious and relieved to find out that the old rusted gas pumps stilll worked, pouring the fuel into the tank of the car.
“Do you want help?” Seungmin asked through thinly chapped lips and tight eyes.
“No just wait in the car.” Chan told him, fixated on keeping the liquid from spilling all over him.
“Hey where’s Jeongin?” The brunette asked abruptly, sounding slightly unnerved as he spoke. “I thought he was going to wait in the car.”
Chan forced his head around in every direction, still squinting. All that was present in the barren space was- well frankly, nothing.
“Jeongin!” He called out into the harsh environment, to no response. “Maybe he’s just looking around.” Chan tried to suggest.
“Around at what?” Seungmin mumbled. The older man didn’t reply to this because he didn’t have anything to say, so he tried to focus on the task at hand.
“Jeongin!” Seungmin tried to call out to him, but again there was no reply; nor was there any news of Woojin yet. It was a horribly uncomfortable silence that roamed against the winds howl. “Jeongin, where are you?!”
“Hyung!” Finally, there was a reply and Chan’s heart could beat again.
“Get back here! What are you doing?” Seungmin scolded. There was an absence of any sound that followed, only the gentle winds that swept the sand once again. “What the fuck!?” His voice suddenly sounded distressed. There were footsteps that approached behind him, so Chan turned his head around. Sadly, it wasn’t just Jeongin that met his vision, in fact there were three young men along beside him. One of which had a switchblade pressed to the young man’s neck, nails dirty and untrimed on his delicate hand. He noticed the guy: who was holding the blade- far too close to Jeongin’s artery for comfort, had his veins pronounced and wrists slightly shaking. Any sudden movements or raising of emotion could end badly, so Chan kept his temper.
“What do you think you’re doing?” He asked at any one of the men, one replied with the gritty smile of his chipped teeth. He looked somewhat more similar to a rat, than an actual person, Chan noted.
“Where’s your shit?” He quickly asked with a vibration of his head and jittering pupils.
“Just relax.” Chan tried to mellow the man from his rough tone.
“Where is it?” He rat guy didn’t waste much time to snap, eyes frantically flickering in all directions.
“In the back.” Chan said slowly, keeping his voice constant. “Just put the knife down and I’ll get it for you.”
The man seemed to ignore his request. “Yongbok open the boot.” He ordered a young boy with a patchy buzz cut. Although the sun was still bleaching Chan’s poor vision, he could make out the freckles that littered around the kid’s face. A deep gash of dried blood clung to his cheek. The guy seemed to immediately obey, without a word or even an inkling of humanity in his expression. God, how Chan wished Woojin would just hurry up and arrive in that moment, but unfortunately he didn’t. There was nothing but dry sand all around them.
Jeongin held perfectly still, not moving his head, not daring to even breathe.“Can you please lower the knife?” Chan asked again.
“Shut up.” Was all the rat guy replied, and there was much less response from the man dangling the knife to Jeongin’s throat. “What’s in that bag?” The rat suddenly asked, pointing his dirty finger inside the vehicle where Seungmin was holding himself back from murdering them all.
Both Chan and Seungmin shot each other a look. “Seungmin, open it.” he directed the brunette calmly. The boy was hesitant but did and he was told, showing off the clothes and other objects that occupied the bag.
“Hand it here.” The rat guy called out, reaching towards the vehicle.
“No wait.” Chan interrupted him, “Seungmin, I need you to show them exactly what’s in the bag.” Understandably, the brunette was confused, slow and unsure in his movements, but he still looked through it to Chan’s request.
“I can see what’s in it already, just pass it over.” The man said impatiently. Seungmin looked up, unsure of what to do.
“Seungmin, show them what’s in the bag.” Chan repeated adamantly, not letting the tenseness of the situation affect him.
“I said give it here!”
Seungmin fiddled his fingers inside again and his mouth dropped lower than it had already been. “oh my god…” was all he said as he pulled out black metal.
“Oh what the fuck!” The rat screeched. “Is that a gun?!”
Nobody embellished him, being the answer was obvious. Seungmin just stared at the object in his palm, trying to grasp the concept of the power he held.
“Seungmin,” Chan quickly spoke to get his attention. He raised an eyebrow in the direction of the people holding their friend hostage, and Seungmin immediately understood to point the thing at them. All the men seemed too shocked to make any stupid decisions, so Chan slowly inched his hand to grab the gun and pointed it directly at the rat man. “Let him go.” He demanded.
“No way is that real.” The rat guy scoffed with his sickly grainy teeth.
“Do you wanna bet?” Chan asked, inching the muzzle closer to the man’s skull.
“I do.” The man replied, staring him straight in the eye. The knife didn’t budge from Jeongin’s neck and the boy was looking exhausted from holding his lungs still. Chan loaded the barrel against his temple, and a loud swallow emitted from the rat’s esophagus; yet still he refused to budge. The older blonde felt flat and stumped, his index finger twitched against the trigger. As the rat didn’t seem to want to change his standpoint, Chan thought it would be useful to point the gun at the man who was actually holding the knife to the kid’s neck. His nails were white from his firm grip on the blade.
“Let him go.” Chan ordered, yet the man didn’t flinch.
“Don’t listen to him Minho, it’s just a fucking toy.” Laughed the rat. Minho kept his hold on Jeongin without any emotion in his eyes, only a bead of sweat twinkled down his hairline from the blaring of the sun. Since Chan wasn’t getting anywhere fast, he tried to point the gun towards the boy with the buzz cut, who seemed very unnerved being the centre of attention.
“I’ll shoot this kid’s head.” Chan threatened, which effectively made the guy whimper.
“Hyung,” the boy whined at Minho with longing eyes. And to Chan’s surprise, the blade was quickly released from Jeongin’s throat, letting him finally breathe and cry in heaves. God, Woojin was still taking his sweet time.
“Minho, It’s fucking fake.” The rat raised his voice. “And you value that stupid kid’s life more than mine, huh?” Minho didn’t even look at him, being too focused on the gun in Chan’s hand.
“Get off him.” Chan repeated at Minho, who still kept a tight grip on Jeongin’s arm. The man slowly stepped away from the boy he held, causing the rat to begin funneling insults. Jeongin scampered away into the vehicle to be comforted by his friend.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing!?” The rat screamed at Minho, who still kept his gaze strict to the gun. Chan found himself pushing the metal into the kid’s head, adrenaline smitten through his blood and flaring the drive being his eyes.
“You would take a life for something perishable?” He questioned towards the gang. He felt the anger bubbling within him, pushing the barrel further into the kid’s head, so much that he looked like he was about to burst into tears. “Take his life?”
“You say that with a gun against my head.” The boy’s voice cracked lowly as he said. Chan looked at his defenceless expression that desperately reached for Minho’s help. His finger was now violently shaking against the trigger. It was so easy. All it took was a second to rid the world of a danger.
The gun sounded with a pop that echoed all around. Chan felt the vibration run through his body and he popped his ears. There was no more sound. No more screaming, not even a breath.
“Get out of here.” Was all he said.
When they were all finally safe in the vehicle, Chan had to stare at the power in his palms. His hands were shaky but he dismantled the object in a second, throwing it back In the bag and thumping his head against the seat to sigh deeply. What kind of a monster was he? No, he hadn’t killed that kid, but how could he have even thought of it? He was no better than them. Wheels sounded against the gravel as Woojin finally decided to show up. He approached Chan with a smile drenched in his skin and a hop in his step.
“Can you take that one?” He asked pointing toward Jisung who was chasing around a bird with his cigarette. “He’s too much for m- woah what happened?” He questioned with furrowed eyebrows upon seeing Jeongin weep in the backseat. Chan just looked at him, not exactly wanting to re-live the events that had just happened.
“Jisung, can I have a cigarette?”
After hours of driving Woojin’s body felt tired. He was thankful that Changbin could take over the wheel, but even when he wasn’t in the driver’s seat he couldn’t sleep. He had concerns, which were justifiable considering his whole life has been flipped on it’s head. He’d probably never sit through another lecture, never have to submit another assignment, he’d never have to argue with his manager when he was asked to take early shifts. But more importantly, he’d never see to becoming a nurse. All the time he’d spent training and studying was practically useless. Honestly he kind of missed Jisung being in his car because the kid was a good distraction from his thoughts.
Eventually, they arrived at the farm. It was a large land mass with long acres of green meadows stretching all around. Tall old trees stood proudly without a care in the world, some with light green apples and others bright oranges; that gently swayed with the leaves. Woojin followed Chan’s vehicle deep into the valley, and along a dirt road that was so bumpy it made his eyes blur. The actual house was cute, it had many colourful flowers and plants that Woojin had always wished he could’ve grown in his condemnation to a shitty apartment.
The wind was swift and sharp through his hair when he lugged himself outside.
“I can’t tell you how amazing this feels.” He heard Chan say as he stretched his legs and cracked his neck. “C’mon I’ll introduce you to my grandmother.” He waved his hands and began to walk towards the open door. A black cat stared at them both with wide emerald eyes, waiting for them to enter. Chan bent down to pet the animal yet it seemed to reject his affection and turned its nose away. “What’s up with you?” he asked, watching the creature slink inside with a jingle of the bell on it's collar.
Heavy coats hung on wooden hangers and photographs adorned the walls. Upon inspection, Woojin felt a smile creep on his face, noticing Chan and his happy family, sitting in the picture frames.
“This was you?” He asked with a chuckle, pointing at a photo of a rugged child with a brown curly mess on his head. “I didn’t realise your hair was alive at one point.”
Chan rolled his eyes, “You’re so hilarious.” He said sarcastically, grabbing Woojin’s arm to drag him away from the embarrassing memories.
As Chan wandered off in searched for his family member, the brunette took it upon himself to look for anything else that he could make fun of his friend for. The kitchen was prettily kept with delicate white curtains, old wooden cabinets and lots of knick knacks that occupied shelves and benches. An orange sadly wept on a cutting board, cut in half and covered with tiny ants that had marched from the open window. Woojin scratched his head and shut it closed; because the wind was getting chilly. A number of loud voices captured his attention all of a sudden, and he heard Chan’s voice call out to him desperately. Abandoning the wilting fruit and the line of small soldiers, he ran through the home and towards the disheveled noise. Inside a room with white walls, everyone had seemed to congregate. A frail old woman was sprawled out over the ground, her blood had trailed stains from the white linen bed sheets, to the carpet. Woojin covered his nose with his (well Chan's) shirt, to filter the rancid smell of decomposing flesh that had curdled the air of the room.
“Shit.” He swore quietly to himself.
Her head had been excavated; and only an empty shell was left. Woojin knelt down with a hand on Chan’s back and was about to arrange some expertly crafted sympathy, yet his friend pushed him away.
“Don’t touch me.” Chan affirmed with a dry voice.
Changbin tried to console the tense man, “Hyung don’t be angry. It wasn’t your fault.”
“You don’t understand, it was my fault. This was all my fault.” Chan’s voice trailed off to a squeak.
“Stop blaming yourself.”
“No this was my fault. I could’ve stayed and protected her, or you. Guess which choice I made.” No one could find the right reply before the blonde man stormed out of the room, leaving a painful silence. Slowly, a conversation began about how to dispose of the body, and Woojin’s head started to hurt again.
“I’m not touching it.” Hyunjin stated.
“Then let’s roll her in a carpet.” Suggested Seungmin.
“-how do we get her on the carpet in the first place?”
The bickered didn’t end, it never did really. Woojin felt tired, his eyelids were heavy. The arguments started to fade into background noise as he let his eyes drift to the tiny ants that were pulling apart her corpse. How gruelling life can be, he thought. After deciding he was sick of everyone yelling, Chan’s disappearance became much more of a worry, especially since the were apparently zombies around. Eventually, he found his friend by following the smell of burning Tobacco. Chan was sitting under the patio and staring at nothing, the trees made leaks of light twinkle over his face as he blew smoke out of his nose. Since it was difficult to know how Chan would react, Woojin decided to sit quietly with him and listen to the wind.
As the day died out, the purple and orange that peaked over the horizon began to fade. The boys all gathered around in the narrowing light to bury the body. Barely a sound could be heard apart from the cat purring in Changbin’s hand and Woojin humming softly as he piled the dirt with a shovel. Chan, of course still didn’t say a word. He’d been through a lot lately. Woojin supposed, they’d all been through a lot.
Luckily there were plenty of empty beds to fill, and Woojin had to wonder why a grandmother that lived alone had so many spare beds. It was now early in the morning, around 2am and the wind had picked up, hissing against the windows of the cottage. He sat watching and tending to the fire as Chan slept on the sofa. Although he was tired, Woojin couldn’t even think about closing his eyes. Anxiety had settled deep in his stomach and every jingle of the cat’s bell or snap of the wood in the flames set his heart beating fast. He couldn’t help but think. Think of the poor lifeless faces that stared at him every time he closed his eyes. Why were their brains gone? He wondered. Why would a parasite need to feed the host if it was already dead? Why would it only eat the brain? Many questions were annoying him. Maybe he should document what was happening.
He quickly pulled apart some of the bags that cluttered the floor and eventually found the red fabric first aid kit. He pulled out the notepad and sat back down to use the light of the fire to frantically sketch down any thoughts that came to his mind.
“Christ, you’re going to study her like some kind of experiment?” He heard Chan say in a soft but shrill tone.
“Oh you’re awake… sorry, I was just curious.”
Chan sighed deeply, the fire making his skin glow orange, “I can’t sleep.”
“Guess that makes two of us...” Woojin didn’t say anything else before Chan got up to grab a heavy coat from a hanger. “Where are you going?” He asked the blonde man.
“Haven’t you smoked enough? No wonder you can’t sleep.” He couldn’t say anything else before the door closed. Those things would surely kill him before the stupid unknown disease even got a chance.
Seungmin was sick of him. Every single off handed remark. Every ungrateful, ignorant or stuck up comment that Hyunjin made, set his blood boiling. It was just so annoying how much he talked. And how loud he laughed at barely anything at all. Seungmin hated the guy’s incessant bitching about how much his parents must have missed him. Or how his hundreds of superficial friends would've been ‘oh so worried about him’ . Yeah sure, it made sense to reminisce about the past; but it wasn’t like everyone was so vocal about their feelings. Seungmin, personally was never one to go around wallowing in misery and trying to make everyone feel bad for him. They had their own burdens to carry. The brunette preferred not to socialise with Hyunjin, since if they so much as spoke a word to each other it would always end in an argument. It didn’t help that there was nothing to do besides read a book, tend to the animals or bake something that no one would want to eat. He couldn’t just distract himself forever, and eventually they’d have to converse with one another. Yet every time they did, it finished in the same bitter way, and everybody would just get annoyed at both of them. Seungmin outright refused to sleep in the same bed as the guy, he’d rather read under the light of a candle all night then pass out in the morning. But before long, he began to feel like he’d read just about every book in the world.
Everything sucked. There was no electricity, so obviously there wasn’t a heating system for the water tank. If Seungmin wanted a hot bath, then he’d have to go to the effort of boiling the kettle over the fire and then taking it all the way to the bathroom. Most of the time, everyone preferred to wash in the freshwater stream outside. He wasn’t the biggest fan of this, considering every time he came along he’d be pushed in. But it was ‘just a joke’ Hyunjin would say. Yes, a freezing cold joke, that wasn’t in the slightest bit funny. What pissed him off even more, was just how clingy the dude was. Hyunjin would splash around and ruse his body up close to everyone. He’d hover over Jeongin and- God, how did Jeongin even put up with that guy? He thought. How could he ever consider someone... like that , a friend? Seungmin tried not to think about it, or else he’d get mad again. After all, he’d prefer not sit through another lecture from Chan. Despite all the tension, Seungmin had to admit: the water was refreshing. The singing of birds in the early morning mist was calming to his swollen mind. And- come to think of it, he’d learned to appreciate small things: like the smell of wood burning or the sound the rain made when it patted on the roof late in the night.
It wasn’t long before Jisung located the liquor cabinet like some kind of sad pre-teen. It was promptly escorted far out of his reach, making him mourn like a child had been taken away from him. Jisung found all sorts of things in the cottage. Apparently, he’d found a ghost smoking a blunt in the attic which was only funny for a while before the poor dude actually began to start believing the cottage was haunted. Haunted or not, they weren’t going anywhere fast… but the supplies were dwindling… and Seungmin did begin to worry about how much horse or chicken feed they had left… Chicken was sure to replace eggs on the menu sooner or later… Another one of Jisung’s strange findings was a battery powered record player. It was covered in a layer of dust when the guy pulled it from the attic- and of course he made a handprint on it, to try and freak everyone out. When they got it to play, the sound crackled softly and everybody sat around to listen.
“Ahh, the 1960s. Doesn’t this take you back to the good ol’ days, Woojin?” Jisung asked the man.
“I’m not that old, you twat.” He replied back.
The music was a good distraction from their worries about running out of supplies. For just a second, everyone was enjoying themselves. Seungmin sat neatly on the coach, petting the cat and watching everyone act like idiots, dancing and clowning around.
“What’s wrong?”, he heard Woojin ask from the seat next to him.
“Nothing.” Seungmin replied.
“Do you need a hug?”
Woojin shuffled closer and wrapped his arm around his shoulder anyway. “You look so unhappy.” The older man said, rubbing Seungmin’s arm back and forth affectionately.
“I’m great.” The younger stated sarcastically. He stared at Hyunjin and the stupid smile on his face. The stupid way that he twirled around with Changbin. The stupid way that he held Jeongin’s hands.
“Go dance with him.” Woojin unexpectedly gestured.
“Go and dance. It might make you feel better.”
Seungmin felt the cat’s purr vibrate against his hand.
“No thank you.” He affirmed.
Woojin didn’t fuss with him any further. It wasn’t like he didn’t appreciate his care, but he just wasn’t in the mood to know any better than to act selfish.
He placed his attention back onto Hyunjin- swaying back and forth with Jeongin. How can he like that asshole? That fucker and his cocky smile. I hate him. Hyunjin seemed to notice Seungmin’s stare, and blew him a gentle kiss. Right that’s it.
“Fuck you!” Seungmin screeched over the music, standing up with such power that the cat was frightened.
The fight was vicious and everyone was immediately ready to pull them apart. They both threw a number of ruthless insults at each other, but neither boy had the chance to pull any punches.
“Why do you hate me so much!?” Hyunjin insisted on knowing.
“Because I hate people like you. You’re a popular asshole who goes around thinking you can get everything you want just because you’re attractive and popular!”
“-you forgot to add rich.” Jisung interrupted to everyone’s annoyance. Hyunjin’s face was that of utmost offence and shock.
“Tell me I'm wrong.” Seungmin dared him. The taller boy didn’t reply, but his stare reeked. If looks could kill.
Changbin finally broke the tension of the situation by dragging Hyunjin away. ”C’mon let’s go and feed the chickens” he suggested, pulling the guy's arm out the door.
“Oh great, two rich boys. How will they survive?” Seungmin managed to spit pitifully before the door closed.
He felt a firm hand grip his shoulder tightly; and he mentally rolled his eyes in apprehension of the lecture he was about to receive.
“You need to put your feelings aside kid.” Woojin told him aggressively.
“Your hatred for Hyunjin. If you keep acting like this then it’s going to be hell for everyone else.” He declared. “It’s not fair.”
Seungmin couldn't help but let his pettiness get the best of him. After all, that stupid bitch started it! “Didn’t you see him teasing me? He’s such a bastard, how can you defend him!”
“I’m not defending him. But you aren’t acting any better. Get your shit together.” Said Woojin. Seungmin didn’t have anything else to say. He was speechless because Woojin was right.