“Caller number three, you’re on!” Sanggyun hits the glowing white button and sits back. “Actually, you’re caller one, but y’know. Nobody else is blowing up my phone right now, so — I guess you’re extra lucky.”
There's the ghost of a smile on his lips as he stares through his studio's window and out into the dark hallway, waiting for an answer.
He's pleased, but not surprised, when he recognizes the voice.
“Good morning,” comes the familiar greeting, and Sanggyun’s smile grows as he predicts what comes next. It's me again. “It’s me again!”
“Hi, me again,” Sanggyun chimes. He's said the same thing almost every time the guy has called in lately, but no one's called in to complain about it yet, so. “Is tonight the night you finally give us a name?”
There's a crunch of noise on the line that usually indicates air being blown into a microphone; Sanggyun takes it as a snort. "Not tonight."
It was worth a shot.
Sanggyun ensures his sigh is audible before reaching out to hit one of the keys on his laptop, the hotkey assigned to the a canned studio aww sound effect that cuts across his audio.
He has to hold back his laughter when playing the studio sound effects, because the implication of there being a whole crowd listening and reacting to any of this is a joke. No one is ever in the room but him. No one is ever in the entire building but him. (The security guy who sleeps in the room by the elevators doesn't count.)
Such is the life of the nighttime DJ. Usually, he fucking loves it.
What he doesn't love so much is thinking about how small his audience has become. That 11:30PM-5:30AM time-slot has never been very sought-after, but when Sanggyun got permission to do whatever he wants with the last two hours of his airtime, he was ecstatic. The Freaky Fresh horror-and-chill segment did much better when it first started a year ago, but as other radio stations grew and took over 95FM's listener-ship, Sanggyun's nightly audience slowly dwindled down to just a handful of those weirdos and freaks who like to spend their sleepless nights listening to some guy sharing scary stories from the internet and coming up with theories about pretty much everything that goes bump in the night.
The weirdos and freaks like him.
The weirdos and freaks like this guy.
"I have another question." Pause. "About vampires."
"Shocker," Sanggyun replies, but he grins. He knew as soon as the caller started talking that this would be the case. "Although I dunno man, I feel like you've heard all of my vamp theories by now. You've sucked all the ideas right out of me." (He gives himself a ba-dum-tss sound effect for that.) "I've got a solid ten minutes before I'm obligated by contract to play a song, so hit me, baby."
He trusts that the Vampire Guy can come up with something interesting to ask him. He's used to it by now.
He doesn't call every night, but when he does, it generally follows a loose pattern. He calls at the same time, 3:30AM, asks him a bajillion questions about vampires, or asks him to share any stories of sightings or urban myths.
Sanggyun knows to prepare himself every time for a long conversation that will definitely bleed past the time slot he's supposed to give for call-in segments (thank God his bosses haven't given a shit about his show so far.)
It's not always a long conversation — there are times when he rings up the open line, asks a simple question and then hangs up. It's usually followed by another call later when some other burning question apparently comes to mind. The questions can range from direct and oddly specific ("would freezing blood make it taste freezer-burned?") or sort of broad and existential ("do you think vampires like being vampires?") In such cases, Sanggyun usually isn't able to give a straight answer because uh, what the fuck but he does offer a laugh and a few theories on the fly. No matter how bullshit his answer, his caller always thanks Sanggyun in earnest, as if he's actually being helpful.
Sanggyun has long since realized that he might have to hand over the World's Biggest Vampirefucker ribbon, because holy shit does this guy like vampires. The obsession would be a little weird, maybe even a little disconcerting, if Sanggyun wasn't so busy just being happy at being able to talk to someone. He can't be picky when this is the one thing he looks forward to most nights.
Which is why it's a little off-putting to hear so much silence on the other line, where there should be more pondering, questioning, humming, like always. This guy always has something to say, except for tonight, apparently.
"You there? Did your phone cut out?" Sanggyun asks, though he knows that the audio is working fine, only because he can hear the sounds of a car going by in the background every few seconds.
Since this is live, and he can't edit out these awkward pauses, he feels bad for the people who might be listening. He chews his lip a little and reaches for the hang-up button, but suddenly a voice crackles into his ears again.
"Do you think, if you ever got to meet one in real life, that you’d be scared?"
He gets strange, serious vibes this time. There's a bit of gloom, even—indicated by the softness of his voice. It pulls at Sanggyun's heartstrings, though he has no clue why. Maybe the Vampire Guy is having a bad night? He doesn't know. All he can do is give some kind of answer, like he always tries to do.
"It depends on if my introduction to them is being eaten or not. If they're just there, maybe not. Vampires were all humans before getting turned, right? So they're just regular folks like you and me who... went through some shit, and wound up dehydrated." He drums his fingers beside his on-air button, eyes flicking over to the stack of Vampire books he keeps on a shelf in the corner. "I mean, again, I would be worried about getting murdered depending on how they came at me, probably. But I'd bet, if some of them were decent people before they turned, they might not really want to eat you. You could maybe talk them into not doing that, or going for someone else instead, if you're nice enough to them." He pauses, pursing his lips. "It's hard to say though, man. I've run into some people downtown at night who I think are probably just as scary."
He's not completely talking out of his ass, he's thought about this a lot (like, a lot) before. It sort of makes sense — theoretically, if vampires lived in today's society, it would be much easier for them to blend in as humans. They could find ways to not eat people pretty easily if they wanted to. (The 'if they wanted to' is the trick.)
But it's still mostly bullshit. Giving genuine, thoughtful answers on such hypothetical situations is weird, when he's not sure how much the asker really believes in what he's asking about. Sanggyun himself has always had a complicated relationship with the idea of these monsters' existence. He feels like seeing is believing in these cases, but he's always harbored an imagination that constantly wants to wonder about all of the things that Sanggyun can't see.
On the more practical side of things, there's a direct benefit to 'believing' in these stories as well. The more genuine he seems, the cooler and more intriguing his show will be, he thinks. It helps to put up a front and say he wouldn't be scared of these things that he so loves to discuss to obsessive lengths but, in reality, a lot of it depends on how scary-looking the monster really is.
A hot, Cullen-esque standard humanoid would be ideal, but picturing those froth-mouthed gangly things who can't talk so much as hiss and snarl like an animal... still pretty cool, but maybe wouldn't be as sexy IRL. (Some freaks, the real freaks, that Sanggyun has been exposed to during his time as a radio host and Cryptid Researcher, would probably call him a coward for this, but Sanggyun knows his truth.)
“Ah,” is the soft response he gets from the listener, and then there's the crunch of another breath. "...If you say so."
A little confused, Sanggyun looks at nothing quizzically. "Pardon?" What is Vampire Guy calling him out for? Rude. He might've pulled that whole spiel out of his ass but he's still fairly proud of it.
But the caller sounds more embarrassed than cynical as he rushes a reply: "Nothing, sorry!" There's a second-long pause before he continues. "Thanks, Kim Sanggyun."
Sanggyun frowns. Where's the Mister DJ he usually gets? The DJ Sanggyunie? The formality in his voice is weird, like he's ready to hang up.
Like he's already saying goodbye again.
Sanggyun sits up straight. "Hey — don't go yet!" He's surprised at how the disappointment hits. Since when did he get so desperate? God, I'm pathetic. He quickly recovers himself by adding: "You want a request, right? Something Teen Top?"
After a beat, the caller speaks again, and Sanggyun would like to think that he can hear a smile in his voice. "Yeah, that'd be great. Thanks again."
Trying to ignore how weirdly brushed-off he feels, he chirps a I gotcha and moves back to queue one of the songs he downloaded when Vampire Guy had made his first request. He hits back and listens to the line's click before he purses his lips, hits a button and lets the song start to filter into his headphones. Before turning off his mic, he leans in to give his introduction, letting the music fade into full volume as he finishes speaking.
Once the on-air light is off, Sanggyun moves his headphones off of his ears to put them around his neck, then leans all the way back in his chair and puts his feet up on the table. He stares at the ceiling and thinks about what to talk about next to fill his time, although the caller's switch from slight familiarity to that formal KIm Sanggyun tonight keeps coming back to mind.
After a moment, he changes his mind and puts his headphones back on, letting the sounds of Rocking consume him.
“Wait! — can I ask for one more thing?
“My dude, I'm loving this conversation as much as you are, but I need to get these commercials running or I'll get my ass kicked in the morning.”
"No, I'm done with the creepy stuff, I promise. I was just wondering... could you maybe put on Rocking by Teen Top?"
Sanggyun blinks several times. "Teen Top?"
"Yeah! The popular Korean boy group! You haven't heard of them?"
Popular, huh... Well, they're good, but Sanggyun only because he went through a fanboy phase in high school and a few Teen Top songs had made it onto his old playlists. He doesn't listen to that style of music much anymore, but knows what popular means. He's detected a barely-there accent in the other's voice before, though, so it could be that he's just... a little new.
That being said, it's not hard to download new songs for his show's library. It takes him only a few minute to queue up some Teen Top, completely disregarding how much it contrasts with the Joji he was playing just fifteen minutes earlier. He gives a dry chuckle, and speaks into the microphone again. "Y'know, K-Pop isn't normally what we do here. But you've kept me entertained tonight so, into the queue it goes."
The caller makes an offended noise. "You let people request all kinds of things!"
"I do?" Sanggyun can't help his smile widening. "I haven't had anyone request anything in a long time. You must be a pretty loyal listener." One of the only listeners, he thinks, swallowing down the bitter in his mouth.
There's a pause, a no!and then some stuttering. Cute.”I only tune in on... um, Wednesdays."
Sanggyun snorts."Well, today's Saturday, but alright. Good to know, buddy."
The caller panics as Sanggyun laughs into the microphone, giving an abrupt goodbye and Thank you Mister DJ, and—click.
The smile remains on Sanggyun's face for a long time after the line goes dead. What a weirdo.
He hopes he calls again.
The blue-ish light coming from his laptop hurts his eyes, but he keeps re-reading the email as if doing so will make the words disappear, or shift around into something that makes him feel less like shit. Maybe, if he squints, he can decipher a different meaning. Maybe he's just misinterpreting the tone, he thinks, hollowly. This could just be an empty threat. Or a friendly little warning!
But, no, the stark black-on-white of his boss' email contents burns the keywords into his eyeballs: Budget cuts. Insufficient ratings. Probable cancellation.
His mouth flattens into a thin line as he rubs at his eyes for the fourth time, and then squints. Finally, he gives up, exhaling a rather forceful "Fuck."
He moves to slam his laptop shut in what he imagines is a dramatic, satisfying fashion akin to snapping an old cell-phone shut after an argument, but upon remembering how delicate his crusty old home machine really is, he settles for shutting it gently, but emotionally.
Sanggyun then stares blankly at the beige paint on his wall, hand still resting on top of his laptop. "Fuck," he repeats.
This shit isn't surprising, but he's still unhappy. Freaky Fresh is his baby, his only source of income and his only way to pass the time. He's been in denial about how poorly the show was doing since he was first sat down with his bosses several months ago, clinging to the thought that maybe he'll discover something really cool that'll get people buzzing about his show again. Or that, at the very least, the time-slot would continue to be ignored by the higher-ups at the station in favour of the regular daytime stuff.
It's not about just losing the show itself — he just fears how lost he'd be without it.
He's put off coming up with a back-up plan. He doesn't know what paths would be open to him, anyway. What other jobs are out there for a weirdo insomniac who can't retain any information in his brain except the mostly-useless stuff his broadcasting degree has given him, and this extensive array of random supernatural trivia that would probably scare the shit out of the first person Sanggyun tries to have small talk with at the water dispenser?
He's not going back to one of the minimum-wage day jobs he had to deal with in college, when he was arguably way more miserable. If he can't stick to a radio job, which he's actually qualified for and apparently okay at, what else is he supposed to do?
He could be a weather guy, maybe... But that would mean figuring out how to be alive in the morning.
As Sanggyun stands up and stretches his legs, sunlight has begun filtering in through his living room blinds. His first move is to shut them, even though he knows very well that even making his apartment pitch-dark doesn't help him fall asleep most of the time. But as his hand reaches up and grabs the wand, something catches his eye through one of the open slits, and he pauses.
He turns the rod to open them up a little bit, peering down into the busy downtown road. Red light is being reflected into his eye, the images from today's sunrise bouncing off of a large rectangular mirror being moved out of a truck in front of his building. As he stares, the mirror is tilted on an angle suddenly to reveal brighter, orange light, and he's momentarily blind. He squeezes his eyes shut for a second, backing away and blinking a few times before he leans forward to look down again. The mirror has almost left his view, but he can see more of the clouds now. They're pretty.
When the mirror disappears, he lets his gaze travel down the sidewalk in the direction of the sun, but even craning his neck won't let him see the sunrise. He can see how the light dances on the people rushing about, though, and he watches for a moment.
Sanggyun wonders, not for the first time, if it would actually be so bad to try the whole daytime thing again. As he watches the brisk stride of professionals in crisp suits, the groups of uniform-clad students stumbling into each other and laughing at nothing, at couples holding each other in one hand and a dog leash in the other, he starts to recognize that old, familiar sadness that starts to creep up on him and gnaw at his gut when he's left alone to think for too long.
And that's his cue to go to bed.
He exhales, shuts the blinds and spins back around with purpose, and kicks off his work clothes (a dark hoodie with sweatpants) to exchange for his sleep clothes (a slightly dirtier dark hoodie and sweatpants) before crawling into bed.
Sanggyun gets under his comforter and tries to relax, with some difficulty. He knows this is where he should be most comfortable, but he feels no more at home than he does in that hand-me-down leather office chair at work.
He rolls onto his side. Staring at the hair-thin lines of light that still make it through his blinds, he filters soft music into his AirPods and waits for whenever sleep decides it'll be cool to take him tonight.
Teen Top, we gonna rock it, drop it, top it. Hey, don’t stop it, pop it, Teen Top, we gonna rock it drop it top it hey don't stop it pop it—
He wakes up annoyed. Rubbing the sleep out of his eyes, he makes a frown at the ceiling as he realizes this is the third night in a row that he's heard Teen Top in his dreams. What makes it worse is that he doesn't actually know the songs in their entirety, so the versions he wakes up with in his head are often just the one or two lines he knows combined with some gibberish and sometimes even completely different songs. It drives him nuts.
Okay, he knows that he's felt disappointed that the Vampire Guy hasn't called in again since last time, and yes, he knows that he's maybe even more sad about it now that he knows his show could be cancelled any time and he won't get to talk to the guy again. He doesn't need the K-Pop playing like a broken record when he's brushing his teeth and making him want to set his own brain on fire to remind him of that, though.
He chalks up his feelings to a mix of rejection and boredom. He was spoiled when he had someone to consistently have conversation with — he finds his shifts almost boring now, as he resorts to re-visiting old ghost stories when he's talking to the void.
As he nears the end of his story about Neulbom Garden, his voice trails off. He finds himself pausing for an extra beat when he's supposed to be playing another song, so he clears his throat and adjusts his mic, filling the dead air with his voice. "I'm gonna leave my phone line open for the rest of the night, like always, so hit me up with your stories or questions, everyone." He chews his lip and continues, without really thinking. "But, uh, hey. If you're still listening but can't call in for some reason, y'know. Feel free to swing by the 95fm station in the morning some time and I'd be happy to talk about this stuff with you." Who am I even talking to? "To talk to—any of you," he corrects himself quickly. "I know you guys might be shy, but you matter to me." And he does mean it — he cares for the small group of people that turn up whenever he gets a statistics report. He just wishes most of them weren't so quiet.
He'd have to think hard to remember the last person who called in with something legit other than Vampire Guy. He doesn't count the less-friendly calls he gets to the station's number sometimes, when people decide to be funny by dropping a fake pizza order or tired insult. (He wants to tell the kids to try harder, come up with something better than freak when it's literally his brand, but policy states that he has to just hang up. It's annoying as hell.)
"You guys know that if you ever need someone to listen to your stories, or just give you some weird shit to keep you thinking while you're awake, I'm your guy."
He feels like the real message is far too obvious in his words: For The Love Of God Someone Please Talk To Me Holy Shit.
Sanggyun chews his lip and starts the queue that'll go on for the next while, the sounds of some James Blake song rising up in volume. It's one of the weirder tracks in his playlist — James Blake is always a little strange, but the sound always fits the vibes of his show very well.
Soothing but creepy, sleepy but dark. Sanggyun closes his eyes and leans all the way back in his chair, letting the foreign voice wash over him as his mind travels away from the studio, trying to imagine what this song might sound like coming from someone else's speakers. His mind tries to paints him a picture of what people might look like as they listen along with him. He pictures dark, quiet rooms and tired folks like him with their headphones on max, or the people sitting in one-bedroom apartments filling the air with music to make the space feel less lonely.
It's May now, so the days have been slowly growing longer — this means that, if Sanggyun is to leave the station late, the sky will have started its gradient from shades of black and light-pollution-orange to a cool grey, then navy. He lives a convenient 15 minutes away from his work, so at least he still usually returns home before the sun is up.
When he leaves by 5:30 AM, there's usually a few people scattered about on the big streets, cars here and there as they pull into underground lots under the various office buildings. The street that the employee's entrance to 95FM faces is almost always empty until the real morning rush starts, around 7 AM, so Sanggyun typically chooses to weave through the smaller side-streets and somewhat sketchy-looking alleys because it's faster.
He does know how to drive, but parking is a bitch in this area. That, and he hasn't saved enough money to be able to fix his car after the run-in with his doctors' office's front lawn sign that was had the last time Sanggyun decided to show up to an appointment. So his first and only car rots in a storage unit miles away, kept company only by the boxes full of junk that Sanggyun's parents insisted that he take from Gwangju when he left for college.
He's late to leave today, having spent more time than necessary picking from the bananas in the break room before heading out. He sees two coworkers walk by him on their way into the building, and gives them the bare-minimum, closed-lipped smile he always accidentally makes, the one that makes him feel a little like the polite cat meme. They return his awkward expressions with big white smiles and good night's that make him honestly feel a little patronized, though he's sure they Mean Well and Wish Him The Best or whatever.
Morning people are the worst.
This is the real reason he doesn't really have friends, he knows. He's friendly enough — weird, but charming is the accurate depiction that he gets from most acquaintances — and he does go out once in a while, but it's hard for him to really feel close with people when his whole system is operating on a different timezone.
It's been rough since his walking buddy moved away. Roh Taehyun, an overnight server from Sanggyun's 24-hour breakfast place around the corner, was — and still technically is— Sanggyun's closest friend and only confidant. Ever since they'd accidentally left their apartment building at the same time and realized they were neighbours who walked in the same direction around the same time every night, they were each other's routine. Taehyun, funny and kind and non-judgemental, was always better at being social and generally more energetic during the day, so he didn't seem to have as much of a hard time as Sanggyun did when he accepted a better job in Busan. He's doing great as a regular daytime-worker now, at least according to his social media posts and the updates that Sanggyun asks for when they call each other every blue moon.
Sanggyun thinks of him often, reflects on how glad he is that Taehyun was able to pull himself out of the strange nocturnal existence in which Sanggyun seems to be stuck. He means it when he says that he's happy for his friend. Taehyun helped him out immensely when he was here, often giving him the most heartfelt advice. Sanggyun remembers one of the most moving conversations they had. It was the week that Sanggyun got his first notice of his show taking a decline.
"Who cares how many people are listening? As long as someone's still there, I think it's worth it. You and I know what it's like to be stuck awake in the middle of the night and, who knows, that one person still listening to you might feel less alone just because of your voice." He paused, and laughed, seemingly unaware of how much Sanggyun was clinging to his words. "Or maybe they're just some NEETs with monster fetishes like you, in which case — you should still keep talking to them. Maybe they'll hit you up someday, and the two of you can—" Sanggyun laughed too, then, but he still remembers how relieved he felt at the time. Taehyun doesn't know it, but it's this sentiment that has stopped Sanggyun from quitting himself out of frustration more than once.
As long as someone's there, Sanggyun reminds himself. He's repeating it silently tonight as he steps out of the building, the doors shutting behind him.
Looking at his shoes, he notices that they're painted a similar shade of dull orange as the sidewalk, the streetlamp directly over the corner of the parking lot shines down on everything by the entrance to the building. The ground is damp from the rain that must've come down earlier, reflecting that light more brightly back at him from a shallow puddle.
He stops when he realizes he's forgotten to put in his AirPods. He digs his hands into his hoodie's pockets to look, groaning lightly. If he forgot them, it means going all the way back through the building and risking more terrible small-talk with the Morning People. Thankfully, he finds one, and then the other, giving a sigh of relief as he reaches up to fit the right one in his ear.
And that's when he hears it.
It's a sound like a breath, an inhale or gasp or something. But it was so quiet, so quick that Sanggyun can't really tell. He stands there with his hand awkwardly frozen an inch away from his ear, staring into the patch of shadow that covers the corner between the entrance and left side of the building. It's the one part that this streetlamp doesn't reach, and Sanggyun can't make anything out even when he's squinting hard.
"Is someone there?" He calls out, echoing the phrase that was bouncing around his mind earlier.
There's no answer. Sanggyun strains his eyes and ears to try to make out as much as he can. He curses himself for blasting his music into his ears at full volume all the time. As he narrows his eyes to slits, he also wants to kick himself for not ordering himself some glasses when he should.
A split second later, though, there's a voice —
"—Shit." It's a Japanese word, one of the only ones Sanggyun remembers from the class he took in college.
Sanggyun blinks. Impulsively, he takes a step toward the shadow that most definitely just cursed at him. This time, he could swear that he sees a darker shape moving in the depths. He opens his mouth to speak again, but the loud ass BEEPBEEP of a car lock in the parking lot makes him nearly shit his pants as he jumps six feet into the air.
"Jesus—" He turns to look behind him, and sees another one of his coworkers walking by.
"Woah. You found a ghostie over there, Sanggyun?"
Sanggyun exhales through his nose. It's Lim Youngmin. Fuck (and he cannot stress this enough) Lim Youngmin.
"Yeah, actually. It's the ghost of good vibes! It's real mad that you keep killing it. Fucked it right up, too. It's headless and everything. Poor thing."
Youngmin laughs, like he always does at Sanggyun's best attempts to piss him off, and shakes his head. He gives a little wave and then enters the building, seemingly immune to the daggers Sanggyun sends with his eyes. He's definitely used to it by now, just as much as Sanggyun is used to Youngmin constantly trying to one-up him in ratings.
When he's gone, Sanggyun mumbles something not-so-nice about brown noses and pulls out his phone. Without hesitation this time, he taps the flashlight icon from his lockscreen and quickly shines the bright beam of light directly into the patch of shadow.
It illuminates a clear view of... some bricks. As he swings it left to right, he sees bricks. More bricks. Some grass. And a straw sitting on top of the grass.
So... he's started hallucinating now? That's it?
"My life is so fucking boring," he breathes, disappointed. He looks up at the sky, which is showing more and more of the approaching sunrise. As they always do, his eyelids start to feel heavy at the first sign of daylight. He's already wasted so much time.
He heads out down the street, earbuds blocking out the sounds of the city waking up around him. He prepares for a longer walk than usual, as he has more people on the sidewalk to be stuck behind, bikes to avoid, busier streets to cross.
Note to self, he thinks. Don't bother with the banana next time.
But as he presses his passcode into the keypad by the front door of his apartment building, the first rays of sunlight hit his cheek, and as he pauses to let the warmth soak into him just a bit, he realizes that he doesn't mind this part so much.
"Teen Top rock it, lock it, polkadot-it— oh, god dammit. That's not even how it goes."
His days off are normally spent cycling between the bed, kitchen and bathroom, TV consistently playing whatever he's been binging as of late. He's just finished The Good Place today, and the crisis that ensues over picking a new show leads him to not pick anything at all, forcing him into the pit of boredom that gets him pacing around the house.
Thankfully, an idea soon pops into his head. He recently decided he wanted to teach himself how to cook, but had given up fairly quickly. He decides now would be the perfect time to start it up again — serve himself something real instead of reheated leftovers or cup ramen.
His mother was the baker of the house, and his father the cook. In his childhood, he of course, always thought baking was better. It yielded tastier rewards, when his mother would let him have the first bite of brownies or let him lick the spoon. She always made it look so easy. Now, as an adult, Sanggyun knows the truth: baking is the devil's work, and his mom is probably a witch. His attempts at baking since moving out so far total six: six times he's tried the same exact chocolate chip recipe and six times he's wound up with abominations.
Cooking is different. Cooking is relaxing, a time when Sanggyun can turn around in his little kitchen pulling things out of his fridge and cupboards and imagine himself as a contestant on some cooking show as he narrates and comments on himself in his head. He always has the same basic plan in mind: Pour some oil into a pan, throw some food into the pan and wait until it looks like food. When he feels like being sexy he throws in whatever spices feel the most exciting to him until it tastes like food. It's foolproof.
It's 4:35AM but for a night-shift worker, this is the perfect time to make dinner. The smells of chicken alfredo fill up his small apartment, making him excited enough to briefly forget all the fuckery his work has been putting him through as of late.
This is exactly what I need right now, Sanggyun thinks, pouring a generous amount of whatever-spice-this-is into his sauce. Flavour. Spice. Spontaneity.
Flavour, Spice and Spontaneity are not so great coming back up.
When he realizes that the ingredients from his fridge were probably meant to be used a week ago, it's far too late.
Laying on the bathroom floor, Sanggyun groans. Food poisioning is a bitch, and sickness for Sanggyun is always a little more annoying when he can't just sleep away his symptoms.
He calls in sick for what must be the first time in months, and thankfully the vivid, distraught description of what his precious chicken alfredo looked like in regurgitated form that he gives is enough to convince his boss to let him off easy. He even earns a "Feel better, Sanggyun-sshi," which might just be the most warmth he's ever received from his workplace.
He doesn't know who's covering him until 1:29 AM the next night, when he's halfway through an episode of Buffy (which he's re-watching for the 3rd time because it's a masterpiece, don't judge him) and he sees his phone light up from the corner of his eye. He sees the contact name and raises both brows.
It's Youngmin, asking him where the cheering sound effect is on his keyboard.
Since when does he take night shifts? He's such a... morning type of guy.
Sanggyun refrains from asking, instead just furrowing his brows as he types his answer to the question with as little sass as he can manage.
He feels kinda bad that Youngmin is there when he should be -- even though he still feels pretty damn sick and he probably would've ran a shitty show tonight if he'd been forced to go in.
Is Youngmin's show going to be that much better, though? Sanggyun swallows past the feeling of dread as he thinks about Youngmin trying to read through the pages of cryptid research Sanggyun keeps in the booth, of him trying to field questions that may or may not come through.
He must be doing some talking still, if he needed to know about sound effects. Is he using the same topic, or talking about something else? What would Youngmin do a talk segment about? Sanggyun doesn't really know anything about the guy (besides that he's a guy who graduated from the same program from the same year and managed to get himself a higher-paying position at the same station as Sanggyun when all he usually does is give people the weather. Again, fuck Lim Youngmin.)
Sanggyun sits up suddenly, struck with a horrible thought. What if Vampire Guy calls again when I'm not there?
Instinctively, his phone is unlocked again in his hands. He navigates quickly to the 95FM app and tunes in just in time to hear Youngmin's voice:
"...next up, I'll talk about my top ten favourite seasonings on chicken—"
Satisfied with this much of a preview, Sanggyun swipes the app closed and Youngmin's voice cuts off.
Thank God, he thinks. His regulars probably won't stay to listen to Youngmin's cooking special. Although — and this thought makes his stomach twist (or maybe not all of that chicken alfredo is gone) — he wonders if, maybe, Youngmin will actually manage to do better than him. Maybe his listeners would like the switch in content.
He decides it's probably better for his self-esteem to stop thinking about it. He goes back to Buffy and Spike and sinks into the couch, eyes glued to the TV until, at some point, illness causes Sanggyun to fall asleep a lot easier than usual.
He's awakened sometime later by his phone's buzzing again, the lockscreen lighting up his face in too-bright white. The bleary Sanggyun yawns and shoots a confused glance to the dark living room window. He fell asleep? How? When? Where? What?
Sanggyun can't spend too much time thinking about it though, as his phone is making an offensive sound. Does his ringtone always sound this annoying?
Sanggyun wrinkles his nose at the name. Youngmin again.
He swipes to answer as he sits up, but before he brings it to his ear, he checks the time. 5:48 AM.
Sticking the phone between his ear and shoulder, his voice comes out hoarse: "What?"
"Hey, uh, if you're not busy puking, mind if I ask you something?"
There's an edge to his voice that makes Sanggyun a little uneasy, but he makes the joke anyway. "I might puke while I'm talking to you, but that's not unusual, so just go ahead."
Youngmin doesn't react. His voice is a mix of confused and suspicious. "Do you normally have people waiting for you outside of the station when you're leaving?"
Sanggyun halts, hand coming up to his phone to hold it properly as his posture straightens.
"What?" He asks again, his voice sharper this time.
"There was a creepy guy just... standing out there. Like, right in front of the door."
Sanggyun rubs his face with his free hand for a second, grimacing lightly. Immediately, he remembers the person he maybe-didn't-hallucinate the other night. He also remembers what he'd said last time he was on-air — how he'd openly invited his listeners to come to his workplace. That was probably dumb.
Noticing the hint of fear in Youngmin's voice, Sanggyun feels guilty. Instinctively, he tries to rationalize it: "Well, uh... it's late, our building's downtown, so maybe it was just some dude trying to get in? Maybe he wanted money or something." It's only happened once or twice, but it was enough for the company to crack down on having security cameras all over the place.
Youngmin doesn't seem to like this answer much, his voice growing skeptical. "I mean... sure, but this guy literally asked if I'm Kim Sanggyun. I said no and he took off. Like, took off. He literally must have sprinted away or something, because I looked away for like a second and then he was gone."
Sanggyun feels an involuntary chill go down his back. "Oh." He can't help feeling curious, though — more so than freaked out. Someone came... to see him? Him, specifically? It must be one of his listeners. Youngmin described him as creepy, but he's probably just... awkward. He figures most of his regulars might be. "Uh, wow... that's crazy. I have no idea who that was."
"...Yeah. Uh, maybe, next time, let your creepy boyfriend know when you're home sick, okay?" The note of annoyance in Youngmin's voice mixes with the nervousness, and fades a little bit as he lowers his voice. "This building is freaky enough at night as is." He pauses. "I don't know how you manage."
"Freaky is kinda my thing," Sanggyun says, and he can hear Youngmin's light scoff. "I know, I know. You're right, this was weirder than normal. Sorry, man. My bad. I think it was just one of my listeners." He's genuine, and he hopes he sounds as much. He knows that his tolerance for being alone in the dark is much higher than your average person, and even then, he's gotten himself wigged out at times when he thinks about it too hard.
"It's okay. I just hope that next time I'm there at night they use the buzzer or something."
Next time? Sanggyun narrows his eyes, resting his hand on his stomach. "Well, I don't get sick that often, so..."
There's a too-long, awkward pause on the other end of the line, and then Youngmin just replies: "I know. Uh, never-mind, don't worry about it. I gotta go. You're coming back tomorrow night, right?"
Sanggyun mumbles a yes, fighting the urge to demand Youngmin explains what he's talking about, but... truth be told, he doesn't really want to know. Part of him has suspicions, and it threatens to make him feel sicker than he really is.
Youngmin hangs up first, and Sanggyun just stares at his lockscreen for a while before setting it back down on the arm of his couch. He tries to settle back and re-focus on Buffy, but he can't shake the troubled feeling.
Though he's physically healthy again, his show is uninspired tonight. He regrets not being on his A-Game, but to be fair, (1) his alfredo tried to kill him (2) he's got a potential stalker to think about and (3) his Freaky Fresh nights might get cancelled and replaced by Youngmin's... whatever that was. He's got a lot on his mind.
No one calls in again, and Sanggyun just absently reviews some horror movies he's seen this year instead of trying to be all that engaged.
When he leaves tonight, he gives himself a few extra minutes to wake up the security guard first. He makes sure that the man is watching his screen (as much as he can make sure) and checks each door that he passes as he walks through the halls.
He rounds the corner and waits for a moment, squinting to try to see through the large glass doors of the employee's entrance. At first, he doesn't see anything out of the ordinary. Damn Youngmin, you scared him off. He isn't sure whether he's relieved or not.
But, as he approaches, slowly his eyes are able to focus on the shape of a man standing on the path a few feet past the doors.
Sanggyun stops again, his heart beating just a bit faster than usual.
Okay. Okay. Cool. As he walks closer, he tries to ensure that his posture is straight, confident. Whoever this is, Sanggyun doesn't want them to know that he's even a little bit creeped out.
Soon, he's able to see that the man isn't looking at him; instead, only a profile can be seen as he looks into the distance, to the right of the building. There are slightly hunched shoulders, crossed arms, and a foot tapping on the pavement.
Sanggyun watches the man step out just a little, allowing more of the parking lot's streetlamp to illuminate his face. Sanggyun is close enough now to see that oh my god, he's fucking cute.
Artificial, ugly orange city lights are never flattering on anyone, but in this case it serves to highlight high, round-ish cheekbones and a small nose. He can see the dark, fluffy shape of hair, and casual clothing. Sanggyun can't discern the actual shades right now outside of orange, black and the colours in-between due to that the limited nighttime palette, but he can still tell that there's a high contrast between the hair and face, enough to give the impression of someone very pale.
It's still, like, exceedingly weird for this guy to have been supposedly lurking in shadows and asking people for him though, so Sanggyun reminds himself to be careful. He really doesn't know what to expect. He briefly considers whether or not he should back up and exit out of one of the other doors, but part of him (the Stupid part) keeps him there.
He's not going to get any questions answered by backing away. He also gets a fair amount of secondhand anxiety by looking at the expression on this guy's face and the tense body language. He gets the feeling that if this is one of his listeners who wants to talk to him, he must really want to talk to him for some reason. He's not just gonna be a dick and ignore that.
Within seconds, he finds himself pushing on the glass and opening the door, the loud squeak immediately announcing his presence.
As a kid, he used to boast to both of his friends and family that he wasn't scared of anything. Though growing up has taught him that there are, in fact, plenty of things in this world to be scared of, curiosity (and an impulsive streak) have always been a stronger motivator for him than fear.
"Hey?" He greets from a safe distance away, his voice cautious. "You, uh, come around here often?"
The greeting was unnecessary, as the figure has definitely already taken notice of Sanggyun, considering the huge step back he'd just taken into the shadows. Sanggyun feels a little bad for startling him, but to be fair, the guy didn't have to scare the shit out of his coworker, either, so he doesn't feel all that terrible.
"Kim Sanggyun?" A voice floats up from the shadow, and something clicks in Sanggyun's mind.
"Oh! Shit! It's you!" He gasps, immediately feeling his expression brighten. Vampire Guy — the one person he was really talking to when he'd sent out that weird invite — this is him. This has to be him.
He feels relief at first. He hadn't realized just how much he'd really wanted to hear from his little pal, the one and only truly loyal listener he ever seemed to have, until now. He's finally able to put a face (or half a face right now, technically) to his voice, which feels nice. It feels good to have real, solid proof that he wasn't just a delusion made up in some of Sanggyun's late-night delirium and loneliness.
He looks different than Sanggyun was expecting, but it's not a bad kind of different.
"Hi," says the shadow, and Sanggyun can only just barely stop himself from laughing out loud at how awkward this is.
"Hi," Sanggyun parrots, and then squints as he continues in a half-joking, half-serious way: "Good to hear from you again, man. Where'd you go? Have you been actually sleeping at night or what?"
There's no answer. Sanggyun adjusts the strap of his bag. He can still see a dark form somewhere in there, so he stares directly at it; he doesn't dare looking away this time. "It's getting lighter out, dude. I can definitely still see you this time. You might as well come out to talk — that's why you're here, right?"
He's not sure where this boldness is coming from. Every sign points to this being abnormal and any slightly smarter man would've fucked off by now. This is probably the strangest, most awkward encounter Sanggyun has had in a long time — but if anyone's equipped to be calm in the face of abnormal, weird and awkward things, it's probably Kim Sanggyun.
The nonchalance seems to be somewhat effective. The man that Sanggyun now associates with his favourite caller comes slowly into the light again, and Sanggyun is close enough this time that they make eye contact.
Another chill goes down Sanggyun's spine, the same kind of feeling as when Youngmin spoke to him on the phone. But he isn't consciously sure where the feeling comes from; at first glance, there's not much about him that indicates danger or even real creepiness.
Sanggyun sees a young man in front of him. A tight look of stress. He sees pretty eyes slightly rounded, though as Sanggyun looks closer, he realizes that the colour of them is... strange. The irises are light, but he can't tell the real colour because they just look like the same grey-orange as everything else. They glitter in a way that seems unfitting in this lighting, which strikes Sanggyun as unnatural.
"I like your... contacts," Sanggyun says, his voice coming out a little more strange than he intended. He coughs. Admittedly, he does feel a tiny bit weirded out now.
The shy attitude and lack of... well, talking at all, makes him doubt his Vampire Guy theory for a moment. He knows their last conversation felt odd, but he's still so used to the caller he knows being kinda out-there. Sanggyun wonders if maybe he's one of those people who's more comfortable over the phone than talking in person. Maybe Sanggyun is more handsome in person than he was expecting, and he's just making him nervous? He knows that anxiety can make someone's personality seem very different.
Still, he needs to know for sure. "You... are Vampire Guy, right?" He pauses. "The... you know, the Teen Top fan. You've called in before?"
The other takes a long moment to nod slowly, but his gaze nervously flickers around, and he tenses a second later, looking poised to run away. Sanggyun raises his hands.
"Woah, don't run away yet! It's okay, you don't have to be shy about it." Honestly, he didn't know it was this taboo to be a Vampirefucker, but he supposes that if one actually has enough shame, he can understand why they'd be hesitant to admit such a thing. Sanggyun tries to make him feel better by half-smiling, pointing to himself. "You know I'm one of those too, right?"
"Really?" Vampire Guy finally speaks again now, his eyes widening even further. Then, his expression loosens in what Sanggyun thinks might be relief. He takes a step closer, and Sanggyun is better able to see the bright-coloured hues of his clothing now. His eyes, hair, and skin seem de-saturated in comparision, in an odd way.
"Thank God," he continues in an exhale, the familiarity starting to return back to his voice. "I thought you might be. I—I didn't know how someone could know all of that stuff without being one."
Another step, and Sanggyun still stands his ground, peering over as the other suddenly halts. The relieved expression is replaced with confusion, and a wrinkle of his nose. There's a sniff — a sniff?! — and then: "But you smell so..." Oh God. Did Sanggyun forget his cologne today? He gulps. "Normal."
"...Thanks!" Sanggyun says awkwardly, unsure of what else to say. Involuntarily, his torso leans slowly away from the... sniffing. At the same time, his gaze slides to the side. "Is that good or bad? Normally I try to have more of a floral thing going on, which like — I mean I wouldn't say that's normal, but—"
Vampire Guy is quiet for a second, and Sanggyun flicks his gaze back to him.
“How do you do it?" That curious, but nervous tone comes back to his voice. Sanggyun recognizes it from the most recent time he was on the phone.
If you got to meet one in real life, would you be afraid?
His eyes take on an almost pleading look as he waits for some kind of answer. It's cute, very cute, there are many cute things about this, but Sanggyun feels a bit wary.
Sanggyun has to remind himself that even pretty people can be weird — as in too weird. Dangerous. Just because he'd thought before that he'd made some kind of a connection with this guy in a few 15-20 minute sessions over the phone doesn't mean that there's anything to trust about him.
And yet, he finds it so hard to look into those big shiny eyes and not want to tell him everything. "Sorry, do what?"
"Be around humans all the time. You know, without..." The man's voice becomes hushed, and he bites his lip. Orange light glints off of a tooth that sticks out and looks—well, sharp. Sharper than teeth normally are.
Now Sanggyun starts to feel unsettled. Just a little, though.
So he's one of those Vampirefuckers. He's LARPing or something. That's fine. It's kinda not, really, but Sanggyun wouldn't deny that it's intriguing. He can deal with it, maybe, as long as he... keeps a safe distance.
The chilling feeling is back, but Sanggyun's Stupid streak has also returned with a vengeance and so, he doesn't move away. He instead narrows his eyes a little and just answers him plainly: "Well, uh, being one helps, I guess?" What does he want Sanggyun to say?
Not that, apparently. There's a strangled oh and those eyes switch to a shocked look, like he's been slapped. A hand comes to his mouth and this time there's a big, big step back. "I'm sorry."
He looks heartbroken for some reason, and it physically hurts Sanggyun's chest. He doesn't know what the fuck is going on, but he's always been empathetic toward fellow losers, and now he feels responsible for whatever hurt this guy's feelings. Sanggyun was the one who invited him out here. Did he... lead him on somehow? Did he think Sanggyun would be down to, like, roleplay vampire stuff or something? Is he not Vampirefucker enough?
Honestly, the reaction seems far too real, too serious for Sanggyun to try to rationalize it in the moment. Instead, he finds himself reaching a hand out towards the man. "Hey, it's alright—are you, like, okay? You, uh, came to talk to me, right, so let's—let's talk, man. About whatever's making you look at me like I ran over your dog. I promise I won't judge. If you want to walk with me we can get some pancakes or something—"
There's a forceful shake of the head and another step back, and Sanggyun drops his hand. "Or you can come back another time, if you want. Your call."
It's light enough out now that he can see when Vampire Guy's alarmed gaze looks over his shoulder, just as Sanggyun hears cars coming into the parking lot. Stupidly, he turns around for a second to look at them — and of course, when he turns back, Vampire Guy is gone.
Sanggyun is left standing there staring at the bricks on the wall again, somehow feeling unsettled, confused, intrigued, scared and kinda endeared, all at once.
As his thoughts start to lean toward the more rational, what in the absolute fuck side of the spectrum, he decides it's time to go home.
His hand slightly shaking, he pushes it up through his hair and exhales.