It was almost midnight when Taeyong had begun driving his little brother and his three friends to some abandoned, cult-esque location. It was a long story.
Taeyong’s little brother, Donghyuck, has always had a fascination with scary things but was mostly just as big of a scaredy cat as Taeyong growing up. Unfortunately, that changed when he entered high school. His little brother had made a group of tight knit friends, and his best friend out of all of them, Renjun, was obsessed with conspiracy theories and more specifically, aliens.
It started very innocently. Driving the boys to go camping or helping them set up a telescope to look for straying UFOs was a regular occurrence. However, as the boys began to grow up so did their ambition. Soon enough Jaemin would egg on Jeno and Donghyuck that they wouldn’t go with him and Renjun to a haunted house. Or a haunted ship… Or a haunted graveyard. The peril and spook level upping with every new adventure. It was always something haunted or something possessed, and at that point Taeyong deemed himself their free ride no longer. His brother didn’t nag him about it as much as he thought he would initially when he broke the news. Apparently there was some poor soul named Mark who they had ended up coercing to be their ride on their curious death journeys.
The boys began pestering Taeyong less with their spooky stories of ghosts and hidden cults and spared him the details of their enthusiastic escapades. They only ever butted heads when his brother or friends tried to bring anything he personally deemed evil into his humble abode.
From that point on Taeyong had a few rules:
- No séances in the house.
- Never bring any ghosts or demons or spirits onto their property. (Taeyong had embarrassingly bought several dream catchers and silver crosses and hung them up all over the front door, until Renjun told him that they were pointless.)
- Please, for the love of god, don’t become possessed.
He didn’t have the means to feed five small, demon possessed young adults.
The only thing they ever bothered Taeyong with nowadays was demanding snacks when they had the occasional sleepover, and he much preferred it that way. The less Taeyong knew the better. He had almost forgotten about their weird obsession and honestly looked at the boys with a bit of jealousy. Taeyong had friends of course, but maybe you’d describe them more as acquaintances. Being busy with classes, taking care of his brother and his job left him with little free time for friendship; so, Taeyong found himself tending to live vicariously through his brother’s friendship.
A few months later when his brother approached him begging to drive for them for “old time’s sake” Taeyong was genuinely caught by surprise. He almost immediately agreed for the nostalgia of it all but was quickly reminded of their past time obsession and quickly declined. He had no intention of letting some evil ghost follow him around and knock shit off of his shelves, thank you.
He had been unable to drown out the whining and crying of his little brother for the better part of the week. Mark had somehow caught mono (probably from his ‘dumb new girlfriend’, according to Donghyuck) and his little brother was hell-bent on convincing Taeyong to drive for them again.
“Hyyyyyuuuuuunnnngggg!!” Donghyuck whined/ screamed as he dramatically flung himself across their living room couch, arm draped theatrically across his forehead. Taeyong ignored the loud groaning and continued to prepare their dinner. Several minutes and a few chopped vegetables later, the groaning had subsided and Taeyong let out a sigh to himself.
Finally, some peace and quiet.
“HYUNG!” Taeyong ended up throwing the handful of diced carrots he had picked up to place into the boiling pot on the stove right into Donghyuck’s face. His now empty hands came up and clutched at his chest where his heart was pounding.
“Hyuck! What if I was holding a knife? I could have hurt you!” Taeyong steadied his breathing as he watched his younger brother with wide eyes wipe carrot remnants from his cheeks.
“It’s not my fault everything scares you!” Taeyong let out a deep sigh as his shoulders sagged. Turning back around to pick up more carrots to chop he addressed his little brother once more.
“Hyuckie. Insulting someone is not the way to get them to do what you want, just so you know.” He felt Donghyuck crowd up next to him and cling to his arm that was holding the carrot steady.
“I’m sorry, hyung. I love you. You’re the best brother ever. Wow dinner smells so good, what is it? Hm? I bet it’s going to be delicious since you made it-“ Taeyong turned to glare half heartedly at his brother, while the younger rubbed his cheek against Taeyong’s shoulder lovingly.
Their eyes met and Taeyong felt himself go weak. Prying the begging leach from his arm, he picked up the chopping board and carefully tipped the carrots into the soup, this time making sure they made it. Letting out the biggest sigh Taeyong had ever mustered, he put a lid on the soup to simmer and turned back to his brother. His eyebrows set into a hard line of annoyance, and only the slightest trace of fear was noted in his eyes when he asked.
“Do I even want to know where you’re making me take you?”
So flash forward, one pouting Donghyuck, a terribly sick Mark, and three puppy-dog-eyed friends later, he was somehow coerced into driving for them once again. Well, he had always been a sucker for his little brother. As Taeyong began to wonder why he spoiled the younger so much, they slowly crawled along the road closer to the place of interest. The words he had heard about the area when he was unable to tune out the conversations of the boys were: cave, relics, cults, and demons.
Taeyong had no interest in the gruesome details and honestly did not even plan on leaving the car, so he truly knew very little about where it was exactly that they would be headed. But… he had put on his small sliver cross necklace and matching dangle earring just in case though.
When the GPS dinged that they had arrived, they were driving with the coast on their left side and the woods on their right. It was nearing midnight, and if it had been up to Renjun they would have left even later. Something about 3am being The Witching Hour and that’s when spirits were closest to ‘our realm’; Taeyong had gotten goose bumps just thinking about it. Jaemin had his phone pulled up directing Renjun who was leaned over into the front seat showing Taeyong where to park.
There was a small stretch of dirt road that veered off into a densely surrounded cul-de-sac looking area of the woods. The path began to thin into a small, winding pathetic excuse for a road and Taeyong had to yell at the boys to put their seatbelts back on due to the sudden deep bumps and grooves.
After the short distance, they settled into a little nook underneath the darkness of the trees. Apparently the car would be hidden there so they ‘couldn’t get arrested’ according to Donghyuck. Taeyong just sighed out at his exclamation and let his head flop lightly forward onto the steering wheel. What had he gotten himself into?
“Okay, hyung, help us carry the bag and make sure you bring the car keys.” Donghyuck said as the other three began to shift and get out from the backseat. Taeyong looked around, his eyes wide and questioning wondering who his little brother could be talking to. All the boys were the same age, only he was older than- oh no.
“No, no, no. No. I’m staying here. No,” Taeyong shook his head vehemently back and forth, his hands firmly grasped on the wheel, knuckles turning white.
“You can’t just sit here in the car all alone, come on! Hyung! You’ve come this far,” his little brother harped, grabbing and lightly shaking his shoulder.
“Yeah, hyung. Don’t you want to conquer your fears?” Renjun called out, struggling to carry the giant black backpack full of ghost hunting equipment they drug everywhere. Taeyong’s mouth popped open in surprise. Was this their plan the whole time? His eyes switched between each of the boys, landing on Jeno last who flashed him a very encouraging and gentle smile that cutely crescented his eyes into half moons.
“Don’t worry! We wouldn’t do anything that wasn’t safe, hyung,” Jeno softly replied. Taeyong couldn’t hold the scoff and slight roll of his eyes at that. Jaemin came around and opened the driver side door putting on his biggest puppy eyes. Dammit.
“Hyung,” Jaemin pouted up at the oldest, eyes round, “please? We need you with us,” Jaemin turned the aeygo to full volume and he was pretty sure he could hear Renjun gag in disgust at the sight. The thought of how many times he had sighed tonight passed through Taeyong’s mind when he let out the biggest one thus far.
“Fine,” the boys began to cheer before Taeyong cut them off, “but! If I see or feel anything funny I’m coming right back.” The boy’s all agreed, except for Renjun who was beginning to waddle while attempting to sling the backpack onto his back. Jeno quickly turned to him and put it on his back instead before they began to grab the other pack out of the trunk. Donghyuck handed the other bag to Taeyong to sling across his shoulder before giving him a tight side hug.
“You owe me big, Hyuckie.”
“I know. I know.”
Apparently their final destination was an honest to god abandoned and desolate haunted cave. The little section of woods they had parked in was across the small road from old stone steps that led down to the bottom of a jutted cliff nestled on the side of the coast.
As they crossed the silent street and began to descend the steps, Renjun and Donghyuck led the way with Taeyong cowering in the back several paces slower than the other boys. He clung to the bag across his chest for dear life and took the mossy, overgrown steps one at a time pausing until both feet were settled on each step before daring to move down one more. The sound of the waves only added to the eerie atmosphere; crashing against sharp rocks embedded in the sand as the soft wind became a howl the closer to the cave they approached. Taeyong hardly looked up from his feet, trying to shoulder out the unsettling scenery.
Finally, after what felt like a millennium, he had reached the bottom while following after the younger boys. His sneakers settled into the dark and damp sand as a gust roared through his ears, jingling his thin cross earring against his cheekbone. Tearing his eyes away from the ground, he noticed that he was much, much farther back from his brother.
“Yah! W-wait for me,” Taeyong tried to call to the others who were now rounding the side of the rocks, faces buried respectively in their own blinking or crackling devices. The wind swallowed his voice and dissipated his words into the air, almost as if the cliff itself was taking his words from him. Shuddering, Taeyong finally began to move again, rushing to round the corner to follow the others.
Passing the corner of the rocks, there was the opening to what had to be the cave they came for. Damaged and illegible wooden signs were lightly stacked to the right of the opening. Faded Hangeul was etched into some of the larger rocks just inside the mouth of the cave where a small stream ran from the depths of the ocean inwards. Taeyong was grateful it was low tide; they would have to be careful not to get caught up in this cave. Prickles of fear ran up along the eldest’s spine at the thought of being stuck in here for hours on end, no phone signal… no food… or water… a loud call finally broke him from his spiraling thoughts.
“Hyung! Hurry up or we’ll leave you!” Donghyuck snickered out, receiving a light smack on the top of his head from Jaemin as he whispered something about not being mean to Taeyong. Joke or not, those words gave Taeyong the much needed push to take a step into the open mouth and follow the others who had already ventured slightly inside.
Renjun snapped pictures of any and everything they found while Jeno held up a device that was scanning the area for concentrated energies. Taeyong stepped lightly over the slick and mossy rocks to gather behind Jaemin who was bent down and had a rock in his hand turning it a few times. If he thought the sound of the ocean was scary earlier, it was even worse once he was inside.
The cave caused the sound to reverberate across the walls and farther down only to bounce back towards the opening after several seconds. Noting this, Taeyong couldn’t help but wonder just how deep the cave went and if they were planning on finding out.
The boys continued to venture forward and pick up and inspect things more often than not. Turning over a few rocks, gathering around Jeno’s device, and soft lilting conversation pulled Taeyong’s focus. Of course that was when a drop of water fell from the ceiling and landed squarely, onto his cheek. A loud, resounding scream was ripped from him in response to being completely caught off guard and more than just a little on edge. He quickly brought his hand up and wiped the offending droplet from his face. The scream had startled Jeno who quickly came over to Taeyong while snickers from Donghyuck echoed in the silence following his shout.
“Hyung, are you okay?” Jeno asked, inspecting the older, once he had reached him.
“He’s fine, he’s just being dramatic,” Donghyuck dismissed and he got back to shining his phone flashlight on the damp cave walls. Taeyong released a breath he didn’t realize he had begun to hold in and lightly rested his hand on Jeno’s shoulder and smiled softly.
“I’m fine, thanks for asking Jeno.” Jeno nodded, smiling brightly and shooting a thumbs up before he was beckoned over by Jaemin who apparently found some kind of relic which set all of the boys in motion.
Time sneakily crept by as the boy’s journeyed further into the cave. Small stretches of sand now occupied either side of the cave, the middle still littered with slick rocks and a softly gurgling stream. Honestly, if this wasn’t some kind of creepy haunted cult worshipping whatever ground, it would probably be very beautiful.
Every few minutes they would stop their trek as Jeno picked up on something or Renjun found more writing on the walls. They only came to a complete stop when they got closer to what had to be the end of the cave. The rushing sound of water was amplified here, so loud that they had to almost scream to be heard over it.
Dark sand was smoothed out on the most solid ground they had seen thus far inside the cave. Approaching with caution, Taeyong noted that there were some kind of lines drawn into the sand itself. A scrawl of spirals and clashing angular lines outlined the centerpiece of it all: a small rock. I suppose small isn’t exactly the right word. Small in comparison to the giant boulders littering the beach, splitting the waves, but bigger than the stones they had been walking over inside the cave. Taeyong lingered back on the edge of the sand with Jeno, as the other three boys approached it.
“Whoa,” Jaemin whispered out.
“Seriously,” Renjun murmured behind him, quickly rounding the taller boy to get a closer look and to snap several pictures.
Donghyuck scanned his phone flashlight across the wall behind whatever weird summoning circle they had stumbled upon. Words were written here much more clearly than the faded markings at the entrance, but it didn’t seem to be Hangeul
“Renjun, is that-“ Taeyong started, lips trembling.
“Yeah. It’s Mandarin. Whoa.” Renjun cut him off to answer, obviously entranced by whatever he was able to read on the walls. “Some kind of… incantation? For a summons?”
“Oh shit,” Donghyuck breathed out stepping further up the sand, avoiding the lines drawn beneath him. Taeyong stared, fear making his eyes go wide.
“Language…” he rasped out at his little brother, barely able to form the words. A strange pressure was creeping up Taeyong and settled around his shoulders as the three boys on the sand continued to snap pictures and explore. Jeno looked over to the eldest noting his current state and inability to breathe properly.
“Hyung?” Jeno started before a loud beeping noise began to ring out from his hand. Jeno stared down at his palm holding the device that could pick up energies as it went crazy. “Oh wow.”
“What, what, what?” Donghyuck excitedly turned and flashed the light their way, momentarily blinding the others.
The small black box with its wide green screen was lit up fiercely when Jeno held it forwards to the center of the circle where Renjun now stood. The pressure settled deep in the pit of Taeyong’s stomach before quickly leaving him. A gust of wind rushed up through his grey hair, rustling it from his eyes and causing Taeyong to stumble backwards over the sand.
“Nope. Okay that’s it for me boys, I’m heading out. I’m sorry.” He didn’t even wait for a confirmation or complaint. Taeyong quickly rotated his bag strap to settle on his back before running as fast as he possibly could back to the front of the cave to get the hell out of there.
They had traveled much farther than Taeyong had remembered, it taking him several minutes to finally reach the entrance. Sweat lazily dripped lightly down the sides of his forehead when he was hit with the same growling sound of wind and grating boom of crashing waves. Instead of finding reprieve from the wind, it felt as if it was speaking him, blowing against his front and trying to push him back inside of the cave.
His small stature had Taeyong tripping backwards from the force of the gale, falling ass first into the sand in front of the cave. His breaths came and went quickly as he gulped trying to get the oxygen to his lungs. Looking to his right he was greeting with some of the carved rocks. Straining his eyes, Taeyong could barely make out the words:
Call its name and it will hear.
“What the fuck…” Taeyong scrambled up, heels kicking up sand in his wake as he got his bearings after tripping once more.
Blood pounded in his ears as he took the archaic, and definitely unsafe, steps back up to the now eerily silent road. He didn’t bother trying to catch his breath, and only finally slowed minutely when he saw his small, beat up car in the near distance. Scrambling he wrenched the bag off his form across his chest and dug through it locating his keys in record time. The relief Taeyong experienced as he settled inside his car and heard the soft beep beep noting the locked doors was euphoric.
Pulling his phone from his back pocket with unsteady hands, he hurriedly sent a text to Donghyuck telling him where he was and that he was not going back out there. Giving the boys a time limit of 15 minutes before he up and left them, he let his head roll back to lean on the headrest.
It was then that Taeyong noticed the silence.
No animals calling, no wind blowing or trees rustling, not even the sound of another car driving mindlessly by.
The juxtaposition had to have made it worse. Loud, booming waves and screaming angry wind were all he had heard for the past- Taeyong looked at the clock and gasped. It was almost 5 o’clock in the morning. They had all completely lost track of time and only then did he notice a soft strain of hunger now settling in his stomach. However, he was too overwhelmed with nausea to even think about eating at the moment. Sunrise would be soon and even if it was the weekend and the boys were free, he had work in five hours.
It seemed like mere seconds had passed when he saw the bobbing head of his little brother approach, his friends and their gear in tow. It also didn’t take a genius to know the ever present pout would be on his face again.
Taeyong unlocked the car and popped the truck when they finally approached and settled back into the car.
“Don’t even start,” Taeyong immediately cut Donghyuck’s whining off. “It’s 5am. I have work soon. We needed to leave anyways.”
“Wait, five in the morning?!” Renjun half yelled from the backseat as he pulled his phone out to check the time to make sure.
“Whoa,” the boys said in unison. Taeyong could almost laugh at their impeccable timing, but he was far too concerned with getting them the hell out of there and back home as soon as possible.
Driving home was smooth sailing, but Taeyong was more than a little preoccupied. His thoughts strayed constantly to the sounds of the wind coupled with the strange pressure that seemed to be set on his shoulders before it pooled in his gut. He couldn’t even shake the feeling once he was showered, had fed the hungry gremlins who forced him into all of this in the first place, and was nestled in bed.
Looking at the clock wasn’t necessary for Taeyong to know that he wouldn’t be getting any sleep that night. As the sun peeked through his blinds and emitted a glow across his navy blue sheets, his mind wandered back to the words he had read.
Call its name and it will hear.
No matter where Taeyong had looked in the cave, outside it, on the walls, or nestled into the strange lines in the sand, one word came to mind. It even seemed to flow between the mossy rocks as he recalled the soft stream that split the cave down its middle . A word? A number? A name?
He couldn’t shake the feeling of something trapped between dread and longing as he stared at the inside of his eyelids. He knew he hadn’t dreamt it up.