Chapter 1: Prologue
Title: Crimson Devil
Book I : CHILDHOOD
There’s an old saying: life begins at…whatever age you choose. Some use twenty. Some use forty. In truth, life begins whenever you choose it to begin. Life is more than just a series of events that happen in a certain order. Be it random or preordained, it matters not. Not in the grand scheme of things.
Most find little comfort in such knowledge. What really matters is the here and now. Such things do not matter to a little six year old Korean boy. His name is Kim Myung-sook and he is the youngest of a pair of twins. His older twin (by all of seven minutes), is Myung-soo. They live in a small fishing village in the province of Kosong, in the country of North Korea.
Unlike its southern counterpart, it is run by a dictator; life is extremely hard there. For a young couple with a pair of twin boys, even more so. The world in which they live is a difficult one. Most of their time is out by the sea, trying to get enough food to feed their family. The government demands most of their catch, so it’s difficult to get enough to feed two growing boys.
The world around them is ever changing, however. Regimes come and go; dictators fall and rise. The current regime is hell bent on becoming one of the world’s biggest superpowers. At the moment, however, they are little more than a laughing stock. No one takes them seriously, not really. They aim to change that.
None of this really matters to the parents of the twins. The father had done his best to teach the boys the value of work and family. Nothing was more important than your family. They learned this lesson well; nothing was as important to Myung-sook as his twin brother.
He followed Myung-soo around all hours of the day. There is a common thought that twins are inseparable. This was not always the case, but it was with the Kim twins. If Soo was anywhere but at Sook’s side, the younger of the twins would cry. Sook always had to be within eyesight of his twin brother.
The two had never really been apart until that fateful day. At an early age, Sook began to exhibit certain “powers.” Whenever he would grow agitated or upset, things had a tendency to blow up. The Kim family did everything they could to hide this from the nearby military garrison. But even the most best kept secret couldn’t be kept forever.
Chapter 2: Chapter 1
6 years old
It was a cold day in January when the soldiers came. It wasn’t really anything unusual; there were always soldiers around. But on this particular day, everyone knew something was different. Everyone in the village was called to the center square, which almost never happened.
On this day, the garrison commander strode into the square, the frightened eyes of the gathered parents watching. Many of them had lost family members to the military already. Any number of reasons had been given for the disappearances. Some of them were told the person in question was a traitor, going against the teachings of the Fatherland. Most cases like this, no one believed it. Many of the people that went missing were elderly.
But lately, the target of the disappearances seemed to be children. Children like Myung-sook, who had strange and unusual powers. No one knew why this had begun to happen. Perhaps there were people like them all along, and for some reason it was just coming to light what they could do. Or perhaps it was a new occurrence, some strange twist of fate that made these children different from others. No one could really say, but then again, no one spoke of this openly.
The commander stood in the center of the square, turning his eagle eyed gaze onto each parent and each child. The children fidgeted, not realizing how much danger they were in at that moment. His eyes soon fell on the Kim family and he stepped forward. “Kim-ssi.”
“Yes, Chungjwa-ssi?” Sook’s father replied, his voice low and subservient. Sook looked up at him in confusion; he’d never once heard his father speak like that to anyone. Was this an important man perhaps?
“It has come to our attention that one of your son’s is…special.” The commander’s lips thinned at this. In truth, he was a member of the faction that felt all such “special children” should be executed upon discovery. They were an abomination in the eyes of God. However, he was just a soldier doing his duty. The government wanted all such children sent to the capital unharmed. If the Supreme Commander wanted to keep these creatures in one place, so be it.
“Both of my sons are special, Chungjwa-ssi. I’m not sure…” Kim Jin Seok closed his mouth upon seeing the look from the commander. He looked at his wife, Young Mi, who looked just as frightened as the children.
“Please, Kim-ssi. I’m not so stupid as that. Everyone here knows about the incident.” The incident the commander spoke of was when Sook had caused a fish to explode when it had come up behind him by surprise. It had been quite a sight to behold; everyone in the area had talked about it for months on end.
Jin Seok gritted his teeth and said nothing. What could they do? “It’s nothing, sir. Truly. He’s just a little boy…”
“You know the law, Kim. Take him.” The commander made an off hand gesture and two of the soldiers rushed forward, taking a hold of Myung-sook.
The little boy screamed, trying to get away. One of the soldiers slapped the boy sharply across the face. This had the effect of startling him into silence. Large tears welled up in his eyes and fell down his cheeks, but he didn’t say anything more. He did, however, reach out for his twin brother.
The older twin dashed forward and hugged his younger, frightened twin hard. “Don’t worry, Sook. I’ll find you. I promise I’ll find you!”
“Promise?” Sook looked at his twin and felt an immediate sense of relief. Soo would come get him. He was sure of it! They’d get away and be happy together again.
“Get away you little cretin!” One of the soldiers pushed Myung-soo away, knocking him to the ground. Myung-sook, momentarily forgetting his fright, grew angry instead. The soldier suddenly cried out, the ground where he’d been standing suddenly exploding into a ball of fire.
The commander’s hand reached out, grabbing the six year old by his upper arm. “You will control yourself boy. Or your brother will be the first to die as you watch. Do you understand me?”
“Y… Yes sir.” Myung-sook swallowed, looking up at the man in fear. Why couldn’t they just leave them alone?
“Good.” He turned, barking orders. Myung-sook was not the only child to be taken that day. Three others exhibited powers, though none as dramatic as what little Sook was capable of. Nor did the commander allow any kind of goodbyes. Once they were found, the children were placed under heavy guard and taken to the nearest train station. From there, they were placed on a train that would take them to the capital city of Pyongyang.
It was obvious that the children did not want to leave. But with two large soldiers guarding each child, and the imposing presence of the garrison commander, no one thought to stop them. Sook turned back as he was led away, his eyes imploring his parents and brother to rescue him. He watched his twin attempt to ru to him, but his father placed a hand on his Myung-soo’s shoulder, holding him back.
As Myung-sook was led away from his family, never to see them again, he felt a deep seated sense of betrayal. Weren’t parents supposed to protect their children at all costs? Why were they letting these men take him away? For the first time in his young life, he felt anger.
Myung-sook had never seen a train outside of television. Despite being so scared, he couldn’t help but to stare up at it in awe. It was so big and shiny! The other kids had quieted upon seeing it as well. They were all poor children, having never experienced the luxuries from the big city.
The four children were led down the platform and were joined by other children. They ranged in age from the very young (like Myung-sook, no older than six years) to late teens. These were separated from the rest and shackled. They were taken to one of the far cars. Later, in the dead of night, in a strange place, the younger children wondered what had happened to the older kids since no one could remember seeing them anywhere in their new home.
Myung-sook wasn’t sure what to make of all of this. They were in a small cabin in the train. The guards that had watched them were stationed outside, so there was no chance of getting away. Ever the quiet one, Myung-sook watched the other three in silence.
There were two girls and one other boy. All three were around his age, though one girl was a few years older. The two girls were sisters, which made him wonder why they hadn’t taken Myung-soo. Surely his twin had powers of his own, right? After all, they were twins! But Soo had never shown any kind of powers. If he had, then the soldiers would certainly have picked him up, along with Sook. Shaking his head at the thought, Sook looked up and at the other three.
The boy’s name was Chul, and the girls were Iseul and Jeong. Iseul, the eldest of the girl’s, was a sort of mother hen. She kept near her sister and generally glared at everything in the vicinity. She had long white hair, while her sister had the same length, only in black. After listening to them talk, it was clear that out of the four of them, Sook was the one with the most violent ability.
Chul was able to make himself unseen. Not invisible; that was a little more than his powers allowed him, at least at his current age. But he had the ability to make others not see him. He was still there, but he could make them ignore his presence.
The elder girl, Iseul, had the power of ice. The cold never bothered her and when she concentrated enough, she could turn anything into ice. There were times, in fact, she could use water and fashion it into anything in ice form. Outwardly, she was just as cold as the ice that she could produce. The only one that seemed to be able to make her warm up was her sister, Jeong.
Jeong, on the other hand, was bubbly and excitable. Hers was the power of fire; which also accounted for just how energetic she could be. Unlike her sister, however, Jeong’s grasp of her ability was low, so she wasn’t able to do much more than create little fireworks with her power. Iseul was forever trying to get her baby sister to calm down and not take things in such a cavalier attitude. But Jeong, like the fire she controlled, saw life as a one-time chance and it wasn’t something to be squandered. Live life to its fullest, that’s what she firmly believed in.
There were other kids in the car, but these were the ones that Sook took to right away. They were at least semi familiar. They didn’t all live in the same village, but they were definitely from the same area of North Korea. They were familiar and right now, familiar was extremely important to all four of them.
The train that they were on was pretty large for its type. There were a pair of rows on either side of the train, accommodating a good fifty people on each side of the car. The two boys sat directly behind the two girls, each of them huddled in a blanket that had been placed on each seat. Sook looked out of the window (having claimed it as soon as they’d sat down) and gazed at his home. The train gave a little lurch, then began to move out of the station. A part of him knew that this was the last time that he’d see his home.
In the distance, he could see the ocean lapping at the shore. The water was a deep blue and he watched as wave after wave came crashing onto the shore. Sook didn’t even notice the tear that slid down his face, even as he placed a hand on the glass of the window. Mentally, he said his goodbyes; he didn’t know if he would ever see this place again, but a part of him didn’t think he would ever come back.
With the train in motion, all thoughts of home disappeared. The children spoke excitedly about what was to come, even if they were all still just a bit frightened.
Sook woke the next morning, the back of his neck sore. Blinking his eyes, he looked around and realized they’d finally arrived. A part of him had hoped that the entire thing had been nothing more than a bad dream. That his parents would be there and his brother would be there as well. That it was all a dream and he would be safe and sound in his bed.
No such luck. The train car suddenly filled with soldiers. Children were taken in hand and forced out, some crying and some not. The soldiers were obviously not having any of the crying. Every child that protested was summarily beat until they stopped.
Sook was grabbed by the arm and pulled to his feet. He gave a whimper of pain; it hurt! The soldier didn’t seem to care, however. He led Sook out of the train car and into the train station. He looked back at his new friends, but they were all being taken to different areas, so he didn’t see where they were being taken. But as soon as he was taken out of the train, his mouth dropped open in awe.
They were in the capital city of Pyongyang and it was huge! He’d never seen such large buildings in all his life! And there were so many people. It was odd though. There were soldiers everywhere, with guns displayed prominently but no one seemed to take notice or care. What did all of this mean?
Sook didn’t have much time to think about it. The soldiers placed him into the back of a military truck and off they went. Sometime later, the truck stopped and he was once again led out. While in the truck, he hadn’t been able to see anything, so he had no idea where he was, even if he had known the layout of the city.
They were on a compound, encircled by a high electrical fence. They, of course, were on the other side of the fence. Other trucks were arriving and more children were being off loaded. He didn’t have time to look around and see if he could see his friends, as he was led roughly inside the large building. It was six stories high, composed of metal and glass. It was an imposing sight, especially to a six year old. Swallowing, Sook tried to back away when they grabbed him.
That was when the soldier holding him hit him. It wasn’t a gentle tap either, but one that drew blood. He looked up with wide eyes, his small hand reaching up to wipe away the blood at his split lip. Tears filled his eyes and he cringed when the man raised his hand to hit him again. Never in his young life had anyone hit him like that. Not with such a malicious intent.
It was then that Sook realized the gravity of his situation. This was most definitely not home. These people played for keeps and if he didn’t do what they said, there was o telling just what they would do to him. Never in his life had he felt more aloe then he did at that moment. He wanted his mother. To feel her arms around him and to know that he was protected.
He wanted his twin brother, who would be there to explain things, who would protect him where his parents couldn’t. But they weren’t there, not any of them. His father had even restrained his twin from trying to go to him. The feeling of betrayal hit him again and he pulled away from the soldier. He stood up straight and began to walk. He wouldn’t show any of them any weakness. He would do this on his own and he would show them that he wasn’t to be trifled with. Yes, he was only six years old. But he’d seen and experienced a lot in those six years and he wasn’t about to let some stranger intimidate him.
Even if he was scared out of his wits. No one needed to know that.
Stepping into the building, he finally saw his friends from the train. He raised his hand to wave at them, only to yelp in pain when one of the soldier’s cuffed him across the ear. “Be quiet.”
Sook glared at him but he didn’t say anything. He stood in line and waited. There was a long line of children and they were standing in front of a long table. There were four adults behind it, with laptop computers and what looked like a gun in front of them. Only the gun looked strange, nothing like the ones that the soldiers were carrying.
Not wanting to rouse the ire of the soldiers again, Sook remained silent as he waited for his turn. It was a good hour or more before he finally arrived at the head of the table.
The man behind the table was only a little past his adolescence. Despite that, his gaze was dull and cold. “Name.”
Sook swallowed. “Kim Myung-sook, sir.”
The man looked up and gazed at Sook carefully. “What is your power?”
“I…don’t understand.” Now he was getting scared again.
“What. Is. Your. Power.” The older man spoke each word slowly. “What is it that you do?”
“Oh. Uhm… Sometimes, when I get upset, I can make things explode.”
The man looked up and studied Sook for a good long while. To the point that Sook began to fidget and worry if he’d said something wrong.
“All right then.” He looked down the list and then tapped a piece of paper. “Seol. Zachariah.”
“Excuse me sir?” Sook blinked in confusion. Who was this Seol person?
“Your name, boy. Kim Myung-sook does not exist. You are now known as Seol Zachariah. You will not go by any other name.” He motioned to a soldier, who came over and grabbed Sook…no. Zachariah by the arm.
Zachariah. It meant the glory and remembrance of God. It was a cool name, but he wondered just why they had changed it. What was wrong with Myung-sook?