The air was cold, the wind biting at his exposed face, a thin sweater his only protection from the weather, but it didn’t matter. Taehyung was already numb.
He found himself on the edge of the platform. He had risen with the sun that morning, his mind a blank, blindingly white void, a reflection of the snowy landscape ahead of him, a drastic contrast to the dark, winding, consuming turmoil that usually dominated his thoughts. Today he had simply rolled out of his small bed, haphazardly dressed himself, trudged out into the snow, and now here he was, thin canvas shoes soaked through, looking over the tracks. The morning was young, and he stood on the old platform, not where the trains stopped, but just ahead of it, where now they only passed through. The building was an aging, dilapidated structure, bricks vandalized, wood rotting, and signs rusting from the disuse of a handful of years, but some aura about it echoed the life it once harbored--bustling, thriving, living. Taehyung glanced around and saw no one, nothing. He was once living, too, but was now nothing more than an echo, a soul run out of life. It was best this way: no one would see, no one had to know. This way it could be quiet and quick.
He’d been here before, to wait, but just how long can one wait for something that's never meant to happen? He had waited enough. He stepped forward, off of the platform and onto the tracks, stumbling a bit as he slipped on the slick metal. Wondering how much longer it would take, he turned his head and gazed out into the nothingness on the the horizon. It was with no feeling at all that he lowered himself to his knees. He paused for just a moment, half a breath, almost but not quite enough time for a thought, before he carefully placed his hands on the track, unfeeling, empty. Slowly tilting his head to the right, towards the still rising sun, towards his end, he pressed his ear to the icy steel.
Intimately, through the vibrations of the frozen metal, he could sense the freighter in the distance long before he saw it. He didn’t flinch, didn't smile, didn't feel, just held his gaze straight ahead as a whistle cried out to him from miles away. As the call of the engine and fervent shuddering of the rail beneath his head and hands intensified, he held his eyes open and he waited, one last time.
Over the deafening noise, a shocking stroke of red against the dead whiteness, a small bird perched on a dead cherry tree and began to sing.
Jungkook pressed his cheek to the icy window. The ride from Seoul to his destination was a little over two hours, and he was only about fifteen minutes in, but he was already anxiously bouncing his leg in anticipation. His life was changing almost faster than he could keep up with, much like the train he now occupied. At nineteen, he was fairly accustomed to coming and going, the constant moving between foster homes and those of distant relatives just an accepted facet of his life. But this time, it was different. For the first time he was doing as he chose, going where he wanted. For the first time it felt as if he were going home . In his case, that came in the form of a small, affordable university in the coastal, eastern reaches of Daegu.
That morning he had packed up everything he owned, which wasn’t much, waved goodbye to the kind woman who had been housing him for the past few months, and climbed aboard the channel to his next chapter. The morning was still in its adolescence, the sun not yet risen, so Jungkook held his cheek against the window, willed his leg to stop shaking, pulled his jacket a bit tighter around him, and succumbed to sleep.
Before he knew it, he was tugged from his dreamless rest by the lurch of the train pulling into the station. He glanced out the window to find the skies of Daegu dark with clouds although he knew by now the sun was risen. Wrapping a thick scarf around his neck and taking his single suitcase in one hand, umbrella to protect from the wet snow in the other, he stepped out and greeted Daegu with a smile. It was still early, and the only occupant of the platform was a boy who appeared to be not much older than him, dressed in clothes much too thin for the severe weather, sitting on a bench, his head down. Without thinking, Jungkook approached him.
The boy looked up, his dark eyes widening as they made contact with Jungkook’s own. Bronze hair stuck haphazardly out of the small winter hat he wore to cover his ears, drawing attention to the thick, dark eyebrows furrowed above his eyes. He stood and immediately pulled Jungkook into a hug.
“I’m waiting for you, Jungkook,” the boy said, the long tassels hanging off of his hat tickling Jungkook’s arm. His voice was deep and soothing, but something in his tone was urgent, unsettling.
Jungkook stepped away, confused, and tried to open his mouth to speak, but found he couldn’t.
The boy grabbed his arms, almost forcefully, his voice growing louder as he repeated himself, “ I’m waiting, Jungkook .” Desperation filled his eyes. “ How much longer do I have to wait ?” Fear crept into Jungkook's heart.
Jungkook couldn’t remember ever having met the boy, but somehow he knew him. He knew he needed to respond, that there was something he needed to do, something he needed to say, but still, he couldn't speak. He formed the words with his mouth, but no sound escaped his lips. Suddenly, the boy grabbed his wrist and began to pull him, and, as if he had no control of his body, Jungkook simply dropped his umbrella and suitcase and followed him.
He was led through the rusting door at the end of the platform, and suddenly they were in a dimly lit hall, and they were running. Jungkook struggled to keep up, but when he glanced behind him, he somehow found himself in front of the other boy, leading him. Again the overwhelming feeling of there being something he needed to do, somewhere he needed to be overcame him. Turning a corner, he stopped short when the hall abruptly ended in an opening to a tunnel.
From behind him, the boy whispered, “ How much longer? ” and Jungkook turned to look at him, but before he could, a multi-car passenger train was suddenly speeding through the tunnel. As Jungkook watched it race by, entranced, he noticed that every car was empty.
And then he saw himself. In a car of the train, cheek against the window, eyes gazing out into nothingness, for a fraction of a moment, Jungkook made eye contact with himself. His heart started to race, his stomach to churn, and thoughts and emotions that he felt weren't his own began to fill his mind. He stepped back, horrified, confused, wondering where the boy who had led him here was, but suddenly he was being violently thrown forward, towards the fast-moving train that seemed to have no end.
He opened his eyes to find himself on the ground in front of the seat he had been sitting on, feeling panicked and unsettled. His suitcase lay on its side where he had placed it earlier, adjacent to his seat, and he slowly pulled himself up onto his feet, sharing confused looks with the scarce amount of other passengers around him, most of whom were in similar states of dishevelment.
Out the window, he noticed that the skies of Daegu were actually quite bright, the sun emerging over the horizon, casting a warm glow over the field of white snow that blanketed everything in sight. He suddenly remembered his dream, and a heavy air of disconcertion settled around him. Something wasn’t right.
As if his body were moving on its own, he began running through the train, leaving his luggage behind, only one thing on his mind. He pushed through the doors between cars until he finally pushed through a door that led him to the outside world.
The air was bitingly cold, and Jungkook felt his hands begin to numb in just moments, but it didn’t matter. His mind was already numb.
He looked to his right and for a moment wondered why a station he had never been to looked so familiar, before he realized that it was the platform from his dream. A crowd had formed a couple hundred meters behind the train, and Jungkook slowed his pace as he got closer, somehow already knowing what he was going to find, but fearful curiosity dragging him closer despite the dread permeating his thoughts.
He could smell it before he saw it: the rusty, rancid stench of death. His stomach turned, his vision darkened, but he stayed on his feet. He had to know.
Like a drunk, he stumbled to the edge of the crowd, carelessly beginning to shove the onlookers away, little by little making his way to the center, where two police officers had taped off a small area. There, on the tracks, directly in front of the door he had been pulled through in his dream, lay a body so mangled and abused that it would have been impossible to identify it just by looking, but in that moment Jungkook knew.
“I'm here,” he whispered to the disfigured lump of flesh on the ground. “ I'm here ,” he said a bit louder, catching the attention of the two officers and the bystanders.
He pushed past the caution tape, “ I'm here !” He cried, body shaking as he fell to his knees next to what was left of the boy.
“ I'm here! I'm here! I'm here!” he screamed, tears running down his face, fists against the ground, not caring if he got blood on his jeans or on himself.
The blood was already on his hands.
As the officers pulled him away from the mess, struggling and sobbing, he noticed a small bird perched on a nearby tree, a stroke of red against the dead whiteness. It was the same red as the blood that sunk deeper into the snow with every passing moment, the same red that burned in the back of his eyelids, refusing to let him see anything else.
Jungkook continued to scream, and the bird began to sing, almost harmonizing with his song of agony in some horrific way. He wondered if this were a dream too.
Suddenly, as if it were being whispered into his ear, a name entered his mind and he promptly leaned over and vomited into the snow and onto one of the officers’ shoes. He didn't apologize, only hung limply from the man's grip and looked from the bird to the battered body.
He choked on the name as it finally, finally , found its way past his lips.
“ Taehyung. ”