Chapter 1: Prologue
This isn’t going to make a lot of sense to you in the beginning, and I’m sorry about that.
Every story, every person, every life you read is jumbled and seemingly unreal. I could try and give you the most realistic explanation as to how or why all of this happened, but even then… it would still seem too surreal to believe.
So, I’ll start with the house.
I lived here until I was 9, my father shoving us along when my brother, Hyunjin, died. The rooms, the many many rooms inside the house, were restricted; closed off by my father in a fit of a rage when great grandpa Chan insisted on telling us all of the stories of the family curse. But that didn’t stop Chan.
He drilled peepholes out of spite.
When my brother died… there was a shift. Not a shift in what the family had to disappointingly endure, but in the direction everything had been going. You’ll know what I’m talking about later.
I hadn’t been back since Hyunjin’s funeral, but arriving at the large house on a small island off the coast of Korea made my chest twist and turn until I couldn’t breathe. The mailbox was filled to the brim in unopened envelopes and bills, all labeled in bright red words reading ‘urgent’ The house remained untouched, breathing in gentle puffs of breath and staring down my every move with eerie excitement as if it had been waiting for me all these years.
But I could not share that same excitement. Even after all of these years, the house still gave me that same feeling it always did, but it was only upon my arrival, ten years later, I was able to identify it as fear. But I wasn’t sure if it was the house or the curse that I was afraid of.
I still don’t.
I wasn’t all too surprised to find that the key my father left behind didn’t fit into the front door. It was never that easy. But I managed to find my way. I always did.
But… crawling through the doggy door wasn’t as easy as it used to be.
I’m not sure if you’ll ever visit the house, so I’ll try and describe it to you the best I can.
Great Grandpa Chan loved books about as much as he loved music, so the walls were built in with bookshelves that not only held endless amounts of literature, it held records, CD’s and instruments equally as so. However, despite the house being a library, Chan had his own personal library. There was a time that he told me that every single story was stashed in that room, but my father sealed it off before I could go inside as a kid.
I wished he hadn’t sealed off the rooms… but something told me that whatever would come out of this, it would be my childhood curiosity vanishing into thin air.
Chapter 2: Minho
There was no hard telling what was in that journal.
But my curiosity got the best of me.
Growing up, Minho’s room was the one I wanted to go to the most. He seemed like the kind of person I could be friends with, even if I couldn’t actually be around to see or talk to him due to the time difference. But nonetheless, from what I’ve heard and seen, he was a young, innocent soul.
It probably had something to do with the fact that he was 6 when he died.
I had to go through Great uncle Woojin’s old room to get to Minho’s room, the house is built with so many secret passages it hurt my head, but after so many years of merely looking through a peephole, I was finally able to step foot into Minho’s room. It was rather… odd. I wasn’t sure if it was because it felt like more of a museum than a room or knowing that Minho was dead and the room hadn’t been touched since 1946.
The room was rather large, painted with pale orange that was more of a peachy color and a ufo surrounded by the planets of the solar system He had a desk by the window, and a dresser not too far away covered in an array of things, but the most noticeable of trademarks was the face of Minho painted onto a stone, Chan’s signature at the bottom right corner. The dresser had a built-in snake terrarium. Chan told me Minho used to have a lot of snakes when he was growing up. Chan hated snakes.
On the desk in the corner of the room underneath the wide window, there was a notebook. I remember feeling fear when my fingers grazed upon it, realizing that this was the journal of a dead boy. That the words inside were written so long ago and hadn’t been read in years. There was no hard telling what was in that journal.
But my curiosity got the best of me.
We’re going to the carnival today!
“Minho! Baby, are you dressed?”
The soft tone of a woman rang out through the house, the little boy sat on the edge of his bed snapping his head up for a moment. “Coming!” The boy finished tying his little brown boots over his gray socks before jumping down off of his bed with a toothy grin. Minho ran up to his snake terrarium, slowly placing his tiny hands and face against the glass and whispering to the copperhead snake inside. “I’m going on an adventure today, Bo! I hope momma lets me get a toy there…” He trailed off, tongue poking out through his lips cutely. His mother screamed out for him again, and Minho realized he couldn’t hover there anymore. “I have to go, Bo. Be good!” Minho ran off, throwing open the door and practically stumbling down the stairs. His father was waiting at the end, snickering when Minho nearly fell face first into the floor. “Sorry, Ma.” Minho trailed off shyly when his mother rounded the corner, plump cheeks a crimson and eyes shifted to the ground.
The woman let out an angelic laugh and ruffled the boy’s hair, patting it once. “It’s okay, baby. Let’s just get going.” She murmured, and took the little boys hand, leading them out of the two-story home with Chan not far behind. The man helped Minho into the car, despite the six-year old’s insistence that he didn’t need it. “Minho, let your father help you.” His mother scolded, and Minho flushed, pouting as he was lifted into the car. Chan placed a kiss to his forehead when he retreated, patting his chest to make sure he was firm in the seat and then closing the door. Chan opened the door for his wife, the woman smiling at him fondly before slipping into the car just as her son wished he could do.
Apparently, there are supposed to be clowns there, but I think they’re creepy. I hope none of them try and talk to me! I guess I’ll have to see them as the enemy on my adventure!
The drive to the carnival was question-filled, Minho firing question after question his parents' way. His mother had begun to grow irritated at the countless questions, but Chan answered each and everyone one of them with ease and patience. Minho had always been curious about the world, and with Chan being home a lot nowadays, he spent more time with his son and realized that Minho, was in fact, a tiny version of him with his mother’s features. It was rather creepy how similar the two looked, and in a way, that’s why his mother was so attached to Minho as a whole, but something about this whole thing just… really set Chan off for some reason. Perhaps it was just his nerves affiliated with going to the carnival, as it wasn’t the safest place for a child, but nonetheless… Minho helped him forget. “Why do you think kids like clowns so much?”
Chan pretended to think for a moment, tapping his lips as he glanced at a patiently waiting Minho fondly. Minho’s leg bounced up and down, eyes flickering out the window as his attention jumped from tree to tree, from cliff side to cliff side, and then the carnival in the far, far distance. “You like colors, no?” Chan wondered allowed before Minho could jump at the sight of the carnival, gathering his attention at just the right time. The boy didn’t know where his father was going with this, but he answered anyway with a nod of his head. “Well, clowns are really colorful. Perhaps, kids are drawn to the colors and innocent appearance of a clown.” Chan tried his best to explain but a tense silence fell over them as Minho played with the kitten stuffy in his arms with the tiniest of pouts. “What’s wrong, Min?” Chan inquired not even moments later, concerned for his son.
“I don’t like clowns, dad. They’re scary.” Minho’s voice wavered when he spoke, just barely above a whisper and slightly muffled due to his pouty lips. Minho’s parents shared a look of understanding, the woman turning back to face her son with a bright smile. “I don’t want to talk to the clowns, momma!” Minho wailed suddenly, causing both of his parents to flinch at the sudden shrill tone bouncing off of the small car’s interior. The woman sighed, reaching out to rub her palm along Minho’s knee in comfort.
“Minho, baby, do you remember our deal? The one we made last night?”
Momma says that I can get some treats there if I’m good, but… don’t tell her this! But I think I’m more ready for the adventure and the rides than I am the sweets.
The boy’s eyes lit up, nodding his head frantically. The woman laughed gently and patted his knee once more before moving away. “Well, you have to be nice to the clowns to earn your reward. We must be nice to others, Minho.” The boy deflated at this, a pout on his lips and a look of what seemed like genuine fear in his eyes but his parents paid that fear no mind. And oh… Oh, how they wished they had. “Stay close, baby.” His mother demanded the moment they climbed out of the car and their feet hit the grassy field they parked in. There were many other cars parked around them, people entering the entrance of the carnival with tickets in hand and giddy smiles on their lips at a rather impressive rate, but something felt so… off to Chan.
Minho took his mother by the hand and dragged her up to the ticket booth, bouncing on the balls of his feet with a giddy feeling in his heart. The boy’s mind was racing with all of the possibilities, what adventures he could make up in the deepest depths of his imagination and completely block out all the warnings his mother was so graciously providing him. Minho’s eyes were anywhere but his parents, the rides in front of him flashing into something so much more… exciting. The Ferris wheel turned into a machine that lifted people on Earth into space, ran by aliens, of course, the carousel faded into a big, shining UFO that span at such high speeds, the people on it became sick. It was a trap! The people walking around were human test subjects and the clowns were the aliens trying to torture chambers on them! Minho’s eyes landed on one of The culprits, dressed in puffy, red polka dotted trousers and a soft, silk white shirt on top. Minho flinched at the sight of the clown.
“Minho! Are you listening to me?” The boy’s head came up in a slow drawl, eyes fearful when they reached the irritated ones of his mother. The woman glanced where Minho had been staring originally, sighing deeply when she saw one of the many clowns walking around, smiling and laughing with children. “Minho, what did we talk about?” The woman huffed, kneeling down to look her son in the eyes. The little boy’s bottom lip quivered, shaking his head frantically when the woman tried to drag him over to the clown. “Minho! Stop fighting me!” The woman groaned, and Chan watched the interaction with wide eyes.
“Darling, come back.” He insisted, flinching a bit when a pair of fierce eyes met his own. He loved her, yes, but her temper was something that remained unmatched. Chan winced and shot Minho a pitiful glance before looking away as a whole, getting distracted by the familiar face of their carpenter, BamBam. “Oh! Hello, hyung!” Chan greeted him with a grin, placing a hand on his back and guiding them away in hopes of being able to trust his wife enough to not traumatize their kid.
“Momma, please,” Minho begged, and begged, and begged, but she didn’t listen. She dragged him over to the clown and nudged him forward. The clown turned to face him, offering Minho a kind smile that didn’t seem all too bad or menacing, and Minho put down his guard. “Hello, sir,” Minho whispered, casting his gaze down when the clown met his eyes. The man above laughed fondly and kneeled down so he was level with the boy as to not add anymore fear to the pile in Minho’s stomach.
I hope she doesn’t make me do things I don’t want to do either, though…
“Hey, kid. Want to see a trick?” Minho flickered his eyes up shyly, glancing back at his mother who wasn’t paying attention at the time and speaking with one of the other mothers her age. Minho turned back to the clown and nodded his head. The clown offered Minho a wide, playful smile that had something behind it Minho didn’t like. God, he hated it. “Now, pay close attention.” The man advised before he reached into the cloth of his wrist and pulled out a long, long strand of colorful cloths attached to one another by cheap, white thread. But Minho could not hold in his amazement, having fallen for the colors before even five of the uneven squares came slipping out.
Minho clapped his hands happily, gaping in awe when the clown let him run his fingers along the cloth. The clown never took it back, but instead, asked if he wanted to see another trick. “Please, sir!” Minho pleaded, not caring that he was the only kid around now and his mother was watching them interact contently but with lazy attention. The clown let out another boisterous, inhuman laugh before pulling out a thin, rubber pink balloon and turning his back on Minho for a few seconds. Minho tried to peek around the clown and see what he was doing, but the clown always shifted away with a high pitched giggle that sent chills down Minho’s spine.
Suddenly, the clown whirled around, eyes as wide as his smile. “Close your eyes, and hold out your hands.” Minho was rather hesitant to do so, but he did anyway, bouncing on the balls of his feet impatiently. Suddenly, the feeling of a balloon hit his fingertips and palms but Minho kept his eyes shut until the clown told him to open them. “Alright, Kid. Open your eyes.” Spanning across the two bases of Minho’s palm, was a balloon morphed into a cat, and Minho let out a gasp of excitement. The boy even went as far as to drop the cloth from before and hug the clown's legs.
“Thank you, Mr.Clown!” Minho screeched and ran off towards his mother to show her the balloon animal the clown had so graciously given him. “Momma! Momma! Look at what the nice clown gave me!” The kid wailed in excitement, shoving the cat up into the air so it was in front of her face, and his mother took it gently between her fingertips.
“Very adorable, baby, what are you naming it?” The woman inquired softly and Minho thought for a moment, obviously thinking a little too hard. “Sit on it, Minho. It’ll come to you. Now… since you were so nice to the clown, let’s go get some sweets, hm?” Minho’s eyes lit up.
But if I get a reward for doing it in the end… maybe it won’t be so bad.
It wasn’t long after that they found Chan again, and Minho happily showed him the balloon animal. Chan grinned down at his son, picking him up and hoisting him on his hip so Minho was more comfortable. “I’m not sure what to name him though…” Minho pouted, letting his chubby fingers curl around the body and bring it up to his face so he was staring the cat in the face intensely. Chan chuckled lowly and took the cat from his son’s hands and stared it down as well.
“Sir Mittens.” Minho wrinkled his nose up at that.
“That was the last two, Pa!”
“You’re bad at this, Pa…” Minho trailed off, and Chan let out a loud laugh of amusement and bewilderment at the boy’s harsh claim. “How about… Seungmin!” Minho screeched, throwing his arms in the air and nearly losing grip on the balloon animal. Chan and he flinched at that, the child grasping the balloon animal a bit more tightly to his chest and snuggling closer to Chan to be extra secure.
“That sounds like a wonderful name, baby.” His mother cooed and the family paced over to the multiple carnival stands filled with all sorts of food. Of course, Minho begged and begged for sweets and candies until his parents gave in, but promised to eat real food before touching the sweets. He wasn’t too happy about it, but his mother said, “Big, strong adventurers have to eat healthy and right so they can go off and defeat the bad guys.” And Minho couldn’t argue with that, his mother was the biggest hero he knew.
“Do they still get to eat candy, though?” Minho wondered sheepishly, even going as far as to cast his eyes downwards out of fear of angering her further.
“Of course, baby. But only after they’ve finished their mission!”
I know my momma wouldn’t make me feel bad for long. She’s the best momma in the world!
Chan had his son rested on his shoulders as he and his wife carried their food to the nearby picnic tables, letting Minho down and setting him on the bench for claiming he was to grab some napkins. “Momma… Can you hold onto Seungminnie for me? I’m afraid he’ll fly away.” Minho pouted at the woman, feeling happiness flush over him when she agreed, “Thanks, momma! You’re the best ever in the whole wide world!” He grinned, spreading his arms out as wide as he could to symbolize the world in his own little way. His mother giggled fondly and placed the balloon animal in her bag and supervised her son eating to make sure he didn’t make too big of a mess.
“That’s very kind of you, baby.” She uttered as she wiped some grease from her son’s lips and couldn’t help but let her heart swell when he shot her a wide, giddy grin.
“Just like you taught me!”
“Yes, just like I taught you.”
But I can’t wait for the rides, I want to ride the carousel over on the cliff side but pa didn’t like that very much last night…. I hope he lets me go.
Minho had waited patiently for a good portion of the day to go on the rides, but if he were honest, he was growing impatient. His parents seemed to know everyone! Every other person would stop and speak to his father or mother and it would last a good five to fifteen minutes! By the time the sun was high in the sky and sweat was evident on his upper brown, Minho had reached the peak of his impatience and managed to slip away from his parents unnoticed, letting both his mind and legs wander aimlessly.
And within a blink of an eye, the carnival turned into an alien planet! Minho’s eyes widened and his mouth fell open with a gasp as he glanced around at all the aliens surrounding him. Minho shrunk down in on himself, hoping no one would notice him as he ventured the planet and tried to find his way back home after defeating the bad man. They were tall and slim, with grey skin and black emotionless eyes, but their faces held human features, and Minho wondered if he looked the same. “Camouflage, activate!” Minho hushed and pressed a button on the middle of his chest and suddenly, he was just like everyone else around him. Minho smiled in victory and walked with more pace and excitement.
He first went into the hall of reflection, and Minho grinned and squealed as he snuck around corners and pretended to take down some of the commoner aliens, even if he was just making shooting noises and the adults were playing dead to go along with it. But... Minho didn’t need to know that. “All clear!” He yelled out suddenly and ran out of the hall of reflection and into the crowd of Aliens outside. A few spared him odd looks but Minho froze up, acting as if he were a statue until they turned and walked away, much to the boy’s relief.
Out of the corner of Minho’s eyes, he saw a certain a machine. The machine was familiar and Minho racked his brain for a moment before realization this was the machine that spins around and if it were to hit a certain level of speed, it could warp time itself. That was the only way to get to the bad man, the alien king! Minho surged forward, feet tumbling against the grassy ground as he approached the machine with entry passes crinkled in the palm of his sweaty, small hand. Minho rocked back and forth on his feet impatiently when he reached the end of the line.
He waited for what felt like hours but was really just five minutes before he was allowed onto the machine. It seemed that the alien running it didn’t even look at him! He simply took the entry passes out of his hand and allowed him to board the machine without another thought. Silly aliens. He climbed onto the nearest vessel, which happened to be one of the sea squids with long, turquoise tentacles and one big eye that bore into Minho’s very soul. The squid was perfect for his adventure.
And then Minho was moving, a blissful smile on his lips and oblivious to the shouts of his name from his parents not too far away. Minho was far too gone in his own head, seeing the flashing colors around him as the machine sped up to high, high levels, and it turns out the squid wasn’t perfect for the venture. It all happened so quickly, Minho was really about to defeat the bad king!
But Minho was in the air, hovering high up and surrounded by nothing but stars, planets, ufos and wow… the moon was so close. It felt as though Minho could simply reach his arm out and graze his tiny fingers along the gray scales of the moon. However, the moon shifted into that of an alien, and Minho let out a dramatic gasp. “You! You are a very bad man!”
A malicious smile spread over the Alien’s face, “That I am… But you are too weak to stop me, Lee Minho.”
And then Minho was falling.
I want to write more, but momma is calling for me. I’ll see you tomorrow!
Minho’s body was found three weeks later in the middle of the nearby forest. At least, that’s what Great grandpa Chan told me. When they found him, his body was mangled and beaten, having faced abuse even after his death. According to the police description, Minho had died on impact when he hit the ground which was expected as he flew a good tenth of a mile and rolled across the ground a few yards, but that wasn’t really what made my stomach sink into my toes.
When his body was found… it wasn’t left unattended. The boy looked as if he had been strangled, but the part that really made my blood run cold was that a long, string of colorful squares of fabric stitched together had been found at the crime scene, covered in blood and other things that feel too wrong to write down and explain to you. I can only hope that you understand what I’m trying to explain here.
From what I know, the carnival was shut down after there were too many reports of missing children, sexual assault charges, and broken rides, and I think that might have been the only good thing that came out of all of this...
Such a sad death, for a bright and happy boy. But you’ll find that to be a common theme as you delve deeper into these stories. I can only hope that my own death isn’t as gruesome as some of the others if you decide to keep reading.
I understand if you don’t wish to, though.
Chapter 3: Jisung
"They used Raven so much that they stopped calling him Jisung"
When Minho died, Chan mentioned that the whole family seemed to shift after that. He didn't talk about his wife a lot, for reasons I'll theorize about later, but it was rather obvious she had lost some of her wits after losing her first son. However, they never stopped trying to have a family, and a few years after Minho's death, they had a set of twins named Jisung and Felix. I didn't know much about either one of them as they both died before I was born, but I heard more about Felix as he was my grandfather and his story was used to teach more than one lesson throughout my life. But for now... I want you to know about Jisung.
The two shared a room, and Jisung's half was roped off after his death. From what I know, Felix moved out of the room the night of his twin's death and he never looked back.
Chan mentioned that Jisung wished to fly, even being nicknamed Raven. They used Raven so much that they stopped calling him Jisung and I only learned that that hadn't been his actual name after Chan accidentally referred to him as Jisung and I became confused.
This may seem pointless now, but knowing that all Jisung wanted to do was fly like a bird is crucial for you to understand when you read the poem Felix wrote about him and how the boy died.
The Raven That Couldn't fly... but then did.
By Lee Felix
Mornings were quiet in the house, and Jisung quite enjoyed those quiet mornings. Of course, the quietness never lasted long as soon he would start screaming his head off and running around the house causing complete chaos, but that wasn't really all that important. If Jisung decided to enjoy the quiet for more than five minutes in the morning and then break it with laughs and giggles targeted towards his twin brother, that was his own business.
As if it knew its wings were incapable of flying
The raven crowed and cawd with laughter
To make up for the lack of wind in its feathers
It wasn't uncommon for him to make a mess of the house either. Jisung was a mess, and everywhere he went would no doubt be affected by the mere wind that flies by him when he runs. Of course, his mother and father got onto him all the time about running in the house, but he simply responded with, "I can't fly so I have to do the next best thing! I have to run!" This was said so much that it began to become his motto, his father even going as far as to paint it on his half of the room along the wall.
However, this morning... this one particular morning, Jisung was more determined than ever. His want, no, need to fly was unbearable and Jisung needed to know what that felt like. Jisung had spent weeks trying to perfect this device, and now... now it was time to try it. "Today's the day, Lix! Wake up!" Jisung let out a squeal, hopping over the border between the room and jumping onto his twin brother's bed. The freckled brunette let out a groan, trying to squirm and shove Jisung off, but due to the lack of energy, it didn't really work.
Suddenly, there were knocks on the door before it was slammed open, an angry, eight-year-old Seungmin stood in the doorway with a growl. "Stop yelling, Hyung!" Seungmin hissed before slamming the door back and storming off with extremely bad bed hair. Felix and Jisung stared for a moment, not entirely sure what had just happened but Jisung managed to call out a small,
"Sorry, Minnie!" All he got was another slam of a door down the hall in return.
With a grunt and a burst of energy, Felix managed to catch Jisung off guard and shove him off of the bed. "Go away, Raven," Felix grumbled and turned over so he was lying on his side, snuggled under the soft blankets. Jisung pouted cutely from the floor and pulled himself up. The ten-year-old left his brother alone after that, making his way downstairs knocking a few books off of the shelves and stacks along the way and finally reached the living room where his father was reading one of the new books he had just gotten a few weeks ago.
"Morning, pa." Jisung greeted warmly, rocking on the balls of his feet. Chan's eyes came up to meet his son's with a slow drawl, Jisung noticing the eye bags underneath the still fond eyes but opting to not say anything about it. Jisung knew Chan heard it enough from his wife. Chan didn't really say anything, making a guttural noise of acknowledgment as he sipped on his third cup of coffee that morning and waved Jisung over.
With quick footsteps, Jisung successfully climbed into his father's lap and leaned back into his chest to see the words on the page. This was when Jisung was the quietest when he was awake; sat with his father in the morning and reading whatever book he had been reading, this time an English book called Forever Amber. "What's this one about, hm?" Jisung inquired, confused to the words on the page. This wasn't at all like what Chan normally reads. This was a romance book! This was more like what his mother would read!
"It's about a young girl who works her way up in London's society. I was curious to read it because your mother said it was banned in Boston. I wanted to know why." Chan shrugged simply, and Jisung matched it before curling up a bit more in his father's lap and becoming invested in the book. Perhaps it was because Jisung saw so many similarities between Amber and him, but Jisung was entirely in love with the dynamic of the book. Amber was such a free spirit, only doing what she absolutely wanted to do and staying true to herself despite what people said about her.
Jisung wondered if maybe she would have liked to fly one day.
Despite the raven's wild and carefree nature
The raven was quiet
And just wanted to help those around
However, the house was beginning to wake up with big, puffs of breath and the cries of a baby. Chan grunted and nudged Jisung off, ready to go take care of the new member of the family, Woojin, but Jisung pulled him back only for a moment. "Pa? Can I help with Woojin?" Chan seemed unsure of the request but didn't reject Jisung either. Chan thought it might be good to teach Jisung some responsibility. So, Jisung was guided up the stairs with a hand on his shoulder and into a room he had only been in once or twice. Woojin's room had pretty much been off limits to anyone except Jisung's parents and Jisung was more than happy to peer into the crib and see his adorable baby brother.
Woojin's eyes were sewn shut tight as slobber dripped from the corners of his lips, pulled into a grimace as ear-shattering cries escaped the depths of the baby's throat. Chan reached down, cradling the small boy in his arms carefully and bouncing him gently. Chan had just changed his diaper so he knew it wasn't that, so perhaps he was hungry? Jisung followed his father around like a lost puppy, a bright smile appearing on his lips when Chan hands him the formula and the bottle. "How about you make it, hm?"
And Jisung did, as carefully as he could, handing the warm bottle of milk back to his father with a prideful grin. Chan took it, 'Thank you, Raven." and then it was quiet. It seemed as though the minute the warm milk hit the tip of Woojin's tongue, he silenced considerably. However, after a while, he rejected the formula and began to cry again. Jisung looked on to his baby brother in wonder, not entirely sure what was wrong. Chan didn't have enough time to register that Jisung reached out and stroked a finger along Woojin's tear-stained, chubby cheek.
But the act of tenderness hadn't been out of vain as Woojin calmed considerably at Jisung's touch. His high pitched wails turned to throaty gurgles and Chan watched in fascination. "Pa? Can I hold him?" Jisung begged lips jutted out. Chan handed his son the bundle of blankets and made sure Jisung was holding Woojin properly. As soon as Woojin was comfortable in the crevices of Jisung's folded arms, he calmed down and was practically on the brink of sleep. A fond glint was evident in Chan's eyes at the sight of two of his sons, especially Jisung, the boy who was as destructive and reckless as you could get, being gentle and careful with Woojin. Woojin seemed to really like Jisung because every time the ten-year-old merely looked at him, Woojin broke out into a fit of giggles.
"Come on. Let's take him for a stroll, Raven." And then they were walking along outside the cliff side that dropped off into the ocean. "How are your studies? Are you doing well?" Jisung wanted to be honest and tell his father that he was stressed, and his mother was getting more and more frustrated with his lack of knowledge and intake of it as well, but... Jisung kept quiet. His parents were already arguing quite often as it was and Jisung didn't want to potentially set them off even more.
"Fine, Pa." Jisung slurred in English and Chan offered his a bright smile. However, before Chan could interrogate him further, screams were heard from behind them and the two whirled around to face a figure racing towards them on the hill. They didn't know who it was at first, Chan pushing Jisung behind him In case they were about to be put in and they had to get to Chan first but the figure stopped. Jisung's mother stood on the hill, wild eyes, messy bed hair, and panting to the point where Jisung was frightened his mother might have a heart attack.
"You!" She screeched, pointing an accusing finger in Jisung's direction. Jisung felt his blood run cold. "Put down that precious child! You're going to taint him!" She surged forward to rip the baby away from Jisung's arms but Chan jumped in front of her before she could even get within arms reach. "Get out of my way, Chan. He's going to hurt our Woojin." Her voice was small, desperate even, but Chan's jaw locked and he gripped her biceps with a firm but unharmful grip.
"Love, it's just Sungei holding him. You're not thinking right. Raven won't hurt him." Chan tried to talk some sense into her, making sure she was looking at him and only him, but the woman didn't like seeing her precious son in the arms of... Jisung.
"You don't understand!" She screeched again, Woojin whimpering at the sudden noise and Jisung shushing him while bouncing lightly. It seemed to work but she blamed Woojin's cries on him. She took Woojin away from with a fight, the small baby breaking out into stomach twisting cries. "Do you see what you've done? This is your fault!" Jisung loved his mother, he really did, more than anyone could ever realize too, but due to that unending devotion Jisung failed to see the obvious hysteria in her eyes and began to blame himself just as she was.
But the raven was clumsy
And those around him didn't trust him.
And the raven... was sad.
Jisung whimpered when Chan began to exclaim to his wife that she was way out of line, but she only met him with even louder screams. Jisung buried his face into the middle of his father's back and gripped his shirt tightly. "Pa... Pa, please make her stop screaming," Jisung whispered into his back, muffled but lips moving animatedly. Chan huffed and took Woojin from his wife's arms and moving away sharply when she moved to grab him.
"You're tired, Jinri! Go back to the house and sleep." Chan snapped, bouncing Woojin when he began to cry at the sudden intensity of the voices around him.
"Don't you understand, Chan? Jisung is the clumsiest, most destructive child we've ever had! He can't do anything right! He goes on and on about flying instead of focusing on his studies. Jisung can barely comprehend math that Seungmin could do magically -" Seungmin was always the perfect one, the one that his mother loved dearly. But as her voice grew louder, Woojin began to let out screams again, and suddenly, everything was numb.
Jisung whimpered over and over again with every cry Woojin let out. This was his fault. Jisung let out a sharp, singular cry that outweighed anything his mother could ever produce, and he bolted. Jisung bolted all the way back to the house with a mix of painful guilt but an undying determination in his heart. He would prove to her that he wasn't a bad child, that he was capable of doing what he wanted and that Jisung could fly.
Faintly, he could hear Woojin's cries get louder as Jisung bolted for the house, Chan calling out to him for Jisung to come back, "Raven? Raven, baby please." But Jisung didn't Listen. He always did, that's what his father admired him so much for, But Jisung couldn't Listen this time, not when there was a dull ringing in his ears and he felt like he was going to break down at any minute. He couldn't cry in front of them; he couldn't give them another reason to be disappointed in him.
So, when Jisung finally reached his and Felix's shared room, he slammed the door behind him and slid against it. He waited a few moments, trying to suppress his tears and sobs but they kept coming out in sharp jumbled that made Jisung's chest ache. "Raven? Raven, what happened?" Felix's voice rings out in the room but it fell on deaf ears as Jisung buried his wet face into his hands and successfully covering his ears. Felix fell to his knees beside his twin brother and pushed his hair back while trying to pry his hands away from his face. "Raven, please tell me what's wrong!" Felix pleaded But Jisung couldn't let anything out other than choked sobs. Jisung was a sensitive boy with an equally as sensitive heart, but never did he cry. Not even as a baby.
On any other day, Jisung would have heard the footsteps coming down the small tunnel that connected the rooms before the trap door even opened, but even when Seungmin peeped his head through and asked: "hey, I heard crying, what's wrong?" Jisung still didn't acknowledge his presence. It had taken Seungmin to crawl towards him and bury himself into Jisung's side for the elder to finally notice his younger brother. "Why are you sad, raven?" Seungmin inquired cutely, an innocent pout on his lips and eyes wide with curiosity.
"Stop calling me that!" Jisung exclaimed suddenly, causing his two brothers to jolt back in fright. "I'm not a raven! I can't fly! Momma said so!" Jisung cried out, his screams turning into whimpers and his whimpered shifting back to sobs and sniffles. At that, Felix buried himself into Jisung's other side and guided them over to Jisung's bed, all of them curling up there and making sure their older brother was okay.
"Raven, that's not true! You said it yourself! Today's the day you can fly!" Felix persisted, roughly wiping away Jisung's tears with the heel of his palm. "Besides, we all know how momma is." Cruel, and unforgiving. But Jisung loved her anyway. They sat there quietly for a few minutes, Seungmin clutching his shirt to make sure he didn't shift away and Felix taking it upon himself to wipe away any fresh tears that leaked out of his eyes. "Seungmin, sing something, anything. Just make him calm down." Felix whispered desperately when Jisung began to sob again. Seungmin shifted so he was sitting up, pressing his cheek against Jisung's head as the words flew out beautifully, but in English.
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away
If you can use some exotic booze
There's a bar in far Bombay
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away
Come fly with me, let's float down to Peru
In llama-land, there's a one-man band
And he'll toot his flute for you
Come fly with me, let's take off in the blue
Once I get you up there
Where the air is rarefied
We'll just glide
Once I get you up there
I'll be holding you so near
You may hear
Angels cheer, 'cause we're together
Weather-wise, it's such a lovely day
Just say the words and we'll beat the birds
Down to Acapulco Bay
It is perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say
Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away
Once I get you up there
Where the air is rarefied
We'll just glide
Once I get you up there
I'll be holding you so near
You may hear
Angels cheer, 'cause we're together
Weather-wise, it's such a lovely day
You just say the words and we'll beat the birds
Down to Acapulco Bay
It's perfect for a flying honeymoon, they say
Come fly with me, let's fly let's fly
Pack up let's fly away"
Seungmin was always good at English, but he was especially good at making Jisung calm down with his gorgeous voice.
Though, the raven had brothers
But never, ever made the raven feel left out
And that he could do anything.
Timid knocks came rapping at the door not long after, "Guys?" Pa. "Can I come in?" Felix flickered his eyes over to Jisung, and the boy seemed hesitant all until they heard what sounded like a baby whimper. Felix called out a yes. The door opened with a squeak, Chan peeking his head in and Jisung felt his chest swell when he saw Woojin bundled up in Chan's arms with tear stricken cheeks and bleary eyes. "Hey..." Chan slipped into the room with a soft voice and shut the door behind him. The other two boys gasped in surprise at the sight of the baby, abandoning Jisung's side to go gawk over the baby. Jisung didn't mind though, Woojin deserved it.
"Hi, Woojinnie." Seungmin cooed, keeping his hands to himself but his eyes were bright and innocent, Felix matching him so.
"Is it okay if I speak to, Raven alone?" Chan murmured to his sons, the two nodding their heads and escaping back into the tunnel to leave their father and older brother alone. Chan sighed and sat down on the bed beside Jisung, "do you want to hold him?" Chan whispered when Jisung couldn't take his eyes off of his baby brother. Jisung flinched away with shy eyes, and with an unnervingly sad tone, Jisung answered.
"And why not? You wanted to hold him earlier."
"Because Momma doesn't want me to."
A silence fell over them.
"But I want you to." And Jisung took Woojin into his arms and felt his heart melt all over again. As soon as their eyes locked, Woojin's eyes brightened and a few giggles escaped along with his shirt chubby arms from the blankets swaddling him. Jisung let out giggles of his own when Woojin began to pat his cheeks while making gurgling noises. Chan watched his two sons with fondness evident in his eyes. "Woojinnie really seems to like you, Raven," Chan uttered and Jisung looked up at his dad with blown, disbelieving eyes. It wasn't uncommon for him per say, but seeing them always made Chan coo.
"You think so?"
"He's only ever done that with you, so yeah, I'd say so."
"Maybe he just thinks I'm ugly."
"Jisung!" Jisung let out small giggles at his father's scolding, and another silence fell over them. Chan wanted to tell him something but he was scared if he didn't word it right, Jisung would take it the wrong way. "I know you love your mom a lot, and so do I, but there are times that she's not right just there are times that I am not right. You know what she wasn't right about?" Jisung hummed in confusion, eyebrows furrowed and lips tugged into a pout. "What she said out there on the cliff side, that you're going to taint him. If anything, Raven, you're going to help Woojin grow. He needs you."
Jisung glanced down at Woojin, "that's why I need to fly." Jisung whispered quietly and passed Woojin to Chan carefully, the baby beginning to whimper from the lack of attention from his elder brother. "I need to fly so he knows that he can do anything he wants! So he can grow up believing that not only he can do anything he wants but his older brother can too!" Chan paled at the sight of the weird contraption that vaguely resembles wings and felt everything go numb when Jisung strapped them onto his back.
"Jisung! Where are you going?" Chan called out when Jisung ran out, chasing after him in worry.
"I'm going to fly, Pa!"
Jisung gathered a crowd of siblings and his father as he raced to the cliff side where he previously stood and his mother now stood kneeled. "Jisung?" The woman whispered faintly when the boy came running over the hill, calling out to her. She gaped at him in worried shock when he ran up to her, a bright, determined smile on his lips.
"Momma! I'm going to fly today?"
"Raven, you say that every day."
"But today is the day!" Jisung grinned and farted for the cliff side. It didn't quite register for Jinri what her son was about to do. Not until Chan and the rest of her family came running behind him, screaming for her to stop him. But even as she reached out, screeching for Jisung to wait and stop and that she loved him, he was just out of her reach.
The ocean ahead was approaching too quickly, but not quick enough for Jisung. The wind was blowing through his hair at an unsatisfying speed, and Jisung knew that he would never truly be satisfied until he was in the air. And then he was. His feet left the safety of the earth below, Jisung soaring through the air like a raven and cheering out. He was as high as he had ever dreamed of going, and a blissful smile spread over his cheeks.
He was flying.
The raven gathered all the strength he could
And when he finally set out
He became the raven that could fly.
I don't think they ever found Jisung's body. At least, Chan never mentioned if they did. Apparently, he was lost in the clouds, just as he would have dreamed, and I didn't realize until later that when great grandpa talked about the stories, Jisung's always made him the saddest.
Apparently the week Jisung died was the last week anyone ever saw Jinri. Chan never said she was dead, just that she merely disappeared and that made my chest ache. Sure, she was insane those last few years, but it wasn't as if she didn't love her husband and children.
Great uncle Woojin cried for a month after that, and for some odd reason, 'Raven' had been his first word a year later. Though, that really didn't seem all too odd to them considering Woojin was undeniably infatuated with Jisung and even as he grew up, he did nothing but ask about him. I think the boy had etched himself in their hearts more than he could have imagined.
We can do what we want to do, love...
Just make sure it's reasonable.
Chapter 4: Seungmin
"Even now... Seungmin's death was still a mystery but wasn't all the same.
They just never quite found the proof."
**Please, please, please be careful when reading this chapter. There are mentions of drug abuse, alcohol, homophobia, and rape.*
Great papaw Felix's story was used as a life lesson more than enough times for me growing up, but I feel as though Seungmin's story was more likely to affect me than Felix's. They were both similar, starting out innocent, bright, and fun, but everything going so wrong so quickly. Do you remember reading articles about 'Child celebrities gone wrong?' you should... we talk about it a lot. Seungmin was the perfect example of those articles but this falls more bitter in my mouth than any other celebrity. Not for the reason that we were related, but for the reason that we all knew how kind Seungmin was.
Great uncle Seungmin had the voice of an angel. He had outstanding talent and moved more than enough people multiple times with the sound of his voice alone. Even as he grew more and more popular, more and more skilled at what he did, Seungmin remained humble. At least, that's what Chan said.
But everyone changes, everyone handles pain differently, and it seemed that once Seungmin hit high school and was around a much crueler environment, he lost it. Chan described it as Jisung's fall from the sky and into the ocean, "fast and unexpected." Though, when Chan spoke about it, Seungmin had obviously cut himself off far before he went to that party that one night, but maybe that was just me trying to validate a long downward spiral that someone could have helped stop.
That's never how things work in this family though.
When I was trying to get to Chan's room, I found myself in Seungmin's room, and all the articles, posters of himself, awards, and records were gawking at me. I guess it didn't ever really set in that I was related to the Kim Seungmin until I got there. Though, there on the bed was the same audio player attached to this page. It's from a podcast discussing his murder 50 years later. Even now... Seungmin's death was still a mystery but wasn't all the same
They just never quite found the proof.
"Good morning, everyone. I'm Johnny."
"And I'm Taeyong."
"It is the 5th of March, 2006, and today we're going to discuss something that I've been following for a while. In memory of Kim Seungmin's death over 50 years ago, we're going to be playing a good bit of his music today and talk about the mystery around his murder despite it now being considered a solved case."
No one had really been expecting it. Sure, in the back of their heads they knew his life would be taken by the curse just as the rest of them but they guessed they just never really thought that Kim Seungmin would be affected by it all. They assumed that since he was such a prominent figure in society that he would remain untouched, guarded, safe; but that was an ignorant thought to have considering the curse took anyone it wanted, a social status never is taken into consideration.
Though, it would seem to make more sense that they should have suspected it considering just how downhill he went after he hit the ripe age of 16.
"Oh. I actually don't know too much about this. Enlighten me."
"For those like Taeyong who don't know who Kim Seungmin is, I'm sorry by the way because you're really missing out, he was a child singer from the 1950's and had the voice of an absolute angel. I grew up on his stuff you know, and I literally couldn't fall asleep until my ma put his music on -"
The morning of Seungmin's death felt... off. Seungmin had a pretty good sense of when something was going to go wrong and his stomach was twisting in a way that it hadn't twisted since Jisung's death. It felt like it had just been days before that Jisung had tumbled off the cliff side into the waters below, but it had been almost ten years. Time passed in an odd way when you weren't sober for a good portion of it. Seungmin didn't know when suddenly mornings had turned from peaceful, quiet things too late afternoons filled with nothing but unbearable headaches and dread to face the world ahead.
He guessed there wasn't ever really a starting point, a definitive one at least, and it just kind of crept up on him, has been around even before he was born. Seungmin didn't believe in the family curse, but during his last few months, he was obsessed with the very idea of it all. He asked his dad relentless questions about it when they weren't butting heads every two minutes and that seemed to be the only time they ever really got along anymore. Sure, Chan was concerned as to why Seungmin had been asking so many questions, but he was just glad they weren't screaming at each during the time. He was growing tired of the constant yelling just as Felix and Woojin were too.
The morning of Seungmin's death, he didn't wake up with a hangover and after 2 pm. In fact, he woke up before 7 in the morning due to things flying and knocking against his window. The teenager awoke with a jolt after a particularly loud thump, groaning a bit when he heard two more rocks hit his window. Seungmin managed to lift himself out of bed without tripping or stumbling and waltzed over to the window with a loud, heavy huff. Though, the frustration seemed to ease into that of mild fear mixed with fondness when he saw an all too familiar face stood at the base of the house. Sewoon waved enthusiastically.
Seungmin rolled his eyes, but Sewoon didn't miss the fond smile his lips were harboring as he pried open his window so he could stick his head out. "What are you doing here? It's six in the morning!" Seungmin hissed out just loud enough for Sewoon to hear but not to wake up Woojin in the room down the hall. Sewoon just smiled cheekily up at the younger and Seungmin felt his chest twist at the sight of it.
"You up for some breakfast?"Seungmin couldn't say no.
So, he escaped back into his bedroom to slip on a hoodie, shoes, and his glasses before taming his red hair. Though Sewoon never really cared what Seungmin looked like, he still wanted to look decent if he was going out in public. It took more effort than Seungmin was willing to give that early in the morning, but Seungmin managed to situate himself in the tree that practically wrapped around a good portion of the house and climbed down until he felt Sewoon's hands around his waist to safely pull him down to the ground. The moment Seungmin's feet hit the ground, Sewoon removed his hands and the two shifted to look at one another but never moved to touch. They knew better.
"Why are you staring at me? You woke me up for breakfast so let's go get breakfast!" Seungmin teased with a bright smile, walking away so they could walk towards the main road that left off the island where a familiar motorcycle was parked. "Ah, I missed this baby." Seungmin cooed the moment he saw the vehicle, running his fingers along the handlebars but stopped when a hand landed on top of his. Once tense muscles seemed to melt under the touch of the elder and Seungmin found himself locking eyes with Sewoon to see if he was in the same state. He was, maybe even in a slightly more extreme state. Seungmin's eyes said everything he needed them to when he allowed one of his fingers to loosely hook into Sewoon's belt loops: And I missed you.
They didn't get to see each other that often anymore.
"Wait, seriously, Johnny?"
"Well yeah, have you heard his voice? That kid could have soothed just about anyone to sleep."
The familiar sharp clinking of glass against glass occasionally overbearing the low murmur of soft discussions made Seungmin's stomach roll into his next life. It reminded him of the pub he used to perform at, the same one he was performing at that night as well, but it was just a small diner that the two had been coming to since they were around 12. It was just outside of the island, on the coast and far away enough to where Chan wasn't comfortable for them to walk but riding their bikes was perfectly fine as long as they didn't make any pit stops. They hadn't been there in a while but it was obvious the waitresses there recognized them and hadn't forgotten their orders either.
"You got a smoke?" Sewoon tugged out a pack of Seungmin's favorite cheap cigarettes in response. "You know me so well." It came out as a practical purr but was muffled slightly due to the waiting cigarette between his teeth, never once taking his eyes off of Sewoon's face when he was tasked with lighting the orange and white stick. "Thanks, hyung." And then it was quiet. Seungmin wasn't even sure why he looked at the menu anymore, perhaps it was out of entertainment, but he knew it was just a habit now. Seungmin had picked it up when he wanted to avoid certain conversations between him and Sewoon, but there was really nothing to avoid; just something to hide.
Sewoon plucked the menu right out from Seungmin's fingertips, folding the leader bound trifold and placing it on top of his own at the end of the table. "You're really going to read the menu when I haven't seen you in two weeks?" It was a mix of a teasing claim and a call out with a whine hinted underneath, but Seungmin was feeling equal, if not more, playful and retorted with nothing but a wink and a,
"You're life can't be that interesting for a lot to happen within a span of two weeks, hyung."
"Yah!" Sewoon smacked him with the menu, Seungmin squealing out a high pitched giggle. "You're so rude, you brat!" Sewoon hissed and let the menu fall to the table with a loud thump that made Seungmin flinch just a bit. It wasn't even a hard flinch, but Sewoon saw it without any trouble and grabbed Seungmin's hand slowly after looking around in caution. "Sorry." It was obvious Sewoon wanted to say more but the look in Seungmin's eyes told him no and that they couldn't talk about that stuff here. Sewoon slipped his hand off of Seungmin's and fell back into the booth seat with a small, whimper like noise.
They didn't speak for a few minutes but Seungmin hated the silence so immediately jumped into a conversation with the elder, watching with a twist of fondness in his chest when Sewoon's eyes lit up as he began explaining what had happened over the last two weeks. Seungmin was careful not to blow the smoke from the cigarette he was smoking into Sewoon's face but when he saw an all too familiar face staring at him through the window, he coughed erratically on the smoke in his throat which caused it to come out in quick jolts towards Sewoon's face. The teen waved at the smoke to get it to fuck off but he was far more concerned with Seungmin's red face squirmed up into an expression of displeasure as he just wouldn't stop coughing.
"Hey, drink some water." Sewoon urged when Seungmin gasped out for breath, the younger's lips wrapping around the straw to chug down the icy water. "Are you okay?" Sewoon murmured a few moments after Seungmin calmed down and had gasped a few gulps of air. Seungmin didn't answer right away, snapping his gaze outside, but the familiar nightmarish face disappeared into thin air. "Min?"
Seungmin's eyes drifted over towards Sewoons's. "Yeah, Yeah I'm fine."
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry I'm not trying to be disrespectful. Moving on."
"His family used to describe him as kind, and even being a child singer, he was unbearably humble."
"Seungmin! My boy, it's been so long!" A familiar woman, older and frail physically but not in spirit by any means came out from the back and approached his table. Seungmin offered her a bright smile.
"Hello, Mrs. Choi!" Seungmin greeted her enthusiastically, climbing out of the booth to wrap her up in a gentle, warm hug and receiving a big tighter one in return. "Still alive and kicking it looks like. How old are you again?" Seungmin teased playfully but earned a slap to the back of the head in response.
"Disrespectful boy!" Her attention shifted to Sewoon, a soft scowl laid flat out on her wrinkled face, "I thought you were supposed to keep him in check, hm? And put that cigarette out, you'll butcher your lungs!" Sewoon grunted but put the cigarette out anyway as per his great grandmother's request and offered her a smile.
"Nana, I'd put him in check if he were actually touchable," Sewoon whined out, a blush creeping up on the back of Seungmin's neck at the claim and flushing, even more, when the elder spared him a wink too. Mrs. Choi glanced between them, almost knowingly, but didn't utter a word. "Nana, you should come to Seungmin's gig tonight." Sewoon murmured when she slipped into the booth beside him, draping an arm across her shoulder and knocking their knees together. The woman furrowed her eyebrows for a moment, as if she were racking her brain for her schedule that evening and based on the way she pouted afterward, she wouldn't be free to come.
"I'm sorry, boy, I have meetings tonight with my younger sisters."
"I... I could always sing for you before we leave so you know what's going to happen tonight." Seungmin offered shyly, rosy cheeks and all, but when he met the eyes of the beaming woman in front of him, he relaxed. She practically squealed out 'That would be exquisite!' and Seungmin looked around for a moment. Conveniently, in the corner there were a couple, the older male having a guitar case next to him and Seungmin got up and out of his booth. "Alright okay." Seungmin breathed out and approached the couple with a polite demeanor. "Excuse me?" They looked towards him, "Would you mind if I borrowed your guitar for a moment? It won't be long." Seungmin murmured out shyly and the man handed it over somewhat hesitantly. "Thank you!"
Seungmin propped himself up on one of the stools by the island, and with a few strums of the guitar, his voice came out in a sweet, English melody filled with nothing but honey and the smell of roses.
"You say it's only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make believe if you believed in me
Yes, it's only a canvas sky
Hanging over a muslin tree
But it wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me
Without your love, it's a honky tonk parade
Without your love, it's a melody played in a penny arcade
It's a Barnum & Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me
You say it's only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn't be make believe if you believed in me
Yes, it's only a canvas sky
Hanging over a muslin tree
But it wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me
Without your love
It's a honky tonk parade
Without your love, it's a melody played in a penny arcade
It's a Barnum & Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make-believe if you believed in me
But it wouldn't be make-believe, believe if you believed in me"
When Seungmin finished singing and the small number of people in the diner broke out into quiet claps and murmurs of praise, Seungmin flushed and waved everyone off with a shy smile. "Thank you." He murmured to the couple as he attempted to hand the guitar over but the man urged it back towards him insisting he plays something else. Seungmin thought for a moment and nodded with a shy smile. "Are you sure? I'm really not all that good."
"Of course! You should really give yourself more credit kid."
"Is this going to turn out like all the other child star stories?"
"Pretty much. When he reached 16, the scandals of a classic teenager began to drop and Seungmin was caught multiple times with drugs, alcohol, and having sex with... almost everyone he was around."
Eventually, around 9 in the morning or so, Seungmin and Sewoon were allowed to leave with fondness in their hearts and food in their bellies. "Time to head home?" Sewoon murmured, rocking them from side to side playfully as he glanced down at Seungmin with raised eyebrows. Seungmin matched the fond expression nodding his head somewhat sadly but Sewoon snuck a kiss to his cheek. "Don't worry. I'll come sneak you out next week." Sewoon promised, bumping his nose against the younger's temple.
"I'll hold you to that." And then it was quiet, but this time it was comfortable.
They were nearly ready to go, Sewoon just had to start his bike and drive off, but they were stopped by loud, boisterous, and all too familiar voices. "Hey! Where do you think you're going?" The two turned towards their shared group of friends, seeing the four of them approach the other two with mischievous, almost shit-eating grins on their faces. At the front was Lee Seunggi, seemingly ready to fire an insult their way, "We saw you two shit heads from down the street, were you on a date or something?" Seungmin gulped, but remained calm, not even sparing Sewoon a look as he snarled his nose up and shook his head.
Seungmin faked his disgust with his retort, "No!" But winced internally when he felt Sewoon tense up. Sewoon knew they couldn't say anything, not in this day and age and especially to these dick heads right here, but it didn't make it hurt any less. Not very deep down, they often wished it was never like this, to begin with, they wished the line separating friends and something more didn't become so blurry and something so hard to swallow. "We were hanging out, like friends do, hyung." Seungmin snapped, plucking the cigarette out from between his fingers and taking a long drag.
"Ah." He nodded in a dramatic manner, the Cheshire cat-like smile already present on his lips somehow deepening, "Are you coming to the party tonight, Kim?" Seunggi jutted out his bottom lip as if he were begging Seungmin to come but Seungmin already knew his answer.
"Can't. Have a gig tonight."
Sooyoung spoke up from behind Seunggi, leaning against one of the cars beside Sewoon's bike and taking a drag from the cigarette between her cigarettes. She probably smoked the most out of all of them but her voice was still as silky as the fabric Chan sometimes had imported from China. "You still have those? I thought you stopped going after the last scandal?" Her question came out as a hiss, snarky and unforgiving, and Seungmin felt chills go down his spine.
"Yeah, I do still have those." Seungmin snapped back, the girl putting her hands up in surrender.
"All right, all right, child star. Sheesh." A tense silence fell over them.
"Well." Seunggi suddenly broke it, "If your gig ends early and you're not exhausted... you should stop by." The elder winked and Seungmin saw Sewoon tighten his grip on the handlebars out of the corner of his eye.
"I'll think about it. I need to get home."
"Though, anyone whose spoken about him that knew him personally says that he was shielded away from that stuff until Seungmin just became rebellious all on his own."
Seungmin sent Sewoon off with a kiss when they arrived at the bridge, Sewoon insisting that Sewoon walk him the rest of the way but Seungmin didn't want to risk them getting caught. So, Seungmin ventured through the surrounding forest, taking the many paths that all lead straight back home until he reached the back of the house. It took some effort, but Seungmin managed to pull himself up the tree and into his bedroom window, freezing when he saw Chan sitting in the chair with a cup of coffee and newspaper in hand. "Welcome home, Min. You enjoy breakfast with Sewoon?" Seungmin's bottom lip ended up latched between his teeth and facing cruel, cruel abuse.
Chan didn't sound mad per say, but he didn't seem all too happy either, but something told Seungmin it was for a different reason. "Erm... Yeah. How did you know it was Sewoon?" It was a valid question because Seungmin had plenty of friends; It could have been anyone. Chan hummed and took a sip of his coffee.
"He's the only one who would have enough nerve to come and sneak you out after I specifically told him not to come back." Seungmin snorted at that, trying to stifle his giggles because while it may have been true, Sewoon wasn't exactly the biggest risk taker either. "Also, I heard the motorcycle," Chan said it in amusement, but there was obvious disdain to his tone. The same tense silence from so many times before fell amongst the man and his son, and to any other prying eye, like Felix and Woojin who were stood outside the room peering in, it looked as if they were two wolves circling each other and finding the right time to strike. "Sit down, Seungmin." Chan coaxed with that tone of voice that meant that Seungmin couldn't argue.
With a creek of the bed springs, Seungmin curled up in the middle of his mattress with his blankets swarming around him after he slipped off his shoes. At that moment, as he fiddled with the tips of his fingers with his glasses hanging loosely on the tip of his nose, Seungmin looked like a small child, the same boy Chan had raised to be a kind-hearted, and humble person and Chan felt his chest twist painfully. "He's not.... Dad, he's not a bad person." Seungmin trailed off quietly, sucking in a harsh breath like he was waiting for Chan to blow up in his face. Of course, the man never did. "I know you think he was the one that always dragged me to parties and got me into the scandals but he never did. He always took me home and always made sure I was safe until I purposefully didn't want him around."
"He's supposed to protect you even then." Chan huffed out but Seungmin met his father's eyes with a knowing look. "But... If you're so sure... and he really makes you happy... then maybe I can give him another chance." The claim of happiness made Seungmin's stomach twist in discomfort, but other than that, Seungmin felt pleased with himself. "But Seungmin, are you okay? I need you to talk to me if something is wrong."
"Everything's just fine, dad." Seungmin lied through his teeth. Nothing was okay. Nothing would ever be okay as long as she's constantly watching his every move.
"Wait so he was murdered? Not from like drug overdose?"
Seungmin performed that night.
He performed until he was out of breath and his head was spinning. He performed until everything felt right again and Seungmin was tricked into thinking that he was perfectly fine. That was always the upside to singing for the boy. When Seungmin sang for a crowd that enjoyed him, he felt like he was in a dreamy haze, but coming out of it was always the worst part of the night. Having to dive back behind that curtain where Chan, Felix, and Woojin were all probably waiting for him was something that used to be light-hearted and equally as blissful, but is now something he's come to dread. "Hey, kid," Seungmin muttered the moment he walked back into the dressing room and Woojin ran up to him to cling to his legs. "Did you like the performance?"
"Of course, Hyung! Your voice is so smooth and soft! Can you sing me to sleep tonight?" It wasn't an uncommon request, it had just been a while since Woojin had asked for it.
"Of course, Jinnie." Seungmin offered him a bright smile and Woojin was practically bouncing off the walls at that. "Hey, dad..." Seungmin trailed off suddenly when he looked at the clock, Chan raising an eyebrow up, "Sewoon is here..." Felix and Seungmin shared a look, a long look of Felix trying to practically scream 'What the fuck, Seungmin? Are you crazy?' and Seungmin did nothing but offer a 'yes' in return. Chan contemplated for a moment.
"Go get him."
And within the next two seconds, Seungmin was out the door in search of Sewoon which didn't really take that long. The elder was hanging around the bar, awkwardly hovering and dodging the girls trying to talk to him. Sewoon's eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when he finally saw Seungmin approach him. "Hey, come with me. Dad wants to talk to you." And then his smile faded and an expression of panic appeared on his face. Seungmin was quick to grab his cheeks and divert his attention to him and only him. "Don't panic okay? I think I might have fixed the rift between you two." Sure, it made Sewoon feel a little bit better but not by much. Chan was terrifying when he was angry.
"Ah, Sewoon. It's been a while." Chan uttered when Seungmin dragged him back into the dressing room, the leather jacket wearing elder hovering behind the younger awkwardly. Sewoon gulped and nodded.
"Hello, sir." Sewoon bowed, and Seungmin had to kick Felix in the leg when he began to snicker. "I wanted to apologize for my actions a few months back, it was stupid of me to -" Chan cut off the boy's rambling by raising a peaceful hand and an equally as peaceful expression on his face. Sewoon's mouth snapped shut.
"I understand my son can be very... persuasive, but the next time anything like that happens, I expect you to never leave his side." God. Sewoon wished he had actually done what Chan had told him to do. Maybe none of this would have happened in the first place if Sewoon had just stayed with Seungmin.
Chan left the dressing room with Felix and Woojin in tow a few moments after, Seungmin waiting for everyone to be away from the room before locking the door and turning to Sewoon with a suggestive look. Seungmin waltzed right up to him, hooking a hand behind his neck and dragging him down towards his lips so they were moving together heatedly. He had waited two weeks to do this, and now that Sewoon was there, he wasn't going to let him so so easily.
Seungmin guided them over to the sofa, shoving a dazed Sewoon down onto the cushion and straddling his hips only to press their lips together once more. Seungmin practically licked every single crevice he could inside of Sewoon's mouth, panting so heavily they were scared he was going to have a heart attack, but this was the best high Seungmin had had in a very long time. Seungmin pulled away from him roughly for a moment, slipping his hands under his shirt to knead against Sewoon's stomach, "Come get me from the house around eleven tonight. Don't bring the motorcycle, dad will hear you," and then they were kissing again with a lot more fever and a lot more want.
"Nope. The police reports say that he had drugs in his system at the time but it wasn't enough to kill him."
Seungmin needed to forget for a while.
That's why he was here, at this toxic house party with Molly in his veins and Vodka in his stomach dancing against someone he didn't even know. He had absolutely no idea where Sewoon was, but he wasn't actively searching for him either. However, a thought hit him, a familiar face in the crowd, and Seungmin sobered up quickly. It was a quick, but messy escape, useless if you will. Even if Seungmin blended into the crowd as he trailed up the stairs, there were eyes on him and only him that watched his every move.
The bright light of the bathroom temporarily blinded Seungmin but he managed to shut and lock the door behind him and find the top of the toilet lid pretty easily for a drunken, blinded boy. Everything felt like it was spinning, and if Seungmin had to hold his head for a few moments to let the dizziness fade away, that was okay, even if it would cost him later. "Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck." There wasn't a definitive reason as to why Seungmin was cursing, he just was. Maybe it was everything. Maybe it was because Seungmin was finally realizing why he was here in the first place.
He was here to forget everything. He was here to forget his depression. He was here to forget the voices in his head. He was here to forget the drugs and alcohol. He was here to forget the bullshit he had gotten himself into. He was here to forget the massive debt he owed to Yoonah. He was here to forget that he was going to die tonight.
Seungmin didn't have to see the future to know that.
"I'm not sure I want to know what the actual cause was."
"I'll keep it light for the sake of the soft stomachs out there. But when they found him under the bridge near the family home, he showed signs of being strangled, raped by both human and something made of wood, and a bullet wound to the head. They apparently found the gun but the owner of the gun was never found. They just pinned the blame on the supposed lover at the time."
"People are fucked up."
Seungmin could have taken the razor he found in the sink and cut open his skin right there; he could have taken his own life instead of letting somebody else take it. But seungmin didn't do that. He took another hit of coke and left the bathroom in a daze, yelping when someone clasped their hand around his wrist and dragged him into a room. Seungmin felt his body go rigid when he was met with the sight of Seunggi with an animalistic glint in his eyes. Seungmin was about to scream when he heard a click and something cold pressed against his forehead. "Don't go screaming for that annoying ass boyfriend of yours, fag, or I'll shoot."
Seungmin snapped his mouth shut.
"Good... Good." Seunggi lowered the gun and grabbed Seungmin by the collar to throw him towards the bed. Seungmin landed on top of it with a squeak, "Yoonah said I could do whatever I wanted until I got up here, Kim.... So, Let's see what's got Sewoon so smitten for you, hm?" Seungmin didn't want this. He tried to fight it but the moment the gun was pressed against his temple, Seungmin went limp. Tears blurred his eyes from seeing the disgusting face of the monster on top of him, but he could still feel him and Seungmin was met with nothing but extreme pain.
Seungmin wished he didn't have to grow up.
"The family had refused to say anything about the case and are apparently still mourning his death greatly."
"Now I'm just upset, Johnny. But who do you think did it?"
"I'm not sure I have a subject, but I don't think it was Sewoon."
"They weren't fighting at the time. If there was something there and they really were together, Sewoon was head over heels for him. That just doesn't seem like something he'd do."
"Seungmin? You in there?" Sewoon's muffled voice brought Seungmin back down to reality, the younger craning his neck to scream out but the gun was pressed more forcefully to his head.
"Don't say a word - Go away, man!" Seunggi called out the last part, and Seungmin felt himself go rigid when Sewoon huffed and walked away, Seungmin letting out a low, guttural whimper of pain when Seunggi began moving again. Seungmin had practically gone numb at this point.
All until the door to the bedroom opened and Yoonah's face with two other guys who looked like they could snap Seungmin in half with their bare hands appeared out of the shadows. Seungmin went limp against the mattress when Seunggi pulled away from him, curling up into a trembling ball. Seungmin flinched when he felt a dainty hand land on his bare shoulder and the fingernails belonging to it dig into the skin there. "Hello, Seungmin. Did you miss me?" Seungmin didn't respond. "If you were going to interfere with my shipments... you could have at least been a little more discreet about it, no?"
A few seconds of silence passed.
"Well... I know how much of a whore you are so I hope these three men will keep you satisfied...."
"Please what, Seungmin?"
"Please don't do this."
"You have to be punished, baby. Hopefully, this teaches you to be good next time."
And then she was gone, and Seungmin was hit with a wave of pain again.
Seungmin didn't want this. He didn't want it. He didn't want it. He didn't want it. He didn't want -
His body reacted before he could think, jolting up to smack Seunggi out of a fit of adrenaline, but the only thing Seungmin heard was a gunshot, Seunggi's fast, panicked curses of "fuck! Fuck fuck fuck!" before a searing pain went through his head and then everything went black.
"Fair... fair. But it's not as if we'll ever find out unless something incriminating shows up."
"It just makes me upset. Bad things always happen to good people."
Highs are all fun and games until you have to sober up.
Great Uncle Sewoon passed away at the age of fifty, right there in Chan's arms after living in the house for a long, long time. But in reality... Chan lost a real son and a figurative son all in the same night.
I envy his strength.
Every time I think about this story, about everything that Seungmin did that we were aware of, it made me sick to my stomach. I don't want this for you. I want you to be safe and happy with who you are and what you are. I don't want you to think you're less than anyone else in this world because you're not.
Maybe if Seungmin knew his worth... none of this would have happened.
Chapter 5: Woojin
"All I knew was that Woojin was fucked from the very beginning."
Out of all the stories i've been told of the family curse and how everyone lived, great uncle Woojin's still gives me chills to this day. Just thinking about his name alone sends chills down my spine. Great uncle Woojin wasn't entirely right in the head, but that just didn't seem to be the extent of the curse. Later on, a few years after he finally died, Chan admitted that Woojin had been living inside the walls of the family home, watching and listening to everything outside the walls. Chan had tried to reassure me that Woojin really wasn't that harmful, he was a mute anyway and really couldn't hurt anyone besides himself. I think Chan was scared for Woojin more so than any of us and the thought... the thought set me on edge.
You remember Jisung right? The one who "flew"?
Well, it seems that Woojin and Chan hadn't been all that different in terms of the boy coming back to haunt them after, except it didn't haunt Woojin the way you would expect.
In Woojin's eyes, Jisung was a person, a real life being he had to hide. But in my eyes and probably even in yours, Woojin's Jisung was not "raven". Whoever Woojin saw growing up and befriended along the way was either a figment of a morbid imagination or a demon. I'm not sure I want to know which one it was.
All I knew was that Woojin was fucked from the very beginning.
"Woojinnie.... Woojinnie..." In a narrow, hallway like structure, there were two figures. One could be seen by all eyes and rested in the middle curled up underneath a thick blanket and a few pillows; the other figure could only be seen by the first figure, but hovered over him with a malicious smile that was the only thing that could be seen through the thick dark mist covering a good portion of its face. "Woojin, you need to get up and start the day, hm? Today's a very big day." The first figure, Woojin, flickered his eyes open and a fond, almost maniacal grin spread across his lips that seemingly matched figure 2's. A pale, large hand reached out into the cold air to press against the bony cheeks of the figure and figure 2 only smiled as any sort of response.
"Raven... Do I have to get up now? I was just getting to the three hour mark." Woojin pouted, a high pitched whine but low in volume as to not startle the other residents outside the walls around him. Raven laughed lowly, a laugh that sent chills all the way down to Woojin's toes and it had been a long time since he had that sensation. "Laugh again." And Raven did. Raven laughed three more times so Woojin could feel the electric shock down his whole body and finally get on with his day. Raven took Woojin by the wrist when the human finally got up and off of the floor, feet nothing but the same fine mist that lingered about its face so it more or so glided instead of bounced, and its hands would be the same way if it hadn't been forcefully gripping Woojin.
"Let's go grab your breakfast." Raven hissed softly, guiding the human down the narrow, winding corridors that would make anyone else feel suffocated, but to Woojin it felt safe, comfortable, like home. The constricting environment around him kept him grounded and the voices inside his head contained, all except for one of course, which had morphed into an entire being, but Woojin didn't know that. He had absolutely no idea when Raven came into his life, or if it had always been there and he just didn't know it; either way, to Woojin, Raven was his saving grace, his angel, when it was anything but.
When they reached the basement level where Woojin could slip back into the real walls of the house, Woojin seemed hesitant to go through. He always went in when no one else could possibly be awake, even his father, but he knew it was a bit later in the morning based on the small amounts of life peeking through the cracks of the walls and the soft sound of footsteps walking around. "Raven... Is it safe?" Woojin whimpered suddenly, gripping the fabric of his pants tightly to keep his quickly beating heart steady. Raven came up behind Woojin, chest pressed to his back as if it were nudging him forward.
Woojin took in a deep breath and trailed up the stairs and opened the door leading down to the basement as quietly as he could. He knew if the residents living there that didn't know of his existence would flip their shit and call the police because an unknown 40 year old man was walking around their house like he was avoiding their existence. So, he walked with the same quiet footsteps Raven had taught him to do and tiptoed into the kitchen to grab for a few apples, canned peaches, rolls, and - "Woojin?" The man startled at the new voice, whirling around and feeling his fast beating heart calm when he saw his father stood in the doorway with a mug of coffee (the same mug Woojin had gotten him for Christmas when he was eight) and furrowed eyebrows. Woojin found it hard to form words.
Chan must have sensed this as the 63 year old man sat down his mug of coffee, peeled his glasses away from his face, and approached his youngest son he hadn't seen in at least ten years. Woojin felt like all the voices, even Raven, had been put to rest when he was enveloped in the paternal warmth of Chan's arms. "Hey, dad." Woojin croaked, voice uneven and crackly from the lack of use; Woojin thought his father might have broken down right there if it hadn't been for Woojin's now vice grip over his torso. They just kind of held each other for a while.
"Come sit." Chan rasped out when he pulled away, guiding Woojin over to the kitchen island and Woojin, while a bit unsure, didn't try to decline his father in anyway. He missed his voice, the soft gestures he did at all hours of the day even when he was beyond frustrated with work. It always felt like Chan and Woojin had a deeper connection compared to everyone else, perhaps because of Jisung, and not being around each other for as long as they have and suddenly being in the other's presence was both overwhelming and exhausting. "How are you?" Chan hushed out, sipping on his coffee, "Oh dear, do you want some as well?" Chan panicked, hopping out of his seat as Woojin just stared at the steaming mug in wonder.
"Sure." And Chan relaxed before pouring the younger a mug along with placing two cubes of sugar and a ¼ of a cup of milk. Woojin felt like he was tasting heaven on Earth when the dark brown liquid hit his tongue and Chan watched his son fondly as Woojin looked like he was falling back into his own senses. "I've.... I've been okay." Chan tried his best to ignore the slight hysteria in his son's eyes that was mixed with undying love and affection. Chan was scared to go inside the walls he had built in fear of finding something he wasn't supposed to. Chan could ignore the hysteria in Woojin's eyes but he couldn't ignore it in his head as well. Chan knew better than to assume that his son was okay, because if he wasn't okay before he went inside the walls, he surely wasn't okay now.
"That's good to hear, Jinnie." Chan uttered, setting the half full mug down onto the island and Woojin shivered when the familiar chill of Raven suddenly appeared next to him. A low hiss echoed in Woojin's ear and the man latched his bottom lip between his teeth.
"Don't be fooled, Woojinnie. Ask him if he'll sing to you."
"Hey dad?" Chan hummed in acknowledgement and suddenly, Woojin was really shy about his request. He was over 40 years old and he was asking his dad to sing to him. Chan frowned at the lack of words from his son, looking over towards him and seeing how conflicted he seemed, and placed a hand to his shoulder as a sign of comfort. Woojin took in a shaky breath, "Can you sing to me?" Chan hadn't really been expecting the request, but he wasn't at all weirded out. In fact, it gave the old man some hope that his son might still be in there somewhere. That the hysteria in his head hadn't fully taken over just yet.
"Of course, Jinnie." Woojin felt his heart flutter, but faintly, in the back of his head, he heard a scream of irritation before the familiar chill of Raven suddenly disappeared. Woojin wanted to panic, to grab the food and chase after Raven to reassure it that everything was okay and that Raven still meant more to Woojin than anything else in the world. But Woojin didn't. Woojin kept his cool and listened to his father's honey like voice with such intensity that it could have been worrying to an extent. Somewhere in between Chan starting and ending, Woojin had placed his head on Chan's shoulder and let out a long, deep breath that was very much needed. The tension in his shoulders washed away and he couldn't help but hum in content when Chan pressed a fatherly kiss to the top of his head. "I missed you, Jinnie."
"I've missed you too." Woojin admitted, nuzzling his temple against his father's rather bony shoulder. "You need to eat more, dad." Woojin muttered, lifting his head away from his father's shoulder to offer him a concerned frown, but Chan just laughed and waved him off.
"Let me keep my figure, Jinnie. I'll be fat soon enough." Chan laughed, and Woojin found himself shaking his head in humerus disbelief. "Besides... Felix's anniversary is coming up and Changbin has been making us all stressed out with how ansty he's been." It was a tense, saddened whisper and Woojin's shoulders slumped. Woojin may have been stuck in the walls, but he knew relatively what was going on around him. Changbin was Felix's son, and the 32 year old priest had two sons, but Woojin didn't know their names. He thinks they start with an H and a J but he wasn't sure what they actually were.
They stayed like that for a while, all until they could hear people moving around upstairs. "I should probably go, dad." Chan held Woojin a bit tighter at that. "I love you." Woojin whispered out and if Woojin felt the tears fall onto his head, he didn't say anything about it.
"I want you to come out more. I miss seeing you, and you're still my son. Wall dweller or not." Chan insisted but Woojin... Woojin felt something along the lines of unsettlement stir in his stomach.
Much like Seungmin had, Woojin knew his time was near. He knew that one day he would stumble out of the walls and out into the fresh forest where all of his old friends used to drink tea and cause havoc amongst the other humans and that he would finally join them as one of the forest spirits that took lives more times than not. They had told him so, just before he locked himself inside the walls to keep himself from ever taking on such a task, but Woojin knew, now, after spending so much time with Raven, that this was his calling. He just had to get there first.
And probably make up with Raven too.
"We'll see, dad... I think the curse is going to take me soon as well." Chan had had all of his children taken by that god forsaken curse, but hearing Woojin actually say it just... made it all more real.
"I love you, Jinnie."
"Love you too, dad."
The walls were dark, cold, and lonely without Raven. Woojin had hated the walls in the beginning but with Raven, everything was so much warmer and lighter, even if Raven was nothing but a body made of black, swirly mist. "Raven? Raven, please come back!" Woojin wailed out, but was met with nothing but silence. A sob echoed along the walls and Woojin felt like he was going to lose his mind again. Woojin ran through all the corridors, making the sharp turns with less than a pinch of grace and face planted against the floor more than enough times. He had no doubt made more racket than he should have but Woojin didn't care. He had to find Raven.
No one understood Woojin like Raven did. Raven knew how Woojin ticked, what made him happy and what made him upset. Raven was a master at getting Woojin to fall asleep and wake up without much thought or effort. Raven was a part of Woojin, a part of him that understood what was going on inside his own head and knew how to manipulate it to where Woojin didn't think he was suffering anymore. Raven was his angel. "Raven..." Woojin whimpered, falling to his knees when he reached a corner of a particularly long corridor and his legs felt like jelly. Woojin whimpered and cried for hours on end, luckily having been by one of the abandon rooms so no one heard it but Woojin, but they echoed all around the halls until they reached Woojin's ears once more; It felt as if Raven was mocking him.
Woojin curled up into a ball in that corner, tugging his knees close to his chest and letting the loneliness and quiet of the halls get to him more than they should have. He wanted to find his bed, curl up under the blankets and never move again until Raven came back, but Woojin didn't deserve that. He made Raven angry, he deserves to suffer.
With a wail, Woojin's long, sharp nails began to dig into his skin aggressively, providing no mercy for himself because Raven wouldn't have if this was him doing it. Woojin scratched and dug, dragging blood from his thin, already pale limbs. He didn't stop. He didn't stop even after clusters of skin had buried themselves under his bloodied nails and Woojin was feeling more physical pain than he should have in a long time. Once faded pink scars were now a bright, deep red, and Woojin began to hit himself on the head when he realized he broke his promise to himself and Raven. "I will never make you angry again, Raven." He said, and Woojin let out another wail when Raven's frustrated scream began to ring through his head again.
"Your fault. Your fault. Your fault." Woojin muttered over and over again, beating his head against the wall in hopes of Raven being satisfied and coming back but Woojin was only met with an undying loneliness. "I love you, Raven..."
Woojin doesn't remember falling asleep. He just knows he did.
Faintly, and only faintly, Woojin could hear singing in the back of his head and the feeling of fingers running through his hair. The human stirred in his sleep with a whimper, the pain from the day before hitting him in one fellow swoop and he found himself flipping over to cradled his arms close to his chest. "Woojinnie... " Woojin snapped his eyes open at Raven's voice, sitting up with a crackle of fire and enveloping it into his bleeding, painful arms. Raven laughed emptily, slipping his cold, smaller hands onto Woojin's back and digging his nails slightly into the skin. "Did you miss me, Woojinnie?" Raven whispered into the human's ear, already knowing the answer.
"Of course, Raven! What kind of question is that?" Woojin sounded upset, so Raven pulled away for a moment to cup the human's cheeks.
"Now, now, don't get snappy, Woojin. I just have to make sure you want me around anymore is all." Raven hissed, digging his nails slightly into the human's cheekbones and smirked smugly when Woojin glanced down in guilt. "I'm not mad, Woojinnie -" Lies, "I just figured you could do with a little alone time." Woojin pouted at that, slipping his hands down onto Raven's hips.
"I don't like not being around you, Raven. You know that." Woojin pouted, but froze when Raven practically seethed.
"Do I know that, Woojin?"
Woojin surged forward to press a kiss to Raven's cheek, "You do." Woojin breathed out and Raven hummed in content, shifting Woojin's head so it was down in Raven's neck and the winged shadow could rub his hands over his head, neck, and shoulders. "You do, Raven. I know you do." Woojin whimpered, tugging the figure closer to his body and all Raven could do was laugh.
"I do know, Woojinnie. I promise I know."
Woojin practically vibrated with content at the feeling of Raven holding him so close when he left him on his own yesterday, but Woojin was scared Raven would leave him again. "You're not going to leave me alone again, are you?" Woojin asked like a small child and Raven hummed in thought.
"Do you think I need to leave you alone for a while?" Woojin hated being alone, but he surely didn't deserve to be in Raven's presence after everything. "Woojin?" Raven hissed, gripping Woojin by the chin so he was looking at it. "Be honest, Woojin." The human nibbled on his lower lip and slowly nodded his head with a guilty look in his eye. "Alright, Woojin... Come find me when you think your punishment is over" And then Raven was gone within a blink of an eye and Woojin was already thinking about calling out to Raven that the punishment was over and that he needed him. Get down on his knees and beg for the angel to forgive him for being so ungrateful for Raven, but Woojin must have a sense of control.
He must prove himself.
Woojin didn't go back to Chan, but he did leave the safety of the walls for an hour at a time, just sitting down in his siblings' rooms and thinking for a while. The first room he visited was Seungmin's, basking in the smell of his old cologne and even playing one of his CD's so he could listen to his voice again. Woojin felt like bursting into tears, having missed his third oldest brother with every fiber of his being. He may have not see the boy a lot those final months, but Seungmin was such a good brother to Woojin. It just felt so odd for the elder to be dead, gone, forgotten.
But Woojin would never forget him. Never.
He visited Felix's second room two days later. Felix and Woojin really hadn't been that close, the elder, freckled boy having extreme anger issues that were so bad Chan advised Woojin and Seungmin to just let the boy be if things got bad. They were never allowed to provoke Felix in any way, and Woojin... Woojin felt bad. He never wanted Felix to feel so awful about himself. In fact, when Felix was just on the brink of ending himself, Woojin visited him. The two spoke for hours on end, and Woojin had to listen to the gunshot when he walked back into the walls, caving himself in. That was the last time Woojin came out for almost ten years, and he vowed to never leave again, but Raven was insistent and Woojin had to listen to Raven.
It took Woojin a week and a half to muster up the courage to visit Jisung's and Felix's old room. At first, he just hovered in the doorway of the entrance from inside the walls, peering in with this twist to his stomach. Woojin knew that Jisung's death was his fault, that Jisung had to prove to Woojin that he could do anything if his mind was really put to it, but it only ended in his own death. Felix always liked to remind him of it when the freckled boy was feeling particularly angry. When Woojin finally sat himself down on Jisung's bed, he burst into tears. He could still see Jisung's face vividly in his mind when he was cradling Woojin close to his chest, and... Woojin missed Raven.
Woojin never really realized this at the time but Raven was a perfect mixture of all of his dead brothers. Raven was adventurous like Minho and Jisung, he became angry like Felix after he died, and he never stopped singing to him with Seungmin's perfect honey vocals. Perhaps if Woojin would have realized that Raven was just a figment of his imagination, everything would have been so much more different.
"I'm ready to see you again, Raven."
"Then come find me, Woojinnie."
Raven's honey like vocals echoed off of the walls, Woojin running through the long corridors with thick, panicked pants as he tried his best to locate where Raven was amongst the walls. Of course, Raven would make Woojin try and find him, as one final punishment, and despite the voice getting louder in volume, it was still incredibly low. It was as if Raven wasn't inside the house at all and the thought of Raven finally joining the rest of their friends in the forest made Woojin feel giddy. So, instead of panicking with fine whimpers and pants as he ran down the halls, it began to turn into giddy messes.
The outside world had always scared Woojin, especially after all the stories he was told and the experiences he had as well with school bullies and the forest in general, but when he finally came across a large hole in the wall that lead out into the acres of land around the, draped over with the dead of evening, Woojin didn't feel as afraid. In fact, he burst through with one final laugh of pure hysteria and darted towards the forest.
"Woojn? Woojin is that really you?" The voice was familiar, despite not belonging to Raven, and the human let out another laugh of hysteria as he approached the tall, rabbit masked figure and enveloped his lower torso into a hug. "It's so good for you to finally join us, Woojin! We've all missed you." One by one, the monsters, the legends, the myths, all peeked out from behind the lit up trees and Woojin felt like he was on cloud 9. Except, he wasn't quite yet because Woojin wasn't with Raven. Woojin would be ready to join them when Raven was by his side.
"I'm happy to be back. But... have you seen Raven? We have to talk." Woojin pleaded with a pout, the rabbit masked figure bending down to rest his cleaver on the ground and look Woojin in the eye.
"We saw him head towards the cliff side that leads into the valley. Is he running from you?" The rabbit masked monster asked in concern and Woojin nodded his head sadly. "What did you do this time, hm?"
"I went inside the walls and made Raven believe I didn't want to be around him anymore."
"Go fix it, Woojin."
"I will, I will."
However, before Woojin could run off to where raven was, a little boy with the mask of a cat approached him, setting down a box of matches before enveloping Woojin in a tight hug, "Why did you leave us for so long, hyung? I missed you." The boy frowned up at him with these sharp, but beautifully innocent eyes and Woojin lowered his head in guilt before picking up the boy and cradling him close to his chest.
"I was scared, kitten, but I swear I'll be joining you soon."
"Raven! Raven, I found you!" Woojin burst out into a fit of giggles as he approached the winged figure stood on the edge of the cliff side, attacking his back with a firm hug. "I missed you, raven." Woojin hushed out into the silence, pressing a kiss against a feather of one of his burnt wings. Raven hummed.
"I'm sure you did, Woojinnie."
"I'm ready, Raven. I'm ready to join you."
Raven whirled around, and it was then that Woojin saw Raven's full face without the mist or Raven mask over top. Raven's face was burnt to a crisp, half of his jaw looking shot off, and a bullet wound right in the middle of his head. "Are you, Woojin? Woojin can you look at me and tell me that you love me?" Raven inquired, stepping forward but Woojin saw the fear in Raven's eyes. The fear of rejection.
Woojin cupped Raven's cheeks and pressed a kiss to the bullet wound. "I will always love you, Raven. You know that."
"Then join us, Woojinnie," Raven whirled Woojin around so he was facing the now burning forest, the human not fearful of the cluster of figures stood at the entrance waiting for him to pass on. "Burn into one of us and let this place be put to rest so we can start havoc somewhere else." and Woojin couldn't say no. He gripped Raven's hand and began to walk through the forest, but not without one final request.
"Will you sing for me, Raven?"
"Of course, Woojinnie."
When I was going from room to room, the walls had "The raven sung to him when no one else would," scribbled everywhere and that was a haunting sight for me. Woojin was so fucked in the head it was unreal, but finding all the old spoiled food, dead animal friends, and old clothing was... eery to say the least.
Chan says he remembers waking up to the forest burning and when everything had finally burned down, they found the burnt corpse of Woojin and the skeleton of a raven next to him. He said that was the scariest sight he had ever had to witness.
A part of me believes Woojin was the curse itself, but I'm not entirely sure how accurate that is.
Maybe Raven was the curse and none of us knew it.
Chapter 6: Felix
A part of me believes that ignorance is what contributed to Felix’s way of thinking, his excruciatingly annoying temperament that took over more times than not.
Warning** This chapter contains drug and alcohol addiction, homophobia and suicide. Please be wary!
I don’t think a lot of people ever actually consider what they have and how they should treat it. There’s a certain level of ignorance, a certain level of “Oh, this person/object knows I appreciate them so why should I have to tell them?” and that genuinely fucks a person up if they already own bad self-esteem. A part of me believes that ignorance is what contributed to Felix’s way of thinking, his excruciatingly annoying temperament that took over more times than not.
My memory of Papaw Felix is fuzzy, but Hyunjin always described him in a way that said Felix gave nothing but absolute tough love, even if it was a bit tougher than it was love.
After reading some of the medical reports I found in the drawers of my dad’s desk, I realized that papaw had this… twisted morality in his head, if he even had any, to begin with. He was compulsive, bipolar, obsessive, and relied far too heavily on his wife at the time. Everything just seemed so…. Pointless after reading everything I had to. I sometimes wondered if his immorality dripped down into my dad, but I think it was just enough for it to be proven but debunked all the same.
Dad didn’t particularly enjoy talking about papaw, but the older I got and the more experience I endured, the more open dad was when it came down to the things Papaw did. I remember specifically being on a camping trip with dad and hanging out in the hammock opposite of my brother when I was met with the cruel, cruel feeling of some sort of… betrayal. I knew deep down, Papaw wasn’t the best person around, but I hadn’t ever really been expecting the stories that were told.
“I try not to talk about it too much, you know?”
“About what? With your dad?”
A shift in the house happened long, long ago after Minho passed, but after Jisung’s passing, everything just seemed to get progressively worse. Though the stubbornness of everyone in the house never seemed to change and that’s really what played such a big role in the downfall of Lee Felix. His stubborn, heated temperament got him in trouble throughout school and with his mother until she left, and more times than not his younger siblings just left him alone. If Felix were honest, growing up he really did miss Seungmin and Woojin, despite how absolutely hateful he was towards them, and he wished he could have properly apologized to rebuild those relationships he lost after his twin died.
But Felix was as stubborn as a bull, and the only thing he could ever work for was getting out of that damn house and into the military.
“But why, dad? Shouldn’t you talk about it to get closure?”
“It’s not that easy, Hyunjin. Your grandfather was as broken as a clock that had been smashed to pieces.”
“Shouldn’t that just be more of a reason to talk about it?”
Before everything, before Jisung and Seungmin died, before his mother left, Felix was as predictable as a Metronome. Felix moved purely on expected beats with equally as expected movements. He got up at the same time every morning, took the same amount of time to get ready, eat breakfast, and pack his bag before he was off to school every single day. He never took longer than an hour to do his homework, and then he was out in the forest with a handful of bottles, a shotgun, and Chan trailing behind him. They would sit in that forest for around two hours before Chan would force them both inside to eat the food Jinri made for them half an hour before. It was the same routine over and over again.
But when Jisung died, the routine shifted the tiniest bit, not enough for it to be weird for anyone else but a big deal for Felix himself. It wasn’t inconsistent, it was just another thing Felix had to get used to again, but the sudden change in what time he woke up or how long it took him to do something was enough to make him feel like a delayed clock. Broken and useless.
When he hit high school, his aggression only got worse. In fact, it got so bad he got expelled his senior year, two months before graduation, after he practically beat Woojin, his younger brother, to near death. The reason behind it hadn’t even been a good enough reason. Woojin had been talking to a pretty girl at the time, not flirting as he was far too awkward for that, but all Felix could think was ‘don’t you dare drag her into this. Seungmin died last year because of this damn family.’ Felix had grabbed Woojin by the shoulder, dragged him down the hallway and shoved him into one of the abandoned bathrooms before smashing his head against the glass of the mirror. No one really remembers if Felix said anything but his eyes said everything they needed to and Woojin got the message.
That was the day Woojin went inside the walls and Felix was presumed to lose his mind.
Though, that didn’t stop him when he joined the military a week later since he was finally 18 and he could go about his business like he had been planning for the last three years. His aim was precise from the countless hours he spent hunting, his body was well built and strong, and his physical fitness was one of the best of the best from how hard he’s worked his body his whole life. Felix was perfect for the military as they trained him to use his anger in a way that could release it but not be more destructive than it had to be. However, once a mental illness epidemic broke out and they tested all of their soldiers only to find that Felix was bipolar, he was sent home.
“Your grandfather was an addict, Jeongin.”
“A lot of things. Painkillers, hurting your grandmother, alcohol, stalking…”
Nothing was enough for Felix. He was far too needy and deprived of everything that was human to function properly. His family wouldn’t put it past him if he had some sort of obsessive disorder like his mother and her mother before that. Whatever he couldn’t have he wanted, and whatever he did have he was hooked on. That became dangerous with not only his prescription pills but drugs, alcohol, knives, guns, and everything else considered dangerous. There was a time in the man’s life that his dad had to step in and tell him that if he brought another damn gun into their home, then he would have to find another place. Felix may have been angry, but he wasn’t stupid and he knew that that threat was real and Felix couldn’t risk getting kicked out and becoming homeless.
So, he gave it a few weeks, sold a few knives and guns, and began trading again much to his father’s disappointment. Things went on like that for a while, no job, no girlfriend, barely sober for more than a few hours outside of sleeping, and an undying anger that began to spur more rapidly with the lack of properly scheduled pill taking. Though, things shifted, only a little bit though, when he met a pretty girl by the name of Rose at a bar late one night. The two seemed to hit it off pretty quickly, and Felix had to admit he was smitten for from the very beginning because she was nothing but pretty lips, soft smirks, and daring risks. She was destructive in her own right, and Felix was addicted to her.
They got married a few years later, a baby on the way a month after the ceremony and Chan began to believe that everything was looking up. Rose obviously cared for Felix endlessly along with their sweet babies, Yeahn and Changbin, despite her old ways. Rose was all leather jackets, cigarettes, alcohol, breaking glass, and gangsters for family, but as soon as she walked into Felix’s family home nothing else mattered because she knew that that was where she belonged. At least, that was the sick fantasy she had created for herself despite his constant hovering, violent temperament, and unending vicious words.
She loved him, and she was stuck.
No matter how many times her children told her to get out, Rose strongly believed she was capable of fixing him, of making him okay again, but Felix was broken and no matter how many times he told her he loved her and kissed her until she was beaming with love, it would never make up for all of the shit he put her through. Yeahn and Changbin still cringed at the memory of all the broken bottles they had to pick up after they found their mother huddled in the corner crying her eyes out and shaking like a leaf with Felix nowhere in sight.
Rose was a good woman with good intentions, she was just far too hopeful at times.
“I had a sister… her names Yeahn… God, he hated her. She was everything he didn’t want.”
“Well… she was gay for one thing.”
It was so sudden, so unexpected, and it wasn’t supposed to be a real thing. Changbin had walked in on her pinning her best friend to the bed and their lips locked. Changbin wasn’t angry per say, he was just disappointed he was never told because they were so close. How could she hide that from me? Though, he would come to realize how selfish he was being when his dad found out about it later and through an absolute tantrum, “You’re what?! You better be joking, little lady,” Felix snapped, shoving off Rose’s hands that landed on his shoulders to keep him calm. Changbin was trying his best to be strong for his sister, not get involved as she asked him to, but he found himself tensing up with every second that passed.
“Dad, I’m gay,” It was quiet for a moment before there was a slap that was heard and Changbin gawked at his sister, who was holding her cheek and trying her best not to cry, in surprise. Felix was only seeing red now, disgust boiling in his heart. Gay reminded him of Seungmin, of his older brother who died from a gunshot wound to the head while he was being raped. Gay meant evil. He shoved at her a little bit, all until her back hit the table at the back of the room with a bunch of different family photos aligned on top of it. “D-dad, please,” Yeahn stuttered out with a cry when he practically pinned her to the table and Rose had to hold her son back to keep Changbin from getting involved physically.
Felix doesn’t remember much from that night, he just remembers that his daughter and wife were gone the next morning god knows where and Changbin was the unfortunate soul to break it to him. In the back of Felix’s head, he knew that if Chan wasn’t there to keep the peace between them that Changbin would have died, if Chan hadn’t been there his family would be no more and he’d be the last remaining member. He knew. He really did. But yet, he had no regrets about anything. No remorse, no sadness, no anger, nothing. Felix was numb, even outside from the bottle.
He was so numb it was unsettling, and the alcohol numbed the unsettlement so Felix could feel nothing at all. It was just how he liked it. He didn’t want to remember the disgrace he had raised, the woman who said she loved him but didn’t really. He didn’t want to remember any of it, only the feeling of the bottle in his hand and the burn moving down his throat so much it still coated the inner walls by the time he woke up the following afternoon. Felix was - to put it simply - as broken as a shattered clock. And it was her fault.
“Did he ever hurt you?”
“...What would he do?”
The front door to the house slammed open at roughly around 3 in the morning, startling the teenager laying on the couch nearby awake. Felix was far too intoxicated to take in who was in front of him, who was grabbing him by the shoulder and talking softly to coax him to bed, and he was far too angry to think of any sort of consequences that could come out of his physical anger. “Dad, we need to get you to bed -” With a swing of Felix’s arm, his fist made contact with Changbin’s jaw and the hands on Felix’s shoulders disappeared with a groan. That was believed to be the end of it, Felix stumbling past him in a fit of endless mumbles and curses.
But that wasn’t the end because Changbin just wanted his father to be okay. Though much to his disappointment, Chan had to pull beer bottle glass pieces out of Changbins skin an hour later and the boy began looking at programs that would allow him to study abroad at college along with Chan’s help. It was time.
Felix had become far too violent, lashing out on Changbin when Chan was the one trying his best to keep the peace. There was only one man Felix didn’t have the guts to hit, and it was his father. Changbin knee Chan would be okay.
“He preferred me over anyone else, so you I didn’t get hurt too much. But I remember him showing up to my university and choking me outside the dorms. My friend had to pull him off.”
“He was so drunk that time… But he cared about me. In his own fucked up way.”
Felix wasn’t even sure why he was so angry. Perhaps it was because he had been left behind by the last of his blood, his own son, his own beloved son. All he could see was red as he approached the large campus, eyes blown wide and unforgiving as he grabbed for the nearest kid by the collar of his shirt. “Seo Changbin? Where the fuck is he?” Felix growled into the poor underclassmen’s face. The student pointed blindly in the opposite direction, blubbering something out about a business class and Felix shoved him to the ground before storming off. He reeked of alcohol and cigarettes.
The man might have been small but he was far stronger than he looked, so, when he surged forward when he caught sight of his smiling and laughing son and curled his hands around Changbin’s throat, Changbin felt like his head was going to snap off. “You left me!” Felix roared, shaking Changbin around as his thumbs pressed harshly into his windpipes. Changbins legs kicked and his nails clawed down his father’s hands and arms, but Felix did not let his grip soften by any degree. “You were supposed to stay! You weren’t supposed to be like those bitches that left us!”
“I told them to leave,” Changbin choked out before he could black out and somehow, someway, Felix’s grip tightened. It was a miracle that Changbin didn’t die that day, and he was forever grateful to the boy, who would end up being his brother in law, who pulled Felix off and threw the man to the ground. Changbin also fell backward but managed to stay upright as soft hands circled around his bicep and an equally soft face appeared in his vision that began going breathing exercises. By the time Changbin had gathered himself, it looked like Felix was about to get into a brawl with the buff senior that saved his life. “Just go, Felix! You pushed all of us away! This is your fault, not ours,” Changbin hissed out with so much venom, that Felix didn’t have any other choice than to turn around and walk away with a heavy feeling in his chest.
“He was a good man, at least he was when he met my mother. They were so in love but he had such a bad temper.”
“When did it start getting really bad?”
“After he lost his legs.”
An all too familiar song came on, the same one that had belonged to Rose and Felix since the first time they danced, and Felix wasn’t angry. In fact, he was in a high, overly happy and excitable, and he danced along with gentle sways and hip swings. He was out in the woods, a blowtorch in hand, a metal drum in front of him, and a half a pair of angel wings in the other hand that was supposed to be a piece dedicated to his fellow soldier, Eric, who died recently. Felix simply turned up the radio, danced slowly towards the metal drum.
He wasn’t paying attention really, too mentally enthralled with the way Rose’s lips moved when she talked or how soft her hands were when she held his cheeks. Rose was the love of his life, she really was, and a part of him had long forgotten that she left him and everything he had done to cause her departure. In the back of Felix’s mind, she was just inside humming away as she read her book and listened to the same song.
It felt like he was really there, holding her hand as they sporadically danced together in the middle of an old bar smelling like cigarettes and lavender, and bright smiles on their faces. She was everything to him, his bright shining light and the love in his chest began to build up just like the heat inside the metal drum. Expanding, expanding, expanding, and -
Then all Felix could feel was white and a numbing pain in his lower legs.
“Wait, wait, wait, he lost his legs?”
“Yeah. He was a welder. He was welding a pair of wings out of some steel for his friend who recently died in the military on a metal drum and well… it exploded.”
“And that’s when he got addicted to the painkillers…”
The damn beeping of the machine beside him was going to drive Felix absolutely insane to the point of no longer being insane. He had been stuck in this hospital for two weeks and he was ready to go home, but he knew that his whole life was just going to get worse from here. He had lost both of his legs, one amputated around mid-calf and the other right above his knee. The drum explosion had started at his feet, his toes right up against the drum, and it was kind of a miracle he hadn’t died when the drum exploded.
The pain was unbearable at first, but now he was just addicted to the painkillers and the numbness they provided. It was almost better than the alcohol, but the kick of it was far more addicting. So, if Felix asked for an extra bottle before he left, that was his business. “Felix…” He hadn’t heard that voice in a long time, nor was he ever expected to hear it again, much less the face that belonged to it. In the doorway stood Rose, a cross around her neck and thick-framed glasses over her eyes. Her hair was just now beginning to go grey and Felix felt like crying right then and there. Seeing her… Seeing her was like seeing an angel.
“Rose…” The woman shuffled towards the foot of the bed, lips pursed and the bible in her hand clutched tightly between her long, thin fingers and her calloused palm. “It’s so nice to see you again,” The words were quiet, and the tension in the room somehow got worse. The woman gulped, pivoted her head up so her chin was jutted out and her eyes were strong. She wanted to come off as strong-willed, and Felix didn’t doubt the strength in her by any means. She, despite what she went through, was tough. “Come over here and let me see you -”
“I’m afraid I can’t do that, Felix,” And Felix’s love high quickly shattered to the ground as she pulled out her bible so it was out in front of her. She read a quick verse, but Felix didn’t bother listening. He simply stared down at his hands with anger fluttering in his chest. “There is still time for your redemption, Felix…” Rose whispered softly, handing him a card that held the information for a church support group that dealt with anger management. Felix didn’t need prayer, he didn’t need anything except for his damn painkillers.
“Get out!” He screeched, throwing the card back towards and ignoring the hiss of pain from the woman now bleeding across her lower cheek where the sharp edges of the card flew and connected with her face. “Just go! I don’t want to see you!”
“You’re a child, Lee Felix, and you’re going to hell for everything you’ve done.”
“We’re all going to hell.”
“Yeah. Lost his mind too. Started talking to himself.”
“Are you sure it was himself?”
Felix wasn’t entirely sure if there was a point anymore. The pictures on the walls of his room haunted him, the bullets and guns screaming his name, and his room smelled so thickly of nicotine, none of them were ever sure the smell would come out. He sat in the same place every day, it wasn’t like he could walk, run, or hunt anymore, so what else was he to do? Though, he had to admit that he was very thankful his father gave him the sunroom as he had a perfect view of the vast ocean ahead of him, the same ocean they lost Minho and Jisung to. It just… it went on for thousands of miles and if Felix could, he’d probably want to lose himself out there too so he was side by side with his twin. His other half.
As Felix’s hands reached out for the box of bullets on the table and the shotgun leaned against the window, he loaded it with shaky hands and tears running down his cheeks. All the memories of his brothers, especially Jisung’s, were haunting him with every tear that slipped and the old man found it hard not to drop a bullet or two. Any other day, he would have raged and raged and raged until someone came along and picked up the bullet off of the floor but Felix didn’t. Not that day, not the day that he knew was his last. He was exhausted of being angry, of being insane, of being. Felix didn’t have regrets, he wasn’t capable, but he was capable of being undeniably sober for those last few minutes and…
The door freaked open, a familiar, sickly pale face poking through, and Felix gasped at the sight of his youngest brother. “I-I am sorry. I heard you crying,” Woojin’s voice was small, quiet, and hollow, but it was clear Woojin was the slightest bit concerned as through all the years he’s known his brother, never had he cried. “I will go -“
“Stay. Please,” Felix whispered, turning back towards the window and holding the shotgun with an iron grip. “Please. Come sit,” Felix patted the arm of the chair beside his own that occasionally his father or son would sit in. Woojin stumbles over, steps so light that Felix didn’t even hear him approach, didn’t even know he was there until Woojin lowered himself down in the chair. “When was the last time you saw the sun, Woojin?” Felix whispered after a while, voice gruff and scratchy. Woojin hummed in thought, tapping his fingers against his thighs anxiously.
“Two… three years ago? It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen it anywhere outside the windows,” Woojin admitted shyly, and Felix couldn’t help but think that maybe Woojin hadn’t aged a day in his own head. He was still 15 years old, shy Woojin in his own mind when his body had to be at the very least 40.
“Wheel me out onto the balcony, Woojin,” Felix muttered out his order, Woojin faltering for a moment. “Did you hear me? I want to be outside!” Felix snapped, and Woojin didn’t hesitate to sit up and grab the handlebars of Felix’s chair to roll him outside once he unlocked and opened the door. The breeze was nice that day, and Woojin felt odd having the sun so warm on his cool skin. The younger brother flushed when he realized his brother was staring so intently at him with this look Woojin could only recognize as a mix of pride and disappointment. “That’s a bit more sun for you. You’re too pale,” and then it was quiet. Woojin finally noticed that Felix never did let go of the gun in his hand. “Look at What this curse has done to us… we're insane.”
Woojin stayed quiet.
“You’re going to be the last brother of our generation after today, Woojin. You have to be there for dad. He didn’t deserve any of this,” Felix didn’t utter, hush, or say in a solemn tone. It was an accepting one, a tone so far determined that it scared Woojin. He didn’t want his brother to take his own life, just as Jisung had done. He didn’t want that for him, but oh, it was just so fitting. If life hadn't killed Felix already, it was never going to. Felix had to draw the line. “I hope you can forgive me for everything I’ve done, Woojin.”
“I forgave you a long time ago, brother.”
Felix’s lips pursed, “don’t stop being a freak, Woojin. You’ve got character.”
The gunshot that went off rattled the whole house, Chan had found Woojin stood in the middle of the hall shaking like a damn leaf with tears rushing down his cheeks. Chan tried his best to comfort Woojin without the man being caught but ultimately had to shove him back inside the walls when Changbin went running. Woojin saw it happen, and the sight of his half dangling jaw haunted him, Chan, and Changbin for the rest of their lives. Felix went out like the coward he was, but they couldn’t help but scold themselves for not expecting it in the first place. It was only a matter of time.
He’d get his redemption, right there, in the clouds with Jisung tugging at his hand and running through the fields just like when they were seven.
“He shot himself when he was 57. Three weeks before we found out your mother was pregnant with you, Jeongin.”
“I’m not sure how I’m supposed to respond to that.”
“Just think about it this way... you’re his second chance at life, is all.”
I remember hating my dad at that point too. But after hearing about everything that had happened to him as a child it just made far too much sense. I didn’t want to believe it at first, but I had to. That time, that particular night, I remember staring up at the sky and asking myself as to how I could be so cruel as to hate my own dad but there’s a define gray area that I won’t touch on in this.
Be grateful, kid. Please, please, please be grateful for what you have.
Chapter 7: Hyunjin
I wish the world was truly that beautiful, but I wish more than anything that Hyunjin didn’t have to see such the harsh reality of it all.
I don’t know why I’m writing this anymore. At first, I had been writing it all for you but I think now I’m beginning to realize that I’m also doing it for myself. This is going to be a lot harder for me so I apologize if this page happens to be covered in tear stains. I just… hadn’t expected the curse to take such a bright soul.
My brother, or your uncle, Hyunjin, was blind. He was born that way, having one blue eye and one black eye that swarmed with nothing but hope. No matter what, despite not being able to see, Hyunjin always believed the world was beautiful. I think growing up I lied to him about what things looked like for not only his sake but my own. My father was slowly losing his sanity and Chan was dying, so I think a part of me just wanted me to believe that something in this world was beautiful. Hyunjin was my gateway to happiness and losing him was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to experience.
Hyunjin was such a kind soul. He was poetic, and I could never do anything he described justice. I wish he could have written down whatever he was saying, but Hyunjin preferred painting over writing.
He was so talented. So ungodly talented it made younger me upset, but I still have some of his paintings in the attic. Don’t lose them. They’re so precious because they’re exactly what Hyunjin saw the world as. I wish the world was truly that beautiful, but I wish more than anything that Hyunjin didn’t have to see such the harsh reality of it all.
Red (adj) - Of a color at the end of the spectrum
next to orange and opposite violet,
as of blood, fire, or rubies
Passion and Drama
Giggles overflowed the house, both from a set of two raven-haired brothers. The older one with bright white eyes and flowers in his hair nearly fell off the bed at the pokes and jabs from his younger brother’s long and bony fingers. “Innie! That hurts!” Hyunjin whined loudly, trying his best to dodge his brother’s movements but failed miserably as Jeongin was far quicker than anyone found safe. A yelp rung out in the room along with a loud thump that shook the walls around them and silences quickly enveloped the room. Not for too long though, as Hyunjin began to laugh hysterically from his place on the floor and Jeongin began to do the same as his body dangled over the edge and his arms hitting the cold floorboards.
“Why are you laughing so much?” Jeongin choked out through his own laughs, and Hyunjin could nothing but giggle out a bearly understandable ‘I don’t know’ and that was the end of that. The two managed to calm down relatively quickly, Jeongin shifting his body so his legs were dangling off the edge and his feet were rubbing into Hyunjin’s stomach softly. A book hung over Jeongin’s head, ‘Columbine’ written on the front in fine, black print above a school campus. “Do you want to read?” Jeongin inquired, taking the bookmark out of its place and waiting for Hyunjin’s go-ahead before he even dared to read a word. Hyunjin hummed in thought.
“Actually… could you tell me what you learned in school today?” This was a common occurrence. Hyunjin couldn’t go to school due to his inability to see, and when he did go he was bullied and taunted for his impairment. So, the boy primarily learned through his younger brother who was more than happy to teach. In fact, it helped him process what he was learning and together they were working towards making Jeongin at the top of his class. Jeongin quickly answered his elder brothers question, getting up to grab his bag from the chair and sitting down on the floor beside Hyunjin on the fluffy, black rug.
Jeongin started to tell Hyunjin all about fractions and the Korean war while Hyunjin listened so intently the words were practically tattooed in his brain. Hyunjin loved learning about the world and everything in it, and Jeongin wanted nothing more than to fulfill that want. His brother had done so much for him in the long run in terms of protecting him and always stitching hope and happiness into jeongin’s heart when it felt like there was nothing else left. Hyunjin was so undeniably optimistic at times it hurt, but Jeongin was so determined to not let his brother see the bad in the world. He wanted Hyunjin to always be happy and to always love everything he believed.
“Now, what on Earth is going on in here, hm?” An older, almost strained voice startled them out of their newly risen laughing fit that morphed quickly into a paper ball war. Jeongin and Hyunjin snapped their attention to the door, though Hyunjin missed by a small distance, and there was Chan stood in the doorway with a book in hand and glasses perched on the tip of his nose. “You boys are so loud, sometimes…” They flinched, ready to be scolded, but Chan smiled something so fond it freaked Jeongin out a bit. “It’s nice. The house is so quiet without your father here to preach endlessly,” Chan laughed and shook his head, attempting to walk off but Hyunjin had other ideas.
“Grandpa Chan!” Chan’s curious eyes appeared in the doorway, Jeongin nudging Hyunjin after a few seconds, “oh! Erm, are you reading right now?”
“I am, Jinnie. Why?”
“Would you mind reading to me? You always have the best voices,” Hyunjin claimed with confidence, a wide smile on his puffy lips and Chan didn’t have it in his heart to say no. So, Jeongin helped Hyunjin back up onto the bed next to where Chan had settled and then settled on the other side of his great grandpa. Hyunjin’s head had settled on top of Chan’s considering Hyunjin was a practical beanstalk compared to Chan, and Jeongin allowed his own temple to rest against Chan’s bicep. Chan always gave off so much heat it was no wonder why they clung to him like monkeys at times.
Hyunjin was so in love with the world inside his own head and everything it had to offer.
Orange (Adj) - reddish yellow, like a ripe orange in color.
The day their father came home from a missionary trip somewhere in the world was always an exciting one. They weren’t that close to their father, and Jeongin had to admit at times he really, really did hate the man but they were curious about the world and Hyunjin wanted to hear every story Changbin was willing to tell. After a very long morning and afternoon of getting Changbin settled back home, the four of them were gathered in the lounge and Hyunjin was waiting oh so patiently for his father to start his stories. “I… I don’t have many stories to tell, so I just want to jump into the miracle that’s been sent our way,” Changbin hushed out, and everyone quickly became eager to hear what Changbin had to say.
“Out with it!” Chan barked, his lower half just on the very edge of his seat that everyone was afraid he was going to fall off.
Changbin took in a heavy breath before he looked directly at Hyunjin, but the boy had no knowledge of this, “There is a doctor that came to me in the Philippines. He claims that he can make a blind person see again.” A shocked silence fell over the room and everyone looked to Hyunjin who stayed quiet. He wasn’t sure what to think, all he was feeling was a doubtful fear. “He has a 90% success rate, and the other 10% was purely because they were incapable of repairing everything. I think… I think it might be worth a shot,” Changbin twiddled his thumbs, but Hyunjin hated times like this when he couldn’t see reactions and had to purely base everyone’s reactions off of what he was hearing or feeling. However, he found that he didn’t care about anyone else, this was about him .
“Jeongin… hand me my stick,” Hyunjin uttered softly, holding out an awaiting hand until Jeongin slipped the white stick into his older brother’s palm and slipping it way out of his chair to leave the room.
“I’ll go talk to him-” Changbin started, getting up and out of his chair a few seconds after he heard the bedroom door slam, but Jeongin held out a hand to stop his father.
“Let me,” His tone was a lot harsher than he intended it to be, but the news had obviously made Hyunjin upset and if Jeongin had to choose his brother over his father, he’d choose Hyunjin any day of the week at any hour of the day. So, Jeongin watched Changbin lower himself back down in his seat and left with a smug feeling blooming in his chest around the initial worry already residing there. To be frank, Jeongin was scared of what state he might fight Hyunjin in when he walks down the hallways and already felt his stomach churn when he heard the quietest of cries muffled by either a hand or a pillow. With timid knocks that were there to slowly coax Hyunjin out of his sobbing rather than startle him, Jeongin spoke up, “Hyung? Can I come in?” Jeongin waited patiently, at least five seconds passing that consisted of nothing but slightly muffled sniffling and throaty noises failing to morph into words.
“Yeah, yeah, of course, Innie,” Hyunjin croaked out, voice sharp and whistle like one moment and then dropping into a thick, gravel tone that was both a contrast to his regularly smooth voice. Jeongin pushed open the door softly and peering in to study the sight before him. Hyunjin was curled up in all of his soft, fuzzy, colorful blankets while his arms simultaneously strangled one of his body pillows. Hyunjin always preferred being comfortable with all of his pillows and blankets, and as he laid in the middle of a sea of them, Jeongin couldn’t help but think about how small Hyunjin looked. Jeongin trailed over attempting to be quiet, but Hyunjin must have sensed him because one of his arms comes out, waving around until his fingers caught a taste of Jeongin’s wrist and tugged him down into the bed.
The pillow Hyunjin was strangling was quickly replaced by his younger brother, but nothing really changed much because Jeongin didn’t care and he happily wrapped his arms around his brother’s upper back to tug Hyunjin’s head against his chest. Hyunjin was a very sensitive boy, so crying wasn’t uncommon. Jeongin knew exactly how to handle him and how to get it to go away pretty quickly, so he lowered his head down to Hyunjin’s ear and began to quietly sing to him while rubbing small hearts into Hyunjin’s spine. Hyunjin was older than Jeongin by a good eight years, but mentally and emotionally they were practically on the same level. To anyone else, seeing a nine year old holding his seventeen-year-old older brother, but to them, it was normal. “Jeongin, I don’t know what to do,” Hyunjin wailed, clutching Jeongin’s shirt collar tightly.
“Why are you so scared, hyung? You’ve been dreaming of the world since you were born! And now you finally have the chance to see it for real!” Jeongin exclaimed, bright and full of life in hopes of getting Hyunjin to lighten up a small bit. Hyunjin’s sobs seemed to fade into quiet gurgles for a few moments before he opened his mouth to speak.
“But I’m scared…”
Jeongin thought for a moment, his rubbing hands halting and eyebrows furrowed in debate, “...the worst that could happen, hyung, is if you can’t see. It’s worth a shot,” Jeongin explained slowly, “You can finally see the ocean! And all the paintings you’ve done! And dad’s and Chan’s faces!” Jeongin grinned from ear to ear, lowering his voice in case his dad or Chan had been listening on the other side, “And you can finally see the face that belongs to the deep voice you’re always gushing about like a little school girl…” That comment earned Jeongin a firm smack to the chest.
“Jeongin!” Hyunjin whined, pouting, but it was obvious his chest and shoulders felt a bit lighter, “I told you that his name was Jinyoung and it was nothing like that!” Jeongin couldn’t even really form words at this point, just turning into a giggling mess but it only worsening when Hyunjin began to tickle his sides and cause him to squirm and almost fall to the floor.
“It’s okay, hyung, you don’t have to admit your little crush yet, but you will soon!” Jeongin singsonged, prompting Hyunjin to groan loudly.
“I can’t wait until you like someone, Jeongin.”
“Boys and girls are gross.”
“You’ll like someone eventually. You’ll learn to love someone in a way words can’t express,” Hyunjin breathed out, and Jeongin furrowed his eyebrows in disgust. Jeongin loved his brother, he did, but god he hated it when Hyunjin became poetic about love . Any other time, when it was about a certain landscape or aesthetically pleasing scene, Jeongin was eager to hear whatever words could pour out of his brother's mouth that day, but never when it was about something icky like love.
“I think the only thing I’ll ever love is your paintings and -” Jeongin paused, sitting up to grab the gray and black cat curled up at the edge of the bed to rest him on his chest and swipe his hand over the cat’s head to coax him back to sleep, “and Minho,” And then it was quiet. The two laid there on Hyunjin’s bed underneath the warmth of all the blankets and pillows, and just before they fell asleep, “Hyung…” Hyunjin hummed in acknowledgment, “I really think you should give the surgery a chance…”
It was so quiet you could hear Chan’s and Changbin’s quiet conversation downstairs, and Jeongin held his breath in anticipation.
“I’ll think about it, Innie. Now get some sleep.”
Blue (adj) - of a color intermediate between green and violet, as of the sky or sea on a sunny day.
Hyunjin loved to paint. Granted, it was very sloppy and he made quite the mess at times, but they were breathtakingly beautiful. In fact, the garage had been turned into his own personal studio that only Jeongin was allowed to enter. Occasionally, Hyunjin would show his dad and Chan one of is better paintings (though, Jeongin liked to claim that all of them were good, he just chose the one that would be more moving for them) and more times than not, those paintings went up somewhere in the house. Despite being blind, it seemed as though Hyunjin had a pretty good idea of what the world looked like, at least more or so in a dream. Strictly speaking, Hyunjin knew everything from the way they felt. Jeongin remembers that when he was learning flowers, they went through at least 3 bouquets of roses every week from Hyunjin touching them so regularly.
It was interesting to watch, Jeongin must admit, but it wasn’t so fun when Hyunjin insisted on doing a portrait of him. The first few weeks, Hyunjin did nothing but feel around his face. It wasn’t just when he was painting either, it was any chance he could get. Jeongin would be in the middle of eating breakfast when Hyunjin’s searching hands would find his shoulders, hair, and then his face. After so many days, Jeongin just learned to give up fighting it because Hyunjin was as sensitive as he was stubborn.
Now, the painting was finished and Jeongin could do nothing but gape in shock. It was so ungodly accurate it scared Jeongin. “Hyung… are you sure you’re blind?” Jeongin boldly asked as he stared at the face on the canvas. Granted, the colors were a mix of warm oranges and beautiful purples and blues, but it still looked so amazing it took Jeongin’s breath away. Hyunjin giggled shyly, crossing his arms over his chest out of a nervous habit, “Hyung, you have to show this to Dad, and papaw,” Jeongin gasped but stopped when Hyunjin made a noise of disapproval and quickly shook his head.
“I don’t know if it’s that good…” Hyunjin muttered out shyly, but Jeongin just pouted like the literal child he was.
“Hyung! Haven’t you trusted my judgment before?” Jeongin guilt-tripped, grinning when Hyunjin groaned and gave Jeongin the go to grab the painting. Jeongin squealed in excitement, reaching out to gently take the canvas gently between his fingers before offering his brother his arm so they could safely make it to the living room where Chan and Changbin were currently speaking to guests. “Dad! Chan! Look!” Jeongin screeched before he even reached the entryway of the lounge, but halted once he saw the family of four that live just off the coast of the island sitting there with them. Changbin seemed a bit irritated at the sudden, and very loud interruption, but Chan turned towards them expectantly and a soft look in his eyes. The two men gasped when Jeongin pulled out the painting shyly, just so they were the only ones that could see.
“Hyunjin, that looks amazing. That’s…” Changbin trailed off, waiting for Chan to finish his sentence because he was rather gobsmacked.
“Very realistic and valuable, Hyunjin. I’m starting to think you’ve been lying to us all these years about your sight…” Chan giggled suddenly, getting up to cup the back of the taller’s head fondly and press a kiss to his forehead. “I’ll go hang it now,” Chan gently took it from Jeongin’s fingers but Hyunjin’s fingers caught his grandfather’s bicep before he could go too far and stopped him in his tracks. Hyunjin looked nervous to say what he wanted to say, but Chan coaxed the words out of him, “What is it, Jinnie?” Unknowing to Hyunjin, his own eyes were diverted into the direction of the boy down the street that had gathered his attention around last year as he spoke, but when Chan spoke, his neck pivoted towards his grandfather and further making himself oblivious to the sadden look in Jinyoung’s eyes.
“Can you… Can you hang it between Innie’s room and mine? I… I want to be able to get to it easily when I get the surgery,” The room went quiet so suddenly, Jeongin grasping the painting hard in his hand when he thought Chan was going to drop it. The first person to make a noise was Changbin, the man laughing in slight disbelief and slight relief.
“You… You’re getting the surgery?” Chan breathed out, asking the question for his grandson knowing fully he was incapable of asking at the time.
Hyunjin rubbed the back of the neck when he realized he hadn’t actually told them he wanted it. He had come to the decision a few nights ago, he just forgot to tell him being the idiot Hyunjin was at times. “Shit… I guess I never got around to the telling part. Yes, I want to get the surgery.” The quiet was broken by Jeongin letting out a cry and tackling his older brother in a firm, big hug that made Hyunjin giggle cutely and hold him just as tightly, “I’m going to get to see your ugly face every day, Innie,” Hyunjin teased lightly, but freezing when he heard a familiar laugh from none other than Jinyoung himself. Shit… he’s here?
Jeongin noticed how tense Hyunjin had gotten around Jinyoung and smirked to himself before helping his brother relax a bit, “I guess it’s only fair considering I’ve had to look at yours for nine years,” Jeongin snickered, and before he knew it, he was being pinned against the wall as Hyunjin ran his fingers up and down his sides until Jeongin managed to squirm his way down to the floor and crawl through Hyunjin’s legs to get away from him. “Stop that!” Jeongin dramatically shrieked, falling into Jinyoung’s lap to get away from his brother. Hyunjin swiveled his body around slowly, eyes trained on Jinyoung’s mother but ears attentive. Jeongin’s nose betrayed him though, and a loud sneeze erupted suddenly. Hyunjin smiled to himself evilly, darting in the general direction to the best of his ability, trying not to stumble over the coffee table, but right when he went to reach out to grab Jeongin, he wasn’t there and then he was falling.
Right into Jinyoung’s now empty lap. Jeongin began to cackle evilly from across the room, now hiding behind his father who stared at the sight in question but made no comment. Jinyoung held Hyunjin at the waist, laughing a bit to himself as well though fading when he realized how stiff and rigid Hyunjin was there. “You two are a character,” Jinyoung mused, patting Hyunjin’s back lightly. Hyunjin flushed, head pivoting downward and away so Jinyoung couldn’t see his crimson cheeks. Soon, everyone settled down but Jinyoung kept Hyunjin in his lap and Hyunjin felt like his heart was going to beat out of his chest. To Hyunjin, they were friends, they had talked many times and they had a lot in common so this wasn’t exactly odd, just unexpected. Hyunjin wished he hadn’t caught feelings though. He wished this could have stayed friendly like the other few friends he had.
“So… are you really going to get the surgery?” Changbin spoke up once Chan had returned from hanging the painting, eagerly nibbling on his nails as he practically sat on the edge of his seat. Changbin let out a cry of relief when Hyunjin nodded his head with a small smile and let out a quiet ‘yes’ in retort. Next thing Hyunjin knew, his dad was kissing him on the forehead and clasping his shoulders firmly in his palms, “The Lord has great things in store for you, son,” But Hyunjin couldn’t help but think about what Jinyoung muttered under his breath when Changbin was far enough away to hear.
“But what if this isn’t one of them?”
Yellow (adj) - of the color between green and orange in the spectrum, a primary subtractive color complementary to blue; colored like ripe lemons or egg yolks.
Hyunjin had to be positive when it came to this. There was no way he couldn’t be. So, even as he was packing his things as Jeongin read off all the things that could possibly go wrong off of his laptop, even as he was heading out the door hugging a crying Jeongin and worrisome Chan goodbye, even as he was heading to the airport and his dad was fidgety on the whole plane ride there until they got some alcohol in his system and he could finally sleep, even when they got to the hotel and Changbin was double checking with the doctor that he was qualified for all of this, Hyunjin kept a smile on his face and reassured everyone that it would be okay.
Deep down, he knew it would be, but now he was in the waiting room of a Malaysian hospital, hugging one of Jeongin’s pillows close to his chest and he was scared . “You okay?” Changbin looked up from his book when he noticed how fidgety and skittish Hyunjin was being. Hyunjin never answered, just rolling the threads of fabric on the ends of Jeongin’s pillow until he couldn’t feel the blood rushing around in his finger. Changbin didn’t press any further, only patted his son’s thigh before turning back to his book and letting himself be dragged into the adventures of one of his closest friends that he hadn’t actually spoken to in a while. Jackson had made himself rather known in the world, and Changbin was endlessly proud of him.
“Hyunjin?” Hyunjin snapped up to his feet at that, straightening his sunglasses to conceal his pure white eyes that freaked out pretty much everyone and tapping his stick anxiously against the floor. Changbin got up and out of his chair calmly, linking their arms together and leading them towards the front desk where a nice lady was waiting, “Here is the wristband -” She paused for a second to curl the white band around Hyunjin’s wrist before smiling again, “And the waiting room is on the third floor, fourth door on the left,” Changbin kept muttering the words over and over again as they walked, Hyunjin becoming more and more nervous as time passed and the more he walked. He… Fuck, he wasn’t ready.
Hyunjin slipped his arm out of his father’s own, standing rigidly in the middle of the hallway on the third floor and shaking his head furiously as he silently blubbered to himself. “Hyunjin? What’s wrong?” Changbin worried instantly, rushing back towards his son while digging a tissue out of his pocket to dab away the tears on his cheeks. Hyunjin kept blubbering on and on about how he wasn’t ready and how scared and petrified he was, and all Changbin could do was hold his son for the first time in a very long time. “Jinnie… Listen to me, okay? If you don’t want to do this, we don’t have to. If you do want to do this, then we can, but I need to know if you’re willing to risk it now,” Changbin hushed, and Hyunjin choked on his own spit.
“I want Innie,” Hyunjin sobbed, clutching his dad’s biceps so tightly his nails were surely making crescent into his skin. Changbin shushed him while pulling out his cell phone, calling Chan and telling him to put Jeongin on the phone. Hyunjin nearly cried out of relief when he heard Jeongin’s voice on the end of the line. “I can’t do it, innie. I- What if everything goes wrong? What if they tell me it’s not repairable or I fucking die during the surgery? What if -” Hyunjin was cut off by sighs and shushes from his younger brother.
“Hyung, everything’s going to be okay, you know that right? You’re not going to die, and you’re not going to be blind. Think about this way… if you do this surgery, this will be the last time we talk to each other and you don’t have to feel a face out to match a voice to it,” Jeongin giggled, and Hyunjin found himself laughing at that too, “It’s going to be okay, Hyung. Someone once told me that optimism is key.”
“I wonder who that could have been…”
“I’m not sure he was kind of an idiot -”
“Listen, hyung, I have homework to do and you have a surgery to do. Get home safe, yeah?”
“Yeah, yeah, okay. Thanks, Innie.”
Pink (Adj) - of a color intermediate between red and white, as of coral or salmon.
Hyunjin wasn’t allowed to remove the bandages until a few days after the operation, which just made him more and more anxious. Though, for his final removal, Changbin figured it would only be fit if they were to remove them in a scenic area so Hyunjin could finally see the sea for the first time. He wanted his son’s first thing to be as beautiful as his soul was. “Can we maybe walk a bit faster?” Hyunjin squeaked out, tightening his grip around his father’s biceps shyly as he guided him swiftly down the gravel path with Dr. Che followed behind fondly.
“Good things come to those who are patient,” Changbin scolded, but Hyunjin just pouted.
“I’ve been patient for seventeen years, I’m allowed to be a little selfish,” Hyunjin grumbled, earning a laugh and a shake of Changbin’s head, however, in the end, Changbin strolled at a faster pace before they reached a gazebo by the ocean surrounded by the most beautiful flowers Changbin had seen in a very long time. Changbin slowly sat Hyunjin down on the bench, sitting across from him as Dr. Che approached them with a wide smile.
“You ready, Hyunjin?” Dr. Che wondered, hands resting at his temples where the bandages were taped. Hyunjin couldn’t even form words anymore, so resulted to nodding his head excitedly in hopes of moving this along a bit quicker, “Okay... okay, you might be a bit sensitive to the light at first,” The doctor warned. With a slow, cautious removal of the bandages, the first eye mask was removed and Hyunjin hissed at the sudden bright light shined into his eye, Dr. Che waited for him to blink and get used to everything before he took off the next. Hyunjin felt his body run cold when finally… after so many years everything fell into place. The sea in front of him was so blue, so beautiful and glimmering and shining and everything Hyunjin had ever imagined. Hyunjin darted as soon as the bandages were off, his once pure white eyes now replaced by pale green irises soured from flower to flower, from tree to tree, from cloud to cloud, and from person to person.
“Hyunjin…” His father called out from behind him, and as much as Hyunjin didn’t want to tear his eyes from the beautiful sea in front of him, he had to see his father. Hyunjin broke down right then and there, sinking into his father’s arms when he found himself against the bony chest. Hyunjin didn’t get to feel his father’s face, as he was never really around when he was going through that phase, so Changbin had been the thing he was curious about the most, “How does it feel, son?” Changbin wondered with a giggle when Hyunjin pulled away to eye the sun again.
“It feels… amazing.”
Changbin proceeded to guide Hyunjin around that day, taking him from place to place, describing what color was what and even writing it down so they could start his reading and writing skills early. Though, when he watched Hyunjin run around the field later like a small child, CHangbin began to realize just how much of his childhood Hyunjin missed out on. He never truly got to be a kid and it was… heart-wrenching to say the least.
And yes. Yes, Hyunjin cried when he saw Jeongin for the first time. He broke down into tears when he walked through the door and saw Jeongin standing by the door eagerly waiting for his return. Chan and Changbin couldn’t detach the two brothers so decided to just make it a group hug because hey, their boy could finally see .
Green (adj) - of the color between blue and yellow in the spectrum; colored like grass or emeralds.
Growth and Health .
It was rather amazing how quickly Hyunjin recovered from the surgery, but now Changbin was finding it hard to keep Hyunjin home. The boy just wanted to go outside and see the world for himself, to experience all of the things he never got to experience. Though, Chan and Changbin had to set some ground rules considering Hyunjin 1) couldn’t drive, and 2) was still a minor. Though, Jinyoung didn’t mind being his way out into the world and Changbin was beginning to wonder if Hyunjin saw Jinyoung more than he saw his own father. Though, Changbin didn’t mind too much. He figured his son would have a whole lifetime ahead of him to see so just let him be a teenager for a little while longer.
Hyunjin had taken to the cliff side out behind the house rather easily, and if they went searching for him, more times than not, he laid out on that cliffside cloud gazing like the giant nerd he was. Sometimes, Chan joined him in his cloud gazing, other times, Jeongin sat down beside him and did his homework as Hyunjin babbled on and on about the world in the same beautiful manner he always did. Nothing much had changed, Hyunjin could just see now, and it made Jeongin happy that he could finally be truly happy.
That evening though, with the fairy lights hung up in the tree above him and the wind feeling nice against his hot skin and his lengthy hair, Jinyoung approached him, sat down beside him, and spoke quietly, “You should be a model,” Jinyoung claimed boldly, and he wasn’t wrong. Hyunjin was unbearably pretty and seeing him looking out to see with his head slightly pivoted to the side and hair blowing back out of his face, he truly was a sight. Hyunjin sputtered at that, falling into giggles the same time he fell to the soft ground and held his stomach.
“That’s a nice way to greet someone, Hyung,” Hyunjin praised from the ground, peering up at Jinyoung with a wide smile. Jinyoung shrugged nonchalantly, and that’s when Hyunjin finally noticed the box in his hyung’s hand. It was small, quaint, and beautiful. “What do you have there?”
Jinyoung seemed to get shy for a moment but passed the box to the younger anyhow. Hyunjin slowly lifted the lid, gasping in shock at all the glimmering and shiny objects inside, “I remembered how you always seemed so entranced with my stones and gems when you came over and felt them. I figured it was time for you see them for yourself,” Jinyoung uttered softly, and… and Hyunjin was willing to risk it all for the man beside him. Hyunjin peered up at Jinyoung, eyes shining and glimmering like the stones in the box, but Jinyougn snapped him out of his trance when he reached down into the box to pull out a small, green object, “This is an emerald. I don’t know what it is, but it always reminds me of you,” Jinyoung admitted shyly before slipping it into Hyunjin’s palm. “Keep it,”
And if Hyunjin surged forward after that to finally claim his first kiss with his too plush lips and little experience, that was his and Jinyoung’s business because the elder kissed back with equal vigor, if not more.
Violet (adj) - a bluish-purple color seen at the end of the spectrum opposite red.
Though, when push comes to shove, Hyunjin was still involved in a family curse. He was still roped into this involvement with eternal torture and/or a quick unexpected death. Everyone, even Chan at times, figured that Hyunjin would escape the curse considering his born impairment, that he would not suffer the same fate as the rest of them and be able to live a much longer life like Chan or Felix, but they knew better. They knew so much better than they should have.
The world was a dark place, it really was, and perhaps Hyunjin could have been warned of that when he threw himself back into painting. Perhaps he could have been warned of all the bad feelings that came with messing up a ‘normal’ painting, or when the world was much duller at times. When Hyunjin was blind, he was filtered, stuck in his own world where everything was bright and happy, like the warm fuzzy feeling he gets every time he kisses Jinyoung, but better.
But now, he was screaming and thrashing, all the pent-up frustration from all the months where he’s realized that the world isn’t what he dreamed of, and further ruining the painting he was working on in the garage. Purple paint was everywhere, contaminating the walls like a black goo that was slowly taking over the innocence and purity of Hyunjin’s soul. Jinyoung had been sleeping over that night, having heard his screams but once he reached the garage, Hyunjin was crying his eyes out and coating his hair and face with the purple paint on his hands. Jinyoung would come to find that he couldn’t ever get that purple paint out of his clothes and that long after Hyunjin had passed, he would still cry every time he saw the stains on his emerald green shirt.
“Breathe, baby!” Jinyoung pleaded when he saw Hyunjin begin to hyperventilate, but Hyunjin was numb to everything now. Numb to Jinyoung’s kisses, Jeongin’s voice, and jokes, and numb to the colors he had fallen in love with far too quickly.
If he were honest, he wasn’t sure if he could pinpoint one thing that made him break down. Sure, he had gotten something off on a painting, but that wasn’t the reason he was acting the way he was now. Hyunjin just began to see everything he wasn’t supposed to: his dad’s drinking problem, Chan’s constant notion of death in the family, Jeongin’s almost apparent apathy. Everything bad, everything negative, and everything violent. Hyunjin was as sensitive as a butterfly’s wings, and that eye surgery practically plucked the very things that kept him afloat.
Brown (adj) - of a color produced by mixing red, yellow, and blue, as of dark wood or rich soil.
Hyunjin didn’t leave the house much those last few months. He more or so stayed in his bedroom by the window, buried under blankets and pillows reading books to the best of his ability, though he struggled so he walked through the door connect his and his brother’s room often to ask him what a word was. Jeongin always answered brightly and with a small hug because he could never get enough of his hugs. This time though, when he went to go ask what ‘exasperated’ meant, Jeongin didn’t let him leave and tugged him down onto the bed. “I miss you, hyung,” Jeongin muttered shyly, not exactly wanting his older brother to know he had a soft spot for his brother, but Hyunjin needed to know he was cared for.
“I know… I’m sorry,” Hyunjin whispered weakly, but Jeongin just shook his head.
“Don’t apologize, just cuddle with me,”
They laid there for a while it seemed, just holding each other, and maybe Hyunjin cried, but Jeongin didn’t say anything and he coaxed him off to the first peaceful slumber he’s had in a while. “Can I be honest with you, Innie?” Hyunjin suddenly muttered later when they were staring up at the ceiling, the sun has long set and the moon high in the sky. Jeongin nodded his head, uttering out a quiet ‘yes’ “I wish I hadn’t gotten the surgery,” It was tense for a moment, but Jeongin found his own words spilling out quicker than he meant them to.
“So do I. I should have never talked you into it,” Jeongin scolded himself, beating against his head for a moment until Hyunjin grabbed his wrist softly and pulled it to himself. The two turned to face each other, and Hyunjin found himself feeling all of Jeongin’s features over again with his eyes shut. “I miss the white. The green is pretty but it sets me off,” Jeongin giggled out suddenly, and yeah, maybe Hyunjin wasn’t numb to Jeongin just yet.
But that didn’t make him any less upset in the long run.
Gray (adj) - of a color intermediate between black and white, as of ashes or an overcast sky.
Compromises were necessary in the world, Hyunjin knew that much. However, he couldn’t help but think coming to a compromise was the hardest thing to do when everything seemed as if it was supposed to fall into place. Why should you have to compromise if the world was so perfect? Hyunjin found himself thinking about it constantly; when he was eating breakfast, when he was reading, when he was cloud gazing, when Jinyoung peppered him with kisses, and even when he was listening to Jeongin tell him about his day at school.
Hyunjin was scared to come to a compromise, but he knew he was going to have to. That’s why he had the tub of acid in his hand staring at the liquid with a sense of… content? Fear? He didn’t know. He just knew the slight sizzle of the liquid when he dropped a flower petal into it was whispering his name.
Black (adj) - of the very darkest color owing to the absence of or complete absorption of light; the opposite of white.
Hyunjin dipped his finger in first, hissing and pulling it out before glancing at his slowly decaying pointer finger. Ironically enough, Hyunjin hummed at the sight in pure content and knew that this would be perfect.
Hyunjin was ready to see his world again, his purple and pink skies with peach-tinted clouds hovering over a turquoise sea with all sorts of fish jumping from the water. Instead of dull trees, he had the colors of the fall or cherry blossom trees. In his world, Hyunjin was a gleaming emerald with a ruby for a brother and a diamond for a boyfriend. In Hyunjin’s world, he was innocent, pure, and happy.
Hyunjin got to see that world again, got to feel Jinyoung’s lips forever on his skin and Jeongin’s arms wrapped around him with his mouth stuffed full of Chan’s food and the faint smell of a vanilla cigar lingering in the air from his father sitting a few yards away. He’d get to see it again with a scream, a cry, and a thump to the ground.
Hyunjin got to see that world…. Forever .
Hyunjin threw acid in his eyes in an effort to become blind again. Hyunjin was a pure and innocent soul, easily affected by the harshness of the world. I didn’t see much of Hyunjin those last few months. He was… god. Hyunjin was my everything when it came down to family. Hyunjin was my light, my sun, my blood, and bone. And it was all ripped away from me just like that.
I wish the world hadn’t been so fucking dark. I wish he never got that surgery. I wish my dad hadn’t ever found that doctor, and I wish he hadn’t ever come home.
I’d give up my own life so Hyunjin could live his own as peacefully as he wanted to. He deserved it. He deserved the world.
Chapter 8: Changbin
Growing up, I think my dad was the person I hated the most. Chan and he always butted heads and as time passed, it became more and more irritating. One thing my family all had in common was our unrelenting stubbornness, and those two had to be the most stubborn bulls in the barn. My dad insisted that Hyunjin and I didn’t need the stories, that they weren’t what god would have wanted, but Chan said “Fuck the lord. I know my family and they deserve to know the true stories of their relatives and what their fate will be, Changbin.” I think that was the first time my dad got so angry he left and came back two days later reeking of soju. I try not to think about it too much. I was five.
My dad was an alcoholic priest. He wasn’t raised Catholic, none of us were. It just kind of happened. When my dad went off to college, he said he had an “awakening”, and believed strongly that if Hyunjin and I were to believe in the world, the family curse would not claim me. But the curse was not the work of the lord. It had a mind of its own and would claim all of us one day. Three years after Hyunjin’s death, I finally blew up in his face. I told him that the curse was too true and that if the lord was real than our family would still be alive and mom would have never left. That was the first time my dad had gotten so angry at me and hit me as a result. Three days later, our bags were packed and we were on the road.
As time passed, dad acted as if something was following them. My dad only ever had one fear and that was demons. But I don’t think he was scared of the entity itself, but the ones inside his head.
That was when the alcohol came in.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen in temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
2 Corinthians 4:18
In this town, Seo Changbin was a man of absolute wonders. He breathed the Lord and had the hands of Jesus. Seo Changbin was a preacher, a famous one at that, and it wasn’t uncommon for people to show their gratitude to him. Love was something he preached often, about how men and women should learn to love themselves for who they really were, that the Lord wanted to love and have his people prosper. The Lord did not want for his children to discriminate against one another. Changbin, in many ways, had respect from everyone in the community, and that was because he was daring enough to preach of gay rights, the disgusting stereotypes against people of different races, and the inequality between any and all genders. Changbin was a preacher in the modern world, and he had everyone’s utmost respect.
Changbin practically held the world in his very palms. Young adult males approached him with flushed cheeks and quiet thank yous for protecting them when they felt like they were nothing, and young girls who had faced ridicule over and over again came to him when they needed advice or someone willing to step in and stop a situation they’re too scared to expose to the police. Everyone respected Changbin, worshipping the very ground he stepped on, and as nice as it was to get a free meal or a discount every now and then, the man was insistent that the community focus on the Lord themself then on him. “The Lord appreciates your kindness, but he would love for you to turn your face to him,” He would say before giving whoever a generous tip and walking away with no doubt another visitor to his next sermon.
Changbin’s power amongst the people he lived with was… scary, daunting, and intimidating, at least for his family. Chan swore up and down that one day, it would go to Changbin’s head if it hadn’t already and it was only a matter of time until Jeongin and Hyunjin grew tired of his father’s constant preaching. Sure, Changbin held the world in his very palms, had the community curled around his ring-covered pinky, but he was losing the people he was supposed to love unconditionally and it was… It didn’t feel right and if Changbin wasn’t so selfish, he might have given up preaching to make sure his family loved him.
Yeah. Changbin was a selfish priest but was named to be the most selfless man in town.
To answer before listening -- that is folly and shame.
To put it in a way that was understandable, Changbin was attention starved in a way. His father was abusive, and as much as his mother tried to be there for him, she eventually had to leave as well per his request so she and his sister didn’t get hurt. In a time like that, Changbin hadn’t really known what positive attention was; all his life he had been told he was nothing. So yeah, the power had gone to his head but not in terms of malicious tendencies. Instead, it was an envious one, a powerful want to be liked by everyone once he had the slightest taste of love. Changbin hadn’t been shown true love until he met Seokyoung on a mission trip in Ulsan and the two had gotten really close.
Seokyoung was everything Changbin thrived to be. She was a quiet, but still devoted, daughter of God, humble, sweet, selfless, and to top it all off she had a sense of humor. She was perfect in Changbin’s eyes and yes, he was whipped for the poor woman within a day of meeting her, and yes, it was a classic love story. They became pen pals, slowly easing their way into a relationship before Changbin flew her out so they could see each other, and a year later she was moved in with an engagement ring on her finger. Chan adored Seokyoung, she was a perfect for Changbin and for once, it seemed that Changbin was devoted to another being aside from God and Chan thought that Changbin might stand a chance at seeing what life had to offer.
He only became more hopeful when sweet baby Hyunjin came along with blind eyes and Changbin did nothing but hold him fondly at the wee hours of the morning while his wife was completely exhausted from having the loud baby all day. In fact, he was the exact same way with Jeongin. Changbin loved his family, loved every little thing about it, but he was shameful. Changbin had gotten hooked on alcohol again and stopped preaching briefly, but when his wife left after a rocky few years after Jeongin was born… Changbin snapped himself back into shape. For the most part anyway.
He was still on the verge of alcohol poisoning most nights, but he had thrown himself full force into preaching again, and that’s how he ended up here. Ended up on the side of the road preaching to a bunch of homeless people with vodka in his system and casual clothes that made him too look like a homeless man. Perhaps that was lucky of him, because if anyone were to catch him actually wearing his uniform… his whole career would have been ruined long before he was ready for it too. “God said to love, people! But yet here we are fighting wars -” Changbin took three beer bottles from the ground and threw one at the columns of the bridge they were under, “hurting people -” the second bottle hit the ground at one of the homeless woman’s feet causing her to jump, “and putting the suffering of others aside!” The third bottle flew across the street, just nearly hitting a car.
The homeless people began to eye the preacher a bit more carefully.
“And for what? Nothing! Nothing important that is!” Changbin slurred, and then everything went black before he hit the ground. Changbin was lucky he wasn’t violated that night, instead, the homeless men and woman dragged him to a safer distance from the street by the small fire they had created and dropped a ratty blanket over his body. Changbin didn’t deserve that treatment, but he got it anyway.
Submit yourselves, then to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Trying was downplayed to every single degree by the general public, even Changbin himself. Trying was looked down upon because people were too proud of themselves when they did something to see that trying was enough. Putting your effort into something was hard enough, but actually achieving something is even harder. Changbin had been so successful in his life over the past few years that he had forgotten what it was like to try and fail, and he hated it when it happened.
He constantly preached about resisting the devil, to put your faith in God and to never look back, but after… after he came into the church one morning drunk off his ass a few days after Hyunjin’s death… Changbin got lost for a while. He got lost in not only his faith but himself as well, and when a fellow pastor came to him, begging Changbin to put down the bottle and to come back to the church and find faith in God again, he wasn’t sure if he could. Not after he begged and begged and begged for God to provide some peace within him aside from the alcohol, but all he got was an ad in the mail about a new bar in town a few hours later and not a word from the being above he spent years putting time and effort into.
The devil didn’t flee from Changbin, but Changbin fled to him, and there was nothing he could do to refrain from it. It was only a matter of time anyway.
For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
It was… frustrating that Jeongin refused to see the real situation at hand when Changbin dragged him out of the house that one night, but no matter how hard Changbin tried to be patient and calmly explain it to his youngest son, Jeongin became blind. Sure, they would never truly get along due to personal views and equal stubbornness, but Jeongin had never…. He never expected for things to go as far as they did, “Dad! You’re insane! This is not a vision! This is just one of your crazy dreams!” Jeongin shrieked, arms waving about in all sorts of directions when Changbin began to explain that they were heading off to Rome because God sent him a vision.
“Have faith, Jeongin!”
“If faith was real, we wouldn’t have suffered!” Jeongin roared so loudly the unstable walls of the motel they were staying in practically shook. Changbin looked onto his son in horror for a moment and felt his heart relax when Jeongin’s demeanor and voice softened, “Dad… I’m so tired. I just want my life back! I haven’t been able to make friends since we left,” Jeongin’s voice cracked, “You’ve gone insane, and I’m so lonely… please just… can we please just settle down for a while?” Jeongin pleaded, deflating when Changbin’s eyes flickered away in panic before he tugged out two slips of paper and a bright smile spread over his lips.
“We can settle in Rome, this is the last time, I promise,” Changbin promised, but Jeongin knew better.
“That’s what you said the last three times, “ Jeongin hissed, grabbing for his jacket, slipping on his boots and heading towards the door. “Get your shit together, dad,” and the door slammed so harshly the walls shook once more and all Changbin could do was tremble in his place. Could he not see that Changbin was trying to give Jeongin a better life? Could he not see that Rome would be their final destination? Changbin was not his father. Changbin was not Felix. He would not abandon his kids. He wouldn’t. He wouldn’t abandon Hyungjin, He wouldn’t abandon Jeongin, he wouldn’t abandon his family.
“I’m not him… I’m not him…” Changbin mumbled over and over again, not physically, mentally, or emotionally aware he was now on the floor, rocking back and forth with his knees tugged into his chest. Changbin was… unstable, it was clear he was. But Changbin’s compassion for the things he loved never faded, and Changbin loved his son, he really did. However, Changbin loved alcohol more, because alcohol took away the pain in his heart and the itch for violence in his fingertips. Changbin’s fist curled and uncurled, resisting the urge to find the flash he kept hidden away for the sake of his sixteen-year-old son, but Changbin lost control. Jeongin would be okay.
He would realize that there were plans of prosperity in Rome. He would realize that Changbin would throve there and so would he. He would see. “He will see,”
but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Perhaps the most upsetting part of all of this was that Changbin’s downfall was quick. They hadn’t really been expecting it but at the same time, they were. Changbin was the most mentally stable out of all of them aside from Chan, and a part of Jeongin thought that maybe he wouldn’t be affected by the curse because of his level head and endless faith in the Lord. But the curse didn’t work that way. The curse took who it wanted to because it was not a creation of the Lord but the devil. Changbin knew that he knew that all too well, but that only gave him more motivation to keep going.
It was rather scary that Changbin’s pride and passion would be his downfall, but somehow… not hard to grasp either. Undying passion could become dangerous, and Changbin would only realize that when he starts preaching on the offside of town, a small village just outside of Gimpo, in the middle of the night where most if not all people with malicious tendencies were out and about, “Dad? Dad, why are you out here?” Jeongin sighed, gripping his father by the biceps and attempting to guide him away and back towards the motel. Jeongin, too, was not innocent with his nightly activities either. His neck was covered in hickeys, his pupils were blown wide, and he reeked of wax. Changbin smelled him and his bottom lip began to quiver before he clutched Jeongin’s collar and buried his face into the younger’s shoulder.
“I failed! I failed you as a dad! Look at you! You’re a walking sin!” Changbin wailed, knuckles white from how harshly he was gripping Jeongin’s clothes. Jeongin’s eyes rolled into the back of his head at that, scolding himself for getting his hopes up about Changbin actually apologizing to him. Though, he guessed he had to take what he could get.
“Come on, dad,” Jeongin sighed, waddling them both in the direction of the motel. Jeongin, somehow, someway, got them both back to the motel and let his father collapse onto the bed. Jeongin didn’t sleep much that night, smoking a joint until the sun began to rise and his father peeked his head out of the motel. He didn’t entirely seem surprised by what Jeongin was doing, sitting down next to him and leaning against the wall. His preacher outfit was tattered and worn, the thin patches of fabric threatening to rip at any moment, and Jeongin almost felt bad for him if it weren’t for the fact that it was his fault they were in this predicament, to begin with. “Want some?”
Changbin stared at his son’s outstretched hand with the joint between his fingers and… yeah. Yeah, okay. Changbin didn’t say a word as he took it from his lips and held it up to his lips. The weed didn’t give him a direct effect right away, but Changbin could already feel his bones relax and turn to mush. “That’s the closest you’re ever gonna get to God, dad,” Jeongin muttered, taking the joint back and taking a deep inhale of it with a smack of his lips.
Changbin couldn’t help but think that his son was right.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes, we are healed.
It started with the weed, and then it was the small line of coke at a special event. But the coke turned into Heroin and the heroine turned into meth, and soon, Changbin was as high as a kite. Sure, it looked like that was the happiest he had ever been, Jeongin had made the mistake of thinking so too, but in reality, Changbin was hurting. He was hurting so bad that everything around him had to be numbed for his chest to not tighten and tears threaten to spill from his eyes.
Changbin was numb to the world around him, and he wasn’t sure if he could entirely blame his son for it either. All his life, he had blamed another, had blamed his father, his grandfather, his ex-wife, his sons, even the Lord, but he hadn’t ever blamed himself. That’s where he wasn’t any different from the folk he preached to every Sunday and Wednesday for 20 years of his life.
Changbin supposed that if he couldn’t escape the curse from being so faithful to God, that the Lord provided him a telltale sign of what would kill him, where it would be, and when. Changbin had a dream the night before his death of it all, of how it would all play out, and when the next night had fallen after a long day of self-contemplation, the only thing on Changbin’s mind was making it up to his son. To apologize and let him know that even if Jeongin wasn’t perfect, he was loved , and he would always be loved . It’s painful to realize that he never got to outwardly express it more than just a simple phrase.
But that was enough for Jeongin. That was all he wanted to hear his whole life.
The streets of a city in the north part of Italy, Trento to be more exact, were too quiet that night, and Changbin had gone running through them blindly without another thought. He needed to find his son before he would finally meet his demise. He needed to let Jeongin know that - “ Give me your fucking money, you little rat ,” A voice spat out aggressively, but Changbin couldn’t understand a single word of it. Changbin approached the sound of the voice, on the contrary, and felt his blood run cold when he saw Jeongin being grabbed by the collar of his shirt roughly. “ Did you not hear me? Money! Now! ”
Jeongin whimpered, tears gushing down his cheeks as he furiously shook his head and muttered out, “I don’t- I don’t understand- please, sir -” Over and over again which only seemed to anger the man further. Jeongin let out a wail when something cold pressed against his temple and his eyes snapped shut. He couldn’t look. That… That’s when Changbin jumped in with cautious hands and equally cautious words.
“Sir-” The gun was quickly pointed in Changbin’s direction, his eyes staring down the barrel and not feeling even an ounce of fear. This was his time. “Jeongin -” He was going to tell him to run, but the minute he opened his mouth when he looked at his son, a gunshot rang out along with curses in Italian that Changbin could understand.
“ Shit, shit, shit, ” The man with the gun hit the ground running while Jeongin raced towards his father.
“Fuck, fuck, fuck,” Jeongin whimpered over and over again, pressing his hands to the gun shot wound in Changbin’s stomach, the older man chuckling a bit and raising his bloodied hands to his son’s face and placing two, firm, and permanent handprints there that Jeongin wouldn’t be unable to see for a very, very long time.
“I love you, baby,”
Changbin had spent many years neglecting the curse, neglecting its need for attention and its mighty grasp it held over his family. He had put so much faith into the Lord over his years, he refused to acknowledge what was right in front of him.
But now… Now he could be with the Lord.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
That gunshot still haunts me when it’s quiet and the bloodied scene of my father lying on the ground still appears in my dreams. My dad was unhappy, anyone could see that, but his unhappiness did not out weight his love for both Hyunjin and me. It had just taken him saving my life and losing his own for me to realize. I don’t hate my father, I don’t think I ever did. I just refused to acknowledge the fact that he was just as human as anyone else and he had his flaws just like everyone else in this godforsaken family. I just wish he could have broken the tradition and gotten help. I wish he hadn’t been dumb enough to get involved with bad people because of his alcohol and drug addiction. I wish he hadn’t taken after his father instead of taking after Chan.
But the past is the past; there’s nothing we can do to change it. I just wish I has gotten the chance to go back and tell dad how much I loved him before it was too late. I wish I had told Hyunjin not to get the surgery, maybe he’d still be alive and I wouldn’t be constantly battling court cases about dad’s death. But I can’t do any of that because the past is the past and life has consequences.
Dad used to say that “fate’s strings are in fact not strings but the lines of butterfly wings. Everything is connected in some way and every situation has a direct outcome.”
Chapter 9: Chan
He's a hard man to explain but an easy man to love.
Great-grandpa Chan was the light of my very life besides from Hyunjin. He was so ungodly kind and gentle with me even when I felt like I was losing all respect in my body. Chan remained calm, patient, and parently with me when dad couldn't. Chan was... unexplainable in a lot of ways.
The man had been through hell and back his whole life, and as much as I want to write "just like the rest of us" I can't because it's not true. Our suffering doesn't even begin to add up to his own and yet, he's the most stable being I have ever met. Chan was a rock in the sky, large and prominent, trustworthy. Chan was an anchor in the sea, the one feather that stayed when the rest didn't, the reliable bullet shell, the most beautiful view in town, the bind of a book. Chan was structure, he was kind, he was gentle, and he didn't deserve anything bad that happened to him. I don't think any of us did, but Chan had drawn the short end of the stick.
Some of the community deemed him as insane those last few years he was alive, more so than usual, especially when he became more persistent on the curse. Chan practically lived and breathed that curse, and I can't say I blame him either because that man... the amount of pain Chan had to suffer through should have had him breaking a long time ago but he never did.
He's a hard man to explain but an easy man to love.
Do you remember when you were younger and you asked me what I was passionate about?
There was one thing Chan hated more than the curse and that was passion. Now, that didn't exactly mean he was cold-hearted or cruel to the people he loved. No. Instead, he was quite the opposite. Chan had so much love in his heart it was painful, and he wanted nothing more than to make sure everyone around him was safe, happy, warm, and their needs were met. Chan was practically born to be a guardian, and it wasn't uncommon that foster kids came in and out of his home until they had the twins. Even after Minho died, they kept foster kids when it was necessary and Chan was more than happy to provide a home.
The twins didn't change much, just how many fosters they could take in at a time. Though after Seungmin and Woojin were born, Chan had to, unfortunately, stop his ways. Chan believed in helping people, he always did, but he also believed in the curse cast over his family and that was where his morals butted heads more times than not.
Unfortunately, the will of the curse took over his willingness to help people.
I wasn't really all that sure how to answer. My whole life, I had done nothing but thrive off of people who would only end up leaving me, my family that been burdened with this curse that took their lives far before it should have.
Chan was obsessed, that was seemingly his only flaw. He was obsessed with everything that had to do with the curse, and that took over his life for a while. That was his fault in the system he used because Chan was passionate. He was passionate about the curse. He was tired of the funerals. Of the losses. And while Chan stared at the pills in his hand, he wondered if he could save Changbin and Jeongin if he were to just end it here.
"Channie!" A childlike voice shook the walls of the house and Chan snapped his head up. Immediately, the man's parent instincts kicked in and he grabbed for his cane before heading up the stairs to tend to Jeongin. With bony knuckles, he nudged open the door to peer in and saw Jeongin clutching the blankets of his brother's comforter so tightly his knuckles were white and tears were gushing down his cheeks. Chan approached Jeongin with urgency but slowly as to not frighten him in any way. "Channie, I can't sleep," Jeongin whimpered before opening the blankets so Chan could slip underneath the covers.
It took a bit of time and energy, but Chan managed to cradle his great grandson's head to his chest and hold him in a way that sheltered him from the horrible ways of the world. "It's okay, Innie, It's okay," Channie hushed when Jeongin broke down into harsh sobs, wiping away the snot and salty tears with the pad of his thumbs and the side of his fingers. It was gross but Chan's job was to take care of Jeongin and make sure he was okay.
It took a few hours to get Jeongin to calm down, and their chests felt heavy as Jeongin asked a question, "What's your passion, Channie?" He wondered sleepily, and Chan's fingers halted from running through Jeongin's knotted hair. Chan didn't answer for a while and Jeongin didn't push it at all.
"I don't believe in passion, love," Chan hushed into his hair and Jeongin clutched onto the collar of his shirt tightly. "I think everyone loves someone, but passion is something I don't believe is real..."
"But what about the curse?"
"There's a difference between fascination and passion, love. Now get some sleep. I'll be right here when you wake up in the morning," Chan promised, pressing a kiss to Jeongin's forehead and coaxing him to sleep where everything wasn't so dark and heavy. Chan wished he could protect this child forever and keep him away from all the bad in the world, but he knew what that did. It happened to Hyunjin, and Jeongin would not be another Hyunjin.
I watched my first son get thrown off of a ride at a carnival because he was meant to be a writer or an adventurer. I watched my second son fly off of a cliff because he was meant to be a pilot. I watched the love of my life slowly fall into insanity before leaving completely. I watched my third son give into the demons inside his head and take his own life. I watched my fourth son slowly plummet into a life full of drugs and gangs only for him to get murdered when he wanted nothing more than to become a singer. I watched... I didn't get to watch Woojin, but I found his body. I found the bones. I... the sight still haunts me. All of them do. Especially Hyunjin's... after finding him like that. I swore to myself that I'd never find a passion because passion seemed to be what triggered the curse to kill them off.
How could he not be obsessed with the thing that killed his entire family though? He watched his whole family die right before his eyes, or at least had to see the aftermath. Sure, Chan hated having to witness it all, but he also knew that he was the only one who could handle such a sight and would have much rather he endure it than anyone else. On the contrary, he made the mistake of letting Woojin see Felix's death, and Felix see the crime scene photos of Seungmin, but there was only so much he could do in that regard. He saw what it did to his sons, and he didn't want that for anyone else.
The thought made his chest ache, made his fist curl, made him want to tear his hair out from pure frustration. How could he do this to them? They were never supposed to face all of this, they were supposed to live their lives to the absolute fullest but they instead had to face nothing but death and heartbreak and Chan wished he could take all of it away.
But no. Chan got to live his life. He got to live his life to the absolute fullest while everyone around him suffered and that was the most harming to him. Everything else felt like pin needles compared to the bullet wound of realizing that you didn't have it as bad as everyone else but you still played the victim.
But now I've realized the fault in my own system because this whole time I've been passionate about two things: My family and this curse.
"Papaw, this is ridiculous!"
"This is necessary, Changbin!"
"No! What's necessary is for you to go with those people! But you're instead feeding my son lies after he just watched his brother die! He's vulnerable and you're taking advantage of him!"
"You and your views are nothing! Nothing! I watched all my sons die because of this curse! He needs to know what he's dealing with!"
"The lord won't want this!"
"Fuck your god! I know what my great-grandson needs,"
"I've had enough of this. We're leaving. You've gone insane and you need to be under people who are patient enough to deal with you. I won't have you dragging my family down along with your sinful views."
I know... I know this curse has taken over my life for the past few years, and I know I've acted more and more unstable as time passed, but I think that's what a life full of pain does to a person. Though I want you to understand something, and I want your kids to understand the same thing as well.
Chan stood there, in his bedroom peering out the window as he watched the last slight glimpse of Changbin's car before he turned his attention back to the shore of the ocean. The waves were calm, a high tide that tickled your toes when you got halfway down the beach. Chan slowly took his coat from the side of his bed, and with wobbly legs from the lack of cane, Chan used his last remaining strength to walk down the stairs and over to the beach. The breeze was warm, the breeze was nice, and the breeze gave Chan back all of the memories he had lost over the course of a few months and his once clouded eyes became clear with intent. He knew what tonight meant.
Life is beautiful. You don't realize how nice a warm cup of coffee is in the morning or to breathe in the cold, salty air of the sea in the middle of the night underneath millions of stars with the wind brushing through your hair. It's the small things that matter because you never know when you'll lose them. It's the small things that build you up again so you can face the much larger things in life. There is one form of bad, and there is a multitude of forms of good. Sometimes, small good things outweigh the large bad and you have to let them.
The sand felt nice against his toes and the breeze that once brushed his thicker, curlier hair was stronger than it had ever been. Over the years, over the many, many years, everything about this beach seemed to lose its touch. The water was no longer clear, the starts no longer shined and twinkled, and the sand had become icky with dirt and trash no matter how many hours went into making sure the shore was clean. Chan was beginning to lose hope for the beach to ever return to its former glory, but tonight... tonight it was the best it had ever been.
The sand was the richest gold it had ever been since him and BamBam used to fool around on this beach. When they would laugh, cry, and relive the stories from their childhood while drinking beer and exchanging actions of affection. Chan's lips and temples still tingled from the touch of the sand.
The sea was crystal clear with a turquoise tint, like the color of Jinri's favorite dress, or the early mornings when they used to come out to the ocean and play in the water, skipping rocks and balls before chaos broke loose and they attempted to 'drown' one another. Chan could still hear her laugh chiming in his head and the thought brought tears to his eyes and his spit felt thick in his throat.
All the memories there... all the memories that made him feel so overwhelmingly happy had him bursting into tears for the first time in a very long time, and Chan fell to his knees because he didn't deserve to feel those memories. He did this to himself, to his family. That woman - so long ago when Chan was so cold-hearted and refused to help those who begged for it - told him this would happen. He would meet his demise after 8 lifetimes worth of pain, and now he was finally there, kneeling on the beach that harbored his happiest memories, and all he could do was cry.
I'm sorry I couldn't give you the childhood you wanted, I am sorry that the curse that I brought onto all of us couldn't give you happiness and prosperity in your earlier years, but that doesn't mean you can't make the most of the time you have left.
With every crash of a new wave, an old memory came to mind, a soul standing in the midst of the sea that Chan once knew and loved staring him down. First, it was BamBam holding a beer bottle and winking his way, then it was Jinri reading out of her book with that content smile on her lips that made Chan's heart flutter. Next, was Minho holding his snake around his arm and babbling on about all his adventures with the alien bosses he defeated. Then, it was Jisung and Felix holding hands and laughing like little kids they were. Then it was Seungmin and Woojin singing to each other in perfect harmony while looking for seashells... and then he saw Hyunjin waiting patiently for his father and younger brother to join him with bright white, wandering eyes, and Chan knew it was time to take his place next to them.
First, Jinri and Bambam showed up to lend him a hand to help him back up on his feet, but then it was the rest who guided him by the back or coaxed him with soft words and laughter into the sea to take his own placement between his two loves, his family, his whole world. Chan walked into that sea with a perfect view of his house, and with a breezy feeling in his heart, he faded into the night sky only to become another twinkling star for Jeongin to stare at as he made his way through life, winking at him occasionally when he needed the encouragement. Chan was kindness, Chan was gentleness, Chan was love.
Chan spoke of us all having the same heart, but I think we all shared his own. Chan had a lot of love, enough for each member to get so much they refused a bit of it from how much they endured. His heart was large, but his family was a part of that and after losing piece by piece, person by person, soul by soul, Chan's heart was beginning to give out.
The night dad and I left the family home, Chan was gone by the next morning, having disappeared into thin air, and the last vision of him I had was him standing on the porch waving to me through the car window with that heartwarming smile he gave everyone, the same smile that never once faltered, and for a minute there, I saw Chan at his youngest. I saw the Chan in all the photos I had been shown, and how happy and youthful he was during those times. It made my heart twist.
Chapter 10: Jeongin
So, go out there and love, because life is so worth loving.
I had planned to tell you all of these stories myself, maybe even bring you back to the house. Though, if you're reading this... that means I never got the chance.
For a while, Jeongin was lost.
Granted, he had been lost his whole life, but now it just seemed to get worse. His mother left him, his brother committed suicide and his dad got murdered trying to save him, and yet Jeongin's heart didn't thump in sorrow and his head didn't spin because he got stuck in a loop of alcohol and drugs. Instead, Jeongin was empty, emotionally numb but physically too attached to the world around him. As much as he beat himself up for not feeling anything, he had to remind himself that it seemed to always be this way, that even before his mother, before Hyunjin, before his dad, Jeongin was emotionally incapable of feeling anything because he pushed, and pushed, and pushed emotions down until he couldn't feel anything at all.
So, he wondered. His head was clear, he knew that much, but he had absolutely no idea what he wanted out of life now. If Jeongin was any other normal human being, he would be in university, studying his absolute ass off so he could make a living, but Jeongin wasn't a normal human being. He was a high school drop out who was addicted to weed and causing havoc where ever he went. But yet, it was still quiet inside his head and everywhere else. He just went from motel to motel from city to city because that was all he knew now. Jeongin didn't quite remember how to settle down because hell, he had been on the edge of his seat his whole life wondering who was going to go next.
But now he knew he was next because he was the last one of them alive and he couldn't care less. His time would happen eventually, it was guaranteed at this point.
In the back of my head, I had told myself that I wouldn't just give you a short life lesson, I'd give you something long and meaningful that would stay with you until fate takes you as well.
"You lost, stranger?" A voice piped up beside Jeongin, that being the only sound inside the streets of Daegu aside from the scuffle of Jeongin's boots against the concrete and the occasional siren in the distance. Jeongin slowed but never stopped moving as he looked up towards the direction of the voice, seeing two figures leaned up against the wall. They both looked to be around Jeongin's age and based on the clothes the boy and girl were wearing, they were attending a nearby university that Jeongin had seen a few times walking around.
"Depends," Jisung took another drag of the joint between his lips, blowing it in their direction. The one who spoke up first, a boy around Jeongin's height with wide but sharp eyes and choppy black hair that stopped just beneath his eyebrows, laughed a bit and cocked his head to the side in wonder. It was very clear he was studying Jeongin in a way the man didn't like, but he wasn't in the mood to pick a fight that night. He just took another aggressive drag of his joint before the girl plucked it out of his hands with well-manicured fingers and took a slow drag of it.
"On?" She questioned with a low voice that sent shivers down Jeongin's spine.
"Where you're going to take me if I say yes," Jeongin murmured, eyeing the two of them wearily when they shared a look and then gazed over his shoulder. Jeongin swiveled his head around, seeing a club just across the street. "Ah," Jeongin hummed, turning back towards the two who were now splitting the joint between them. "What are your names?" The two raised their eyebrows in surprise but gazed at him expectantly. "Jeongin," Jeongin stuck his hand out loosely, ready to pull back at any moment but the girl took into her own and shook it firmly.
"I'm Lena and this is Yedam," The girl introduced themselves with a much softer tone and Jeongin felt his eyes lingering on the both of them in interest.
"Well... Lena and Yedam, I'm very much lost. Care to help me out?"
But as I sit here writing this, some of the words I planned in my head for years just won't come out.
The music pumped loudly in Jeongin's ears, loud enough to cause a headache to form in his brain and now he began to understand why he doesn't go to clubs very often. Jeongin tried his best to stay with the two university students that had paid for his drinks and everything, but everything was just too hectic for him and he felt like he couldn't breathe. Jeongin broke through the crowd of sweaty bodies and managed to escape into a quieter hallway where he could lean against the hallway and catch his breath. Jeongin hadn't even realized he had slid down the wall until two pairs of legs were stood in front of him and they both kneeled down so Jeongin could properly look at the faces belonging to them. "Why are you out here, hm?" Yedam questioned, never letting the elder break eye contact.
"Too loud. Too many people," Jeongin muttered like some sort of caveman and the two in front of him spared each other a look before sparing him a much softer, fonder one. Jeongin felt both of them sit beside him, Lena curling her arms around Jeongin's bicep and resting her head on his shoulder with Yeda, rested his cheek on top of Jeongin's head, nuzzling his nose into his hair occasionally. "Can we leave?" Jeongin hushed and the two nodded, lifting Jeongin onto his feet and guiding him out of the club with pupils blown wide and trembling hands.
"How about some food, hm?" Lena questioned with a bright smile and yeah, Jeongin could really go for some food right now. So, they made their way across town, Lena and Yedam making absolute fools out of themselves just to see Jeongin crack even the faintest of smiles and Jeongin was appreciative of that. "Innie-ah! Do you want a milkshake?" Lena called out from across the diner, lips pouted cutely and eyebrows furrowed. Jeongin stopped drinking the water and looked up at her with a scowl.
'That's Innie oppa to you, brat!" Jeongin called out but Lena just snickered and crossed her arms over her chest challengingly. "And yes. I want a strawberry milkshake," Yedam's eyes lit up at that answer while Lena scoffed and shook her head in mock disgust.
"Thank you! She thinks strawberry milkshakes are disgusting!" Yedam exclaimed with an appalled tone that was a bit too loud but all Jeongin could do was giggle when Lena huffed as she practically slammed the two shakes on the table.
"Because they are, ice brain," Lena spat but planted a kiss to Jeongin's cheek, "You still have hope, Oppa. You're not an ice brain yet," Lena reassured but Jeongin just shook his head.
"Nah, at this rate I'll probably end up being the other half of him," Jeongin uttered, pointing his unwrapped straw in Yedam's direction, but a glimmer of mischief flashed in the younger's eyes.
"She hates to admit it, but she's my other half so... perhaps you can become the third," Yedam murmured and Jeongin felt his breath catch in his throat. Especially when he felt his foot go up the side of Jeongin's leg and Lena curled her arms around his torso to pepper kisses into his jawline. It took a few owlish blinks and audible gulps from the eldest of the trio before Jeongin actually responded with words.
"I guess we'll just have to see won't we?"
I guess I could start with what I had planned.
Was it supposed to be like this? Probably not, but nothing about Jeongin's life was normal and this really seemed like nothing compared to absolutely everything he's heard over the years. Even as they laugh, smile and make fools of themselves through the night, running through the streets and causing havoc, this felt so ungodly nice that Jeongin didn't want it to end.
Even after they arrived back to Jeongin's rundown apartment, even after the adrenaline began to kick in, even after Yedam and Lena realized how touch starved Jeongin was, even after everything just became a little more real, Jeongin didn't want this to end because they made him feel good. For the first time, in a very long time, Jeongin felt a spark of emotion in his chest, a silent whisper of what was to come.
I didn't want much, I just wanted to see something beautiful... I wanted to get a place for myself, maybe get a cat and name him Minho, and find a job that I loved
A joint dangled from Jeongin's swollen, slightly paint stained lips as the sun beamed in from the wall of windows and down onto Jeongin's bare shoulders. A paintbrush was held firmly in his palm, painting thick, opaque blue paint across the white canvas on the floor between his legs. He tried his best not to get too entranced by the sight of Yedam and Lena dancing to the playlist of songs Jeongin made with Chan so long ago, (all from american 40's music that Chan claimed was Seungmin's favorite genre of music and commonly played before Felix died) and focus on his painting.
"Innie! Join us!" Yedam called out with a whine, Lena following with a slight squeal as she kneeled down to the ground next to Jeongin and smother his cheek in kisses. Jeongin made loud noises of protest, trying his best to squirm out of her tight grip but he was all smiles and giggles the whole time. Suddenly, Yedam was coming up behind him and dragging him away from his painting, but Jeongin was quick to raise his brush and swipe some blue paint across Yedam's cheek causing everyone to go silent.
"Oh, it's so on," Yedam hissed, grabbing for Jeongin's other paint brushes, coating one of them in red and the other in green and handing the red brush to Lena. And then they were chasing each other around the apartment and making an absolute mess, but that wasn't exactly uncommon when it came to them. "Get back here, Lena!" Yedam screeched as he chased the poor girl back into the bedroom and Jeongin froze.
"Don't get paint on my sheets!" Jeongin screeched out of slight fear, but he could only hear the two snickering at his proclamation.
"We have to wash the sheets anyway! It'll be fine!" Lena called out suddenly and Jeongin slumped back down to the floor to continue his painting, no matter how gross he felt with all the paint all over him. And then they came padding out, mixed with blue and green with only tiny splotches of red on them. Jeongin... Jeongin was covered in red and when he caught himself in the reflection of the window, he froze. All the images from that night with his dad... all the blood. "Jeongin? Are you okay?" Lena inquired once she noticed his current, frazzled state, but Jeongin didn't even acknowledge her. His attention was focused on his appearance in the shiny window of his run down apartment but his head was far more wild, far darker.
Yedam approached Jeongin without another thought, speeding up when he saw the younger begin to shed one tear. But one tear turned into two, and two tears turned into four, and four tears turned into eight, and then they wouldn't stop and Jeongin felt like he couldn't breathe again. They always said that when a person dies, the first thing you forget was their voice, and Jeongin believed that wholeheartedly. He could no longer hear his dad's sermons or Hyunjin's laugh ringing in his ear. "Sh, sh, sh, it's okay, It's okay," Yedam whispered in Jeongin's ears, holding him close but Jeongin just kept shaking his head furiously and muttering something about blood. That's when they realized and Lena rushed Yedam to the bathroom with Jeongin in his arms.
Jeongin didn't really remember this, but he can still feel Yedam's fingers on his skin rubbing the warm water into the red pigment to get it out while Lena scrubbed at his scalp with her peppermint shampoo that both Jeongin and Yedam had fallen in love with over the time that they all had been staying there. The only thing he really remembers was watching the pink water swirl down the drain until it was clear and Yedam carrying him to a freshly changed and made bed where they smothered him in love in hopes of getting him to calm down. As far Jeongin was aware, it worked pretty well and he truly felt loved in the arms of his two best friends.
...but then I found out about you.
Jeongin didn't know where everything started going wrong again. They were a trio, a group of three that did everything together. Not because they felt obligated to, but because they wanted to, and yet everything just seemed to... change.
Granted, Jeongin was a lot to handle, and he knew that, he really did, but they always reassured him that they could handle it. That they loved him for who he was and nothing would ever change that. Though of course, that didn't seem to be the truth and Jeongin really should have seen it coming. He should have remembered the family he came from, the curse he had been burdened with from the very beginning. But instead, he was now sat on the couch in his run-down apartment staring at the painting of that one fateful day they all had the best time of their life with tears rolling down his cheeks.
It had been almost a year since he had seen either of them, having left in the middle of the night after they got into an argument with Jeongin. Jeongin didn't even hear them leave, only woke up the next morning in an empty bed and all of their things gone, out of the picture, and Jeongin curled up in a ball and cried for five hours straight in the middle of his lounge.
Jeongin was staring at the balcony with a look of absolute longing, just wanting to end all the pain, all the trauma right then and there so he didn't have to burden any of his kids with this godforsaken curse and he could finally be with the rest of his family but...
Then there was a knock on the door.
I realized the minute that you showed up on my doorstep that night with a note claiming that you were mine that those plans would never quite pan out as I wanted them to.
Jeongin opened the door with slight aggression, huffing in anger when he saw nothing and just thought it was those dumb fucking kids from downstairs that insisted on making his life a living hell. So, it was understandable why he could have just walked away after slamming the door shut but his eyes flickered down to the ground and caught sight of a small basket with a whimpering baby inside, swaddled in blankets with his arms waving around in the air. "Holy fuck," Jeongin whispered, kneeling down to hold the baby close to his chest in a protective manner, but caught sight of two slips of paper, one was a birth certificate and the other was yellow, lined paper with familiar handwriting on top.
Jeongin sighed, nudging the basket into his apartment with a huff and closing the door softly behind him as to not upset the baby in his arms by any degree. So, Jeongin walked to his bedroom while kicking the basket over to it as well, and lowered the baby onto the mattress, making sure to swaddle it in the blankets on top before sitting down to read everything.
I know this may seem a bit unexpected, but he's yours. We weren't going to tell you because we didn't want to burden you, but after we did a DNA test and we found out he definitely wasn't Yedam's we figured you at least needed to know.
However, we need you to take care of him. He won't be fit for us, and as much as we would have said otherwise a few months ago, you're far more stable than the rest of us to take care of a child.
Please love him with your whole heart, he's a sweet kid.
We're sorry for hurting you and I hope you know that no matter what, we're going to always love you,
-L & Y
Attached, was his birth certificate, Yang Jeongwoo written in fine print across the side and ironically enough, Lena didn't sign her name on the birth certificate, and what was the first thing Jeongin did? Sign it. He grabbed a pen from the cup and signed it without another thought because he knew he needed Jeongwoo in his life. Jeongwoo was his little angel, and nothing would change that. "Guess you're stuck with me, little one," Jeongin hushed, pulling the baby back into his arms and prodding at his puffy cheeks lightly. Jeongwoo just giggled.
But I wouldn't change it for the world.
"Hey now, what did I say about running off?" Jeongin snapped playfully when Jeongwoo attempted to dart towards the kid's section in goodwill but Jeongin caught his wrist before he could get very far. The eight-year-old pouted up at his father, crossing his arms over his chest and sinking back into his father's tall, warm figure. This wasn't an act of control, but out of somewhat fear. Jeongwoo was known for his tendencies to wander without telling his dad where he was going so Jeongin had to keep him within leash range 25/8. "We'll go to the kid's section soon, but we have to find some clothes for you to wear to school first," Jeongin ruffled his son's hair and Jeongwoo nodded his head in understanding. Jeongin let Jeongwoo's wrist go to nudge him along and the eight-year-old went jogging off towards the clothes racks.
"Dad!" Jeongwoo exclaimed from behind him suddenly, Jeongin turning back to him in question. Jeongwoo held up two shirts, one having sharks and the other lizards, "Which one?" Jeongin tapped his lip in thought before smiling wildly.
"Try them both on, love," Jeongin explained before whirling back around to sift through the racks for a pair of jeans. Occasionally, Jeongwoo would grab Jeongin's attention with another shirt or a hat of some sort, but this time, Jeongin called him over, "Come here, love. Let me hold these up to you," Jeongwoo didn't hesitate to trail over to his dad, letting the man hold the jeans up to him to see if there was a chance of them not being too big and hummed in pride when they seemed like the perfect fit. "Perfect," Jeongin hummed, guiding the small boy over to the dressing rooms.
Jeongwoo ended up getting both shirts and the jeans fit perfectly but Jeongwoo seemed so... upset for some reason, "What's up, love?" Jeongin inquired when they began to walk to the kid's section, and Jeongwoo looked up at his dad with a pout.
"Some of the other kids... they're so mean, dad," Jeongwoo whimpered and Jeongin felt his heart sink to his chest. He had to go through some shit while he was in school too, never quite to the extent that his brother did, but he knew that it hurt to be teased. Jeongin sunk down so he could cradle his son's face in his hands, "They saw us walking out of here... they-they tore up some of my clothes and wrote mean things all over my worksheets -" Jeongin immediately tugged Jeongwoo's head into his shoulder and held him close.
"Love, people like that won't make it very far in life. Have you retaliated in any way?"
"That's good, baby. Always be the bigger man. Just move on and go because I know you and I know you're going to make it big one day with your short stories. You're going to be a writer and you're going to publish all of these little stories I've told you over the years," Jeongin reassured, poking Jeongwoo's chest lightly, "I know it may seem hard right now considering I can't give you what you want all the time, but I love you. That's something I can always give you," But then Jeongin's stomach churned and everything come back to his mind, all of it, and all Jeongin could do was hold Jeongwoo tight.
"Dad... Are you okay?" Jeongwoo whispered.
"I'm fine, baby. Just never stop loving yeah? You're my little love bug," Jeongwoo nodded furiously in confirmation, watching his father get back up on his own two feet and ruffle his son's hair, "Go pick out a stuffy punk," Jeongin knew he had to go back to the house.
I don't know what 's going to happen to me, or how I'm going to die, none of us ever did, and I'm okay with that. If you're reading this then that means I'm dead, and I want you to understand something.
Standing before the very house that Jeongin had grown up in before his whole life went to absolute shit was daunting. It seemed to live and breathe a feeling of unsettlement, a feeling that let you know that what you found in this house would not be what you were expecting. All the stories, all the memories from before were breathing out in thick waves that brushed through Jeongin's hair. He had to remind himself that everybody who walked through this house was dead, and that he was the last one left, and Jeongin had an epiphany. Was the house the curse? Was the house the big bad monster his dad ran from his whole life?
And then all those times Chan described the house to be its own entity flashed to mind and Jeongin smiled.
"Is it my time as well?"
Yes, the house breathed.
"Ok," and then Jeongin was gone within the next breath.
The hardest, but the most useful lesson this curse will teach you is how to let go, and I want you to go out there and live your life. I want you to go out there and fall in love with something without the curse playing a major part in your life. It is just an end goal, not an entire lifespan.
Time is precious, and for us, time is not as wasteful as it would be for anyone else.
So, go out there and love, because life is so worth loving.