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run to the abyss (let’s fall together)

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haseul is sleeping in the backseat, covered by kahei’s green wool sweater. kahei herself is driving, drinking her increasingly cold coffee to keep herself awake, the lights of the ever occasional passing car in the night hurting her eyes accustomed to the darkness. the radio is muttering a soft song, almost a lullaby in its melody, going in and out of the station every time she did a curve, the buzzing of radio static snapping her awake, if just barely. it almost felt like they were alone in the universe. almost.

where were they? kahei didn’t know. the road signs passed by her too fast, blurry and bright. she also didn’t care. what mattered was taking haseul somewhere safe, far away.

it started twelve hours ago: haseul and kahei in the same room. haseul was getting ready to go out with her parents, and kahei was braiding her own hair, freshly dyed brown and cut by haseul. the room smelled like smoke even with the windows wide open; haseul made a comment that maybe they should move in together somewhere else. kahei agreed.

it started eleven hours ago: haseul went out and said she’d be back later, probably with some of her mother’s food, and kahei wished her luck and to have fun, kissing her softly and giggling when haseul giggled. she stayed back home and worked.

it started nine hours ago: haseul called her cellphone, asking - no, begging - for help, an address being spat out before hanging up. kahei didn’t hesitate, grabbing the keys to her shitty car and speeding down to where haseul was, work left unfinished.

it started eight hours ago: clothes were hastily thrown in a bag as they packed their lives down to the bare essentials, haseul’s face with a clear slap mark and kahei’s braid undone. she could see the bruising in haseul’s wrists, and the fear of the threats haseul’s parents had made towards them was stronger than her anger.

it started seven hours ago: kahei driving into the open roads with nowhere in mind. haseul shivered from the cold as they put on some gas, the station’s radio telling something that the whipping of the wind didn’t let them hear and kahei took off her green sweater, giving it to the other girl. haseul protested, for a moment: kahei said that her coffee was going to keep her warm. haseul accepted the excuse.

it started now: the night fell and haseul was asleep. kahei was still driving with no endpoint in her head. they needed a safe place, but where ? the mountains dipped in and out of view as they went up and down and kahei didn’t know where to go. they passed some shitty motels and sleepy villages, but nowhere seemed safe.

what did you do when the place you thought your safe haven wasn’t safe?

haseul mumbled in her sleep, and kahei looked at her through the rearview mirror, mindlessly turning down the radio (static, again, mixed in with the voice of a computer, but too distant to be actually understandable; kahei hoped it was nothing that mattered) as she watched haseul move. a passing car illuminated the red mark in the girl’s face, and anger seethed in kahei’s core, before her eyes turned forward again, focusing on the empty road.

“you should sleep. you haven’t slept since yesterday.” said haseul, quietly, and kahei looked at her through the mirror again. she was awake, hugging the green sweater, nose buried there. a road sign said they were going to pass through eden in two kilometers. she turned off the radio, at this point more white noise than whatever message it was trying to pass.

“i’m fine.”

“please. for me. you have to rest, too, kahei.”

a pause. long enough for a heartbeat. long enough for it to start to rain. kahei turned on the windshield wipers. the motion was hypnotic and made her feel like taking a nap.

maybe she should sleep. a sign announced they were entering eden, population fifty people.

“there’s a town, see? they have to have a motel.” haseul said, putting her hand in kahei’s shoulder. kahei let go one hand from the wheel to put it on top of haseul’s hand. she was warm.

“alright.” and as if materializing from thin air, a sign for a cabin rental appeared. a swan in black ink and swirly letters. another kilometer if you went to the left. kahei went.


the girl behind the counter looked as if she hadn’t sleep in two weeks. kahei had to give her kudos to that, although she wasn’t sure why such a sleepy little town needed a receptionist twenty-four seven (as announced on another sign).

“welcome to sooyoung’s cabin rental, this is sooyoung.” the girl said, chewing gum. she discreetly closed the fashion catalog she was reading. they pretended not to see. “how many nights, ladies?”

kahei was going to say one. haseul interfered, producing a wad of cash from her backpack, three, cabin for two. she could see the dollar signs in the girl’s brown eyes.

“great! here’s the key to cabin thirty-two, it’s yours. we have breakfast in the dinner on the main street, so just pop there and show the keys.” the girl put on a plaque that she would be right back, circling the counter. kahei put her hand in haseul’s, and haseul’s fingers intertwined with hers.

cabin thirty-two was this little thing that wasn’t dusty. somehow. it smelled clean, too, and sooyoung showed that everything, from the lights to the taps to the television. sooyoung said with pride that the television was colorized ; kahei didn’t know why that was important enough to be emphasized. maybe color hadn’t reached the little village.

they thanked her and sooyoung said that, if needed, she was a phone call away (pointing to a paper with important numbers by the night lamp) and pranced out of the cabin. kahei looked at haseul and haseul looked back. they sat on the bed, and the mark on haseul’s cheek was visible as day. kahei let the breath she didn’t know she was holding let go, and slept against haseul’s shoulder before she noticed it happened.


the morning in eden was foggy and quiet and colorless. kahei woke up with the sound of rain, pale gray light dripping in with the water drops from the open windows. she groaned, rising up from the bed. her hair was messed up, but a quick look at haseul told her that the girl was still asleep.

yawning, she grabbed her clothes and took a quick bath. haseul was awake when she left the bathroom, looking at the mark in the mirror.

“morning, babe.” said kahei, drying her hair with the towel. the towel smelled clean. “so.”

“so.”

“breakfast, i guess?” haseul nodded, and she let the other girl use the bathroom (with a clawed bathtub. who even needed that sort of thing in this little village?) while kahei sorted through her clothes. there weren’t enough clothes for three days, let alone an unplanned road trip to nowhere. she hoped there was a laundry nearby.

when haseul came back, they grabbed the car keys and went off to the main street that was quiet and grey. it looked like a ghost town. it felt like one, too. maybe color hadn’t really come to that town.

kahei and haseul ignored that and went to the dinner, a relic from the 50s with a swan in black ink in its door to signify the partnership. inside, no souls alive but a bored-looking waitress, who smiled as bright as the sun hidden by the thick clouds in the sky.

they sat in a booth near where the waitress was, and she soon popped near them, all grins and warmth.

“hi and welcome to jinsol’s dinner! i’m your waitress, jiwoo, and you two must be the girls staying with sooyoung!” she spoke too fast, joining the words at points, and haseul, seemingly, had been able to understand her. it took a while for kahei to understand jiwoo. the girl put two menus - glossy relics from a time long past - in front of them. “just ask for anything, i’ll be right back!”

and with that, she skated away. kahei looked around, and haseul bit her lower lip. this would do for now.


eden was small and quiet and no one was ever around. they saw jiwoo, sometimes, outside the diner, and sooyoung, ever so rarely. the titular jinsol of the dinner was never around. haseul was starting to wonder if this wasn’t, in fact, an actual ghost town.

“we never see anyone around. and the windows to the shops are boarded.”

“jiwoo. sooyoung.”

other people.”

“but they’re people.”

haseul looks at her, and kahei stops braiding her hair. they’re sitting on the middle of the street, not a car or a soul around them, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to get bothered so soon.

“do you think the world ended? and we didn't notice?”

“what?”

“i mean. there’s no one around. i don’t think i’ve seen the sun in two days. and this town is… so empty . and the messages on the radio. the ones we didn’t listen properly. they were weird.”

“if the world ended, then we died, didn’t we?”

“at least we died together. isn’t that good enough?”

it is.


they leave eden and sooyoung’s cabin behind, back on the road. this time, haseul drives, kahei on the passenger seat with the map sooyoung gave to them. there are not many towns around the area they are, but that’s fine. they don’t want other people around. they get their supplies from the rarer and rarer gas stop with emptier and emptier shelves, and sleep in the car, covered by their own clothes. the towns they pass through get tinier and tinier and farther and farther.

one town only has the ruins of houses. they settle there, who knows how many days later after they ran away. there’s a nice not-as-rundown house by a lake. the waters are dark as the night, and sometimes kahei pretends there are two moons in the sky, the ground covered in a blanket of stars. putting her feet in the cold water was like resting in the milky way. haseul enjoyed it as well. it was peaceful - almost like the world had ended and the two of them were the only people who had survived. walking through the empty streets, windows rattling in the cold breeze and doors whining with no one inside the decrepit houses, it felt pretty much like it. kissing while their feet stepped on broken glass was whimsical and sad. it was dystopic. it was perfect for them.

both of them knew they’d have to go back to civilization at some point, but that didn’t matter to them right now. if the world truly did end, then it was alright. at least they were together.


they end up leaving the town with no people and no name, but only because their supplies are running out. the way back feels as quiet as when they went. the radio plays nothing but white noise, but they don’t turn it on anymore.

when they pass through eden again, they stop to rest there. sooyoung looks at them, curious.

“not many folks come back.” said sooyoung, closing down her fashion catalog, when she sees that it’s them on the reception again. “not many folks find eden again.”

“guess we’re just special.” haseul replies, and that takes a smile out of sooyoung.

“why don’t you two stay a week, but pay for three days? a discount for returning customers.” sooyoung quips, and the two of them - with almost no money to their names, at this point - accepted the offer pretty quickly.

sooyoung puts them on the same cabin and leaves, and the two of them fall, exhausted, on the bed.


they stay a week in eden, and then another. the people living there start to appear, as if they had been shy ghosts during their first stay - chaewon from the laundromat, hyejoo the cook, jinsol from the diner, heejin and hyunjin who ran the boat rental -, but now that haseul and kahei came back, they were one of them. they greeted them by name, as if they knew them. it was odd. it was nice.

late at night:

“maybe we are dead. maybe the world ended.”

“why do you think that?”

“where were they hiding? all these people. we didn’t see them before, we should have...”

“maybe in their houses? i don’t know. this entire trip is…”

weird , yeah. we haven’t seen many people around. the radio doesn’t even work anymore. maybe you’re right.”

silence.

“do you mind?”

“what?”

“if we stay. if we don’t come back. if we are one of the ghosts of this town.”

silence again.

“we’re safe here.”

“we are.”

“and it’s cheap.”

“it is.”

“we can get a job on the diner. with jiwoo. or you can get the waitressing job, and i can talk sooyoung into letting me be a part-time receptionist. we don’t have to go back, unless you want to.”

the sound of rustling of hair, the weight of haseul on top of kahei. it’s dark and there’s no moon to give even a shred of light, so sensations are all kahei has.

“are you sure?”

“if it’ll make you happy.”

“will it make you happy?”

“come on, haseul, why wouldn’t i be happy here? they got a television with colors.”

haseul giggled, and kahei put a hand on her back. soon after, she was snoring softly, quietly, and kahei stared at the ceiling. or where she thought was the ceiling.

she wouldn’t mind staying with haseul, even in this weird town. she closed her eyes - a futile but needed endeavor; the inside of her eyelids was as dark as the outside - and let herself fall asleep.