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Monsters? What Monsters? (only you)

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Minji stared at the darkened hallway. The younger ones had all gone to bed, leaving her alone to deal with the demons and monsters that were lurking in all corners of the dorm. (She knew that they don’t exist, but can't really bring herself to take the first step forward. Coward, she chided.) This was a bad, bad idea. Every part of it. She should never have agreed to stay up and indulge in said movie with the trio. The trio who are responsible for majority of the questionable moments that Dreamcatcher is known for.

 

Minji fixed her eyes on the screen. She hated horror movies. Not because she lacks the guts to sit through it. She just hates the way movie directors employ sound effects and jump scares to aggravate scenes and make them scarier than they actually is. You know that something is coming, just not sure when and how—now, that’s infuriating.

The actor on the screen was now launching himself into a dangerous situation willingly. Pretty dumb, if you ask Minji.

The dark and shadowy corridor illuminated in light for a split second. Half a second, and it’s gone. There was a small whirring sound. A photo slid out from the camera nearby. He gingerly retrieved it and fanned it out. He stared at the photo of the barren corridor; it was perfectly symmetrical—any painting one finds on the left would be hanged on the right wall as well.

There was something perched on the wall, something that destroyed the symmetry. The shadow became an oozy black substance, tar-like and viscous. It moved—glided along the walls—leaving a trail of blood, black in colour. It was then that he realised, the photograph was no longer that—in his hands held a small mirror. The shadow was coming towards him—for him.

He ran.

Thump, thump, thump. Footsteps. Thump, thump, thump. Someone’s knocking on the door.

He swallowed the lump in his throat. When did he end up in a room?  

“H-hello?” He called out anxiously. He approached the door and turned the knob slowly. It creaked, like a man laughing, like a man wailing—like it was insane. The door did not budge. He tried again; nothing. A shaky sigh escaped his parted lips.

“Hello?” He called once more. No answer.

Without warning, the black seeped through the crevice beneath the wooden door. It grabbed onto his ankles and started pulling.

Minji jumped in her seat, the sudden blast of music sent her heart into a spiral. She hates horror movies.

The leader took a glance at the youngest among them. She had Siyeon’s hands up in front of her face, blocking her view of the screen. But her eyes remained peeled at the scene playing out through the gaps between her fingers. Liar, Minji thought, she’s not even scared.

Yoohyeon was braver than what she normally would show. The girl had no problems with horror movies—there was no flinching, no jumping and no silent screams. Just Yoohyeon, with hands to her face and eyes to the screen.

 

After their little movie night ended, Bora had, in all her royalty glory, decided to drag Siyeon into hers and Yoohyeon shared room, claiming that she wanted some company for the night. (Sharing the same bed, Minji presumes) Horror, it seems, was not up the Queen’s ally too. Siyeon being—well, Siyeon—kind and soft Siyeon, would never reject her majesty the Queen’s bidding. (Didn’t want to, Minji assumes, but knows the girl too well for it to be none other than the absolute truth.) So now, Minji, upon exiting the bathroom after a nerve-wrecking and hair-rising showering experience—one that was plagued with constant turn of the head and desperate paranoia—was faced with a black hallway and the prospects of an empty room. She was like the protagonist of the movie she had just watched; too bad he had died at the end. Great. Just great.

(Minji loved showers—oh soothing, refreshing and lovely showers. But today, she would rather be cooped up in her bed, wrapped around her trusty little blanket and drift away to dreamland, than under running water that felt eerily like touches on her body.)

She clutched onto the rim of her pyjamas; towel long forgotten in the sink of the bathroom, soaking up the droplets of water lying about. (It would definitely smell tomorrow, but Minji couldn’t care less about her towel smelling like mould at this point.) She tiptoed her way into the hallway, as if the lighter her footsteps were, the safer she would be. (Less likely to be caught by those imbeciles living in the shadows, right? Right. Of course.) Except there are no one living in the shadows, just Minji and her unreasonable fear, that’s all. But still, she trudged carefully, making as little movement as possible. Better safe than sorry. There’s nothing lurking in the shadows, Minji; nothing at all. She chanted like a mantra. The dorm was quiet, and Minji had never been up at this hour to realise the absolute lividity that sweep over the always lively and bright dorm during these hours each night.

She stepped on a loose board—the creek resounded, and it was somehow louder than she had envisioned—she cursed under her breath. Wasn’t there a similar scene back in that damned movie? Just a few more metres and she would be back in her room, safe and sound. (Well, if she can manage to look past the lack of Siyeon’s presence and fall asleep despite her palpitating heart, that is.) Ghost, demons, monsters, those aren’t real. But then, she heard quiet little footsteps shuffling about not far away. And then, the lights nearby flickering before turning on. Minji grew pale. That can’t be right. No, no, no. More sounds could be heard from afar, little noises, almost like they didn’t want to be heard. A cling of glass, and the splash of water—the tap started to run.

Then, as abrupt as it had come, it stopped. 

“Minji?” a voice called out. It was too gentle, and a little too nice-sounding to be from a ghost. (But Minji had never heard a ghost, so she wouldn’t know really.) It wasn’t the tone of the voice per-say, it was the familiar ring and timbre that made Minji relax. She knew the voice—too well, like it was all that she had listened to in her lifetime. (Perhaps Minji didn’t mind at all, for this particular voice to be the only thing she would hear for the rest of her life. It was a voice that sounded like music anyways; music that sounded beautiful.)

“Y-Yoohyeon?” She began; it came out hoarse and cracked. Oh, how scared must she have been.

The girl emerged from behind the kitchen counter, holding onto her favourite mug and blinking rapidly in her direction. Minji heaved a sigh of relief. Yes, ghosts and whatnot don’t exist.

Yoohyeon lifted a brow; the leader looked worn out. (Definitely not what one would see after a shower. Minji almost never exit the bathroom looking anything less than cheery.) Something was up, and Yoohyeon, despite holding the title of oblivion and clumsiness in the group, could read the leader like a book. (Minji was like the only entity that Yoohyeon could study and forever get correct. She would know the elder’s mood like it was the weather, knows her like she was just a fragment of herself.) She studied the girl’s face, noting the obvious paleness. She casted her gaze upwards, locking eyes with her and like a door that had been yanked opened, she could sense the nervousness within her. Minji’s eyes are like the entry to the girl’s emotions, a void that contained the universe’s deepest secrets and wonder. (The universe being Minji herself.)

But the younger does not say anything, does not bring up the weirdness. Instead, she held out the mug in her hand—smiling sheepishly as she does so; it was Minji’s mug that she was using after all. “Water?” she offered. “Sorry to use your mug, drinks taste nicer in it. Somehow.”

Minji chuckled, shaking her head and probing herself up on the counter opposite of where Yoohyeon was standing. She felt her heart calming down and the irrational fear seeping away every minute. Yoohyeon just had that power—the ability to hold onto her and allow her to stay grounded, no matter how fleeting that must have seemed just moments ago.

There has always been something special, something more between the two of them. Just that Minji would not like to admit it, as acknowledging it would be to give a name to it—feelings to which both are not yet ready to face. (Sometimes, Minji would feel guilty, like a bad mother who is biased towards a certain child of hers. The guilt eats at her conscience, it gnaws and gnaws and shallows her alive; she pushes them aside and return to smiling at all her children equally. But then, she would smile a little brighter at a certain someone and everyone picks up on it—all but one. The one.)

But it wasn’t like Yoohyeon was oblivious to her own feelings. (Feelings? What feelings? No feelings.)

Far from it. She knows very well what she feels, is very in tuned with all her emotions. But she could also read the leader excellently, is very in tune with her as well. So, she doesn’t act on whatever her inside is screaming for her to do. She respects the elder’s wishes and stay in her lane, like she very much should in the first place. Though they were friends, they were also partners. At work; work partners. There was no room for screwing up. Their whole career is at stake. (Feelings can wait, they can even dwindle and vanish. But their career cannot wait, and once it’s done, it’s done—no way to revive it. They have one chance, that's it.)

“It’s late, we should go to sleep.” Minji suggested once they fell into silence.

The younger hummed and walked towards the sink. Suddenly, the windows in the living room rattled. Minji flinched. Immediately, her face turned pale. Yoohyeon side-eyed the girl and picked up on the uneasiness returning. That must be it, she thought. she had anticipated it somehow. (Alas, she knows Minji, understands her like a carpenter knowing his wood, like a doctor knowing his medicine.)

“Minji?” she started, regarding the girl with her dark brown orbs. (The kind with depth that could calm the wildest of monsters. The kind with kindness—and tenderness—that could move a mountain to tears.) “Are you coming?” She asks lightly, with a tinge of playfulness and tease, as she tugged at Minji’s sleeves and pulled her into along the dark hallway.

They walked in silence, with Minji pressing herself gently against the taller girl’s arm. The flashbacks from that dreaded show have returned. She really should reconsider many of her life’s choices. (Or perhaps she should just ban her roommate from purchasing anymore horror films altogether, saving her the trouble of agony. Or perhaps that Netflix subscription has got to go.) They come to a stop in front of Minji’s and Siyeon’s shared room. The lights are off, and the interior looked darker than the lifeless hallway. (The room is in fact lifeless too, for Siyeon was by now fast asleep in Yoohyeon’s room, most likely with Bora in her arms.)

“W-Well then, goodnight Yoohyeon-ah,” she began hesitantly as she stepped a foot into her room. She was about to close the door when Yoohyeon called out in a hushed whisper.

“Minji unnie wait,” Minji looked up to see the girl shifting her weight on the balls of her feet. She is nervous, Minji thought. (Looks like Minji, too, possesses the ability to read people. Yoohyeon eyes may just carry her entire self within, like Minji’s do.)

“C-Can I sleep in your room for tonight?”

Minji blinked. Once. Twice.

“Siyeon is with Bora and I think she is using my bed… or something.” Or something? Minji brows twitched. Yoohyeon eyes widened.

“A-And… well, it’s too dark and I kinda don’t want to walk back to my room alone?” she offered timidly, like that was the real reason for the request in the first place. Kim Yoohyeon you liar, the younger winced internally. She didn’t even need such excuses, Minji would gladly welcome her in even if all she did was simply stare. (Maybe that is why Minji would relent in the first place. Her stare.)

Minji led the girl into her room by the hand. Her mind heaved a sigh of relief—someone is going to be there with her for the night—but her heart continued to dance mercilessly. That someone just had to be Yoohyeon, of all people. (Must be the movie, must be the movie. Minji’s mantra had changed.) She waited for the girl to climb into the lower bunk bed—Siyeon’s—before climbing up to her mattress. Ah, at long last, her safe-haven.

 

...

 

Except it wasn’t really that safe-haven-like tonight.

She turned to lie on her right and closed her eyes. But she could feel something staring daggers into her back. Her eyes flutter open; her head moved a little to check—no one is there. Good. Minji shifted and landed on her left side, her back now facing the wall. That felt safer.

Except it really wasn’t at all.

Don’t ghosts travel through walls or something? The thought shook her awake. (But it’s not like she was sleeping or even falling anywhere close to that.) Again, she craned her head to make sure. Finally, she settled on sleeping on her back. Definitely the safest this time. But Minji couldn’t shut her eyes. She was wide awake, lying on her bed and thinking about the probability of being possessed by a ghost or being attacked by a demon. Stupid horror movies.

“Minji?” Yoohyeon’s voice was heard. The girl was perched on the ladder, trying to find Minji’s gaze with her own tired ones. “Can I come up?” She tugged at the ends of Minji’s blanket.

The leader shifted to the side and patted the empty space next to her, “of course, Yooh. Here.”

The lanky girl settled herself next to Minji, head landing itself onto her pillow. She snaked an arm around the elder’s waist, pulling her closer. Minji tensed immediately. She felt a hand on her back, tracing intricate patterns on her shirt. The warmth from the hand seeped through the thin cloth and into her skin. “Relax, Minji-ah.”

There was something about sleepy Yoohyeon and sleepy Yoohyeon’s voice that makes Minji swoon. (Not like she swoons with every move the girl makes. Of course, not.) Maybe it’s the way she becomes even more adorable—the way she tries her best to stay awake is so endearing to Minji—that leaves her wanting more of the girl. She wants everything Yoohyeon.

“Sorry, I was moving a lot. Must be pretty noisy.”

Yoohyeon hummed in response, too tired to conjure a proper reply. She simply moved closer to the elder—their legs tangling up under the blanket and torsos pressed together. (It was warm, reasonably so. But it wasn’t because of the blanket.) Minji nuzzled her nose into the crook of the younger’s neck, surprised at the way they fitted, like two puzzle pieces finding each other. She picked up on the scents of flowers—a waff of fresh summer air, coupled with millions of flowers in full bloom. Yoohyeon never really smelt like flowers, never really smelt like anything, honestly. But somehow or another, she smells like Minji’s favourite season tonight.

“Are you cold?” asked Yoohyeon, slurring her words.

“No,” Minji is glad that it’s dark—made hiding her deep blush effortless. “It’s too warm.”

She noticed the way Yoohyeon was slipping into dreamland so easily, her nonchalant posture so relaxed and… unbothered. Her breathing even and therapeutic—her chest rising and falling in a rhythm that prompted Minji to follow suit. (In a way, Yoohyeon is always like this—calming and contained. Yet, the girl can be so passionate and raw—when singing and dancing, when she is on stage giving it her all—because she doesn’t hide what she is feeling, always wear her emotions like badges that she is proud of.)

Minji feels the love the girl gives to every member; feels how much she cares for them like they are her family. A family. (They might as well be, because Minji feels the same. And she knows every member of Dreamcatcher do too.) Minji can’t help but to feel that she is at least a bit special to the younger. In the way Yoohyeon holds her to the way she treats her like nothing is more important in the world. (Maybe nothing really is to Yoohyeon.)

“Liar,” Minji whispered. “You’re not actually scared.”

She picked up on a light chuckle. Yoohyeon’s lips curled into a smile and Minji felt it brush against her forehead. Lightly, gently, like she had imagined it. (But Minji would never imagine something like this, something like Yoohyeon’s lips dancing on her skin. Liar, she chided.) Soft hands started stroking her hair—playing with the black locks, twirling them repeatedly before letting it fall onto the mattress—and Minji feels herself surrendering to slumber, at the mercy of a new safe-haven that is Yoohyeon.

 

*

 

The morning light shot through the curtains, casting its brilliance onto Minji’s face. She opened her eyes groggily, adjusting to the sudden increase in brightness in the room.

“Morning,” she heard. Yoohyeon’s face came into view, and with the light shining from behind her head, it was like witnessing the birth of an angel. (Minji thinks that Yoohyeon has forever been an angel, just that her brain had refused to process the girl’s immaculate beauty all this while—to perhaps save itself from the trouble of malfunctioning.) But now, with how bright Yoohyeon is glistering (lying in her bed, no less), Minji can’t unsee the halo atop her head, and the white feathery wings peaking out from her back.

“M-Morning, Yooh,” she feels the heat rush onto her face, could only pathetically advert her gaze, as if that was enough to do anything. It’s not going to hide the colour on her cheeks, and most certainly not going to make her disappear. (All she wants now is to hide away in a ditch somewhere faraway, in a forest maybe.) But then, Yoohyeon’s face lights up with the same shade as that on Minji’s face, all the way from her ears down to her neck. Minji sees, and suddenly wants nothing but to be here right next to the girl, wasting an entire day away just to stare and commit the scene to memory.

So, they lock eyes and it seemed like an eternity. (But eternity can be cruel, for if a moment is precious enough, it can be frighteningly short-lived even when it supposedly lasts forever.)

Yoohyeon does what she does best then—studies Minji, taking in the little details and getting lost in her gaze. She dared not to look elsewhere, sure that once she falters, she would end up staring at Minji’s lips. But it’s impossible to keep looking into her eyes for long—their depth is enough to consume her and trap her forever—so Yoohyeon chooses to snuggle into Minji's neck instead. (It is a habit she somehow picked up along the years and now never could really kick away.)

She feels the goosebumbs that travels up the girl’s neck, and relish in the familiarity of it all. It was like Minji is her home, one that she would fight the toughest storms just to return to. (But she knows, deep down, that she didn’t need to do that, for Minji would gladly fight in her stead just so that Yoohyeon can return to her.) She pulls the girl even closer to her body, feeling the proximity still too much for her lonely self to bear. Her arms circled around Minji’s slender waist, legs wrapping themselves around the latter’s right thigh. She wanted to melt entirely into Minji’s embrace, forever clinging on. That way, she can stay by her side, always.

“Y-Yooh?!” Came the long-awaited protest; the younger realises that she is breaking many of her self-constructed rules. (The first is to never go overboard with physical intimacy, and the second being not to place herself in situations where she will be forced to confront her feelings.) Well, at least the third rule still stands. Not that she should be proud of it, but she just couldn’t help herself in this moment.

She could feel Minji’s heartbeat against her own ribcage. It was fast, mirroring her own.

“Sorry, I’m-” she tries to say, but words are difficult to wield whenever she is with Minji. She feels the next string of words in the back of her throat, feels them come up to sit right at the tip of her tongue. But she swallows down hard, forcing them all the way back into her gut.

“It’s okay,” Minji’s reply was soft, “I understand.”

Understand what? Yoohyeon doesn’t understand. It seemed like Minji knew what she wanted to say then, and it frightened her. The third rule cannot be broken. Once gone, their dynamic will shift and Yoohyeon doesn’t think she is strong enough to cope with the loss that is to accompany such a change. (‘I’m sorry, Yooh.’ She could almost hear Minji say. And it breaks her heart every time.)

She feels a hand on her cheek. It was cold, but very steady.

“Yoohyeon-ah, look at me,” she hears Minji speak again. This time, there was a strength in her tone—a distinct resolution hidden within. Yoohyeon doesn’t comply, however; couldn’t quite find the courage to carry the affection she knows will be present in Minji’s gaze. (Adoration, Yoohyeon suppose, not affection. It just can’t be. No.)

Sighing, Minji gently caressed the younger’s face, cradling her chin and pushing her to face forward. Bad decision. Her breath hitched in her throat; she swallowed the lump she felt. Yoohyeon’s eyes always carried more than just colour; they are alive and roaring with an intensity so fierce—a fire burning, devouring, and crackling beautifully against the black of her pupils. There is a grace, a certain femininity to it—like a ballerina dancing the last dance of her professional career, one that is so painfully abundant with passion and raw emotion. She traced her eyes along every arch of her face, one so strikingly perfect that there wasn’t a single flaw to be seen—and if there was, Minji reckoned the imperfections would be too pristine to even be called so. Her eyes landed on her lips.

Very bad decision.    

Minji didn’t know what to do next. The younger parted her lips slightly, feeling rather exposed under the stare the elder was giving her. She wasn’t uncomfortable, though. It is never uncomfortable when it comes to Minji. Unconsciously, she wetted her lips, but did not miss the way Minji’s eyes darken. There was a weird glint, but it was lasted for a fleeting moment—gone too fast for Yoohyeon to process. Yet, she could sense what the elder was thinking. (Yoohyeon really wasn’t kidding when she said she could read Minji well.)

And perhaps her meticulously self-constructed rules would come crumbling all down today. Perhaps they were meant to fall apart, one way or another—her will to see them through wasn’t fool proof to begin with. A little nudge is all it takes for her to carve.

And it did. When Minji moved forward.

Their lips danced together, in sync, to a tune that existed only in their hearts. The orchestra was playing as they continued to sway, slowly and endlessly among the symphony of notes and melodies. Yoohyeon presses her lips more firmly against Minji’s and the wave of euphoria that runs through her veins is enough to leave her intoxicated. She placed her palms against Minji's neck, gently guiding her even closer. Finally, she could feel herself melting into Minji. Her senses were filled with nothing but the girl, and Yoohyeon wouldn’t want it another way. She tastes Minji on the tip of her tongue, where it meets with her lower lip; feels Minji deep in her soul, where she holds her frame tightly within her own arms. (Minji has always been her centre; she has never ever left and Yoohyeon hopes she never will.)

“I love you,” Yoohyeon breathes out. And there, the third rule falls and fades into nothingness, long forgotten. (Never proclaim your love; never put them into words.)  

But when Minji smiles that smile of hers—eyes disappearing into crescents and cheeks flushed, glowing like the angel that she is—who cares if Yoohyeon broke her own rules? (In that moment, all Yoohyeon could think of was how gorgeous Minji looked and how much she wanted to continue kissing her. Until she loses her breath, until her lips turn sore.)

“I love you too,” Minji returned sincerely, feeling her heart beat and realising that only now is her heart truly functioning and truly alive.    

When they are going to finally get out of bed later, things will have changed. And change is scary. But Minji likens that as long as Yoohyeon is there with her by her side, she will never again be afraid. (Because they love each other, and that is enough. They are forever enough.) So, nothing can be scary. Not change. Not even monsters.

Monsters? What monsters? Only Yoohyeon.