If I’m home with a proper computer (instead of a mobile phone despite of its convenience these days), I would be uploading porn pics (food porn, to be precise) for all you perverts out there. But, I’m not, so please bear with moi as I continue with this strange adventure. XD
Chapter Two – Nightmare Turns Real
The bizarre image was still in front of her. However, she knew now was not a good time to play detective. Her heart was pounding out of her chest as she backed away from the door slowly. When the disfigured corpse and the Jaerim look-alike were no longer in her line of vision, she turned around and ran. She regretted the mid-length gown and the heels. Though, she was afraid of stopping just to take off the heels. She didn’t want to take the chance to kick off and leave them behind either. It was just a nightmare, a phenomenon less desirable than a dream, but she was afraid – everything came over her five senses as too real to be mere imaginations sprung from her mind.
“Ow!” she winced at the pain piercing from her palms and knees. Fresh blood mixed with tiny particles of stones covered over her scraped wounds.
“Who’s there?” bellowed from the direction she was running from.
Cold sweat beaded down on her forehead and back. She took the heels into her hands and gathered her strength to get up. However, all of her movements came to a stop when she noticed a pair of shoes just a few inches from her. She dropped back and her eyes travelled to the owner of the shoes. She clutched tightly onto her heels.
The man had a stoic expression. His eyes were alluring and dark as if he had put on eyeliners. Yet, hollowness coexisted with those alluring eyes.
She held up one of her heels and threw it directly at the man, convinced that the illusion would break itself.
No such luck.
He caught the heel and it went ablaze into ashes in his hand.
“G-ge-get away, get away from me!” she shouted.
“Miss,” the sound echoed from the man was deep but flat, without a hint of emotion, “we can either do this the hard way or the easy way. It’s up to you.”
She did not understand any of it. “I-I didn’t see or hear anything,” her voice came out as a pathetic whimper. “Please, just leave me alone.”
“Please cooperate.” His hand held tight on her shoulder.
She saw a flash of light before she found the smell of burning flesh was filling up the air again.
“Well, look at what we have here — a stray cat.”
She knew that voice anywhere and even though she did not look up, she knew Jaerim, or rather the Jaerim look-alike, was towering over her.
The disgusting smell was making her dizzy. She felt a lump pulling from her stomach mercilessly upwards to her throat. She couldn’t and didn’t dare to vomit, not in this bizarre situation. She feared that one mistake would get her—
She shrieked at the burned lump beside her. Quickly, she backed away, creating greater distance between her and the corpse. Her eyes never left it as if anticipating that it would come back alive at any second.
“Seungri, didn’t you already warn this fair lady that I’m sensitive to such unappetizing notes?” The Jaerim look-alike looked lazily to his servant.
“Apologies, my Lord.” The stoic-looking man, Seungri, had one hand covered over his heart and bowed.
She admitted to her string of bad luck since graduation, but these thoughts had never come to her mind before. Now, this was becoming too real to be just a nightmare. She wished she could just wake up and enjoy the rain, the sunshine, the coldness, and the warmth even if it was just from the tiny window of her shabby apartment. No one told her, but she knew even that tiny wish was now a luxury, a miracle. She didn’t know what dying was like, but she hated it and convinced that it was not what she should be doing right now.
“Jaerim sunbae!” She looked up, facing the inevitable. Her hands grabbed tightly at the side of her dress.
His lips curved up, amusement replaced his initial boredom. “Didn’t think I would hear that name again so soon.”
Her heart dropped when he responded to the name so naturally.
He walked over to her, kneeled down, and lifted up her chin. Soeun had never imagined that she would have so much fear of the man in front of her – the man she had admired throughout her undergraduate career. In her memory, he had always been a warm person who loved to smile. Though, that seemed far away now because there was something mysterious and deadly in this man’s eyes. She felt as though she was not being looked at respectfully as a human being, but rather as an object or a domesticated animal at best.
“Ah,” his smile widened and eyes twinkled as he just remembered, “Cinderella-in-waiting.”
As his finger ran over her right cheek, she felt a sharp, paper cut-like pain. However, no trace of wound was found when she touched the spot. She was confused. She didn’t know what force pushed her, but she managed to make sound to come out of her mouth, “W-what? Sunbae, I’m Kim So—”
He got up, effectively interrupted her. “The only daughter of a middle-class family. Business major at Seoul University. Joined the photography club and learned about professional photography after she saw the president of the club, Song Jaerim, for the first time. Bright, sassy, somewhat cynical at times, but very ordinary in whole. Gradually became one of the many who was satisfied with just admiring Song Jaerim from afar.” He shook his head and chuckled at this. “Like others, she was naïve to believe that one day her ideal Prince Charming would pay notice to her – one of the many Cinderella-in-waitings, Kim Soeun.”
She was flabbergasted, embarrassed, and furious that he knew all this time. He had described her in such detailed but plain words. Though, she did not forget her fear…And now, all of her hopes were completely shattered after she realized that she was just a joke to him – a mere thing for him to pass time.
“You know,” an unfitting amiability in his voice, “if you’ve arrived earlier, you could have met Gina here. I’m sure you ladies could have become very good friends. It’s rather a pity she has to bid her farewell so soon.”
She had the urge to vomit when she saw the corpse again.
“Soeun-ah,” chills went down her spines when he called her name with such familiarity. The familiarity was perfect, except that it was lacking genuine warmth. “Quit it with that frown. Smile. After all, you should give yourself a pat on the back for having outdone your peers. They are only Cinderella-in-waitings in their minds, but you. You have become an actual Cinderella-in-waiting here. Don’t know how you did it, but somehow you must have done great.”
He suddenly turned to his servant and asked, “Has that old fool gone senile?”
Somehow that one question had discredited all the praises he showered on her earlier. She only found it ridiculous that she could still manage to be offended.
His attention went back to her as if no interruption had ever taken place. “Anyways, I will let you savour such winning glory. So rest assured and welcome to Hell!”
His theatrical mannerism oddly reminded her of someone she met not so long ago.
His servant whispered something in his ear and his face suddenly became grim.
“I must apologize. Unfortunately, I still have some businesses to attend to. Please make yourself at home, my Cinderella-in-waiting.” He kissed the back of her hand in a gentleman manner before vanishing through the door.
She had been too scared to even flinch. Now, a deadly coldness lingered on her hand. Before long, the foul smell was coming back. She rushed out of the room and puked out everything she had since she woke up today right next to the door.
The rapid beating of her heart was not ready to calm down. She slumped down on the ground, her back against the cold, concrete wall. She stared dully at the partly digested pieces of the peanut butter and jelly sandwich she had and laughed hysterically for the first time.
“Be quiet, you’re going to attract attention,” a soft, female whisper was somewhere roaming in the abyss.
She didn’t have any strength in her to respond.
“You must be new here,” the stranger stated. “Are you human?”
Are you human?
The question made her laugh merely because the question was serious and did not imply any insult.
“Shh!” the stranger warned. “Why are you laughing? What’s so funny?”
“Are you human?” Soeun threw the question back sarcastically.
“The name is Jinyi, you can take a wild guess.”
“The last human name I called did not turn out to be a human.”
“So, you’re human,” the stranger sounded brightened up and assumed confidently.
“At least I’m not one of those feather-brains.” As in being a human, she was not sure anymore. Her beloved sunbae did not seem human, so maybe she was not as well.
“Okay, here’s the deal: I’m planning to get the hell, for a lack of better words, out of here. So, do you want to get out together?”
“Too good to be true,” Soeun responded. Her brain might be messed up with all the bizarreness, but it was not messed up enough to dissolve her better judgement.
“It is – my partner in crime just died. I guess you’ve kind of met her. Gina’s the name. Anyways, one person cannot escape alone here, so I need another partner. So, are you in or out?”
“What is this? Prison Break?” After she witnessed such gruesome event, she thought that she should at least deserve some time alone to sort out everything. She didn’t expect to talk to thin air. Well, not actually thin air, but she knew the stranger hid herself well in the darkness.
“Huh? Prison break? What’s that?”
She was dumfounded by the response. “Oh god, how long have you been here?”
“I’m not sure…Maybe a couple of years? I have stopped counting since then. It’s hard to tell the time here…” the stranger’s voice trailed off, as if she was deliberating.
Something, metal-like, hit Soeun’s left foot. She picked it up and through the dim lighting from the doorway she could recognize that it was a pocket watch.
“A token of friendship,” the stranger sounded proud that she remembered.
Soeun’s forefinger traced the detailed artwork of the watch. The ticking sounded even and alive. It was the sound of humanity. A smile slowly formed on her face.
“I’m planning to go to the Lilith Garden when the watch strikes at the eleventh hour. So, are you in or out?”
“The name is Soeun,” she introduced herself to the stranger for the first time. “Nice to meet you, Jinyi.”