Monster | 4 |
The needle pricked through skin and I winced. Carefully I sewed back the torn part of my sleeve, aligning the stitches as best I could. The fabric looked seamless to my eyes, and I could only hope it would be the same for my mother.
No one was in the house. My mother was out working, and Hana . . . Glancing at the clock I felt a dull feeling clocking me in the chest. School had been out for half an hour, and Hana was probably on the way home. As for me, I had played truant for a total of two hours and 29 minutes.
Mr Jackson would have long reported me by now.
Slowly I got up, trying not to put pressure on my wrist. The bandage and ointment relieved the pain, but only briefly. Thankfully the scuffle in the alley had only resulted in a bruise on my upper thigh.
Maybe I can tell mum it was volleyball this time. Since I already used the basketball excuse, I thought drily.
I was tired. I didn’t want to think. Didn’t want to think about the repercussions of skipping class, of pissing off Areum, of the boy with the purple hair and the boy in the sun.
I didn’t want to think. I wanted my brain to shut off for a moment, just a moment. Let me not care, just for a moment.
The ceiling fan spun quietly, and outside the afternoon heat was thick. Somewhere a vehicle drove past, the engines muted by distance. Even the trees didn’t bother to sway, their branches limp and lazy, the leaves struggling to hold themselves upright.
Without quite meaning to, I fell asleep.
⚜️ × ⚜️ ×
The evening was quiet and the girl on the bed didn’t hear the door open.
Mrs Park peeked a head in. On tiptoes she crossed the room to adjust the pillows, making them more comfortable. She frowned a little when she saw the bandage around her youngest daughter’s wrist. Gently she kissed Eun-bi on the forehead, before tucking a lock of hair behind her ear.
Walking into the kitchen, she set about slicing some sweetened raisin bread. Hana was on the table doing homework, a small plate of pastries beside her elbow.
“Hana, did Eun-bi fall again? Her wrist is hurt.”
Hana’s eyes flickered upward briefly from her math homework. Reaching for a cream puff she answered casually,
“Oh, they had P.E. today. Maybe it happened there.”
“She didn’t tell you?” Mrs Park asked. “I thought you guys talk non-stop on the way home.”
Hana thought back to how it had just been her and Kai today. A happy smile played on her lips.
She shrugged. “She must have forgotten.”
Placing two slices of the bread on a plate Mrs Park muttered softly to herself. “This girl . . . when is she going to get up? She needs to eat.”
Hana said nothing. After a heartbeat she jumped up swiftly and made her way over, slipping both hands around her mother’s waist.
“Hana! Don’t do that! I’m holding a knife!”
Hana pouted. “But I haven’t hugged you in ages. You come home so late after work.”
“Well someone has to earn money around here. Do you have any idea how much the two of you eat?”
Hana giggled. “Mum. Since you’re back early, and I just finished my homework, can we chill a bit? Just two hours before you start making dinner. Please? Pretty please?”
Mrs Park glanced at her daughter, amused. “What? What are you up to now?”
“There’s this really nice movie on Channel 3, and it only takes 5 minutes to make popcorn . . . ” Hana trailed off and fluttered her eyelashes.
Her mother placed a finger against her chin in mock thought. “Oh gee, I’m not sure, I think I have about three documents to type up, plus I really should get to settling down the bills – “
“Mum!” Hana whined.
Firmly she took away the knife. “No more geometry and no more office work. For the next two hours we watch Kim Ah-joong and Joo Jin-mo. Come on, the movie starts in ten minutes!”
Mrs Park laughed, allowing herself to be dragged away by her eldest daughter to the living room. The knife laid beside the platter of cut bread, already out of sight.
⚜️ × ⚜️ ×
I woke up dazed. The alarm clock showed 5:31 pm. I had slept for two hours.
Walking down the stairs I heard laughter coming from the living room, the television set blaring. Quietly I make my way to the kitchen. Lunch was already kept aside, the potatoes and meat cold, and the kimchi put back in the fridge. On the table was a loaf of raisin bread, sliced halfway. I wrinkled my nose at the sugar scattered on top. My sweet tooth had never quite grown.
“Eun-bi? Is that you?” There was the sound of the recliner being pushed close.
“Mum, don’t go – he’s going to find out who she really is!” I heard Hana exclaim.
Hurriedly I raised my voice. “It’s okay, mum! I’ll get food myself!”
“Yeah, I’m fine!”
“Okay. Eat up the raisin bread!” The recliner squeaked as it extended outward again.
Obediently I grabbed a plate and started munching on a slice.
⚜️ × ⚜️ ×
The night was still and the girl on the bed didn’t hear the door open.
The clock on the wall showed 1:07 am. Despite her afternoon nap she was tired, and she slept like a log.
The hinges creaked but the figure made no sound. The floor was not carpeted but the footsteps were hushed. The night was dark but the figure darker.
He listened for the steady breathing that told him his target was fast asleep. As his left hand came up something wicked gleamed in the pale moonlight. He brought it down sharply and surely, the blade whistling in glee as it descended, only to make an ugly clashing sound as it met not flesh, but metal.
“Well I’ll be damned,” said the dry voice. “If it isn’t you.”
A brilliant grin flashed. “But you are. Damned. We both are.”
“I was. I changed.”
The boy who came through the window laughed. “Now don’t give me that, dear brother. You were born a demon and you’ll die a demon. I don’t know why you scuttled away to Shangri-La, but you’re no angel. Hell is in your blood.”
The boy who came through the door flicked his wrist and both blades separated, dancing away from the girl who slept in ignorance.
“How is Father?” he asked.
“Killing it as usual. You know we’re facing severe accommodation issues? 21st century has the highest trend of people checking in so far. Heaven must be pretty lonely right now.” The other boy snapped his fingers. “Ah, but you wouldn’t know . . . You’re not allowed to enter Heaven.”
The first boy said nothing, and merely ran an elegant finger along the flat surface of his knife. The second boy sighed, shaking his head in sympathy.
“Despite everything you’ve done – turning against Father, pissing off the seven princes of Hell, helping out on all those ‘missions for the greater good’ . . . Little Miss Perfect still doesn’t allow you to pass through the pearly gates, does she? Which reminds me, are the gates really pearly? Or do you not get close enough to even see that?”
The younger sibling twirled the blade, catching it. When he spoke, his voice was light and unruffled.
“By the way, who sits on Lucifer’s right now?”
The elder brother’s face darkened and his lips pressed into thin lines.
“Really?” The younger brother arched an eyebrow. “And here I was thinking after I left you might have the sliver of an opportunity. Father found no one to replace me? My my. Maybe I should return.”
“Don’t you dare,” the boy who came to save growled. His voice had gone all deep and raspy.
The boy who came to kill made a tut-tut sound. “Control yourself, brother dear. Your demonic side is showing.”
“I will sit on that seat one day. I will make myself worthy. You’ll see.”
“I can hardly wait.”
Silence fell, tense and absolute.
“Father has great plans for her. So I’m afraid I can’t let you kill her anytime soon.”
“Deadly plans, I think is what you meant. Plans that will ruin the world, cause destruction, and bring Hell up onto Earth.”
“You didn’t used to be opposed to that.”
“Kindly reminder – I changed.”
“Kindly reminder – you didn’t. You can’t.”
“And you cannot control her forever. Her heart, it is kind. And she would rather die than see her loved ones face a pain worse than death, especially when that pain comes from her herself.”
The tip of the elder brother’s weapon rose, steady and unwavering. “We’ll just have to see, don’t we? Now will you leave by yourself or do you want me to escort you to the door?”
There was a pause as looks were exchanged, each challenging the other.
“That’s alright. I find myself quite familiar with the layout of this house.” Bowing, the assassin retreated the way he had come, eyes and blade gleaming. The stairs in the house tended to creak at the slightest weight, but there was no sound as he left.
In her bed, the girl shifted a little in her sleep and muttered something that sounded suspiciously like 5 bowls of japchae. The boy who stayed in her room snorted.
“Even if Hell rises on Earth, you wouldn’t wake up,” he muttered.
⚜️ × ⚜️ ×
I woke up.
Shivering at the sudden breeze, I opened one confused eye. The clock on the wall showed 1:33 am, and my room was cold.
Glancing over I saw that my bedroom window was wide open. My eyebrows pulled together, since I had closed it before I went to sleep . . . or had I? The memory was vague. Bleary-eyed I shuffled out of bed, blanket wrapped around myself, the fabric whishing against the floor as I walked over to the window.
Outside, the world was silent.
Reaching out a hand I dragged the window close. There was dirt on the sill and I brushed it away, watching the specks drop down to the grass below. Idly my mind wondered how dirt could have gotten from the ground to two storeys up, but a stronger part of my brain was beseeching for me to go to sleep, so I thought nothing of it.
Yawning, I flopped back onto the comfort of my warm bed and pulled the blanket all the way up to my chin. Within a minute I was sound asleep.
⚜️ × ⚜️ ×
The boy on the roof stared out to the night sky, whistling softly under his breath a tune no human ear had ever heard. His legs dangled in open air, back and forth, back and forth, each time almost but not quite hitting the side of the house.
His hand never left his dagger as he kept watch through the night.
© Emrys Parker