Bed Sheets

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Horror  |  House: Booksie Classic
In 2002, South Korea, there is a spirit. A spirit that is completely unheard of by the human word. Not because she has never been seen, but because no one has ever lived to tell about it. Until police officer Jun-Sang investigates a very spooked, very dazed woman who said she’d been attacked by an intruder. The only problem is, there is no sign of anyone else entering her room.
When more incidents begin to happen all around the area, it’s hard for Jun-Sang to look past one thing. These are no coincidences.

Submitted: February 08, 2020

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Submitted: February 08, 2020

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Bed Sheets





 

Her date patted his mouth with a white napkin. He stood upright after she did. “I had a nice time tonight, Soo,” he said. His dialect reminded her of Shigol, the country, and the chasm between them grew larger.

“Yeah, me too.” Her smile appeared to be the only sincere thing that she’d managed the entire night, she wasn’t looking forward to the awkward drive back to her apartment. She just knew she’d sit in that car, her hands in her lap, mouth shut, trying her best not to look in his general direction.

The restaurant’s greeter bowed to the both of them as they opened the front door. They returned one as they stepped past him.

The violent downpour of rain saturated the street outside, the half moon peeked between two buildings, expressing its disappointment in the evening’s proceedings. “Here,” her date muttered as he created an umbrella with his coat.

“Oh... thank you,” she said with a sheepish grin. “How nice of you.” She blew air out her nose as a substitute for a laugh; Her cheeks burned red as she thought back to the fourth grade when she talked to her crush for the first time.

They hurried down the sidewalk and to his car. His jacket helped; she still got somewhat wet, but it was the thought that counted. He unlocked the door with his key and opened it for her. She looked at the passenger seat to prepare to dive in without getting too wet when something in the top corner of her eye became visible. She glanced up, just on the opposite side of the road, in the center of a dark alley, something moved. The howling of the rain overpowered every one of the five senses her body sent to her brain.

It was obscure, a translucent circle looking right at her. Was it a street sign, maybe graffiti on a wall? Her date asked what was wrong, his voice distant, muffled.

Her skin chilled straight to her bones, as if something pleasant was leaving her body and rising toward that alleyway. The white circle moved, causing Min-Soo to jerk back, out from under his jacket. The rain began to moisten her hair, her companion swiftly moved the coat back above her and mumbled words that she couldn’t hear.

Her crotch grew warm, and she briefly wondered if she’d peed herself. Her mouth opened somewhat, and the only details she was mindful of was the thing floating in the shadows and the heart pounding in her throat. The man snapped her eyesight with his concerned face, seeing him yanked her through a portal back to her own dimension. The sounds and smells around her finally returned her to her senses.

“Min-Soo. What’s wrong?”

She peeked around his body, back to the alley, whatever was there had disappeared along with the dread she came to know so well. She tried her best to make it appear as if she was okay. “Sorry, it’s nothing.” He swung his neck to the alleyway; he returned his gaze to her.

It was though he had something on his mind, but Min-Soo stepped to the car and sat inside, letting the relaxing sound of the rain beat at the window as he closed the door. Min-Soo’s gaze shifted back to the dark alleyway, waiting for something to happen. Somewhere, deep within those shadows, something was watching her, or so she thought.

The opposite door opened, Min-Soo suppressed the scream that rose in her throat. Her date sat in his seat and shut the door. Being next to a warm body, even one that didn’t thrill her, calmed her.

He drove away, her heart beating fast as they approached and past the alley. Only darkness.

 

On the ride back to her building, billions of microscopic stimuli flashed inside Min-Soo’s brain; remarkably, how it merely developed from two elements:

 

  1. If she could reach between her legs and make sure she hadn’t urinated on herself without him seeing her.

  2. The mysterious entity in the alley.

 

Min-Soo didn’t want to get out of the car when they pulled up to her apartment, but they both opened their doors and stepped outside, letting a dry breeze roll through her moist hair as she stood under the little roof overlooking the entrance. Her eyes shifted through every dark pocket around in pursuit for the white circle. The man stood in front of her, slyly inching closer.

“So, are you going to be ok?” he asked.

She nodded nervously.

“Okay.” His voice was sweet with a smile. “I would like to do this again. If you’d like.”

She nodded again.

“Well, goodnight then.” He smiled and turned back to his car. She watched him get in, close the door, and drive away.

The dread returned as she felt increasingly alone. Everything around her caused her to sweat, the hairs on the back of her neck started to stand at attention, the unnerving strip of a fluorescent light bulb flickered white above her, the wind stopped blowing.

She stepped forward, brandishing her small purse at his car’s red taillights. “Hey!” She called out.

The taillights lit brighter as he hit the brakes and brought the car into reverse. She smiled wide as his face began to emerge over the gradually lowered window. “Hey!”

“Hey?” he said, confused.

“Do you want to come up to my room?” She asked.

“Um, yeah.. Sure.” The confusion turned to anticipation.

He turned off the car.

 

———

 

His face skewed into an awkward breathlessness as he climaxed over Min-Soo. The faint little red marks on his skin from her nails served as a reminder of what they’d just done; he went limp on top of her. They panted together, Soo’s legs still wrapped around the lower section of his waist.

He rolled over and off her.

It wasn’t long until he was fast asleep. She wished she could force herself to free her mind and join him, but instead, she remained alone with her thoughts.

The way she’d be able to hear a penny drop in the neighboring apartment gave her the notion that something could fall from the ceiling and steal her soul at any minute.

She craved to ease herself from a chunk of the darkness engulfing the room. She reached her hand under the bed and snatched her pink kitten nightlight and plugged it into the wall. It didn’t improve much, but it offered her some reassurance.

A few seconds after she settled her head back on the pillow, she needed to pee. She stood up with adequate care not to wake her impromptu lover and tiptoed to the bathroom. A stranger reflected in the mirror; she opened it and grabbed a small purple hairbrush. she closed it and saw herself again. If this was a cheap horror movie, a girl with long black hair covering her face would be standing behind her. She’d spin around, and the spirit would disappear.

She stroked her brown chin length hair back to a manageable style and returned the brush to the sink. What the hell are you doing, Min-Soo? she pondered while taking one last glimpse at herself.

She exhaled, turned the bathroom light off, and opened the door. Her squeeze was still sleeping satisfied on her side of the bed. She pressed her toes on the chilly floor, hopeful that it wouldn’t produce a squeak. She paused, her brain struggled to order her legs to move, they protested with everything they had. Nothing happened.

A fleeting sense of happiness swept over her body. She felt cool, the goosebumps that surged up her spine were pinching her back with millions of tiny imaginary needles.

Her eyes moved from her sweetheart to the ground. A pale white leg stuck out from the bottom corner of the bedpost. Her heart thumped so strong that it reverberated in her teeth as she stared at the appendage unquestionably attached to another person.

She regained control of her limbs again. Holding her breath, she crept toe-to-heel through the chasm of darkness. It was though her life shrank with each step closer to this oddity.

When she got closer, she realized just how pale the leg was. The little red nightlight illuminated it by her side of the bed. The other leg soon came into view. She wished she could wake up the gentleman she had sex with minutes beforehand; maybe the alternative: run out of the room altogether, surrendering him to whatever the pale legged lady had in mind to do to him. But there was something nudging her. That alternating chill to warmth delicately kissing her back, pushing her towards whatever lie on the other side of this floor.

The corner edge of the bed’s sheets were strung tight towards ambiguity. The stranger’s shoulder presented itself, soon after was her head. Min-Soo’s eyes opened wide, and her mouth fell in bewilderment.

The woman resting on the floor, at the edge of the bed, had the bedsheet pulled tightly around her head. Her neck rotated towards Min-Soo. Gradually, she began to lift her knees, her pale feet scratched the wooden floor coarsely as they moved closer to her torso. She put her hand on the border of the mattress and lifted herself up, the movement reminiscent of a marionette doll being drawn into a standing position by its master.

Min-Soo had a decent look at her. The thin bed sheet wrapped suffocatingly tight around her face and draped across to the rest of the bed, a few fibers of black hair barely peeked out, her pale skin turned black at her fingers and toes like some kind of infection. The girl was hardly a few inches taller than Min-Soo.

Why was she frozen in the floor? She wanted to turn around, hurl herself through the door, but once again, her feet remained shrouded in cement. A bead of sweat rolled into her eye, burning it rather painfully, the goosebumps encompassing her arms sharp enough to cut glass this time, her chest felt hollow.

Min-Soo watched the material covering the woman’s face darken with an ever-widening stain until it drenched her entire head in a peculiar liquid. She could see the faint indentions of the woman’s face: two black circles for eyes, a meager pitched tent for a nose.

The woman lifted a hand towards Min-Soo. As she moved closer, the sheet gently stripped itself from the bed, the sleeping man was never disturbed. Suddenly, the woman’s mouth opened behind her mask, a cascade of water spilled from her lips, the sheet around her face turned a murky grey. A gurgled noise radiated from her throat.

A tear descended Min-Soo’s cheek, her mouth gaped open in sheer terror, and she felt like a statue. The guy sleeping twinged his nose; his eyebrows furrowed, he inhaled and opened his eyes. He leaned up and looked at Min-Soo standing in front of the door. “Min-Soo?” he said, rubbing his fatigued eyes. She stood there, not hearing his voice.

“Min-Soo?” he repeated, getting up from the bed. He walked over to her, a concerned expression on his face. He stared at her close before reaching out and tapping her shoulder with the lightest of touches.

As if he’d struck a nerve, she started shrieking, flying backwards towards the ground. He tried his best to catch her, but failed, and she landed with a painful scream that stemmed from elsewhere.

She scuttled backwards hysterically, eyes bulged, looking at nothing in front of her.

———

 

“Miss, are you sure you weren’t just dreaming? Maybe sleepwalking?” The beefy police officer placed his cup on the table and glared at Min-Soo, struggling with the compulsion to yawn.

Min-Soo shook her head nervously and stared at the floor.

Officer Jun-Sang looked up at who he suspected to be her boyfriend.

The guy shook his head. “She’s been like this for a while now.”

“I see,” Jun-Sang said as he turned back to her. He reached out to touch her shoulder for comfort when she recoiled like a snake had bitten her. He pulled back and stared.

Her eyes. They looked similar to a deranged man, her expression told him she needed to rip his throat out.

“She said she saw someone,” the boyfriend said.

“Where?”

“The bedroom,” he uncrossed his arms and pointed. “It’s just through there.”

The officer followed his finger to a door at the opposite side of the room.

He got to his feet. “Ok ma’am, my partner here needs to ask you a few questions and we’ll be on our way. Il?” He looked at his colleague.

“Sure thing, boss,” Il-Sung replied, setting his coffee on a counter by the front door. He drew a small notepad and a pen out from the pocket of his shirt. “Name?”

Jun-Sang opened the bedroom door with a creak. A small white cat dashed out, the startle caused him to clench the hat in his hands. He reached in, flicked the lights on, and took a glance around at everything. Nothing. He stepped in, his feet growing brisk in his socks as he took the first step inside. Much colder than the living room. He scanned the bathroom, closet, under the bed, nothing. Everything seemed in order.

He closed the door and walked back to the others. “Ready?” he asked Il.

Il finished what he was scribbling, said, “Yep,” and flipped his notebook closed.

Il-Sung knelt down next to Min-Soo, his knees reminded him how old he was. “Miss, we need to go ahead and call your family,” he said, waiting for an answer. She didn’t give him one.

Jun-Sang followed her eyes. They stared off in front of her; bulged open again, as if she were watching an invisible person. Her eyes finally moved to Il-Sung, she slowly nodded her head, that crazy little twinkle returned.

 

———

 

While Jun-Sang started the police cruiser, Il-Sung shivered in the passenger seat. “That lady creeped the hell outta me, man,” he said.

“Relax. She was just scared,” Jun-sang said.

“She was pretty attractive though,” Il-Sung said.

“Sure, if you go for that sort of thing.”

“Oh? And what’s your thing?”

Jun-Sang flipped the visor down and tapped on a picture of a woman, her belly extended seven months.

“How is So anyway?”

“She’s fine.”

“That’s it? She’s fine?” Il-Sung said.

“Sora’s been having some trouble sleeping though. Keeps seeing a monster in her room.”

“Is there a monster?”

Jun-Sang took his eyes off the street for a second to look at him. “Are you serious?”

“Hey, I happen to remember being that young. That stuff seemed too real to me.”

“That’s because you were a dumb kid,” Jun-Sang said. “Doesn’t seem like anything’s changed.”

“Well, I stopped laughing at the word tallywacker if that’s what you mean?”

Jun-Sang turned to him. “Tallywacker?”

“Penis.”

Jun-Sang continued to drive, quelling a childish smile.

 

———

 

Jun-Sang woke up the next day to his phone ringing uncontrollably next to his side of the bed. He grunted and slapped his hand on the tiny black flip phone, struggling to get it open without looking. Finally, his finger found the green answer button. “Hello?” he murmured, his voice cloaked with grogginess.

“Mmhmm... yeah… be right there,” he groaned as he hung up the phone. 

He took a sharp, heavy breath. Hearing this, his wife rolled over and hugged him, then fell back asleep. He smirked and moved a lock of hair from her eyes with his finger, then brushed his lips delicately against hers.

Before he took off, he opened his daughter’s bedroom door to tell her he loved her. This daily routine of his gave him peace. Many children of cops didn’t get the chance to experience love with their father. He wanted her to know, even if she was always asleep when he entered.

His daughter’s room was decked out in everything pink: pink walls, pink pillows, pink shelves, pink stuffed animals. He walked in, taking care not to wake her. When he got to her side of the bed, he saw that her eyes were open. “Honey? What are you still doing up?”

“It came back again, Appa,” she whispered to him.

It broke his heart to hear the little quiver in her voice. “You still remember what I told you, yes?”

Together they said, “There are no such things as monsters.” She had said it with him, but the quiver was still there.

“You still scared, huh?” Jun-Sang asked. She nodded her head.

He thought of a solution. “Ok, let’s get you tucked in with Omma. That sound good?”

She smiled and nodded, her missing tooth prominent in her grin.

He smiled back at her before picking her up and carrying her to his bedroom. When he laid her head on his pillow, So-Yeon turned over in her sleep and instinctively put an arm over her baby girl’s body.

“I love you, Bubble.”

“I love you too, Appa.”

Before closing the door, he looked back at her again. She fell sound asleep in her mother’s arms. He couldn’t help but smile.

Jun-Sang and his family lived in a comfortable neighborhood on the outskirts of Anyang, a smaller city just south of Seoul, South Korea. Even in the twilight hours before the morning, the summer humidity turned dry skin to sweat as soon as anyone stepped outside. Jun-Sang wiped the droplets from his forehead.

As he got into his patrol car, he saw two squirrels run past his feet and up the roof of his home. He’d been hearing those little shits up there for weeks, probably nibbling at the wiring. Maybe they’d fuck up and electrocute their asses. Then again, he’d have to be the one to scoop the little shits out before the maggots got to them. That still seemed to be a better case than driving Sora to the emergency room because of a squirrel bite.

When he started the car, he grabbed the car’s radio, brought it to his mouth, and clicked the little button on the side. He needed to know precisely how to get to the crime scene.

 

———

 

When Jun-Sang pulled his car up to the yellow police tape, the sun was coming over the horizon, and the red and blue lights cut through the swaths of sunshine falling on the concrete. The outside of the building had a big sign advertising Tuk Tuk Thai, Real Authentic Thai Food, and the sour aroma of tossed leftovers rising from last night’s dumpsters made his stomach turn.

Police officers were scattered around the entrance. Jun-Sang had to present them his badge before he could lower himself under the yellow tape, even though he was in full uniform and he knew the guys working the scene.

The front window bore a meager car sized hole in its glass. He stepped around a white chalk outline of a body: the marks showed the torso on the outside of the building, the bottom half on the inside, as if the body had melted like wax and slumped through the window. The sound of glass crunching beneath his feet reminded him of snow as he made his way to Il-Sung, who had a white surgical mask over his mouth. Jun-Sung swallowed a laugh. Not that Il-Sung was afraid of getting sick from the pollution flying around through the air - though many individuals in Korea did for that particular reason - he wore it because a single whiff of blood knocks him on his ass every single time, a flaw not too appealing to most law enforcement officers. At the moment, he looked deep in thought watching a medical team zip up a black body bag on the floor, his hand holding up the mask.

“What happened?” Jun-Sang asked him.

“Suicide. They think it’s pretty straightforward. Chief just needs us to keep the civies back when the sun comes out.”

As he finished talking, another officer came through a door on the other end of the restaurant carrying a smaller bag in one of his fists. Jun-Sang stopped him when he walked past them.

“What’s that?” he pointed to the bag.

“Raccoon. It’s fucked,” the man responded without breaking stride.

“You think the dead guy did that?” Il said as he stared at the chalk outline.

Before Jun-Sang could answer, he heard a tear and a soft, muttered profanity. Looking outside, he saw the bag containing the carcass of the raccoon was in two, the creature now lying in a puddle. The poor officer tried frantically to pick it back up and shove it back into the remaining half of the bag.

Deep lacerations were all about its body. Its feet were completely missing, its jaw shattered and barely hanging from a few little cords on its cheek. The mammal’s small black and grey tail rolled a foot away, utterly severed from the corpse. It hardly resembled a racoon at all. The greyish-purple intestines dangling from the belly made it difficult to analyze the state of the creature any longer.

“I’d say so,” Jun-Sang said, still watching the cop. He turned back to Il-Sung. “We should get out there before people see any of this.”

“Yeah, they’ll be all like, ‘Oh my god! What’s going on over there, you big strong police officer? Take me home and have your way with me!’ And you know what? I’ll do it. You watch me partner,” Il-Sung pulled his shirt snug over his breast and swaggered as he walked toward the street.

“Whatever you say, Il.” God, he preferred it to be that way. Not that it would interest him in cheating on his wife, but it would feel nice for a lovely stranger to call him strong.

But it was never like that. It was normally a pack of nosy ass people struggling to propel themselves over the police tape despite the commands of the officers just so they could see a dead body or something. Maybe they wanted a tantalizing story to tell their friends. None of them gave a shit about who was robbed, killed, or raped; they just needed to know. Something in their neighborhood? No way! Nothing criminally wrong ever happened on their side of town.

He was content that today was the same as most where few people noticed that this little restaurant had a suicidal man jump through his freshly spit-shined window after severing his own throat. He evidently preferred to make a spectacle.

Bastard possibly wanted to make sure every kid on the block could see him take his final dying breath.

It took a few hours for the body to be cleared away, pictures to be collected, potential witnesses questioned. He told the last remaining civilians to go home, that everything had been taken care of, but no one was allowed inside the restaurant. When he was confident the scene was secure, he and Il-Sung got in the car for the brief ride home.

While sitting in the driver’s seat, Il-Sung went to town on a small ice cream cone he had bought from a 7-Eleven only a few minutes beforehand. They had to fill up the cruiser, and Il never missed an opportunity to buy himself a snack. Jun-Sang always mocked his choices in food, but honestly, he was just envious. A few years and few inches had flown by since Jun-Sang had eaten whatever he wanted.

They were on their way back to the station when Il-Sung finished and sent the small wrapper out the window. He looked at Jun-Sang, white cream still on his lips. “Hey Jun-Sang, look, I’m a whore.”

Jun-Sang looked at him and smiled. “You’re such a child.” He parked the cruiser at the curb and turned off the motor.

“Oh please, with lips like these? Must make you a child toucher,” Il responded, which made Jun-Sang laugh. Then he realized it was a remark that should have offended him, so when they were just opening the station doors, he slapped Il-Sung on the back of the head. Il sucked air through his teeth and frantically rubbed his head in pain.

The two of them had a thirty-minute break to use for the day, and they chose to relax in their nice, comfy desks. A brief ten minutes passed by before Jun-Sang spotted a new whiteboard on the opposite side of the office. Red and blue marker scratches littered its surface, little pictures of macabre visuals taped here and there. He got up from his seat to get a closer look, needing to purge his curiosity. The gruesome scenes became more intricate as he moved closer.

The pictures on the board showed him two other cases like the one from this morning, an apparent suicide associated with a very mutilated animal. Names on the board were written in blue and circled and connected in red. He didn’t believe in this whole suicide thing, it was clearly an elaborate, planned set-up: even a regular police officer could connect these jigsaw pieces.

“Can I help you?” a voice from behind him said.

He turned around, caught off-guard and shamed by his snooping. The voice belonged to one of the new prosecutors in the station, Han Young-Sook or Park Jung-Sook or something. Hopefully she’d introduce herself before he could make a guess between the two.

“Oh, my apologies, miss.” He smiled and bowed to her.

“It’s okay,” she returned the bow. “I’m guessing you’re thinking the same thing we’ve been thinking all month,” she pondered at the board.

“They’re not suicides?”

She rested her chin on her finger. “They’re not suicides.”

She said nothing for a moment, so he assumed she was done talking to him. He guessed she had work to do. “Well, sorry for interrupting your work, prosecutor.”

She turned around to face him. “Oh sorry, I must’ve looked like some kind of ghost. What were you trying to say?”

“That was nothing,” he bowed again. “I really must get back to work. I’ll see you later.”

The prosecutor nodded her head and gave him a smile. “See you.” She turned back around to concentrate.

Il-Sung was finishing up another ice cream cone when he came back. Jun-Sang looked at his watch: four minutes past their break time. “Come on fatty, let’s go,” he said as he made a thumbs-up sign toward the exit.

Il looked at him and threw the wrapper on the floor next to the trash bin by his desk.

“Where we headed now?” he said.

Jun-Sung didn’t respond until they were at the car. “Min-Soo’s home. I want to check on her. See how she’s doing.”

He felt Il-Sung roll his eyes as he turned the wheel toward downtown.

 

———

 

Jun-Sang pulled the car under the little roof of Min-Soo’s building. The intense summer heat blasted their skin the moment they stepped out of the car, and the mirage cast by the sun distorted the glistening street until he couldn’t tell what was real and what was not. Children milled around the opening to the building: a few girls walked across the street in their school uniforms and little square backpacks; boys rolled over the sidewalk on skateboards. A happy couple sat on a bench by a parallel parked car and held hands while a few businessmen coming from their downtown offices talked loudly on their cell phones. Jun-Sang thought how remarkable it was that life continued to go on amid all this chaos.

Something large and heavy suddenly struck the top of the parked car with a resounding crash, crushing the roof inward and causing glass to fly up and drizzle on the couple.

If for a second, Jun-Sang had been merely hearing a bird chirp during that one moment, it would’ve been very possible that it could have eluded him completely. But through every bit of silence, it was unmistakable.

The woman screamed as the man struggled to get up from the concrete bench and tear her away at the same time; her gaze held by the syrupy red blood trickling down the body’s fingers and onto the pavement. The girls in school uniform started to shriek, but this chance of a lifetime intrigued the boys so they started taking pictures with their cell phones. 

Jun-Sang froze. In a stupor, he wandered to the car, carelessly pushing the kids out of the way. The body had smashed into the car with enough force that the head was at his chest level. In the back of his mind, he heard Il-Sung demanding the kids surrender their phones.

The woman he’d talked to only yesterday. The woman he thought to be okay. Ma’am, are you sure you weren’t just dreaming? Maybe sleepwalking? That fear he had expected her to handle had unfolded; It had gotten to her, this woman with blood oozing from her purple nose and bloodshot eyes, her neck twisted unnaturally behind her. Her face, a snarled mess of blood and gashes belonging to Min-Soo.

Her throat muscles suddenly choked up and down; blood spurted from her mouth and onto her chin in one final involuntary movement. Jun-Sang’s stomach revolted; his eyes closed, the sweat rolled over the folds of his eyes in waves. He opened them to see her cold dead eyes looking into his own.

 

———

 

It didn’t take too long for the yellow tape and wooden barricades to make their expected debut around the car. The swarm of people, sustained by the frenzy of the children and the young lovers, lined both ends of the street hoping to catch a glimpse of the body, but the crime scene investigators were the only ones involved in that luxury. The sun, previously so glaring and obtrusive, shielded behind the soft-looking clouds as the two partners sat and pondered on the curb. They exchanged no words.

The sight of her chestnut colored eyes being drowned in red burned into Jun-Sang’s mind. He had seen dead people before - it was part of the job description - but it was different when he’d just spoken to the victim. Death comes for all, not just strangers.

A familiar face came up to them. It was prosecutor Young-Sook. Park or Han: He had never found out her real name. “Hey guys,” she said.

Jun-Sang looked at her then back to the ground; Il-Sang didn’t glance up at all. She took their silence in stride. “So I guess you two had quite the scare earlier, huh?”

“You could say that,” Jun-Sang said.

She casually swept the area next to him with her hand and sat down.

“Stomach hurt?” Jung-sang could feel her gaze turn to him for a second then go away. “I’m betting that neither of you can get her face out of your heads.”

“There a point to any of this?” Il-sung said, the irritation prominent in his voice.

“I'm just saying that I know how you feel. I am a prosecutor after all. I talk to so many people on cases like this. Maybe it's because im not great at my job or whatever.” Jun-sang saw her fiddle with her hands as she spoke in the corner of his eye.

“Sometimes I chalk it up to that people are just animals, born to leave. But that’s not very fair, is it? Sometimes I feel like this time will be different, this time, it'll clear my head.” She sheepishly blew air from her nose. “Nope.”

He nodded. After a few minutes of watching a bug crawl across a crack in the floor, she said, “I wish I had something to make your stomach stop hurting. The truth is, I don’t. It’ll get worse, trust me. Words don’t help as much as they appear.”

“Yeah, thanks ma’am,” Il-Sung finally said.

She got to her feet. “Just wanted to ask if either of you wanted to come up to her apartment, have a look around.”

Il-Sung looked at her incredulously and said “Absolutely not” at the same time Jun-Sang said “I’ll go.”

His partner’s neck snapped around to face him. “Jun-Sang, are you sure?”

Jun-Sang nodded, then stood. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a five thousand won bill and gave it to him. “Go get some ice cream, on me.”

Il-Sung stared at the red bill before reluctantly accepting it.

“Let’s go then,” the prosecutor said.

They had to use the stairs because the elevator was under maintenance. It would have been a stretch if Jun-Sang said he wasn’t sweating like a pig from the trek up the seven floors. Finally, they stood in front of Min-Soo’s door. Jun-Sang had a difficult time reaching out to take the door handle: something inside of him drew him back, not wanting him to go in. Seeing his hesitation, Young-Sook reached over and opened it for him. She walked in, and he followed.

“The crime scene investigators haven’t been in here yet. I wanted to be the first one to search the place,” she said.

He walked into the living room, and the familiar setting, vacant of the woman who lived there, drove the nausea to rise in his throat. An unusual aroma crept into his nostrils as he attempted to breathe. “You smell that?” he asked.

Young-Sook sniffed. “Yeah, something smells dead.”

He began to walk towards the bedroom door; the smell grew stronger the closer he got. “I think it’s coming from in there,” he nodded to the bedroom.

“Get behind me,” Young-Sook said. “If there’s any evidence in there, I want to be the first to see it.” The prosecutor grabbed the doorknob and shuddered. “It’s cold.”

Jun-Sang was looking over her shoulder as she nudged the door open. The hot stench rushed through the door, accompanied by the sound of flies buzzing and the sight of a dead cat. The prosecutor turned around: for a second; he thought she turned in repulsion, but she was making a call on her phone.

Jun-Sang stepped into the room, Young-Sook lifted the phone from her ear. “Touch nothing.”

He turned to her and nodded. The room was freezing, but the air conditioner wasn’t blowing. It should be warmer than the surface of the sun in here, and yet, condensation blew from his lips and nose.

He knelt over the cat’s corpse, It’s mangled body reminded him of the raccoon from earlier. He reached his hand out to try and flip it over when he heard the slap of her phone closing behind him. “Ok, I just called the others, they’ll be up here soon... Jun-Sang, what’s wrong?”

Jun-Sang made a half-hearted and broken laugh to dress up the guilt he felt deep in his heart. “I should’ve done more to help her,” he mumbled while staring at the palms of his hands. “She seemed so lost. So broken and scared. And I just let it happen to her.”

Young-Sook knelt down to him and noticed his wet cheeks. “I’m sure no one could’ve seen this coming. More or less Min-soo.”

He looked at her. “What?”

“This can’t be a suicide. Too many things aren’t adding up. You said it yourself back at the station. This is the fourth case with suicide and animal mutilation; that’s obviously no coincidence. You said you talked to this woman?”

More accurately, he talked at her, but he responded, “Yeah, I did.”

“Did she say anything out of the ordinary?”

“Her boyfriend said she saw someone in here.”

“This bedroom?” she asked.

He nodded his head.

She looked at him, deep in thought. “And you’re sure about this?”

He stared at her, eyes wet and nodded once more. She took a slow look around the room and suddenly jumped to her feet. “What?” Jun-Sang asked.

“The other victims were reported seeing someone strange hours before their death.”

“And you think whoever they saw might be the killer?” Jun-Sang asked.

“Gotta be. I just can’t wrap my head around how. There’s no proof anywhere: no recordings, no fingerprints, not even a clear point of entry. It seems like they were all convinced to do it themselves.” She chewed her fingernail before finishing. “Let’s go. I’m gonna need to do some thinking on this, and this smell’s giving me a migraine. Besides, we should let the investigators do their thing.”

Jun-Sang twisted his neck around to notice the group of white jump suited men and women watching them. One of them put a hand up and said, “Annyeong!” Jun-Sang put a hand up too, a dumb expression stricken across his face. The whole scene continued to unsettle him.

 

———

 

The police sergeant of Jun-Sang’s station gave him and Il-Sung the week off to recuperate from their emotional toil. And this break was well-earned. Seeing that woman hit that car was the single worst moment of his life, and the vision replayed itself over and over every time he closed his eyes. If he had taken her seriously, she might be here today, but now she would never marry, never have kids, never die a peaceful death of old age surrounded by those who loved her. 

Yesterday seemed like a million years ago. He tried his best to repress it to the back of his mind, but he failed miserably. Even a menial task such as taking the trash out to the bin behind his house brought up the memory. As he opened the waste bin and threw the black garbage bag inside, the sound of the bag hitting the bottom reminded him of the sound of her body striking the roof of the car. Moments later, the stench of dried blood and dead animals was back into his mind, making his eyebrows furrow.

A single squirrel dashed across his backyard. He thought back to yesterday and wondered if it were one of the two squirrels that ran onto his roof. For no reason whatsoever, he followed the rodent. It ran around a tree near the rear of the lawn. When he looked behind the tree, that sour fragrance left his memory and invaded his reality. The second squirrel lied dead on the ground, its body still dripping blood onto the grass, its feet and tail gone. Just like the others.

“She said she saw someone.”

“Where?”

“The bedroom.”

Jun-Sang stumbled backwards rapidly and fell onto his back.

“Sora’s been having some trouble sleeping though. Keeps seeing a monster in her room.”

His movements were frantic as he struggled to stand back up to reach his girl as fast as possible, the realization crashing around him.

“Honey? What are you still doing up?”

“It came back again, Appa.”

He sprinted through his back door and turned down the hallway to her bedroom.

“You still remember what I told you, huh?”

He pushed his little girl’s door open. It struck the wall, making a slight crack beside her kitten poster. 

Sora was lying on the floor, her body shaking in a continuous wave of movement, her hands clutching at her throat. White and red foam bubbled and oozed from her choking mouth. Jun-Sang ran over to her and cradled her head in his arms. As he lifted her head toward him, he saw that only the whites of her eyes were visible. With shaking hands, Jun-Sang tried scooping the milky froth from her little mouth with his finger. He looked around, his vision cloudy, breaths coming in incredibly short bursts, and saw the empty pill bottles from his old back surgery lying all around her. Her vicious cough brought his attention back to her, and for a second, a very brief second, everything seemed like it would be ok. She coughed up the foam choking her and drew one long inhale of life. 

Every bit of hope vanished when the inhale turned into a shower of blood that landed on her face. More, then more, until Jun-Sung could no longer distinguish the features of his own daughter’s face. He could feel her muscles tense one final time, her tiny hands gripped his forearms and dug into his skin. 

A sudden release. Her hands fell, revealing the thin red cuts from her fingernails. All movement ceased.

Jun-Sang stared at her, waiting for her to move, to breathe, to cough up more blood, something. He shook her body once. She didn’t move. She merely lay motionless in his arms.

“Sora?” He shook her again. The sweaty hair spilled in her eyes, and once again he moved it aside with his unsteady fingers. “Bubble?”

Nothing.

The tears fell uncontrolled. He squeezed her body close to his sweaty face and wailed into her shirt, muffling his cry.

The sound of heavy breathing finally reached his ears. He looked around, never letting go of Sora’s body.

A woman was standing by Sora’s bed. Her white gown blew through the air in the middle of the still room. Milk-white hands with fingers blacker than the midnight sky waved toward him. Her face, covered by a thin wet piece of white cloth wrapped tight around her head, resembled a skull with the hills and valleys of cheekbones and sockets. Like an angel of death.

“There are no such things as monsters.”


© Copyright 2020 James Zeller. All rights reserved.

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