When he was a young boy, he believed that the colour of the entire world was green.
People were green-coloured. The streets were in the refreshing colours of the grass. Animals were deep green, skies were yellowish green – no matter where he looked, he found the spectrum of green plastered all over the world.
One of the early memories he had, was him paying a visit to a local zoo with his mother and his siblings.
Rather than walking around to look into the enclosures, he got on a tour bus along with his mom. The bus then entered an artificial safari. Paper bags filled with meat were hanging from the side of the vehicle.
The seat right next to the window was occupied by his eldest brother; while mom’s thighs were taken over by his younger sister, only two years old back then. He recalled that he might’ve been feeling a little down that day, being unable to sit alongside with them, being the middle child and all.
Soon, the bus came to a stop in a field.
The animals, wild beasts, stopped lounging around in the field and on the rocky outcroppings as soon as they saw the bus and slowly made their way over here.
The animals shining in green began competing for the food. Seeing them jumping up and down reminded the boy of the game ‘Whack A Mole,’ so he ended up giggling out ever so slightly.
It was then.
There was one animal. Just one. It sat all alone on the top of the boulder like the king of pride, as the blinding and radiant sunlight bounced off of its hide.
The boy’s smile was wiped away in an instant. Why?
Unlike just about every other lifeform he had seen, it was not ‘green’.
Maybe the beast sensed the boy’s gaze? The eyes of the animal directly landed on the boy.
The boy stared back in pure trance, before an unfamiliar fear took a hold of him.
He quickly averted his gaze as dictated by his instincts. His breathing became shallow and difficult. His hands shook, so did his entire body. His heart pounded away in a frenzy. But, even as the feeling of terror gripped him tight, a terror no boy his age should’ve been able to contend with, a question still floated up to the top of his mind.
Why is that animal not green?
No, no. I must’ve have made a mistake.
The boy took big, big breaths and lifted his head to take a look outside again.
Then, it happened.
The window violently shook.
The animal should have been so, so far away, yet when did it approach the bus? And why did it ignore the meat and only aimed at one single window?
The beast bared its fangs and repeatedly tried to chew on the window frame right next to the boy.
The boy couldn’t understand what had transpired here in the proverbial blink of an eye. No. But he still managed to hide away in fright.
I need to run away.
Why is the bus still not moving?
I’m scared. I want to get away from here.
Mom? Mom. Mom! Mom!!
Just as he was about to burst into tears, a warm and gentle hand carefully shielded his eyes.
“You must’ve been really frightened, weren’t you?”
Her voice was as warm and gentle as the breeze of the late Spring.
Her words were brief, yet the boy instantly felt relaxed and comfortable. The boy jumped into the embrace of this woman without even looking up to see who it was.
“There, there now. It’s going to be alright. They have all moved away now…. Ah, the bus is moving again.”
She gently patted his back. Her hands felt soft and ethereal. Even the boy’s heavy breathing became softer and relaxed.
Only then did the boy raise his head to take a look.
Suddenly, her patting hands came to a stand still. She brought her face closer to the boy’s, then she started studying him with much curiosity, before gasping out in surprise.
“Oh, my goodness me…. Really, now….”
When the boy tilted his head in confusion, the woman began to gently laugh.
“Your eyes. They are very beautiful.”
“Yes. They are beautiful. In the seven shades of the rainbow.”
The boy stared at her in confused silence, but she simply maintained her gentle laughter. Then, she let out a soft and wistful sigh.
“Only if you were a little older…. No. Perhaps, it might be better if you grow up not being aware of it.”
Before long, the safari tour had come to an end. The passengers began disembarking, one by one, but the boy showed no sign of separating from the woman. Even she too hesitated, as if there was something with the boy that’s holding her back.
She whispered to his ear.
“What is your name?”
“It, it’s Seol…”
“Seol, is it? It’s a pretty name.”
She then met the gaze of the mumbling boy and his blushing cheeks.
“I want to ask you something…. When you are just a little bit older…. If we somehow encounter each other again in the future, will you come with me?”
“With you, noona?”
“Yes. I’ll definitely help you if you run into trouble in the future.”
Although he couldn’t understand the context of her promise, the boy still silently nodded his head within the arms of the woman.
Soon, the voices of mom and his sister searching for the boy could be heard.
“Okay, I promise.”
A soft sensation touched his forehead before it disappeared.
“Let us meet again, little prince.”
As the boy departed from the bus while being accompanied by his mom, he continued to look behind him.
The woman was smiling brightly and waved her hands goodbye, until the boy was out of her sight.
Time moved on, and the boy became an adult. He had grown to the point that the special memories from that day had become faint and indistinct.
He lost the fear of the wild animals after he got older and perhaps, with just a bit of wisdom/foolhardiness getting to his head. It was here that he began to earnestly research his special condition.
What was this strange condition of his?
Why did he possess something no one else seemingly possessed?
At the end of the day, he was no closer to the truth, but still, he got to grips with this ability of seeing the world in green, that could be turned on and off at will.
The winds of change swept him away as soon as he began applying this power to his everyday life. However, when that ability suddenly disappeared, that was the day his life rapidly spiralled out of control.
The Seol-ark Land was a casino located in the city of Sokcho, in the Korean province of Gangwon.
Regardless of winning or losing, people robotically pressed the play button and flipped the cards, as the soundless gasps of joy and sorrow intermingled with one another.
A young man was staring at the Blackjack table with a tense expression etched on his face. He took a quick glance at the dealer, but only got an expressionless poker face in return.
The young man stared at the table with an intensity befitting a predator waiting to devour its prey, before opening his mouth with great difficulty.
“St…. No, wait!! Double down!”
As if the dealer found this call a path to his salvation from the lengthy, boring wait, he impatiently placed his hand on the deck.
The young man’s throat clammed up. Sweat soaked him from his chin all the way down to his lower back.
However, completely disregarding his anxiety, the dealer’s hand simply flipped the card.
The result was… the young man wrapped his hands around his head in despair.
Once more, joy and sorrow… they came and went.
“Oh, hey. Park hyung, you got lucky today?”
“Ohh, Mister Choi. Hello.”
A bespectacled man shivering outside the casino with a cigarette hanging loose between his lips, shook his head in denial when a well-built man greeted him.
“Lucky? You know, my foot’s more like it. I’ve only managed to break even. What about you, Mister Choi?”
“Yeah, me too. Also breaking even and nothing else besides. Today’s not my day, it seems.”
“I came outside to take a short break. My head’s hurting and all, staring at one table for hours. I think this early morning cold winds will do me some good.”
When the bespectacled guy feigned being ill, the well-built man let off a short chuckle.
“Yeah, I get you. Me too… Hmm?”
Just as Mister Choi slid his hand inside the pocket to fish for his own smokes, a loud shout broke the relative silence of the morning. When the surprised eyes of the two men sought out the source of that noise, they eventually found a young man not too far from them, holding a smartphone to his face.
Mister Choi frowned slightly, before tilting his head slightly.
“He looks kind of familiar, no?”
“That guy, with the phone over there. You know who that is?”
“Oh, him? Yeah, I know. I think he’s been coming here even longer than you, Mister Choi. If I remember correctly, the first time I saw him was probably around three, four years ago.”
Choi was inwardly thinking that indeed, Park hyung had been here the longest. He then looked at the youth with a somewhat stunned expression.
“Three, four years? Even though he’s so young?”
“Yeah…. Not sure if he’s in the mid 20s now. That kid, he used to be really famous around these parts.”
A sign of certain regret could be spied on Mister Park’s face as he licked his lips. Meanwhile, Choi simply shrugged his shoulders.
“Really? I saw him play a couple of times, but I thought he wasn’t all that much.”
“He’s like that now, but for his first year, he was the business. Hell, back then, some people even tried their luck on the tables that guy did his thing.”
“Huh? I guess he used to have some skill, then?”
“No, no, it wasn’t like he had mad skills or not…. Maybe I should’ve said that he knew exactly when to go all in. It was as if he knew exactly when to put everything on the table for the winning hand, you know what I’m saying? He also kept a strict rule he set for himself – he didn’t go overboard, always brought along a small amount every time he was here, and never more than that…. I never got that feeling from him, that feeling you get when looking at an addict. Anyways, he was a weird one.”
“So, how can a guy like that, end up looking like that now?”
“I don’t know, myself. Oh, right. He said something about not being able to see it anymore, out of the blue. Or, some c**p like that….”
Park clicked his tongue and resumed sucking on his cigarette. The young man was still holding on to his phone. He looked so pitiful and desperate, as if he was pleading his heart over the line or something.
Choi snorted out almost derisively.
“In any case, I’m not liking what I see here. He’s so young, yet he’s here gambling, instead of making money the old fashioned way.”
“Well, as long as you can walk, you’re allowed in here, no? And besides, let’s be honest here. You are still a young man, too.”
“Eiii~ I’ve passed forty, like, ages ago.”
“Does age really matter, anyways? This casino here is just a lowly gambling den with a fancy title, is all. The moment you set your foot inside, you lose what little sanity you have left. That’s it.”
“Oh well. That’s also true.”
Two men, feeling somewhat sick and tired of looking at that young man, began sharing meaningless jokes between each other.
“Dad! Please! This is the last time, so please, help me out just this once!”
– “I’m hanging up. Don’t call again, you b*stard!”
The line went dead after that. Swear words leaked out from the young man’s mouth almost automatically.
“Haah… I’m going f*cking crazy here.”
He even lost what little seed money he was able to scrounge up.
All he had left in his pocket was a handful of casino chips, and a couple of notes inside his wallet for the taxi fare. A small but tempting thought of ‘Should I go and try out the slots and recover whatever I can?’ entered his mind. However, if he lost that, then he’d have to walk home.
His eyes scanned the list of contacts on the phone’s screen one more time. When the name ‘Yu Seon-Hwah’ showed up, he didn’t even hesitate and called the number. Unfortunately, the time was still early in the morning, nay, still dawn, so no matter how long he waited, no one answered the phone.
He then accessed the banking app to check his bank balance but that only served to confirm the depressing truth. He could only sigh out after seeing the minus in front of the numbers.
“Damn it. Why aren’t you answering your f*cking phone already….”
He stewed in anger for a long time, before suddenly tilting his head upwards to take in the heavens above. The early dawn’s sky was still dark.
This youth was Seol.
Seol let off yet another sigh, and then, lifted his hand up high to call for a taxi.
The taxi stopped in front, and the driver asked him.
“To Gangnam Station… no, wait a minute. Take me to the Nonhyeon Station, instead!”
Shortly afterwards, the taxi carrying Seol slipped into the early morning darkness.