The very first thing he spotted was a dim light.
He tried to focus his blurry gaze three, four times. Only then, he could finally make out the overhead lightbulb he left on since his return earlier in the day.
Seol gasped and heaved uncontrollably for a little while, before hugging his knees tightly as the sensation of biting cold rushed in. Meanwhile, cold sweat soaked him to the bones.
He managed to wipe away the sweat on his brows, but he couldn’t stop his body from the constant and jittery shudder. However, his mind was, comparatively speaking, quite clear. It was just that the overwhelming emotions pounding his heart made breathing really difficult at this moment.
He forced his body to lean against the wall rather than lying back down. As soon as he did, the repressed gasp finally escaped from his lips.
Seol closed his eyes.
He had a dream – a dream a little bit different from the ones he usually had. No, make that ‘a lot’.
He felt as if he had personally experienced everything that happened within that dream. He even got to feel the most intimate emotions during those moments, too.
Looking at it logically, none of that made any sense. The dream itself contained things that were as far removed from the everyday life as he could imagine; the sparse scenery he witnessed intermittently was completely different from that of the modern world he knew. He even got to fight against creatures that were clearly not human in origin, either. In all likelihood, this dream could have been nothing more than utter nonsense.
But, what was this…. ‘feeling’?
The scene that stuck to his head the most, was the very last part of the dream. The dying man…. he was full of regret.
Regret, remorse, lamentation, capped off with a long sigh…. All those desperate and pitiful emotions he felt until the last of his breaths, didn’t want to dissipate, and Seol’s heart nearly broke.
Seol cracked his eyes open and surveyed his room.
There were blankets carelessly tossed around; dirty clothes draped over ramen boxes; empty bottles of liquor rolling on the floor, and packets of cigarettes discarded alongside them.
This sight felt so alien to him.
A head-splitting migraine suddenly began its assault. Almost reflexively, he got up and headed off to the bathroom in unsteady steps. He filled the basin with cold water and plunged his head into it. Almost immediately, he felt clear-headed.
When he couldn’t hold his breath any longer, he lifted his head out from the water.
The face staring back in the mirror looked foreign to him. His eyes were sunken, and his complexion was pale, making him look like a man suffering from a deadly disease.
‘Is this…. really me?’
He slowly touched his own face, as light returned to his eyes.
His old face was nowhere to be seen, only to be replaced with one belonging to an addict wallowing in the pits of gambling and alcohol. It was like looking at the face of a dying man.
He didn’t even try to wipe the water off his face as he left the bathroom. He angrily put on his jacket and shoved open the front door. His innards bitterly ached, but he thought that, unless he shoved something in there, he wouldn’t be able to endure any longer.
He entered a nearby convenience store, but nothing particularly grabbed his attention. Well, he didn’t leave his room to grab a bite, but simply because he couldn’t stay still, after all. He managed to buy a can of beer instead, and he went on a long, aimless walk.
His aimless wandering brought him to a spot below a bridge spanning across the river Tancheon. In the past, he’d often come here to lament his stupidity and terrible luck whenever he lost money at the casino.
Seol poured the beer down his throat. His innards screamed, but it was better than nothing.
As he sat on the riverbank in complete silence, the emotions he’d been trying to ignore rushed back in like a tidal wave.
‘Just where did it go wrong for me?’
Seol wordlessly stared at the dark waters of Tancheon.
It was around the time of elementary school when he accepted the fact that he was different from everyone else.
He nicknamed his ability ‘Green Eyes’ and thought he was a chosen one. He encouraged himself with the thoughts that something special and fantastical would happen to him sooner or later. When he looked back, those were indeed embarrassing stories of his childhood.
As he got older, he then learned the hard way that being different from everyone else was not as good as he thought, and that he needed to hide the difference as much as possible.
During all of his 26 years, he only got to discover four facts about his ability.
If he focused his attention on his eyes, living things and objects would shimmer in green.
Among those, there were things where the green colour would dissipate gradually even if he concentrated.
If something was in green, then nothing would happen.
However, if one didn’t shine in green, or something else happened to the colourisation, then nothing good would happen well over 50% of the time.
Seol focused on the point of ‘50%’. Well, when looked at from different perspective, it was the same as something good might happen with the odds of less than 50%, instead.
He chose the casino to experiment with this.
Initially, he thought of the place as nothing more than a location for his experiments. He lost 60, 70% of the time, but he only brought along a hundred thousand Won every time. When he lost it all, he left without hesitation and regret. Although he wasn’t happy, his loss was no different from blowing a weekly allowance of a college student.
The problem was with those days he actually had won something.
At one time, he even managed to win as much as 5 million Won.
He got to eat whatever he wanted to eat, buy those fancy clothes he could only drool over on online shopping websites, and he even replaced his computer to the latest model. And, he still had a lot left besides.
He got to taste the wonderful flavour of freely spending money.
And when he had tasted it, his life began to change.
The amount of time he frequented the casino increased explosively. The amount he brought along also increased many folds. He had forgotten the purpose of experimentation and focused solely on making money.
And as his obsession over gambling spiralled out of control, his ability simply vanished one day. Just like that.
It wasn’t as if there were no prior warnings. When the usage of his ability increased by a lot, he’d often get headaches. The number of days he couldn’t fall asleep increased too, until he began suffering insomnia. As his condition worsened, the ability he could bring out with a simple thought needed a few minutes just for a hint of green to surface.
And eventually, he was laid out deathly ill for a while. After that, he could no longer ‘see’ green, even after concentrating for hours on end.
He lost his ability during the pursuit of his greed. However, he couldn’t stop gambling.
….After all, he earned the money through it. Therefore, he’d be able to recoup everything, if he could just win one more time….
He disregarded and disparaged everyone trying to speak some sense into him. He was already addicted to gambling by then. The satisfaction he felt when winning was sweeter and more addictive than any pleasures known to men.
From thereon, Seol’s life hit rock bottom.
And then, and then…..
Seol gritted his teeth. Suddenly, his mind wavered and the thoughts brimming with baseless pride and reckless defiance that shouted ‘I shouldn’t be feeling guilty like this!’ reared their ugly heads.
But, whenever that happened, the raw emotions he felt during the dream rushed in and brutally crushed them all.
He then recalled the events of making Yu Seon-Hwah cry in the morning. Then, another powerful wave of emotions came crashing down, enough to make him absolutely dizzy.
….A son of a b*tch….
The beer can slipped out of his hand and landed on the ground, spilling the golden liquid within.
‘Why did I do that?’
The youth hid his face away in shame. He put strength on all of his fingers to crazily scratch at his face.
‘Just why did I do something like that?!’
He shouldn’t have done that. He shouldn’t have said those things.
His heart felt like it was tearing into million pieces. Instead of dissipating from his consciousness, those emotions he felt during the dream ingrained themselves even deeper into his psyche. The emotions of regret felt beyond bitter as it ruthlessly cut at his heart; his eyes became warm and moist from the pain.
Now he understood the truth. The him now, him after losing the ability to ‘see’ green, was just a worthless b*stard with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.
‘If only I never had that stupid ability to begin with!!’
The moment he acknowledged this fact….
In that moment, Seol could feel the persistent dregs of pride being cleanly swept out of his system.
Suddenly, a low chuckle broke out from his lips. Slowly, it grew louder and louder, loud enough to burst open his lungs. Gradually, though…. the laughter became pained sobs in the end.
“Sob…. I’m, so sorry….”
He felt remorseful for everything he did. He felt tight-chested.
“I’m sorry, Seon-Hwah….”
Today, this grown up youth cried his heart out like a newborn baby.
‘It’s…. it’s better to die than living like this.’
He had been living like garbage. He had badly affected the lives of everyone who cared about him. Just how disappointed were they? Just how badly did he hurt them with his stupid actions? Just like what his little sister told him, it might have been better to take his own life for everyone else in the long run.
Seol slowly stood up from his spot. The slowly flowing river water seemed so alluring right about now.
He walked up to it in a trance, before looking down at the river. His still flowing teardrops fell on the surface, creating small ripples.
And then, his subtly trembling legs stepped into the cold water, all the while he fiercely glared at the river.
It was then.
Suddenly, the colour of the river changed.
From the area where Seol’s feet was – or, more specifically, from the ripples created by his legs, ‘green’ slowly permeated outwards.
It was as if someone let a drop of paint fall into clear water. And then, the colour gradually spread out. The forgotten colour, the long-lost light, spread out to everywhere in a hurry.
Not only did it not stop at the river’s edge, it spread over the support pillars as well, and eventually, to the rest of the bridge. The spot he’d been sitting wallowing in guilt just now was next, and then, even to the rest of the sky.
The whole world was dyed in green, just like back when he was a little kid.
Seol could only look on at this riot of dancing green colour occuring everywhere with a pair of teary eyes. He couldn’t believe what was happening here all of a sudden.
“This, this is….”
Seol stood there like a thunder-struck man for a long time, before he consciously let go of his concentration. The world regained their original colours right away. When he concentrated again, the green colour returned.
“….It came back?”
Just like how it disappeared so abruptly all those years ago.
“It, it really came back?!”
Then, just as abruptly, it came back.
“But, but why?!”
He tried so hard to restore his ability in the past. The sense of loss he felt that day when it was gone couldn’t be described in mere words.
Regardless, just what caused it to activate again?
Then, he recalled the mysterious dream one more time.
Now that he thought about it, the man in his dreams also used the same ability as his.
Seol desperately tried to recall the beginning of the dream now.
But soon enough, he cautiously determined that there couldn’t be a connection here. No matter how hard he mulled over it, the whole thing didn’t make any logical sense at all.
Maybe, his subconscious desire to regain his lost ability was the trigger that reactivated it. This was actually more realistic and easier to swallow.
However, on the flip side, that dream was indeed a strangely realistic one. Even the beginning was with the man sitting on the riverbanks of Tancheon, lamenting on his life choices while drinking beer.
Just like right now.
It was then.
As Seol fell deeper into his new-found confusion, he could hear the distinct knockings of high heels hitting the stones lining the ground.
Hearing that strangely rhythmical gait, his nerves became taut. His gaze automatically shifted to the origin of the sound. And there, Seol could definitely see it.
Out of everywhere still dyed in green, the shimmering light was gradually fading from one area.
It was to the direction of the approaching high heels.