I used to be normal. I was upright, focused, sophisticated, and calculated. Those were the things that made me a great accountant. Aside from being a smart and diligent math nerd, I’m one of the prettiest and most men stare at me in awe while the women either do the same or get jealous of me. Though I don’t really believe much in being the most perfect lady around, my popularity in Empire Rooftops says otherwise. I do not think I am someone great, but the people who say I am do build a lot of confidence and pride in me. But as the wise sayings say, things like those don’t last. This beauty doesn’t last forever.
Sanity is like beauty. It’s something that could be snatched from you at any point of your life.
I have lost my sanity. Sane to insane. But hey, I’m still the hottest topic among my colleagues. Of course, there’s really nothing but negativity at the mention of my name these days.
She’s gone crazy
She’ll get fired soon enough
She’s such a weak woman after all
I used to believe gossips never affected me, but they really do and they claw away at my defenses.
I’m starting to lose it.
I used to be normal. I used to be.
Kai, or Jongin, is dead.
I get it.
He’s dead. My twin brother, my other half, is dead. Everybody knew about it. It spread like wildfire in the office the day after I had gone absent on my work for the very first time—after the day of his death. They’ve given me consolations and comforting words. Most of them just said my heart will eventually heal in time. I… I need them to stop…
They don’t need to know what I have seen. I don’t need their sympathy and understanding. They will never grasp what my brother’s death has done in my life because neither can I…
I never wanted to call myself insane, but it seems appropriate to do so these days. They are sane and I am not. They will pass me by normally like I have only caught a common cold.
“You’ll move on from it.”
Ever since the night Kai died, he would haunt me in my dreams around 4 am. His blood splattering on his newly painted room would replay like a glitch, and when I would awake from the nightmare, I’d run to his room hoping it was all just in my head. But every time I burst his door open, the harsh reality would slap me on the face to wake me up completely, telling me I would never see him again sleeping on his bed. That nightmare was nothing but the cruel reality. He’s dead.
And I saw him die.
I can still remember that horrifying scene. It is vividly stuck in my head. At that lonely hour of 4 am with Taemin Oppa’s pistol pointing at his head, Kai breathed steadily and firmly, sitting upright on his own bed. At such an early hour, I thought he was kidding around… but…
I trembled and fell seeing his head plop down on his bed, his body awkwardly falling along. Blood spilled and splattered everywhere. I screamed and couldn’t remember what else I had thought of after that. I do remember thinking it was all just a nightmare, considering how early it all was. But there’s nothing I could do but scream out my lungs and sob now. It was a nightmare I couldn’t awake from.
I get it. He’s dead… but…
No! I don’t get it! Why would he kill himself? Why would he kill himself in front of me? And at 4 am? Why? Was he not even ashamed to leave me alone in this world? Just about 6 hours before we died, during 8 pm, we had our dinner just like any other evening. He was laughing along with me! We were making jokes—inside jokes only we understood. We were watching TV and insulting the people in the news. After dinner, we played Just Dance on wii out of boredom while waiting for Taemin Oppa to come back home from his work. We were… we were happy.
It doesn’t make sense.
I’ve been trying to analyze everything that had been going on in his life to see whether or not had any reason to leave this world behind—to leave me and everyone he loved that loved him back. In the end, things always wouldn’t add up. Although being an introvert like me made him a little mysterious, he was a very jolly guy. He was very friendly, very caring, and a big hopeless romantic. He was also very active in his hobbies. He was having a hard time searching for jobs but aside that, he had dancing as a delightful activity to keep him occupied. Dancing filled his world with optimism and life.
As his twin, I always had a very accurate hunch of his inner thoughts and emotions. We never really had any secrets between us, and if there was any, we’d figure each other out soon enough. If he was in-love, I would’ve known. If he was annoyed, I would’ve known. If he was depressed, I would’ve known.
So why…? Suicide? I cannot simply just believe that he would get up in the middle of the night and decide to do that. It’s impossible.
Every night, I get where the nightmares about him come from. It must be from the trauma. Of course, it was probably a natural thing to dream about these things over and over again. I was scarred for life and it’s something I will have to deal with for the rest of my life.
But there was something I couldn’t wrap my head around…
Is there something else wrong with me? I keep having these blackouts, these brief seconds of pause when I can’t process a single thing. Words blur when they hit my eardrums. What I see slows down in front of my eyes. They only last for about 5 seconds, but it feels much longer than that. Maybe 10 seconds? 30 seconds? A minute? It’s incomprehensible. I’ve discussed this once or twice with Minho, but he just dismissed it as trauma. Is it trauma? That does sound reasonable… but there’s something else to it.
There’s this woman in the corner of my eyes every time I have these pauses. She’s faint and transparent like a ghost, but askew and distorted like a glitch in a computer game. I cannot decipher her shape, face, or anything that would give off her identity.
Usually, I’d dismiss it as hallucination from my trauma as Minho would have logically put it, but she’s showing up way too frequently. It has been a week since she would occasionally show up—a week after Kai’s death.
Maybe I’m just seeing things. It’s not even clear enough to even be classified as a woman. I’m just assuming it to be one. Besides, it only shows itself in brief sparks of light. It might just be the lighting. It might just be…
“Can you hear me?” Mr. Park snapped his fingers at me. He was my boss and I just realize I was back at his office again. I must’ve been lost in thought while he was discussing with me about something.
Timidly, I nod, “Y-eah. Um. Pardon me. I spaced out for a second.”
“Seems pretty serious. You’ve been doing that quite frequently.”
I winced. Has he been observing me? “H-have I?”
He didn’t reply and sipped some coffee from his cup. He relaxed himself on his chair but I could sense that he was still somewhat uneasy. His eyes darted away from me and said, “Sulli-ssi, do you want to quit?”
“Huh?” I stuttered.
“I don’t want to fire you, but I know you’re having a rough time. I know how you must be feeling.” I scoffed internally. He knows what I’m feeling? What a joke. He doesn’t know a thing. Nobody knows a thing! Nobody knows what I am going through! This is not simply my brother blowing his head up because of some internal strife. This is not—
“Your boyfriend came to me,” he said as he crossed his legs. My thoughts shut up being reminded of Minho. “He said you’ve been tired. You’ve been hearing whispers or visions and pauses after your brother’s death, correct?”
Correct. But did Minho tell him this? My teeth clenched up. Did Minho seriously betray my trust? I told him not to tell anyone about these. I told him not to gossip about my pauses and hallucinations, nightmares and all other unusual events after my brother’s death. How dare he… I guess he’s not much of a boyfriend after all.
“You’re not the only one,” Mr. Park suddenly said, shocking me in disbelief. “I have a close friend who is going through the same thing as you for a long time now. And before you think of anything, I’m not saying this just because your case has similarities as my friend’s case. I’m saying this because your case is exactly the same as my friend’s case.”
Is there another one who had gone through the same situation I am in now? Is that really possible? I guess it is… There are 8 billion people in Earth and 50 million on South Korea alone, of course there had to be someone. How come I haven’t thought of this possibility? Should I ask who it is? Would he even tell me?
“I don’t have to go through the details since I don’t want to worsen your stress. For now, I will give you a month of leave. If you’ve got the hang of your senses by then, I’ll be looking forward to working with you again.”
With a smile, he stood up and walked to the open window to stare down at the city. I wanted to ask him about what he knew, but it didn’t seem like an appropriate time. When he smiled at me with his crescent-shaped cheerful eyes, there was a masked pain hidden somewhere inside him. It didn’t feel respectful to pry him open. And now, it looked as if he could stare at the sight of Seoul for hours without stopping. The CEO was truly something pleasantly mysterious.
I stared at the envelope laid on the table before me. He was giving me an opportunity to rest. I couldn’t decide whether or not to accept it. I had been a mess for the past two weeks and I haven’t done anything right in my duties. Still, would it be right to just leave the office…?
“Thank you,” I bowed as I stood up, even though he had already been too immersed in looking upon the city.
“Don’t mention it, Sulli-ssi,” he said.
Every step it took to reach that car of his, my heart burned with anger. I never blew up in front of Minho, but this time, I felt like exploding. My emotions have become chaotic ever since Kai’s death, and I know that’s a bad thing, but this time it felt… right. He wronged me and he deserves to be screamed at.
The door I slammed shut, and as expected, he quickly caught on.
“Are you… alright?” he eyed me like a clueless child, annoying me even more. I tried not to answer. This just caused him to stare at me like a little puppy even more.
“Did they talk bad about you again?”
“How could you do that to me?” I finally huffed out. The back of my head tensed up and my eyes were drowned in tears. I did not let them fall just yet.
“You told Mr. Park about me? Did you tell him about how crazy I’ve become after Kai had died? I told you that they didn’t even make sense—those pauses or whatever. Also the nightmares and such.”
“What? What are you talking about? I only told him that you’ve been stressed out and frustrated after Kai died. I never mentioned anything about what you just said. You know those things never made complete sense to me so I never told anyone.”
I felt mocked and humiliated. Did he just lie to me right now? How else would Mr. Park know about those things but through Minho? Minho was the only one whom I’ve discussed about it with.
“Are you seriously lying to me right now?”
“What? Why would I? There’s nothing to lie about.” I knew Minho wasn’t a liar. He was a noble man under law, a pro at forensic investigations along with Taemin Oppa, my cousin.
“If you aren’t lying, then how did he know?” I wondered and he shrugged. I sighed believing he didn’t really betray me. At least I calmed down for a bit. I can never really stay mad at him for too long. “Ugh… this is already confusing enough as it is.”
It takes about an hour from my office to home, and tired liked an overworked college student, I had fallen asleep on the passenger seat. Minho didn’t really mind me sleeping and decided to turn the radio on low. He knew how tired I always turn out after working hours. He knew I didn’t want to be disturbed. And even if we’d reached our destination and I would still be asleep, he’d carry me off to my bedroom like a father and stay in my bedroom until I wake up.
He was, as cringe worthy and cheesy as I would put it, my prince charming. I’ve known him since I was a kid. I was 11, and he was 14. Wow… We’ve known each other for 14 years—friends for 7 years and lovers for 7 years. I’m surprised he had enough tolerance to keep up with me. It’s nice to know he’s still here by my side. I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have him.
The traffic stirred me awake and I could hear Teddy Bear Rises by OoHyo playing softly on the stereo from Minho’s phone through Bluetooth. I smiled being reminded of SooJung’s music. SooJung (or her English name Krystal) was a close friend of ours, diagnosed since birth with schizophrenia. Despite her sickness, she seemed to function well as a normal human being. She laughed and joked with us, finished high-school, and even had the widest indie music library than any of us. Kai told me once that he had a crush on her and I couldn’t disapprove of it because SooJung was like a kitten. Although she was fragile and always low on energy, she makes us all happy when she’s having fun. It was hard not to like her. Even Minho has a huge soft spot for her since they had been neighbors since they were kids. And since SooJung had no friends, Minho always felt responsible for giving her one.
I stared at Minho and found him impatiently tapping his finger on the steering wheel. His cheeks puffed up like a frog when he pouted. I knew he was angry with the traffic, but that didn’t seem to easily reflect on his expressions with those big, child-like eyes. He somehow always looks as adorable as a little puppy in anything he does. Maybe it is because I am infatuated with him that I can’t see past his adorableness. Even though he’s a buff detective at the age of 28 now, I still can’t see past his scrawny limbs when he was only 14. Time flies, but he’s still beautifully the same to me.
“Hey there,” I chuckled and caressed his thick, brown hair. His head turned to me and it seemed as if all his troubles flew away.
“Oh, you’re awake,” he smiled. “Did you have sweet dreams?”
“I didn’t really have dreams,” I shrugged. “I’d rather not have one these days.”
He knew about the nightmares I’ve been having lately. He knew it was internally destroying my mindset in a way. I was becoming detached with the world because of my nightmares. He wants to help me but he knew he really can’t do anything about it. He’s just praying I would heal in time.
Throughout the whole ride, we didn’t really talk much. I was too worn out and disoriented to make small talk. Minho, as always, didn’t mind. We were too comfortable with each other that we didn’t really need to talk all the time.
About 5 minutes away from my apartment with Taemin Oppa (and Kai), I decided to talk a bit with Minho.
“So… how’s work?” I asked him, bored out of my mind watching a motionless traffic.
“Oh, it’s doing fine.”
He is a detective under Sherlock Investigations, working alongside Taemin Oppa. I don’t really know much about what he works on and what cases he’s doing but sometimes he does have stories to tell. His stories comforted me a lot. His team is much more amusing to hear than my stupid and heartless colleagues.
It seems like he doesn’t want to talk about anything today. He seems hesitant to say anything. It doesn’t really bother me. It’s not anything new. He is a detective and if he has to keep secrets from me, I respect that. It’s his job.
His phone suddenly rang, interrupting the music we had been listening to. It was Taemin Oppa and I proceeded to answer for him.
“Hello, Oppa,” Sulli greeted.
On loud speaker through the car’s stereo, Taemin’s voice soon broke out, “Minho—ah, Sulli? Can you put Minho on the phone? I really need to talk to him.”
His voice was deep and trembling. We knew there was something strange going on.
“Yeah? What is it?” Minho spoke.
Ah Minho? Minho… we have a serious problem. There’s- there’s another case of s… cide… emer…”
There seemed to be a loud siren that passed by on the other end of the line. There was no doubt that it was noisy on Taemin’s side of the world. There were a lot of disruptive sounds that continued to block his voice.
“Sorry, I can’t hear you,” Minho said. “Can you repeat that?”
“Take care of SooJung tonight… she’s… she’s all alone and scared.”
“What? SooJung? What are you talking about?” Minho said in a panic hearing about SooJung. “Taemin, are you alright? Where are you?”
“I’m in TaeYeon Noona and SeoHyun Noona’s apartment and SooJung is here, too. Please. Don’t let SooJung be alone for too long. Please bring her home.”
Before he received an answer, the call already ended, leaving us blank. What was he talking about? SooJung was all alone? Why?
I decided to call TaeYeon Unnie from Minho’s phone and soon enough, she answered.
“Oh… Minho?” her voice was weak unlike the times when she would gladly greet him as if Minho was her grandchild (yes, not son, but grandchild). The same noisy background was also present. There was obviously something going on bad.
“Unnie, it’s me, Sulli,” I spoke. “What’s going on there? We couldn’t understand what Taemin Oppa was explaining to us.”
There was a long silence but the call was still on. The same sirens and the same loud ruckus were still crackling through the low quality audio. It got me and Minho on the edge of our seats.
Then she took a deep breath. Slowly but clearly, she said, “YongHwa attempted suicide. Jung… Jung YongHwa.”
My eyes widened.
And time slowed down once again. This pause, this 5 second time distortion… I couldn’t process anything properly but the pain was there—the pain of losing somebody all over again. And again, there was this repetition of questions. Why? Why suicide?