Daily Archives: November 9, 2011
Read Part I here
Read Part II here
Part III continued below
Two Years Later…
It was the same as any other night. White snow adorned the streets, insides were a picture of life with lights seeping out through windows but the outsides were a picture of desertion. For Ian, it was just another one of his chosen days. The notice had come two weeks earlier, the task to be executed on the full moon. As much as he’d wanted to stay indoors on this fortnight, there was nothing he could do once the order came in. His thoughts wandering, he looked up the moon half covered with clouds and thought he saw the color of blood in it. Thinking it couldn’t be and was probably only an illusion, he didn’t look back. Years and decades had taught him that while some things had hidden meanings, some were simply illusions that were of no consequence. Turning around the corner of the block, he came face to face with his companion.
“Cloudy night!” His companion exclaimed. He didn’t respond. Rarely did.
“I’ll be doing the job; you just have to act guard.” His partner continued. “It’s an interesting one, a pity you’ll be missing it; but you know; order calls.”
Apparently his partner was extremely excited and could barely bear it.
“Three targets; its three targets. Can you imagine on one night?” His partner continued. “And one of them is a child. The third has to be taken back alive. It seems there’s more to the ‘child’.”
“It’s not our job to know what more there is.” Ian replied. “Where are we headed?”
“It’s just here,” his companion pointed to an old apartment building at the end of the block as they started walking towards it. “Apartment A-C on the ground floor.”
“Make it quick.”
At first, he thought he imagined hearing Su Ae crying. It had been over a year since he had last seen Su Ae, mainly because she had moved away to some other housing block within the city. There was no way she could be here. She had visited the old neighborhood a few times where he’d seen her, at one time following her halfway back to her place but had stopped himself. Seeing her reminded him of someone he had long since given up any thought about and continuing would only make his guilt worse.
But the sound hit him again. Someone biting back their tears, making careful not to be heard, but his senses were too sharp to not notice the sound even though he stood outside the boundary. It sounded like a small girl. Looking back at the house, he mused it must be the child of the family living there. He was probably imagining it was Su Ae.
“Ian!” His companion’s voice reached his mind.
“What is it?” he asked.
“I’ve got the two with me, but there’s no sign of the third. And they aren’t talking.” His companion hissed. “Come on in.”
Ian had always been fast. Within moments, he was in the lobby of the house. His companion came out from the lounge on his left.
“It seems they might have put a charm to hide the kid. See if you can find her.” His companion told him. “I’ll deal with these two and be by you in a bit.”
A man of little words, Ian simply nodded. Focusing his senses on the house, he closed his eyes. He felt every bit of the house around him, from the small cupboard in the kitchen to the bedrooms upstairs. And It was in the second floor study that he found what he was looking for. Without a word, he opened his eyes and headed upstairs. His companion went back to the lounge.
Opening the door to the study, he simply stood in the doorway. His orders were as the observer. His partner had to complete the task. Two minutes later, his companion joined him. Ian felt the spell weaken, but it hadn’t yet been broken.
“Third’s in here somewhere,” Ian told his partner. “Did you kill the two?”
His companion grinned. “They’ll die soon enough!”
His expression made Ian sick. Even after all these centuries behind him and the nature of his work, he still felt disgusted by violence, and people like his companion. He was a killer, but he felt no joy in his work. Yet again, he felt no sorrow either.
“I’ll be downstairs.” He simply said and headed back downstairs without a backward glance. Instead of heading straight out, he stood in the lounge doorway for a bit. The walls were covered in blood. His partner had a sickening sense. While he looked around the room, he was too disgusted and feeling sickened towards the mess his partner had created that he did not see one of the injured crawling slowly towards him until he turned to head outside, when a hand grabbed his ankle loosely.
“Please!” was the only word said at first. Yet it was enough. Ian’s felt shock as he realized whose voice it was. Slowly, he turned back, looking at the person lying in a pool of blood in his feet.
“Don’t hurt her!” He was right. It was Su Ae’s mother. Blood dripped from her mouth as she tried to speak. “She’s only a child. Don’t hurt her!”
He couldn’t speak. His mind was racing. Why were Su Ae’s parents here? Hadn’t they moved away to a different neighborhood? Were they the ones he and his partner had come to deal with? Why them?
“She’s too special.” Her mother muttered weakly. Her hand fell away. Ian watched the wounds on her body. His companion had stabbed her body all over but missed all the vital points by intention. She was slowly, painfully bleeding to death. He heard his partner laugh upstairs. It was a sickening sound and Ian knew what it meant. He had found his prey.
He crouched down next to Su Ae’s mother and she slowly looked at him.
“Do you live here?” he asked in an urgent tone. “Is this your house?”
“Upstairs.” she whispered. Ian’s heart sank.
“This won’t hurt.” Ian told her and his hand moved to the back of her neck. The next minute, her head dropped to the ground, unconscious.
With one last look at the bloodied room, he rushed back upstairs.
Story continued from here
For a week, Ian didn’t venture out of his room. Lying there on his bed, sitting on the recliner in the corner, or standing by the window, he passed time without thought. Occasionally looking out to the street, and to Su Ae’s parents apartments across the street, he listened to all the sounds that were generated all around in the neighborhood. This was his favorite pastime. Listening to people all around him; how their lives were, why they were tired, frustrated, happy or sad. To him, humans were quite the riddle but they weren’t interesting enough to have piqued his curiosity totally. His sole existence from the beginning had yet to irk him. At the end of a long day, all he wanted was to be alone in his solitude. It reminded him of the reality of himself, his work, and the environment around him. It would do him no good to be friendly or involved with humans. In the end, he would always be alone.
On the last day of his voluntary exile, he caught a glimpse of Su Ae on the rooftop of her building. She carried a sleek bag on her shoulders and roamed the whole rooftop before settling down on a spot and started extracting stuff from her bag, colors, pages and pens. Hunching over the pages, her side visible to Ian, she started scribbling on the pages. For what seemed like a short while to him, she sat in the same place, scribbling and drawing. Finally her mother came out onto her porch and called Su Ae to come down for dinner. The mention of dinner startled him. Looking around the horizon, he realized it was true; more than two hours had passed since he had started looking at Su Ae while she drew. How come in the two hours he kept watching her, time seemed to be at a standstill? What was it about her that influenced him so much? He wondered to himself. The next morning, he finally went to the coffee shop again.
Their first meeting was at the ice cream parlor two blocks down the street three weeks later. Ian had observed her and mothers routine for the past three weeks and knew they would walk into the ice cream parlor on way back from Su Ae’s school. When they walked in, he didn’t have to turn around to know it was them. He had easily smelled their scent ten minutes ago. He sat on one of the stools right by the counter so when they walked up to the counter, and Su Ae got her favorite dark chocolate ice cream while her mother opted for a blueberry flavor again, they sat besides him. In the thirty minutes they were there, Su Ae excitedly recounted stories of her day at school to her mother, and some of her stories made even Ian chuckle. Just during the five minute break that her mother went to use the restroom, did Su Ae turn to him.
“Why did you laugh?”
“When I told mama about the jellyfish, and the alphabets, you laughed, didn’t you?” Su Ae replied, “I heard you.”
It was impossible for Su Ae to have heard him. He had briefly snickered, and in a low tone so he wouldn’t alarm her mother. He figured she had probably heard someone else and was mistaking it for him, but she persisted.
“It was you, I heard it clearly!” She insisted.
“Okay, maybe you heard me.” He was simply humoring her, he told himself. “I laughed because your story was funny.”
“Really?” She asked with stars in her eyes.
“Yes.” He assured her.
That brought a bright smile to her lips and her face lightened up immediately.
“I’m glad you think so too! Only mum thinks my stories are funny. All the other kids think I’m weird.”
“Everyone’s weird when they’re a kid.”
“Mama says that too!” she told him happily. With that, she turned back to finish her ice cream, just as her mother walked out of the restroom door.
It won’t be until two years later that Ian would recall this conversation and realize he should have known something was different about her, something he had failed to realize at that moment.
Their second meeting didn’t happen for the months to come, particularly because of Ian’s busy days, and partially because of Su Ae’s school work, and the subsequent winter break holidays, though Ian would often sight her at the rooftop, scribbling away on her papers with all the colors and pens she could muster up.
When they did meet again, it was a chilly winter evening and as was usual, Ian was grumpy and a little cross-tempered. The winters usually got to him. Even though he hated the summers more, sometimes, winters brought back nauseous memories and this particular evening was no exception. The falling snow drops reminded him of a certain someone, and perhaps that was also the reason why he was unable to see what he originally would have. When he exited the bar that night, it was a little later than nine at night, and he could see the light still on at Su Ae’s place and she briefly appeared in the window, throwing him an eager glance and went away. With a sigh, and upturning of his collar against the chill, he turned to go towards his own home. He had to be prepared. Tomorrow, he had work to do, he thought to himself in neutral tones.
He had barely walked a few steps when his ears picked the sounds of Su Ae’s footsteps. She was running down the stairs of her apartment into the street. Before she had the chance to call him, he turned towards her, not irritated, yet not so eager for the meeting either.
“Mister!” She called out to him just once, but gestured as she ran even though he already faced her.
She was panting when she stopped a few steps from him, her breath coming in gasps, her eyes wide, and her smile bright and cheerful.
“I knew you were here. Mama said to make it quick so I have to run back up again.”
Ian didn’t have to look to know her mother stood in the apartment’s doorway, and her father watched from the window of their apartment. Knowing it would be good manners to do so, he turned and gestured a greeting to each of them with a pleasant smile. Their return smiles mirrored his.
“I wanted to give you these. Mama said it might be rude, but I thought you would like them.”
She held out the papers she held in her hand. They were sketches, Ian noted, and less than a dozen, but still more than he would credit a child for finishing. Perhaps she really liked art; he mused with another inward chuckle and took the sketches from her. He was duly surprised when he saw the sketches. They were all about him, a sketch of him standing in his apartment window, of him sipping coffee on the corner table in the café, of him standing on the sidewalk on a snowy night and there were some sketches of him that didn’t ring his memory as something he had done.
“They’re…. nice!” He exclaimed finally. And they were. She hadn’t drawn his face, but the silhouette was perfect and so were the details, not too much, but just enough. “You draw well!”
Her smile widened.
“I just drew what I saw. Mamas says that it’s the best way to remember too much and not hurt your mind!” She chuckled at that.
He could feel her mother getting anxious so told Su Ae to head back home with a thank you, and feeling glad at her cheerful response, again Ian missed what he should have seen.
Ian couldn’t say what it was, but for a moment, his mind read the tension and worry clouding Su Ae’s parents fading away, as if they trusted him after all.