Spectator - Chapter 1: Back in Time
Here I was, at my friend’s house who I haven’t seen in a long time, and all I saw was his body.
How do I describe the feelings of witnessing the death of someone I know well.
I’m at a loss for words. I stood there in silence before muttering, “You are dead.”
As I stepped inside, the time that had seemed to stop for me, began to pass again.
Then, the scattered colors appeared again in the empty black and white world. It was a bit dark and gloomy blue. I told myself again that my friend, Taejin Kim,is dead.
Well, to be brutally honest,
‘I committed suicide while playing a game.’
-What a pathetic way to die.
A guy who loved virtual reality more than reality. A guy who loved items and NPCs. A guy who was so obsessed on a quest that he couldn’t overcome his failure and took his own life.
It was such a worthless and meaningless death that even cheap magazines wouldn’t deal with it.
“This pathetic son of a bitch.”
His health wasn’t very good either.
39 years old; 178 cm tall.
He weighed only 40kg at the time of his death
It was the result of being dumped by the NPC he was in love with.
He went insane and despised himself.
When he was alive, he kept muttering the same thing over and over again.
-”If I go back to that time… … If only I could… …”
Like it was some spell or a curse. He desperately chanted his hopeless prayers.
I wonder… Had he started seeing things? He was already struggling with depression; and one time he even started drawing weird symbols over and over again saying it’s the mark of the devil that will grant his wishes.
I couldn’t understand him at all.
He had a perfectly able body. He had kind parents and a pretty sister, he had a happy family. He wasn’t even poor, so all in all he had a pretty good life.
But this pathetic guy made an island for himself in the middle of this city and isolated himself, and ended up killing himself without a care for the loving family who supported him, and only caring obsessively about game quests and what clothes his avatars’ wore.
“He didn’t even know that he was blessed.”
I took out a cigarette and held it in my mouth, and sighed, exhaling gray smoke from my mouth.
Had he finally gone crazy? Tae-Jin was dead in his game connection capsule, his wrists slit and chest stabbed.
‘If this gets on a newspaper, it’ll probably say he was in some crazy cult.’
I stubbed out my cigarette on the capsule and called the police with my phone and reported his death.
Looking at his dead body without any emotion.
“Yes, a man died here. I’m on the fourth floor of SL Apartments.”
I continued explaining. The cause of death is suicide. After I told them the address, I explained that I was friends with him.
After some questions and answers, the report process was over. The rest was just waiting for the police to come.
I looked around the room and then turned my gaze on the capsule.
‘So this journal of his will be the only note he left.’
His journal was on the armrest.
He started writing his journal some time ago and would throw a fit if I tried to read it. One time, I succeeded reading the journal when he went to the bathroom, but it was full of boring gaming junk and his dating life in the game.
‘I wonder what he was thinking before he died.’
I took the journal from Tae-Jin’s hand, which was still quite warm.
I accidently got some blood on the journal while touching his body and my feet started making splashing sounds on the puddle of blood, but I didn’t care.
I wanted to know. Of course I would have to go through all the boring stuff but I still wanted to be sure about something. About why he would abandon this world, in which even a piece of shit like me is still living and breathing.
I stood there and started reading.
The cover was wet, but the inside were still readable.
Stories that must have been very serious for him but were very much like cheesy soap operas to me. Soon I turned the last page of the journal and all I could do was shake my head.
“Pathetic fucking bastard.”
It was just as I expected. The journal was full of stories of him playing a game, crying and laughing, seeing things, and killing himself in order to go back to the past. The only thing that was unique about this journal of a madman was the devil’s mark drawn on its last page.
I clicked my tongue and put the journal back on the armrest of the capsule.
And the world went black again.
In the dark, the crimson-red blood formed words and sentences.
[I am leaving. I am leaving now. I am going to start everything over.]
That was the last sentence written in his journal.
The note written in blood sent chills up my spine.
Everything was erased.
– Beep-! Bee bee beep! Beep-! Bee bee beep!
The monotonous mechanical sound of the morning alarm pierced my ears. Irritated, I covered my ears with both hands. I felt a sudden anger rising towards my wife, who could have patted me gently on the shoulder, but had instead chosen to put a cheap alarm clock on the bed.
The memory of yesterday’s incident crossed my mind.
The fire in my head was suddenly put out.
I smiled bitterly. I was the same as Tae-Jin, we were both failed losers. We failed both out in society and back at home.
That was me.
I angrily smashed the alarm clock and turned it off, and buried my face in my pillow.
I just didn’t want to wake up now.
My life and my marriage was dry and dull.
My wife and I met through matchmaking and we were awkward around each other. The only thing holding our relationship together was the sense of responsibility and duty towards our family. My wife and I didn’t have anything in common from personality to hobbies, but we endured each other thinking that everyone else is living the same life as ours.
After all, the perfect ‘ones’ can’t exist in real life.
All couples live like that, adjusting to one another.
So I lived the life of a hamster turning its wheel: Going to work, eating the meals my wife makes, looking at my child’s sleeping face at night, and going to work again, sometimes doing overtime.
Until one day, when everything took a turn for the worse.
It would be more accurate to say that I found out about it too late, than to say it happened all of a sudden.
It was the day I left early from work.
When I arrived at home, what I saw was a pair of shoes I’ve never seen before, the whole house lit with candles I’ve never seen before, and finally, moaning sounds from a man and a woman.
That’s right. I witnessed a scene of my wife having sex with another man.
All I wanted to do at the moment was go into the room and beat the shit out of the two of them.
But I didn’t.
Because that would be like cutting off my nose to spite my face.
I was the head of my household. And the head of a household is like being a pillar of a house. If I made a scene right there and then, it would be like announcing that all of this happened because the pillar of our house is rotten. Plus, I wouldn’t want to make my naked wife throw her dignity in the gutter.
So I repressed my anger. I tried to cool down.
And I quietly went back out of the house.
Unlike a dull man like me, ‘that guy’ must have treated her as a lady and made her happy. I could understand that.
‘Although I understand everything,’
I couldn’t help feeling humiliated.
I then started smoking boxes of cigarettes. I smoked and waited at the entrance of the apartment. An hour passed. Almost another hour passed, when I saw the next door guy coming out, looking at me with a flustered expression. I blew a puff of cigarette smoke at his face as a silent warning.
After that, I came back to the house and faced my wife, standing embarrassed, and told her, ‘Let’s talk things over.’ That was yesterday.
So I understood that she didn’t wake me up in person and instead put an alarm clock on the bed for me.
‘Still feels like shit though.’
So I directed my frustration towards the old alarm clock and smashed it off.
“Well, I asked for it.”
We were two very different people, except for one fact that we both had difficult childhoods. I lost both of my parents at a young age and she had an alcoholic dad.
Except for that little sympathy towards each other, we shared pretty much nothing.
She was a very domestic woman with a warm heart and a taste for cute things, a woman who wishes for happiness and warmth rather than luck.
I was very much different than her.
I didn’t like the books or movies she liked, I had different hobbies, I had different tastes in everything, and to add to everything, I didn’t make a good living and I was a very boring husband. A guy who has to borrow money from here and there to pay the loan interest at the end of every month, and has to get a credit line all the time. A guy who always tries but doesn’t get results. A loser of a guy who wants to act big at home to recover what little self-esteem that’s left in him.
So I could understand her wanting to have an affair.
I understood. I understood everything.
I understood that I’m that much of a fucking loser.
We were a legally married couple who spent such a long time together, and she was a mother of our child. If she had any respect for our family, shouldn’t she have at least officially ended things between us, gotten divorced, and then started seeing other people?
That little resentment was piercing my heart like a hundred sharp needles.
I got desperate for a drink. So I went to visit a friend of mine. A friend who’s living in the virtual world far from the burdens of real life. A guy who would laugh and find the humor in whatever I say.
But all I saw in my friend’s house was his dead body.
‘My Wife is having an affair, my friend is dead.’
I couldn’t help laughing. This was one hell of a lucky day for me indeed.
I kneeled down and clenched my fists, and waited for the tears in my eyes to dry.
‘You live because you’re living. You live because you’re breathing. You live because you’re not dead.’
I murmured repeatedly consoling myself. Life is just that, mindless continuation of breathing.
After a while, I stood up trying not to feel irritated and empty.
I rubbed my eyes.
I closed and opened my eyes again and again.
Everything around me, to the color of the wallpaper to the color of the ceiling, was different.
‘But it’s only October!’
The calendar on the wall indicated that it’s March. The 9th day was crossed out many times like something special happened on that day. So many pen-made markings made it difficult to even see the number 9.
I opened the old-style flip phone over my head and checked the date.
‘….What? Is the setting wrong?’
I thought I was still dreaming. It’s clearly October, but everywhere it said today’s March 23.
“Wait a second.”
Come to think of it, my back felt too stiff. I wasn’t lying on a mattress. I looked around, and found that I was actually lying on an electric heat pad and a single thick blanket.
I wasn’t lying on a bed at all.
Did I get kidnapped or something?
I felt fully awake all at once and hurriedly looked around.
A very familiar messy room came to my view.
Half-empty bags of chips.
And soda cans and study-aid books and textbooks were littered everywhere.
And when I saw the address and name written on the cover of the study-aid book, my eyes opened widely.
– College Scholastic Ability Test Trial Test workbook. Study aid for Grade 3. Address…