Meteors (Fighting the Night)Author:
G to PG-13Fandom(s):
4855 wordsWarning(s)/Triggers: [Spoiler (click to open)]character deathSummary:
A list at hand, Suho and Chen try to make the best of the last remaining months of their lives.Notes:
Bucketlist!au. Prompt was one of my favorite highschool poems, "Don't Go Gentle Into that Goodnight" by Dylan Thomas.( Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.Collapse )
There are a thousands of things you could realize while lying in bed at three in the morning, in a room reeking of antiseptic, with machines buzzing beside you.
One: Someone should invent a scented antiseptic.
Two: I should tell thought number one to your assistant so he could announce it to your research department team
Three: Lavender would be a great scent
Okay, no - you’re not exactly gonna think about that, I am quite sure. Well, I am just trying to lighten the mood. It’’s my first time to meet you and it wouldn’t be nice to actually tell you about my unfortunate circumstances head on.
“Are you still awake?” I hear a voice say beside me. It sounded more like a murmur, a sound that has been barred by various plastic tubes and an oxygen mask. I shifted as much as my own tubes allowed, my back aching slightly as I did. I saw the other patient lying prone against the bed opposite mine. I barely see his face, the combination of the lights casted by our machines didn’t exactly brightened the room enough for seeing something that was more than five feet away. I tried to remember his face from when he first entered my room this morning but I couldn’t. I had just returned from my treatment that morning and the anesthesia was still coursing through my system by then. Come to think of it, even after hours, now I am pretty much still knocked out and hazed.
I watch him slowly turn his head back again to stare at the dark ceiling of our shared room. I guess he thought I was actually asleep.
Again, he slowly twisted his head back to my direction. In a voice that I could only describe as business-like, he says, “Sorry, I couldn’t sleep just yet. It’s going to be my first time tomorrow, I wonder if you could brief me through it.”
“Have you just assumed that I have been here for a long time?”
“No, I actually asked the nurse Park when he made his rounds during lunch. I would have asked you personally but you were pretty much knocked down the whole day.”
Nurse Park was one of the resident nurses in the hospital. He is one jolly character - something that I really admire him about. It was quite unusual to find someone like him who was actually cheerful while in this antiseptic and sad hell hole. That being said, as much as he was really loud and jolly, it was still out of his character to actually go against hospital rules and just say information like that - however minute - to someone else, especially another patient.
“He said that to you?”
“Yes,” the other patient replies matter-of-factly.
Before I even made a mental note of this incident and decide on what to tell Nurse Park the next day, he quipped albeit a little too confidently, “I can make anyone here pretty much say anything to me.”
Amused, I replied, “Really now?”
“I am Kim Jongdae, and I own this place.”
The Kim family - not my Kim though - is a highly influential kin whose name is pretty much splayed over dozens of buildings across Gangnam and pretty much all over Korea. Influential - if I could emphasize - not just rich. From what I read from my dentist’s magazine subscriptions, their family was already noted way back the Joseon dynasty. Their ancestors were mostly head ministers and head doctors of the king himself. I guess in their case, influence was embedded in the gene and is transferred through generation after generation.
“That explains. How are you stuck with me then? Or did they think I am from the same Kim as you do?”
“Unfortunately for me - as much as I want a room of my own - I actually have a room-sharing policy in all of the hospitals I own.”
“That’s quite ironic, and yes, unfortunate.”
“Don’t worry. I am changing that policy as soon as I get out of this hell hole.”
I nodded in response - a gesture that wasn’t really smart enough since he won’t actually see me from where he lies. Nodding was my own way of ending conversations. It was my sign that I understood (or pretended to understand) the discussion, have no further questions and is not willing to entertain anymore discussions. Normally after nodding I would have buried myself in my work again or went back to eating my meal, or continued sleeping - which wasn’t the case here.
“So,” he paused pregnantly that I thought he wasn’t exactly speaking again for the night but then he spoke again, “So, could you brief me?”
“Shouldn’t have you just asked Nurse Park or whoever your attending physician about this?”
“Have they gone through the treatment?”
Of course, no was the answer - but that is something I would give to him so easily - I got more pride and stubbornness than that.
"But they sure know the process. They could probably tell you more than I can."
"Tell me, how long have you been staying here?"
Technically, I wasn't. I've been staying for a month but I've been coming back to this hospital for a few years already. My visits weren't frequent for me to remember, but I know I haven't stayed for more than a week or two. This one has been the longest.
Do you have a fear? How long would that fear live in your heart before you let go?
There are a hundred of things you could do in a span of twenty-four hours. You could run from Seoul to Gyonggi-do but you could also fly from Seoul to Mexico with a lot of more hours left to you to go around the capital by foot. It's a matter of what you choose to do, and what stops you. It’s a matter of fear, and how much of it you have coursing through your blood stream.
That hundred things would easily diminish to two when you are lying coiled like a wounded puppy in a sterilized mattress with tubes attached to your wrists and wires stuck on your chest. When even moving your neck would be as hard as lifting a refrigerator, the only things you could do are two: try not to die, and think.
It would have been better if I could include another verb to those two, "ignore." The rich Kim came back from the C room a few hours ago. First two hours or so he has spent sleeping quietly, which ended quite terribly when he let out a shrill noise all of a sudden. The next few minutes filled the room with sheer agony. He quiets down every time Nurse Park or Doctor Lee comes in though. His assistant, who he never have addressed by name, has been showing up every few minutes tending to his wishes. I found it funny though, I feel like I was watching a stubborn King and a loyal servant, but also a sick kid with his caring mother.
"How have you been doing Junmyeon?," Nurse Park asked me while he was doing his afternoon checks.
"I feel tortured," I say as I nod my head towards the whining puppy at the next bed.
He laughs quite loudly as a reply which probably stirred the other Kim awake. "I still pay you," a garbled voice says from the other side of the room. The nurse pulls a straighter face then winks at me and turns to him.
"Are you doing well Mr. Kim?"
"It's my first session and you ask me that? What kind of question is that?"
"I see. Dr. Lee actually asked me to administer you something to at least let you sleep for tonight. Here."
And sleep well was what he did. He fell asleep almost immediately. This left me to a peaceful room with a setting sun casting shadows.
Six more hours until the day ends, what could I do with this time if I wasn't here?
I'll probably be sleeping at home or working overtime if it was a regular day. If it was a weekend, I'll be coming home from an afternoon run, or cooking something nice.
"If you were gonna die tomorrow, what would you do?"
"Is that a stupid question or an obvious conclusion?"
"For someone who sounded like he was going to die a few hours ago you're still pretty sarcastic."
"My best asset."
I look at him, face covered partially with a gas mask, beads of sweat across his forehead. He was obviously still in pain, but he still has the strength to actually snicker at me.
“You’re too pleased with your own joke.”
“I am not pleased that you are not answering. I guess I shouldn’t have woke up, talking to you doesn’t make sense. The treatment probably fried some part of your brain.”
With that he retreated back to his thoughts, into sleep. I spied the notebook my mother gave me from a previous visit. It laid in the bottom of stack of books, still untouched.
What would you do if you would die tomorrow?
When you start feeling better, you believe that’s the only way you’re going. Most of the time that happens. Like when you were a kid at grade school, when the fever alleviates, it just goes on and gets gone. Like when you were in high school, after the first day, when you find new people to be with, who laughs at all of your absurd jokes and understands your family’s weird strict schedule, it just gets better because you’re finally not alone and cooped.
But it wasn’t like that with this type of sickness. You get sick, then you get better. You get better for months, sometimes even years, then you get sick again. Some people get better again, and continue, but a lot of cases are like mine. I didn’t have a chance to get better.
“Are you okay?”
Doctor Lee has just finished speaking to me, ending his practiced speech with a pat, and a “There’s hope. I’ll do my best.” I could hear my mother’s cracked voice through the hospital door, “He’s too young.”
When I was younger, my mother was the constant figure in my life. I was the younger out of two siblings, my sister being born five years ahead of me. My father was someone who I would see every now and then, but it’s not like it’s his choice. He had dreams and he proceeded to pursue them even if he has a family waiting on him. People might think that doing that would be selfish, my sister did, but I honestly don’t think so.
For that reason, I have decided to go after my mother's dreams. I let her take control, her yes, my yes. I always went after things that she would approve of: maroon clothes instead of black, tennis instead of soccer, accounting instead of architecture. I know a lot of people who go this way, it was comforting to find someone to lead you on. As terrible as it sounds, it was easier to blame someone else when you do things incorrectly instead of putting the weight on yourself.
"Can I go outside?"
She come back in sullen daze, my question taking her aback. She takes in my laced rubber shoes, squeaking against the hospital tiles. "Just a breather. I'll be back before 7."
She nods, probably thankful for the time I would give her to run through her thoughts, pick the best decision, and rehearse her script. "Wear a jacket."
As soon as I got out of the hospital, I broke into a sprint. I coursed through alleys, streets, and roads. Cars were filling up the place, people walking to and fro. How many of these people would look at me and remember me? No one would. We live in a world of patterns and blur that none and sometimes no one leaves a mark on our lives. Are we bothered by this? Most of us are not. We're content in being shadows, casted, and then gone.
We live in the safety of routine. We are selfish because we don't take in the world. We don't take see how wonderful the skyline is, because all we see is the red and green lights in the intersection.
A few hours of running, I found myself at top of the N-Tower, looking at a sunset, and the city lighting up.
I repeat those words as I reached 3033. My mother was gone. All I found was Jongdae sipping coffee from a golden cup, beside an atrocious machine of sorts.
"No, douche. We're living."
9. run through seoul
By the time I realized what I was into, I was already strapped to another man at my back, flying at 15,000 feet high. Instead of wearing a green hospital gown, Jongdae waved at me in a blue over-all, grinning crazily.
“WE ARE GOING TO DIE.”
“IDIOT I KNEW THAT ALREADY”
“I WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO DIE THIS SOON”
“IDIOT YOU ARE STILL GOING TO DIE ANYWAY,” his last words were drowned by the blast of wind from the hatchet opening up. His tandem partner jumped, Jongdae screaming into oblivion. I felt a tug toward the same direction, a thumb waving across my face. Before I could have grabbed a pole for safety, I was already free-falling 200 kilometer per hour.
The first thing I see was the blue sky. It felt so vast and overwhelming. Then I tumbled into the proper position, facing the Earth. Everything looked so little, I could cover a town with my finger.
I could be little, but I could do so much.
6. free fall
Jongdae has been coughing continuously through-out the flight. His assistant’s face was painted with sheer worry; I pretended not to notice. The first rule he established the day we decided to make the most of our remaining days was how we were not going to talk about our remaining days. This includes zero discussion of our sickness, or on how much more time is left until our dues.
I would be lying if I told you I didn’t think about it at all. We were two people whose lives have been decided when to end, and you’d think neither would have fear looming inside of them? I could not speak for Jongdae, if I were to judge, he’s better at hiding his C better than mine. He constantly smiled, laughed, and was always filled with some sort of joy - though he looked a little sinister. I was happy, yes, but it wasn’t easy to cover up the fact that I know that I only have a few months, or even weeks to live.
I wasn’t afraid of dying. I was afraid of leaving. Perhaps that was the difference between me and Jongdae. He doesn’t have anything to leave.
Visiting Japan was one of the best points of my life or what remained of it. The place was great, the food was nice, the people went on their lives not minding me. I have always dreamed of going to Japan as a kid, after watching tons of anime while I ate breakfast. Japan felt picturesque, gardens minutes away from busy streets, peace in between the bustling traffic and business. A great part of the week I spent going around Tokyo was used trying to figure out where I was going and where I was coming from. One time, I’ve been going around circles, I was quite sure at one point I was going through an exit nearest to the Tokyo Tower, apparently I wasn’t. I was still stuck on the same subway station.
The Tokyo Subway station is one of the busiest stations in the world. If you ever have been in a club in Gangnam, that’s what it feels like being lost in there. Just instead of EDM tunes vibrating through speakers, hurried shuffle of feet would be your beat. No one would hear you, and everyone would just proceed on walking towards their destinations while you look around, lost.
It’s difficult when you know where you want to go, but you can’t seem find the way to go there.
“Where have you been?”
Jongdae shouts in Korean as he dragged me out of the station. We were supposed to meet at the tower a few minutes ago to complete one of our tasks. That morning, we decided to take separate ways when we couldn’t decide if we should go to a gyoen, or spend the day at Disney Sea. His assistant shows up, handing me a Minnie Mouse ribbon shaped bucket filled with chocolate popcorn which I politely declined. I was wearing one of my best suits - one I borrowed from Jongdae and the bucket did not complement it well.
What didn’t complement what I was wearing as well was the box Jongdae pushed me to sit in. As well as the wooden acoustic box his assistant seemingly grabbed out of nowhere, and Jongdae’s clear cased guitar. He waves our list in front of my face, and sits in front of a folder in my lap. He crosses out number 7 deliberately, as I tried to process what was going to happen next.
7. sing in front of hundreds of people
“How much of your life do you spend worrying?” he asks me, swirling his wine nonchalantly.
“For someone as rich as you, worrying is probably not even in your dictionary. “ I watch Jongdae swirl his glass again as he sits opposite me in his own private jet. We’ve been running through countries, now we are on the way to another. This adventure of sorts has been going on for at most two weeks, but as I coursed through my Facebook newsfeed last night before I went to sleep, it felt like I missed two decades in Seoul time.
“Okay, so here we are, living the last - I don’t know - three months of our lives. Don’t you think you are wasting it worrying? Let’s take for example today. This morning you woke at 8 in the morning, right? So that’s minus 8 hours, giving you 16 more hours for the rest of the day - no biggie, that’s still a good amount of time right? Subtract an hour for your morning ritual, 15. We went to the breakfast buffet, I went straight in and grab the nearest bacon in the plate, while you, you spent almost an hour milling about mumbling about your choices. I watched you put in some nice steak, then put it back to the serving plate. Then you grabbed some greens, added a dollop of mashed potatoes, then come back for the steak. Then you removed the steak again. I watched you sit across me, staring at your plate for at least half an hour. You worried for one hour and a half, that’s 13 hours and a half left. You ate for another half, 13 hours. You packed your bags, 11. We ate lunch, you spent an hour again trying to find a healthy option when we could have just eaten at the ramyeon house in front of the hotel, 10 hours.”
“I don’t want to die earlier than the previous notice, as far as my sticking to diet is concerned.”
“Fine. I’ll give you that point. Who doesn’t want to stay a little longer, right? But, think about it, how much longer is it going to give you? Are you sure it’s going to give you that?”
The answer was no, but I couldn’t say it loudly. Jongdae was right. It was too late to make those little changes. It was too late to worry, not when I am almost half buried.
“Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Beauty wasn’t something we found as synonyms across our own dictionaries. I have resolved to use Jongdae’s definition for the time being. Less arguments, the better, the faster we finish the list. We’ve been running across continents too long for me, or at least for the dying me. The trip was fun, yes, but I couldn’t help but wonder how my family was doing back in Seoul.
“Welcome to the prettiest place in the world - Santorini, Greece.”
“Isn’t there a place in Busan that looks like this?”
At that moment I did not know that this place was where he spent most of his childhood summers. I did not know how he imagined his family sitting across us as he sipped his fine red in one of the street restaurants. I listened to you mumble while eating “the most authentic pizza in the whole world” debating that it tasted better in the corner hut beside the hospital in Seoul when this pizza house was your mother’s favorite place. I watched your back disappear as you walked back alone to our hotel room, leaving me mid-argument. I watched your straight back slowly, curl forward, seemingly heavy with weight, when you have nothing in your hands. I dismissed it as poor posture. I didn’t know those streets where the last places you held your mother and father’s hands.
You had nothing in your hands, but you had something definitely heavier in your heart.
5. visit the prettiest place in the world
Rage against the dying of the light.
How much rage do you have until your last breathe?
I watch Jongdae struggle through what seemingly felt as his last breathe. I remember how scenes like this was portrayed in the various medical dramas I watched my mom cry when I was a kid. Everything played in slow motion, people running towards the room, the one who was beside the person when breathe last, pushed to the wall as a rush of people in white and medical equipment enter the room.
Rage against the dying of the light.
4. witness a miracle
“And here we are again.”
After days, weeks, and months of running free, we were back to our dying beds. We’ve crossed continents, traversed oceans, flew miles, but there’s still half of our list to finish.
“How many more months do we have Jongdae?”
“One-fourth of one, I guess. That’s if this equipment would be able to help me breathe 24/7 that is.”
Somehow, I was waiting for him to blame me for not finishing our list. There were a lot of things we wanted to do, we should have done. Some were easy, some were not. Some were simply undoable, but still we took chances in writing them. But here we are, here I was, I wasn’t quite sure about Jongdae, but I was slowly accepting the fact that sometimes there are a lot of things that should be left undone.
It wasn’t exactly something I was proud of but I was slowly losing hope as much as I want to keep fighting.
If I had more hours in my life, what would have I done?
My mother slipped in the room while I was pretending to be asleep. I couldn’t look at her. Her hope wasn’t fading, unlike mine. She placed fresh flowers at my bedside, a book by my lamp. In felt her hand squeeze mine. I hear her drag the stool and set it beside me. She wrapped her warm arms around my dying ones, and slept.
The night was not deep when I heard the room’s door crack open. I saw a silhouette standing over Jongdae’s bed, fixing and tucking him in and placing a bag of his favorite bread beside his lampshade. I may not have known his name, but I have known that immaculately pressed suit from anywhere.
That morning, I saw Jongdae holding our list in his hand, trying to scratch one of the lines. He looked at me fondly, pointed to the last item of the list, and then pointed to my sleeping mother.
10. be the luckiest person in the world
Little he knew that he was one as well.
“I stand before you as a stranger. I never knew Kim Junmyeon until we ended up on neighboring hospital beds a few months ago. The only person who I know in this whole room is probably Mrs. Kim, who was the greatest opposition leader to our plans.”
Jongdae waves our list from the podium where he was standing. A smile appears on my mother’s face as she remembered how much she wanted to expedite my death that night. I remember how she was screaming on top of her lungs because of the absurdity of our plans.
“Mrs. Kim - first I would like to apologize and trying to drag your son across the world just out of whim. We both had a few months to live and honestly, I felt guilty taking away some of those precious moments away from you. Junmyeon sounded so confident when he was arguing with you - but that night he could not sleep. I laughed at him so hard I thought I burst my aorta. He kept on mumbling on how he was going to apologize and leave me alone to all my crazy as hell ideas but he also couldn’t stop himself from being 100% pride ridden human. I think he stayed a little too long beside me, he absorbed my pride,” Jongdae laughs. When the laughs simmered down, he opened up the notebook my mother gave me.
“Everyday, I would see him scribbling. Whether it was in one of the vineyards of Greece, a noisy street in Shibuya, on a dark alley in Seoul, or in his dying bed, I saw him scribbling. After his last treatment, he gave me this notebook, a post-it stuck on the first page. I’ll read it now for everyone: ‘Idiot, do me a favor and give this to my mother.’ Don’t worry Mrs. Kim I was planning to give this to you later. ‘PS: If ever I die first, read the last page of this notebook to everyone I love.’” He shuffled through the paper, and then started.
“First things first, I would like to apologize to Junmyeon’s teachers in grade school because damn this handwriting is the worst in all universe. Okay now to the true content of the last page.”To everyone I love,
I would like to apologize for leaving first. My leaving may or may not incurred a great amount of pain in your heart but I hope it will make you think of how you live your life.
Everyone would probably look at my casket and say ‘He died too young.’ or ‘He could have done a lot of things in his life if he was given a few more years.’ You will be probably correct if you say that - I could have started a family, opened a business, funded a volunteer institution, and made a change. I could have probably found the cure for cancer - who knows?
We live in the satisfaction of routine. It was easier for us to follow a step by step method on how we are going to live our lives, but the question is, are we really living our lives? Let’s be honest - this routine is the way we survive. It helps us earn money, it feeds us and our family, it gives us clothing, the newest phone, etcetera.
A good friend of mine - yes you Kim Jongdae - asked me once, “What are you going to do if you’re going to die tomorrow?” We were lying side by side on two hospital beds, watching the sunset and fully cover our room in darkness. At that time, if we were going to die tomorrow, we only had six hours to spend. Come to think of it, it’s almost the same time we have left before we go to rest after a long day at work.
It sounds short right? But it isn’t.
There are a whole long list of things you could do in six hours. You could cook the best meal your boyfriend would ever taste. You could learn a dance routine you’ve been trying to use in the club for ages. You could meet with your highschool bestfriend and remember all the crap you used to do. You could visit dream country and spend your remaining hours happy.
Six hours, five, four, three, two, or one. You have time to live. You just have to realize that.
I love you.
And don’t go gentle into that good night.
1. write a letter for everyone i love
“You should’ve just asked me to do this Sir.”
“Why did you even come with me? I could perfectly do this alone.”
This assistant would never learn that arguing with a Kim Jongdae won’t make any sense. I don’t know what sort of medicine had they injected to him but he’s just crazy.
“Are you sure we are going through the right trail?”
“The GPS says so Sir.”
A few more minutes of a tedious steep trail, the duo settled on the summit of the volcano. The older shouts, “Ah Kim Junmyeon, look at what hardship you give me in your afterlife.” The other digs a shallow pit, to where both of them lays a small can of soup. Jongdae pulls out our list, and scratches two lines.
2. reach the highest point in korea
8. make someone’s wish come true
“You owe me two wishes. I hope you are happy now.”
Kim Jongdae died a few months after me. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do much from where I am regarding with his last wish - to not die. Our list wasn't finished by the time of his death. I guess we became too ambitious. We could have done things that would have made our memories mark, but we didn't. Somehow we were selfish, doing what we just wanted, finishing our own dreams. We didn't think of doing things for others - in retrospect - I wish we did.
A few more years after, to our surprise, his assistant visits Halla-san, where a portion of our ashes has been buried side by side.
A younger guy followed him through the trail.
“I came here to finish your list,” he says. He pats the younger guy, and says, “He’s the last item.” To the boy he says, “Jongin, thank them both.”
3. save a life
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.