The shock made me momentarily unable to move. Seokjin hyung was sitting inside the car. I'd heard from Namjoon hyung that he was back, but this was the first time I’d seen his face. Hyung was frowning as he searched for something with his cell phone. That in itself didn't seem strange. No part of his face seemed different than before. I couldn't explain the reason why I was so shocked. Cold. Dry. Empty. None of those words were enough to express hyung's face. No, it wasn't even close to the same. It was a spring day, but a chill passed by me. Despite myself, I shivered. Hyung had appeared in my dream with exactly that face.

    I only lifted my head when Jungkook came around the corner. Jungkook looked around with an urgent expression, then ran across the alley at that moment. Seokjin hyung gave an irritated gesture and got out of the car. I couldn't hear from a distance. But it seemed from the shape of his lips that he was muttering, 'whatever, forget it.' As he took a few steps toward the motel a short distance away. He looked in the direction that Jungkook had run, dropping something at the entrance as he did.


    "Dumb mongrel. Couldn't wait for just a second." We had searched the whole neighborhood, but couldn't find Dubu. When I checked the time, twenty minutes had passed. How far could a two-month-old puppy have gone in twenty minutes, I was sweating in the hot summer sun. I had called for him until my throat was sore and dry. In the moment I had checked my phone, he had slipped his leash. When I looked around, Dubu was gone. I started to run again. I looked in every alleway and checked inside every open door "Dubu" I called in a loud voice. Only passersby looked back at me.

    As I ran, I berated Dubu, calling him a stupid puppy. I even got angry and said it was because he was just a mongrel but even in that moment, I knew that it wasn't Dubu's fault it was mine. I had looked away I hadn't been paying attention and he had gotten loose. I had been laughing at some unimportant conversation and hadn't even known Dubu was gone. Had Dubu run away on purpose, at the thought, I came to a stop despite myself. Maybe Dubu didn't like being with me. To me, living with him was a good thing, but to him maybe it was nothing more than being separated from his family.

    The next moment, I heard a patter of feet and the sound of Dubu barking. At first I thought I was imagining it, but it was no hallucination or imagination, and I saw Dubu running down the alley. The puppy's ears were flying back and his mouth was open with the effort of running up the hill "Dubu!" I shouted, and when I kneeled down, he ran straight toward me “where did you go, how did you come back, did you remember how I smell,” as he started to lick my cheek from within my embrace, a strange feeling welled up in me. Oh, I'm the only person Dubu can rely on. I can be reliable for someone too. I can be somewhere he'll come back to’. Dubu squirmed to get out of my arms, but I only held him closer.


    I was unaware of anything other than the sound of music playing in my head. Not how much I had drunk, nor where I was, nor what I had been doing. I didn't know, and it wasn't important. When I went outside, stumbling, it was already night. I swayed as I walked. I bumped into pedestrians, news kiosks, walls. I didn't care. I just wanted to forget everything.

    Jimin's voice was still ringing in my ears. "Hyung, Jungkook..." My next memory was of running like crazy up the hospital steps. The hospital hall had been strangely long and dark. I passed people wearing hospital gowns. My heart pounded. Everyone's faces were too pale. They had no expressions. They all seemed like dead people. The sound of my breathing was harsh inside my own head.

    Inside the slightly-opened hospital room door, Jungkook was lying there. I turned my head without realizing it. I couldn't look at him. At that moment I suddenly heard the sound of a piano, of flames, of a building crumbling down. I clutched my head and sank down. “This is your fault. If it wasn't for you...”' It was my mother's voice--no, my voice--no, someone's voice. At those words, I was tormented by countless moments. I wanted to believe it wasn't so. But Jungkook was lying there. Jungkook was lying in the hall full of corpse-like patients passing by. I was utterly unable to go inside. I couldn't check for myself. When I stood, my legs threatened to give out. I left with tears flowing. It was funny. I couldn't even remember the last time I had cried.

    I went to cross the street, but someone grabbed my arm and I came to a halt. Who was it? No, I didn't care. No matter who it was, it was all the same. Don't come near me. Go away. Just leave me be. I don't want to hurt you either. I don't want to be hurt. So please, don't come any closer.


    I purposely slowed my footsteps and perked my ears up at the small sense that someone was walking behind me. Today was the third time that we had met at the convenience store. If there was something that was different, it was that today [they] had run away as soon as [they] saw me. Then they had hung around in a small vacant lot at the back of the store, but as soon as I appeared they hid again. They had hidden themselves well but their shadow was reaching far towards the front of the abandoned lot. I giggled. I passed by, pretending not to see, but then they started to follow me.

    I entered a narrow alley. This was the only place in our neighborhood where the streetlamps weren't broken. The alley was long and the streetlamp was located somewhere in the middle. When the source of light is ahead, the shadow stretches behind. So now my shadow was stretching out behind me. It could have been stretching all the way to the feet of the person who was following me with bated breath. As I passed beneath the streetlamp, my shadow disappeared beneath my feet. I started walking a little faster. Not long after, a shadow that wasn't mine appeared on the cement road. I stopped my steps, and the presence behind me stopped too. The two shadows of different heights stopped side-by-side.

    I spoke. "I'm going to wait until you come here." The shadow jumped. Then it held still as if to say it wasn't there. "I can see everything." I pointed out the shadow. Then the sound of footsteps started to grow nearer, purposefully noisy. I laughed.


    While Hoseok hyung was on the phone, I amused myself by kicking at the dirt that was pinned under his shadow. Hyung giggled and made a face that said, 'Park Jimin has grown up a lot.' Walking home from school was a distance that took two hours walking. By bus it didn't even take 30 minutes, and if we only took the big road it would be reduced by 20, but hyung insisted on taking a road through winding alleys, over low hills and across pedestrian overpasses. Last year, I had transferred schools after being discharged from the hospital. School was far from home and I didn't have anyone I knew. I thought it was okay. I had already moved schools a few times and I didn't know when I would be hospitalized again, so I didn't think it was anything special.

    But then I met hyung. It was just a little while after a new semester had started. Hyung had approached me like it was nothing and walked with me for two hours. I only realized a long while afterwards that our houses weren't in the same direction. I couldn't ask hyung why. I only hoped that those two hours with our shadows side by side, walking together under the sun, could stretch the day out just a little longer.

    Hyung was still on the phone, and I kicked his shadow again and ran away. Hyung hung up the phone and started to chase me. Our ice cream melted under the hot sun and the sound of cicadas stung my ears. Suddenly, I felt afraid. How many of these days could be left?