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Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“OK. What did I say was the beginning of a novel?”
“Asking questions!” Sun Hwa answered quickly.
As of late, the club activities had been made entirely of learning various theories on writing. The room was filled with excitement.
“Then, try to decide what you want to write about. There are no limits. I don’t care if it’s a short story or a full-length novel, as long as you’re confident that you can write it within half a year.”
“Yes, Mr. Moon!” everyone exclaimed with enthusiasm.
With that, he walked over to the window toward the hallway, and then to another toward the schoolyard. He was creating an environment optimized for thinking. A refreshing breeze blew into the room.
From his seat, Baron quietly sketched what he saw. The pencil moved about busily on his sketchbook.
After Mr. Moon stepped out of the room, the club members quietly closed their eyes.
Juho was alone in his mind. Hyun Do had challenged him to go out and “taste” different things. That challenge motivated him to seek after something new. ‘How can I make something new?’ he thought. After a long chain of questions, he eventually found himself in a maze. ‘What’s new? What’s not new? Because we get used to what’s new, wouldn’t that mean there isn’t such a thing as new?’
‘Rustle.’ The breeze blew on the pages on his desk, making them flap lifelessly. ‘A new page. Is this what I want? What does the word “new” mean to me?’ Juho kept thinking. “New” meant something that didn’t exist in the past. In terms of writing, it was the beginning of an occurrence. In terms of a person, a fetus. In terms of the Korean language, it was before the invention of the language in December of 1443.
A new story. A new life. A new language. All of those things didn’t exist in the past. In that case, creative writing in and of itself was the process of creating something new, which would render thinking useless. All he had to do to create something new was to keep writing.
Juho didn’t feel content with the conclusion. He wanted to wrestle with his thoughts some more. Something more colorful. Something a little more foreign to him. Something different from the norm. ‘What else is there?’ Places he had never been. Things he had never seen. Juho closed his eyes briefly, and then opened them. Nothing had changed. The same old room came into view. The same old club members and their same old seats. ‘Is there no way I can think of anything new in here?’ Juho felt his shoulders. They were more tense than usual. ‘I should try to relax.’
After some time, the club members started to reach a decision on what they wanted to write. However, Juho was still staring dazedly out the window.
“Do you want to get tteokbokki with us?” asked Sun Hwa. Everyone else was deciding on what to get at the snack shop, but Juho shook his head slowly.
“No, thanks. I have to be somewhere.”
While briefly staring at the ceiling, Juho’s lips parted, and he announced, “The beach.”
Leaving a puzzled Sun Hwa behind, Juho left the science room before anyone else.
He took out his phone on his way out of the school. The first method of transportation he thought of was the subway. He’d be able to reach the Incheon shore in about two hours. Leaving a text for his mother, Juho made his way into the station.
“Next station is…” a voice sounded from the speakers in the station.
The train came, and its doors slid open. Those who had arrived came out of the train while those who were leaving went into it. Looking at the gap between the platform and the train, Juho walked in.
As the doors closed with a loud hiss, he found himself a seat. The train started moving.
While the train shook, a smile spread across his face. He had left for a sudden adventure in order to see something new. To be in a new place. Once he put his heart into it, everything fell into place with ease. At an incredible speed, the train moved toward the next station, roaring loudly. Juho looked out the window from his seat as he checked for his stop. He was about thirty stops away. There was plenty of time to think. He leaned back on the backrest. The handles shook just as his body did. Leaning his head against the window, he felt the vibrations of the train. Everything shook. Going somewhere felt like it involved being shaken countless times.
The train came to a stop. Once the doors opened and closed, it started moving again. It was a sight he would be seeing repeatedly. He felt a cold, artificial breeze blowing from the ceiling. With his eyes closed, he felt all of the movement around him. ‘Clonk, clonk.’ It sounded like the world was about to come to an end. The same sound came from within the train.
After some time, it got rather cold in the train. The coldness pierced into Juho’s nose. It was different from the breeze he had felt in the science room. His senses were being disrupted by the artificial breeze. It told him that he was getting farther from nature. A person walked past, followed by a cold breeze. ‘It’s a made up breeze. Does that make it new?’ he thought.
The train came to a stop once again, and the doors opened and closed. Soon, the train started moving again. Eventually, it reached a frightening speed, and Juho felt somewhat anxious. ‘What if I feel dizzy? What if I feel queasy and throw up? I don’t want to be seen vomiting…’ he thought.
He got used to the vibration and the cold. ‘Does this mean there’s nothing’s new in here anymore?’
He tried holding his breath. Still, the train kept moving. He was the only thing still while everything around him vibrated. ‘Clonk, clonk,’ the train shouted noisily as it raced through the dark tunnel. Familiarity removed emotion and the need for thinking. It also removed anxiety, as well as joy and expectation. There was nothing left in the train. Nothing to get used to. None of the things he had gotten used to were in the train. ‘Why am I in here again? Why am I going forward?’ He couldn’t remember. The train stopped, the doors opening and closing. Then it started moving again, as it always had. He felt the train rock and saw the handles shake. As it rushed past the dark shadows, the coldness started to pierce through his body. When he couldn’t hold any longer, he breathed out, taking a deep breath.
He smelled the fragrance of the ocean.
“Next station is…”
Yet again, the train came to a stop, and the doors slid open. Juho walked out of the cold space within the train, looking back. The train had already closed its mouth, heading toward the next station. Without hesitation, Juho went on his way.
“The beach,” Juho murmured, looking at the enormous puddle before his eyes. Wavelets rushed in his direction. The salty breeze ruffled through his hair. As he pushed the hair out of his face, he walked toward the water, getting closer. The sand under his feet felt all the more foreign.
Green seaweed covered the beach. In reality, the beach was no more than a beach. Juho didn’t feel anything new, except for the hair tickling his face.
“Haha!” With an hollow laugh, he sat down on the sand. The wave rushed up to the very tip of his shoes. The sand somehow ended up in his mouth, making him have to spit it out. He stared out at the horizon as the sun sank lower and lower. Time passed. Although he’d come a long way, he didn’t feel all that different. If anything, he found himself feeling overwhelmed by the majestic water, stretching endlessly at the horizon like the sky. ‘What can I get out of this place?’
At that moment, a large seagull flew by, crying. The place was filled with oversized things. Enormous. Wide. Vast.
“Hm?” Juho felt that he was at the brink of inspiration. He looked around at his surroundings. The sea, the sky, sand, seagull. Everything was large, making it hard to fit it all in a glance. There wasn’t anything like it where he was from. Everything there fit in a single glance, even for the highest of buildings. All it took to see the top was to look up. Juho thought back to the things he had written so far. Yun spent most of his life at home. The mother and her son also lived within a contained space. Something new. Immense scenery. Purpose and travel. If he were to put it all into writing…
It would have to be fantasy. A journey with a purpose in search of things that did not yet exist in the present. For some reason, he felt glad about the word that he had just spat out. It would be a different world. The thought alone was enough to excite him. A world simply too big to take on. That’s what he wanted to write about. Energized, Juho clenched his hands into fists. Grains of sand rushed into his palms and out between his fingers.
“This is small.”
There was something new in that scenery after all. Small grains of sand. Limp seaweed. The seafoam that could never reach Juho’s shoes. Not everything was grand and enormous.
“I want to write about this too,” he murmured as he quietly counted the grains of sand in his hand.
There were two things he wanted to write about now. A story that resembled the sea and the sand. One long, one short. ‘Should I try writing two separate stories?’ Juho thought, closing his eyes.
A voice sounded nearby, and Juho turned to look. There was a woman burying her head in the sand.
“Don’t write about me.”
Thin and soft, the voice almost sounded like it would be lost in the wind. As Juho was about to approach her, another voice sounded behind him.
It sounded cocky, and less than pleasant. A tall, well-dressed man looked down at the woman in the sand.
“If you don’t like it, you’re more than welcome to leave.”
The woman dug deeper into the sand.
“Are you ignoring me?”
“I said no.”
“I can’t hear a thing. My ears must be full of sand.”
She no longer tried to communicate with the man, but Juho interjected, “Hey! Cut it out. There’s no need to be rude. Are you hangry or something?”
The man didn’t hesitate to show his displeasure.
“Did you call me just so you could joke around?”
“Without humor, we’d living in one boring world, my friend.”
The man scoffed arrogantly.
“You don’t need crap like that when you’re traveling.”
“You think so?”
The silk on his body fluttered around in the wind.
“You’re kind of arrogant,” Juho said after observing him quietly.
“I deserve to be.”
Ignoring the man, Juho looked to his left. The woman was walking away.
“Where you goin’?”
She jumped in place. Her long, untidy hair covered most of her face. Long-sleeved shirt. Long pants. It all looked too warm for the weather.
“It’s hot, isn’t it?”
The woman didn’t say anything or try to run away. She was barely capable of communicating with other people. Her personality contrasted with her wide, open surroundings. The man, too, was standing quietly in his place. The waves were breaking briskly.
Suddenly, Juho chimed up, “Should we all go into the water or something?”
The man frowned at Juho’s suggestion.
“This water exists so that we can cross it. It’s a way for us to see something bigger.”
As unlike as it was of his rude personality, he gave a rather substantial answer.
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