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Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
“Ah, that’s nice,” Juho murmured, sipping on his beverage after a run through the park.
Having come out later than usual, Juho slowly made his way back home as he watched other people walking. Sung Pil hadn’t been joining Juho in his morning exercise because of a book he was working on. Juho asked no further. He only hoped that Sung Pil would finish strong.
“No! You move!”
Juho stopped in his tracks at an argument sounding from the playground. A brother and sister were bickering in the sandbox. ‘Sand. Bickering.’ Juho couldn’t pass that on. He slowly sat himself on a nearby bench.
There were all sorts of things in the playground. A jungle gym, a seesaw, a miniature castle with a ladder cutting across it, a tower with ropes tangling from it, etc. There was a long line by the seesaw, and the kids on the seesaw and in the line glanced at each other uncomfortably.
Juho looked at the brother and sister intently. With its boundary surrounded by old car tires, the sandbox was rather large. A few of those tires seemed to have finally caved in after withstanding the weight of countless children. While the girl was building a sand castle, her brother was waiting for an opportunity to knock it down. Realizing his intention, the sister picked up a toy shovel in her hand as a means of resistance.
It was a war surrounding the castle. Sipping on his beverage, Juho spectated the battle curiously. Who would win?
Despite the fierce dispute between brother and sister, other children in the playground seemed to be completely unfazed by them.
“Hey, I see a butterfly!”
The brother tried desperately to distract his sister. However, the sister kept her guard up. She was not an easy opponent. Realizing that his strategy had failed, he made another move.
“Mom was looking for you.”
Her expression grew darker with anxiety, looking back and forth between the castle and her family in the distance. It was hard to tell if he was telling the truth. She contemplated.
“Then, you come with me.”
She had made a decision. She would be able to answer her mother’s call while the castle remained intact. A great strategy. Juho was impressed by her.
“There ya go!” exclaimed Juho in an exaggerated voice.
On the other hand, the brother wasn’t quick to show his emotions. With a toy shovel in her hand, the sister rose from her place. Then…
The second she let her guard down, his foot landed on top of the castle. Just like that, the sand castle fell to the mischievous brother.
‘What happens now?’ Juho kept his eyes fixated on the two children. The sister raged at the sight of her castle reduced to mere pile of sand. It was obvious that she was looking to retaliate. At that moment, she raised her hand holding the toy shovel. Before Juho had time to intervene, the girl swung the toy shovel, hitting the brother’s head. Looking frightened, the brother put his hand on his head. Then…
He started to cry. The sister appeared to be taken aback by her brother’s reaction. Who would have thought a toy shovel would make for such an effective weapon?
“What’s wrong, honey!?”
The mother came rushing toward them and held the boy. Gasping for breath, he testified about what his sister had done. With the toy shovel still in her hand, the sister anxiously clasped onto her skirt.
“She hit me. With that. WAH!” he sobbed sorrowfully, pointing at the shovel in his sister’s hand.
“He did it first! WAH!”
The sister started to cry. Other children and parents in the playground stared in their direction. Recognizing the attention they were drawing, the mother forcefully wiped the tears off of her children’s faces and carried them away from the playground.
While other children sang cheerfully as they played in the sand pool, the castle remained in ruins. Loneliness lingered about those ruins. Looking at the sand, Juho was reminded of the man and woman he had met at the beach. With that, he focused on thinking about the novel. The place where the protagonist would be leaving from and arriving to.
A language tended to be affected by its surrounding environment. The structure and development of the language depended on the choices made by its speakers. What kind of language would God use? In order to communicate with God, one had to know that language.
The image of the protagonist’s irritated face crossed Juho’s mind, having finally met God after a long, perilous journey, yet unable to communicate with Him. Juho chuckled at the image.
He had decided to use Hangul as the root of the language spoken by God. He planned on creating something that was based on it, bearing some resemblance. God was alone in the high mountains. The only thing visible from His place would be the sky. Juho wanted to create more words that described the sky, where there were the sun and the clouds that led to light and wind. He started to get a feel for the things he needed to emphasize.
In his mind, Juho took the Hangul characters apart, going back to their most basic, initial forms. Leaving only their skeletal structures intact, he tried giving them a different color. ‘What would be a fitting color for God?’
“‘S’cuse me sir. Could you move your feet?”
‘Feet?’ Juho looked down. There was a girl sweating profusely. She had to have run around quite a bit. He examined his feet, but saw nothing but sand.
“My ball rolled underneath the bench,” said the girl, pointing under the bench. Juho bent down and looked underneath and felt blood rushing to his head. A ball, just behind where his feet had been, came into view. Without hesitation, he handed it to her.
“Thank you,” the girl thanked him politely. After giving her a nod, Juho retraced his thoughts. ‘Now, where was I?’
“S’cuse me,” the girl was still standing in her place. She must have had something to ask.
“What are you doing?” she asked curiously.
It wasn’t clear what had gotten her attention, but Juho answered light-heartedly, “I was thinking about God.”
“Do you know who that is?”
“Duh, even I know English. ‘Gahd,'” the girl said with a scoff.
“Impressive,” Juho complimented her. She shrugged proudly.
“Then, do you know what a mythology is?”
She gave no answer that time. Perhaps she knew about God, but not mythology, “The band.”
“Impressive!” Juho complimented her again. She was a smart child and she seemed to be in high spirits.
“What kind of language do you think God speaks?”
It looked like she was having trouble understanding him that time, so Juho rephrased the question, “You said you know English, right? Do you think God speaks English?”
“I don’t think so.”
No apparent reason. Simply, just because. It had been an intuitive answer, and Juho decided to see things from the child’s perspective.
“If God said that He’d grant you one wish, what would it be?”
At the word ‘wish,’ the girl started to twist her body. She was probably shy about talking about what she wanted.
“So, I was watching TV yesterday.”
“I saw something that I’ve been really craving.”
“What is it?”
“It has red broth.”
“Red broth, huh. Is it spicy?”
“Yes. That’s why my mom never buys it for me.”
Smart child. She already knew that having a wish meant longing for something that couldn’t be possessed.
“Are there noodles in it?”
“No, rice cakes.”
She was talking about tteokbokki. At the sight of an innocent child asking God for some tteokbokki, Juho couldn’t help but chuckle. The almighty God before her eyes, and yet, she would ask for mere tteokbokki. If Juho were in her shoes, he would have asked for something much larger. For example…
“I’d ask for money.”
A slightly older boy was standing next to her.
“Yeah. Money’s the best,” the boy said, looking and sounding confident.
“I was told that all things yield to money.”
“Who told you that?”
“My mom.” The boy glanced over in a direction, and a woman who appeared to be his mother was standing in front of a stroller.
“Hey, you should ask for money too,” the boy said to the girl.
“You can buy yourself tteokbokki with it.”
“No! I want my mom’s tteokbokki!”
“You’re stupid. It costs money to make tteokbokki too.”
“We’re rich too!”
A new conversation had emerged between the two children. Listening to them, Juho quickly spotted the girl’s mother. She was standing by the swings, holding the hand of a boy who appeared to be the girl’s brother. Their eyes met, and Juho greeted her with a smile and nod. The mother nodded back with a smile, but her eyes were fixed on her daughter.
Finally, she called for her daughter. Without even saying goodbye, the girl ran toward her mother. The boy too ran toward the pull-up bars. Juho thought as he watched them from behind, ‘Money… The value of it changes constantly. It’s different in every region. It could mean everything in some places, but it might not even exist in others.’ Juho organized his thoughts, thinking about the characteristics he wanted to grant the different regions in his novel.
“I’m getting hungry.”
Tteokbokki. Red broth.
God lived alone in the high mountains. In order to meet God, the protagonist embarked on a journey. Unfortunately, Juho had no intention of making it smooth sail for him. ‘I need obstacles. Red liquid. Like blood.’ It was more than enough as an element of danger. The mountains where God lived were on an island surrounded by streams of crimson-colored water, hot enough to cover the faces of those nearby in tears and snot. It was poisonous. If it ended up in a person’s mouth, it would severely damage their stomachs.
Juho thought about the song the children had been singing repeatedly at the playground. It had been a familiar melody. He walked toward the empty sandbox. There were arches made by the children who had been playing there. They were large and thick, but abandoned. He imagined hiding God in them. A red ocean, a northern island, glaciers and a hole within it surrounded by arches. It lacked one thing.
“The sky wouldn’t be visible from a place like that.”
He poked another hole on the opposite end. The arch barely managed to maintain its shape. The new hole made the interior of the arch more visible. The outside would be visible from the inside as well. There was another pair of holes on the top that resembled a pair of eyes. ‘What would it be like to look out from within? It’d look like the sky had a pair of eyes. Like God.’
Until the arrival of the girl, Juho had been thinking of ways to give the language that would be spoken by God a color. ‘What did the kid say?’ Feet. Juho looked down, and saw nothing but his shoes. However, he knew full well what was inside them. He tried moving his toes. ‘There’s a person inside them. The color of a person. Varied yet distinct colors.’
‘Would the God in the mountains be an actual God? Would God listen to what the protagonist had to say?’ Juho thought as he slowly made his way out of the sandbox.
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