01

"Sir, how much for these?" she asks, holding up a red box for the man behind the counter to see.

He peers at her through his glasses. "Three ninety-nine."

She nods, before paying for the candles. The cashier coughs while placing the red box into a grey, plastic bag and ripping the receipt from the machine. He hands her some coins and she takes the bag, visibly excited.

"Special occasion?"

"I'm planning a surprise for my little brother," she says, smiling as she puts her change back into her wallet. "He's turning eight in a few days."

"Ah," he says, and the lights above them flicker for a moment. "I-" he begins, before breaking down into a fit of raspy coughs, his hand pressing against the counter for support.

"Are you alright?" she asks, with her eyes wide as she watches the old man wheeze. He nods shakily, before clearing his throat.

"I'm, ah, I'm fine." He waves a hand in the air. "Have a good night, yeah?"

Lingering at the counter for a moment, she shifts slightly. "You too, sir."

Coming out of the dim convenient store, she walks out into the nightlife of Seoul. The air is cold and the pavement is icy, but people still bustle down the streets, with large, bulky bags swinging from their arms. Christmas had just passed, and the year was coming to a close. She could see a large screen above her head, with fancy lights flashing the minutes left of the year. People are starting to crowd the area, pulling their loved ones close as they counted down the minutes together.

She continues down the street, passing by a small, run down restaurant. Keeping her purse closer to her side, she holds her breath as she passes. There are a couple of young boys leaning by the sides of the rail, smoking. One of them laughs obnoxiously, while another exhales and a deep, cloud of smoke runs into the wind.

"Hey there, pretty lady!" one of them jeers.

She grimaces and walks away quickly. A loud beeping sound from her purse stops her.

"Noona!" her brother screams through the phone, and she cracks a smile at his voice.

"Jin, what''re you still doing up? It's almost twelve-"

"To count down for the new year!" he replies enthusiastically. "Where are you right now, noona? You should've visited us to celebrate!"

"Sorry Jin," she says, sighing. "My class ended at 10 o'clock, and the traffic was too heavy for me to make it there on time. But I'll be there for your birthday, okay?"

"Fine," he huffs playfully. "Umma and appa say that they miss you, so you better come on my birthday!"

"I will, I will!" she smiles, laughing quietly.

"Noona," he says excitedly, "the countdown's starting!"

"Is it?" she asks, surprised. Looking up, she can see the screen from a few streets away. Jin was right. The screen's flashing 0:30 in white, and if she listens closely, she can hear the sound of people chanting "Thirty, twenty nine, twenty eight…" over the blaring music from a night club to her right.

"Twenty five! Twenty four!" Jin chants excitedly through the phone.

"Twenty three, twenty two, twenty one," she continues, while stopping at the intersection. She reaches up to brush the snow out of her hair as Jin continues to chant loudly, while telling her to be a little more spirited ("Noona, you can't say it like that! Put some emotion in it!").

For a split second, the music from the club grows louder. It grows quiet again once the door slams shut. She hears the sound of a person staggering behind her and before she realizes it, the man is in front of her. He walks towards the road, clearly intoxicated, and her eyes grow wide as he stumbles over his own feet. Jin's cheering is the last thing she hears before her heat stops and she reaches out for the man's elbow, forcefully pulling him off of the road.

"What're ya' doin'?" he slurs loudly.

He bumps into a younger looking man at the intersection, and the younger man curses. But she doesn't hear anything else, because right in front of her eyes, a car slides past an ice patch and loses control. Past the cheers of people celebrating, she hears the deafening screams and the painfully loud crashing of metals and glass.

Her mouth drops open and she's left horrified.

A middle aged woman screams for help, crying, "Somebody call an ambulance!"

With shaking hands, she stammers into the phone, "Jin, I need to go," and then dials 1-1-9 with trembling fingers. Swallowing and averting her eyes from the scene, she waits impatiently for the operator.

"What the fuck just happened?" she hears, and she's confused, because the voice didn't come from her phone.

"Holy shit," she hears again, and there's a sense of familiarity in the man's voice. Looking around, she sees the drunken man that she pulled off of the road, his once dreary eyes now completely sober. He looks at her momentarily, and she turns away, wondering why he didn't have his phone out like the rest of them, frantically calling for help.

"I dun have my phone on me," he says out loud.

She listens to the dialing tone for a while, before her eyes widen and she turns to the drunken man again. "What?"

"I… said that I dun have my phone on me," he repeats, and before she can say another word, the younger man from before curses under his breath and takes them both by the arms, dragging them away from the intersection.

"Who the hell is this-" she hears in her head, and her head is growing dizzy from all of this.

"Hey, let go of me-" she starts to say, her phone still pressed to her ear.

But not for much longer, as the young man rips her phone away from her hands, and runs a hand through his hair, exasperated. All she hears is the sound of the man's voice, all drunk and confused, and the sound of the younger man's voice, repeating under his breath, "Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck."


This story takes place in Seoul, Korea and I would love it if all of you can be open minded about it! I know that there aren't a lot of stories on Fictionpress that have characters with backgrounds in Asia and such but, we're all the same, aren't we?

Noona: a term that a younger boy uses to address an older girl

Umma: mother

Appa: father

Feedback would really be appreciated for this story!