Chapter 5

*** 

About 100 meters below, they saw a basin-like terrain. Forests, rocks, swamps, and grasslands were visible. Huge bamboo forests and trees divided parts of the land as if each partitioned off into a colony. Off in the distance, a singular pillar of cloud was visible past the deeper parts of the forest.

The lower part of the pillar was hidden behind a forest of trees and fog. As it went upward, the cloud column’s diameter became wider like a top. Only the middle part was visible at first glance because of the clouds that hung above the column.

“That must be the road to hell. All we need now is a reaper shrouded in a black cloak. For fuck’s sake, am I really dead?”

*** 

San muttered to himself while looking at the path. The narrow road was directly in line to the column. A white haze limited his vision while dead leaves and other vegetation littered both sides of the pathway. He saw a tree burnt to a crisp from being hit by lightning, boulders large and small with cracks down their center as if they were cut like tofu, and steam that kept rising from the ground. The atmosphere was unsettling, desolate, and eerie.

Biyeon narrowed her eyes to see further down the path. As the landscape became brighter, she saw something on the stone wall, behind the forest, coming into focus. San was also focused on the object while he tapped lightly on the barrel of his rifle with his trigger finger. It was an old habit to relax himself.

“Lieutenant, what do you think that is?”

“It looks like a curved wall of sharpened stones. Behind it, there seems to be a sort of maze that zigzags in an arc. Though it’s camouflaged, it’s definitely man-made. Are we going there, sir?”

She looked directly at San for an answer.

“We’ll need to feed our curiosity. Is there anything else we can do? If you’re afraid, stay here while I go take a look.”

“N-No, I mean… shouldn’t we think this through a bit more?”

“This place already goes against common sense, so what good will it do to put more thought into it? Even if we took the time to think, will our reasoning and choice be any more logical than now? I don’t think we can avoid anything in this place even if we wanted to.”

San raised one side of his lips and then smiled before continuing, “Let’s go together. The motto of soldiers-in-arms are for these moments. Don’t we need to find out if this is heaven or hell? I haven’t really sinned in my life, so I’m not too concerned.”

He strode forward with Biyeon following after him. Her expression was full of anxiety and dissatisfaction. They cautiously approached the artificial structures from the trail. San slowed down. At first glance, he could see the building through the leaves. It was still quite a long distance away. About 100 meters? He sent a hand signal to Biyeon. The two looked through the leaves and scanned the area in front of the building.

“It's definitely an artificial construct.” 

“Doesn’t it look like a pit [1], sir?” 

A pit is a man-made structure made by special forces who specialized in guerrilla warfare as a place to hide. Regular field forces usually built camps or pitched tents, but special guerilla forces, which focused on infiltration and escape, built pits. It was a common special forces method of building a base. The two carefully approached the pit while checking their surroundings. The cautiously moving San suddenly dropped his rifle. He cocked his head upward toward the sky.

“What is this? Ha, haha… hahaha-” laughed San as if he lost his marbles. Biyeon crumbled to the ground and stared ahead. In front of them was a vertical, wooden sign that read, in modern Korean: 

27th Pian Residential Area

Summoned Residents:

San Kang – Episode 285

Biyeon Kim – Episode 285

Term: 1 Year

San took out a cigarette and placed it between his lips. Biyeon, who was sitting haphazardly on the ground, suddenly cocked her head backwards.

She was mumbling something to herself. It was as if she had lost her mind. 

A moment of silence ensued.

San smoked, occasionally breathing out a stream of cigarette smoke, while Biyeon muttered gibberish at the sky. Both continued like this for a while.

Biyeon finally turned her head towards San. He seemed to have made peace with the situation, as he was blowing smoke rings. However, his eyes were fiercely flashing. She muttered softly,

“I can see well, sir.”

“What?”

“I can see extremely well. I’m very nearsighted, but I don’t need any corrective lenses right now. Is this possible? Haven’t you also felt something different after arriving here, Captain?”

San’s opened his eyes wide. The absurdity of incidents seemed to multiply, but he needed to refocus his mind on what was important.

“Yeah? Well, at least your sight hasn’t gotten worse.”

Biyeon bit softly on her lower lip. 

“Are we alive, sir? Perhaps…” 

She omitted the following words. San looked at her wordlessly. She looked at San. His expression was slightly distorted. He took one last drag on his cigarette before he stubbed it on the ground.

“So, you think we’re dead?”

“We just might be, sir.” 

San smiled at her reply. 

“Yeah? Then can you tell me what the difference is between living and what we’re doing now? Is it that your sight is better?”

Biyeon fumbled around while trying to think. ‘What difference was there exactly?’

“Nothing much…”

“Then all is well, right? If there’s no major difference, let’s count it as living. Will you be more satisfied if you can prove that we’re dead?”

“But we need to know what’s real in order to…” 

San cut her off mid-sentence.

“Reality, yeah, reality’s great and all. Let’s say we find an answer. Is that really the true answer? Who decides if it’s true? If someone judges that you’re dead, you’re just going to go along with that?”

“…”

“Lieutenant Kim… I don’t know where we are. Nor do I know why we’ve been brought to this crazy place. Moreover, I don’t know what other crazy things are waiting for us ahead. But!”

San stared straight into Biyeon’s eyes while speaking. She didn’t avoid his glaring stare. 

“No matter what’s here, even if the reaper has brought us here himself, I’m not going to quit living. I’m going to survive. Think about it… this is no way to go, right? My life’s not cheap enough to be treated this way. What about you? Are you going to join me?”

Biyeon’s eyes were round in surprise. She felt something inside vibrate and harmonize with his words. Rather than destroying her curiosity, it was logical persuasion.

“T-That’s right.”

“Then we’ll have to fully trust each other. Can you do that?”

They were looking into each other’s eyes. Trust. It was the only thing that could cast away doubt. And a sense of will. Nothing could be trusted in this place, where common sense and cause-and-effect didn’t exist. Then who could they believe in? What should they believe in? Shouldn’t she believe in him?

She nodded her head. For better or for worse, only this man in front of her was real. A reality that survived along with her. He offered his hand. The minor disapprovals about him were unimportant. She firmly replied, 

“Yes, I will, sir.” 

“I’ll do the same. Let’s get through this together.” 

San smiled. Biyeon smiled awkwardly.

A bit… just a little bit, her nervousness started to dissipate.

Episode 1. Book 1: Deviation – Chapter 6

San and Biyeon stood in front of the well-built pit. With pursed lips, San looked over the pit’s shape. Biyeon looked around the pit with a serious expression. She gulped and thought, ‘We need to live here together?’

The pit was dug into the hill with the underground floor measuring in at around 16 square meters. In front of the pit were large trenches dug vertically and horizontally, probably for protection against large animals. The entrance to the pit was formed in a maze pattern, possibly to limit the number of enemies one had to confront. In front of the entrance were various moats and fences.

The two of them put down their supplies and looked around the pit walls. There were numerous markings on the wall in a variety of languages. The pit seemed to have gone through many changes and upgrades from its many inhabitants over a long period of time. Blood splattering that couldn’t be erased were on the walls. A bitter, acrid smell arose in many places and unknown insect species were slowly traversing the floor. 

Both were looking at the markings on the wall. There were also some markings written in Korean. 

  • Please, let me live. Get me out of here. Mom! I’m sorry. Please let me die!

With a rigid face, San turned his head to another part of the wall.

  • Hehe… I’ve died six times.
  • Ah! There’s no more fucking nectar. Do I need to drink blood? Give me nectar! Those damn fuckers… I’m going to kill them all…
  • Leo! You son of a bitch. Next time, I’m going to chew your skin off.
  • Oh! I dreamt today. Princess Su-Ah led me onward. With her white, soft hands, she grabbed my rough manly hands. She also gave me her sweet lips. I wished to never wake up. Forever, forever.
  • Weep bitterly! Oh, this cursed land! Even death is not allowed. This is the hell inside of heaven, or the heaven inside of hell. Even the bravest and wisest can’t escape. I am repenting even today…
  • She was so tasty. I had a piece of her thigh. It was so savory. The foul smell of blood. Tasty. Tasty. Tasty.
  • Hehehe… this is heaven. My package is still strong.

1. The ‘pit’ here is a specialized military construct, not a small hole in the ground.

Previous Chapter Next Chapter