: Lost and UnfoundAuthor
: Lu Han/Kai, Lu Han/SehunRating
: Mystery, SuspenseLength
: 11,000 wordsDescription
: The bell chimed seven times at midnight.Part One
|| Part TwoThe long, pale fingers nimbly tugged the zipper upwards, the collar ending right below Lu Han’s adams apple. He grazed Lu Han’s shoulders with cold hands, tracing their outlines, grasping his upper arms for a brief second before tugging the bottom of the fabric by Lu Han’s waist, straightening it.“My own jacket looks better on you,” he observed.Lu Han jerked the top of his collar for show, all the while staring straight into his companion’s eyes. “I’m keeping it, then.”The boy placed a chaste kiss on his lips with a chuckle. “Keep my heart, too,” he said.***
Right during sunset, the sun a blood orange flooding the room with a daunting red glow through the glass wall behind Lu Han’s desk, Jongin knocked on the door. Entering without waiting for an answer, he saw Lu Han seated in his swivel chair, prim and proper, looking at the bright computer screen with a hand on the mouse. Looking, but not seeing.
“Hey,” Jongin said.
“Hey,” came Lu Han’s weak reply, his lips barely moving.
Jongin took a seat in a less plushy chair across Lu Han’s desk and pried open Lu Han’s grip from around the mouse, encircling it in his own. Jongin’s grasp was warm, and comforting, but Lu Han did not feel consoled one bit. He stayed rigid.
“Hungover?” Jongin asked.
Lu Han only shook his head.
“You don’t look too good. Are you okay?”
The corners of Lu Han’s mouth curled up just the slightest bit. “Yes,” he lied.
He should’ve known better, but Jongin trusted his friend. So with that, he left.***
Lu Han picked up the receiver before the first ring ended. This time, he didn’t start with his own name.
“Sehun,” he simply said.
A crackle was the only response.
Lu Han fidgeted with his nails. The fear was gone, but his heart was still beating faster than it should, his hands still cold with sweat. “You sound different, but alike,” he stated, hoping to get more than a crackle as a response.
At the seventh ring of bell in the background, “It was ugly, wasn’t it?” the voice asked him out of nowhere.
“His death,” the voice evenly answered. There was a brief moment of silence, and something sharp pinched at the back of Lu Han’s eyes. “It was ugly. They never found all of him, am I right?” The whooshing sound that laced the answer grew louder and louder, but all Lu Han did was press the receiver closer to his ears.
“I–” Lu Han began to stutter, before the voice cut him off.
“It was ugly, messy; a disgrace – and you’re scared that something so beautiful could turn into such an abomination.”
The sound of rushing wind took over the conversation, and only then did Lu Han set the receiver back to its place.***Curls of dense, black smoke erupted from the cylindrical chimneys in the distance. From here, they looked tiny, but they knew they were massive in actuality. Most people choose to daydream looking at the sky, or the sea, or the breadth of the city’s skyline, but he wasn’t like most people. He liked to get lost in his mindless reveries when his eyes were set upon the nameless factories beyond the twinkle of the city, pushed back far into the depth of the ugly. It was strangely comforting to see the smoke, to
feel it, darting along his skin like a million moths, rushing into his lungs and fluttering their wings against soft, damp flesh as he succumbs to the need for oxygen.He felt a nudge on his waist. Flicking open a lighter, he brought it close to his companion’s face. The smoke that rose afterward drifted away in the night wind, insignificant in comparison to the ones in the distance, plumes arising one by one, hopelessly, without end.***
Jongin knocked again, and this time waited for an invitation. At a meek sound coming from Lu Han’s room, he opened the door and sat on the sofa. Even from a distance, he shivered from Lu Han’s sullen, dismal appearance.
He didn’t say anything until Lu Han looked up to see him. Jongin flinched at the shadows on his handsome features.
“Is there something wrong?” he asked; a futile attempt. “Anything you want to tell me?” he probed further in vain.
Lu Han shook his head and went back to work. Jongin sighed, and dragged himself back to his cubicle.***
The dark, dark room was quiet, until the phone rang again.
It was staggering how the sounds that once ignited such terror in him now no longer do. Yet still, despite having been somewhat accustomed to the sounds from the other end, his heart raced as he listened and pathetically wheezed for air. And now, in place of fear, there was a dull ache he couldn’t quite explain, and the remnants of something ominous.
The announcement in the background ended, and the sounds grew muted, perhaps covered by the palm of a hand. The caller cleared his throat; there was a hint of amusement even in the diminutive sound.
“Even if I say I’m not who you think I am, you’re still going to think so, aren’t you,” it finally said.
“No, I–” he stammered, but found that he didn’t have an answer. His free arm supported himself as he leaned hunched over his desk in distress. Harsh, raucous sounds of footsteps running suddenly cut across the near silence, and Lu Han stood to full height in reflex, head whipping back and forth, for a split-second not being able to distinguish whether they came from the room or the other side of the line, from wherever the caller was calling from. When he realised the room was empty, he gulped down mouthfuls of air in one heavy breath after another. His heart was rattling violently inside his ribcage.
Lu Han shook his head to drive out the shock and turned on the speakers on his phone, setting the receiver down. It felt unsafe, being trapped in his chair, being able to vaguely see the outline of his door, but blocked out of sight from the glass surface that lined the wall behind him. Pacing around the room, he tried to chase the tremble from his knees.
“What is happening,” he wondered in the dark, eyes alert to every tiny movement. “Why is this happening…”
The caller laughed. Humourless, detached. It was loud, emitting from the tiny speakers of his phone, the clarity astounding even from the other end of the room. Lu Han shuddered.
Strands of brown parted as he ran a hand through his hair. “This is a dream,” he concluded mid-movement. “This is a dream. A bad, bad dream, a fucking horrific
nightmare, and I need to wake up.”
A command came loud and clear.
“Pinch yourself, then,” the phone crackled. “Pinch yourself, and see if you wake up.”
Lu Han turned to face the ordinary communicator on his desk, boring holes into it. He didn’t pinch himself, like the caller told him to; he knew it would be in vain. He knew
it wasn’t a dream.
“Even if this was a dream,” the caller continued, before being interrupted by seven consecutive clangs of a bell he couldn’t mute, reverberating in the dark, dark space, dowsing Lu Han in cold sweat. “Even if this was
a dream,” he repeated when the clangs were brought to a halt, “it’s not one you want to wake up from, isn’t it.”
Questions and statements mingled into one, tampered by the sing-song voice of a woman in the background booming through crummy speakers.
“Are you calling from a train station?” Lu Han asked. It sounded like the most conceivable explanation, and at once the most implausible, because station clocks do not chime seven times past midnight, and no station is crowded after office rush hour ends – at least in his part of the world. “You’re not calling from my area, are you? Where are you calling from?”
The caller didn’t offer an answer. In its place was, instead, another question. “What’s with you and train stations?”
Once again, questions blurred with statements, and this time, it stopped Lu Han in his tracks.
“You avoid stations like a plague,” the shapeless voice floated through the air. “You moved to a place closer to the office so you wouldn’t have to set foot on a train, ever again, and you close your eyes at red fireworks.”
His lungs struggled to expand and constrict; his vocal chords failed him. Incapacitated inside a skyscraper.
“Tell me, Lu Han, why?”
Lu Han opened his mouth to speak.
“Tut, tut, tut
. I know you’ll lie,” the caller accused, effectively ending his feeble attempt at a response. He had no idea why he hadn’t ended the call and leave. An impulse kept him screwed to the ground, listening, afraid of what he’ll hear, but more terrified of missing a single word.
Lu Han had managed to whisper a pitiful “It’s not…” when he was interrupted again.
“You couldn’t believe that someone so solid and graceful could just... slip
from the slippery platform,” the voice charged at him. Lu Han had the sudden urge to scream, but he didn’t, rooted to the floor, wide eyes intent somewhere on his desk. “You wonder whether the rain really was the one to blame; you wonder whether it was an accident indeed.
“But they told you it really was
the rain, and the fog, and the slippery concrete, and the slippery shoes, and the very, very unfortunate timing. They told you so, so that’s what you chose to believe.
“You wonder how it happened. But you know how it went.”
At these words, Lu Han’s knees gave out in dread, and he closed his ears with shaking hands, yelling choked up “no, no, no!
”s in a pitiful crumpled heap. The coarse carpet scratched viciously at his skin.
“It was a firework,” the voice recalled; emotionless, reiterating a line from a Sunday newspaper.
“Do you like fireworks, Lu Han?” it asked innocently, while Lu Han’s heart lurched, his lungs sinking in ice-cold water and bitter recollection. “It was a firework of sangria blood, white skin, and grey matter. It was magnificent. Some people would even find it beautiful.
“But I know you think he’s most beautiful underneath you, with eyes barely open, his pink lips the slightest bit parted, breathing out your name. I know, Lu Han. I know.”
Resentment swelled within his quivering body, and all he wanted was for everything to end
“No,” he spat out, seething, striding towards the phone in a sudden jolt of strength, fuelled by wrath, and how dare he?!
“No, you don’t know.”
Lu Han thumped the speaker off with the slam of a palm, and barged out of the smothering room.***Stifled in smog, miniscule orbs of white, yellow, red flickered blearily, the view captivating from the open balcony on the forty-fifth floor. All of them would disappear once the dawn hits, stealthy and unforgiving, drowning the petty glow in shameless bright daylight. The caresses that ghosted over his flush cheeks were too soft for his taste, but he leaned into the touches nonetheless, ignoring the nagging itch under his flesh. Giving in, when all he wished for was running out. Moments later, sheer hard compulsion engulfed him completely, and his intentions vanished into nothingness, dissipating into thin air upon rattling bed frames, nail marks, and his name quietly hushed into his own skin.***
Sometime in the afternoon, Jongin knocked. The only response that followed the gesture was silence, and eventually the rapping ceased.***
The main lights went off as soon as Lu Han finished rolling the unplugged cables in neat, tight circles. Yet, at 00:04, the phone rang once more. No matter how strange, they didn’t even startle him anymore, these uncanny phone calls in the dead of night. Idly, he put it on speaker.
Shushed hustle and bustle quickly filled up the otherwise quiet room.
,” was the first thing the caller said through the noise. “And you know that I do.”
Lu Han listened.
The caller’s loud, exaggerated sigh that followed was translated into a jarring crackle over the speakers. “Listen, I’m not here to judge,” he continued. “If you liked having a puppy
who wiggles its tail everytime it feeds from the palm of your hand – well, whatever rocks your boat.”What an accusation
, Lu Han quickly thought, before blurting out, “No, Sehun– No, I mean–”
The caller laughed at his meagre defence, maniacal, the loudest thing the dark office room had ever contained.
think you had him in the palm of your hands? That is atrocity at its finest.”
The blatant spite.
“All along he had you
in the palm of his
hands. But you were just too busy licking another.
“Were you happy when he died?” the caller shot in the dark. “Relieved that you weren’t going to have to leave him after all? No, of course not. I bet you weren’t so relieved when he died, and when you found yourself thinking he was a bit more than a friend either, were you.” Another laugh, with just a tad less manic than the first, but now dosed in sarcasm. “Oh, excuse me,” it corrected itself, none too humbly. “A lot
more than a friend. My mistake.”
“You don’t know how I felt,” Lu Han finally piped up. “You have no fucking idea how I felt.”
“Oh, trust me, I do,” the caller responded calmly. “And you know that I do.”
“No! You don’t fucking
know!” Lu Han screamed as he banged his fists on his desk. The tidbits strewn all over the surface clattered, their peace disrupted by their owner.
His exclamations went ignored, with the caller continuing to throw claims after claims that Lu Han couldn’t begin to refute. His speaking tone sounded remarkably flat after the glimpse of lunacy Lu Han had witnessed.
“You laughed at his naivety. He didn’t have a clue you were fucking Jongin too, did he? (Oops! But that’s what you think, tsk tsk tsk!
) It was amusing at first, but bam!
it turned into a fucking itch, a motherfucking itch that crept under your flesh like a million little critters, waiting to split open your skin with spatters of blood and leave you oozing, lifeless in his fucking boring apartment.
“You were about to leave, and then he died. And then, expectedly, of course, like always, guilt came along to knock on your door. It was no longer a million little critters – it was a chock load of ticks, covering every inch of your skin, sucking you dry until you’re just a rickety old carcass. But all you did, Lu Han,” he reprimanded, “all you did was fuck Jongin harder.
“Tell me, Lu Han, I’ve always wanted to know. Can you still feel guilt when you’re having a good fuck?”
Lu Han buried his face into the crook of his arms, slumping over the polished mahogany desk. Through the wisps of his fringe, he stared into the darkness enveloping him. Shadows – from the objects in his room, from rotting memories, from a plethora of endless what-ifs and whys, transcending time, and place, and states of mind; shadows that are casted from beating hearts and a shattered one, buried six feet under – roamed in free reign, occupying the space around him, leaving a mantle of disquiet draped over curved spine. They only disappeared when the first lights of day painted his hair with a golden tinge.***
While the dark was busy swallowing the last remnants of sunlight, turning the smog-laden sky the deepest shade of grey, Jongin came by. He didn’t knock, but found the door locked. The doorknob rattled violently in its resistance of the force trying to pry it open.
The rattling stopped. A small thud, then fading footsteps.***
At 00:03, his hand hovered over the receiver.
A minute later, the first ring had barely ended when it very abruptly stopped. Cradling the receiver on the side of his face, he slowly closed his eyes, as the sounds seem clearer this way, each one flooding his senses in their utmost clarity. In a blur of imagination, reality, and memories, he pictured a mother holding her child, walking slowly on the far side of the platform; a college student running fast among the sea of bodies, late for a date, muttering an apologetic “sorry, sorry, sorry!
” to the nameless beings around him as he fumbled past; a lady in needle-thin stilettos and a leopard coat, leaning back with one sole against the dirty, crumbling walls; Sehun, gripping his hand discreetly, whispering,
“So eager to answer my calls.”
Lu Han opened his eyes and the scene disappeared, having been snatched back to the present and what was real, the blurry lines thrown into relief. The darkness a docile blanket in the cold.
The bell rang seven times, and he closed his eyes again. He could hear voices in the silence, could see crystal clear images behind closed lids. He could feel the hand on his.They reached the end of the escalator just as the train was coming in, whooshing past, all metal and plastic and glass, the wind triggered by its motion whipping sharply on his face before it screeched to a halt. The platform was slippery with rain, dirtied with marks of mud. Disgusting. They pushed past the door, the space inside overflowing with people, the carriage barely fitting in the two slim bodies. He didn’t need to hold the handrails to keep him steady, the body he was leaning onto a solid thing in itself.“You always catch the 7:00 train, even when I’m not coming home with you. Why?”The other person scratched his head. “I don’t know either. It’s a habit, I guess. Sometimes, you wonder–
“–wonder why you keep picking up my calls.”
“Think,” the caller demanded. “You have an inkling of idea. So think, and think hard. Why?
Through the thunderous beating of his brittle little heart, Lu Han thought of everything seen, and everything lost. He thought of pale skin and soft hair. He thought of factories, of small weary flames burning on the tip of a lighter. He thought of rickety springs under the mattress, of short gasps of breath, of fleeting, tender touches on his skin, creeping under his flesh. Books, lined up against beige walls. The messy hair dye, the entire spectrum of a rainbow, caught under his fingernails. Smiles. The sun a muted ball of fire, the moon a milky circle hanging in star-strewn skies. Neat, slanted handwriting on small pieces of paper. Phone calls waking him up in the middle of the night. Ill-fated lovers. Trains. Fireworks. Blood.
“You miss him,” the voice answered for him. “He’s gone, and you miss him, and you’re sorry. You’re sorry you wasted time. You’re sorry he didn’t have much of it to waste – in fact, he didn’t have any. You’re sorry that he’s dead.
“He’s gone, and you miss him, and you’re sorry. But of course you’re never going to admit that.”No
, Lu Han thought, nibbling on his bottom lip, biting down until he drew blood, and he realised he’d been silent all along.
He thought more of pale skin and soft hair and hidden notes and phone calls and trains and fireworks, and blood, and Sehun, Sehun, Sehun
, and, “But I am.”
“I’m sorry,” Lu Han choked, strangled sobs escaping bloody lips, painting it with a dash of ugly. Revolting, grotesque. Despair and anguish seeped in between tissues, wrecking him to shatters from the inside out, and he keens in nausea.
Paying no regard to his misery, “Oh, now
, you’re sorry,” the voice countered mockingly. But beneath scorn, escaping Lu Han, was a wash of satisfaction, and relief, and liberation, stringed together by delicate strands of unspoken words, discarded thoughts, unconveyed affection, undeclared denials, each admittance severing the threads that held his heart together.
“I’m sorry for everything.” Snip
“I’m sorry for every fucking thing that happened.” Snip, snip.
“I’m sorry he’s... dead.” Snip, snip, snip
The sounds in the caller’s background had almost vanished completely, replaced by a soft breathing sound, familiar even in stark darkness and confusion, bringing images from a past long gone, of times of closed lids, pink lips, and porcelain skin. Of a chest rising, and falling, beneath his touch, and the tremors of a young heart beating in love.
“He’s… dead. I know he’s dead,” Lu Han repeated painfully. Frail. Bereft. Sorry. He rubbed the fatigue out of his eyes. They were wet. “So who are you? Please
, who are you?” he begged.
An eternity of silence seemed to pass them by, the stillness echoing under dim lights, a wicked resonance that submerged him in grief, consuming him, leaving him lifeless. Dead.
The answer finally came in the form of a command.
“Turn around,” the formless voice whispered into his ear. And so he did, turning his chair to face the glass wall behind him, the wavy phone cord attached to the receiver in his hand stretching with a creak.
When he turned, through leaden eyes he saw through spotless glass the glittering lights from the city’s skyline, brightly coloured orbs pulsating in the dark, lively, and enchanting, a contradiction of the haunting darkness surrounding him. But when he blinked, all he saw was a reflection of his own seated self, and the reflection of tear tracks that clawed at his cheeks.end.