Life, Once Again! - Chapter 1017
Chapter 1017. Han Haneul
The figurative expression of ‘the world beneath my feet’ happened literally, but it didn’t feel strange. It was extremely natural as though I had this perspective since birth. I looked for the other ‘Han Haneul.’ Movement was easy. The moment I wished for it, I was there. It was the room I used when I was young. Memories started coming back to me. I felt like I found my high school graduation album that I had forgotten about. The Han Haneul lying on the bed stood up. She was a me that was totally different from me. I thought I’d feel a sense of disparity when looking at her, but I actually didn’t feel anything much. Maybe it was because what was about to unfold was a game.
Mom was in the living room. I stood next to her. I called out to her and even touched her, but mom didn’t seem to feel it. As the grim reaper had said, it seemed that I could not do anything but watch. I looked at my mother who didn’t have a single wrinkle on her face. She looked similar to me after I gave birth.
Han Haneul left the room, rubbing her drowsy eyes. Get washed and eat if you don’t want to be late — mom said. I stood in front of the boiling soup. It was some spicy kimchi jjigae. The taste and smell that was in my memories came back to me. I wanted to sniff and have a smell. I wanted to take a spoonful and put it in my mouth. However, I couldn’t do anything. It was in front of me, yet I could not feel anything. It was like a world beyond a screen. I was practically in a virtual reality. The world without taste or smell was very desolate.
“Mom, I might be a little late today.”
“You shouldn’t stay out late.”
After Han Haneul left, mom made some coffee and sat on the sofa. I also sat down next to her. Why did I not talk with her a little more when I was young? I had a ton of things to ask, such as how to pick the right fruit, how to clean bad stains, how to console a child throwing a tantrum, and how to win in a quarrel against my husband.
“Mom, don’t follow dad so quickly this time,” I muttered to my mother, who wouldn’t be able to listen.
If life went as is, mom would depart from this world in five years. Pancreatic cancer would come like a silent killer and take her life. I spoke to mom as I covered my face — Get regular checkups; don’t skip them just because it’s bothersome, please.
I no longer had the sensation of tears flowing down my face or my breath being stifled, but I was definitely crying. I was separated from this world, but I was still human. That was the truth.
“I should do the laundry.”
I muttered as I looked at my mother stand up — may this life change.
* * *
The desire to sleep, eat, and have sex – I could not feel any of them. While the world underneath my feet was slowly but definitely changing, I slowly became a rock on the side of the road. On the first day of the game, everything was new. My husband came back to life, my mother was healthy, and I was young. I was happy just watching them. I could cancel out the sense of powerlessness from not being able to do anything by watching them, who possessed infinite potential. However, as a day passed, then two, then three, then a month, then half a year, then a year, even happiness started becoming numb.
“I’m going out for a bit.”
Han Haneul left. She had planned to watch a movie with her friends. I reflexively followed suit. I watched as they ate food, and I watched as they cried. They chatted for about an hour at a cafe before separating. I no longer leaped through space. I thought back to what happened when I was young and took one step after another. That was my only joy. That was the only way I could experience the flow of time.
Every midnight, the lights went off at home. I would wander around in the darkness before leaving the apartment. Ever since I forgot how to sleep, the night became a period of time where I struggled with loneliness. I walked through the streets aimlessly. However, I could not get far from Han Haneul. I would feel less powerlessness if I could travel overseas or something, but I could only move around in the physical distance between Han Haneul and my young husband.
I walked and arrived at my husband’s house. He was pondering seriously with a notepad in front of him. He seemed to be still contemplating over the reincarnation. I believed in him. I believed that he would end this game soon.
* * *
It was the first encounter. She met my husband at a meet-up during their 2nd year of college. They met as company colleagues in the last life, but this time, it was different. Mom was alive as well. Pancreatic cancer did not grow within her. Evidence that life had changed was everywhere. I felt happy after a long time. I neither had a heartbeat nor any body temperature so I did not know whether this was true happiness or not, but I would definitely feel happy if something like this happened.
“The coffee will be on me.”
Han Haneul seemed to have taken a liking to my husband. I peeked inside her heart. Well, the contradiction of peeking into my own heart was rather ridiculous. Eventually, though, I felt complicated because I could no longer member how I laughed.
She liked my husband’s awkward smile. I was the same. Well, we are the same person, so we are bound to like the same things. I did not pry too deep into her heart. Even if I did, there was nothing I could do other than watch.
The two met every weekend after that and decided to start dating in the second month. After their date, I followed my husband who went home after separating from Han Haneul. I wanted to ask him why he chose me again when he could have met up with a different woman; why he asked his friend to introduce him to me.
Having come back, my husband shouted hurray and lay on the bed. I crossed my arms and watched from the side. My husband said — Haneul is pretty whenever I look.
“My beauty won’t go anywhere, you know?” I whispered into his ears, not that he would be able to hear it.
* * *
A child was born. The two of them named her Gaeul. Han Gaeul. It was a name I could not get fed up with calling no matter how many times I called. My husband seemed to find it a pity that he wasn’t able to play with her a lot and never left her side. I looked at my daughter, wrapped in fabric. She was the same child as the one I gave birth to. It felt strange. A sense of disparity I did not feel when I looked at my other self suddenly assaulted me. How long am I supposed to keep watching? I closed my eyes and calmed my senses, which were on the edge. This was the first life. There was no need to hurry.
* * *
My husband got cancer. It was pancreatic cancer. Perhaps it was a cursed twist of fate? Amidst the cancer treatment, my husband thinned out visibly by the day. Time, which flowed quickly under my insensitivity screeched down to the speed of a snail starting from that moment. One second became eons. Watching him getting treated was no different from hell. There was absolutely nothing I could do for him. I could neither cry for him nor grab his hand. This was the first time I felt so terrible.
I begged god. Please cure my husband. First a vegetable, then a fire outbreak, and now cancer. It was too cruel. He might lose memories of his past life if he reincarnates, but that wouldn’t change the fact that he writhed in pain until he died. He might not remember, but I did. As long as there was someone to remember, it would be an unerasable truth.
Please spare my husband.
* * *
Medical devices started beeping out alarms. 8 months into the treatment, my husband’s body seemed to have reached its limit. The eyes of the doctor who walked over to the bed looked tranquil. He looked as though he knew this was about to happen.
“Contact his guardian.”
The doctor declared his death. The nurse wrote it down. I left the hospital. Han Haneul was going to come soon. Not even twenty minutes later, a sedan came into the hospital parking lot. It looked like it was about to crash into the door. I watched her as she rushed over with red eyes. Yes, that was how I used to cry as well.
I sat on the ground. The sky was dark. No, perhaps my eyes had been blinded. I blocked my ears; so that I could pretend I did not hear the sound of my husband breathing, which no longer existed, as well as to not hear the sound of ‘me’ crying. The night was long. The crying was longer.
* * *
“I’ll do it. As long as I can bring him back to life.”
Han Haneul didn’t even listen until the end. Was I such a reckless person? Just as the grim reaper guaranteed, the other me decided to reincarnate. I explained what I heard from the grim reaper and got a contract. When I turned around after the procedure, the grim reaper was in front of me.
“Well done. You can do it by yourself now in the future, right?”
I nodded. The grim reaper received the contract with the palm print and put it in his pocket.
“Time to meet your husband then.”
I followed him without a word before looking at a mirror. A lump of light was how I looked right now. This was the form I took in front of Han Haneul.
“Uhm, can I change my appearance?”
“You can. However, neither Mr. Han Maru nor Ms. Han Haneul will be able to recognize you.”
“I can even display a little bit of my former appearance?”
“If that’s your wish.”
The grim reaper clapped.
* * *
I felt excited after a long time. I chose an outfit like a little girl. What would look good? I thought about it for a long time before choosing a white suit. I liked rabbits. I liked white rabbits. I like the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. I liked the rabbit that guided people to a land of wonders. I wanted to lead my husband to that world as well; to a world where no one cries, and no one is hurt.
“Mr. Han Maru?”
I greeted my husband, who seemed rather taken aback. He did not recognize me. My face had changed considerably. It might look like this if the face of Han Haneul was taken to the extreme limits of beauty. It was similar, but it was impossible to get the name ‘Han Haneul’ from this face. Precisely because it looked similar, it was hard to differentiate.
“Am I dead?” he asked.
I wanted to shout to him: that I am Han Haneul, that I am his wife. However, the moment I even thought about such a thing, darkness clouded my vision. The ‘higher-ups’ mentioned by the grim reaper had taken measures. I was not able to say a word about it.
“Yes. Mr. Han Maru, you have died.”
“But your life is not over yet.”
I approached my husband. I was able to touch him in this world, where life and death crossed. I grabbed his hand and spoke,
“Mr. Han Maru. Would you like to live your life once again?”