Life, Once Again! - Chapter 1018
Chapter 1018. Han Haneul
My husband’s fourth life began. Having returned to his high school days, he was greeted by a new life with the memories of only the life just before this one. I thought back to the brief meeting I had with him. I had a small hope that he might recognize me even if my face had changed, but just as the grim reaper had said, there was no hint that he recognized me. Despite that, I was happy to talk to him. I was able to make a voice, which I had forgotten about for decades. Honestly, it was surprising as well. My own voice sounded like someone else’s. It even reminded me of when I recorded my own voice on tape and played it back.
Having passed away due to cancer in his previous life, he started looking after his health from a young age. Even during high school, he stayed away from oily foods and only ate healthy foods. His friends even said that he had an elderly text. He told his friends that they should eat healthily when they were young so that they wouldn’t suffer later in life. I thought as I listened to the ordinary, yet not-so-ordinary conversation — how many times will this repeat?
2 years passed since the new life began. I ended up forgetting about boredom. I just endlessly stared at the constant stream of indiscriminate information being given to me. My husband looked for Han Haneul in his third year of high school. Haneul did not welcome him, who approached her with an awkward smile. However, as one meeting became two, then three, the two of them became friends. I could already picture their future. The two would definitely get married.
I looked at the two people lying on the same bed. I desperately wanted to fall into a deep sleep. However, sleep never arrived. A world of strange temperature between the soft mattress and warm duvet, where one leg out would feel cold, but the body under would be hot; now, ‘sleep’ had become a faint word that only reminded me of a dictionary definition.
Gaeul was born again. Her wavy hair had not changed. Every day was safe and ordinary until she managed to utter her first words and stand up on her two feet. I endured every day by watching the little girl sleeping between him and her.
The change came suddenly. Twenty-nine. My husband departed from the world, leaving behind a two-year-old child. It was a traffic accident. A freight truck driver was driving half-asleep and drove into my husband’s sedan. The bumper was crumpled like a piece of paper. I watched the car give off smoke with a vain feeling. It was a game that would begin again if I pressed the reset button. I started to feel afraid of the future. It wasn’t because of the pain my husband would be experiencing but nor was it because of the unease that I did not know when the game would end.
I started worrying and was afraid of whether I would still be able to remain a person by the end of this game.
* * *
I started writing a diary. It was a gift left behind by the grim reaper, who said that he was being assigned somewhere else. It was a sense of touch I had not felt in a long time. They were a set of a pencil that never ran out and a notepad with infinite pages. I wrote the date on the top before scribbling it out with the pencil. I realized that writing the date was meaningless. I instead wrote another number: 6. I closed the notepad and looked in front of me. My husband, who had his eyes closed, was standing up. I approached him and talked to him.
“Mr. Han Maru?”
“Am I dead?”
Another life was about to begin.
* * *
87. I wrote without thinking but then was startled like I touched a hot pan. Nay, I no longer remembered what it felt like to touch a hot object, so it would be more accurate to say that I was just startled.
I read the number out loud. It was a voice I could only make when my husband had died. I was only able to be conscious of my ‘self’ in the boundary between life and death. Having been given a new life, my husband closed his eyes, touched and appreciative. The eighty-seventh life would be waiting for him. The world at my feet started flowing in reverse. My husband’s body, which died a sudden death, returned to his younger days. I quietly watched him as he opened his eyes. I wrote down the first actions he took as soon as he opened his eyes. I had nothing else to do, so I wrote down the trivial thoughts as well. I had a wrist that would not hurt no matter how much I used it.
* * *
295. No, was it 296? I flipped over to the page before. It was neither 295 nor 296. It was the 294th life. I scribbled it out and wrote it again. ‘294.’ My husband opened his eyes. Having woken up in bed, he touched his body with glee. After seeing that it was not a dream, he cried tears and thanked a god of a nameless origin. I wrote ‘Type A’ on the notepad. Type A was where he cried after waking up, Type B was where he laughed endlessly, Type C was where he rushed to the bathroom to check his face, and Type D was where he checked the faces of his sleeping parents in the master bedroom. Other than that, there were various other types of reactions, but the ABCD types took the majority.
I did not need to predict what my husband’s next actions were going to be. It was looking for ‘Han Haneul.’ It would be usually split into whether he would go find her during high school or during college, but he would definitely find Han Haneul. In the 294 repeated lives, not once did he not look for Han Haneul. Just like how a person could not live without breathing, my husband desperately looked for Han Haneul. I looked at the encounter between the two that happened yet again and realized that this was nothing like destiny. This was karma. The two were tied by a truly tenacious string and could never escape it.
My husband talked to Han Haneul. The boring life was about to repeat.
* * *
698. I could no longer remember what mom’s name was. Han Haneul kept calling her ‘mom’ after all. The people around called her ‘Haneul’s mom.’ What was her name again? I stared at the living room in a daze before finding a book tied up by a blue ribbon. By Choi Haesoo, right, mom’s name was Choi Haesoo. It wasn’t that I was getting dementia. There were no elements that could cause dementia in my body. I just became ignorant of everything. If I focused, I might have remembered. However, I did not do so. I neither had the need nor the purpose to do so. Without Han Haneul underneath me, my own name would have disappeared beyond my consciousness as well.
I opened my notepad. My husband was dying. I wrote down the cause of death and when his breath ended. I was slowly becoming a highly performant writing stencil.
* * *
1928. Type A. Han Haneul Type C. Daughter has curly hair. Husband employed in a decent company. Salary 2.5 million won a month. Han Haneul starts a side job, pay is .8 million per month. Livelihood is not bad. Daughter gets a prize in an elementary school drawing competition. She seems to have talent in art. Age 39. Slipped to death.
* * *
4824. Type C. Type B. Daughter is healthy. Cause of death is a traffic accident. There seem to be a lot of traffic accidents.
* * *
My husband keeps failing to get employed in a big company. Maybe dying and starting over is a better option.
* * *
Am I human?
* * *
* * *
* * *
I want to die.
* * *
I opened my notepad after a long time. The last number I wrote was 7422. I could not estimate how much time had passed since then. I did not want to either.
The words ‘I want to die’ entered my eyes. It didn’t give me any feelings at all. Neither hope nor despair, or any emotions for that matter, was left in me.
“It has become time. It is time to switch things up. Go on and try things within the acceptable range.”
They were words from a grim reaper I hadn’t seen before. I had a vague feeling. Before the grim reaper appeared, the ‘higher-ups’ notified me. I spoke to my husband with a face that was a little closer to ‘Han Haneul’s.’ I could see the puzzlement on his face, but nothing changed. The higher-ups were inducing me to give him hints in a way that my husband would absolutely not notice it. I didn’t care. I knew that doing something was meaningless. Just like a machine that just moves accordingly in tandem with the changes in the system, I just did what I did.
Even so, it was quite fun using my head after a long time. I made him open his eyes in a place we used to date a lot, and I also used a lot of words I used when we whispered love when I explained the reincarnation. I did not have the slightest bit of hope. This was also just a little side fun.
“Do your best in your new life.”
I ended my meeting with him with the same comment. The hamster wheel life was beginning again without a single crack. I was about to get ready to observe as I looked at the world below me. Something remained in the place my husband left. It was the first change that occurred in the thousands, no, tens of thousands of cycles of life. I could see ‘that’ seeping into my husband who became a high school student.
Something was about to change.
* * *
‘That’ was my husband. At first, it was like a meaningless silhouette like a reflection of the moon on the surface of the water, but it slowly started to gain ego. On the 230th reincarnation after that came into existence, that became an equal ego to my husband. It was Han Maru that came from Han Maru.
I wanted to try talking to him.