Life, Once Again! - Chapter 788
Maru relaxed his shoulders and let go of things one by one. First, the lines he was uttering, then the movement lines he pictured inside his mind several times, and then finally, the order of progression that he had planned out in detail. He also jerked his body as though to shake off some dust. Around the time the words were lingering in his mouth and the lingering motions at his fingertips and toe tips were shaken off, he slowly raised his eyelids. Leaves rotting in the shade; a plastic bag that flew past in the wind; rocks that would catch the feet of mountain climbers; deep pits; and finally the trees that surrounded the area – the visual information that he had forgotten about entered his eyes all at once. He forgot about his home, the path he took here, as well as the mountain cabin, and just took all that he saw as they were. He took a deep breath. The stench of wet leaves, the freshness of grass, as well as the unique scent of the mountains that refreshed his mind filled his head. He took slow breaths so that every inch of his body was filled with the air of the scene.
“Seonbae, are you ready?”
“Wait a sec.”
Maru climbed up and down the hill with quick steps. He ran up and walked down. When he ran back and forth the distance of around 30 meters about 20 times, his heart started pumping blood fast. He showed himself to Jiyoon and asked if he was sweating too much.
“I’ll wipe just a little.”
After wiping the sweat around his forehead and his eyes, he returned to position.
“I’m ready now.”
“How about you, Bangjoo-oppa?”
“I’m ready. You can zip me up now.”
Maru zipped the sleeping bag and told him to speak immediately if he felt pain. Bangjoo laughed, saying that he was going to be okay.
“Then I’ll start now.”
Aram stood in front of the camera with the slate. Maru waited for the signal while holding onto the sleeping bag. The slate was clapped, and Aram fell back.
Silence fell along with those words. Maru took a deep breath and took a large step backwards. He wasn’t dragging luggage; he was dragging up a corpse. The corpse was an ‘item’ that had a close relationship to the character’s life. It was akin to his life, and he could not afford to let go of it. Simultaneously, the item symbolized his cruelty and violence. It was an item that he could not embrace, and at the same time, one that he couldn’t just let go of. Even as he dragged the sleeping bag, Maru flinched and ran away as soon as he felt like the sleeping bag was too close to him, just as he would if he was chased by bees. By the time the rehearsed part ended, Maru suddenly felt his ankles sink. He didn’t slip on a wet leaf like he did during the rehearsal, but the whole ground was slightly indented. In this situation, where he was about to fall over, he put one hand on the ground and prevented the sleeping bag from falling with the other. The sleeping bag, which was dragged up in a straight line, suddenly turned diagonal. It was obviously an accident, but Sora did not shout cut. That was what Maru wanted. Although this wasn’t according to the storyboard, it was something within tolerance.
His wrist started aching. Maru did not hide his pain. Although he didn’t express it too much on his face, he let the audience know that he was hurt by rotating his wrist and looking at the injury. The things that happened between cuts were dramatic truths, so there was a need to be truthful in his reaction. If that method didn’t suit the film, then the director would just pick up the scalpel known as editing.
He dragged the sleeping bag up to the designated position. Although this was the part where his act was supposed to end, Sora’s mouth did not open. It was the director’s signal that changed an actor into a character in a film. Returning without orders from the director was something that must not happen. He grabbed the sleeping bag in one hand and kneeled down. He panted and looked at the sleeping bag placed in front of his knees. Inside it was a corpse; the corpse of his friend that he killed himself. Feeling a chill run down his back, he immediately lifted his head and looked around. The faces of his friends entered his eyes, but the filter of acting did not accept them as information. What the character that killed his close friend was looking for were the eyes of a third person. Mountain climbers, kids who liked climbing mountains, or locals who came to get vegetables. He prayed that coincidence doesn’t become the inevitable and prayed that he would get down the mountain safely despite the fact that he was a murderer who killed his friend as he looked for eyes again and again. He somehow knew the number of droplets of sweat on his forehead. He was so nervous that he felt like this entire area was a part of his body. He felt as though the thumping of the heart was rising from below the round. He felt like gloomy sounds were coming from around the area – at one moment, Maru realized that these feelings weren’t imaginary things that he created himself for the act; they were indeed real sounds. There was an ego that made his presence known within him. The masked man, his other self. The dramatic environment that his other self created played a big role in turning the imaginary into the truth. He didn’t have to pretend that he was listening to something he couldn’t hear; he was actually hearing something that he could indeed hear. The silent partner helped him out that way before erasing his presence again.
He thanked the one that would listen but not reply and continued his act. He stood up in a hurry and started dragging the sleeping bag again. Although he was already past the designated location, he just kept going forward since Sora did not give him the stop signal. Just as he clenched his teeth and started climbing again, he heard a cut sound from below.
“That’s enough, seonbae.”
Maru let go of the sleeping bag and unzipped it. Bangjoo sat up with a smile. It seemed that he wasn’t hurt.
“Sorry for falling down mid way. I checked several times, but it looks like I missed a spot,” he said to Sora.
She shook her head, saying that his apology wasn’t necessary.
“Are you kidding me, seonbae? If you apologize after doing so well, then it makes me look like a fool for giving the okay sign. But still, I thought that falling over mid way would look too cliché and thought about taking it out, but looking at how you did it, I was clearly wrong. Did you know that a vein popped up on your forehead when you stood up after falling down again? I was so nervous thinking that it might actually burst.”
“Looks like I strained myself too much. I do feel a little dizzy.”
“I was really going to shout cut, but I held back after seeing you continue your act. No, that’s not it. I just couldn’t tell where you were going with all this because you were completely different from the rehearsal. Did you practice that part beforehand? You really looked like you were fleeing after killing someone.”
“In my head, I killed dozens of times. I can’t kill someone for real.”
“You just gave me the chills. Also, I’m going to use this cut as it is. I don’t think it’ll be respectful of me to cut parts out.”
“Wouldn’t that become too long then?”
“You should have a look at the footage later. The sense of tension is unreal. It was a good thing that I rented a wireless microphone. Your breathing sounds were captured with so much detail.”
“Do you think it made up for the 20,000 won rental fee per day?”
“More than enough. We’ll clean your sweat a little and continue right away. If we finish our morning quota quickly, we can shoot more.”
“Don’t squeeze me out too much,” Maru said as he shook his wrists.
* * *
“Are you alive? Jeongsoo, you bastard, you still alive?”
Sooil looked at Maru, who looked touched as he looked at him. When he witnessed the moment the cruelty in his eyes turned into warmth, he felt like laughing in vain. Maru’s act was frighteningly candid. He couldn’t help but do his best in front of his candid act. He realized that they would be compared to each other the moment he put some leeway. He didn’t want their relationship to be the genuine versus the fake. They were actors before they were friends. Losing out in terms of acting was not something he wanted.
“Yes, Jeongsoo. It’s me, Jinho. Are you okay? Are you really okay?”
Sooil burned up in rage as he looked at the expression of the person that grabbed his face. The person that drove him to death was shamelessly climbing up a mountain, and not only that, he was climbing with a corpse in a sleeping bag. This drove him nuts. Frustration and rage as rough as the terrain here started sprouting up. How could he do this when they’ve been friends for a decade? His limp body started heating up. His stiff neck became taut, and all of his muscles got ready to sprout up. He even momentarily forgot that he was about to die. The ‘son of a bitch’ that rushed out of his throat was not in the script, but he couldn’t hold back from uttering those words.
Maru’s face, which looked apologetic as he clutched Sooil’s face, suddenly started stiffening up like a car that was braking suddenly. The retrospective look on his face as he regretted the mistake he committed against his close friend started disappearing along with his paling face. His eyes were clearly hesitating; hesitating on whether to save his friend’s life or save his own. The change from human affection to obsession towards life made Sooil’s stomach hurt.
Sooil felt death looming over him as he looked at the eyes that were becoming empty. He forgot that they were acting and accepted the surging wave of emotions without any filters.
“Don’t do it, Jinho. Don’t do it.”
The saliva in his mouth started bubbling. As the temperature of his words screaming ‘don’t do it’ started rising, the rage conversely turned cold. The moment he realized that the friend in front of him was turning from the person who ‘almost’ killed him into the person who ‘was definitely going to’ kill him, he started shaking. At the same time, he felt joyous. Becoming emotionally synchronized to a partnering actor was something incredibly exciting for actors. With the exception of monodramas, all acting was the art of ‘union’. Every time his own acting combined with the other person’s acting blurred the boundary between fiction and reality, Sooil thought that it was a good thing that he became an actor.
Maru was squeezing himself. His act was just that desperate. In order to pay back that acting in kind, there was a need for him to condense his emotions so that they didn’t start leaking. The presence of the onlookers became faint and eventually, only he and Maru were on this mountain. As death became clearer, the fear became more and more concrete. His breath only tickled the ceiling of his mouth and did not get pushed out.
“Jinho, I won’t say anything. You know, don’t you? I will stay quiet no matter what happens. The hospital. Just bring me to the hospital. I’m really going to die, Jinho.”
“Sorry, Jeongsoo, I don’t want to get caught for attempted murder.”
“Son of a bitch, I’m not dead yet. I will never report you to the authorities.”
“How am I supposed to believe that?”
“Sorry, Jeongsoo. I feel so complex now. Thinking is too hard for me.”
“Kim Jinho, you fucking bastard!”
Maru standing with a rock in his two hands, entered Sooil’s eyes. The stone fell on his head. Sooil shut his eyes. He felt like death overwhelmed him in an instant.
His body, which had scrunched up, with even his fists curled up, turned loose in an instant. Sooil opened his eyes slowly. He saw Maru’s smiling face.
“Hey, someone might think that I’m really about to kill you.”
“You were planning to, until about half way through, weren’t you?”
Maru unzipped the sleeping bag for him. Sooil shivered even though it was the middle of summer.
“I think I need payment for this. This is way too hard.”
“You can consult our director for that. Here, grab my hand.”
He grabbed the hand that was offered to him and stood up.