Chapter 2 - Gift
The child’s eyes gleamed when I said that.
Even in the dark, I could see their eyes twinkling curiously with vigor.
“What? Is that really all right?” the child asked, grabbing both my arms. They seemed anxious that I would run away. My arms hurt from being gripped tightly by the child. I could feel their nails digging in my skin over my clothes. Rather than dismayed, I felt bad for the child.
I felt sorry for them.
I recalled watching abandoned lion cubs on TV once. I remembered that the narrator said the mother abandoned them because the cub was too weak and frail. Back then, I was so young that the seagulls on the beach looked down on me and stole my crackers. I once fell ill when I cradled a dead baby swallow that fell out of its nest, thinking that I could save it if I warmed it up. I remade anthills that were accidentally stepped on along the road. I was foolish in a lot of ways.
“Yeah, if it’s something you can give.” I ended up agreeing readily.
As their mouth fell open, the child seemed to be moved.
“Really, really, for real?” they asked several times in disbelief.
I played along and answered, “Really, really, for real.” Then I clasped the hands of the child that was holding onto me.
The child’s mouth closed. The child’s eyes were on my hands holding theirs. The frigid hands felt slightly warm. My warmth had transferred to them.
“My mom will love me even if I have that kind of thing. So you can give it to me.” I could say that because I believed in my mother’s love that she gave to me so far. “If you give it to me, would you not hear that from your mom anymore?”
The child replied hesitantly, “…Maybe.”
“Thank goodness.” I smiled broadly and the child stared at me.
It was then that I realized that the sweet scent was coming from the child. I didn’t smell like this even after I was cleanly washed and slathered with lotion by my mother. The perfume my mom sprayed after she did her makeup wasn’t this sweet either.
What was it, this sweet smell? Usually, inhaling dense smells for too long made my head hurt, but this was different. Instead, it was…
“If you receive it… You’ll have a very hard time,” the child finally said after a long silence. He was so thrilled before, but now he was crestfallen.
I asked, “Does it hurt?” and the child shook his head.
“But if you don’t give it to me, you’ll be the one who suffers.”
The child shut his mouth.
I loved my mom very much. On days when I got a lot of delicious meat, I blew on the meat to cool it before feeding it to my mom. When I received snacks from preschool that my mom liked, I didn’t eat them and left them aside to slip them into my mom’s hands later. For some reason, I thought the child loved their mom as much as I did.
“You also want to be loved.”
At that, the child’s head dropped.
Their heart must have hurt to hear such mean words from a person they loved dearly. The child was silent for a while. They seemed to be mulling over it. I waited until the child made up their mind.
“Is there anything you want? This never happened to me before… so I want to give you anything that you want,” the child finally asked.
A gift? I liked receiving gifts. However, I felt bad receiving something from a child smaller and skinnier than I was. I recalled the lullaby the child sang not long ago.
“Hmm, you sing pretty well.” I was thinking of simply asking the child to sing for me later. I wondered if they were good at singing songs other than the lullaby.
My mom always said, “Singing and dancing really aren’t your forte. I think you should give up on being a celebrity, my dear son.” My mom’s dream since she was a child was to sing on stage. That was why she thought that it would be good if I went down that path too.
Although I wanted to fulfill my mom’s wishes, as she pointed out, I couldn’t sing well. Even my preschool teacher told me to lip-sync when we sang as a choir. That was all I remembered.
“Singing,” the child echoed my answer. Then they nodded as if they understood.
“I’ll give my singing voice to you.” The child gripped my hands tightly then smiled brightly.
That was all I remembered about that Child and the “large house.” I couldn’t remember how I got out of that house or what happened to the other children I was with. I truly remembered nothing.
I met that suspicious Child in that space so unrealistic that I wouldn’t be surprised even if it were a dream.
That could never have been a dream. In fact, I wished that it were a dream.
I was seven years old when I was trapped in that big house.
Since then, I was suddenly able to sing well. I was sure that when I was younger, my mom said I was tone-deaf. I also had never been to music lessons. I just became good. Everyone who heard me was in awe at how well I sang. They all said that it was a voice that they wanted to listen to again and again.
There is one more thing that I must remind you here. This is not a story of an old man who gave away his lump. This is about the one who took the lump from him.
That’s right—the goblin.
After I started being able to sing well, I realized what the “lump” that the child gave to me was. The goblins were the ones who gathered around the old man’s song. It was because the song was good enough that the goblins desired it. Would a person who attracted beings who stood on the boundaries of the living and the dead truly be considered an average person?
After I started being able to sing well, I started “seeing” strange things. People who stood upside down, people who floated with no lower half, people with no eyes, people with half their bodies chopped off, and even those who did not have a human-like form anymore—all those things liked my song.
They followed me wherever I went and tried to make me sing no matter the method. Every night, some sat on top of me in my bed and licked my lips and my throat with their tongues. Those ones enjoyed my screams as well. I couldn’t sleep well night after night.
After that Child gave me the “lump” and the “song,” I became a goblin. I took the form of a person, but I could see what normal people couldn’t and received their hungry love. I could understand why that Child’s mother screamed every time she saw that Child.
My mother cried every day as she watched how strange I had become.
“You weren’t like this before you got into the car accident.”
When I was seven years old, I got into a car accident and my condition was so dire that the doctor told my mom to prepare for the worst. While I was teetering over the boundary between life and death, I wandered for a long time in that spacious house.
SCENE #3. SHARING SCARY STORIES
INT. 3RD FLOOR CONFERENCE ROOM IN XX CENTER, ILSAN, GYEONGGI PROVINCE
Date: July 24
Cast: NAHOON KIM, MINA PARK, GOYEON LEE, HAESEO NAM, SEOHANG, WOORIM EUN
NAHOON. I think the mood is slowly growing ripe.
MINA. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I think it’s a bit chillier now.
NAHOON. Plus, isn’t everyone here a star of celebrity urban legends?
GOYEON. Maybe they gathered all of us like this on purpose?
They all laugh and agree.
NAHOON. On that note, let’s go around and tell everyone our stories.
SEOHANG. We’ve all recounted it so many times, I don’t think anyone would be surprised.
NAHOON. Well, new additions to your experiences are also welcome.
WOORIM. I don’t want to go through something like that again!
NAHOON. Then what about scary stories you heard from others?
SEOHANG. Oh, I have something like that. There’s that story going around the web these days.
NAHOON. Do urban legends also follow trends?
All laugh at the same time.
WOORIM. I know that one! The story about the large mansion. Do you know that one?
MINA, raising her hand. I’ve heard of that one too. The mansion with 101 rooms. Or was it doors?
NAHOON. Hm, 101 rooms, I want to live in a place like that.
GOYEON. You’ll probably get freaked out if you see it for real. It’s a haunted mansion.
SEOHANG. There’s someone I know who dreamed of that mansion!
Seohang talks about the story about the mansion with 101 doors.
Everyone shudders, frightened.
MINA, to NAHOON. Do you still want to live in that house?
NAHOON. No, thank you. I better pray that it doesn’t show up in my nightmares tonight.
SEOHANG. This is all I got for today.
NAHOON, to HAESEO. What do you think, Haeseo?
HAESEO. Pretty scary.
NAHOON. I feel like you’ve gone through a variety of things, Haeseo. Please tell us a story.
MINA. Aren’t you involved in the best-known urban legend of the entertainment world?
WOORIM. Which legend?
SEOHANG. The one about the song becoming a hit when you see a ghost while recording it…
NAHOON. Come to think of it, you’ve never told the story in your own words, have you, Haeseo? What was it like?
MINA. I’m curious to hear about it.
Haeseo tells the story about seeing a ghost in the recording space.