Caged Bird

It is said that on a mountain range by the edge of town there is a tree on top that is split in half. Legend had it that if a person were to be able to reach the tree and sit in it when the sun’s ray first hit the tree, they could make any wish and it would come true. It was not a great mountain range, but many people had tried and many failed. Rumour had it that for the few that did find it, their wishes did indeed come true. Because of that reason Siyeon had set out to find it after reading about it online.

As she was climbing up the mountain she veered off the path unknowingly and ended up lost. In her confusion she fell in a crater and lost consciousness. When she awoke, she found herself under a large tree that branched out in all directions. Watching her from a distance was a handsome young man sitting in a squat. He told her not to fear and she didn’t despite being in such a strange situation. As she tried to straighten herself up into a sitting position, she found that her leg had broken when she fell into the crater. The young man offered to help her, to which she agreed, and he wiped his hand over her broken leg a few times before stepping back. He reassured her that it was now okay, and to her surprise, when she tried to move again, she was okay.

He offered to walk her down the mountain, to which she agreed, and they talked. She found that he did not have a name and did not know where he came from, simply that he existed. As they walked, they came upon a post with offerings for him. The sign was posted by the village below that believed him to be a deity. They called him a bestowed sign from the heavens; and so she called him Hoseok – the bestowed sign.

“So, why are you climbing up the mountain?” Hoseok asked.

Siyeon nervously chuckled, “My parents left me with a huge debt. I heard that if you found a specific tree on the mountain then it could make a wish come true.”

As they reached the bottom of the mountain, Siyeon asked Hoseok if he would like to come with her to the city. He agreed and followed her from the mountains into the city.

After a short tour of the city they ended at Siyeon’s small apartment. There, Hoseok found that Siyeon lived with her little sister Doyeon, who was about 13 to 14 years old. Despite his sweet appearance, Doyeon greeted him with great disdain. It was here that Hoseok had his first meeting with the Hyungwon Gang that Siyeon’s parents owed money to.

They walked around the house, obviously searching for nothing, desiring simply to create a mess. He watched as one of them manhandled Siyeon, whispering something to her.

“I’ll do it!” she suddenly shouted.

Hoseok watched as the man smiled and let her go. She scrabbled into her room and left, leaving only Hoseok and Doyeon to the house. And just like that, she left every day at about the same time, leaving Hoseok alone with Doyeon.

For each day that past Doyeon’s hatred of her situation and of Hoseok grew. One day she stormed out of the house, Hoseok following behind her. She lead him to the other side of town where she had followed Siyeon before. The building had glittering lights overhead, men standing outside welcoming men in suits as they walked in and women in skimpy clothing trying to invite more men inside. The men standing by the door wouldn’t let Doyeon inside when she approached so she forced Hoseok through it.

Hoseok walked around the building aimlessly before spotting Siyeon sitting at a table with an older man. She smiled at something the man said and giggled when he started laughing. As Hoseok was about to approach her, a girl came in between and whispered something to Siyeon, so up she went. He watched as she walked away from him without seeming to notice him. Hoseok made his way out of the building, greeted by a hostile Doyeon.

Hoseok confirmed to Doyeon that Siyeon was indeed serving men. Doyeon then went to explain how it was his fault that she was doing all this. Hoseok tried to ignore her, knowing fully well that she didn’t like him. Doyeon kept telling him that he had to fix it, that she knew a way to fix it. Hoseok held her off so that he could ask Siyeon tomorrow about it.

When the next day came, he tried to ask her but noticed that she felt uncomfortable being asked about it. He could feel it emitting off of her. Siyeon lied to him that she was doing other things, vaguely trying to pass it off as something she did regularly. Hoseok pretended to be satisfied with her answer and saw as her uneasy aura seem to dissipate.

“Do you remember your wish at the mountain? I think I can help make that come true,” Hoseok said.

Siyeon shook her head and smiled sadly. After Siyeon left for her afternoon activities, Hoseok knocked on Doyeon’s door.

Doyeon took him to Hyungwon’s headquarters. She talked with them angrily, Hoseok could feel the hostility being emitted from her and the disbelief in the men in the room. The man laxly sitting on the couch before them listened to her through squinted eyes. In the middle of talking, she took out a knife and cut her forearm. In a flash Hoseok stepped over to heal her wound not even leaving a scar behind as evidence of the cut.

The man sitting in the couch, they called him Kun Hyung (literally Big Older Brother), smiled and had Hoseok taken out of the room. Hoseok listened closely to the door.

“You can take him as payment. Do with him what you will, I don’t care; but in return, don’t come bother my sister and I again. By trading him, we are free,” he heard Doyeon say.

As she exited the room, he tried to approach her to ask what was going on. The men held onto him to prevent him from moving.

“Stay here,” she curtly said, “you said you wanted to help Siyeon unnie. If you want to save her, stay here where you belong.”

Hoseok watched as she was lead away from him. He watched as the tense aura around her seemed to fade a bit more than usual. He made no motion to follow after her. He stayed there with the Hyungwon Gang, where he belonged, where he was keeping Siyeon and Doyeon safe from something he didn’t know about.

Many of the men who had to stay with Hoseok mockingly asked him for many things. They demanded for women, for men, for money, for impossible strength, but Hoseok couldn’t provide all of that. When they found out what it was that he could and couldn’t do, they found him basically useless… but a body none-the-less. So sometimes, when they weren’t using him for his healing, they would beat him, figuring he could heal himself. They’d beat him out of boredom, out of frustration, or sometimes they’d do more. Hoseok made sure to never do anything back and to always comply, because this was all his fault and he had to stay there.

In spite of his grim situation and dark room, there was a light. One day, a boy with soft black hair walked into his room to hide from some of the lackeys running around the building. They quickly became friends. He was sweet and kind to Hoseok, the first genuine kind that he’d seen in many days. Hoseok looked forward to these occasional meetings, each one shorter than the last.

___________________________________

When asked, Doyeon told Siyeon that Hoseok had made some new friends while she was gone. As each day past, she found it more and more strange that he wasn’t home ever. Eventually, she was no longer required to go to the escort bar. In fact, they’d wave her off. Hoseok’s words kept echoing in her head as she drilled Doyeon about his whereabouts. One day, the same man from the first day came over with a suitcase. He cackled at them and handed the suitcase over while thanking them and then leaving. Doyeon took the suitcase from Siyeon and opened it in the living room to reveal a whopping $200,000. She quickly closed it as Doyeon walked in.

“What is that money for?” Siyeon asked.

Doyeon ignored her and suggested that they move out of town. Siyeon persisted with her questioning until Doyeon finally admitted that she had traded Hoseok for their freedom.

Hoseok sat at the table in the parlour. As he silently waited for what was to happen next, the boy appeared at the door frame. He smiled at greeted Hoseok happily. His presence filled Hoseok will happiness and hope from his head to his toes. Today, he looked different.

“Cool, right?” he said, motioning to his now bright orange hair.

Hoseok smiled and agreed with him. His eyes wandered, spying the familiar looking jacket he was holding to his chest. Before Hoseok could ask about it the boy was being pushed forward by one of the lackeys. The boy bent his back incredibly to wave at Hoseok as he left. Hoseok listened as his giggled disappeared down the hallway.

The next day back in his room, Hoseok turned around anticipating the boy’s return when he heard the door crack open slowly. His heart stopped upon seeing Siyeon at the door. He turned away from her upon meeting her stunned eyes. She looked at his torn clothing and the chain on his ankle tying him to the bed. Siyeon saw through his sweater, the one she had bought for him on the first day in the city, a huge purple bruise over his right shoulder. She tried hard not to cry at this sight.

“Let’s run away,” she suggested.

____________________________________

It was a dark and grey day, though Hoseok wouldn’t know about it. When they took the bag off from over his head, there was a bright light shining into his face, making it hard to see unless he looked down. As his eyes adjusted he saw two men sitting in chairs in front of him, one leaning over to the other as if to whisper something into their ear. Before he could see more, he was yanked from the light and the bag was placed over his head again. There was a solid thunk against his head and he was knocked out cold.

He wasn’t awake for too long when they were transporting him again. When the bag came off his head, he found himself in front of a fancy door and a dull ache in his chest. The men beside him opened the door and pushed him through.

“You know what to do,” they whispered before closing the door.

Hoseok looked around the extravagant hotel room. He heard a noise from the other room and proceeded in that direction. Inside the room was the man who was sitting in the chair earlier that day. The older man jumped up off the bed when he saw Hoseok enter the room, covering his bare legs with the thick hotel-provided bathrobe. He took Hoseok’s hand and slowly started feeling it up and down. Hoseok stopped himself from shivering and asked if he could use the bathroom in order to get ready. The man agreed and showed him where the bathroom was. He offered to get something for Hoseok from room service but Hoseok ignored him and continued into the bathroom.

He turned on the faucet in the large sink. He searched the lower cabinets, the mirror cabinet and in the bathroom closet for anything that could help him escape. He didn’t want to do this anymore. All he found were towels, toilet paper, extra bathroom items and some bottles of prescription medicine belonging to the man. He picked one up remembering seeing them at the old apartment. Siyeon had once warned him against taking any of them, especially in large doses because bad things could happen that would result in needing to go to the hospital.

After finishing with the call, the man walked over to hear the faucet running. Chuckling to himself, he walked in hoping to get a glance of Hoseok getting ready. Upon entering he found Hoseok lying on the ground with the pills laying all over. In a panic, he lightly slapped Hoseok on the cheeks and then ran out to get the men outside the room. The older lackeys had left for a break in the bar downstairs, leaving alone a new lackey. He ran in to see Hoseok lying still on the ground. He cursed himself as he and the client (the man) ran out of the room to find the others.

Hoseok arose from the ground and snuck out of the room. He found his way out of the hotel, and ran as fast as he could. I’ll meet you back in the forest where we first met in two weeks, her words repeating endlessly in his mind as he ran.

Back at the hotel, one of the lackeys inform Kun Hyung that he had seen Hoseok running out of the hotel but he had ran too fast for anything to catch up to him. Another lackey made a conjecture that David, their rival gang, may find him. Kun Hyung simply smirked angrily and told them not to worry.

“That’s what the insurance is for,” he said.

One of the lackeys brought forth a pen for him. He looked at the top of the pen, clicked it, and proceeded to sign the papers in front of him before seating himself back into the luxury chair.

Hoseok bent over and fell as a burst of pain shot through him from under his left rib. He tried to continue, finally reaching a road that he and Siyeon had crossed before when coming into the city. He looked through a hole in the front of his sweater, noticing a bulge and a blackish purple scar was spreading through his chest. He continued for as long as he could stumbling along the road until he got to the other side of the village, finally collapsing in front of an old, small traditional house.

Inside the house lived an elderly couple with their seven year old grandson. It had been raining outside and as it started to weaken, the husband stepped out of the house. As he turned at the high wall gates he saw Hoseok laying on the gravel. He took the half conscious Hoseok over his shoulder and placed him on the flooring of the house. His wife came out to see what the noise was. He told her that he would run over to the Chois down over to see if one of their boys could call the doctor over while she took care of the young man. As he ran out, his wife dragged him into her grandson’s room and covered him with a blanket. The door opened behind her as she covered him, revealing to be her grandson.

“Oh, right, our Seokjin, why don’t you come here and watch over this poor man!” she called out to him.

Seokjin slowly slid into the room and sat next to the pale, shivering Hoseok. His grandmother walked out of the room towards the kitchen to boil some water and find some towels to wipe Hoseok with.

Hoseok tiredly called out to Seokjin for help. Seokjin almost left the room to call for his grandmother but stopped when Hoseok repeated himself. The small Seokjin leaned in close to his mouth to hear his request. He turned back to see that his grandmother’s bottom was still visible within the kitchen, busy at work with the fire. Seokjin agreed to Hoseok’s request.

They struggled along the road, Hoseok leaning on Seokjin for support to get there. Every now and then he would keel over and moan in pain, the poison spreading inside of him. Although the house wasn’t located too far from the forest, it took them a while to get there. Hoseok instructed Seokjin on how far into the forest to be, just enough to be out of sight but enough that the boy could find his way back to his house.

Seokjin leaned a weak Hoseok against a big oak tree and stepped back. Hoseok thanked him and motioned for him to leave. His sweat dripped through his rags and stuck him to the ground. He felt the dark earth under him and gripped at it for comfort. How long has it been already? Will she be here? he wondered to himself.

Through his blurry vision he caught sight of a fuzzy blue light flying erratically towards him. As it came closer, he realized that it was a butterfly. Seokjin watched from behind overgrown trees as the butterfly landed on Hoseok’s festering wound. He stared intently at it as he noticed that Hoseok’s erratic breath started to slow to a stop.

As the sky began to clear, Seokjin watched as a rays of sunshine pierced through the thick foliage overhead. One in particular caught his attention as it crept closer and closer to Hoseok’s still body. When it finally reached over his wound the one butterfly turned into a billion other butterflies, struggling for their own freedom. Seokjin fell down in disbelief, turning tail to run towards his house.

___________________________________

His eyes slowly fluttered open to the white sky and light foliage above him. He covered the light beaming in his eyes with his hand.

“Hyung,” someone called out from afar.

Why does that voice sounds so familiar? he thought to himself.

The voice chimed out again, getting closer, “Hyung!”

He slowly lifted himself up, leaning back on his hands. He squinted as his eyesight fixed itself. He was in the forest. He slowly started to recognize the brown bark of the trees that surrounded him and the gradient of green that enveloped it. Getting closer to where he laid was a boy wearing a bright blue jacket and orange hair stumbling over the nature underneath his feet. Hoseok waited where he sat for the boy to come closer to him.

The boy giggled at Hoseok upon reaching him. He offered a hand out that Hoseok accepted. He smiled sweetly at Hoseok. Hoseok lightly smiled back.

“Jimin…” Hoseok quietly whispered.

“Hyung, we’ve got to get going,” Jimin said.

Hoseok stood up and nodded at him. Wiping the dirt off his butt, he started walking away with Jimin. As he walked away, he heard a gasp behind him. He turned to look at what could have possibly made that sound. At first he didn’t see anything.

“Hoseok…” a faint voice called.

He turned to look again and this time saw Siyeon sitting down on the ground with her hand over her mouth. He blankly looked at her. Siyeon watched as Jimin reached for Hoseok’s hand again and lead him away. As she watched him walk away from her with a blank look on his face, there was a bright light and he disappeared right before her. What was left behind was a strange abundance of butterflies, which quickly dispersed before her as well. As if waking up from a dream, he disappeared from her. Just… gone.

 

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