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  • P'ul Recumbent
  • Kim Sagwa (bio)
    Translated by Bruce Fulton (bio) and Ju-Chan Fulton (bio)


I was off my rocker that spring. All day I traipsed around like a lunatic, gadding about the city from morning to night, my volition siphoned to my feet. Don't you go another step, I'd order them, but do you suppose they listened? Sit-down meals were out of the question, so I nibbled on a loaf of bread as I walked. Late at night when I slogged back to my parents' apartment complex I cried tears of exhaustion. Hunger didn't attack me until I was back inside, pussyfooting through the dark living room. I'd have to dart to the fridge and shovel food into my mouth before plunging into bed. And sleep, heavy and sweet, swept over me like an earthquake and I was out cold till morning, when I opened my eyes and rushed back out to the street before my family noticed. As I cut across the deserted complex I harbored a thought—I had made a huge mistake and my life was a total wreck and I deserved to die. But what was my mistake? I couldn't come up with an answer.

Sitting on a bench and rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I would watch the bluish light of dawn soften to a golden glow. The arrival of morning was always marvelous. But it wasn't my intention to witness the onset of dawn, it was just that I was too drained to get my body into gear. I'd keep rubbing my eyes, yawning, stretching, and plunking my head down, then rub my [End Page 37] eyes some more, and then the air would warm and brighten and grow buoyant and rise and suddenly a mysterious energy was soaring within me. It grew, pushed me out and seized me. My body would no longer obey me. I could do nothing but walk. I might end up dead if I keep this up, I would tell myself.

Dragging myself out the gate of the apartment complex, I saw the metropolis in silhouette, steeped in pre-dawn dusk. But in the morning light it swelled, grew hazy, and advanced slowly toward me. I watched, fear-stricken and dismayed that the humongous and deplorably dense gray mass now stood right before me. Surely that was not an illusion I had created. I plodded along helplessly as it sucked me in.

The metropolis was vast and there was no end to it. I could move forward all I wanted but never emerge from it. What could be behind those buildings? I couldn't fathom it. This is it! the city would answer me. What you see is all there is! The farther I walked the heavier and more tired I felt. Weight and tedium, that was all. Dust motes came into my nostrils and my body smelled like stale cooking oil. I was caged by the concrete bulk. Crowds of people and vehicles spilled across the streets and glittering signs enticed my wallet, but here where I was born and raised, here where I had lived, no place awaited or remembered me. I was desperate. I was sinking, but not in the ocean or a pool. I was drowning, but no one was interested in such banalities.


It was my fifth time off from school and I felt like a fish out of water. It wasn't just the university I couldn't adjust to, but also the people, places, and things. Everyone treated me like a loser, and I didn't know what was expected of me. I was scared out of my mind. But of what, I didn't know, and that was the worst part. What am I frightened of? I was gobbling up my youth searching for the answer. With the source of my fear a huge question mark, I couldn't keep [End Page 38] up with school, make new friends, or be chummy with my family, not to mention taking on a love relationship or a job. If anything, maybe it had to do with my becoming a failed...