A Night in Oido


A Night in Oido


There is a broad bay visible from my apartment window. Not far into the distance across from it are the vibrant night lights of a newly developed metropolis called Oido. Rows of glistening glass buildings line its coastline, leading to a lone red lighthouse that endlessly rotates in search of a ship to illuminate, years after its harbor shut down.

"This station is OIDO. OIDO station." I creep to the edge of my seat, poised to spring upwards as soon as the rambling train halts. The sight of Oido Station on the other side of the windows ceases to flicker as the subway train decelerates. As it skids to a stop, its momentum lurches me forward onto my feet and the doors slide open with a whoosh. For a brief moment, something in the logical part of my brain tugs at my heart: stay on the train, it says. This is the last train and your only opportunity to return home. But ever since I became a high school student, the nagging of my parents was growing unbearable and my heart yearned to leave for a place to vent my chagrin. That place was the glittering coastlines of Oido I saw from my window, in the red lighthouse!

Stay put. My instincts retort to my brain.

Looking back at the subway train, empty except for a middle-aged lady sleeping against a metallic pole, I emphatically press my feet onto the platform, heaving out a deep breath. There's no turning back now, I tell myself as the gates thud shut and the train disappears into the darkness.

I traverse through the labyrinths of Oido station and arrive at a lofty staircase that carries me up and out of the station. The station is empty, and deathly quiet. The silence fills with the singular clacking of my shoes against the ground. Where are the sounds of pedestrians I should hear by now? I ponder.

I freeze as I cross the threshold of the station. Ambient darkness surrounds me from all sides. To my immediate left is a narrow cobble lane that gives way to a creaking wooden staircase ascending into the abyss of a foreboding hill, lit only by a sporadically blinking and creaking lightbulb. To the right is a coarse dirt path that winds through deserted patches of crops and vegetation, vanishing into suspenseful darkness. A third path leads straight through arrays of retired buses and parking stations, at the end of which a traffic light blinks red.

Without looking back, I bolt down the central road as my heart violently pounds its chambers. I am wheezing and short of breath when the path finally intersects with a street, multiple lanes in width. Although street lamps illuminate the sidewalk, the silence is so encompassing that I can hear the distant croak of crickets. I reach into my pocket to call for a taxi or find the nearest bus station, but my phone screen remains black. Wide-eyed, I emphatically press hard against its power button. The screen remains blank except for a red icon of a depleted battery. I briefly look back at the station, only to see that no light is perceivable from that direction. Sighing, I trudge along the illuminated road glancing around now and then to catch sight of any potential signs of human life.

Moments later, a pair of dim light bulbs emerge over the road. My blood throbs against my veins as the lights grows increasingly brighter. Hope for transportation, at last! I clench my fists in relief. I hop in the air and wildly wave my arms to be noticed as the bus abruptly stops at my feet and reluctantly creaks its door open.

"What's the matter?" the driver calls from the seat, staring from behind the wheels with a scrunched face, displeased by the unwarranted stop.

"Please, sir, I need to get on this bus," I plead, explaining to him that I was lost in the darkness surrounding Oido station and desperately needed shelter for the night. The driver's face gradually lessens from an agitated scowl to a look of pity.

"Come in," he says at last.

I collapse on the seat immediately to the left of the entrance upon embarking. I silently lean against the glass windows, watching the streetlights and roadside trees zoom by as the bus rambles through the asphalt.

"So, what made you show up here at this hour?" The driver says, breaking the silence.

"I was trying to reach the old harbor and its red lighthouse," I lament. "I had no clue Oido station was a place like this."

"Did you not know that Oido station is nowhere near coastal Oido and the metropolis surrounding it? This place is miles away from that new city."

I sink my head, clenching the edge of my seat with hands drenched in sweat, listening. My head scrambles to come up with how I can find an accommodation to spend the night in. I slowly drift my gaze to the list of upcoming stations. Then it hits me: Home Plus Station. Home Plus, a medium-sized chain of shopping malls, would likely be in a commercial area, and my chances of finding a place to spend the night would dramatically increase there. "Hey, sir," I call. "Could you possibly drop me off at Home Plus Station?"                                                               

"You thought it was a good idea to leave home this late at night despite being oblivious to the real world?" the driver admonishes as I apologetically ask to have my 10,000s exchanged into 1,000s, sternly commanding me to return home tomorrow and never do this again. "And most importantly," the driver quietly and sincerely warns, "be careful; the world is a scary place."

Home Plus is closed, and the surrounding stores and restaurants are also dark. The only signs of life within the vicinity are neon signs reading Motel in daunting red letters resembling those in the 90s that stood on several moderately tall buildings. Shit, I mutter. The complex surrounding Home Plus narrows into a dim alleyway, twisting through stony buildings. The alleys reverberate a foul odor similar to rotting sewage, with dusty exhaust fans whirling on each side with an ominous drone. A shirtless man lay asleep clutching beer cans in each of his red hands. A young woman in a tight dress and high heels, accompanied by a man who seems to be her boyfriend, stumbles through the glass doors of an empty building, nauseously groaning. I jerk my head backward every five seconds to ensure no one intoxicated or potentially dangerous is following in my footsteps; I mobilize all my peripheral vision to ensure no blind spot is left unchecked.

As soon as the glass gates of the motel come into sight, I channel all my stamina into dashing through it, my only sanctuary from the streets. I'm safe. I gasp and double over. I'm safe. A bald, middle-aged man wearing a ragged and stained tank top and shorts lay watching television across the counter in the reception room. "Twenty thousand won a night," he says carelessly, tossing me a blue ziplock bag which has the word AMENITIES scrawled on it.

I fasten the rotary lock upon stepping through the creaking door. Yet I cannot not bring my shaking legs to collapse onto the bed. I find the locking chain dangling from the door frame and slide it through its lock. Something is not right. I warn myself as I begin restlessly pacing across the room and darting my eyes around targetless.

"What is it that I am missing?" I agitatedly ask myself. "What is it?"

Junhyeok Jang

Junhyeok Jang greatly enjoys learning about new technology, playing sports, and reading and writing creative short stories. Ariel Chart is his first professional published credit.

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post