Chapter 1:



Everyone was gone.

The streets were empty. Vacant vehicles lay dead on the roads. There was not a single person anywhere except me.

Tall skyscrapers with millions of windows reflected their neighboring buildings onto their bodies. These lifeless glass titans were teeming with life yesterday, working to meet deadlines and bidding for paychecks. Now, they're like husks empty of their poisonous parasites.

There was no sound to be heard in this forsaken city. I didn’t hear the rowdy birds, blaring sirens, or even the deafening wind. Except me. The steady beating of my heart, the long breaths flowing out of me, and the softest tapping of my shoes echoed throughout this empty city.

Not a single soul was around. Sidewalks, parks, and buildings. Empty. Except one. My eyes met with another pair staring back at me from the many panels of glass displayed across the city. Heat flushed through my body as it tensed. They looked sluggish and dead with that slack expression. I left without engaging with him, but he followed next to me.

Standing in the middle of the street then looking down at my wristwatch, I should be at work. What did the place look like now? So traveling down the same but now quiet road I took every day of my life, the welcome sign to the offices greeted me, and he followed.

Like everywhere else, the lobby, cafeteria, and rooms were empty. Going up on the escalator, I straightened my tie and entered my department with a heavy sigh. Desks with black-screen computers stood quietly across and adjacent to each other with names on them, almost like a cemetery.

I approached the desk with my name on it and sat in the chair. My heart pounded in my ears, and my breathing quivered. I would've been working right now. Typing long unnecessary essays all day. Making stupid spreadsheets with numbers and names, I didn't care about. Taking annoying phone calls from bloodsuckers and repeating the same sentences like I give a damn. And working lifelessly like a walking corpse just to put in the hours, get the paycheck, and try not to get fired.

But today was different. I didn't have to work. I didn't have to shut off my brain today. Leaning back on my chair, I let out a deep breath. The silence was pleasant. None of the clicking keyboards, ringing phones, and inaudible conversations. Only the sound of my breathing.

Rising from my seat, I went to the private bathroom I always used and locked the door. Sitting on the same toilet I sat on every day here, My gaze was on the tiled floor, then at the trash can. There, it held more than just countless paper towels I threw away. Every day it was here, my mask constantly broke, drowning each crumpled tissue with pieces of a dream, slowly being forgotten. But I always remembered to fix my face before leaving.

Then he stared at me from the mirror. Showing the dark circles underneath his eyes. His posture was slacked, then he shook his head at me.

"What?" I averted my gaze from him and swung the door open. "I'm going home."

Taking the same road I took, my heart began to pound in my ears again. With each step, my body quivered, and my pacing slowed as I got closer. Then I arrived in front of a building that my family called home.

My hand clutched onto the doorknob; I sighed deeply to quiet the pounding in my ears. The door creaked open and just like the rest of this world. Everyone was gone.

A few shaky steps inside, I looked around the living room. The TV was off, and the pink chair in front was empty. I always saw dad here flipping through various channels for hours, then he would sigh at every one of them.

None of the clattering of dishes or the scent of sizzling garlic greeted me as I entered the kitchen. The room was null of color, like it lacked flavor. But it had always been stale. The thing that was missing was mom and her bland cooking.

My chest tightened, so I left the kitchen and went down the hall. But there. On the table, stacked disorderly on each other was the thing that consumed me bit by bit. Every month tiny parasites wrapped in fake innocent envelopes snuck in. When opened, they show their blood-sucking fangs, deriving my life. But in this deserted world, it couldn’t leech me anymore. Grabbing one, I crushed it. Picked another, ripped it. Grasped a couple, threw them. The table, in pieces.

Air burst in and out of me as I sat on the wooden floor. My mask dripped from my face while my hands violently rustled through my hair. I tried to stop the tears from falling but then again. There was no one here. Who cares.


I still have my room?

My room?


Slowly perking my head up down the hall and picking myself up, my heart faintly tugged me toward the door while I tried to fight it. I shook my head, but I kept going. And going. And going. Until finally reaching for the doorknob and opening it. The room was dull, like everything in this house. There wasn't much in here; a bed, a drawer, and a desk were all there was.

Then I fixed my gaze on the closet; a shaky breath stuttered from my mouth while my hand trembled against the cold handle. I buried everything I loved here, and it all morphed into an entity that forever haunted me. So I locked it up here, but it persisted, lurking in the back of my mind everywhere I went. I tried to toss it along with the tears, yet it still tormented me, drawing me here where it slept.

The closet clicked open.

Colors glowed vibrantly. Posters and comic books. Video games and books about dragons, aliens, acting, singing, and art. A replica sword, drawings of characters, spaceship toy sets, a guitar, movies, summer clothes, and costumes. A warm wind cupped my wet cheeks, welcoming me, then hugged me. Whatever was left of my mask shattered into a million pieces; I shook my head; I couldn't face them. I failed them.

I ran from the colors and back into emptiness. Then, forcing my legs to run and clouding the tug in my chest with gasps of air, I bolted back toward the city, not caring where I'd end up because everyone was gone.

Finally, my legs gave out, and I collapsed onto the cement. But I needed to run. Away from everything. It didn't matter if everyone disappeared; even if I was surrounded by those parasites, I'd still be here! Nothing has changed!

"And whose fault do you think that is!?"

I gasped, then lifted my head. I forgot he was also here. The one with the dark circles under his eyes but this time, he glared at me from his shining abode beyond the glass window.

"No, don't start talking to me! Just shut up!" I gave him a cold stare back.

"No, you shut up! I'm tired of hearing you complain about everything!"

"You're right. I should love all the stupid crap that happens to me. I am so thankful to have a job I could care less about! In fact, I love bills so much, why don't they just send me the whole mail truck, and my dreams can stay as dreams cause it's never gonna happen!"

"SHUT UP!" he pointed his finger at me with tears raining down his pathetic face. "We're here because you chose to do nothing."

"No, that's because I don't know. I don't know what to do. I don't know where to go. I've tried again and again, and I'm still in the same spot!" I clutched my chest as it throbbed. "Everyone is gone! They all got their lives made up, except me! I don't know what to do." I sunk my head down and allowed everything to fall.

"I know that it hurts. Being stuck in the dark and not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. But I also know that you don't want to be stagnant."

His words lifted me, meeting his gaze, and his eyes were not enraged but looked sad and warm? He extended his hand out to me and gave me a small smile.

"Light doesn't have legs, but we do, so we have to be the ones to walk."

"But we don't know where to go."

"It's okay. We may not know where to go, but let's just start with one, and I can promise you, our eyes will adjust to the dark."

My fingers embraced the cool glass when I reached for the hand in front of me. It cracked, and everything shattered.


I'm scared.

But also okay.

I took a step forward. 


Yimje Lee