The time was April. The university newbie left the room as soon as the lecture ended before everyone else at 2:45. He did not want anyone to recognise him as not an outsider, though no one knew him as such hence he would not have been stopped anyways; he still resolutely walked on to the hill road outside of the plaza.
There, he felt the unexpected change for the first time.
‘No one’s around…’
There was a huge number of people in lectures that ended at 2:45 Sure, not all of them were like Yoo Il Han Il Han, an outsider returning home, yet the complete absence of people in the plaza as well as in the hill road was strange.
‘Carnival is not on today. Was there a school event?
Even so, there was no need to feel strange. Yoo Il Han Il Han exited all invited chat groups ever since he attended his university! It was not as if he left out of pressure, it was solely out of his choice!
Sensing sorrow out of vain, Yoo Il Han walked down the hill valiantly in spite of the dearth of people. He wanted to hitch a ride on a shuttle bus, but there were no vehicles to be seen.
Was there a military exercise in the university? Perhaps a school wide hide-and-seek? All kinds of thoughts came into his head but he dismissed them readily. For twenty-odd years he had never held hands with a girl, and the lack of other presences right now was nothing in comparison.
However, those musings dissipated as soon as he exited the school entrance.
There was no one.
‘What the hell!’
No one was around!
‘What’s going on. What’s going on!’
In panic, Yoo Il Han repeated the same phrase inanely as he ran around. No-one. To conjure up a crazy idea like a mass picnic was impossible. The situations were too alarming to escape reality.
No one. No human to be seen!
He looked through the windows of the convenience store he often visited. The meal on a table was emitting warm vapour, the chair was pulled slightly back as if someone was sitting on it moments before. Furthermore, spoons and chopsticks were erratically thrown aside, giving them a sense of their users abruptly disappearing out of thin air.
This oddity applied for all shops. Incidentally, how about parked cars? Moving cars that were in traffic had violently collided in such a way that they lost their drivers, with some on the verge of explosions due to leaking, ablaze gasoline.
His mind may have been in disarray, but Yoo Il Han identified the hazard and escaped to a vehicle-less street. The reverberation of explosions like the ones in films soon tickled his ears.
Wind carrying the hot air blew, and Yoo Il Han fled like he was drifting on the wind. Then he shed pointless tears.
His mind was puzzled back together at a bus station.
‘Let’s go home’
Maybe after he washed and ate his mother’s meals, maybe after he slept, things would be different.
Foolish ideas again sprouted the moment the crises were over. His fantasies were broken quickly this time though .The bus was simply not arriving.
‘What the fuck. What’s going on.’
Yoo Il Han prided himself over his mental fortitude. From primary to high school, he overcame everything by his own effort. As a result, he was attending a quite reputable university, and he was confident to do well on his own for a foreseeable future.
The chinese character ‘person’ is to symbolise two men relying on each other; he never needed such weak stuff. Yoo Il Han always believed that he was like an upright number ‘1’-someone could accomplish anything unassisted
But, this was too much to handle
‘Have I alone moved to a different world?
His situation was too out-worldly that he said something so stupid. Nothing was changing. The bus was not coming, his knees were swelling in pain due to reckless running. Growing sadder every minute, he noticed his tears falling onto the bare earth like bird-droppings.
‘Pathetic, crying over trivial matters as a university student. No, fuck it. If I don’t cry now, over what would I ever weep? Isolation during his primary school days has made me dismal before, now the entire district is avoiding me.’
Knowing crying wouldn’t change anything, Yoo Il Han came back to his senses swiftly. It was feverishly hot and tiring. Home was his priority.
Despite the knowledge that no one was there to hear him speak, he shouted in hope for someone to reveal oneself. Yoo Il Han embarked on an hour-and a half journey shrouded in an added layer of disappointment to the obvious result.
Of course, his mother wasn’t present. He tried to check the time, yet all clocks, including those in mobile phones and computers, were stopped. Dad wasn’t coming either, Yoo Il Han concluded following a couple of hours of waiting as he stared at the everlastingly blue sky.
The TV only showed static screens, the radio the same and the internet was not working. It was like humanity itself had vanished. Except himself, who was trapped in a stagnant time.
At least, water and gas pipes worked. He showered and cooked a package of instant noodles.
The taste deepened his sadness and more tears flowed down. He was drowzy now that he was full. I don’t care for the mass disappearance, and whether or not the night was arriving, I must sleep. Possibly, something may become different as I sleep. He laid on his bed in these complacent thoughts. At that moment…