Featured Fiction Issue 5

The Man Who Became a Flamingo (5)

Read “The Man Who Became a Flamingo (4)”

 

The Man Who Became a Flamingo (5)

Oh Han Ki. Novelist. Analrealist
Translated by Archana Madhavan

Rabbit Head

I stand facing DB. DB stands facing me. I take off my clothes. DB takes off her clothes as well. We become naked.

I scratch my body. DB, too, scratches her body. Our two bodies become entwined as we scratch each others’ body. With painstaking care, we use our fingernails to dig deep into the skin. Our bodies turn red. We can see our bodies even without the mirror.

Let me hear her voice, I say.

DB closes her eyes and clears her throat.

Do you hear her? I ask.
Not yet. DB shakes her head.
What about now? I ask again after a while.
Just barely. DB nods. DB mumbles something.

I hear nothing.

I don’t hear anything.
Try to stay calm and listen carefully.

Shh, Rabbit Head.

Do you hear her? DB asks.
No, just a cow’s voice, I answer.
Try harder, DB urges. 

I close my eyes, clasp my hands together, and long desperately for you.

Try putting your ear on my body, DB says after some time has passed. 

I bend over and put my ear against DB’s chest. Heart beating. Blood flowing. There are twenty secrets you haven’t told me yet. The sound of hamburgers digesting. In DB’s blood is her father. Foot stamping. A nuclear reactor plastered in her blood.

Story, my story, a story?
I just found out today that I am colorblind.

I hear a cow’s whispers emerge from DB’s body. I bury my ear in DB’s smooth skin and long for you.

I am a dance for you.

Soon after, I hear a familiar voice. Soon, a voice is talking through DB’s vocal cards and mouth. It is your voice. It is your voice I had imagined it. It is your voice I had made it out to be. Your voice exists.

I hear her. Now I hear her, I say.

DB closes her eyes and nods.

Where are you? I ask.

I, the zoo’s waste storage facility.

Why there?

I died.

Tears fall from DB’s eyes.

A bad smell is coming from my body.

I hear the sound of someone screaming, someone wailing. I am making that sound. I destroy the flamingo’s brain and make a mess of it

I, drugs.
I, euthanasia.
Don’t worry about me.
I died painlessly.

It’s my fault, isn’t it?

Gouge out the eyes hanging from the cupboard.
Happy, I was actually scared of you.

The cows interrupt.

Shut up! I say and the cows lower their voices.
It’s because I kept talking to you, right?

With sadness, my voice comes out cracked and hoarse then disappear.

Don’t blame yourself.
I liked hearing you talk.
This death isn’t your fault.

We won’t see each other again, will we?

Botanist, orchard.
Five animals. Mari. Mari. Marie. Mary.
You say there are monsters in Mt. Baekdu’s Heaven Lake?

I miss you.

Run like a horse, wipe your armpits like a hostler.
I think I’d rather be an animal than a person.

I long for you.

I said that I wrote as I thought of me.

I nod.

I read your writing to you.

 

Read your writing.

DB gazes at me. You and DB gaze at me.

Then I won’t be scared of death.
Then I won’t be lonely.
I daydreamed about your writing every single day.
I was so curious to know how you’d depict me.
I am curious about your heart.

Let us hear it.

DB runs a hand down my body as though to comfort me. A mature young lady she is. DB’s body is flora. Gourd-like bottle and Sabbath day. Tomato inside the fridge. Spoiled milk.

I wait until my sadness subsides and then flip open a notebook sitting on my desk. Then I look at DB.

I sit down in a chair and wait for you.

The bell rings and the sliding door opens but no one comes inside.

I start to read the writing that I wrote for you. I hear the sound of DB and you both listening carefully.

I undo my zipper
The ID card scratches at my dreams
Swollen moon, a path uphill
Quince in the mirror and fine teeth-marks on the desk
Round a bend and crushed dreams take flight
My heart’s at ease seeing the night go on like this

My voice echoes within the flamingo brain.

I like this part.

Swollen moon, a path uphill
Quince in the mirror and fine teeth-marks on the desk
Round a bend and crushed dreams take flight
My heart’s at ease seeing the night go on like this

I can feel it, I can feel you.

You and DB begin to sob. I stop speaking for a moment and embrace you and DB. Your and DB’s weight. Rainy season. Outer walls of an apartment. 

Keep reading, DB and you say.

A gallery with a still-life of a glass cup on display
I order and send back hundreds of packs of white gloves
But the things approaching me slowly do not know me

Whenever I miss you
I have words that come to me when I think of you, too
Would you like to hear them?

I nod.

Every night, I, you, opened six long holes
I put my mouth to those holes and shouted

Your poem flows out through DB’s lips.
Your wings flutter in DB’s eyes.
Without even knowing, tears fall from my eyes.
Without even knowing, my poems escape my lips.

Men with ears chopped off
Women with legs gone lame

My language is included in your language.
Your language blends into my language.

 My ankle became mushy

Like a biology lab that relies on indifference

I try to be you, who misses the dark

Dreams that cannot come true

Please kill all men wearing fedoras

Picked up from crumbling department stores

I am the horn sounding endlessly that summer night 

The young lover cried all night

I helped the deaf ones crawling out of the woods stand up

So that I can confess my secret

From everything that dreams

And an animal guidebook, I cut out your face

I can let go, I whisper to you

After the recitation, we gaze at each other. We hunch our shoulders. We purse our lips. We move our arms like we’re beating our wings. My body fills with a floating sensation.

I hold out my hand to you. You take my hand. I give myself over to DB, who carries your soul. 

I stroke your sex. It is milky white and soft, sparsely covered with pubic hair. You stroke my sex. It becomes hard and stands erect. We cling to each other. Our genitals soon become moist and sticky.

Can you dance with me? I ask.

You nod.

 

Roro

Roro, as you know, I am by nature a logical person. Because of this, I have a habit of speaking in a completely logical manner. As a logical person with a habit of speaking in a completely logical manner, I ended up becoming a detective.

Sweet Roro, if you’re wondering what logic has to do with being a detective, if you react pessimistically like that, your skepticism is quite correct. In fact, they have nothing to do with each other. But I didn’t know that back then. I used to think that goodness was always the outcome of logic. I used to think that everything ultimately contributed to the progress of humanity. That’s right, as you said, I was quite naive. But as I grew older, my thinking began to change. Little by little, it occurred to me that it might be a mistake to believe that good always wins in the end. There are too many things that are not logical in this world. So many cold cases. Murder victims who died with the most terrifying expressions on their faces. People who openly commit crimes with a grin on their face. People who are happy because they are rich and people who are unhappy because they are poor. People who keep eating even though they are full. And that’s just what we can see with our own eyes. If you still don’t understand, just turn on the television. You’ll feel it on any channel you flip to.

Roro. My darling Roro. My friend Roro. You are a newborn puppy. A puppy with soft white fur. I just turned forty-five but you will always be a puppy. When I was three years old, I realized I was a loner. I dimly realized that it was my fate to be a loner forever. At that time, you appeared in my imagination. Sweet Roro. I hugged you. I remember how warm it felt. It was the first time I had ever felt such warmth. Ever since then, you’ve stayed by my side. Good Roro.

That’s right, come to me. Roro, what do you think of me? Do you also depend on me? Whenever I was afraid, I would look for you, Roro. I am extremely afraid right now. I am dead. No, I am dying. Slowly, I am dying. Not a symbolic death. A physical one. Please do me a favor, Roro. Please come to me.

I am sinking. The stench of the reservoir permeates my body. This water might not kill you, but it will definitely cause your body to rot. You know where it is right? The cottage near the nuclear power plant. Remember we discovered a few bodies over there in that thicket? Though we couldn’t catch the guy because there hadn’t been enough evidence. Didn’t I tell you? That this is proof the world doesn’t function on logic. And, yes, you were right too. It’s better to forget. For a positive and happy life. A docile, passive life.

I said it over and over again, but there is nothing more logical than death. If there is just one thing in this universe that is logical, it is death. We should model ourselves after death. The order of the bodily phenomenon and death correspond precisely to each other. If I am to diagnose my current situation, muddy water is filling up my body and mixing with my blood. In about eight minutes, I will almost certainly die. I’m sifting through my memories so that before I die I can try to understand why I had to die like this.

Roro, you witnessed my death, didn’t you? You say you don’t remember? Don’t lie, Roro. You’re being evasive because you’re afraid. You were by my side the whole time. Why did the cottage owner push me into this reservoir? Why did he kill me? Roro, since you witnessed my death, you know that I didn’t do anything wrong. I was just trying my best to catch a criminal. So that I can create a logical reality.

You know what I’m talking about, right? That all I did was come out here after hearing the hamburger shop owner’s report. He said the cottage owner was holding a girl hostage and molesting her. At first I didn’t believe it, but seeing as he called multiple times a day about it, I figured there was something going on. Between the hamburger shop owner and the cottage owner, one of the two is definitely not in his right mind. Of course, there’s a higher probability that both of them are not in their right minds. Statistically speaking, that is.

Let me start with the definitive reason behind my death. I remember this vividly. In one swift motion, the cottage owner pushed me into the reservoir. I didn’t even have the strength to resist. He was so strong it was hard to believe he was human. Was it instinct? Desire? Appetite? Do you get what I’m saying? In any case, there was something animalistic about him.

I can’t move my fingers. I can’t move my arms. I can’t see anything. I can’t hear anything. I’m sleepy. I can’t move my lips. Roro, it’s hard to call out to you.

People usually say that when you die, the most memorable moments of your life flash before your eyes like a panorama. It’s true. Most of my memories are of you, Roro. Remember this? I think it was when I was around eight years old. I had left school early because of a really bad cold. It was April. About eleven in the morning. Warm sunlight. You were waiting for me by the school gates. Smiling widely, you ran to me. You said to me as we were walking home that you had been lonely for some reason.

You don’t remember that cottage? Your words bring back more memories. Yes, the cottage was too spooky to be used as a vacation house. The moment I stepped on that land, I felt an unpleasant heat, as though I had just stepped into the organs of an animal. From some place came the smell of fat and blood. Roro you felt it too, didn’t you? You said that it felt sticky. I began to understand why other people found this place abhorrent and avoided it on purpose. One by one, I started to listen to each door, trying to discern if someone was inside. No one was there. Everything was silent. The silence heightened my terror. Thankfully, Roro, you were there with me. Roro, it’s because of you that I’ve been able to catch these criminals over the years. Clever Roro, as usual, you noticed my uneasiness and took the lead. As always, I simply had to follow you.

I’ve almost sunk to the bottom of the reservoir. If I hold my breath, my blood’s carbon dioxide levels increase. This stimulates the respiratory system and I am no longer able to hold my breath. Right now, I am gasping. Soon, I will begin convulsing and lose consciousness. My brain will no longer receive oxygen and then I will die of asphyxiation. I have about one minute until I cross over into death. Not much longer until I stop breathing.

The last thing I remember is what happened inside Room 110. Roro, you suddenly stopped in front of Room 110. You sniffed around there for a while and then started whining. 110. That’s how I wrote it in my notepad.

I’m innocent. I have no reason to die. All I did was open the door slightly and see what was happening inside. A naked man and a naked girl clutching each other and dancing. Flapping their wings like they were about to fly. All I had done was stare, hypnotized by the spectacle. I couldn’t do otherwise. It was such a mysterious sight, like I was watching a movie in a theater for the first time.

Roro, after that, you came out from behind me and started barking like you were possessed by something. The writer glared balefully at me. That was when I saw that his member was erect. I’ve seen many genitalia, but that was the first time I had ever come face to face with one so huge. It was huge like an animal’s.

After that, before I could even draw my gun, I blacked out. When I opened my eyes, I was tied up and lying in a boat. The boat was floating in the middle of the reservoir. The dude was in front of me. He looked like a person but he wasn’t. He was like a bird. He had wings and a beak. His whole body was red. No matter how much I dig through my memories I simply cannot understand the circumstances surrounding my death. I was born with an innate sense of logic. No matter how illogical this world is, I cannot change my fundamental nature. When criminals commit crimes, there’s always a cause and a reason. Drugs are the reason drug addicts experience hallucinations. But I don’t understand at all the actions of the cottage owner and the child. Why were they dancing that strange dance? Why were they making flapping motions like birds? What on earth were they doing, making that indecent sound, their whole bodies completely red? What were those red birds I saw? Were they humans or animals? Why did that guy push me? Is this surrealism? Or an illusion?

Roro, I didn’t die because of your barking. If I hadn’t come here, you wouldn’t have either, so it’s my fault. Don’t feel guilty. I was born with an innate sense of logic and have a habit of speaking completely logically, so I must be logical even in the face of death.

Goodbye. Roro. Thank you for being with me all this time.

 

DB Hamburger

bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun
meat patty, pleasure, day, time, cheese, DB, fight and fatigue
DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB
DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB
hamburger, nightmare, nuclear power plant, protest, niece, duck

DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB
DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB
DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie

DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB
DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB
Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie
Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie
Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie
Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie, Janie

DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB
DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB
Hunt, gun, rope, long and narrow face, white shirt, dad

DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, meaning, meaningless
DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB
DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB, DB

Stockholm, sunlight, love, DB, DB, DB, lettuce, smell of blood, toasting drinks, vertebrae
cottage, delusion, police, imprisonment, insomnia, depression, DB, my daughter Janie, fire, curse, sauce
bun, bun, bun, bun, bun, bun 

 

The Man Who Became a Flamingo

The setting sunlight filters into the flamingo brain. We become confined within the red. DB is asleep, futilely, within the red. The red flows over her face. After calling to you, DB tires easily and sleeps too much.

Perched on the window sill, I savor the red. If red isn’t red, then what would you call it? Indian red. Crimson. Monochrome. Scarlet. A rumor ignored.

Outside the window, I hear the bleak sound of something crying. It sounds somewhat like cheers of pleasure, but also somewhat like groans of disappointment.

I look through the window. A great many flamingos are flying around the cottage. They let out eerie shrieks. They perform acrobatics. You are among them. I wave my hand at you. You nod slightly at me. I gaze at you, mesmerized.

At that moment, someone rings the bell. The flamingos vanish immediately. My breath catches. Someone knocks on the door. I lie down next to DB and act like I’m dead.

Dear Prosecutor, are you sure you can handle my sorrow forever?
Monster Akiko, do not ask if I am well.
Oats cry. Oa oa oa hoa hoo. 

At the sound of the knocking, DB wakes up and begins whimpering. Frightened, she recklessly brings out the cows. Someone is still knocking on the door.

Who is it? Eventually, I answer.

The knocking stops. I hold my breath again. The knocking starts again.

Who is it? I ask again.

I sense no one. I smell nothing. I hide DB under the covers and open the door. No one. I go outside. No one here either. I see nothing by the reservoir or in the grass beyond it. I inhale deeply. In the midst of all the different smells, I catch a whiff of Osprey’s scent. I hurry back to DB.

Bun cheese meat patty lettuce sauce bun

In front of the door was a hamburger strewn on the ground. The kind of hamburger that DB loves. The Osprey’s hamburger. 

Room 110 was silent. I don’t see DB. I told her to hide so she wouldn’t be seen, but now I do not see her either.

The flamingo brain is calm, as though nothing has happened. Calling out to DB, I lift the covers. She’s not there. I look out the window. I only see the turbid nest. I look at the mirror. I see a man floundering at the boundary of flamingo and man.

It is silent. So silent that soon it feels like DB had never been here. Who is DB? Who on earth is she? DB, the girl who is too scared to go anywhere without me. The girl who loves hamburgers. The girl who has many secrets. Who is friends with cows. Who wants to listen to her dad. Who loves to write. I try hard to remember DB.

DB! I shout, walking around the flamingo brain.
DB! I call out, striking the flamingo brain.
DB! I yell, dissecting the flamingo.

DB isn’t any of the other rooms. No vulnerable DB, no crybaby DB, no kind DB. No chatty cows either. I trudge back to Room 110. When I open the door, you are standing by the window.

DB is missing, I say.

You point to something outside the window. I see the Osprey holding DB and running through the grass. The Osprey who had disguised his scent by rolling in the dirt. The Osprey who had lured DB out with a hamburger while I was gone. DB who resists at first but then surrenders herself to death. The Osprey who steals her limp body. I imagine this happening. Imagination is more like reality than reality itself.

While I am deciding what to do, you fly out the window. About a dozen other flamingos appear out of nowhere and follow you. All of you chase after the Osprey at great speed. The Osprey swipes his talons at you. Each of you takes turns pecking and scratching at the Osprey. You block off all other paths and drive the Osprey toward the hysterical nest. The sky above the napping nest is covered with flamingos. The setting sun gives off a sorrowful red glow as it mingles with the flamingos. The Osprey rushes toward his red death.

I hasten to the closet pull out the Hound.

Smell the scent of death, the Hound murmurs excitedly.

I hurry to the window.

Look through the sight and aim, the Hound says.
Load! the Hound says. 

DB’s body is limp against the Osprey’s chest as if she’s dead.

Place your finger over the trigger, the Hound says.

The Osprey is lost among all of you and I’m not confident I have a clear shot.

Think only of death, the Hound says.

I put down the Hound and run outside.

Raymond Queneau’s Zazie dans le métro
Cold water and beavers

I pass the reservoir and run to the thicket. The Osprey and DB are already by the nest that makes judgments too hastily.

The sunset slowly changes to darkness. Darkness settles in quickly. The Osprey and DB soon vanish from my sight. I don’t see any of you either.

It’s shit. Vacations are always shit. A scam of my own making.
I’m not a lefty. I’m not a coward. I’m a coxcomb.

At that moment, a cow begins muttering from somewhere. Using the snout of the Hound to push back the tall grass, I follow the cow’s trail.

Gotta leave this world. Me and you, all of us.
He was, with every fiber of his being, writing poems of blood.
He talked about how to live without working.
Is it always true that if you’re in the sun, it’s warm and if you’re in the shade, you’re cold?

I follow the cow and arrive at the nest with pink wallpaper. As I near the nest that loves to smoke, DB’s voice cuts off suddenly. Holding my breath, I walk forward. I go closer to the wall of the nest that secretly loves another man.

If the ceiling falls down, the light disappears.
To the front, to the back. Let’s all die.

The cows begin to mutter again. I follow the sound of the cows. Just a few steps later, I see the faint shape of a human in front of me. I hear a groan of pain. Cautiously, I go toward the sound. It is DB. DB is collapsed on the ground. Aspermia. Hitler. Butterfly full of memories.

I walk toward DB. Someone hits me on the head, but still I walk toward DB. My head is bleeding, but still I walk toward DB. I am sprawled on the ground, but still I walk toward DB. I let go of the Hound, but still I walk toward DB. The Osprey’s face looms in front of me, but still I walk toward DB. The Osprey tramples my head, but still I walk toward DB. Only when the Osprey bares his talons at my throat do I halt.

I wish no one would call my name tonight.

I have been hunted. I look up at the nest that is reaching into the sky and accept my death. I watch the Osprey approaching me. Behind him, I see you appear. You look at me with a worried expression on your face and then let out a rage-filled howl at the Osprey. You unfurl your wings and block out the sky, casting a shadow on him. He whirls around with sparks in his eyes. You flap your wings harder. The Osprey staggers in the strong wind. The flamingos are standing behind you. You blend in with them. You fly in circles in the sky. The sky brightens like it is daytime. I see nothing but red. My eyes sting, tears flowing from them. The Osprey covers his eyes. The red wave engulfs him. Shrieking, the Osprey spews blood. He flees in a flurry.

It’s not difficult but it’s not easy either. It’s not life, it’s hell. 

I see the Osprey, covered in blood, running toward DB. All of you chase after him. He manages to grab DB before you can and takes off running toward the trivial nest. I stand up shakily. I pick up the Hound and go after the Osprey.

The Osprey leaps nimbly over the wall like he has wings. He goes inside the nest, whose frame can be seen because of how bright it is. I hear the security system goes off. Bright lights come on, illuminating the nest that was cautiously surveying the scene. I chase after them.

I feel sick again. I don’t know why.
I am a friend of Cincinnatus.

Eyes
Early summer
You and me
Ocean blue like sealskin
Did you see the dolphins?
The last eight days
Mother diving underwater

Why am I standing on this wall? All I had done was to jump up and now I’m standing on this high wall. My wings are growing. It is a cave!

The Osprey has nowhere to run. The flamingos have surrounded him. He darts here and there looking for an opening from which to escape, but together you all make up a wall that cannot be breached. Ever since you drove the Osprey to the mask-wearing nest, there could have been no other outcome. 

Eventually, the Osprey begins to climb the ladder to the roof of the nest that has a habit of note-taking. All of you take flight and follow the Osprey. Watchmen, wearing safety helmets and hazmat suits, pour out of the nest that is about to rain. They reach out toward the ladder to grab the Osprey but just barely miss.

I jump down from the wall and cut across the nest that is a pacifist but abhors humans. As soon as I get to the ladder, the watchmen try to deter me. I shove them out of the way.

I am a flamingo, I say.

They block my way.

I am a flamingo, I shout.

They surround me.

I beat my wings. Red muscles. Veins and mask. I take off my clothes. I scratch my whole body. People come close in on me. I point my Hound at them. They shout and step back. Write the first sentence and the next sentence will follow. The next sentence onward is unconscious.

DB is screaming. Up top, up atop the silently laughing nest, she is screaming in fear. All of you rush forward in attack.

A predator sensing his own death will display greater than usual strength. The Osprey’s body looks twice as big as it normally does. He flexes his talons and one by one you plunge to the ground. The surviving flamingos retreat to catch their breath.

I step back and beat my wings. I step into the air and slowly begin to rise. Red energy emanates from my body. I move my arms. In a moment, I fly up to where the Osprey and DB are. I aim the Hound at the Osprey, but he shields himself with DB. Seeing me, DB starts sobbing piteously. When I hesitate, the Osprey’s talons come for me. Before I can even feel the pain, my hand holding the Hound is cut off. I witness the blood pouring from my body. I witness my death. I close my eyes and wait for the death I have witnessed to become reality.

It’s fine if no one reads this diary.
Because they aren’t words I’m saying to you, they’re words I’m saying to myself.

As I’m waiting for my death, you appear from somewhere. You attack the Osprey. He lifts his talons and stops you easily. You retreat. Your whole body is covered with wounds. Blood seeps from them, spreading over your red body. I hug you tightly. You hug me tightly. Redness envelopes our bodies. DB shrieks, her whole body trembling.

Even though I feel lonely, I enjoy that loneliness.
I am dying in this place.
Here, there are bonfires, bonfires, bonfires.
Lonely but not lonely.
Mailman, today I like this word.

The cows burst forth.

I am dying in this place.
Here, there are bonfires, bonfires, bonfires.
Five pains, three joys.
I want to be born as a wheel and a wheel.
Stroller wheel.
Forever in flames.

Amid the cows, there is another loud sound. A sound so loud that it causes everyone to freeze on the spot. Even DB stops breathing. It’s DB’s father. I hear his voice distinctly. It is so full of vigor, like he is standing right next to us. Enough to make the blaring, fearless nest shake. Terrified beyond reason, the flamingos take off high into the sky.

I am dying in this place.
Here, there are bonfires, bonfires, bonfires.
Five pains, three joys.
I want to be born as a wheel and a wheel.
Stroller wheel.
Forever in flames.

DB’s father shouts again. The earth and the heavens shake. The redness sways. The nest that cannot whistle heaves.

Enduring this fierce storm, you help me up. You are breathing hard like you will faint soon. The people on the ground are screaming and running around. Even the Osprey is staring fearfully at DB. She is breathing hard with exhaustion, tears in her eyes. Only the whites of her eyes could be seen and vomit coated her mouth.

Dad!
Dad!
Dad!

DB calls for her dad.

Dad!                                                                                                                Dad!
Dad!                                                                                                                Dad!
Dad!                                                                                                                Dad!
Dad!                                                                                                                Dad!
Dad!                                                                                                                Dad!

Listening closely, I heard another girl’s voice also come from DB’s throat. Suddenly, the Osprey’s expression freeze.

Dad!
Dad!
Dad!

Janie, the Osprey murmurs.
Janie! the Osprey cries.
Janie! the Osprey wails.

At that moment, your body lost its strength. Your breathing grew weak. Both of us plunge. I hit the ground. Next to me, you are groaning. I crawl toward the Hound.

Dad!

I hear the voice that isn’t Janie come in the sky.

Janie! 

The Osprey pushes DB aside and starts to climb the ladder. DB falls very slowly. Molting, aging dog. Rotten tooth. Rusty spring.

You move your body to where DB is falling. I close my eyes. When I open them again, DB is clasped in your embrace. You are holding DB tightly to your body as if to bury her there.

Dad!

The Osprey is almost to the top of the Salamis’ nest. I aim the Hound at him.

Smell the scent of death.
Look through the sight and aim.
Load!
Place your finger over the trigger.
Think only of death.

Unable to hide his excitement, the Hound cries out in a trembling voice. I pull the trigger. The Hound lets out a scream of joy. The bullet flies toward the Osprey.

Dad!

Somewhere in the air, Janie’s voice is calling out earnestly to the Osprey. Even with the bullet in his body, the Osprey goes toward Janie. Even as he is soaked with blood, even as his life fades away, even as he falls to the ground, his dying body moves toward Janie. Death is life.

I see the flamingos descend upon him. In the distance, the redness approaches the Osprey’s death. The redness surrounds the Osprey. The Osprey becomes red within the redness. The Osprey shatters to pieces within the redness. Prince Sado. Broken lights. 

I open my eyes and I can see DB. I see a man who looks like DB standing next to her. They’re hugging tightly. Slowly, they begin to turn red in color. They sprout wings and grow a beak. They beat their wings and fly off into the sky. They fly above the nest that is not afraid of death and preen each others’ feathers with their beaks. I close my eyes again.

It is noisy so I open my eyes. People are gathered around me. They point at me and babble. I grope my body. It’s a naked human body. The hand that had been chopped off is attached to my body again. I look around. The Hound is gone. I look above the nest whose body is destroyed. DB and her father are gone. I survey my surroundings. You are gone too. I am, as always, myself. I have the body of a human. Mamushi. A hanging. Vinegar. 

Where are you? I call for you.

The people are quiet.

I am a flamingo, I shout.

The people chatter. I am a person but not a person.

I am flamingo but not a flamingo. My body becomes red sometimes but only for a moment. I am nothing.

I straighten up. And then I fall back down. The people look questioningly at me.

I am a flamingo, I shout, straightening up again.

Then I fall back down again.

The people murmur.

I am a flamingo, I shout even louder. 

The people take a step back. I think I should stand up, but my body doesn’t move. I see you emerge from the crowd of people and walk toward me. You are bleeding here and there. Limping, you make your way toward me. Even covered in blood, you are still the same color of blood. You kneel next to me. You whisper in my ear for a long time. I should remember what you’re saying, but I cannot hear you well. My body feels sluggish and my mind distant. My eyes close on their own. Before I lose consciousness, I tell myself that I should write down your words so I do not forget them. 

That day, I sat in front of my desk all night long. So that I could write down your words. So that I could remember your voice murmuring in my ear. But I couldn’t fathom a single thing you might’ve said to me. Your voice, hovering by my ear, was simply as hazy as your words that I couldn’t understand. I sat until sunrise, but I couldn’t remember anything at all. I couldn’t write anything at all.

 

Janie

Dad!

 

Sickly Cows

Flamingo, flamingo, what do you hear?

I hear the sound of cows’ tears.

Issue 5 Tag

 

 

* The translation is based on the edited version of The Man Who Became a Flamingo [홍학이 된 사나이], not the version included in Analrealism vol. 1.

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Oh Han Ki (Issue 4-5)

Oh Han Ki. Born in 1985. Novelist. He has written Prosopopoeia, A Man Who Became a Flamingo, I Live Off the Grid.

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