The first thing Seol saw was light pressing down on his eyes. Once he focused his blurry gaze three, four times, he finally saw the lightbulb he left on before going to bed.
Seol gasped for air and curled his body from the cold that flooded in. He found that he was soaked with cold sweat.
He wiped away the sweat on his forehead, but he couldn't stop his body's trembling. His mind wasn't groggy, but clear. However, he couldn't breathe from the intense emotions swirling inside him.
He forced his body up and barely managed to lean against the wall. Immediately, the sigh he had been suppressing escaped from his mouth.
Seol closed his eyes.
He'd had a dream, a dream that was a bit, no, a lot different than the dreams he usually had.
He felt as if he had personally experienced everything. He even felt all sorts of emotions from the dream.
Logically speaking, none of it made sense. The dream was detached from the everyday life he saw and experienced. The sceneries he intermittently witnessed were far removed from the background of the modern world, and he had even fought creatures that clearly were not human. Perhaps, everything was just a silly dream.
The final scene stuck to his head. The dying man… was full of regrets.
Regret, remorse, lamentation, and a deep sigh… Even until his life flickered out, these fervent emotions raged inside him. They lingered inside Seol, ringing his heart.
Seol opened his eyes after much struggle and slowly looked around his room.
The blanket tossed to the side, the clothes draped over a ramen box, bottles of soju rolling around on the dirty floor, and a pack of cigarettes sitting on the same spot.
For some reason, this sight felt surreal.
A head-splitting migraine suddenly swept through him. He got up almost reflexively and staggered to the bathroom. Once he drew a bucket of cold water and doused his head in it, his mind turned clear.
When he couldn't hold his breath any longer, he raised his head out of the water. His own face reflecting off the bathroom mirror seemed too unfamiliar. His eyes were sunken, and his complexion was pale like a sickly man.
'This is… me?'
He slowly touched his face as light returned to his eyes. His old face was nowhere to be found, replaced by the face of an impoverished gambling and alcohol addict. He felt like he was looking at a dead man.
He left the bathroom without even wiping off the water dripping from his chin. He put on his jacket almost angrily and pushed the front door open.
His stomach ached, but he felt like he wouldn't last much longer if he didn't shove something down there.
He stopped by the convenience store, but nothing grabbed his attention. Rather than leaving his house to grab food, he had stormed out because he felt he couldn't stay inside.
In the end, he left after picking out a can of beer. He began to walk aimlessly until, eventually, he reached the spot below the Tancheon River Bridge. It was the place he frequented to lament his luck whenever he lost money at the casino.
Seol cracked open the can and gulped it down. His stomach seemed to scream, but he didn't care.
As he sat in complete silence, the emotions he had been trying to ignore flooded back to him like a tidal wave.
'How did I end up like this?'
Seol stared at Tancheon River's dark waters. He was in elementary school when he realized he was different from everyone else. He called his ability 'Green Eyes' and considered himself a chosen child. He quivered with excitement, anticipating that something special would happen to him one day.
Looking back, the stories of his childhood only made him blush in embarrassment.
It wasn't until he got older that he learned being different from everyone else wasn't good and that it was better to hide this difference.
During the 26 years of his life, he had only determined four facts about his ability.
If he focused his senses on his eyes, living things and objects would glow green. Among them, there were some that would lose the color even if he maintained his focus. If he involved himself with things that were green, nothing would happen. But if he involved himself with things that lost their green color, something bad would happen with over 50 percent chance.
Seol focused on the 'over 50 percent chance'. From a different perspective, it meant something good might have 'under 50 percent chance'.
The casino was what he chose to confirm this hypothesis. At first, he simply considered the casino a place of experimentation. Although he lost 60 to 70 percent of his buy-in, he only brought one hundred thousand won every time.
If he lost it all, he left without turning back. Although he wasn't happy, the amount was no different from a college kid's allowance.
The problem was with the days he actually won money. One time, he had even turned his buy-in to 5 million won in two days. He ate everything he wanted, bought clothes he only imagined himself wearing, and replaced his computer to the latest model. Even then, he still had a lot left.
The taste of spending money. Once he experienced it, his life began to change.
The number of times he visited the casino skyrocketed and the amount of money he brought with him increased as well. He forgot all about his experiments and focused on earning money.
As he was spending his days obsessed with winning money, his ability suddenly disappeared. It wasn't that it was out of the blue. His head hurt the more he used his ability, and he even developed insomnia as days where he couldn't fall asleep increased.
As the symptoms worsened, the green color he used to see just by focusing a tiny bit became fainter. After he passed out one time from exhaustion, he lost his ability to see the green color even after concentrating for hours.
Although his greed cost him his ability, he couldn't stop gambling.
He had experienced the positive side of the variance of gambling. He believed he could recoup his losses if he won big just once.
He didn't listen no matter who tried to talk sense into him. He had already fallen into the joy of gambling. The ecstasy he felt when he won was more electrifying than any other pleasure. From that point on, Seol's life headed straight down to the bottom of the abyss.
And then, and then….
Seol clenched his teeth. Why did he suddenly feel like this?
Baseless pride and reckless defiance arose in his heart. But whenever this happened, the emotions he felt in his dreams flooded in and drowned them out.
Suddenly, he recalled making Yoo Seonhwa cry in the morning. Immediately, another powerful wave of emotions swept in, making him dizzy.
[…Son of a bitch.]
Clunk. The beer can fell from his hand and spilled on the ground.
'Why did I do that?'
The youth covered his face with his hands. He put strength into all his fingers and pressed down crazily.
'Just why did I do that?'
I didn't mean to. I shouldn't have said something like that.
He felt like a part of his heart was torn out. The emotions he felt from his dream didn't disappear as he became more aware of them. Instead, they became clearer.
The feeling of regret stabbed his heart, and the edges of his eyes turned hot.
Now, he felt like he understood the truth. That him without his ability was just a worthless bastard.
'If only I never had this ability!'
The moment he finally accepted this truth… Seol felt the last bits of his ego being washed out of his mind.
He suddenly broke out into laughter. He burst out as if his heart would explode. But gradually, his laughter turned into weeping.
"Heuk… I'm sorry…."
He regretted everything. He felt stuffy like something was strangling him.
"I'm sorry, Seonhwa…."
A grown youth cried like a kid.
'I'd rather die than continue living like this.'
He had lived like trash, troubling everyone around him. He couldn't even imagine how much disappointment and pain he caused. Just like his little sister said, maybe it was better for everyone in the long run for him to just take his own life.
Seol slowly got up. The slowly flowing river water seemed more alluring than ever before.
He approached it in a trance and looked down at the river. The tears flowing down from his cheeks caused tiny ripples in the water.
Glaring at the river fixedly, he stepped forward with his shaking legs.
It was then.
Suddenly, the color of the water changed. From the point where Seol's feet were or, more specifically, from the point he caused the ripples, green color bloomed outward.
Like dropping paint into clear water, the forgotten color, the lost light quickly spread out in all directions.
Not only did it dye the flowing river water, but it also traveled up the support pillars of the bridge, dyeing the entire structure. It covered the spot he was just sitting in and, eventually, the distant sky.
The whole world became dyed in green, just like when he was young.
Seol stared at the feast of green dancing all around him with eyes wet with tears. His face was clearly one of utter disbelief.
After standing there like he had been struck by lightning, Seol consciously scattered his concentration. Immediately, the world returned to its normal colors.
When he concentrated again, the green world returned.
"…It came back?"
Just like how it suddenly disappeared one day…
"It really came back?"
It suddenly returned.
He had failed to restore his ability no matter how hard he tried. The sense of loss he felt that day could hardly be described with words.
But what had caused it to activate again?
Suddenly, he recalled the morning's dream again. Now that he thought about it, the man from this dream seemed to use the same ability.
Seol frantically recalled the dream from the beginning.
But soon, he determined that it was unrelated. It didn't make sense no matter how much he thought about it.
Perhaps, his subconscious desire to regain his ability had manifested itself as the strange dream. That was more realistic and easier to swallow than.
But looking back, the dream was strangely realistic. Didn't the dream also begin with the man drinking beer in Tancheon River and lamenting over his life?
Just like he was now.
It was then. Just as Seol fell into a new-found confusion, the click-clack of high-heels hitting the stone pavement rang out. The strange rhythmical steps caught Seol's attention, and he promptly turned his head to the side.
And there, Seol could definitely see it.
In the world dyed in green, the viridescent light was gradually fading away in one spot.
It was in the direction of this sound.