The Great Storyteller Chapter 235
Translated by: ShawnSuh
Edited by: SootyOwl
The sound was coming from too far a distance to be coming from the laptop. Then, two employees came out from behind the bar. ‘Two? Has the other one come in already?’ Juho asked himself. His eyes went to the empty seat by reflex. There was one person who had yet to return to the cafe.
“It won’t open!” a voice cried out, and upon hearing it, Juho, along with one of the employees, went outside of the cafe. As soon as they stepped out of the shop, what came into view was the door to the restroom. It was vibrating. Somebody was banging against it from the inside.
“Yes, we can hear you!” Juho answered with a cracked voice. It wasn’t that he was desperate or terrified. The young author was simply flustered by the situation, even mildly amused.
“Thank goodness! I can’t open the door from the inside.”
“Sir, would you give me a moment?” the employee said, going back into the cafe and bringing the key out in a hurry, looking mildly guilty. At that, Juho realized that it was the employee who was responsible for locking the restroom door. There was a phrase on the door, which read: “For cafe customers only. Please keep the door closed.”
“I’m so sorry, sir. I had no idea,” the employee said, explaining the situation to the person coming out of the bathroom. Having come out to clean, the employee had tried opening the door out of habit in order to make sure it was shut tightly. Upon checking the door, the employee had thought that somebody had forgotten to close the door on their way out. Besides, the employee had seen that the key was still in its place before coming out of the cafe. Then, taking the key, the employee had locked the restroom door without hesitation or even bothering to check if anybody was inside. And apparently, the person in the restroom didn’t take notice of what had happened, thinking that it was someone else coming in.
“I am so sorry,” the employee apologized, and as the situation dawned on him, the customer grew exceedingly angry. At which point, the employee apologized again, repeatedly.
Meanwhile, Juho kept watching from few paces away. At that moment, he started feeling a throbbing sensation on his palm. Then, realizing he had found just what he had been looking for, the young author went back to his seat unhurriedly. Loud voices came from the outside, and those who had been observing from the inside started whispering to each other as they caught on to what had happened.
When Juho first heard the voice asking for help, he was quite taken aback because he had thought it was coming from his laptop. There were two polarizing voices coming from the stairway: one as edgy as a knife, and the other, weak and timid. Although trapped in the restroom for only a short time, the customer had grown furious upon realizing the truth. It wasn’t until he got out that he started expressing his displeasure. Juho plugged his ears with his earbuds. As the voices faded into the distance, he played that same video he had been watching, in which he kept saying the same words, at the same, exact time.
With that, he closed his eyes in order to think of a setting. A ferris wheel was turning. A pendulum ride shaped like a Viking ship, a train, a rollercoaster, a monorail, a set of bumper cars, a merry-go-round, the spinning cups, bungee jumping. It was a theme park with colorful rides lined up back to back. The land of hopes and dreams.
The entire place was filled with jingles and people’s shouting, sounds made by rides that dropped from terrifying heights repeatedly. Everything moved restlessly.
“Please take a picture of us,” a voice said to the young author in a foreign language. It was the Japanese couple, who loved theme parks so much that they visited one in every country they went to. Then, one of them handed Juho their camera, wanting to treasure the present moment. As he took the camera from their hands, the couple posed shoulder to shoulder, appearing in the narrow-angle of the camera. All the while, the spinning cups spun restlessly in the background.
As Juho pressed the button, the shutter went off. A man-made bird sound came from the sound system around the theme park. Needless to say, there weren’t any actual birds. The theme park was designed strictly for people. At that moment, a mascot cut through the camera and the couple.
“Please take a picture of us,” the couple said, and the young author pressed the shutter release button once again. The flash went off. Then, Juho listed the questions he wanted to ask them in his head, ‘Where are you planning on going after this? Are you guys planning on getting married? Is either of your parents against the marriage? How did you first meet? Are you confident that you love each other? What’s your reason? What do you like and dislike most about each other? Is there an acquaintance that you wish your significant other would stop hanging out with? Have you ever had a fight? How did you make up? How well do you know each other? Is there anything about your relationship that makes you anxious? Will you ever break up? Do you believe that you’ll be together forever?”
“Would you like a picture?”
“Please take a picture of us.”
The shutter went off once again. Then, darkness. When Juho took his eyes off the camera, he realized that there was something on the lens. It was blue and had a pair of antennae that were as long as its body. What looked like eyes, or the mouth, was shining. Juho pressed the shutter button once again. However, even when the camera made a sound, the bug didn’t fly away. Instead, it started to explore the camera, crawling about and studying its shape. Then, it shoved its head into a hole in the camera, where the film should be. Although Juho wanted to stop it from shoving itself into the camera by force, there was nothing he could do. In the end, with a crunch, the exoskeleton on its back started to crack. Yet, the insect wasn’t about to let up any time soon. Pieces of its body fell out, as well as its legs. With only the long antennae intact, the insect managed to get inside the camera. ‘What do I do?’ Juho asked himself, looking at the couple. Unfortunately, by the time he looked down at the camera again, there was no trace of the insect, or even the antennae.
“Uh, a bug went into your camera,” the young author said. Yet, the couple remained just as happy as when Juho first met them, posing with bright smiles on their faces. Juho brought the camera up to his eyes, seeing nothing but the insect’s bluish back. In an attempt to get the insect out of the camera, he shook it and blew on it, but to no avail. If anything, it sounded like the insect was hiding even deeper within the camera. When Juho brought the camera up to his eyes again, he saw a hairy leg creating a line between the two people.
“Are you gonna stay in there?” the young author asked without expecting a response. However, to his surprise, the insect responded to his question by making a sound by rubbing its wings. The camera began to shake as if it was shaking its abdomen. It seemed like the insect wasn’t planning on coming out of the camera anytime soon.”
“All right, suit yourself.”
Because there was no way to force it out, either, Juho started walking away with the camera still in his hand. However, the couples didn’t come after him. Shortly after, a gift shop appeared, so Juho opened the door and went inside. The first things he saw, were the spinning cups. There was yet another couple holding each other. A mascot walked by, and the insect inside of the camera started chirping. With that, Juho walked a little further. Shortly after, a gift shop appeared, so Juho opened the door and went inside, again. The first things he saw, were the spinning cups.
At that moment, parade music sounded from the distance. A train emitting bright lights approached, carrying the prince, the princess, fairies, and clowns. Then, just as Juho was about to walk toward it, he felt a hand on his shoulder.
It was a mascot, one which the young author had no recollection of talking to. Looking like either a dog or a raccoon, the mascot had three fingers, and was without nails or teeth. Not only did It have nothing to harm people with, but it also looked rather adorable. However, behind the mask and the costume, was a person. The situation was bound to change once the mask came off. At that moment, the mascot pointed toward something with its soft, round finger. It was pointing at a bench with a zebra-like pattern.
“You wanna sit there?”
“Yes,” an unexpectedly clear voice said, and just like the mascot wanted, Juho sat on the zebra bench. He tried patting the mascot’s massive head. It was soft and fragrant. It made sense that people wanted to take pictures with it and that they weren’t afraid to hug it. The mascot’s aura immediately made Juho think that it was harmless. It also brought peace to his heart. Then, it dawned on the young writer that he wanted to take it home with him. He wanted to stay by its side forever.
“You’ve been doin’ all right?” Juho asked.
There was a small space between the mask and the body, but nothing was visible through it.
“Isn’t the mask uncomfortable?”
“You can always take it off, you know.”
“I find it neither uncomfortable nor do I want to take it off,” the mascot said in a comfortable voice.
In the end, Juho gave in and came clean, “I wanna know what you look like.”
At his request, laughter came from within the mask, and the bug inside the camera responded to it by rubbing its wings together.
“I have the right to be forgotten,” the mascot said confidently, and Juho couldn’t deny it. He had no choice but to move on. As the young author tried to shrug off his curiosity, the mascot added, “And you, too, have the right to forget.”
There hadn’t been anything strange, wrong, or that needed to be changed. It was only natural to forget the person one had parted ways with, and there was no need for guilt or responsibility.
“From what I heard, forgetting is no different from abandoning.”
“Right. I don’t know if you noticed, but I don’t have a tail. I’m not sure if I lost it, or simply forgot about it,” the mascot said, rising from the bench and showing it to Juho. Just as it had said, there was nothing where there should’ve been a tail.
“Do you think it’s the same way with people?” The young author asked. Did the same principles apply to people? Did forgetting them, like the mascot’s tail, mean losing them forever? Juho hoped it wasn’t true.
“I don’t think so,” the mascot said. Although it was just the answer Juho had been looking for, he couldn’t help but doubt it, rather than find joy in it. Something was telling him that the mascot was simply playing along, rather than being honest.
“Because they’re people, and people are special.”
“And what makes them special?”
“That you can’t abandon them, no matter how trashy they are,” the mascot said poignantly.
“And there’s no designated garbage bag for people.”
(TL’s Note: In Korea, people are obligated by law to separate their trash accordingly. For example: recyclables, food waste etc.)
For being an adorable-looking mascot, the words that were coming out of it were quite threatening.
“If we’re both referring to the same trash, then there’s a place called prison. You could think of that as a human dumpster, don’t you think?”
“If prison was a dumpster, then they should be gathering their trash into one place, and either burn it or break it apart so that it could be either buried in the ground or dumped in the ocean. Or, I suppose they could shoot it into space, too. We could call them ‘trash,’ but at the end of the day, they’re still people. People will always be people,” the mascot said, chuckling cynically. Although it wasn’t visible, Juho didn’t find it all that difficult to imagine the look on the person’s face behind the mask. “All that’s to say that people can’t be abandoned simply by being forgotten.”
“That’s a relief.” If what the mascot was saying was true, then Juho found it a relief that a human was inside of that costume. Then, the air sank into silence, and fiddling with the camera in his hand, Juho asked, “Should we go watch the parade or something?”
“No, thank you.”
“You’re kind of heartless, you know that?”
At that moment, the bug started chirping again, making its distinctively harsh noise. When Juho brought the camera up to his eye, he discovered that the bug had managed to go even deeper into it. Even its legs were no longer visible. Then, taking advantage of the fact that the screen was unobstructed again, Juho aimed the camera at the mascot.
“Well, then. Why don’t we take a picture before we part ways?”
The mascot nodded at the young author’s suggestion, and as Juho applied pressure to his finger, the shutter went off. Juho was glad to have forgotten her, and he was glad that he had loved her. He was finally in a place where he was able to think like that.
“Please don’t stop writing,” the person on the other end of the camera said. “I’ll read it, no matter what.”
Then, with the mascot’s smile, the world fell apart. The spinning cups came to an abrupt stop, and the sound of the parade faded further into the distance, much like the mascot, who was walking away from the young author without even looking back. By the time he looked away from the fading theme park, he was left only with the rich aroma of coffee beans lingering around him. Then, when he looked up, one of the cafe employees came into view with a cup of coffee and a piece of bread, which Juho had no recollection of having ordered.
“I apologize for what happened earlier. These are on the house.”
“Oh, right. I don’t know if I did anything to help, but thanks.”
With that, leaving the coffee and the bread on Juho’s table, the employee went back to the bar. Juho looked around the cafe slowly. He was the only customer around. Before he even realized, everyone had already left. The young author reached for the coffee. It was still pleasantly warm. Then, putting the mug back down, he broke the bread and put a piece of it into his mouth. It was quite tasty and enough to fill him up for a little while. The lingering anxieties in his head were no longer there, and brushing the crumbs off his hands, Juho knew by instinct that he was in the perfect place to write.