Living through Memories
I wake up in a room that isn't my own. I eat the food prepared while talking to the people with the only smile I can put up, then I go to take care of the injured. The day wears on and with any luck, I'm busy preparing herbs and healing the elderly in no time.
This village is quiet, obscured from the nearby towns and the palace. Mostly country folk with a broken leg or a sprained ankle is the wost part of my job. It's surprising how many people get hurt by trees here and then I remember that my town isn't here. At least, not yet... Still, I'm grateful for the attention. I need it to know I'm doing something besides thinking about him.
It's hard not to. When the night comes, he's the only one that keeps me up. It's different every night. Most of the time, I wake up in a sweat, panicked with fear and worry. All about him. His lifeless body. A breath of my name dieing on his lips. The details of remembering them are painful. I cry alone drowning in my emotions. I dread the next day when I have to face it with a smile, reassuring myself again and again that he's safe. Alive. But there are those rare moments of the night when my dreams are of him smiling, talking, and even arguing. Moments I had when I was with him stored inside me just blossom during my weakest times. My day would brighten. I would smell the first sign of rain before it hits the ground, picturing if he's looking at the same blue sky. I would also remember those yellow flowers blooming outside my window. These flowers seem to follow me everywhere I go or maybe I just notice them that much more often when he's on my mind.
Sunspots, stars, dates, weather. I give up! I grumble, shoving my hair roughly. I was surprised to find a book about the sun and astrology in the photographer's bag that I took but these dates only count for my past self. How about the me now that needs to get back to him?! I've gone to the gate a few days at a time praying, hoping, and even crying.
I can't stay here. I didn't stay here. I had to have found a way back to him somehow. That man who melted my tools said there was someone from heaven who healed people one hundred years before. That person is me. I didn't believe it. Actually, I was denying it because then I would lose all hope. What if I die on this land in this time before that person is even born? Maybe I did die once upon a time. This strange cycle of traveling back and forth just for him to live can't all be for naught. A dream of him dieing in my arms may have happened before but if I know myself, even in death, I wouldn't allow him to leave me like that. Never. I didn't keep doing this out of despair. I wanted to find a way to go back and save him. Every time.
I need to stop worrying about this. Gate or portal. It will open just like it did before and it will open for me. I'm sure of it.
It's been months after everything that's happened. I've attracted a great deal of attention even if this village is hidden in the mountains. I've been moving around a lot, growing uneasy with each patient I treat. I know I shouldn't do that, call attention to myself that is. He'd be scolding me by now if he knew what kind of trouble I'm getting myself in. He'd probably say something like always keep myself safe. Don't trust anyone. Let other people handle it. A smile touches the edges of my lips. I can't believe he's capable of making me smile just at the thought of him. Sometimes I worry I'd forget his face or that voice but it vividly rings clear inside me like a picture carefully tucked safely in my head.
My hand clutches tighter to the recorder. It's stopped working a long, long time ago. Mom and Dad. I don't think I'll ever stop missing them. I feel like I'm barely holding on. Their faces look like ripples stained on a pond, existing yet the details of their eyes, hair, smile... I can't remember.
What kind of daughter forgets her own parents' faces?! I sigh in contempt unable to answer myself. They would've loved him. Mom would've cooked all day, all her famous dishes and my favorites. Dad's the silent type. Still he probably would have wanted to know what kind of man his daughter was going to marry. Marry... Would I ever get there in time for that to happen? Would he still be waiting... for me?
I brush a stray wrinkle from my silk gown as I pass advice to a doctor nearby. He finally gets a call from someone and leaves me to my thoughts.
Ice hands had way better food and clothing than this guy that captured me. Some dog-eared punk with a lot of talk and looks like he has a fair amount of men with him too. At least there's other doctors to talk to. Doctor Jang would have loved knowing about the medicine they're using here. A bit out of style since it is a hundred years before his time but sometimes the simplest methods are still the best methods. Although, on the other hand, that man wouldn't like this at all. It'll be like last time when he stormed through those front doors to drag me out while professing his love for me. Ha! He was so macho about it too but when I teased him about it, he couldn't even get a word out! No. He definitely would not approve. I need to find a way out of here soon.
The time is nearing and I can't believe it's almost here! I've made preparations and now is as good a time as any to escape. That dog-eared man is gone. Off to visit somebody so important that he took a major part of the guard. It also seems like everyone is too busy planning his leave that they don't even seem to notice me exiting out the gate in the dead of night.
Running away like this should be frightening but I'm excited. I would run away at a moment's notice when I'm with him. I know what to do. He took on the responsibly but I was always watching him. How he hid our trail, how to tell if someone was following us, where to go, everything. I was watching and learning even when he didn't want to answer my questions. And now, soon, as the road approaching gets closer, maybe I can get a chance to ask him more.
Three days. I've been traveling three days on horseback and nobody's been after me. It might help that it's been raining for those past days but I also would like to think is had to do with all the praying I've been doing. The Woodalchi would laugh if they knew. A heavenly person like me praying?!
I just need to get there. Back to that time or this knot in my chest won't come undone. And maybe if I get there... No, when I get there, that portal will open and I'll find him. If I have to, I'll go through as many portals as possible until I see him again.
Eun Soo! What the hell are you doing?! I bite my lips as I get to the final suture and immediately ask for the next child. A wagon accident. Three kids. Two need medical attention and today I just saw two guards pass through looking for me but here I am still helping these kids. I suck in a breath as my impatient hand almost cuts through the wrong side. I curse under my breath, clearing my head. I'm going to save them. One by one stitch. Carefully. Then, I'm going home. Home to him.
I knew it! I could almost cry at the sight of that swirling vortex and I rush in without a hesitation. The tunnel inside is lonely, with different sounds echoing all about but never making any sense. I run, not wasting any more time and then I arrive back to the present. I say a silent farewell as I rush back inside, eager to make it to him. As soon as the light expands, I jump out and look. It looks the same. My heart clenches with the same type of feeling as before. It can't be... Wait. I blow a breath of air and walk calmly through the grass to head inside the village.
It's not the same. It only looks the same. He's here. He's got to be here. Please!
I look through the stands, everything seems different. I perk up. The place doesn't look the same. Maybe! Maybe! A tiny light begins to burn as my steps become quicker. Suddenly, I feel someone tug my sleeve. A huge wave of emotion crashes into me at once. It's him! It's..! I turn around, caught off guard at the sight of a boy, a teenager at least. He looks familiar … no, it can't be!
I barely manage a smile as he talks and talks and talks. He's the same boy. The boy I saved from the wagon. Years ago for him but yesterday for me. How? I thought... He flashes me some concern and I just push it aside. Not here. He's... not here.
It's not gonna be easy, huh? Heaven must get a kick out of tormenting the people on land. Hope? What use is hope when there's nothing here to keep me going?!
I'm stuck. I don't know where to go from here. I lost track of time. How long was I in this room? This dark room that kind kid managed to get for me. I can't keep doing this. Relying on others for help. But what's the use? That gate must be laughing at me. Playing with my heart from the start because it wants me to end up here forever. My hair's grown too long. This dirt on my hands, were they always there? How? Why won't somebody just tell me what to do?! Is my wish that selfish? Is it too much? How is it that I have met the man I want to be with for the rest of my life and faith says no? What and I going to do? What am I suppose to do?
Blood. Is it too much? Will she be alright? I glance towards the midwife, her hands steady and words calming. I've never done this. Ever! With one final push, a miracle happens. Here, now, life. I gaze at the lively being, unsure of what to say or to even do. The woman immediately does her job quickly, the mother cries from relief and joy. I smile gently unsure why I was even here but I couldn't find it in myself to turn away. That kid had a kid. Well, he was married and his wife was the one that had a kid and it was a miracle. Something so small and fragile can cry so strongly. It's so strong. That strength, where does it come from? How does something so small find that will to live?
The midwife cleans the child as best as possible before handing it to the mother. The way she's looking at her child is love. Yes. That's it. She looks my way and I come to her side. She raises the bundle in her arms and starts to hand it to me. I refuse but it's too late. This child is in my arms. I thought it's eyes would be closed but it's open, awake and full of life. It's crazy and before I know it, I'm crying. Everything just hits me all at once. I gaze back at the mother as she grasps me by the elbow. She's also crying. She knows. To live. It starts here. I've forgotten that. Birth, life, love, all these things and more happen in the rarest of moments. Meeting him, falling for him, traveling in the past for him, these should be impossible but I did it. This child, survived through the impossible. Giving up? That shouldn't be an option. There's so much to live for and as long as there's one reason to keep living, I need to try.
I say my farewell to the couple and their new bundle of joy. They insisted on naming their kid after me but what kind of child would want my name? That would be a weird name for a boy. I stagger across some weeds through the grass. I suddenly lose my footing and yelp as I roll down the landing. Ow! That hurts. I moan. I really should watch where I'm going. I reach for my bag when I see it. One yellow flower. I search the area for where it could've come from but there was hardly a field of flowers anywhere. I snatch up the bud with a pointed glare and laugh. It's almost like he's telling me to be more careful. That even though he's not here to catch me, he's still here.
While traveling, I begin to set the notes I laid out for myself. Back then, I thought it was some copycat of me, a clone, or even just someone unfortunate who happened to get stuck in the past like me that had the same handwriting but now I know better. No one could've written those messages except for me. The me now that understands what needs to be done to save that person. History be damned. If I wasn't meant to change the past, I wouldn't be here right now doing it.
Ice hand couldn't pass through the gate. Only me and that person. Everything, even now was suppose to happen, no matter how ridiculous it might seem. It's strange to feel comforted at the thought that he was meant to kidnap me no matter what and I was meant to stay to be with him. Is heaven a romantic? Letting me suffer like this?
Ah! I wonder Maybe I can add more to the letter. I glance at the letter in the film canister. If I warn my other self about that poison bastard, I can save myself earlier or even Doctor Jang! I can save him too! I can! I.. I stop, unsure whether to go on with this. If I do happen to add that, all the other previous memories would disappear. I suffered but I also got to be with him more. And Doctor Jang. It's mean, even cruel to think but his death had meaning. I drop the canister down and push the rock in. Memories are precious and I would not want to change them, even the bad ones.
I can't believe she's here talking to me and offering me hairpins at that! The Lady Choi! Sword fighting and inside secret keeper of the palace Lady Choi! I'm aghast but I find myself coming here everyday, making chatter and even managing to buy a handful of hair accessories. She looks exactly like her and there are times where I find myself comfortable sharing my memories with her. She's grown fond of me. I can't refuse her kindness because secretly I wish that she might introduce me to her family and maybe she might have a nephew too. A nephew with a similar temperament of someone I know. I might be hoping for too much. It is too much. Though, one can only hope.
Huh. Great. I'm honestly not surprised anymore. I go down to a familiar road once again greeted by a shopkeeper who I have seen before. It's hard not to hide the disappointment but well, the swirling vortex of unknown time still appears with its unusual weird timing so I should be happy about that. When it stops, that's probably when panic would set in. The familiar shopkeeper spreads her newly acquired pieces and asks me where I've been through all these months. I grin hardly at lost of what to say I did just see her but the portal pushed me forward a couple of months, so I just say I was trying to visit a friend but it seems he's not there anymore and I lost the place. She pats my hand with a comforting face and says that people who are looking for each other tend to meet and I shouldn't worry about it. I hope she's right because heaven knows I'm gonna keep looking for him for a long time.
Since when did it get so hard to walk. I struggle getting up a hill, huffing to catch my breath. I was never good at long walks. I did tell him. I sit down and see a long stick. Well, there's an idea. I pick it up and use it along my way. Ah. Now I do feel old. Does passing through those gates have a side-effect? Maybe it steals a little of my strength or my life. I frown with worry as I quickly steal a glance at the river. Am I older? I don't know. That woman looks like me but it's expression is different. I perk a smile and immediately regret it. What sort of smile is that?! A sigh escapes me and I start patting my cheeks. Be happy. Be happy!
I lose my balance and fall into the water. My clothes are all soaked! I groan and whine as a I splash the water more in frustration. Just as I do though a fish out of nowhere plops on my lap and I scream. With a quick splash, I quickly retreat back to the bank in shock.
Fish. There was a fish. Where? Yah!
The living creature splatters and flops while struggling to breath the air. It followed me! What the..! I grab the stick and use it to push the creature back into the river where it came from. It gives a big splash and then as it swims away I could swear it shot me a mean glare. Imagine. A fish just glared at me! Unbelievable! Too unbelievable that I couldn't keep the laughter from coming out of my mouth. Now I'm not so sure I would wanna ever go fishing.
Here we go again. I go inside, ignore the images and the voices. I arrive in the present. Without so much as a second glance, I go back inside and come back to the same place. It looks the same once again. Maybe I should go see if that restaurant still has the best mandu. I'm craving some right now. And kimchi. Oh, something spicy would be nice for once! I walk towards the place and it's unusually loud today. I quietly take a seat and see the place covered with soldiers and not just ordinary soldiers. What's going on? Hmm. Maybe I should ask.