ISSUE 2: ADAGIO
issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii issue ii
JUNE HYUNG KIM
Upon the Goddess
June Hyung Kim | prose
After the last local carriage passes by the Jeongseon line, when the only cart bar in the town insists on closing, they follow the street that leads, like every street in the village to the sculpture. If they can find the statue, they will find their inn, even in this darkness. The eyes of the gods glare at the town square, the one who created this land, and the lady, the mother of the large figure, sits on the pedestal, her arms neatly arranged on her lap. Through their shuttered room window that opens outward into the maple field, they can hear the chimes on villagers' doorsteps whistle to the wind. Each night the tinkling echoes of the chime have lulled them to sleep, and when they wake, the sculpture's marble surface has warmed in the presence of daylight.
Of course, it is really their own voices that are the foreign ones here where they have no business to be, where they’ve come as if by accident. They came from Seoul to Gangwon-do for a lengthy road journey, and their drunken footsteps brought them here. Even their footsteps sounded foreign as they walked to the inn. The girl dragged her fingers along the brick walls of the apartment houses lit under the yellow streetlamp, their ruggedness leaving scrape marks on her nails.
“Shhh,” they shush each other and then laugh. The boy can hear her laughter as it echoes on the maroon walls.
“We have to keep quiet,” he says, and they stop and hug tightly as if to seal each other in their width, dizzily lose their balance, and steady themselves against a wall.
They both look up. Above the buildings, the moon is a yellow hole in a blackout curtain. When the restaurant’s neon blinks out behind them, he tells her this village looks like the time of the Later Three Kingdoms, that they’ve re-entered the darkest age in history. In the entire village, only the single torchlight beside the sculpture burns.
It’s probably a lucky thing that their inn doesn’t face the visages of the old god. In the yellow glare of the torchlight, the sculpture appears fissured with cracks. Its pedestal is crumbling, eroded by the years of wind. During the day, two workmen in torn clothes patch the cracks and dust leaves off the surface of the sculpture with broomsticks. But like a recurring nightmare, after dark, the cracks reappear.
The dirt path on the edge of the village leads towards a smaller one on the hillside below. The settlement below is a shabby cluster of thatch-covered houses. They don’t have a sculpture of the deities. That town is famous for the corpse of the chief priest of its temple, which refuses to rot. Given the choice of the hamlet with the sculpture or the village with the incorruptible priest, they chose the sculpture.
Tonight, with no one else awake, the girl walks onto the pedestal and sits on the lap of the bear lady. He watches her standing with her eyes staring up at the night, and for the moment he’s glad they’ve come here, for however long it lasts. Maybe they needed to be foreigners once again, maybe they needed to find a place only for strangers.
The man wonders what it would look like to the villagers to find a wanderer on their goddess, hair tied back with a bowtie, a strange woman among their familiar immortals. Her arms are graceful like theirs, neatly arranged on her lap. Her eyes, like theirs, glare at the square, down upon them.
“The lady is alive!” a young boy cries out, a piece of bread in his left hand.
A crowd gathers beneath the lamp that went out, here to believe that stone can incarnate overnight. As she slowly ascends from the goddess’ lap, pieces of debris drop down onto the dirt road, flowing down the hill to the village down below. The pieces of marble create a stream, a stream that would have the villagers down there praying in mumbles and holding the corpse of their undying priest above their heads, climbing the stairs to this village, like goats climbing cliffs.
The couple will leave the village soon, back to reality, back to normal. As strangers no more to this place, they will not be returning.
June Hyung Kim is a 15-year-old student from South Korea. He is currently studying in Manila, Philippines, and enjoys writing about his experiences from traveling. His work has been previously published in various places.