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The Story of Hee and Haw (Winter 2013 Edition)
Hee killed three people in middle school. His father, his mother, and his brother. There was no need to set his house on fire if he just wanted to commit suicide, but he did. Maybe he was scared to die alone. Even Hee wasn't sure what the truth was.
Ironically, Hee was the only one saved from the fire. He had little in the way of burns. The other three had been burnt black. The worst people survive the longest, after all.
Now I've done it, Hee thought. They were such good people, and I set them on fire.
No one even considered that Hee had started the fire. And thus, Hee was just a pitiable child to them.
Hee, having lost his family and home, came to live at a relative's house. They, just like those who had been Hee's family, were good people. As they treated him like one of their own, they also provided him a very comfortable environment without being too overbearing.
Hee's sister in law in particular was very affectionate to him. Sometimes she would stroke him in silence for about twenty minutes. She was quite pretty, but had a bad habit of sometimes feeling like she wanted to die. Perhaps she found Hee cute because she was that way.
But whatever wonderful place he was put in, as ever, Hee didn't enjoy living. He hated seeing people who felt alive, and he didn't much care for dead ones either. "I'm not suited for humans," Hee mourned.
However, living got a fair bit easier once he came to realize "If it comes to it, I can just try suicide again." Surprisingly.
His relative's house was way out in the countryside, and once in high school, Hee took the train to and from school for two hours every day. In summer days too bright to keep your eyes open, and winter days with snow making it impossible to see, Hee expressionlessly attended and returned from school. It was a high school that kept him busy with homework, but perhaps he chose such a school on purpose. He didn't want to give himself too much time to think about anything unnecessary.
Through such busy days, Hee steadily became a normal person. To the point where he questioned why he had ever contemplated suicide.
Surely, I must have been nuts in middle school. If I'd been sane, father and mother and brother wouldn't have had to die.
I've done a bad thing.
He wanted to atone for his sin. But there was no one to atone to. Thus, Hee didn't consider self-reflection on his conduct. He didn't think that "atonement" was really possible.
All I can do is not do it again. That's about it.
Hee the murderer went to college on a scholarship and began living alone. It was a famous college in the area. Hee was surprisingly not that stupid. Congratulations, Hee.
Everything seemed to be going swimmingly. However, as much as they reform, a criminal is a criminal. They can't just move on quite that easily.
Starting around the end of spring, Hee was afflicted with insomnia. But it wasn't because his neighbor was noisy, or that he was homesick, or any issues like that that kept him from sleeping.
The cause lay somewhere else.
His brother wouldn't let him sleep.
Indeed, Hee had brought harm to his brother, so it was only reasonable. Hee's brother had died, so he wouldn't be able to recover from that one, at any rate.
Hee would try to fall asleep. He'd sense something and suddenly open his eyes. He'd look toward a gap in the curtains or a cupboard or a wall.
His brother would be looking at him.
Just the way he looked when he died.
It didn't feel very good, that's for sure. An ordinary person would probably faint. To be frank, even old Hee was startled. Such that he screamed the first time.
His brother didn't directly do anything to him. He just stared at Hee. But thanks to this, Hee was troubled with insomnia, and from summer to autumn, he gradually weakened.
One day, Hee realized that lectures were the one time he could safely doze off. Furthermore, he learned he could safely sleep in the library or on a sofa in the lounge.
Thus, Hee figured out the rules.
When he slept in public, his brother wouldn't appear.
From then on, Hee went to places like the cafeteria and lecture rooms where people gathered to sleep. On rare occasion his brother would appear in the library, so he found that it was necessary that "someone else is consciously aware of me." There could be crowds of people around, but if no one was conscious of Hee being there, it didn't seem to mean anything.
Clever Hee soon thought, "Well, I'll just get someone to accompany me so I can sleep." But the problem was, Hee had no friends. Maybe people were cautious because they could sense his crime, or maybe he was simply bad at getting along with people. Whatever the case, Hee had no friends.
With little other choice, when he absolutely had to sleep at night, he would go to a local fast food place. He would often be woken up by an employee when he slept there, but that was greatly preferable to being woken up by his brother. Of course, he couldn't very well get a decent amount of sleep in such a place, so Hee was always sleepy. Of course he would be.
There was something else on top of drowsiness. He felt like his very sense of being was gradually weakening. He began to feel uncertain if his body was actually there.
Perhaps Hee had little time left to live. He was aware of it himself. His brother seemed intent to gradually drag Hee with him.
It wasn't unreasonable, Hee accepted. He has every right to hold a grudge.
In fact, it struck him as unusual that his dad and mom never appeared to interfere with his life in the same way. Parents need to be open-hearted, Hee solemnly thought.
He certainly had attachments to the world. He even felt a little attachment to his own life, after all the work he'd put into it. Yet on the other hand, he didn't want to survive long enough to build a tolerance for his brother. That said, he had no active desire to die.
Hee decided to let things play out as they may.
Soon, his eyes and ears grew worse. Nothing tasted good. He couldn't think of anything clever. He always felt a heavy washed-out feeling and a light nausea. He just thought about wanting to sleep. Every time he dropped his guard and nodded off at home, his brother would always visit, steadily shaving away at "something" inside Hee.
Maybe "when the time comes" has come, Hee thought.
Next time, I'll have to make sure to set myself on fire.
One day, Hee sat in the back of a café, sleeping while pretending to read a book. Miles Davis's "Blue in Green" was playing through the gloomy interior of the store. Outside the window, snow fell in large flakes, piled thick enough for passersby to make visible footprints in.
He noticed the phone in his coat pocket had been vibrating for who knows how long. Oh yeah, my phone has a vibrate function, Hee finally remembered. No one had really contacted him on it before.
When he opened the phone, he found five missed calls. For Hee, this was enough for a year. What an occasion, he felt, looking through the call history, and found the calls were from a person whose name was unfamiliar to him.
He wanted to doze off again, but it had already been over three hours since he entered the shop, so he figured it was time to get going. As he walked out, he thought about the person who'd called. Snow piled on his head and shoulders. Hee stuck his hands in his pockets and stepped through snow for the first time in a year to the bus stop.
While waiting at a crossing light, Hee finally remembered the caller. It was a girl he'd been paired up. His first lecture separated them into groups and had them exchange contact info. So maybe it was something important. Hee took out his phone and hurriedly dialed. Even though he knew he was approaching death, he was concerned about meaningless things as per usual. What good were school credits to a person about to die, really?
"Hello?", came a displeased voice.
"I was asleep," Hee told her.
"That's what I thought," she said. During lectures, she and Hee sat next to each other. So she knew Hee as a person who slept a lot.
"So what do you want?", Hee asked.
"It's about the homework for Wednesday. You know."
"...I don't remember."
"The one that we have to turn in? Today?"
"Is that something we have to do?"
"Hahh?", she said, clearly irritated.
"Is this the big-effect-on-your-grade kind of assignment?", Hee said, rewording the question.
"If we don't do it, we won't get credits. So, important. Super important."
"Got it. Should I head for school?"
"No, there's no time for that. I'm already in front of your place."
"Huh? You know where I live?"
"You told me when you introduced yourself. You don't even remember that?"
"Hurry up and come out!"
"It'll take about thirty minutes."
She raised her voice. "Hahh?" In class, too, she would frequently go "Hahh?" Thus, Hee mentally thought of the girl as "Haw."
"It seriously takes you thirty minutes to leave the house?", Haw questioned.
"No, I'm already out. I'm at a café right now. I'll get home as soon as I can."
"Make it quick!"
Hee ended the call first.
Talking with people wore him out.
The bus came right on time. With that, Hee was able to make it home in about twenty minutes.
Haw was sitting in front of the door. She shivered with both hands in her coat, breath coming out white, and glared at Hee. Haw's hair was bright and her eyes dark like a panda, and she was the kind of girl Hee was awful with.
"Sorry to make you wait," Hee apologized.
"There's no time to move, so we'll work here. No complaints, it's all your fault to begin with. Alright?"
"Sure," Hee reluctantly said.
Haw entered Hee's apartment, and uttered four "Hahh?"s at the lack of certain living essentials. Not unreasonable. Hee the murderer didn't consider this a place to live. In fact, he could have considered it a dangerous place.
Haw, after spending about ten minutes warming up by the heater, finally began on their assignment.
Unfortunately, the goal of the assignment was to interview your partner about how they'd grown up and summarize it in a report. I bet the teacher who came up with this wouldn't have expected there to be someone with a past like mine, Hee smiled. Figuring it was best to postpone that, Hee went first by interviewing Haw.
In general, Haw's history was thus. She took up piano at three. Studied English at four. Attended elementary school and took lessons at the same time. She was active in the exercise club in middle school. From elementary to high school, she went to private all-girls schools.
It seemed like she was a bona-fide princess.
Hee indirectly asked. "Was there... something that happened? Because you kind of... um, you don't seem all that high-strung, let's say."
Haw replied after a brief pause. "I found out about good books and good music. That made me realize I didn't have to live that kind of life."
Not expecting to hear those words out of her mouth, it made Hee crack up and nearly fall over with laughter. It was roaring laughter in Hee's mind, but Haw only saw a thin smile. She pouted slightly, thinking she was being made fun of.
However, upon asking about those books and that music, Hee found their interests matched rather well. When she brought up a certain CD and Hee said "I have that one too!", Haw replied "I know. It's right there, isn't it?", pointed at the shelf of CDs. Hoping to surprise her, Hee was a little let down.
While Haw's favorite, Gould's The Well-Tempered Clavier Book II, played, she began the interview about Hee's life.
Outside, the snow became a blizzard.
Hee went through the interview with hardly any lies, so Haw was at a loss for words at the tragedy of his life. Hee himself showed nothing of it, but even so, he had lost his parents and brother. Of course, he hid the part about "I killed my family in an attempt at suicide," but that didn't make it any less of an awing story.
Haw tried to change the subject. What else can we talk about?, she struggled to think. ...Right, naturally for him, sleep. Let's talk about sleep.
"You told me you were sleeping on the phone, right?"
"Yeah, I was."
"But weren't you at a café?"
"Right, I was."
"You were sleeping at a café?"
"Yeah, that's right."
Haw grew increasingly confused.
He comes to lectures just to sleep, and he goes to the café just to sleep?
Haw asked, "About how many hours of sleep do you get a day?"
"In total? About six hours, I guess."
"Are you nocturnal, or what? Like, are you up all night?"
"Nah. It's a special kind of insomnia."
Haw stared intently at Hee's face.
Certainly, it was quite clearly a sleep-deprived face.
She flicked him in the forehead, and he said "ow" two seconds later.
Very delayed reaction time too, it seemed.
This is serious, Haw decided.
Haw wasn't sure, but she figured Hee must have been afflicted with trauma or PTSD or something she couldn't even know. He had lost his family at a young age, at any rate.
Once their interviews were done, the two of them started writing reports based on their notes. Hee had a good outline already, so he finished his one step ahead of Haw.
He'd hurried to write a report after a long interviewing session, so Hee was exhausted. His head reeled with terrible drowsiness.
Thus, he started speaking to Haw like she was a long-time friend.
"Hurry up and write, Haw!"
"Shut up, I am hurrying, whatever it looks like!"
"We need to submit together, right? If you don't finish, neither can I."
"...Hold on, who's Haw?"
"That's your nickname," Hee honestly answered, and explained the origin.
Afterward, Haw stopped going "Hahh?" quite so much.
Soon, Hee was hitting the limits of sleepiness. "How much longer is it gonna be?"
"About thirty minutes...", Haw mumbled out.
"Then let me sleep until then. Mercilessly wake me up when you're done."
Haw's hands stopped over the laptop's keyboard, and she looked at Hee sprawled on the floor.
"I thought you had insomnia. You can sleep now?"
"I can only sleep when somebody's there."
"You don't have to believe me," Hee laughed.
Haw returned to work and quickly heard the sound of Hee drifting off behind her. What a weirdo, she mumbled in her head. She finished the report earlier than she predicted, so she considered waking Hee and leaving. But she felt bad about waking him up when he was sleeping so soundly. Haw quietly left, bought two hot cocoas from a vending machine on the first floor, and returned to Hee's apartment.
When she went to open the door, there was the sound of glass shattering inside. She momentarily thought about retreating then and there. But she rethought it, realizing it would be bad if Hee had gotten hurt, and entered the apartment.
"What was that sound?", Haw asked.
"There was a cockroach, so I tried to kill it," Hee smiled. He'd broken the window throwing his phone at it. A cold wind blew in.
"You're as white as a ghost," Haw said.
"I really hate cockroaches," Hee replied.
As she gathered up the glass, Haw thought ...This guy really can't sleep unless someone's there. Which must mean it's more serious than just being unable to sleep. It's tough to deal with crazy people.
"...If you can't sleep without someone else, why not call a friend?"
"Can't you tell? I've got no friends."
So... did he have no family, either?
Haw felt immense pity for Hee.
She wanted to just sit and stroke his face, but that would only make things weirder, so she changed her mind.
As Hee covered over the broken window with packing tape, he sighed over how he'd been caught acting weird. She'd at least been someone who shared his taste in music, but after that incident, she absolutely must have thought of him as a crazy person. ...Well, she wasn't exactly wrong, to be honest.
After they'd emailed their finished reports, Haw had increasingly little reason to be there. Once she finished drinking her cocoa, she slowly stood up from the floor, changed the CD to Pollini, and returned to Hee's side.
"Something else?", Hee asked.
Haw didn't answer, and instead asked her own question.
"Hey, was all that stuff true?"
"...The cockroach part was a lie," Hee replied. "I'm a little crazy, honestly. When I'm alone and I try to sleep, as soon as I'm about to drift off, I wake up and see the charred corpse of my brother looking my way."
"I'm serious, Haw. Pretty crazy, right?"
Hee laughed again.
Something about the timing of his laugh seemed to make Haw understand.
The two were quiet for a while.
Thanks to the music, the silence wasn't an agonizing one.
It was a silent night, as if the snow were sucking up all the sound.
Haw pushed Hee from the side.
Hee was so weak, he collapsed onto the sofa.
"Go to sleep," Haw instructed.
Hee nodded and slept.
Hee had a surprisingly good sleep.
The first thing Hee saw upon waking up was Haw looking half-asleep. She seemed ready to doze off any second, but seeing how his brother had not once appeared, Haw must have endured somehow.
"Morning," Hee said.
"Hm?", Haw said, blinking. "...Yeah, morning."
Hee looked at the clock and was startled. "You were here for seven whole hours?"
"Yeah, well, the snow was really bad, and there were books to read...", Haw hastily explained, picking up a book.
Hee didn't care to point out how she was holding it upside-down.
Hee thanked her.
"Thanks. I really haven't slept that well in a long time."
"Right. ...It's not good for your body to not sleep when you're sleepy. So... sorry. Good night."
And then Haw quickly fell asleep.
Hee pulled the covers over Haw, turned off the light, then went outside and stretched.
What a good sleep.
His eyes weren't as droopy, his sense of touch was better, various other organs in bad condition were working properly. So at last, he felt the winter properly.
Taking a deep breath of the clear air, he felt even his lungs were clear.
When Haw woke up three hours later, the first thing she saw was Hee reading by the window. Why am I here?, she thought for a while. She remembered everything in about ten seconds and flew awake. She noticed the blanket over her and awkwardly but carefully folded it over.
"I fell asleep," Haw said.
"I know," Hee said. "Morning."
"Morning... I'm going home."
Haw put on her coat and left, rubbing her eyes.
Hee would never forget the sight for as long as he lived.
Though, that would be a matter of course if he was to die soon.
I don't really want to die much, Hee thought. But that wasn't necessarily going to be.
From then on, Haw would occasionally help Hee out.
"Hee! Hey, Hee!", Haw called.
"Hm?", Hee said a few seconds late.
"Have you been sleeping?"
"Oh, all right," Haw said happily.
When together, they rarely spoke about anything beyond which one of them would be sleeping.
Regardless, both Hee and Haw greatly enjoyed that time together
Haw would often come to Hee's apartment smoking a cigarette. Haw's favorite cigarettes were Casters. Or rather, she found anything else too bitter to smoke.
"Don't smoke indoors," Hee said.
"Why not? Didn't you say you're going to die soon?", Haw said back.
"Are they tasty?", Hee said, pointing at the cigarette.
"Pfft. Why would they be tasty?"
"You shouldn't smoke."
"I can't help that smoking suits me."
"No it doesn't," Hee definitively said. "And neither does your dyed hair."
"It totally does."
"And your makeup's so thick."
But starting the next day, Haw gradually began wearing less makeup.
The university had a room for piano lessons. When Hee was sleepy between lectures, Haw would take him there and let him sleep.
Haw played piano until Hee fell asleep. She played the Goldberg Variations, which got their name from being performed by Goldberg for the insomniac Count Kaiserling. Hee would sleep soundly curled up on on the piano cover.
When Hee fell asleep, Haw would turn out the light so he could sleep easier. Not a sound could be heard in the music room. While Haw was waiting for Hee to wake up, she would stare at dead trees outside, and write for-dummies summaries of what would be on exams, since Hee slept through all the lectures.
Even she wasn't really sure why she was so helpful to him.
Haw frequently visited Hee's place, supposedly to save costs on lamp oil, and once she was sure he'd gotten sufficient sleep, she could leave satisfied. Hee didn't understand either why Haw went to such lengths for him.
All he was sure of was that he felt something more than mere gratitude for her. But by the time he told her, it would have been far too late.
Hee would forever keep quiet about how his brother started appearing even when Haw was there.
It was the middle of December. It was snowing terribly again, so Haw visited Hee's apartment in a coat coated entirely in white. Hee brought her warm coffee and wiped her head with a bath towel.
"Hey," Haw said. "Why did you want to commit suicide?"
At this time, Hee had informed Haw about his attempted suicide that caused the death of his family.
"Living just wasn't enjoyable," Hee answered. "Maybe there really wasn't any deep reason. I was dumb then. That's all it was."
"And that's why you decided to die? Isn't that stupid?"
"It sure was. I was an idiot. I mean, living can be pretty fun."
Hee suddenly felt bad after saying this.
Hee the murderer had killed three people.
He'd incinerated three lives to ash which could have been full of joy.
So if he were to be killed for it, he'd - okay, he'd have a problem with that, but still.
By the time Christmas was approaching, Hee abruptly asked Haw.
"Do you think sins can never be forgiven?"
"...I suppose," Haw thought.
She couldn't really think of anything comforting to say. Hee was a pretty bad guy, after all, who committed just the sort of sin you'd never forgive. Certainly he would do no harm now, this so-called "reborn" Hee. But the fact of his three murders wouldn't just go away.
Haw at last spoke, embarrassed.
"You know, I really like you."
"Don't dodge the question," Hee said.
"You shouldn't be so evasive either," Haw replied.
Haw had rather abruptly told him something important, but Hee was lacking in mental capacity as he lacked in sleep, so he had no clue what Haw was trying to get at.
Haw pushed Hee onto the sofa.
"Never mind. Got to sleep."
But Hee's eyes remained open.
Finally, he was beginning to understand the meaning of what Haw said.
Haw sat on the sofa by Hee's head.
Because of this, Hee got increasingly unable to sleep.
It would be a lot more efficient to live together.
Then we wouldn't have to come to each other's places all the time, and rent would be cheaper. And I like Hee.
Haw stroked Hee's face as he started to snooze away.
She decided that when Hee woke up, she'd tell him her idea.
A few hours later, Hee woke up.
"Morning," he said.
"Morning. You slept well?"
"...Honestly, I was too stressed to sleep much."
"Ahaha. You're so lame," Haw laughed.
"I mean, I'm glad, but it's kind of a bother."
"Hmm. So, same thing next time?"
"Give me a break."
"Well, I'm going home. Will you be lonely?"
"Yeah, I will. ...It's dark, so take care on your way home."
"Right, thanks. Bye."
Haw waved goodbye as she left.
Hee stood at the door waving for a while even after it was closed.
Once Haw was gone, Hee slept one more time.
When Haw visited the next day, Hee was gone.
The door had been unlocked, so Haw waited there.
But Hee didn't come back.
She waited and waited, but there was no sign of him.
Haw started feeling a little lonely.
She alternated between asleep and awake for about sixteen hours.
She had dreams where Hee did and did not come home, but in reality, Hee simply didn't show up.
She looked around the apartment, but found nothing.
Night fell, and she stumbled outside barefoot.
It was snowing as always.
The snowflakes lit by gas lights shined with the color of fire.
Shaking from the cold, Haw spoke.
"...Hey, let's go to the movies. You can sleep there, Hee, it's fine."
She was talking only to herself.
"The one where a murderer gets a terrible punishment. Let's go see it together."
Imagining Hee grimacing at her, Haw laughed.
"By the way, I was going to say this earlier, but... Going back and forth like this is a real pain. Think we could just live together?"
Haw laughed imagining Hee's slow reaction to her proposal.
And then she cried.
After that, Haw became much more modest.
She gave up smoking, went back to black hair, and wore less makeup.
"Even Hee wouldn't realize it's me," she thought.
To this day, Haw sits in her room putting on CDs she'd borrowed from Hee and putting off sleep.
Remembering the weight of Hee's head on her lap.
Remembering the feel of his hair.