anyband verse. for linda, & this was the prompt. sorry this is so late and i tried to do jaechun but it didn't work out. :( ps. thank you for helping me with this, cheska.
1. One day, when Changmin wakes up, the world no longer has colour.
He doesn't remember much. There is a doctor, a dark-eyed, solemn-faced man who tells him that he was in an accident, one that put him in the hospital for months. The walls here hurt Changmin's eyes with their whiteness and a week later, when he can stand on his own again, the first thing he does is go to the window. It's a cloudy, dark day, and when he squints, he can see people, all wearing strange clothes that he later realizes are like his own, just a darker grey. No one smiles here. His face in the mirror is as grey as everything else, just as gaunt and tired. Once, he tries smiling while he stares at the glass, pulling up his cheeks with his fingers and seeing what it looks like, but it feels almost as wrong as everything else does and he stops.
Sometimes he wakes up in the middle of night with half-remembered images of sun and water and warmth. Sometimes it's a bit worse, when he wakes up instead from dreams of shadow-men and blood-dried walls, fingers that slip and slide over his face and towers that crumble under his feet. He always remembers these ones vividly, like a slap to the face, but one night he wakes up without remembering anything at all, and he thinks it's strange until the nice, calm doctor makes hushing sounds and the last thing Changmin feels before he is unconscious again is the pinprick of a needle.
(If Changmin had remembered, he would have remembered a face. There was a boy in his dream, with shock-blonde hair and an electric smile, and he took Changmin everywhere, all over the world, to places that might not have existed in the world that existed when Changmin was awake. If he had remembered the dream, Changmin would have known that in it, some of his favourite places were cities, because they were full of sky-high buildings and playgrounds and long, cold beaches. The boy liked driving on long roads and singing along to the Beatles, and Changmin would miss home too often, but not as much when the boy was with him. If Changmin had remembered, he would've seen that boy's face, the way his eyes closed when Changmin had kissed him, and how, when he smiled and opened his mouth to sing, nothing came out.)
Changmin wakes up.
2. Time here is slow, meticulous. Changmin's arms and legs and bruises have long healed but he's never told to leave and he never really tries to. He thinks that there's nothing inside the hospital, but nothing outside it, either, and the doctors are mollified just by him doing nothing, too. Sometimes when he is lying in his narrow bed and staring at the ceiling, he tries to remember, almost vaguely, about what things were like before the accident. The doctor with the dark eyes said that there was no time before the accident, but at this, something stirred inside of Changmin, a feeling that was some sort of strange, quiet anger, and the strength of it in comparison to the nothing he had always felt before surprised him enough to not say anything. It is a lie, Changmin thinks. Of course it is. There has to have been something before this.
There's a day when he's left his cramped little hospital room to go to the washroom. For some reason, it's on the first floor, and he's on the fourth, and the elevator isn't working. Changmin can hear the buzz of the radio the doctor always listens to, the one that plays the monotonous voice that talks, every day at three o'clock exactly, about why everyone needs to follow the system and what happens to those who don't. He can almost feel the cameras on the back of his neck, but he walks anyway, just like he walks every other time. The stairwell is hardly ever used, and Changmin thinks that this is probably the only reason that the feeling that the cameras give him is missing here. All that exists are the windowless walls. It doesn't matter, anyway, because no one sees anyone else and no one talks, windows or not.
Changmin's on the stairs between the third floor and the second when he catches sight of a boy. He has dark, worried eyes and his hair is unlike anything Changmin has ever seen before, black at the roots but lightening into a dark red at the ends. Changmin hardly notices any of this because the boy is wearing clothes that are different from Changmin's. Different from everyone's. The boy looks at him and Changmin's heart is caught in his throat for no reason at all, but there is a reason because this is so strange and so familiar at the same time. Colour, Changmin thinks. That's the word. Colour. Yellows and blacks and reds and blues. This boy's red hair. That boy's shock-blonde hair, bright on the back of Changmin's eyelids.
"Changmin?" This boy's voice is raspy, different. He's been running, Changmin thinks, suddenly. "Shim Changmin? Is that you?"
Changmin hadn't remembered his name before but he thinks it sounds familiar, too. "Yes," he says. "Who are you?"
"Junsu," says the boy. "We need to leave. Come on." He grabs Changmin's hand and starts running. Changmin doesn't know what's happening or where they're going, but he thinks it's okay. He might remember more.
3. The building Junsu takes him to is on the outskirts of the city, and it looks like every building around it does. Changmin thinks it looks familiar, and when he closes his eyes for an accidental second as he pauses to catch his breath, he sees the same building, painted over, white and blue and different. He opens his eyes and there's grey again.
There's nothing inside, too, except for the dark walls. Changmin pushes down the disappointment and wonders what it was that he expected, but then Junsu opens a door in the ground and climbs down a ladder, beckoning with his hand and motioning to keep quiet. Changmin follows.
There are flowers, yellow ones, placed in a vase on a rickety-looking table a couple of feet away from the ladder that goes to the underground room. They look out of place, but everything kind of does, Changmin thinks, because now there is colour in the grey world he has gotten used to. This is the first thing Changmin notices, and the second is the boy with the shock-blonde hair, fingering the flowers almost nervously.
His hair is an anonymous black now, and his eyes are less vivid. He tells Changmin that his name is Jaejoong, and he knows him from before the accident. Changmin feels like he's not really there because this is almost too strange to be real, and that's probably the reason for why he says, vaguely, that there was no time before the accident, and the boy - Jaejoong - gets quiet and unreadable. Junsu gives Changmin a look.
The silence goes on until a woman appears - "Boa," Junsu tells him. She assesses him with a critical eye and then she pushes a guitar into his hands gently, pulling out a mike/cellphone for herself (Changmin thinks it's a cellphone but she's mouthing words into it as if it is a mike). Jaejoong moves to the drums in the corner of the room that Changmin had seen from the corner of his eye. Changmin opens his mouth, closes it, and opens it again. Boa ignores him.
"Jaejoong says you know how to play," Boa says.
"He used to," Jaejoong says, still quiet. Changmin thinks of the boy with the electric smile and bright eyes and wonders how they can be the same person. "Before the accident."
It's silent for another second. "Maybe we should tell him what we're doing," suggest Junsu, almost sardonically but not quite. Then he looks at Changmin and says, in the same flippant, regular tone he used to tell Changmin what his name is: "we're going to save the world."
And that's it. We're going to save the world. Changmin looks down at the instrument, and he thinks about the grey world and the people's colourless clothes and the doctor's radio. Then about Junsu's torn jeans and dream-Jaejoong's smile.
Junsu turns to Boa and she hands him another cellphone-mike, and they talk about someone named Tablo, and when Boa leaves the room to get him, Changmin can hear Junsu singing from across the room, Jaejoong idly harmonizing on occasion. The lyrics go something like music she saved my life, and when they stop, Changmin remembers that he is standing with a guitar in hand and with no memory of how to play it. He looks up and Jaejoong's watching him. Jaejoong. Boy with the shock-blonde hair, the electric smile, the one that sang to Changmin and fought with Changmin and tickled him until he cried before the world turned grey. Memory is seeping back slowly, but Changmin feels kind of overwhelmed by it already.
Jaejoong is quiet when he sings, quiet when he moves. He is next to Changmin very suddenly and looking at him almost awkwardly, as if he doesn't know what to say. Changmin is thinking that this isn't like Jaejoong at all when Jaejoong says, at last, "Do you remember me?"
Changmin looks at him. Jaejoong looks older, more tired, and Changmin doesn't know if the cause is age or loss or grief or all of them. He is silent for a long time before he says, "no, but I'd like to get to know you again."
(4. They call it an accident, even though it wasn't. Sometimes Changmin wakes up from this dream where there is nothing but him and a white field full of strange flowers, and then just him, and then him on an empty road. Nothing for miles, but then there's a rush of air, bright headlights, and he's not sure if it's him screaming or someone else. Lights make his vision fuzzy. It doesn't hurt as much in the dream as it might've in real life.
Sometimes he wakes silently, breathing shallow, and other times his face and pillow are wet. No one ever tells him what happened, but after the reoccuring dream has started, he thinks he can guess. He tries not to let it get to him, but sometimes he tries to avoid sleep because he doesn't want to see the headlights again. Jaejoong doesn't say anything on those nights, just makes coffee and sits with him sometimes until he thinks he might not dream again. He always does, but during those minutes where Jaejoong sits next to him at the kitchen table, it feels like he might not.)
5. Jaejoong's a dreamer. In the old days, he would wear shirts that said things like fucking my way and his shoes would always be perfectly dirty. He would force everyone into drinking contests and end up as the winner, and he would throw popcorn at the television screen at random intervals during movies. He would smile too much but try to hide it behind his hand.
This Jaejoong is different, but the same. He doesn't laugh a lot but his laughter is still the same, and his smiles are the same, too. Jaejoong shows him how to play music again and what the new city looks like. (Sometimes when Changmin forgets where they are and catches Jaejoong picking at his hair in the image that's reflected back by one of the pans they use to cook, he teases Jaejoong and it feels like everything is still the same as what it used to be.)
Sometimes Changmin thinks of how Jaejoong looks older now and how Changmin had thought of loss that first time, and he wonders what else Jaejoong hasn't told him yet. He's more cautious now. More cautious, but he still smiles when Junsu and Boa are arguing in the kitchen or when Tablo's snoring on the couch, and he still looks honest when he says that they're going to change everything back to the way it used to be. Changmin doesn't know about whether he should believe this, but he wants to.
6. They don't keep calendars in the underground room. There are no dates here, only days and nights. What Changmin knows is that there is going to be a day, very soon, where Boa and Tablo and Junsu and that new girl, Bora - they're going to go to the rooftop of one of the highest buildings in the city, and then do everything they've planned for months now. Changmin and Tablo are going to hack into the satellite and computer systems, and Jaejoong's going to get the buildings that they're planning to use empty. Junsu and Boa are going to sing and Bora is going to be on the piano. They're going to have what is essentially a "musical revolution", and it sounds kind of ridiculous but it doesn't matter. Music, banned right from the beginning of the System's establishment. Music, Boa says, is the key.
There is the possibility that things will go wrong. None of them really say it but the realization hangs heavy in the air, almost weighing down Changmin's lungs on the days he can't stop thinking about it. Sometimes he wonders if the others think about it as often as he does, about dying, about losing everything or maybe nothing because sometimes it feels like there's nothing left.
7. They do.
8. One morning Changmin wakes up and when he goes into their little makeshift kitchen, there's this strange feeling in the air, and everyone's faces are tight, drawn, and Changmin thinks, suddenly, that this is it. Tablo won't stop talking, and Boa is staring hard at her cup of tea. Bora's sitting on her hands as if to keep them still and Jaejoong is moving around the kitchen like he can't stop. Junsu keeps on tapping his foot. Changmin asks, "when?" Junsu answers: tomorrow. It's that simple. Changmin's pulse is beating hard against his ribs and he swallows, tries to slow it down through the force of sheer will. Tomorrow.
9. The night before, Changmin can't sleep. He stares at the ceiling until it lights up with colour but there's still this tense feeling in his stomach, like a bundle of nerves have been pushed down his throat.
Jaejoong is already awake in the kitchen, nursing a mug of something and staring at the wall like he doesn't really see it. His head snaps towards the doorway when Changmin murmurs his name and the smile that comes after is sheepish but still a bit scared. Changmin sits down and for a long time they're silent. Then Jaejoong asks him if he wants something to eat and Changmin says abruptly, "hyung, what if we don't survive?"
Silence. This isn't what they're supposed to be talking about. Changmin is supposed to be telling Jaejoong, finally, that maybe he does remember a little from before, and that he thinks he knows what the doctors would put in the shots they would give him at the hospital. He is supposed to tell Jaejoong about how he didn't see enough colour until there was Jaejoong again, that they're different now but the same because Changmin still feels the same, and then Changmin is supposed to put his hand over Jaejoong's and it's supposed to be enough because there will be a chance to do this more often, when things are back to the way they used to be again.
Jaejoong still looks tired and Changmin remembers where they are. He is quiet for another second. Then: "Changmin. What makes you think we can't do it?"
Changmin stares at Jaejoong. It should be obvious, he thinks. They're outnumbered. They have nothing but music. They're human and they can die.
"It's either trying to change things or living like this forever," says Jaejoong. "Us, in hiding, scared that if we go out to get something as simple as food we'll get caught and killed. We're known criminals. And what about everyone else? What about all the people who've lost people that they love?" Jaejoong's voice is getting louder the more he speaks, and for an instant, Changmin sees the blond hair, the bright eyes, superimposed over the quieter Jaejoong. Then Jaejoong deflates and the image disappears because they're both remembering the empty faces of the people who live in the city, their hollow eyes and their thin hands. Death always takes more than just a person's life.
Jaejoong's quiet again. "I want to live," he finally says, almost hesitant, "but more than that I want things to change. This isn't how things are supposed to be." He looks at Changmin, the weight of his gaze heavy. "This shouldn't have happened to anyone."
Changmin tries to think of something to do, or something to say, and not of Jaejoong's eyes or dying or the grey city. He thinks of liberation and then a world where Jaejoong can sing again. He thinks of the hospital and the lying doctor and Junsu's jokes and Bora's kindness and Boa's cynicism and Tablo's lyrics. Then he thinks about backing out, about leaving this before it could take his life, and about watching the others die from the sidelines. Then Jaejoong again.
Jaejoong's waiting for something. Changmin still doesn't know what to do. At this point he is supposed to be the coward, the one who leaves because the truth is that he was never brave enough. Maybe he was supposed to die in that horrible hospital, too. He closes his eyes for a second and breathes instead. Then he opens them again.
Jaejoong's fingers are close to Changmin's on the table. Changmin focuses on them as Jaejoong says, "After this, we'll go to America again. We'll meet all those people again and then in the end we'll come back to Korea, and we'll find my family and yours and maybe move into a nice apartment. If you want, I can let you pick the curtains." He's watching Changmin carefully, and he looks scared. Of what, Changmin wonders, but he understands because he still hasn't said anything yet. His heartbeat is loud in his own ears. He lets himself breathe until it slows down again, until his hands aren't clenched as tightly anymore and he can speak.
"Okay," he says, trying to keep his words even. "Okay, that sounds good." And there it is again, that need to swallow, to hold on.
He's quiet, staring at his own hands. "Just - just don't die tomorrow, okay?" Because that's what this has been about the entire time, he thinks at last. The fact that I'm scared of dying, and of you dying, and of you dying without me.
Jaejoong's hand is on Changmin's own for the first time since Changmin met him again. His fingers are warm. "Okay," he agrees, just like that. Then, again, quieter: "Okay." It feels like enough.