Become a Book Nerd
When you’re not reading books, read our newsletter.
Rules: Dude, this is Hardly a Party!
“What day is it?”
The usual question was “what time is it” or “what year is it again?” as if they didn’t know. For those first few days they had gotten very used to relying on the sun’s position and the earth’s rotation for guidance in that department; when to wake up, when to work, when to walk, when to meet back. Without that system, they truly would be lost. Sometimes Kookie didn’t realize how much he appreciated that; the others knew it a little better. Usually, being the watch carrier since Jin’s watch was shattered in the fall, he sometimes would mess with them or wouldn’t answer at all. Although he knew in which situations what was appropriate. At times, that strong grip of reality satiable by the concept of time was all they had…in times like that, Kookie would give it to them. But also, in times like these, when Joon asked anything, he would give it to him.
“It’s ten in the morning,” he answered, Joon nodding. They sat in a circle around the fire, having abandoned the shore and moved their main camp to the top of the hill, a hill they were officially naming “Fire Hill” because it was so hot all they wanted to do was stop, drop, and roll off the edge into the pool below. Still, they walked back to their special tree to sleep, unable to find a suiting tree yet for all of them and the house was not finished yet. But today, that didn’t matter. Today was their exploring day where one of them was lucky enough to pick which direction they wanted to venture towards. Namjoon was the lucky one.
Tae watched closely as Namjoon gnawed on the fish bones, the tall man getting used to the taste. Joon never really ate fish before the crash, but he had grown accustomed to it now. “Have you thought of an idea yet, Joonie?” Hobi asking because he always asked, sparing Tae the communication.
Namjoon nodded slowly, panning over the audience with his eyes. He didn’t quite want to say, afraid of the backlash despite his own excitement for it. He cleared his throat. “I don’t want you guys to think it’s stupid.”
“I don’t think picking a direction could be stupid,” Tae responded. “Just…point.”
Namjoon swallowed the rest of his fish and licked the oil off his lips, pointing straight ahead. The six of them stared off the cliff and then past it, seeing the forest beyond. “Okay, that’s not bad,” Hoseok said.
“No…not the forest,” Yoongi spoke up, squinting as he lined up Joon’s finger with wherever he was planning to go. “…That’s the ocean.” His head whipped back to Namjoon. “You want to go explore the ocean?”
Jimin turned to him next, saying, “What?”
Now they were all talking over each other, streams of conversation crossing but mostly directed at Joon. “I know, I know it’s dumb!” They quieted down, self-deprecation now a silencer. “But hear me out.” Jin, if anyone, knew the benefits of hearing him out. Joon sighed, biting his nail. “This island can’t just be all we look for. We’re going to have to look outside it eventually. This is our opportunity to look for ships or maybe scattered plane parts…loved ones.” Namjoon choked a bit, wishing he hadn’t even mentioned it. “And fish! Sea creatures! We could get more food.”
“Or become food,” Jimin criticized, but Joon ignored him.
“Don’t you wanna know what’s out there?” he asked, gaging the audience. Jimin glanced at Yoongi and shrugged, Yoongi scratching his neck. They did, they did want to know. The six of them nodded, putting a grin on Joon’s worried face. “Okay then…let’s build a boat!”
Easier said than done.
Wood was already a substance out of the question, seeing as they didn’t know how to utilize it. In consideration for the vast and almost infinite-supply of trees available, simply cutting down a tree was nearly impossible, they couldn’t even imagine trying to split it. Instead, they went with the one other floating device they knew of: The wing.
After they found the island, they had hauled the wing of the plane onto shore and left it in the shade, afraid of what would happen if it got too hot.
“This is aluminum,” Namjoon had explained after they had re-dug up the relic of a wing. “If we burn it, then we can maybe melt it to the shape we want.”
The entire process was a lot more complicated than that as well. Jeongguk had no problem starting a fire, but where to put the fire and how to contain it was the real issue. So busy trying to find something to catch the melted metal in—not realizing how bad of an idea that was alone—the entire engine fell off. That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing in the great scheme of things they realized, because all the engine would do was slow them down. They decided it best to just light the fire in the center of the wing and try to bend it, Hobi and Jin on standby with the water as soon as it was sunken in enough. Kookie and Tae tried to touch it with their fingers, Jimin slapping them and shooing them away. They poured the water over it and it sizzled, calming itself down from its tantrum. After that, they took rocks and beat the middle, trying to make it as even as possible. Even then, there was no way to know if it would float. It wasn’t until twilight when the wind began to blow back towards to the sea that they pushed their wing toward the shore and into the water, taking a few steps into the frigid liquid before the wing would float by itself. The deepening of the center helped stop the water from capsizing the wing, and low and behold it did float.
The seven stood satisfied at the shore, trusting that their “creation” wouldn’t float too far from home. “Welp, that only took all day,” Yoongi commented, scratching his nose. He felt like that scratch had been there forever. “Now what?”
Namjoon puckered his lips, thinking. “Ores.”
So they were making ores, or the next day they were.
Hobi, Jin, Tae, and Jimin were working on making “proper” ores out of large and long sticks while Joon slaved over three notepads pressed together as he drew on a piece of paper, making large gestures to the area surrounding them. Yoongi and Kookie were elsewhere hunting for worms or any sort of animal that could be hooked and baited. Yoongi had torn apart a suitcase and pulled out the metal lining, using Kookie’s fire to melt it and shape it into a hook. They wrapped it onto a stick using a phone charger cord and then did that two more times to make “fishing poles,” or rather fishing sticks. Despite the new project to work on, it was clear that they were all worried about what would come from it. Hobi looked up at the faces among him, little talk spreading around in the group. They were tired, was the simple answer, but Hobi always saw more. He didn’t want them to be sad, he didn’t even want them to be tired…
“What do you say after this we make a sculpture of Brad Pitt with these knives?” Hobi commented, making Taehyung and Jin chuckle.
…so he made sure they wouldn’t be.
It felt like they hadn’t been on the beach in a long time, so having all of their gear, their boat, and their food and fluids prepared at the edge of the water—coming up to crash against their feet like taunting in a video game—felt strange. The smell of the sea didn’t seem so welcoming anymore, or maybe it never was to begin with.
“This might be a bad time to tell you guys—”
“That you love us?” Hobi finished, smiling at Tae and slapping his shoulder. Tae blinked a few times before turning back to the sea. “Sure.”
“You got the map, right?” Kookie turned to Joon who nodded, reaching into his backpack and pulling out a long piece of paper. Hobi, being the person he is or was, carried maps with him when he traveled, one of those maps being of the Atlantic ocean. Namjoon had worked all day on circling where he thought they were based on his simple geography class knowledge and circled somewhere else on the map where he estimated they had crashed. That was their destination, although along the way they planned to fish and search for things of interest. Namjoon loved to throw around the fact that “95% of the oceans remain unexplored.”
“This is our safe haven,” Jimin stated, rustling the paper. They agreed, no one moving yet.
“Alright,” Joon stated, taking the first step into the water—it wasn’t as raging this time around. “Let’s get to it.”
They got to it alright, pushing their curved wing into the ocean until it floated. Joon was the first to get in and then helped the others on board. Yoongi, Jin, and Kookie settled on the right side of the ship—throwing their bags down and getting settled while Tae, Hobi, and Jimin took their place on the other end, setting up there. Joon headed to the front, sitting crisscrossed and staring at the map, making sure they were going in the right direction. Taking out their equipment, Tae, Kookie, and Jimin took out the fish poles Yoongi and the youngest had made, prepping them with bits of dead creatures stuck to the hooks.
“That…is…gross,” Jin finalized, watching them impale the worms and pieces of rabbit meat. “How did you even get rabbit meat?”
“I chased them,” Kookie said, pride in his rhetoric as he pierced the meat.
“And Jimin killed it,” Tae added, suffering Jimin’s slap on the shoulder for shouting out his business.
“Joon, help row,” Jin said, looking up at him. Joon, staring at the map, nodded about four or five times before actually doing it, getting down on his knees and grabbing the fourth and final carved stick, dicing it through the water and pushing it back, propelling the wing forward. They all had to do good to keep their balance, afraid any slight movement would completely turn them over. Heading towards their ideal fishing place, the island became smaller and smaller until it could hardly be seen. They had gone early, the sun just coming up in the sky as the island became a hazy line in the background. Finally, unable to see the island anymore, they stopped rowing. The hyung line stretched, arms tired from the constant movement. Now it was up to the dongsaengs, getting out their “fishing poles” and plunging them into the water.
At that moment, things became silent. All they were really waiting for…was a bite.
Sick of the awkward, first-five-minutes silence, Hobi got the party going. “Guys, let’s play a game!”
“Ooh!” Jimin exclaimed, liking the idea. “What about hide-and-seek?”
Yoongi stopped rowing, looking back at Jimin. “Think about what you just said for a second.” Jimin did, immediately regretting it.
“Tag?” Tae asked.
Yoongi rolled his eyes, letting his head fall back over the edge of the boat, staring at the sky. The gradient was shifting as the sun got higher into the blue, surprised at how at peace he felt just lying there.
Of course, it had to be ruined.
“I have an idea.” They turned to Yoongi as he spoke, stretching his back before going on. He was surprised by all the surprised looks directed towards him. “What? I have those sometimes.” He cleared his throat and continued. “I call it ‘In retrospect.’”
“What’s it consist of?” Namjoon asked, opposite of him.
“Well,” Yoongi chewed his cheek as if it were gum, realizing how much he missed gum. “We all think of a moment from our lives before the island that we regret, and we say what we would do differently. Hence, ‘in retrospect.’” Glances were shared, but no one opposed, intrigued by the idea. Kookie, Tae, and Jimin turned to face the center of the boat, gripping their sticks tightly and waiting for a pull as they joined the conversation. “Rock, paper, scissors to see who goes first?”
“Wait, let’s pick a theme for flashbacks, because I mean, there are a lot of regrettable moments,” Hobi said. ‘How about at sea?” They all agreed. “Okay. Rock, paper, scissors—shoot!”
It was down to Namjoon and Jin. They went again.
“Alright Jin, regrets at sea?” Jimin posed, watching. Jin sighed and thought on it. He didn’t go to the beach much, but when he did…
“I never took my shirt off,” Jin admitted. “Whenever I went with friends or coworkers, they would all get in and splash around. I would too, of course, but…I don’t know, I never mustered the strength to actually take off my shirt. In retrospect, I would have.”
Jimin squinted, looking at him oddly. “Why? If you weren’t comfortable, you shouldn’t have to be forced to do anything.”
Jin nodded. “Yeah, I know that. But…I was never forced. I just…knew that I didn’t mind it. Like,” Jin struggled to find the right words. “There was absolutely nothing wrong with me taking off my shirt. I liked the feel of water against my bare skin. I think it’s more freeing. I think it’s all-in-all a better experience…The problem was that I couldn’t, not that I didn’t want to. So yeah, in retrospect, if you want to take off your shirt just take it off Jin.” He grabbed a granola bar they found in one of the carry-on bags and unwrapped it, pointing the now bitten tip at Joon. “Go.”
“Alright, uhm,” Joon thought as well, despite the fact that he had been to the beach a lot in his life. But that wasn’t what he was drawing from. “I went on a cruise once with my mom in April. I was ten years old, I believe. My mom went to go talk to the lifeguard to see if it was safe for me to swim in the deep end at the pool. She was gone a while, and I wasn’t sure what was going on. I left the one friend I had made there and tried to find her, searching up and down the halls. Eventually, I found out where the lifeguard she was talking to had gone. She, the lifeguard I mean, was in the backroom…with my mom.”
Kookie’s eyebrows rose. “Like…sexually?”
Joon nodded. “Yep. I…saw that. In retrospect, I would never have gone looking for her.”
Kookie laughed. “Why? If you hadn’t, you wouldn’t have known that she was sleeping around.”
Joon gave Kookie a sharp look. “Exactly.” The other hyungs chuckled, understanding him perfectly. Kookie still had much to learn in that department. “Hobi?”
Hobi had had enough time to think of his answer. “It wasn’t a real sea, to be fair. But we didn’t establish rules, therefore, I’m counting it.” No one argued, despite Hobi giving them time to. “Anyway, I spent a little bit of extra time in the hospital as a kid because my heart was very weak. But while I was there, and whenever I got scared, my father told me to look at his painting. It was, uhm, of the sea, obviously. He painted it himself just for me. I looked at it every day of treatment and rest, treatment and rest…it was the only thing that cheered me up.” Hoseok smiled just thinking about it. “And after I got out, my dad had left my mom and I. So when I told her I wanted to draw pictures of nature—the sea—just like him…she wouldn’t let me.” He looked up at them, Tae seeming to look back harder. “In retrospect, I wish I had.”
“Wow,” Tae said, stunned. “I…Why would you follow your dad’s footsteps if he left you?”
“Well one,” Hobi started to explain. “Because no matter how bad he was for leaving, he carried a passion for artistry that I wanted. And two,” Hobi paused dramatically, leaning in. “I just wanted to. It didn’t really have to be about my dad, my mom just took it that way.”
With that settled in, all of them turned to Yoongi. Yoongi was looking heavily at the bright whiteness of the wing, knowing if he looked hard enough he could pretend that he wasn’t really where he was. “There was only one moment in my life that I really regret…and it happened to be at…” He paused, looking up. “…the pool.”
“I mean that has to be a disqualification,” Joon said, the others laughing at that, even Yoongi. He shook his head. “However, it fits in the theme. Just wait.” He explained. “You can imagine how crazy the pool can get at times like this when you’re a kid. Mid-summer, everyone is out. My best friend at the time and I went together, having fun as kids do. He was telling me about how when he grew up he wanted to be a merman and swim through the sea.” The others laughed at that, waiting for more. But more didn’t come. Yoongi was quiet for a while, pouting at the ground. Finally, he spoke again. “In retrospect,” he said, going straight in. “…I wouldn’t have cut off all ties with him.”
Now all three of them—Kookie, Tae, and Jimin—looked confused together. “Why did you?” Jimin asked.
Yoongi shrugged. “I didn’t have any idea what I wanted to be. It made me mad that he did. Therefore, I did something dumb.” He smiled up at them. “It happens.”
Hobi’s head tilted. “Does it?”
Still caught up in talk, Tae almost missed the tug on his stick, catching it just in time before it could fly fully out of his hands. “Woah!” he yelped, turning his body as the stick swam farther and farther away. Kookie instinctively clutched on as well, giving his own stick to Jimin. As soon as the stick was out of Kookie’s hand, not only Kookie but Jimin’s stick started pulling, both at the same time. “Ah!” Jimin called out, using his hidden strength to grip both poles tightly. Tae, still grunting at the large creature they had snatched, turned to look at Namjoon over his shoulder and said, “Nice call on this spot, Joon.” Joon smirked, getting back to navigation.
Hours had gone by of them catching fish after fish, the occasional bigger sea creature or crab or seaweed. After they had tired themselves out and talked each other’s ears off, they had to admit that coming out of the island was a good idea. But now, despite it, they needed to head back. So the rowing team began again, turning the wing around and heading back from which they had come.
“Is it bad that I was scared?” Jin said out loud, eyes still fixed on the water as the others broke their necks to look at him. “Scared of what?” Namjoon asked.
“Coming out here again…It just brings me back to the crash.”
The response wasn’t immediate, but they knew in their minds it to be true. “I haven’t eaten anything today,” Tae stated, Jimin’s heart rate going when he did. “…I was just so nervous that I couldn’t.” He sniffed, rubbing his itchy nose as Jimin relaxed. Jimin nodded, agreeing with him.
“Nothing like that will ever happen to us again,” Namjoon said, Yoongi turning his attention to him.
You can’t sell corn without a farm, Yoongi thought of that old saying his father used to tell him; it applied all too well to Namjoon.
Hobi wiped sweat from his forehead, taking off his shirt for a brief moment and flicking salt water onto himself. He grabbed a banana from their snack bag, planning on refilling the low energy on his health bar. Only a few seconds into it—into feeling the rock of the wing—he felt that lack of purpose…that solemness. He turned his head to the tanned boy leaning against the wing’s edge. Jokingly, Hobi snuck up behind Tae, he too taking a break from his duties. Mid-sip from the half-full toiletry container—now filled with water—Hobi squeezed Tae’s sides and yelled, “Boo!”
He didn’t expect for what happened next to actually happen.
“Aha!” Hobi couldn’t help but dispel the string of laughter from his gut as Tae fell into the ocean, feeling an unwarranted sense of pride at his misfortune. The others remained seated as Hobi stood up now to laugh harder. The others grinned. Joon turned around, pulled from his introspective staring to watch the scene in front of him, dimples showing. But there was something wrong in the laughter, in that brightening glow Hobi had brought on, and that was the silence. Yes, Tae was usually silent or soft-spoken…but never this much.
“…Tae?” Jimin uttered, standing now as well, causing a ripple-effect as all the others stood up to check. Tae came back up in the water in one single burst, gasping before falling back under again. “Tae!” Kookie was the quickest—as usual—to act, but he wasn’t the one to save Tae.
His instinct towards Kookie when the shark pulled him down came back again, forcing his body to leap into the water as Tae got farther away. He couldn’t see, but he was hoping with all he had that he could feel. Something brushed against him and it took Hobi’s heart racing and fingers touching to realize it was a fish. But just past that fish was Tae’s arm flowing helplessly through the water. Hobi grabbed it and dipped, grabbing his waist and using his free arm to swim up. Once breaking the water’s surface, Hobi pulled again to get Tae’s head from below the sea—
Hoseok screamed, staring the dead, rotting man in his unshifting green eyes, quick to let him go.
And then something was pulling him down, or trying to call rather, Tae’s actual head emerging from the water as he latched onto Hobi. Hobi, although stunned, gripped him and swam back to the wing where the others all looked on with pale faces, Hobi the palest of them all.
The first question when they crawled back on, surprisingly wasn’t towards Tae. It was, “Was that a dead body?” Jimin asked, his voice showing more of his emotions than his stature did.
“Y-Yeah,” Hobi answered, dumbfounded. “I guess that means we’re close to the plane crash?”
No one answered his rhetorical question, no one even wanted to talk about it anymore, Joon moving quickly toward Tae. “I didn’t realize that Tae was the one that fell in!” he exclaimed, looking around. “He can’t swim!”
Tae didn’t confirm or deny Namjoon’s statements, just sat there out of breath.
“Then how did he swim to the wing that first day?” Kookie asked, curious more than criticizing. Joon looked down at Taehyung.
After seeing Jin unstrap and swim to the wing, Namjoon followed suit, but his gaze shifted for a moment, seeing the splashing in the water. Joon looked over to Taehyung, seeing his head bob above and below the water in spurts.
He swam over to him, grabbing Tae’s arm and pulling him with him, holding the man above water as they got onto the wing.
“You held him up?” Yoongi asked as if he was surprised. Tae nodded, his first conscious action since going under.
Joon’s concern was redirected, looking up at Hobi. “Hobi, what’d you do?”
Hobi didn’t have an answer for him, feeling now like a puppy scolded for being overjoyed and knocking the vase over. He looked down at Tae who seemed to care more about catching his breath than anything that was going on around him. Still, Hobi felt compelled to say, “I’m sorry.”
Tension was running high at that point, all of them worried for his well-being, Hobi’s well-being.
So much so that when the wind blew and the map flew into the water, no one had noticed Joon had left it there. Tae finally caught up physically, blowing water out of his nose before saying, “It’s okay, don’t worry about it.” He held out a hand and Hobi, taken aback at first, reached out and helped him up. Everything at that point went back to normal. The hyungs went back to rowing and the dongsaengs fishing, Joon going back to his navigation mo—
It’s gone, was his first thought, searching now through the backpacks for the one thing he needed. Eyes shifting too fast to process, Joon spotted the glimpse of wrinkles on the wing. It took him a moment to realize that they were wrinkles of paper, Joon snatching it up…which was a mistake in itself. It tore slightly, the drenched paper carefully taken out of the water now as it, dripped on Joon’s bag. In moments like this, he couldn’t help but curse.
Despite Joon’s newfound fears of the demolished map and his complete lack of direction, he had to connect with the others on the sole fact that they were swimming through what seemed like miles and miles of dead bodies.
Jin’s granola bar was already threatening to reappear, looking away from the thick water but unable to stop the queasiness he got when his ore hit skin. “Ugh, gross,” he said aloud, one of those rare speaking moments since they had stumbled upon the flesh site.
“I don’t know if ‘gross’ is the word I would use,” Yoongi responded, staring straight into the crimson sea, unlike his older counterpart. “I’d say just…sad.”
“It kind of makes you wonder, ‘Why did we live?’” Hobi thought, surprising himself with how bleak he had gotten. He hadn’t even looked at the water since he had forced himself out of it. He sucked in a breath, smiling again—but in a time like this, they would all know it was forced. “I wonder how my mom would’ve reacted to me painting the sea of the dead.”
“Probably would’ve liked it better than you replicating your dad,” Yoongi responded, giving engagement to the rowers. He sighed. “We did stupid things as kids, or at least I did.”
“No,” Jin responded. “You’re not wrong there.”
“But at least you turned out a fancy lawyer,” Hobi let on.
Jin just shrugged. “I like people but…being a lawyer was never really what I wanted to do.”
“Amen to that,” Yoongi muttered, stopping rowing for a moment to crack his knuckles. “Marriage was…hard. I don’t think I ever really wanted it.”
“Really?” Hobi pondered, pushing his ore through the water like he was brewing soup. “I always wanted to get married.” He snorted. “But that was unlikely with how much my mom needed me.”
“So then why did you travel every summer?” Jin posed, knowing this much about the man. Hoseok looked towards the sky and pondered that very question. “I always wanted to get away, and these were the only times she would let me.”
Yoongi, Jin, and Hobi looked at each other. “I guess that means none of us really learned from our childhood mistakes.”
Hobi’s mouth lifted into a split-second smile before falling back into a frown. Now he looked at the water. “Guess not.”
Jimin stretched his back, feeling a drag in conversation on the wing, which was beginning to be lonelier than the island. Either way, he stood up and stretched, watching Namjoon’s tense back hunched over at the rear and deciding to pay him a visit; possibly relieve some of that tension.
“Namjoonie—” Jimin didn’t mean to stop so abruptly—he was usually very good at acting—but the water streaks in the map couldn’t help but make him and his words stop dead in their tracks. Joon was equally bad at acting, cursing again as Jimin came up suddenly on him and trying to hide the ruined map. Before Jimin could ask and Joon could answer, Joon said, “Please don’t say anything,” in a whisper.
Jimin could have done a lot in that instant; for example, tell everyone. But Jimin and Joon both knew Jimin wouldn’t; although back on a continent he might have laughed at his friend’s shortcomings. In this situation, his shortcomings were all of their shortcomings. Jimin just nodded, frozen in time as he tried to decide between walking away or trying to help, but after a moment, he had no idea how he could possibly help. So Jimin walked away, sitting back down next to Tae and waiting for the man to engage in conversation. Tae didn’t take long to engage.
“I mean, isn’t it weird that we didn’t encounter these remains before if we were following the map right?” Tae wondered to the air, but mainly the air directed towards Jimin.
“Uh,” Jimin said, thinking of a cover-up. “Water is constantly shifting, it may have just flown in.” Tae was the type of person not to think too hard on that logic, so he didn’t at all. Instead, he clutched his stomach and moaned. “In retrospect,” Tae half-mocked but half-meant. “I should not have eaten that fish raw.” Kookie snickered at that, switching sides to sit next to the others, Yoongi also switching sides so the wing wouldn’t become lopsided. It was a big wing with too much room. The large amount of room on the huge wing, they had decided early on, was irrelevant. “Speaking of that game,” Tae said, looking to and fro before lowering his voice. “Joon’s thing really got to me.”
“How so?” Kookie asked, pushing his head in so he could hear.
“Well I never really thought about it before but, my family really isn’t perfect. Them being perfect was the thing I hated about them. But…there’s always been more there, underlying that perfection that they don’t want me to see. I saw my uncle kissing another woman once other than my aunt. I’ve seen my cousins carrying duffle bags out of the house and into their truck. I’ve seen someone say a word that makes no sense to me but can make the entire room tense up while I’m just there like a medical student observing a surgery. What Joon thought about is so different from what I think. If it had happened to me, I also wouldn’t have said anything. But in retrospect, I would.” Tae shrugged, that shrug ending his speech. Now it gave time for the others to think, Jimin’s brain moving faster than Kookie’s. “I guess I get Hobi’s too then,” Jimin thought.
“What, you wouldn’t draw the painting?” Tae asked.
“No, the opposite,” Jimin specified. “I agree with him. I mean I’ve been hospitalized a few times in my life and I promise you none of them were for good reasons. Even outside of those visits or incidents, I regulated myself like I was in a hospital. Being in a hospital, mentally, with no break from it…God, I needed what Hobi had. A painting, a anything that would take my mind away from my body…but nothing that I ever tried worked to distract me enough. If I had gotten out with the opportunity to pursue the thing that had made me so happy…then to hell with whoever got in my way, even if it was my own mother.” Jimin sat back against the wing’s curved-upward tip, feeling it rock. “What about you, Kookie?”
Kookie was still thinking heavily on it, wondering really which one he understood the most. It wasn’t really wondering, more so accepting. “I guess Yoongi’s,” he said, sighing. “I didn’t want to admit it but…it feels so much like me. As a kid—which wasn’t that far off from now—I felt like everyone wanted to be something and I was never the type to jump to that conclusion. Sure, I had ambitions, but those stretched as far as my arms could reach. But, people wanting these things just made me want them too. If my friend wanted to be a ballerina, I would say I wanted that too and then beat her at her own dream. If my friend wanted to be a lawyer, I would destroy them in an argument. I crushed dreams and I didn’t even realize it was for the sole reason that they had crushed mine.”
“So then what would you do, in retrospect?” Tae said, asking the tagline. “Stay with the friend or leave them?”
Kookie smiled and looked up at Jimin and Tae. “I just wouldn’t have any friends at all.”
Hobi sighed, seeing the last of the red ocean and getting back to that blueish green he was used to. His spirits were low, lower than he wanted them to be, and if he didn’t lift them now, he was afraid he never would.
“Anyone up for a game of cards?” he said, stretching as he stood and walked over to Jin and Kookie sitting quietly. They looked up at him and shook their heads. “Well, then we could thumb wrestle! Who wants in?”
“I think we’re just too tired right now, Hobi,” Jin admitted, yawning. Kookie, unable to help it, yawned as well.
Hobi did not.
“Come on guys. Let’s do something! Let’s get our energy up! Come on!”
Kookie and Jin stared heavily onto Hoseok’s porcelain smile, knowing two things for sure about anything porcelain: It was something old, and definitely up to something. Finally, Jin just said it. “What’s up with you, Hobi?”
That seemed to do the trick, or at least the trick of momentarily knocking him out of his polite trance. His smile fell flat like a sour note in a band concert; clearly noticeable. “What do you mean?”
“I mean you’ve been acting weird since we started this trip,” Kookie added, standing now, on his level. Jin, feeling excluded, stood too. The boat rocked. “You’re nice, sure, but you’re not this passive.”
Hobi took this information through both ears, processed it, and thought of the appropriate answer. He really only had one argument for this, which was, “This is how I was before.” A smile went along with it, wrapped in a bowtie and sent out meant to be a delicacy to Kookie and Jin’s ears.
“But you’re not that person anymore,” Yoongi spoke up so openly, unafraid of the possible ridicule in his blunt nature. But, despite it, they were all thinking it too. And this is when realization hit, because in situations like these Joon would intervene and try to have a discussion…but he said nothing.
That sudden understanding hit all of them like a cruise ship, turning in unison to the captain as he was bent relentlessly over his paper, clearly trying to fix something. Jimin was the only out of the six who wasn’t utterly concerned. “…Joon?” the once cheerful friend said, taking a cautious step towards him. Namjoon went completely still, swallowing the bile built up in his guilty throat.
“W-What?” was his stunning response, an elegant performance of pure control in pitch and posture. “What’d you say?”
“I just said your name,” Hobi said, stepping closer. Joon held a hand out. “Wait,” he called. “Wait wait wait, I can fix it, I’m fixing it, please, I’m so close just g-give me a few more minutes and it’ll be fine.”
“What’ll be fine?” Yoongi asked, standing himself now.
Jimin cleared his throat, wanting to remain silent but speaking only for the sake of Joon. “Uhm, some water…may have gotten on the map.”
With those words, despite Kookie’s usual respect towards Joon, he sauntered over and ripped the paper from his hands.
They all gazed upon the wrecked guide, the sole reason they had agreed to come out here in the first place…gone. “Namjoon—” But Kookie wasn’t allowed to yell at him, or ask what happened, or possibly give his condolences because Joon did all that himself.
“I know, I know! It’s the worst thing I could have done. I mean it just…slipped from my fingers and I could barely even get it out of the water. I can make out some parts of it but…I mean it’s ruined. I don’t know how to get back to the island…and there goes my suicide pact.”
Oh, and if they hadn’t snapped to attention before, surely they did now hearing those words flow so freely out of Joon’s mouth. Yoongi, surprisingly, was the first to verbally question it. “I-I’m sorry, what did you just say?”
Joon didn’t slow down in their realization; possibly sped up even. “It was perfect,” Joon whispered, shaking his head as he thought about it. “The city of Atlantis as Plato described it was meant to be around here. I wasn’t sure exactly where, but I knew we were somewhere close. ‘If it’s out there, you’ll feel it,’” he quoted his dad, looking into the distance. “I thought it’d be the perfect place to…” Joon sucked in a breath, falling back into reality and realizing how all of that may have sounded. He turned around to confront their shocked faces. “That wasn’t me trying to force any of you guys to do anything but…” His eyes fell to the wing’s floor. “…I keep thinking about what might happen if one of us doesn’t make it…I don’t think I could handle it.” Joon sniffed, not wanting to be the emotional one on the trip. “I just needed to know that…we wouldn’t leave each other.”
The crowd was distraught to say the least, every single look on their faces conveying a different style of horror: Jin’s mouth fell all the way open. Kookie couldn’t stop staring, maybe thinking it would prevent him from crying. Yoongi’s eyebrows were stuck in a permanent line. Hobi couldn’t help his fidgeting, hoping if he did enough Namjoon’s words would evaporate into the air. Jimin wasn’t even looking, hiding his solemn face from their gaze. Tae was shut down, every pore in his body closed and unwavering; his face stolid.
This is really happening, Hobi thought, striking him down from his high. It was the first time he realized…he hadn’t really been that high since the plane fell.
But as he looked around at them, their feelings and faces, Hobi realized he didn’t want to be high. He didn’t need to be high…to feel something with these six people.
It was so much better sober.
“Look,” Hobi started, his words pulling Joon’s head up from its bent position. Hobi turned away from him though, speaking to more than just him. “It’s not bad what you wanted to do, Joon,” Still, he wasn’t looking at him. “And I know that sometimes I can be…too much with how okay I am with things but…” Hobi swallowed, shoving that pressure down his dry throat. “I can’t just stand here and agree to a pact to die.” Finally, Hobi turned to Joon, facing him; facing the problem. “We won’t split up, ever. I refuse to.” Hobi’s theatrics seemed to grab everyone so strongly, taking them for an uncomfortable ride. “But I also won’t except death…not here.”
There was silence, although they wondered how silent the sea could ever really be. In fact, this was when Joon would usually wrap things up. But he didn’t, because at that point they all knew things—in a time like this—would never truly be wrapped up.
They had so easily forgotten how much the sea and the island were on their side. Not hours but minutes after their fear began to settle and churn and slowly become apprehension, they saw the island in the distance, no longer far enough to confuse for a cloud. It almost felt like they were re-entering the island’s atmosphere, like it was back to that first feeling of safety.
Hobi wondered how long that feeling would last.
Reaching out, Joon grabbed onto Hobi’s hand. He looked up at him and Joon just nudged his head to the side, signaling him to carry it along. Hobi did, grabbing Yoongi’s hand next. Yoongi reached out and grabbed Jimin’s hand. The circle continued all the way to Tae who, instead of grabbing Joon’s hand, grabbed his neck, but in an endearing rather than endangered way. With that, the most talkative did what he did best. “This ain’t no Titanic, okay?” Namjoon reassured. “We’re not sinking, and we’re not letting go.” They nodded at different times, no nod confirming with any other one. Either way, they were at least 40% on the same page.
“Never let go, Jack,” Hobi muttered, seeing his breath in the cold night air. Luckily, despite the fact that they were all going to Hawaii at one point, they had found a few suitcases with thin jackets in them. Hobi snuggled in next to Joon, shutting his eyes as they floated to shore. Joon just looked down at him, thinking about what happened today…how he messed up. Their hands still held.
“Never,” Joon breathed.
When you’re not reading books, read our newsletter.
Join the conversation