Fiction

from After the Turn of Dark

Translated by: 
Shirley Lee

The man looked as if he were about to turn round and leave. But instead he asked the woman, as she held out her hand to receive his entry ticket, whether he could just enter, as he had no money. His expression suggested that he was not capable of making jokes, and his intonation was quite aggressive. The woman withdrew her hand and stared at the man for a moment. She had been about to tear the receipt off the entry ticket, which of course anyone wishing to pass the barrier would have purchased in advance. Her eyes were neither large nor small, her skin was clear, and her lips were firm. She was the type of woman you might not notice unless you looked consciously, but one to act with propriety even when her feelings had been hurt. This isn’t going to work, the dispirited man thought. He was about to turn round and leave when the woman spoke. Yes, go ahead. Her voice was flat but resonant.

The man had not expected the woman to answer so readily. He hesitated for a moment before passing through the outer gate of the temple. He walked a few steps, then turned to look behind him. The woman’s dark hair came down to her shoulders, lapping in the sunlight. She was checking the ticket of the next person in line and looked to have forgotten about the man already. The man did not walk any further. When there was a pause in the queue and the woman took a moment to stretch her back, the man walked back towards her.

Excuse me, he said. The woman turned round. Her pupils, dark as a cow’s, stared at the man. The bridge of her nose was a little wider than average. Perhaps this was what gave her an easy-going air, despite her immaculate forehead. As if he had given up on shame or modesty, the man spoke to the woman as she stared at him. I’m really hungry. Will you take me for a meal later? The woman kept her eyes fixed on the man for a few more seconds. Then she replied, All right. 

 

By the time I was in my thirties, I was fated to die, said the murderer, now in his forties. He spoke again. Murder is my profession. My side-job is to pose as a policeman, then extort from people. I murder only if it pleases me. Perhaps he had become numb to feeling after killing so many. It looked as if the murderer had already transcended matters such as life and death. In any case, although he was held in custody for a murder case that was still pending, be betrayed no sign of anxiety or fear.

 

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