Autumn Night

Seo Dae-kyung

Artwork by Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee

One fall night I puked up a monkey. I was in the bathroom at a bar. Two ice cold hands opened my mouth from inside my body and then, with a thump, the monkey fell on the tiles of the floor. Shining oily black under the phosphorescent light, it grabbed the pipes under the sink and climbed above the mirror and up the wall. I looked with sobered eyes upon the little beast’s scared face, the little beast with blood red eyes and a body covered entirely with short, grey hair. I wrapped the monkey in my coat. Shivering slightly, the monkey rolled up its tail and burrowed its face into one of the pockets.

The man who filled my glass asked me with surprised eyes where I got the monkey. “I was nauseous, so I puked and this dude came out.” I placed a cut-up slice of dried squid into the monkey’s hand. The man sitting next to me slowly nodded his head. He wore a profound expression. “Poor beast.” the man said. “As you know, it is a physical manifestation of your repressed unconscious.” “Probably.” I said. We silently watched the sparkly flash of the canines that appeared through a hole in the monkey’s little mouth whenever the monkey took a bite of the squid. The man pouring my drink said, “Look at those teeth! And look at those red eyes like blood. Yes, it looks frightened. But the monkey’s nature is to be sly and cold blooded.” Then with a contemptuous look, he whispered, “Of course I don’t mean this as an attack on you.” I smiled bitterly, emptied my glass, and rose from my seat.

I walked on the dead leaves that carpeted the tree lined street, the monkey huddled to my chest. The night sky was clear and cold. The monkey gasped in pain as it dug into my chest. I whispered, “Are you sad and in pain?” With a cracked voice that rose feebly from the inside of my arms it said “Yes.” “I know I cursed and denied you. I hit you and I choked you. But you know, you are not my repressed unconscious.” “Yes.” “Do you want to die?” “I want to die.” “But you’re just an illusion I’m having.” “I want to die.” As I slowly pulled the shivering monkey away from my chest, its entire body shriveled up. The dry and thin fall moonlight sparkled blindingly over the monkey’s short, grey hair. “Who are you?” I asked. The small and opaque, blood red pupils looked at me. “I want to die.” the monkey whispered.

translated from the Korean by Soeun Seo and Jake Levine