Cast of Wonders 290: Everything You Have Seen

Show Notes

February is Women in Horror Month, an international initiative which encourages supporters to learn about and showcase the underrepresented work of women in the horror industries. Whether they are on the screen, behind the scenes, or contributing in their other various artistic ways, it is clear that women love, appreciate, and contribute to the horror genre. Check out the hashtag WiHM9 for plenty of suggestions. Or if you have the stomach for stronger fair, our sister show PseudoPod.

You can find all our own Women in Horror episodes here!

Everything You Have Seen

by Alisa Alering

I went outside to get away from Chung-hee.

The snow in the courtyard was coming down in thick flakes, making that special kind of silence like the whole world has been wrapped in a cotton bojagi cloth and put away for the night. I thought at first that the guns had stopped. Then a flash lit the sky over our empty chicken coop. The boom traveled through the snowy ground, up my legs and spine and into my skull.

Before the war, Chung-hee and I were friends. My brother is two years older than me, but he’d never treated me like an insignificant little sister. He’d carried me home from school on the handles of his bicycle, weaving in between the traffic and the electric poles. In the summers, we roamed the hills beyond the city, picking mushrooms and hunting crayfish in the stream that splashed out of the mountains beyond the Parks’ farm.

The American soldiers had retreated to a position in the hills east of town, digging into the forest between the mountains and the sea. Their distant guns picked up speed. The shelling was worse at night. Mother would get angry with me for being outside. I turned back toward the house, when I heard a shuffling noise from inside the chicken coop, like a bird shifting from foot to foot. The chickens had flown off when the artillery began, and four weeks later they still refused to rest in their coop. Now they took their chances in the trees, picked off every night by quick-climbing weasels and rats.

I moved toward the coop, imagining how good chicken would taste, chicken soup with garlic and chiles, chicken with rice. I paused before the door of the dark shed. I didn’t want to scare the chicken, if one had returned. My belly growled out loud, and the bird shot out into the night sky, its heavy body skimming so close to my head that its flapping wings lifted my hair. I jumped back, stumbling over clods of frozen mud. That bird had been too fierce and fast for a chicken, and it had smelled dark and bloody, like old meat.

Worse, something was still inside the shed. I could hear it moving around. It knocked into the walls, and a loose board clattered as it fell.

I stood still, my eyes fixed on the shed’s dark doorway. How many were there? I wondered.

A boy walked out of the shed.

He was a little taller than me, and skinny. I thought he must be about eleven years old, the same as me. A bomb burst overhead, lighting up the courtyard, and I saw hair the color of red-bean porridge. He had pale skin and a narrow face. He was waegukin, just like the soldiers.

The boy stepped toward me. He wore a loose shirt and pants made of matching dark cloth with a light-colored print. His breath steamed in the cold air. Snowflakes melted where they landed on his bare head. “Who—” he said, then stopped. He looked around as if the sound of his own voice had surprised him. I thought he might be a gwishin, but ghosts aren’t supposed to have any legs. I could see the shape of the boy’s legs through his thin trousers, right down to his bare toes curled in the snow.

He had to be real, but I couldn’t imagine what he was doing here.

“How did you get in the chicken coop?” I asked.

He said something, but I didn’t understand. He talked louder, and I cut my hand across my neck to tell him to be quiet. The boy balled his hands into fists in front of him. I thought he was going to hit me. His face scrunched up, and his upper lip thrust over the lower one like that of a bad-tempered turtle. Frustrated, he opened and closed his hands, like Mother pulling dough to make knife-cut noodles.

Dim starlight reflected off the snow, bright enough that I could see something beginning to grow in the space between his hands. He stared at me, eyes furious and urgent as his hands worked, trying to communicate. The air between his palms darkened, whirled into a heavy smudge that grew and rebounded as it bounced between his palms. The sphere of thickened air flashed with one color after another, as if he was trying them on, like a ball rolling through paint.

I stepped back, holding my hand over my mouth. The boy looked down. He seemed just as surprised as I was. The little ball of darkened air hung between his hands as if it were suspended from a string. I lifted my arm. The floating thing looked solid. I tried to touch it.

Just as my finger reached the dough, Mother shouted my name. She stood in the doorway of the house with my baby brother in her arms, calling me to come in. I had to go. I looked back at the boy’s hands just in time to see the colored shape collapse into itself, like a house falling down.

The next morning, I helped Mother with the laundry. She had the radio on and, while I broke up boards to make firewood, we heard the grave schoolteacher voice saying that more Chinese troops had crossed the border from the north, and the Americans were retreating down the coast to Wonsan, where their ships waited to take them to safety. I wondered who would take us to safety. The fighting outside our city might stop, but the advancing Chinese troops were just as dangerous.

I held the baby, tickling his angry face while Mother beat the cloth with a paddle. We hung the clothes on the southern side of the house and I carried the wash water around back. A skinny black hen sat atop the broken tiles of the outhouse, poking her beak into her feathers. I lunged for her, but she flapped up into a tree with a squawk. Her feathers scattered on the ground where the morning sun was melting last night’s snow.

I looked around the courtyard, but there was no sign of Chung-hee. Good. I stuck my head in the door of the chicken coop and called softly. For a moment, I thought I must have imagined the waegukin boy, but as I stood, my eyes adjusted. In the darkest corner, the boy had dug a nest in the musty straw and burrowed down as deep as he could. Close up, I saw that his blue shirt and pants were patterned with white-sailed boats.

I didn’t know what he was doing here, but looking down at his bony arms and pale skin, tinged purple from the cold, I could see that he wasn’t dangerous. I felt bad for him. He had to be scared to be alone in a place that was so strange, where he couldn’t talk to anyone, and no one looked like him. What if Chung-hee found him hiding here?

I crouched beside him, and he bolted awake. I laid my hand on his arm to let him know it was okay. I told him my name, Min-hee, and pointed to my chest. I asked his name, but when I said it back wrong, he pushed his mouth into that funny pout. I decided I would call him Turtle. Even though I could still see his legs, I pinched him to make sure he was really alive. He yelled and hit my hand away. I shushed him and moved my hands as if I were stretching noodle dough, telling him to speak that way.

Just like last night, the air thickened and Turtle shaped it between his palms. His fingers pulled the air, kneading the darkness until it was smooth and pliable, stretching and working until it made a picture. The first images were wobbly, but the more he worked the better they got. He showed me a long brown field full of grain, a funny yellow house with a pointed roof, a raised mattress with a blue blanket, a black-and-white dog, a red brick building with the American flag, pictures of himself going to school, carrying books.

When he finished, the last image hung in the air, alive but undisturbed, like a sleeping mouse in its nest. Then he put his hands together as if he were clapping. The picture, the thing that slept, collapsed in on itself and was gone.

I watched carefully, copying the way he’d worked his fingers. I wanted to talk to him, too. My best friend, Hye-su, had gone away at the start of the war, and I felt lonely. I wanted to show him my life, have him understand me. But it didn’t work for me.

In the middle of the day I sneaked back into the house for food. I put a handful of millet in a bowl with a few frostbitten leaves of cabbage, then poured hot water over it all, and took it out to the boy. He drank, but made an awful face as his teeth squeaked on the last limp cabbage leaf. I couldn’t believe it. I had stolen from my own family, and he didn’t feel grateful.

I kicked straw over him and yelled, “What do you think you will eat instead?”

Maybe he couldn’t understand my words, but he knew what I meant. He got angry right back, shoved out that turtle lip of his and worked his hands, showing me all kinds of things: roast chickens with crackling skin, steaming bowls of porridge, plates heaped with hot, boiled corn.

My stomach growled, and I couldn’t help myself. I reached between his hands and grabbed an ear of yellow corn. It came away in my grasp, hot and dripping with juice. I was so astonished I dropped it in the dirt of the shed. The smell filled my head—so delicious, so savory—until I felt dizzy. I snatched the corn up from the dirt, and without bothering to wipe it off, bit into the bursting kernels. The boy watched, his sky eyes wide. It crunched between my teeth, and juice ran down my chin. I passed it to the boy, and he bit into it with a groan.

His hands flew with fury, whirling up food as fast as he could think it: round dumplings swimming in gravy, a pan of cooked berries wrapped in a flaky crust, meat patties and puffy circles of dough covered in sugar. I picked out each dish as it appeared and set it aside until Turtle had made everything he wanted, then we dove in and ate and ate and ate. Some tastes were strange to me, but I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten so much food. I ate until I felt as if I couldn’t breathe.

After that, I lay back in the straw, and I didn’t care that I couldn’t make my own stories. Turtle told me about his family. He showed me a woman with dark-gold hair, the color of beech leaves in winter. She wore a flowered apron and had pink cheeks. She wasn’t very pretty, but she smiled nicely, very happy. I thought she must be his mother.

I asked about his father. I cleared away the straw, and with my finger drew a picture of a man in the loose dust of the chicken shed. He tried to show me, but the picture wouldn’t come. I could see something flickering there between his hands, thickening like a mist, but it wouldn’t form. I shrugged, and smiled to tell him it was okay.

I spent the rest of the day with Turtle. The coop sheltered us from the biting wind, and the sun shone between its loose slats. We burrowed down into the straw, watching the pictures Turtle made and eating snacks he conjured. This was the happiest day I had spent since Father went away. Turtle acted strange, but he was good company.

Later that night, when Chung-hee snatched food out of my bowl as he did every night, I didn’t even mind. At last, I stretched out my bedroll on the warm floor and went to sleep happy, my stomach full.
But in the middle of the night I woke, stomach screaming with hunger. It felt as if an angry beast were in my stomach, trying to claw its way out. While I slept, all the boy’s food had turned to nothing. I turned over on my blankets, trying to ignore the pains. In the black night outside, guns started up again, louder and closer than ever before.

The next morning, smoke billowed up into the sky above the radio tower on the west side of town. Mother was angry because Chung-hee had disappeared again. Little brother wailed, beating his thin arms against Mother’s chest. Mother opened a tin she had hidden under a loose board and took out a small hairclip with a bright stone at the top. She told me, “Take this to Mr. Lee and trade it for medicine for the baby.”

The smoke had grown thicker as I crept closer to the center of town. I covered my mouth, breathing through my fingers. The doors of buildings stood open, their windows blown out, and the glass scattered in the street. The walls of the Yuwon sock factory had collapsed, but the knitting machines were lined up inside, still waiting for girls in their aprons to come stand behind them.

When I reached Mr. Lee’s, the windows of the shop had been smashed. Inside, the shelves were empty and broken. I banged on the shutters, trying to wake him. An old woman came by, collecting broken bricks in a bucket. She said, “The Lees were robbed last night. At dawn they took the last of their stock and fled.”


“South, I think. Mrs. Lee has family there,” she said. She picked up another brick and walked on.
I retraced my steps. A jeep roared through the street, soldiers standing in the backseat. I jumped into the ditch, pressing myself against the crumpled walls, hoping I wouldn’t be seen. I held onto Mother’s hairclip so tightly that the stone hurt my hand. I waited until the motor died away and was just about to climb back onto the road when a girl crossed the street in front of me, running fast, her long braids bouncing against her back.

She ran toward the ruined sock factory, tears streaming down her frightened face. After her came a pack of boys, their heavy shoes echoing on the empty street. The boy in the lead was Dong-sun, the butcher’s son.

I slid back down into the ditch. The rest of the boys, wearing castoff soldier’s clothing, shouted and shoved each other as they ran, chasing after the girl as if she were a dog. Chung-hee trotted in the middle of the pack, the backs of his bare ears showing red in the cold. They herded the girl into the alley. Dong-sun grabbed her braid, yanking her to a stop. She stumbled in the dirt, and the boys closed in around her.

I knew then that Chung-hee had left us. He had broken off from the world where Mother and I still lived as a family. The things we did here in this world, the rules we followed, meant nothing to Chung-hee. He and the other boys had created their own world out of the bombs falling, the bullets exploding, the tanks rolling. They had found and filled a new space.

When I returned, Mother worked in the storehouse, scooping out the last of the cooking oil. I gave her the hairclip and told her that the Lees had closed their shop and moved away. I didn’t tell her the rest. The radio was on again, the serious voice reading out the missing-persons messages. Mother’s face fell. We had received only one letter from Father since he joined the army, and that had been six months ago. I sometimes thought Mother was like the chickens—frightened by the guns, but afraid to move too far from the place she knew. After all, if we left, how would Father know where to find us?
I played with little brother, letting him grab my hair and pull it with his fists. It was late afternoon before I could get back to the chicken coop.

Turtle was ill. His face was pink, full of hot blood. He wouldn’t talk to me, only lay there moaning.
I thought our food must not have been good for him. I was used to the weevils and the old stale taste of the cabbage. His body must not have liked it. He sweated, even as his breath made clouds of steam in the cold. I heaped straw around him. He twisted in his makeshift bed, throwing off the straw, pieces clinging in his hair. He opened his hands, and the pictures flowed in a jumble. People, animals, buildings, were all mixed up—a dog with a wagon wheel for hind legs, a flower growing out of a kettle.
I brought him another blanket, an old one that used to be Chung-hee’s. I worried that Turtle would die. I pushed him back on the ground, and tucked the blanket around him. Still he shook and moaned. He cried out in his strange voice and I worried that someone would hear. I slid under the blanket beside him, and pretended that he was Chung-hee, back when we were friends. Chung-hee before the war when Father was with us and the radio played songs that Mother sang to as she sewed and we played games and thought alike and loved each other.

Turtle fell asleep, clenching the blanket. Mother was distracted, worried about Father and Chung-hee, hands full with the baby, but she would notice if I stayed away all night. I slid from under the blanket and left Turtle sleeping in the empty chicken coop.

The next morning, Turtle was gone. The straw was patted down like an animal’s nest, leaving the shape of where he had laid in the night.

Outside the chicken house, yesterday’s half-melted snow had frozen too hard to leave any footprints. I raced out the courtyard gate and looked up and down the empty street. Had Chung-hee found Turtle sleeping in our shed? I told myself Chung-hee wouldn’t have hurt him.

A strong gust of wind bit through my sweater, blowing away the gray clouds and the recent snows. The gate of Hye-su’s house next door banged back against the courtyard wall. My heart jumped with relief. That gate had been latched ever since Hye-su and her family had packed up and headed for the train station at the end of summer. But now it was loose. Someone had been inside.

I ran through the gate. Hye-su’s courtyard was exactly the way I remembered. One small window was broken. Snow piled in the north-facing corners and where it had blown off the roof. I wondered why Turtle had come here, why he hadn’t stayed safe and warm in our chicken coop.

A shadow moved inside Hye-su’s house, passing quickly in front of the window.

I stepped closer. “Turtle?” I whispered.

A hand shot out of the doorway and grabbed my arm. I screamed, and the hand spun me around.

“What are you doing sneaking around here?” Chung-hee demanded.

I stared at my big brother. I didn’t know what he was doing in Hye-su’s old house, but I knew he was up to no good. I wished I could tell him about Turtle; Chung-hee would be able to help me search faster. He would know more places where a boy might hide.

“I know you have a boyfriend,” he said. He tightened his grip on my arm, twisting the skin under my sweater. His eyes were so brown and hard, like flat river stones faraway under the water. I wanted to tell my brother that he wasn’t alone. That everything he had seen, I had seen, too.

“I didn’t think you were old enough.” Chung-hee’s harsh black eyebrows bristled together, like angry caterpillars. “But now that you are, you can help put rice in our bowls.”

I remembered the girl in the alley by the sock factory. I jerked my arm back, and shoved Chung-hee hard in the chest.

He laughed in my face, his mouth wide open. Even his breath had changed. It was a man’s breath, a hot stinky blast of smoke and old food. He twisted my arm behind my back. “You’re as bony as a crow, Min-hee. But you’re young, and that counts for something.”

I was crying. I couldn’t understand what had become of my brother. I spat in his face.

Chung-hee’s fist knocked me in the jaw.

I fell, and he leaned over me, ready to hit me again. He was breathing hard, his face red and ugly.
A plane buzzed over the mountains north of us, followed by a dull thud. There was a low whistle from the street, and Dong-sun, the butcher’s son, poked his head over the wall. “Let’s go,” he called to Chung-hee.

My brother turned his back on me and ran after Dong-sun.

I stood. My mouth was full of blood and snot, and one of my front teeth felt loose. A shell exploded a few houses away, rattling the ground. I thought of Turtle wandering in his bare feet, alone, unable to ask or explain. I ran out of Hye-su’s yard, calling his name.

I found Turtle on the edge of town where walled houses gave way to open fields and scattered farms bordered by the mountains. I had no idea how he had gotten there. Turtle, in his flimsy shirt and pants, with Chung-hee’s blanket wrapped around him, was staring off over the rocky, snow-covered fields. His face was no longer flushed with fever, but his eyes glowed with bright determination, like a boy on the day of an important exam.

As soon as he saw me, his hands flew into action, kneading the air. Images flickered between his hands like the propeller on a plane, too fast to see any single blade.

“Slow down,” I said. “Just do one at a time.” I put my hand on his shoulder.

I knew he couldn’t understand me, but the tone of my voice must have reached him. He breathed out, long and hard. Then, with his hands, he stretched and pulled, and landscapes unrolled between his palms. Turtle’s eyes were intent on me, urgent. There were no cornfields or big blue skies. No red-painted barns or black and white cows. Just one picture after another of winter woods, and mud, and broken trees. At first I didn’t recognize them.

“Wait,” I said. “Go back.” There had been something familiar in the last scene.

I waved my hand in a circle, like a clock circling backward.

He shuffled the scenes between his hands.


He held the picture still. The trees were broken, the ground churned into deep, hardened ruts. It took me time to recognize it because it had changed so much. But I did know it. It was the woods near the Parks’ farm.

We headed west out of town, toward the granite mountains. The winter sun glowed a pale yellow that heated my skin under my scratchy sweater as we jogged along the deserted streets. We crossed the railroad tracks and traveled out into the open country.

The Parks’ farm lay in the next valley over. The mountains fed a stream that watered their pumpkin fields and flowed all the way down to the sea thirty miles away. We crossed the open fields, trampling the dried grasses. Blood surged into my face where Chung-hee had hit me, swelling my lip.

Ahead, fog swirled out of a thick forest of pines. I stopped at the edge of the woods and turned to the boy. I dialed my hand forward, telling him to show me the next picture. He showed me a stream, rushing with water. A slab of granite, glazed with ice, rose above the current.

I knew that rock. In the summer we dove from its flat top, splashing into the clear, cold pool. Its surface was pocked with holes all over, like the spots on a frog’s back. The holes filled with water when it rained and seemed to stare up like a hundred liquid eyes.

I tried to remember the way to the rock. I had only been to the river in summer. It was all so different now. Mist filled the woods, and I didn’t want to step inside. I wondered why Turtle wanted so badly to come here and how he knew what it looked like.

We climbed up the rocky spine of a ridge and stumbled down the other side, through the splintered, broken trunks of what used to be a grove of beautiful, tall birch trees. The armies had crossed back and forth over these hills for weeks and had left behind a trail of ruined equipment—shredded tires, ragged camouflage nets, even a tank sitting lopsided in deep, churned ruts.

Though he must have been weak from his fever and at least as hungry as I was, Turtle kept pace. Halfway down, the spring that fed the stream burst from a cleft in the granite, and we followed the spill of its waters to the bottom of the valley.

We walked downstream, picking our way over the slick rocks. Up ahead, the stream churned through a narrow channel, then widened and slowed. A tall, strong pine grew beside the pool, its drooping branches brushing the flat top of a granite boulder. The stream had carved away the bank beneath, leaving the mottled red slab to stretch out over the calm, deep pool.

Turtle came forward and clutched my arm, looking past me at the rock as if he were afraid.
I remembered what the old people said about the rock, that a spirit lived inside it, looking out at the world through its hundred eyes. Once, Hye-su, Chung-hee, and I and some others had come to the stream to swim, and had found an orange and a handful of rice on top of the rock, left as an offering to the spirit.

Bumps stood out on Turtle’s thin wrists. Under Chung-hee’s blanket, he shook from the cold. His look said that he didn’t know any more about what was going on than I did.

I let go of Turtle’s hand and climbed up on the rock.

And stopped. A dead man slumped against the other side. His still arms were wrapped around his middle, his green soldier’s uniform soaked through with blood. The blood was on his sleeves, on his bare hands, on his trousers, and on the stones and snow below him. It was old blood, brown and congealed. His soldier’s helmet lay on the ground beside him, and his head drooped loose on his neck. The dead man’s hair was the same color as Turtle’s, the same shade of red-bean porridge.

Turtle shouted “Pa!” and ran toward the man, dropping Chunghee’s blanket on the snowy ground.
I had no idea how Turtle had appeared in my courtyard three nights ago, or what had pulled him out of his bed an ocean away and led him to his Father’s body here in the blasted forest, but it wasn’t natural.

“We should go,” I said.

Turtle didn’t move.

The man on the ground opened his eyes.

Very slowly, the soldier raised his head and settled it back upright on his neck. His skin was gray-white and his lips blue. But his eyes focused on Turtle. There was no doubt that he recognized his son.
The man’s mouth moved, and he tried to smile.

The soldier unfolded his arms. It was no good, I could see that at once. He must have been in so much pain. When his arms moved away from his body, I saw the hole torn in his side. I could see right through his bloody uniform, right through his ragged skin to the shiny red, white, and black bloody insides of him. But he stretched his arms wider.

Turtle stepped toward him, then stopped and turned back to me. Turtle’s eyes met mine, and he pressed both hands flat against his chest.

Then Turtle went to his father, knelt, and stepped between his outstretched hands.

The soldier folded his arms around Turtle, pulling him into an embrace. Before I had a chance to say good-bye, the edges of the boy rolled up and he collapsed from the inside like a building falling in on itself.

The soldier’s arms dropped onto his chest, limp and lifeless. His head lolled against the rough granite. The stream rushed past, seeking the sea, the spray licking the toes of the dead man’s boots, casting them with ice. There was no trace of Turtle. He had gone, evaporated like the food in my stomach.

I dropped down on the riverbank in the snow, and cried into the neck of my sweater. Turtle was gone, and I was alone again. My own world that I had thought solid and indivisible, the world where Father sat at the head of the table, and Mother sang songs from the radio, and Chung-hee carried me on his bike, had disappeared forever. There was no longer any trace of the family we had been, no more than there was a piece of Turtle’s sail-patterned shirt or his red-porridge hair left behind on the trampled snow in front of me.

The wet tracks of my tears stung my face with cold. It was getting dark under the trees, and the forest no longer held anything for me. I stood, and my eyes caught a fleck of white atop the rock, near the soldier’s open, staring eyes. A cigarette, the edges pink with blood. The wet paper had disintegrated and flakes of loose tobacco scattered across the stone, falling damply into the hundred pools.

I wrapped Chung-hee’s blanket tighter around my shoulders. The world I had always known had been shattered like a late winter pumpkin on the Parks’ farm, but there were other worlds: Turtle had come from a different world, far away on the other side of the ocean. And maybe he had been helped by the ancient world of gwishin, demons, and hungry-mouthed spirits that dwell in rock. There were ways to get from one world to another. I started back up the hill, pushing hard through the deep snow.

Stars shone in the twilit sky when I arrived on our street. I could just make out the shapes of the chicken coop and the outhouse, our roof, and a withered curl of smoke rising from the ondol against the darker trees behind.

Inside, Mother argued with Chung-hee. She had the baby on her back and held the handle of a pot with a folded rag, scolding him to save some food for me. He laughed and snatched the pot from her hand, filling his bowl to the brim. I had thought about it on the long walk back. Why should people like my brother be the only ones who could create a new world and escape into it? The waegukin army had boats farther down the coast, and a new world at the end of them. I didn’t have to stay in this broken world, picking among the scattered seeds.

“It doesn’t matter,” I said, pushing into the room. “We’re going to meet the boats at Wonsan.”

Chung-hee acted as if I hadn’t spoken. Setting his bowl on the table, he shrugged out of his soldier’s coat and tossed it at Mother. She sat down obediently to fix the tear in the shoulder. She threaded a needle, and with her head bent over the rough wool, said, “If we went away, your father would never find us. Our whole family would become missing persons.”

“If we stay, he won’t find us either,” I argued. “Are you the same wife that he left? Am I the same daughter? What will we be like in another six months?”

I didn’t mention Chung-hee, but Mother’s eyes darted in his direction. She tied off the thread and pushed the coat back to him. Her ropy hands rested flat on the scarred table. My beautiful mother had become an old woman. Her skin was rough and chapped. Even the lobes of her ears seemed to sag lower and looser.

I went into the other room and, making sure that Chung-hee wasn’t looking, lifted Mother’s jeweled hair clip from under the loose board and slipped it in my waistband. I gathered clothes for both of us and, back in the kitchen, scraped the last grains of millet from the bottom of the jar.

“It’s too far, Min-hee,” Mother said. “Too dangerous.”

I bundled the supplies into Turtle’s blanket and hung it over my shoulder.

“There won’t be room for us on the boats,” Mother said. But when I took the baby from her, she didn’t resist.

A massive shell landed somewhere on the outskirts of town and shook the ground beneath us. I looked at my brother, one last time. Chung-hee leaned back against the wall, the collar of his soldier’s coat turned up around his skinny neck. He held his bowl with both hands, and loudly slurped his soup—the soup that should have been mine.

So be it, I thought. He had chosen his world, now I had chosen mine.

Those waegukin boats we were heading for might get blown apart by a Chinese shell and take us to a world at the bottom of the Yellow Sea. Or the boats would travel south, and we would step ashore into a world I couldn’t imagine. But now that I knew there were other worlds, I wouldn’t stay in this one, flapping my wings like a homeless chicken.

I tied my baby brother onto my back, took Mother’s hand, and we stepped out into the night.

About the Author

Alisa Alering

Alisa Alering was hatched in a secret hollow in the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania, where she ran around barefoot and talked to the to trees. She now lives in Indiana. Her stories have been podcast by PodCastle, Drabblecast, and Toasted Cake. She is currently at work on a young adult novel.

Find more by Alisa Alering


About the Narrator

Adela Kwon

Adela Jaehee Kwon is a third year student studying International Relations and Politics at Sheffield University. Originally from South Korea, she’s been living in Sheffield for almost three years. She likes travelling and exploring new things that she has never done before: narrating for Cast of Wonders was one of them. Adela feels there is still room for improvement but she hopes you all enjoy her reading.

Find more by Adela Kwon