, , In a small, 177.5 sq ft one-bedroom apartment, only the lights coming off from a computer monitor lit the space. , Intermittent typing noises and notification alarms filled the room and were broken by deep sighs in between. .𝒎 , “Haaaa.” This dreary and dark room was my work studio and home. The non-stop ringing notification alarms were the comments I was getting for the last chapter of my fantasy web novel that I had been writing for about a year. These were the sort of responses I was getting: , —The master of great beginnings and terrible endings. , —Damn it, I can’t believe I followed this novel until the end. I want to cry. , —I was mentally scarred from his last novel, so I was planning to skip this one but… , —I think the author is seriously. His endings are always crazy. , —I kept thinking about dropping this novel but held on till the end. Why do I love torturing myself? , Every single one of them was insulting the ending of my novel. It was understandable because all my stories ended with bad endings. , , It wasn’t just an ordinary bad ending but the worst kind where all the main characters died. I didn’t want to make an ending like this either, but that was what ended up happening as I continued writing. Perhaps, this was one of the symptoms of my trauma, and it was impossible for me to make an ending while keeping any of my characters alive. , “…Damn it,” I recalled a past memory. It clung to me harder the more I tried to push it away and its fragmented pieces solidified into shape. It was late in the night when we were on the road. The inside of the car was quiet, and my older teammates were dozing off in the backseat. It was then a huge truck appeared in view all of a sudden. The truck’s headlights trespassed into the center line and flashed the inside of our car instantly. By the time I realized what was going on, everything was over then. , I tried to stop thinking, but the more I struggled, the image of that memory became clearer in my head. , The ticking sound of my watch filled up my room. , . Water droplets dripped from the faucet that wasn’t fully turned on. , And notification alarms continued to ring nonstop. , —Everyone dies for real lolol. , —Is this the rumored novel with the best ending of all time? , —Stop making fun of the few readers who stayed behind to finish this story and piss off. , I thought my head was going to burst. I was a web novelist for three years and already had two works completed under my name. , The symptoms of my illness were even influencing my work, and I thought it wasn’t good for me to continue reading the comments. I closed my laptop and got up from my seat. When the monitor’s lights went off, my one-bedroom apartment turned completely dark. I fumbled my hands on the walls and turned on the light switch. , The lights flickered once before it brightened my room, and the room that came into view under the bright fluorescent lights was truly devastating. , “It’s a mess.” There were empty water bottles scattered messily on the ground, crumpled delivery food boxes, and various trash that I collected in my daily life. They had been piling up for three months already. , I wasn’t a naturally dirty person. I mean, who liked living in filth? I simply didn’t want to step outside the door. After pushing away the pile of trash with my feet, I lay on the ground. Without a single mattress to support me, I felt the cold, hard surface directly on my skin and the memories that had been tormenting me grew stronger. , Five years ago—before I became a reclusive shut-in, I was shockingly an idol trainee. , I thought to myself then. It was the time when I managed to join a debuting group for a middle-sized management company. Our disorderly company couldn’t guarantee our success, but I was happy during this period. I no longer had to go in and out of relatives’ houses and be wary of getting on their bad side and had a comfortable place to sleep in. , And though they were a bit ditzy, my older teammates were gentle and nice. It was fine even if we didn’t achieve massive success. I would have been happy if we had just did all right, and I could stay with these people for a long time. , Then, I thought my life would be quite worth living and there was no need for me to be envious of other successful idols. Yet, the universe sometimes relentlessly ruined people’s lives, and my humble dreams were crushed because of one drunk-driving truck driver. I didn’t have any memories after the truck’s headlight flashed at us. I simply felt my body float and my head collide strongly against the wall. I lost consciousness then and when I opened my eyes again… , Yet, the more I tried not to think, the more that thought came to my head. I clenched my fists and gritted my teeth at the images relentlessly popped into my mind. The car on the road smashed into the wall just like that. , Among us five, the only people who survived were our team’s leader on the wheel and me in the passenger seat. Three people died while two suffered serious injuries; and among the two injured, the team’s leader entered a coma and didn’t wake up for the past five years. , In the end, the only one who returned to everyday life was me. No, even I couldn’t return to my everyday life. Because the memory of that day was so intense in my head, I became obsessive about death. Whenever I had to decide between death and life, I began to always choose death whether it was in games or in writing. , The therapist consulting me told me to free myself of guilt from that day. But the therapist was only half-right. I didn’t need to get rid of my ‘guilt’ but cast away the ‘resentment’ that I was the only one who had survived. I didn’t know what kind of divine existence decided who died or lived, but if they were going to do it… , “They should’ve also taken me,” the words habitually popped out of my lips. I lay on the ground and stared at the wall. If I stared at the wall listlessly, my mind became duller. Like the wall, my heart and mind became blank, and I entered a subtle unconscious state. It was only at times like this that I felt like I could breathe. As this nice hazy feeling was about to spread throughout my body, I felt my phone vibrate. , , It was a text message. I supposed it came from my publishers asking me why I wrote an ending like that. I didn’t even need to read it. But for some reason, my hand reached for the phone. It was something I would’ve never normally done, and I immediately regretted it when I saw the message’s content. , —With deep sorrow, we inform you of the death of Woo Yeon-Hoon on December 4, 2027, at 11:45 pm. , It was a notification message, telling me that the team’s leader who had been in a coma for the past five years had died. , “Ha,” I laughed humorlessly. “Ha, haha.” It wasn’t the time to be laughing. Nothing was funny about this situation. “Ha…ugh.” I bit my lips hard and tasted blood. I clenched my fist so firmly that I felt my nails dig into my skin. Then, I curled my body into a ball. , “Urgh.” It felt as if someone was slashing my heart after it already hit rock bottom. I wanted to scream and cry, but I had no target for my anger. There was a saying that life was a tragedy from up close but a comedy from a distance. Yet, my life seemed like a tragedy no matter which way one looked at it. Instead of continuing to live a life like this and endure the pain and sorrow and drag myself through obstacles I never asked for, I would rather…. As my thoughts whirled out of control, my phone vibrated again. , It was a long vibration this time because it was a phone call. I reached for my phone instinctively even while my curled-up body was trembling. , “…What?” My body froze seeing the number on the screen. , It was Yeon-Hoon’s phone number. I had never received a call from this number since he entered a coma five years ago. Though I exchanged some calls with Yeon-Hoon’s brother and his parents occasionally before, this had never happened before. Perhaps, someone from his family was calling me to notify me of Yeon-Hoon’s death using his phone number. , “But why would they?” A part of me thought it could be Yeon-Hoon though there was no way. I just got a message notifying me of his death, and he was someone who had been unconscious for years. Yet, for some strange reason, my heart and thoughts kept leaning toward the direction that he was alive. I slowly accepted the call and placed the phone to my ear. , —… , A heavy silence circled my ears for a while. I wondered if there was some mistake with the telecommunications company and if I was getting an erroneous call. , —Tae-Yoon. , I heard Yeon-Hoon’s voice then. I gripped the phone tighter, and I almost bit my tongue from shock. Is this really his voice? Maybe it was someone who had a similar voice to him. No, it was definitely Yeon-Hoon’s voice. I didn’t know how to answer him or what was going on. How was I getting a call from a dead person? But I couldn’t miss this chance to talk to him after so long. My voice trembled as I spoke, “…Yeon-Hoon.” , , The moment I called his name, I felt a strange sensation all over my body. It felt as if my entire body was being lifted by an invisible hand. , “What is going on…!” Then my vision spun, and the space around me changed. , “What?” I was sure I was lying in my narrow, dirty one-bedroom apartment, but in an instant, I was transported to a pure white space. I floundered in the air but while all this was going on, I didn’t let go of my phone. I wasn’t even curious about the reason for this sudden strange phenomenon. , “Yeon-Hoon…!” The only thing on my mind was conversing with the voice that I heard across the phone. , Beginning Transference. , A robotic voice that sounded void of all human-like qualities rang inside my ears. , My vision whirled once more, and I was transported to another space. I thought I had returned to my one-bedroom apartment when I heard another voice. , “Tae-Yoon, aren’t you sleepy? All the other guys are sleeping. Why don’t you also take a rest? I will wake you up when we arrive at our dorm.” , But it was somewhere else. It was the place of my memories that I didn’t want to recall at all costs—the memories of the incident that ruined all of us and had been tormenting me for the last five years. I was inside the car that Yeon-Hoon was driving. , “…This is insane.” And across from our car, there was a 10-ton truck flashing its headlights and heading our way from the center line. Simultaneously, a mechanical voice rang inside my ear. , Save the members of the group, ‘Siren.’ , Upon success, you will progress to the next mission. , Upon failure, all members will die. , You’ll be bestowed with the power of ‘Insight’ as a variant. , What in the world was going on? I didn’t understand the situation at all, but I knew what I needed to do. , “Woo Yeon-Hoo, step on the gas pedal!” , I couldn’t let my teammates die again., Updated from .𝘤𝘰

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