A wild translation appeared! And for the first time on the blog, a translation of a Korean story!
Kim Nae-seong (1909-1957) is commonly seen as the father of the Korean detective story. Unfortunately, none of his works are available in English yet (as far as I know) and so his name is still a fairly obscure one in English-language mystery fiction spheres.
Great Korean Empire had been annexed by Japan the year after Kim Nae-seong was born, which obviously had rather important political and cultural implications for the country. Kim Nae-seong studied at Japan's prestigious Waseda University and he also made his debut as a mystery writer in Japan, with 1935's short story Daenkei no Kagami ("The Elliptical Mirror"). He published a handful of stories in Japanese and had contact with writers like Edogawa Rampo, but after his graduation, Kim Nae-seong returned to the Korean peninsula in 1936, where he would keep on writing mystery stories, but this time in Korean (some of them were Korean translations of his Japanese stories). In the past I've reviewed Main (1939), one of the novels he wrote after his return to Korea, and I enjoyed it a lot as a Rampo/Leblanc-esque mystery-adventure.
Today I bring you an English translation of his short story Muma (The Fog Devil) (1939), one of his original Korean stories. This translation might thus actually be the first, or at least one of very few translations of Kim Nae-seong's work in English. Muma is not a puzzle plot story like the ones I usually translate, but I definitely enjoy the horror-esque tone of the story. Muma has a distinct Rampo-esque atmosphere, from the focus on two different kind of mystery writers (reminiscent of Rampo's Beast in the Shadows), a thinly disguised "Kim" (Kim Nae-seong) as the narrator, to the distinctly urban setting.
The story is set in Seoul, or Keijou, as the capital was called under Japanese rule. Character and street names are written as they are pronounced in (modern) Korean.
Oh, and you might be thinking, is he doing translations of Korean mystery stories too now? I wish it was so! No, this English translation was based on a Japanese translation of the story by Dokuta posted at Asia Mystery League (permission was given for using his translation as the source text). Obviously, if you can read Japanese, I recommend reading Dokuta's translation over mine.
This will very likely be the only time I'll post a translation of a Korean mystery story here, but I hope you'll enjoy the story!
The Fog Devil (Muma, 1939)
Author: Kim Nae-seong
霧魔 (무마) (1939年)
著者: 김내성 （金來成）
The Two Mystery Writers
It was just noon, the busiest time of the day, when Heo called my office in such an excited state.
The ringing of the telephone on the desk suddenly reverberated loudly across the room. Automatically, I reached out and picked up the receiver.
“Oh, Kim! It’s me. Me! Heo Il! Got time now? You’re busy? Even so, can you spare some time to meet me? No, I absolutely need to see you. I need to tell you something.... About what? I can’t tell you on the phone. It’s too horrible. But you can make a bit of money of it. It’s got maximum points for erotic and grotesque! And suspense, it gets a full score for suspense! Something bizarre happened, something that should be satisfy your lust for the grotesque, Mr. Mystery Writer. The Story Of A Man Who Shed Tears As He Ate The Soft, Delicate Fingers Of His Beloved Wife. What about it? More than enough for a great mystery story, I think. Okay? Your starving stomach should’ve started rumbling now. I’m in Myeongchijeong (present: Myeongdong) now, in the coffee shop Pechka. I’m waiting for you, so be here within half an hour. You need to listen to the weird tale I experienced last night. Okay? I’ll tell you the details when you’re here....”
This was all the excited voice of Heo conveyed, after which the phone was hung up, giving me no chance to reply.
To others, it might have appeared like I was being ordered around one-sidedly, but considering how close Heo and I were, I didn’t feel particular offended. Still, I too was all too familiar with the “misfortune” all writers inevitably will experience at least once.
“Misfortune” is perhaps too strong a word and not the best word to describe it, but most of the time, when people come up to me and say: “Hey, I got a great story for one of your books, so buy me a drink,” it’s usually just a love story you’ll hear anywhere, or else something about a murder case. These people seem to think that those stories can be turned into a novel just like that. I always feel sorry for them because they know so little of literature, thinking anything can be turned into a novel, and at the same time, I lament my own misfortune, having been viciously robbed of my own precious time by the low-brow taste of these people.
Heo had been a very serious fan of mystery novels since he was young. No, he was more than just a fan, he had an obsession. Born as the eldest son of a wealthy family, he had managed to graduate from the Law Faculty of a private university in Tōkyō, but he had never taken an active stance to building a career, and being the wealthy young man he was, he simply spent day after another watching films and reading mystery novels from morning till night.
I too had much respect for Heo’s extensive knowledge of mystery novels, but at the same time, I had also always felt frustrated by his stance towards mystery novels.
That was because Heo was not as much interested in normal mystery novels (orthodox mystery novels where a crime is carefully solved by scientific methods) as he was in those crime novels brimming with the erotic and the grotesque.
He always felt dissatisfied with my work. He always told me to put more eroticism in my work, to write about cruel, dark and grotesque cases. So it was no wonder that he preferred the work of, for example, a writer like Baek Ung over my own orthodox work.
There is no real mystery literature scene in Joseon (Korea) yet, with only Baek Ung and me publishing regularly, and the fact that Baek Ung and my writing styles were completely different, attracted the readers.
As I just said, I got my readers thanks to my orthodox works, without any erotic or grotesque elements, but that was different for Baek Ung.
Baek Ung’s works had cruel descriptions that were almost too brutal to read or put the spotlight on the dark and shameless lives of sexual perverted people, and any rate his works were always all about the nihilistic dadaism of his abnormal characters.
Looking at his works like that, the atmosphere of his works was much more artistic, and his works were undeniably much closer to literature compared to my simple crossword puzzle-like stories, even if both of us were writing mystery novels.
I don’t know much of his personal life so I can’t say this for sure, but from what I’ve heard, Baek Ung was living an even gloomier life than the characters in his stories did and there was nobody who knew anything about his past. That he was renting a room on the second floor of a house of some Chinese in Seosomunjeong and that past thirty, he was still single, those were the only things I knew about him.
Anyway, considering how much Heo loved Baek Ung’s work, his telephone call was not enough to tell if I’d be able to use Heo’s tale for my own brand of detective stories, but it was my friend who called, so I had no choice but to go meet him.
I ran out of the newspaper office.
The Writer of the Grotesque Who Gave Up His Brush For A Blade
April was closing in, but winter had left the city a parting gift in the form of a cold wind that blew a chill down my neck.
The interior of the coffee shop just past noon, resembled an aquarium with dozing goldfish devoid of activity. But one person there, Heo, welcomed me with eager eyes.
“Sit down, sit down.” He pulled on the sleeve of my clothes.
“Even now I carefully think about it, I’m certain it was him….”
Even before I had been seated, he had already started dwelling in his own thoughts.
“What happened? Why are you so excited?”
“Wait, wait! But if that’s true, we can’t just leave him out there, right…? Kim, what if--.”
Heo kept muttering to himself in this incomprehensible manner, until he finally looked straight at me, and cried out: “Kim!”
“Look, I have no idea what you’re talking about unless you explain yourself. What’s the matter with you? You’re usually so polite.”
“Kim, I’ve never really talked with him, but you are quite familiar with Baek Ung, right?”
“Baek Ung? Well, I don’t know him that well, but I think I’ve met him about twice now. At a party for some writer’s new release…. But, what’s this about Baek Ung?”
The uncanny feelings Baek Ung raised within me, as well as Heo’s burning gaze pointed straight at me right before my own eyes, gave me a strange sensation.
“I only had a glance at his photograph once, in a newspaper or magazine, but thinking about it carefully, I’m convinced it was Baek Ung. As you know, last night the fog was so thick you could hardly make out a face.”
Heo appeared to be falling in thought again, but suddenly turned his face to me.
“Kim! Doesn’t he have a spot on his left forehead, the size of a coin?” he asked as he grabbed me by my arm.
“Yes! A reddish spot!”
“He has one? You’re sure?”
“That’s what I’m telling you.”
“It was Baek Ung! Baek Ung! I couldn’t see him well through of the thick fog, but I definitely saw that the man had a spot on his forehead! I was sure I had seen the man before… It was Baek Ung! Oh….”
The deep expression of suspicion that had been on Heo’s face, now turned to an expression of terror.
“Heo, tell me! What’s the matter with Baek Ung?”
For a while, it seemed like Heo had not heard my question and stared absentmindedly outside the window, but then he said with lowered voice: “Baek Ung has finally committed a crime. For some time now, every time I read one of his novels, I was convinced that the author would someday act out one of his fantasies in real life. His works were too vivid, and his admiration for evil, his passion for evil was just too strong to pass off as being simply the work of a talented storyteller. Surely you must have felt the same?”
“Yes, I’m not a big fan of his style, but I think it’s true he had a burning admiration for the world he created in his works, or that he had an incredible perverted interest in evil.”
“Yeah, and that’s what makes him a great writer, but a horrible human being. And he has now finally thrown away his pen and taken up the blade! Kim, listen to my tale. It happened last night….”
As he drank his coffee, Heo told me the following tale.
A Strange Man
Heo loves the fog. He especially loves the night fog, and among the many kinds of night fog, he loves the thick fog floating between the skyscrapers, late at night when nobody’s out on the streets.
By the time Heo had left the restaurant in a back alley of Jongno after eating lots of oden, it was almost midnight.
He put up the collar of his rain coat and cutting effortlessly through the white curtain of fog with his drunken body, he passed Gwanghwamuntong (present: Sejongno) and walked towards his home in Sajikdong.
If Heo had not come up with the idea of experiencing the park dressed in its night fog veil, he would have never known about the tale of Baek Ung’s crime he was about to tell me.
The milk-white shine of the electric lights standing here and there in the lonely Sajik Park was as alluring as a siren’s call in his drunken eyes.
He sat down on a bench standing beneath an electric light with a mesmerizing flicker. He could hear the sound of the last train passing the crossroads of Gwanghwamuntong.
The park was quiet. Not even the birds made any sound. On such a fog-clouded night everyone in the world appeared to be lowering their voices as if they were telling each other secrets.
He calmly reveled in his cheap romanticism for a while. It happened just as he stood up from the bench to make his way back home.
He heard the sound of footsteps of a person.
They were coming closer. He saw the curtain of thick fog around his body move ever so slightly.
Heo let his body fall back on the bench once again and look all around him. He couldn’t see a thing.
But the next moment, a black, dull figure covered in the fog appeared before him.
It was a man dressed in a raincoat. His disheveled hair was not covered by a hat and while Heo didn’t see it clearly, it seemed as if the man was holding something white in one of his hands and looking intently at it as he came this way.
He appeared to be eating something.
The man only looked up when he had arrived almost in front of Heo, and that was also when he saw that Heo was sitting there.
He suddenly stopped in his steps. He had probably not noticed that someone had been sitting there. Surprised, he quickly slipped the white object he had in his hand inside his coat pocket and started wiping his mouth with his other hand.
Heo had not failed to notice that before the man had starting wiping his mouth, something blackish-red had been there.
At the time, Heo thought it looked like the color of chocolate. But even after thinking it over, he could not figure out what that white object was.
“Out on a walk?”
The man in the fog had hurriedly walked past the bench, but perhaps feeling that just passing by without saying anything would be rather strange and unnatural, he had turned around and asked the question with a strong, but low voice.
“Yes. But I was enjoying the romantic atmosphere here more than the walk itself,” Heo answered, as he moved on the bench and offered the man a seat.
“I see, I see. Indeed, there’s nothing as stimulating to the imagination than the night fog in the city. I too am a man who enjoys this atmosphere. Oh, how splendid I get to meet a man who shares the same interests at such a place,” said the man, as he let his heavy body fall to the left of Heo.
The fog was so thick, Heo couldn’t not even clearly make out the face of the man sitting right next to him. The face on the other side of the white veil showed signs of intense sorrow and pathos.
“Oof,” the man sighed out. “You live in the neighborhood?”
“Yes, right behind the park.”
The man on the bench remained silent for a while, but then starting talking again.
“You just said you enjoyed the romantic atmosphere, but verily, imagine being together with the woman you love from the depths of your heart on such a night, just the two of you, going off somewhere faraway through this thick fog--how should I describe it-- like they say nowadays, a romantic escapade, a romantic adventure….”
“You are a real romanticist, not?”
“But…sadly enough I have no one to love. I can enjoy my romanticism in my imagination as much as I want, but what will come from that? Even if something happened only once in real life, wouldn’t that have more value than a hundred, a thousand adventures happening only within my imagination?
“But romanticism is precisely romanticism, because it doesn’t happen in real life.”
“Have you ever really loved a woman from the depths of your heart?” he suddenly asked.
“Well, I don’t think….”
“I was once told this story. A man, and a women, he…how shall I call it…what’s the right word? I really hate that word everyone uses lately. Love. It just doesn’t feel real. Yes, I might say he considered her his everything….”
The Hands of the Bewitching Mimi
Heo stared at the man’s face. On the left side of his forehead, was a spot, the size of a coin. The two eyes standing out on a face he could only make out vaguely made him feel uneasy. He looked around forty.
“…This man was nearly forty when for the first time in his life, a woman had made her way in his mind. The woman had just turned 18. She still had downy hair on the nape of her neck and on her forehead, but her soft, smooth and bouncy skin and her coquettish smile that adorned her long face were enough to show she was indeed a grown-up woman capable of attracting the many men in this world.”
The woman’s name was Mimi. The man had first met with Mimi in a shabby bar in the Jueul Hot Springs in Hamgyongdo and from that day on, his passion was all poured into this one woman and he couldn’t even live without seeing Mimi every day.
Mimi in turn also got attached to the man and fell in love with him. The man was a simple office worker, but he treated Mimi as his muse, waiting on her and taking care of her.
“Let’s go the city together.”
“Yes, let’s do that!”
And on a night when the moon shone bright, the hopeful couple left the Jueul Hot Springs for the city.
Moving to the city was easy, but they couldn’t escape their poverty that had followed them there. They rented a room on the second floor of the house of some Chinese in Seosomunjeong and carefully spending the little money they had left, one month passed, two, three…….
The man finally got to know that besides her well-developed body for someone of her age, Mimi had nothing much to offer as a woman. He was the one who made rice for Mimi. He repaired Mimi’s socks and washed her undergarments. Mimi became more demanding. She started to look at him with a cruel smile, as she looked at him, a man of almost forty happily washing her undergarments, without any complaints. Was he really a man?
But the man was happy. He was almost forty, but it was for the first time he experienced true happiness.
He told himself that there was a reason why he cooked rice for Mimi, or why he washed her socks. It was because of all of Mimi’s body, he was the fondest of Mimi’s hands. Mimi’s hands were truly beautiful. White, slender fingers as delicate as a writing brush! Even if someone had offered him everything in the world in exchange for Mimi’s hands, he would have said no. Mimi’s hands had only one purpose. Mimi’s hands only existed to love me.
As Mimi’s hands become more and more idle, they became more beautiful. It was as if red roses were dancing on the back of her hands.
“Mimi, why are your hands so lovely?” he would ask Mimi, and she would answer: “It’s because they’re here to love you. I’ve been polishing these hands for you even since I was inside my mother!”
“Alright, don’t use your hands for anything else then. My hands will help you put on your clothes, and also take them off….”
“Okay, now feed me!”
However, the more you spoil a woman, the more conceited she will become. Mimi started to look down on the man. And as Mimi was a very impulsive woman, she come up with an horrible scheme.
No, it wasn’t only because Mimi had started to look down at the man. It was also true that the stale, loving touch of a man of almost forty was not enough for a young girl of 18. That was the first and main reason.
Anyway, Mimi finally executed her horrible scheme.
The Crime of the Mystery Writer
Mimi said she would go look for work, so lately she would leave early in the morning and only come back late at night. Work to her was being a waitress in a coffee shop, a cafeteria or perhaps a bar.
“Ooh, I’m so tired. To imagine it’s this hard just to get some food on the table….”
Mimi would return late at night with a dead-tired body, and without any energy left to get undressed, just fall on the bed next to the man, and sleep like the dead until noon the following day.
The man really felt sorry for her. He’d help Mimi get undressed as she was lying there.
“Mimi, I’ll go out tomorrow and pull some carriage carts for work or something, so you stay at home to rest.”
The man whispered these words in Mimi’s ears. He had thought Mimi had fallen asleep, but she replied: “No, you love me so much, I want to make some money so I can feed you.” She smiled and tears fell from his eyes.
From that day on, it would be the man who would leave Mimi at home and wander the city in search of work. This time, it would be Mimi who’d be the one who felt sorry for the man when he came home late at night.
One day, the man saw Mimi, whom he thought he had left at home, on the crossroads of Jongno. She was walking side-by-side on the pavement with a young man in a smart, double-breasted suit, like two lovers!
The contours of the man’s mouth became distorted.
‘Mimi, Mimi’s walking with another man…?’
The following moment, he recognized the man with whom Mimi was walking, and he felt something pierce his chest. Even before he felt the emotion of jealousy inside him, he felt surprised at how foolish he had been.
“It’s the barber!”
Yes. The young man was the owner of the barber shop they looked down at from the second-floor room they were renting from the Chinese.
Mimi and the young man entered a back alley of Jongno. The man followed them. By the time the two had entered the gate beneath the sign “Daily Guest House” together, he had already run out to the main street without looking back.
Mimi told him she was looking for work! It was the perfect excuse. Mimi coming back late at home dragging her own body like it was dead. Hadn’t she told him with a smile: “I want to make some money so I can feed you!”? That night, he too returned late at night. He was too afraid to come back home earlier than Mimi.
“Did you find any work?”
Mimi’s hands grasped his own, which were all pale.
“Do you really think it’s that easy to find work?”
That night, the man let his tears flow while lying inside their futon, gently caressing Mimi’s hands, the hands he wouldn’t never want to give up for anything. Exhausted, Mimi had already fallen asleep.
“He could see the fog outside the window was thick that night, almost like rain, just like tonight. After caressing Mimi’s hands in the futon for a while, the man stood up and lit a light. He sat down on a seat and stared at Mimi’s wrists….”
Having told his tale up to this point, the man in the fog put his hand in the pocket of his raincoat and started to stroke something there.
It was already very late at night.
Heo took another good look at the man. He appeared to have been crying. But also laughing. He had a difficult expression, impossible of to say if he had been crying or laughing.
“The man thus had stared at Mimi’s hands for an hour in silence, but suddenly, he cried out: ‘These hands! These hands to another man…!’ and jumped up like a madman, took up the cooking knife which had been placed in a corner of the room with the other tableware and cut off the right hand of Mimi which had been lying on the floor.”
“What? Her hand…?”
“Mimi’s body shuddered, like a living fish with its tail cut off! The man ran out on the street with loud, mad steps. By the time he had reached the crossroad of Taepyeongtong in his flight through the fog, Mimi was probably still flopping around like a mermaid, in that gloomy room on the second floor of that Chinese’s house.”
“And what happened then? What happened to Mimi and to the man…?”
An indescribable, nasty feeling, had taken over Heo’s whole being.
“…The man had ran away, so of course he doesn’t know what happened to Mimi after that. But the man had run all the way to the city office and only then did he notice he had something strange in the pocket of his raincoat. Something not light, but not that heavy either, had been prodding in his belly every time he took a step. He suddenly stopped, and slipped his hand into his pocket. It was the hand! It was Mimi's cut-off hand!”
“Her hand!” Heo cried out in surprise.
“Yes. It was Mimi’s hand, delicate as a writing brush. Just this single action alone, showed how much he loved Mimi’s hands…. The man had unconsciously put the cut-off hand inside his own pocket. The man started to wander aimlessly through the fog as he stared at the still-bleeding hand with a madman’s expression, going here and there, here and there. And he…….”
At that moment, Heo took a deep breath and jumped up from the bench. This man, this is the man who cut Mimi’s hand off!
Didn’t this man just come walking here while staring at something white? Yes! Thinking about it, that was definitely a person’s hand! And not a man’s hand, but a white hand like that of a woman!
The man grabbed Heo, who had stood up, by his sleeve and said with a resounding voice: “Please listen to my tale a little more. That man, he wandered through the fog like a sleepwalker and with loving care, he started to suck, little by little, the blood flowing out of Mimi’s hand!”
“Let me go! My sleeve…”
Heo remembered that some dark-red substance had been sticking to the man’s mouth just now.
“Let my sleeve go! Now!”
“…I started to think how I could preserve Mimi’s precious hand forever, her hand which I wouldn’t want to exchange for anything in the world. If I just leave it like this, it will decay, but I don’t want to preserve it in alcohol either…No, Mimi’s hand is my life. I will eat it, biting her fingers off one by one and eat them, and they will become mine forever…”
“Aaah! Let go of me!”
“You, take a look at this!”
Having said that, the man took out the woman’s thumb-less hand from his pocket, but by then Heo had already dashed towards the exit of the park.
The True Colors of the Writer of the Grotesque
Heo had only just finished his tale, when I cried out: “Baek Ung! Baek Ung…!”
Heo drank his coffee in one go.
“I haven’t asked you yet, but do you know where Baek Ung lives?”
“He’s on the second floor of some Chinese’s house in Seosomunjeong…. But I heard he was still single….”
“But you never know, right? Whether he had a relation with some woman some time somewhere…”
“Okay, what about paying Baek Ung a visit then?”
“Ooh, let’s do that!”
“But it happened last night, so shouldn’t it already be reported to the police or some newspaper? Don’t you think that’s strange?”
“True, but if Mimi has not reported it to the police, how could they know? Who can even guess how Mimi feels about what happened?”
We left the coffee shop Pechka and with feelings of excitement, indignation and fear, Heo and I made our way to the stop in Myeongchijeong.
“Kim! Over there, over there….”
Heo suddenly grabbed my arm and pointed towards the back of a man who was crossing the railroad.
“Ah, it’s Baek Ung,” I cried out, upon which Heo asked: “You are sure that’s Baek Ung?”
“Yes, I’m sure that’s Baek Ung!”
“Then the man I saw yesterday was really Baek Ung!”
Baek Ung, dressed in a raincoat and not wearing a hat, appeared to be in deep thought. He was looking down at his feet with lowered shoulders as he walked in front of Joseon Hotel.
Heo and I followed him closely. Baek Ung took something white from the pocket of his raincoat, stared at it intently for a while and put it back again.
“That’s a hand!”
“Yes, it’s a human hand!”
Heo and I once again cried out. Baek Ung had not eaten all of Mimi’s hand yet.
Baek Ung then walked away from Taepyeongtong’s crossroad, towards the Chinatown in Seosomunjeong. Passing the pitch-dark roads, Baek Ung’s figure finally disappeared into a large building on the right.
“Is that his home!?”
However, when we came closer to the building Baek Ung had disappeared into, we saw it was not a house of some Chinese, but the Taepyeong Building.
“Oh, I know this! Isn’t that magazine publisher, the New World Corporation, inside this building?”
“You’re right, that’s this place!”
“Baek Ung is one of the regular writers of The New World, right? He’s probably visiting them.”
Shortly after, Heo and I opened the door of the New World Corporation on the third floor and entered. He was there! Sitting opposite editor-in-chief Hong was definitely the mystery writer Baek Ung.
“Oh, we have a rare meeting of two men here. I can’t even say how honored I am to have both Mr. Baek Ung, leader of the grotesque, and Mr. Kim XX, boss of the orthodox, gathered here at our New World Corporation.”
We couldn’t laugh at the jokes of that optimist Hong.
Baek Ung however smiled and said: “Mr. Kim, it’s been a while. Please have a seat.” Baek Ung offered me a seat.
“Hey, Mr. Kim, why are you looking so grim, like a great detective ready to catch a crook?” Hong said to me and then faced Heo, who was standing next to me. “Please sit down.”
It was then that for the first time Baek Ung lay his eyes on Heo. The gazes of both men crashed into each other mid-air.
“Ah! You’re the man of last night, in Sajik Park…,” said Baek Ung, who then started to smirk.
“Last night, you…Mimi…Mimi’s hand…” Heo’s voice trembled.
“Hahahahaha, right, that’s right…. Please forgive me, that was simply a story I made up. The atmosphere in the park was so mysterious, I just….”
“What? A story you made up…?”
“Please forgive me. I appear to have surprised you very much….”
Heo’s eyes were fixed on Baek Ung’s face.
“So that long, long story was all just made-up?”
“Yes. The atmosphere was just so romantic, so….”
“But that hand…?”
“What’s the hand in your pocket then…?”
Baek Ung offered Heo a seat and said: “Anyway, sit down. To be honest, this hand, you see…”
“What are you talking about? What is that about a hand?” Hong asked surprised, knowing nothing about what happened.
“Pfft, what this hand didn’t cause…. Behold, this is Mimi’s hand,” said Baek Ung, and he took out a woman’s hand from his pocket.
“But that’s the hand of a mannequin!”
It was the hand of a mannequin, missing its thumb.
The tensed-up face of Heo finally relaxed. I probably did the same.
“No, no way….”
Baek Ung interrupted Heo’s muttering.
“Hong, this is all your fault! All your fault! You came to my room so often the door almost fell off, asking me for your manuscript and saying today was the very last day for the deadline. So I had to write a manuscript of a hundred pages last night.”
“Oh, this sounds like an interesting story about the creative process.” Editor Hong’s eyes sparkled.
“But by the afternoon yesterday, I was still crying out I had no ideas, but to my fortune, the fog came then, and figuring some good idea might pop up then, I went out into town. I picked up this mannequin’s hand next to the garbage dump in the alley behind Hwasin Department Store on Jongno. The first time I saw it, I too thought it was the hand of a real person. So I took the hand with me, thinking it might give me a good idea for a story, and so I wandered around, until I passed by Sajik Park. I’m really sorry, I really am….”
The perplexed expression on Heo’s face turned into a sour one, and he clicked his tongue.
“But what was it you were eating then?”
“Oh, that was chocolate. I’m like a child when it comes to chocolate. Hahahahaha!”
“I don’t even know what to say anymore.”
“And as I was sitting there next to you on that bench, that story just came up to me. Thanks to my talk with you, I had no trouble at all with writing my story, but I seem to have surprised you greatly…. This is the manuscirpt I wrote after returning back home.”
Baek Ung took a bunch of papers from his pocket. The title said The Fog Devil.
“The Fog Devil! That’s a great title. A devil hiding in the fog!” With a slight sarcastic tone, I praised Baek Ung, but then Baek Ung explained:
“As the writer, I actually intended the title to have the meaning of the fog being like the devil, it being devilishly deceiving…. This story only came to be because I took the hand of a mannequin to be the hand of a woman called Mimi….”