n his break, Kijeong brought four books with him to give to Jiwoo.
The books all contained material that was beneficial to his job.

After spending his time productively, his shift was already over.
He couldn’t believe how fast time flew.

Then one evening, the store was swamped with customers.
Jiwoo thought he finally had some leisure time once the busy hours died down, when he got a call from Yongha.

“Hey, we haven’t met up for a long time.” Yongha said out of nowhere.

“It’s not that big of a deal?”

Jiwoo immediately changed his response after saying that.

“Yongha, can you stop by my house briefly today? I’m getting off work soon too.”

“Alright.
I’ll head there first.
You didn’t change the password, did you?

“Yeah.
It’s the same so come on over.
I’d be more grateful if you go and clean the house, cook dinner, and do my laundry too.”

“In your dreams.”

Jiwoo was curious if Yongha would also feel strange or get headaches if he passed by the water dispenser.
He told his friend several times that he experienced dizziness while he was at home, but he didn’t specifically say the symptoms manifested when he walked past the dispenser.
Therefore, he thought of using Yongha as a test subject to experiment on.

As Jiwoo was heading back, he received a call from his friend again who updated him on his arrival.
He picked up his pace anticipating he might finally be able to solve the mysteries of his house.

The moment he opened the front door, Jiwoo made eye contact with Yongha.
He was standing in front of his dispenser, drinking a cup of water, staring back at him absentmindedly.

“Oh, you’re back?” Yongha said.

Jiwoo didn’t even need to ask if Yongha felt anything off.
His expression couldn’t have been any more relaxed.
Jiwoo put down his bag and studied the other’s expression.
His friend went around the living room and kitchen to find something to munch on.
His expression didn’t change despite passing by the dispenser.

“How can there be nothing to eat? You should’ve told me earlier to buy something beforehand, I’m starving here.” Yongha nagged at him as he opened his fridge and looked inside.

“Hey.
Do you feel anything?” Jiwoo asked.

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“What? I just said I was hungry.”

“No, I didn’t mean hunger.
Like dizziness or…”

“Huh? Oh.
Come to think of it, you did mention that before, didn’t you? I completely forgot.
I don’t really feel anything though?”

“Really? That’s weird.
Is it just me?”

Jiwoo tilted his head and approached the dispenser.
After seeing his friend remain completely unaffected, he began to have groundless expectations that he too would be fine.
As soon as he got near it, his body shrank back from fright and fear.

Yongha was surprised by Jiwoo’s reaction and stood by his side.

“Is it here? If you try to come here, you end up this way?” Yongha asked, pointing to the water dispenser.

Jiwoo was in no state to give a reply so he nodded instead.

“What kind of feeling is it?” Yongha asked.

Jiwoo shook his head without answering the question.
It felt different from before.
His heart was beating madly.
It was as if he had encountered something terrifying; it was difficult for him to breathe properly.

“Are you…okay?”

Yongha saw Jiwoo’s expression had changed.

“Jiwoo, do you want to go to the hospital?”

“No, not that.
It’s not to that extent.”

Jiwoo went to sit down on a sofa, his heart was racing intensely.

After Yongha saw his reaction, he began to test his curiosity by provoking him.
Jiwoo saw Yongha’s feet creep toward the dispenser.
His friend covered his face with both hands and turned his head to the opposite side.
As he did that, he inched forward little by little.
Eventually, Yongha’s legs were stretched right in front of the dispenser, but he was completely fine.
Except for the tense anticipation expecting something to happen, nothing else changed.

Jiwoo stared at Yongha with a blank face.
Yongha also returned that stare.

“You.” Yongha began, eyeing Jiwoo suspiciously.

“You’re not playing with me, are you?”

Jiwoo could understand why his friend might think that, but he shook his head.
He never wanted to get close to the water dispenser ever again.

“What if I die at this rate? I didn’t feel anything at first.
But then on top of feeling dizzy, I felt nauseous too.
This time, my heart almost stopped beating.” Jiwoo explained.

Yongha wanted to show there was nothing wrong with it by acting a little bolder.
He poured a cup of water from the dispenser, he touched it, and then stood right in front of it.
Whatever force that was bothering Jiwoo, it was certain, Yongha was unaffected by it.

“But still, you should call a shaman if it’s this weird.” Yongha suggested.

It wasn’t an idea he didn’t think of before, but Jiwoo didn’t have the time or the money.

“I’ll come over and clean it sometimes.
I thought about it but you can’t go near the dispenser.
At this rate, dust will pile up and spread all throughout the house.
This could be a more serious problem than you think.
Imagine if the radius of which you can’t walk through increases.” Yongha said with a quite grave tone.

“Do I have to move somewhere else?” Jiwoo asked.

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“Don’t you think you need to? How long do you plan to avoid it and live like this?”

Jiwoo stared down at the area in front of the dispenser.
He still had no clues as to what was going on.

There was only one certain fact.
His situation was getting worse as the symptoms and its effects on him were severe.

***

Jiwoo was filling his stomach with food left over from the convenience store while reading the book Kijeong gave to him.
He then received a Kakaotalk message from Yongha.

When he checked the picture sent to him, it was his living room.
The furniture had been rearranged.

He was about to text, “What is this” but a call from his friend followed immediately.

“Did you see the image?”

“Yeah.
What did you do? Were you at my house just now?”

“Yep.
I must be a genius.”

“Why do you come up with such useless ideas?”

“Think about it.
The dispenser is a necessity for you, yet you can’t go near it.
That’s why I made it so the two of you can cross paths.”

Jiwoo laughed nonsensically because all this talk about the water dispenser sounded as if they were talking about a woman named Jung Soogi.

“I’m going to move Lim’s trash over there.
They take up space anyway.
We’ll just put them aside with the stuff you don’t use.”

“Yeah.
That’s a good idea.”

“I think more space will open up if I take out the refrigerator, but I can’t do it alone.
For now, I moved the dispenser.
I’ll move the fridge on the weekend.
I talked to my friend and they said they’ll come to help.
Buy us jajangmyeon.”

“Alright.
I never thought about doing that before.”

“Even if you did come up with it, you wouldn’t be able to move the dispenser.
You said your heart would stop if you went in front of it.
The idea just occurred to me, so I got started on it right away.”

“Well, aren’t you quite motivated and smart?”

“Right? I really must be a genius.”

“A customer is coming.
Let’s talk later.
Thank you for moving it.”

“Okay.
Good luck with work.”

Jiwoo hung up the phone.
As he did so, he smiled to himself thinking he should’ve came up with the idea earlier.

 

카톡 / Kakaotalk: A Korean messenger app.

정수기 / Water dispenser: Pronounced Jung Soo-Gi.
The joke here is that the water dispenser in Korean sounds like a woman’s name.

짜장면 / Jajangmyeon: A Korean-Chinese noodle dish with black bean sauce.

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