It just looked like a nice place to rest.
I came across the site while I was toiling through thick undergrowth on the side of a nameless Korean mountain. There was no gravestone to identify the person buried beneath and I barely thought about it as a grave as I threw my pack down and stretched my sore muscles.
Fatigue and a soothing bed of springy grass made me drowsy and my eyes closed on their own. All I could feel was the cool firmness of the grave under my back and the warm sun on my face.
Suddenly, it was night and I was standing in a village of houses with thatched roofs. Over the low, outer wall of the nearest house, I could see the door open and a woman was holding a newborn baby. It was crying and its face shone red in the lamplight.
The scene changed and I now saw a boy standing by the street, watching Japanese soldiers march into town. The boy was now in school, learning Japanese, whispering in Korean with his friends, and being beaten for it when he was caught.
The scenes began to move faster and faster. The boy was now a man, wearing the uniform of the South. I saw his name tag: Hong Deok-Jin. I saw him guarding a harbor, sneaking off to see his family, being caught and reprimanded, then sent to a small island as punishment. I saw him leading the counterattack against North Korean boats, then being rewarded for it.
The war was now over and the man lived in a small house with his growing family, his war medal tacked to the wall of the kitchen. I saw one fishing boat sink under him; watched him work with friends, saving money for years to buy another boat. I watched as one son and a daughter died and three more got married and set grandchildren on the man’s knees. The man’s wife finally passed on and I saw the man make his way painfully to the beach each morning to look out over the water, sitting on a rock with his wrinkled hands on his knees, looking and thinking.
Finally, I saw the procession of children and grandchildren carrying his body up the mountain slope to the grave. The family was too poor for a granite gravestone, but I saw them laboriously carry stones up the slope to build the wall around the site. Each year, family members would come to clean and maintain the grave, but then they stopped coming and the trees and undergrowth began to encroach upon the protecting walls.
I woke up with a start. Several hours had passed and the air had gotten chilly. I jumped up, suddenly apologetic about my careless use of another human being’s resting place. I was far behind schedule and needed to move on, but I couldn’t go right away. First, I cut a thick piece of wood and laid it on the grave for the next person who would come across the grave. On it, I carved in English and Korean:
Here lies Hong Deok-Jin. He once lived.
April 28th, 2013 at 3:15 pm
Reblogged this on Zany Epigram.
April 28th, 2013 at 6:20 pm
Enjoyed this, David. Thank you – Eric 🙂
April 28th, 2013 at 7:09 pm
Great fiction and narrative style. The intensity of your writing style does make it come alive. You surely have great potential.
April 28th, 2013 at 8:18 pm
Thank you. I appreciate you comment.
April 28th, 2013 at 9:48 pm
To me it looks like it should be in a Japanese horror movie, like The Grudge or The Ring. It could be called The Grave. But maybe I watch too many Japanese horror movies.
April 28th, 2013 at 11:32 pm
I was thinking of going that way, making it a horror piece. I’ve got a few dark ones in the works though.
April 28th, 2013 at 11:45 pm
April 29th, 2013 at 1:08 am
I loved this story, David. I can see it all through my eyes, too. If this story too, is fiction, it is told as if real, and a real Hong Deok-Jin lived.
April 29th, 2013 at 11:38 am
It is fiction, but it’s probably very close to the lives of a lot of people that were born just after the turn of the century. This country has seen more changes in the 20th century than even the West, starting out as a kingdom, then going to Japanese rule, then the Korean war, then various dictators, until they arrived at the modern state they are now.
April 30th, 2013 at 12:12 am
Thanks for the information. It is very interesting to learn the history and culture of the Asian countries and others in the region.
April 29th, 2013 at 9:17 am
You certainly take the reader on some interesting travels (and I don’t mean physical)…!
A great read, David. I understood this man, and was grateful for the respect shown to him in your last paragraph… 😉
April 29th, 2013 at 11:30 am
Thank you. I am fascinated by the lives of common people that don’t show up in history books. There are so many interesting stories that are totally lost to history.
April 30th, 2013 at 5:17 am
Wow this is very powerful. I enjoyed how you increased and decreased the pace in line with Hong Deok-Jin’s activities. This is ever so good and thought provoking.
April 30th, 2013 at 10:26 am
The traveller rests on the grave and he could see the whole life of the man lying underneath.. This is really very imaginative. Also, interesting as the readers are taken through various stages of his life. He has lived a fairly good life and the traveller’s respect and tribute concludes it.
April 30th, 2013 at 1:28 pm
I thought your story was great. 🙂
April 30th, 2013 at 7:50 pm
April 30th, 2013 at 2:54 pm
It gives that connection between the past and the present. It is, in fact, a great story that crosses borders.
April 30th, 2013 at 7:50 pm
Thanks, man. 🙂
May 2nd, 2013 at 3:12 pm
fabulous story david. simply fabulous.
May 10th, 2013 at 9:07 pm
have rewritten your story in my words in seven sentences and you have missed it! boo!!!!
May 11th, 2013 at 9:55 am
I did? I’ve been really busy, so it wasn’t intentional. I’ll go catch up right now. Trust me, I don’t want to miss any of your stuff. 🙂