Dead Man Switch Chapter 1.1 - The Worst Christmas
1. The Worst Christmas
I hit the enter key with all my anger and annoyance. After the period in the last sentence, the blinking cursor went down one line. Finally, I checked if I had written my student number and name correctly, and clicked the save button.
<Final report_modified_final_2nd_edition_it’s really final this time_the last one_the real final_please_why did I write this?tlqkf.hwp>
It was a spectacle. The long file title contained my screams for three days. The title, which previously looked as though it was galloped over by four-legged limbs, has been neatly rewritten.
<Year20□□_2ndSemester_Management Strategy Theory_20□□019653_Jeong Ho-hyeon.hwp>
I mechanically entered my email address with my fingers, inserted the attachment, and hit the send button. I couldn’t even remember what it was written about. At least it’s the obvious list of soulless phrases like Dear Professor, Are you staying healthy in the chilly weather? blah blah blah.
I fell down on the bed with a final groan. The ceiling had turned black, repeating darkening and brightening.
It was three days. It was the third day. I couldn’t sleep and held onto my laptop while writing this terrible final report. At a time when others finished their exams and assignments early and went out to play, saying it was an end-of-semester party or a trip, I had to be stuck in my room, unable to leave.
As Christmas soon approached, a large wreath was hung over the glass door of the dormitory. Every time I passed in front of it, I was overwhelmed by the urge to throw it to the floor, trample on it, and set it on fire.
My roommate ended his classes about a week before me, and to celebrate Christmas, he packed his luggage and disappeared at the speed of light, announcing that he decided to go to a pension with his girlfriend. The back of his was very excited and looked so relaxed that inflamed my anger even more.
The infamous major exams came and went in a stampede. While the final report of the major, which had been delayed because it had been pushed out, remained. The remaining deadline was three days, and the amount to be squeezed was 50 pages.
I took a deep breath and went to the convenience store on the first floor of the dormitory. I was determined as a general attacking the enemy camp alone.
After picking up energy drinks, bottled coffee, and gum to prevent drowsiness one by one, I soon ran out of hands, so I called a part-time worker and asked her to take out the entire box. I could see the expression of the part-time student who looked at me like a monster at that time.
Memories after that were not clear. I turned off my cell phone and threw it away, locked the door, drew the blackout curtains, and frantically wrote a report while wearing earplugs in a room where I couldn’t tell whether it was day or night.
I put a whole point on the last sentence, hit the control key and the E key habitually, and looked at the clock at the bottom of the computer monitor with wide eyes: the submission deadline was just 10 minutes away.
It’s finally over. As soon as I pressed the report submission button, my semester ended. Scores and everything, the fact that it was over was the only thing that mattered now.
“It feels as if my life span has decreased by three years in three days…….”
I mumbled in a hoarse voice and groped for a blanket to cover myself with. The drowsiness that had been suppressed through all sorts of expedients had come back. It felt like I would be able to get a good night’s sleep even if World War III was going on outside and nuclear bombs were dropped.
My stomach ached because I only poured caffeine and taurine on an empty stomach. But more than that, I was sleepy. I closed my eyes, ignoring my cell phone, which had been charred dead from discharge.
No one can stop me now. Even if the world were to end right now, I would sleep soundly. Even if I die, I will die in my sleep. Goodbye everyone!
I am casting off all the shackles and chains of this world and setting out to find my own happiness. I hope you all find happiness as well!
I closed my eyes, muttering nonsense to myself that I couldn’t tell whether it was sleep talk or not. Red and blue swirled over my closed eyes. As if fainting, my consciousness fell into darkness.
* * *
I opened my eyes. It was as stiff as if glue had been put on my eyelids. I tossed and turned with a growl. The cell phone that had been placed by my bedside reached my fingertips. The phone was connected to a charger. I slept soundly for a long time, woke up briefly, and repeated his sleep over and over again.
I yawned and stretched. How much did I sleep? One day? Two days? I woke up a few short times in the middle, but I was certain that I slept for an incredibly long time anyway. I said these because my body, which had been suffering from extreme fatigue, had become lighter.
I walked into the bathroom and took a hot shower. The school dormitory has very poor soundproofing, so you can hear the sound of water washing in the next room.
Even if there was someone using hot water on the same line, only lukewarm water came out. But now, perhaps because it was vacation time, the place was as quiet as a rat. Hot water also came out profusely.
Enjoying the peace, I finished the shower and came out with a towel over my head. While I was sleeping, I lowered the temperature of the boiler, which was running fast, and changed into a new pair of dry clothes. I felt like living a bit now.
On the screen of the phone, which was not turned on, there was a clear indication that the battery charge was complete. I brushed my hair with a towel and hit the power button. The logos of manufacturers and carriers appeared one after another, and a familiar background appeared.
Looking at the screen that appeared a moment later, I frowned. The number, which had been blurry after not waking up, became clearer.
There was a pile of missed calls and messages. It wasn’t strange that the messages piled up like a mountain after I went diving with my cell phone off for several days. But why did the missed phone calls come in three digits?
Most of the calls were from my family members. Mother, father, younger sister. Three names took turns filling the missed calls list.
Maybe to comfort their poor son who was stuck in mountain valley school during Christmas……? No way. Maybe the rest of my family were mistaken that I’m missing because I haven’t been in touch for too long. I told them in advance that I was busy and couldn’t go home.
I need to call my parents and reassure them. Your son didn’t die and he’s alive and well, he almost died while doing his homework, but he’s still breathing, so hold on to his worries.
– Because the connection is not established, it is automatically connected to the voicemail after the beep sound… … .
However, only mechanical announcements came from beyond the receiver. I called my mother and father in turn. I didn’t get both of them. Next, I called my sister. It was the same this time too.
Not one person, but three people at the same time can’t talk? Did the entire family, except me, go on an overseas trip at the end of the year? No, if they went abroad, there would have been a comment saying that the power was turned off or connected to overseas roaming.
I became wide awake. I ran through my dry hair and entered the Messenger app. Numerous notifications greeted me. Numbers indicating that there are unread messages came to the screen incessantly. In the meantime, the message at the top caught my eye.
[You must call mom if you see this, okay?]
[My son. I love you.]
[Oppa, are you alright? You’re really okay, right?]
My head was blank for a moment. My heart sank with a thud.
I scrolled down and checked other messages as well. From my colleagues, from my seniors, from other acquaintances. Everyone was asking for their regards in a desperate and urgent tone. The last message was about half a day ago. Since then, there has been no contact as if everyone had planned it.
[X] [Mother, It’s me, Ho-hyeon.]
[X] [What’s going on?]
For each message I sent, an X appeared indicating that there was no network connection. My eyes went to the bar at the top of the screen. Wi-Fi, phone signals, and all of them had their gauges on the floor.
Although our school is in a mountain valley, it’s not so remote that you can’t even call. The school Wi-Fi works great too.
After trying to send messages several times, changing the other party, I jumped up. Something was odd. I shoved my cell phone into my pants pocket and put my foot through my shoe. The tightly closed door was opened in a matter of days.
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