jongin leaps, and slowly (but surely) falls apart
written for aideshou 's second challenge! prompt used: both
i fear, i fear, 'twill prove a giddy world
The world looks different, infinitely different, when it is tilted, when the buildings reach towards left rather than to the sky. There’s something about seeing the world like this, unbalanced, off-center, that causes Jongin to be just a little insane. It is the way that everything once upright is now not, and that the world itself seems to be sliding away, yet remain as a solid piece of mass, of reality.
Jongin doesn’t see this every day, he only catches glimpses of recline when he is falling through air, the wind a constant pressure against his body. The rush of exhilaration, of blood and adrenaline running through his veins, thumping in his heart, fogging up his brain, is one that he has yet to get sick of.
It is an addiction, a reliance, has been since the first time he stepped off that first building, a tiny skyscraper amidst countless other tall ones; insignificant. It has been life from the first foot dangled in mid-air to the fear that overtook everything when both feet are carried only by the wind and flat land becomes a threat rather than safety. Fear has long not made an appearance in his indulgence.
Instead, he is captured in a whirlwind of vivacity and an almost unnoticeable breath of diffidence. Sometimes, just sometimes, he brushes against the veil that separates life and death a little too much, but he has never let himself drop on to the concrete ground in a mess of mangled flesh and broken bones.
The first time he had Leapt, Jongin had travelled.
The second time he had Leapt, Jongin’s mind had started its process of erosion from the society’s norm of obeying the government without questions.
The nth time he had Leapt, all Jongin wants is to get out.
It is a cry for freedom, an almost animalistic, feral desire to have control, a poison that infiltrates your every pore that later nests itself in the very core of your heart.
Everyone is born with a power on Earth. To be brought into the world without the ability to start fire or even move objects with just mere thoughts is a disability. The government calls it evolution, a step towards superiority and domination, of the ability to shed the dependency people have on Mother Nature. Jongin thinks it is a mutation, an abomination.
The government has sole control. The government dictates the laws and rules and regulations. The government picks up people like they are mere chess pieces and puts them into the positions that they think best suit (their) the people’s interests. The government even has the right to terminate anyone who is deemed as too dangerous.
Life is a game of draw the straw. Sometimes, you draw the short end. Unfortunately, life only gives you one choice (it even makes the decision for you), and you have to live with the consequences of causes that are entirely out of your control.
Jongin has a neighbour, a slender boy with the highest of cheekbones. He has the ability to form electricity from nothing, and he is going to spend the rest of his working life underground, in caves, as he fuels the city lights, even as sweat slicks on his skin and dirt traces itself across his cheeks. He comes home every night; shoulders slumped in resignation, and leave the house every morning with the same invisible pressure pressing against his shoulders.
(He will die alone, even as electricity crackles from his wrinkled fingertips and chokes itself around his neck.)
Power begets responsibility, Jongin’s great-grandmother had told him when he was young, wrinkled hand carding through his hair. She had been from the previous generation, the one where powers didn’t exist and the concept of anyone having these supernatural abilities was a wonder.
You have a responsibility to yourself to always use your powers for the better good, no matter how overshadowed this good might be, she says, and Jongin’s subconscious had filed these words away.
“Again,” Kyungsoo says as Jongin slips through the front door, and it is not a question, it is an unyielding statement that gives a painful lilt to Kyungsoo’s voice, one that grinds against Jongin’s bones like disapproval.
Jongin doesn’t bother to grace him with a reply, refuses to deviate from The Scenario.
This is what should (and has always) happen – Kyungsoo will be angry for a while before he lapses into worry, and Jongin will massage his shoulders with skilled hands. Kyungsoo will tell him off, gently, and Jongin will nuzzle his face against the former’s neck and kiss it. Kyungsoo will try his best not to smile but fail, and they will share a lazy, languid kiss before reverting back to normal.
Except this time, Kyungsoo shrugs away when Jongin’s hands find the soft skin of the base of his neck, and Jongin recoils physically.
“No more, Jongin. You can’t do it anymore,” Kyungsoo says, enunciating his point with a slam against the table as the jabs towards the leaflet he has left there. Worry laces every word he says. Jongin picks it up.
It is an announcement for “A Nationwide Shut Down of the Immoral Act of Unmanned Sky Diving”. Jongin’s blood freezes with every word that he reads.
“They can’t do this.”
Kyungsoo replies that with an immediate laughter, “you know they can. They can do anything, Jongin. They have power.”
“We have powers too, why isn’t anyone stopping this.”
“You can teleport, Jongin. I can split the earth. They have people that can manipulate the actions of people, people who can stop time.” And that really is it, isn’t it, they are strong, but not strong enough, not against people who can crush them as if they were mere ants. “It’s just a hobby, Jongin, you can find something else.”
Jongin’s fingers press into the piece of paper, and it soon ends up as a crumbled mess in his palm. He throws it against the wall, and it bounces harmlessly against it.
Jongin had tried bringing Kyungsoo Leaping with him before, and he had succeeded in dragging the latter right to a rooftop, a tall skyscraper in the very heart of the city.
He had almost gotten the other to agree to Leap with him, hands clinging to each other, grip deathly tight but insanely secure.
Jongin has one foot in the air, and the only at the edge. The familiar thrill has started to bubble its way up to his heart, and he is about to –
“I can’t. I can’t do this,” and Kyungsoo tugs him back so he’s not over the ledge but behind it, “I’m sorry, I can’t.”
Kyungsoo is shaking, trembles underneath is skin like fault lines.
“Okay, we won’t do it then,” Jongin had replied.
Subsequently, when they hold hands, their grips aren’t as tight as they used to be.
Kyungsoo, in Jongin’s opinion, has always been too grounded and rooted in law and order, too in tune with his seemingly inherent desire to belong, and while it had been what had drawn Jongin towards Kyungsoo in the first place, like a moth towards a flame, it is the very same thing that is going to possibly raze their relationship to the ground.
They had met when Jongin was standing on the edge of the rooftop of the building that Kyungsoo had been working in. Jongin already had a foot in mid-air when Kyungsoo pushes pass the heavy metal door, and the loud sound of metal against metal had cause Jongin to trip and fall.
Jongin had regained his composure mid-leap, even as he hears someone shout for help from the top of the building. He looks towards the top of the building this time, and the man’s eyes are glued on him, and for a moment, Jongin feels himself fall in a different way, before the sudden heat and rush of air reminds him to teleport back up to the rooftop.
There are hands on him, fingertips sliding down his bare arms before smoothing down the front of his shirt, searching. Jongin is too amused to push the nervous touch away.
“You’re alive,” the voice says, disbelief lacing every word.
“I can teleport,” Jongin replies. The man blinks at him as realization floods him.
“I’m sorry; I thought you were committing suicide. I thought you succeeded, I –”
“Hello, my name is Jongin.”
Powers are an external reflection of one’s personality. There are groups of people who believe that the emergence of power had arose as a physical extension of a person’s character traits, their aspirations and the things that they truly craved for with their soul.
Powers can determine whether a person is weak or strong. Powers affiliated to fire usually reflect a strong, explosive personality, while water symbolizes peace and tranquillity. Anyone whose power closely links to death is either executed immediately or enrolled into the government.
The government has the right to give out assignments, tasks that are delegated to specific groups of people. The assignments are sporadic, and can last any time from a few hours to a lifetime. No one defies them, because defiance leads to death.
There is a whole community of people who leap, who dive. They are called The Leapers, and every one of them has powers that are closely linked to the idea of freedom. Sehun is the newest additional to the community, and he commands wind with mere movements of his fingers. Wind curls around him like silk, sits invisible around his body like phantom snakes. There is Lu Han, who moves things with his mind, and who stops himself from crashing by holding the clothes he wears where he Leaps when he is close to ground. And there is Wu Fan, who can fly.
Wu Fan calls the activity the "Leap of Control". It is a momentary period of absolute, undeniable control, of the ability and right to decide if you live or die. It is the ultimate form of control, he says, the most direct form of rebellion in a world where the past need for more and more control has led to the complete annihilation of it.
Everyone agrees with him, because while never explicitly stated, Wu Fan is their leader. He is the one whose words mean something; who is in charge. He holds and draws attention to him without an effort, and he revels in it. Jongin sometimes thinks that Wu Fan would make a great politician, someone that can use words and false sincerity to make people live by every word they say, but Wu Fan is just a little too out of sync.
Jongin calls his addiction his "Leaps of Freedom", because every leap is a physical action that highlights the magnitude of his desire for flight, for freedom, for the ability to get out of this place, leave everything behind except for his dreams and name.
It is a constant inch that runs under his skin, like a million bugs, and is something that not even the feeling of Kyungsoo’s skin against his own can chase away.
What Jongin doesn’t know is that when he leaps, when he teleports at the instance hovering between life and death, he travels. Jongin travels into another reality, a concurrent one, for just a split second.
This reality is the one that links places together, a place where everything is right and flaw free. Jongin doesn’t remember passing by this reality, instead, all he is left with is a nagging, distinct throbbing at the back of his neck, watered down images in his mind, and an intense desire for a freedom he can almost taste on his tongue.
This in-between world, this concurrent reality, is what is making Jongin want to crawl out of his own skin to taste freedom between his teeth.
And he can’t escape, because the seeds have planted themselves firmly in his thoughts, rooted themselves to every inch of space of him, consumed him. The itch to run and to be free will always be against his bare skin and pressing against the corner of his mind, and one day it will take him away.
Wu Fan gets taken away five days later, by a man with jet black hair and the emblem of the government tattooed in white ink on his forearm. Jongin watches behind a garbage bin as metal handcuffs are locked around Wu Fan’s wrists, pulling them taunt behind him. He can see Wu Fan trying to fly, gushes of air collecting at his feet, but the man places a firm hand on his shoulder and Wu Fan stops moving at all.
The sound of a gun fired into the air startles him, and he runs a safe distance away before he teleports back home, appearing in the living room, He’s shaking, hand trembling as he grips the hand rest. Kyungsoo turns and sees him, features in a frown, but Jongin watches as Kyungsoo’s expression starts to morph, a different tilt to his lips and a lack of crook in his eyebrows. He realizes that Kyungsoo is worried. Kyungsoo takes a few steps towards him and kneels in front of the couch he is sitting on, hands warm on his thighs, safe.
“What’s wrong, Jongin? What happened?” and Jongin has never been so glad for how perspective Kyungsoo is. He moves one of his trembling hands on to Kyungsoo’s own, and Kyungsoo turns his to link their fingers together, anchoring him.
“Wu Fan. He got taken away,” he says, but the words still sound so unbelievable, too much of an impossibility for him to process that it had happened, “he was Leaping. He Leapt and there was an officer waiting for him.”
Kyungsoo doesn’t say anything, and instead presses his forehead against Jongin’s knee; breathe loud in Jongin’s ears. “I am glad you are safe,” Kyungsoo mumbles, barely audible.
“We should run away,” Jongin blurts out suddenly, words leaving his mouth he can stop himself. His eyes widen as Kyungsoo looks up and pull his hand away, clamping it over his mouth instead.
“Someone could have heard you.”
“Aren’t you sick of this, Kyungsoo? Aren’t you sick of having someone dictate whatever you do, whatever you can do?”
“No one dictated for me to fall in love you.”
Jongin feels like something has slammed into him and took all of his breath away. He wants to say something, but Kyungsoo continues.
“This life isn’t just about entrapment and confinement. I wish you could see the good in this control. It’s better to live life with a set of guidelines rather than to indulge in chaos.”
“This goes far beyond control, Kyungsoo. This is ownership and possession. We’re just mere pawns in this game of life, in their game of life. I can bring us somewhere safe, we’ll always be safe and free.”
Jongin opens his mouth to answer, but no words appear. He knows there is a place, a haven, can picture it in his mind in bits and pieces, but he doesn’t know the location, the direction, but he is sure, so sure, like how he is sure of the fact that he needs to get out. “Anywhere, everywhere.”
Kyungsoo stands up then and settles himself on to Jongin’s lap, hands wound around his neck. His mouth finds Jongin’s ear and he whispers, “Am I not enough?”
Jongin doesn’t reply. Instead, he swallows his protests and lets Kyungsoo lean in close.
The community falls apart without Wu Fan’s unofficial leadership. Jongin had turn up for one of their proposed meeting dates and had been met with howling in the wind and no one present. A few days later, he had seen Sehun and Lu Han along the streets of the city, hands linked with each other as Lu Han’s head leans against Sehun. They look happy, resigned, grounded.
Jongin Leaps twice that day.
When it rains, it pours, and similarly, Jongin can feel everything around him falling apart. He looks for places to Leap at any given moment, relishes and revels in the moment where he teleports away, that split second that whirls happiness into his heart before cruelly snatching it away. He goes home later and later, and ignores the eye bags that have marred themselves under Kyungsoo’s eyes, or the way worry and hurt have etched themselves into his skin as paleness and exhaustion.
“Stop,” Kyungsoo says one day, when Jongin already has a foot out the door. Jongin tilts his head sideways.
The words it’s too late slip out of his mouth involuntarily, bypassing his control. He turns his head back and starts to leave again –
“I got my assignment, Jongin. I am leaving in a week. Will you come with me?” The words cause Jongin to freeze again, and he turns to walk towards Kyungsoo.
“So you’re just going to go, you’re just going to listen to them?”
“I’ll be going two districts away, Sunday, in the morning.”
“You can’t go.”
“I must go. This is my responsibility.”
“You don’t have a responsibility to listen to them.”
“I have a responsibility to my own gift, and not just go around jumping off buildings.”
Something catches in Jongin’s throat, a part of him that still resonates with responsibility and order, a part of him that he has carted away as a child, but he overwhelming pressure against his head to run and escape is stronger, and he turns towards the open door and walks out of the house (and of Kyungsoo’s life.)
He has never Leapt when he was this distraught before. Wu Fan had warned them against it, said that emotions can affect powers, can cause them to malfunction for a split second. His eyes had been hooded and dark when he said, as if he was remembering something from a long time ago.
The fall is familiar, the buildings sideways as usual, city lights bright and powered by people underground as usual. The lights blur into a rainbow of colours and glow, one that blinds Jongin in the best way possible. He can feel the rush through his veins, vindictive, free, and then he teleports away.
There’s something different about the split second this time, it stretches longer and Jongin sees himself with surprise on his face. It is another him, skin tanner, eyes not as tired, but him.
The other him is saying something, but the rush of wind against his ears blocks everything out. He feels light suddenly, a flip, and he’s falling even further except this shouldn’t be happening because he was already near the ground. A sickening dread dances across his skin, but it is quickly replaced by the need to teleport (again), and he does.
He finds himself in a familiar yet unfamiliar street, and Kyungsoo is standing a distance away, waving and smiling at him before he is in front of him, greeting him with a peck on the lips.
“Where were you? We’re going to be late for our appointment,” Kyungsoo says. Jongin doesn’t remember an appointment but he allows himself to be dragged forward by Kyungsoo anyway, the latter’s arm linked with his. Something is different, wrong even, but at this moment everything is fine and the taste of the air against his tongue and brushing against his skin feels terribly like freedom.
- title taken from King Richard III by Shakespeare.
- thank you develei for beta-ing and brainstorming! you are so brilliant and filled with so many ideas. i love your brain (and you).
- soundtrack while typing this: b.a.p's what the hell (most perfect song) & power & goodbye, nu'est's face
- i love writing dystopian fics so muchhhh.
- now to concentrate on fic exchange fic, hehe.
- concrit is always welcomed! (through a pm ofc)