I’m a Joke by Kim Junghyuk

Mission Control, do you copy?

 

All I want is to die. I should’ve brought the suicide pill with me. I’m not kidding this time. Open a door and a simple death awaits me. Flip a switch and I can die easily. This might sound like a joke, but given a choice, I’d rather hang myself. I want to die as I feel gravity pulling on me. I don’t want to meet my end in the empty confines of space. I thought my claustrophobia had gotten better, but a faint fear pierces my skin and rises again. What is the last thing I can do? With the main computer on the fritz, an exploration is out of the question. I can’t transmit any new information to Mission Control, either. All I can do is to keep talking. Talking would be fun if at least I knew for sure that my words would reach somewhere . . . Back on earth, I’d try my best to remember the names of stars as I gazed at them, but out here it all feels meaningless. We attach names to stars we can see, but I don’t feel that’s a decision to be made lightly. Names shouldn’t be given out so easily. There are far more stars that haven’t got names. If we were to name every star, the list of names would be bigger than earth. We could fill earth to the brim with just the names of the stars in the universe. There’s something else I miss, besides gravity. I want to get wet in rain. I want to run in the rain. I’ll stop whining now and gather my strength. The cabin has sufficient oxygen for now. I’ll go as far as I can. I can’t make it to earth anyway, so I’ll try to make it to the farthest point I can.

pp. 4647

 

Shall I tell you a story about a guy who had only one goal in life? Sounds funny, right? When you have only one goal in life you have to cherish it like you cherish your own body. This guy would wake up every day with his goal, fall asleep with it, make love to it. Who knows he might even have made a human-shaped doll and christened it Goal? His goal was to become an astronaut. That was the only thing he wanted to be since childhood. Always an astronaut, no matter what. His father had wanted to become an astronaut too but failed, and his uncle was a former astronaut. So the brothers had seen their share of success and failure. The father wanted his son to achieve the dream he could not, and the uncle wanted him to follow him into a glamorous profession. So he naturally set his sights on becoming an astronaut. The probability of success? He thought it was fifty-fifty since he’d grown up with examples of success and failure. He wanted to succeed at any cost.

 

He planned everything in a calm and orderly way. He volunteered for the air force and became a pilot. After getting discharged, he joined a private aerospace R&D facility. His plan was slowly falling into place. But just when he thought everything was moving forward, he suffered a serious setback. One day he had an attack of claustrophobia. To become an astronaut, you have to undergo a battery of training sessions and among them he found the “space rescue ball” session the hardest. The ball was an escape pod, windowless and dark, in which you had to stay crouched for twenty minutes. The ball only had a zipper. The mere thought it of makes you shudder, doesn’t it? I got trapped inside a sleeping bag once when I was a kid. I’d slipped into it while playing with my big sister and as I was turning around, I got stuck. It was so dark as I fumbled around for the zipper. My sister thought I was kidding and held on to the zipper firmly to prevent me from opening it. If you’ve never experienced something like that, you won’t understand how scary it was. I started having a phobia about zippers from then on. I started imagining that someone was pulling up the zipper of my room from outside. Just seeing the zippers of my pants gives me that feeling. Sometimes it feels like my dick is in the same boat as me. How suffocated he must feel inside my pants. I imagine myself turning into a hard dick. I’m trapped inside a secret room that can’t be opened from the inside. If no one opens the zipper, I can’t ever stick my head out. Flushed red and sweating profusely, I shout, “Hey! Let me out of here. From the sounds I hear, I can tell there are many pretty women outside. Can’t I go out just for a bit? I’m about to burst. For God’s sake, open the door!” Then I feel I’m lucky he can’t open the zipper from inside.

 

The guy bore his claustrophobia. He grit his teeth. Bravo! He held on to the zipper firmly and won. He endured it all to achieve his goal. He had one hope. Have you by any chance heard that claustrophobia can be cured in outer space? It’s true, apparently. You would think you’d be scared in the vast expanse of space but they say you feel a release and all your fears vanish. Blaise Pascal once said, “The eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.” Some philosopher said he felt the urge to kill himself when he thought about the boundlessness of space. Do you know what astronauts say to that? “People talk like that because they’ve never been to space. When you’re in space, your ...

Kim Junghyuk is a writer, film critic, music columnist, and cartoonist. He has received the Dongin Literary Award and Lee Hyo-seok Literary Award. French editions of his books include Your Shadow Is a Monday (Les ombres du lundi), Zombies (Zombies, la descente aux enfers), Wandering Bus (Bus errant), and The Library of Musical Instruments (La bibliothèque des instruments de musique) published by Decrescenzo éditeurs. English editions of his books include The Library of Musical Instruments published by Dalkey Archive Press.