Dr. Kim Seojun washes his hands in the industrial sized sink, sighing aloud with the exhaustion of a near 24 hour shift. He arches his neck to work out the crick that had been bothering him for the past hour. The ER had been swarmed this evening, stemming from a major pile up on the interstate caused by an overturned tank truck. The closest (and in this cause not-so-luckiest) hospital had been theirs, and with over 16 passenger vehicles caught in the collision, all the staff from nurses to physicians to emergency responders had been bombarded nonstop. The death toll was three, two individuals from the first car struck and the truck driver himself. Most admitted weren't in critical condition, sporting mild injuries from broken limbs, minor concussions, or shallow lacerations. There were few that did have cause for immediate concern, eight in total who needed surgery.
Finally clean of discarded surgical gown and red stained gloves, he heads into the ICU ward to check on the patient he was first assigned to. The surgery itself lasted around four hours, a careful and time sensitive operation due to the assumption that the optic nerves and surrounding areas could have been potentially damaged in the collision. The patient had been young male in his early twenties, who had taken the worst of the impact when their car rolled. When Dr. Kim had been prepped for the OR, he wasn't given a name nor told anything pertaining to who the young man was. Backstories, personalities, and achievements mean little in this environment, because in the end, it comes down to three simple things: what's wrong? how did it happen? and how do we fix it?
So when the rush has died down and the last critical case has been wheeled out of surgery, he gives into the desire to see who he had been treating. It might seem like physicians can be cold, stone faced individuals when confronted with trauma and grief, but deep down they all care deeply for the lives that are placed in their hands; every loss is a heavy burden to bear, every triumph is a inward swell of levity and reassurance.
His sneakers squeak against the vinyl tiles as he passes by each occupied bed, most patients willingly sleeping or knocked out from the pharmaceutical drugs. As he nears the last bed where the young man lays, he picks up the clipboard attached to the end of the bed frame, scamming the documents one of the ER nurses filled out prior and post surgery. At the very top corner of the document is a picture of the man, unhurt and looking too young for the troubles of today.
Patient Name: Yoo Kihyun
Age: 23 yrs. old
Blood type: B
Admitted for: probable head/eye injuries due to car accident
Diagnosis: Minute fragments of metal and polycarbonate plastic struck into the cornea on impact. Optic nerves intact but patient sustained minor surface scarring of the lens.
Treatment: Immediate eye surgery [successful]; full recovery expected after carefully designated recuperation period
Dr. Kim sets down the clipboard, looking at the thick gauze bandaged around Mr. Yoo's head that lays directly over his eyes where two cotton squares are held in place. The young man remains prone in the stiff sheets, still under the heavy anesthetic from earlier. There's minor scratches near his hairline and the corner of his mouth, faint red lines now that they're cleaned of blood. The scattering of a visible bruises along the arms is to be expected, given how everyone was tossed around like rags dolls; most of the passengers in their vehicle weren't wearing seat belts. It's something that makes him feel frustrated, as both a physician and a father that such a common sense rule would be ignored. But then again, the two people in the front car were wearing their seat belts, and that didn't save them from the jarring impact of crashing headfirst into the tipping tank truck.
He exhales a somber breath, knowing that what's done is done, and he's done all he can to remedy the situation. With time and rest, the man can make a full recovery, he's sure of it. He places a hand on the blanket covered ankle, giving it a gentle reassuring squeeze before he turns and heads out back into the hallway. He makes his way towards the ER, already trying to decide if he'll nap while he has the off chance or grab a cup of coffee from one of the vending machines. The sun should be coming up soon, which means he's almost home free.
Of course both ideas are scratched when he nears the full waiting room located close the ER entrance and sees law enforcement officers conversing with people, the noise level able to be heard from down the hall. Now usually this isn't a problem, given that when such an accident that occurred almost give or take 8 hours ago happens, police want to get the full picture to find the clear cut cause. But the hairs on the back of his neck are standing up because this is no ordinary routine questioning; people are going a bit wild, hysterical even as the officers try to calm the situation. A tall man in a dark jacket is on the phone, conversing rapidly while another officer beside him is jotting down notes. Someone of the men, looking around the same age as Mr. Yoo are pacing or frantically speaking with staff. Some of the surgeons on call tonight are seemingly being interviewed along with other hospital staff. With each step towards the chaos, the dread he feels sinks into the bottom of his soles, causing him to drag his feet unsurely.
He waves over a nurse hovering off to the side, and she quickly scurries over. "Minseo, what's going on?" he asks, keeping an eye on the loud mass of people.
She wrings her hands, eyeing them anxiously. "I just arrived for my shift, so I'm not exactly sure. Apparently some of the people caught in the accident are part of an idol group."
'Idol group?' he thinks, already imagining the headlines splashed across newspapers and social media.
"Excuse me, doctor," an officer approaches the two of them. Nurse Minseo excuses herself to flock back to the others. "Hate to interrupt, but I'm Officer Park Junho," the man sticks out his hand.
"Dr. Kim Seojun," he reciprocates the handshake.
"I was told you were one of the physicians working in the OR tonight, is that correct?"
He nods, crossing his arms. "Yes. I was mainly in charging of performing surgery on a young man who had some head and eye trauma."
"And would that man happen to be a..." he looks down his notepad. "Yoo Kihyun?"
Surprised, he nods confused. "Yes. How did you-"
"I asked the other doctors for patient names. The man you worked on is part of a seven piece idol group called 'Monsta X'. I assume by the look on your face you haven't heard of them?"
He shrugs, a bit embarrassed at lack of knowledge in pop culture. "You're correct. With the hours I work, I'm afraid I'm not able to keep up with the trends. Plus, out here we don't really get a lot of the big city Seoul business."
The officer nods with a brief smile. "Can't blame ya when you have busy nights like this one. Now, is Mr. Yoo currently in the ICU?"
He nods. "Yes, as well as other patients who went under the knife."
"While since you confirmed Mr. Yoo's whereabouts, the problem we're facing at the moment is that there are only six idol members accounted for. We can't locate the last one. " Dr. Kim frowns, a bit of a sickly feeling welling up in his gut because he doesn't like where this is going at all. The officer continues onward. "Now the emergency responders said that all victims of the crash were brought to this hospital, including the deceased. Do you think that there could have been a mix up and one of the guys was sent to another hospital?"
Immediately he shakes his head at that idea. "No. We're the closest hospital to the site of the crash, within 15 miles. The next one is a whole town over, I'd say at least another 50 miles away. Since some of the victims were in critical condition and had to be admitted as soon as possible, there's no way a first responder would take the chance of traveling a longer distance. Plus, as you can see our hospital is big enough to accommodate larger groups."
Officer Park sighs, jotting down something. "That's what I was afraid of. We sent some troopers to check just in case, but most of the staff is repeating your statement verbatim." He then motions towards the cluster of guys near the tall man and another with a buzz cut, speaking to them with worried expressions. "The men they're speaking to are their managers who are trying to get in touch with the higher-ups of the company. Apparently in the chaos of the accident, no one in his party was aware that young man wasn't picked up along with the rest of them. Many other people involved in the crash, who weren't injured too bad mind you, ran to aid the kids out the car; the boys assumed the other one was helped out as well, but everyone we've questioned was only able to point out the five here or mention Mr. Yoo. No one recalls seeing the last one."
Dr. Kim shifts his eyes down at the floor, thinking of the injured man lying in the bed without an inkling of what else has happened to his friend. The horror of someone being left behind after the hell of tonight, for possibly 8 hours is unimaginable. He straightens back up, steeling himself. "But how did they miss him? I mean, surely someone would have spotted him. And what happens next?"
"My guess is that when their car rolled, he must of somehow been tossed out of the vehicle and ended up somewhere off the beaten path. And because the accident happened so late, it was just too dark for civilians without flashlights to spot him. When first responders arrived, they went by the word of those present," he says all this slowly as if he's repressing his anger, not directed at anyone but the situation. "Right now we've sent out some of the squad to the crash site, and a few of the responders are hightailing it back as well. We also put out an APB on the kid, in case someone spots him. Either way, if we don't find him soon, this situation is going to turn real messy."
They both pause, knowing that despite their professions, they both feel helpless as ever.
Officer Park shakes off the mutual feeling, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a small square, before handing it to him. "This is a his picture. I'll leave it with you so you can let staff and others knows to keep an eye out for the guy. If you spot him, let us know right away."
He nods. "I will."
The officer then walks away, heading back into the massive fray. Dr. Kim looks over at the group of male idols, and feels a deep swell of sympathy for them as a few appear close to tears. He sighs, gazing down at the photograph with that sick feeling settling permanently in his gut. The boy is young, younger than the one before and he's out there somewhere. Is he hurt? Is he cold? Is he alone? Is he...dead? So many questions run through his mind and for once, there's no answer he can conjure up. There's no quick fix nor remedy to solve this problem. All he can do is wait. Wait and pray that this won't end badly. He stares down into the young brown eyes, frozen in a time much simpler than now.
"Where are you, kid?"
If the timeline/title confuses you about the events, I'll explain. The accident happened 8 hours and 45 minutes ago from the start of this chapter. The first responders took about 15-20 minutes to respond to the wreck, and it took about 1-2 hours to get every single individual to the hospital. Those who were in most need like Kihyun were shipped off first and his surgery alone took 4 hours to complete. Afterwards, in Dr. Kim's POV, he wasn't able to go see Kihyun until everything calmed down and the other surgeries finished as well, which took him almost 3 or more hours to do so. Then he learns of the situation.
Hope that all made sense.
Chapter 2: 12 hours and 23 minutes
Glad to see some interest the first chapter garnered! :D Hope this story will continue to keep the curiosity going!
Please excuse any grammar mistakes, I'll look over it in a bit.
Also! I cross posted this on asiafanfics and this is the cover I made if you're interested to see :) I think it came out pretty well. don't you forget about me cover
Outside of bustling cities, it's noticeable that the air seems clearer. Away from heavy pollution and constant movement, there's peace floating in even the faintest of breezes. Maybe it's what makes these green luscious trees towering as high as buildings grow and flourish. With the window rolled down, Changkyun can feel the fresh gust of wind whipping against his face, rustling his bangs side to side. The touch feels like faint caress, trying to soothe away troubled thoughts embroiled in his mind.
They drive along along a smooth paved road, winding through a parting of surrounding dense forests. As he stares at the greenery with such concentration, his eyesight begins to grow blurry coupled with dizziness sprouting at the forefront of his mind. Even then, he refuses to turn away from the window and instead closes his eyes.
The ride is silent bar the radio humming with some unfamiliar tune. It helps alleviate some of the overbearing tension, if only for the trip's duration.
He sighs, letting his head lag against the door frame, ignoring the way his neck rests uncomfortably at this angle. He doesn't want to be here, cramped in a small space with these specific six people. The blowout two days ago still stings somewhere beneath his skin, those sharp traded words gnawing away at any bit of confidence he still had in this relationship. He can only count it a blessing that Kihyun was the one to take the middle seat beside him; anyone else and this road trip would have been even more unbearable.
As he watches the rare glimpse of nature uninhibited beauty pass by, it's regrettable to think that just last spring, he would have said this excursion is unbelievable chance to escape idol life just to spend with his beloved hyungs, the guys he shares an intimate and intense bond with behind closed doors. But now...he doesn't know what's left.
He can feel eyes watching him on occasion, either Jooheon or Shownu taking peeks from the rearview mirror. He pretends he doesn't know, it's easier that way.
A tired sigh is exhaled from the back, Hyungwon stretching out his tingling limbs. "How much further, hyung?"
Their leader clears his throat. "I'd say about an hour or so left. Not much longer."
At that everyone else shifts, the relief palpable that the 5 hour journey will be over soon. Perhaps the car is as stifling to them as it is to Changkyun. He sits up straight again, takes a peek out the front window to glimpse at the road. The hot sun is starting to lower in the sky, signaling nearly half the day is gone. 'Almost there,' he thinks. But then again, what awaits them when they finally do arrive?
As the occupants in the car settle again in their seats, the truck rounds the bend and in an instant it takes too long to realize what's in front of them: an entire pile up of skewed cars awaiting. Changkyun's hand clenches hard on the door in fright.
"Look out!" Jooheon shouts, but even as Shownu swerves to try and avoid hitting the last car in the lineup, it's too little too late. Their right side catches the rear of the minivan and at nearly 70 miles per hour, they go spinning in the air and hurtling off the road. Someone shouts, maybe they all do as their young lives flash before their very eyes. All they can do is brace themselves for the painful impact to come.
The first time the truck hits the ground on it's side, it rattles nearly every bone in Changkyun's body and he swears at the nasty whip lash. The whole truck swings to flip over and Changkyun doesn't even think as he braces an arm across Kihyun to keep him in place because the only thing that pops into his head is that the black haired singer didn't wear his seatbelt. He feels soft fingers touch his hand as if to reassure him.
Sadly, he just forgets that he too has no seatbelt on.
And in doing the move, it means his flimsy hold on the door handle is easily overpowered by the momentum. He smacks his temple on the ceiling and before he can blink, he's thrown out and onto toward the grassy slope, landing on his back and hitting the base of his skull with a dull thud. But his left leg has not cleared the car and as the car tips, the edge of the hood smashes down on the space above his knee, causing him to shout in agony before the window frame underneath his calve pushes up and tosses him fully out like a rag doll. He's hurtling down the slope, body colliding against the terrain with each uncontrollable turn, until he reaches the flat bottom and finally lands in a crumbled state in the thickest brush near the gathering trees.
The first thing he notices is the fact that he's wheezing, the wind knocked- or better yet beaten out of him. It takes what feels like an hour to get his breath back, but when he does, he wished it had taken longer. Because now comes the pain. Despite the trauma, he doesn't pass out which means he can't escape the all encompassing pain that radiates from his whole body like being trapped in a cage made completely of hot metal. It leaves him immobilized on his back, fearful if he moves he'll be sick. He can still hear the awful smashing of metal of the truck still rolling, away from wherever he landed until it finally goes silent.
Then comes the screams, the horrified shouts as people make their way down the slope to help. Except, their voices aren't getting any closer, in fact they seem to be getting further from him. He turns his head, a spike of pain causing him to suck in a few deep breaths with eyes squinted before it gradually dissipates. The brush surrounding him is tall, at least two feet high and coarse. He can barely see out of the sparse edge, but it's thin enough to get a look at the truck.
From where he's at, he thinks it looks god awful. The car is flipped upside down, gashes and dents scattered all over like a crappy paint job. The crowd of volunteers is surrounding it, pulling his bandmates from the wreck while others are gathered to watch helplessly. Someone near the car is shouting something that causes a panic, but Changkyun can't make it out, his head hurts too much.
Through peaks of the brush, he can see Hyungwon shouldering Minhyuk as they stumble towards the road. People guide them along the way, mindful of their injuries.
He tries to call out weakly, the sound soft and hoarse. "Help...me..."
Shownu is stumbling to the road, followed by Jooheon who is leaning against an older man for help.
His head is beginning to throb, and he can feel something wet sliding down his temple."Come...back," his strained call practically a whisper as wetness gathers in the corner of his right eye.
Wonho is being shuffled up the slope by a few women, his face scrunched as if he's crying while he points towards at a group who is carrying an unconscious Kihyun.
And the crowd is hurrying away from the totaled car, many inaudible words yelled as they rush to the road. No one comes towards him, no one looks around for him. The wind is blowing through the brush, soft bristles caressing his skin as if to comfort him in his abandoned state.
"Please..." both eyes are wet and blurring his vision. "Please don't leave me..."
And then the world explodes into fire-
He startles out of lucid dreams, chest heaving as sweat gathers near his temple. His breath gushes in and out of his mouth in stuttering gasps, his lungs throbbing in his chest. He can almost feel the ghost of heat scorching his face, making it all seem to real. It's when he starts to somewhat regain composure does he realize that the surface he is laying upon is no longer uneven nor does it bristle beneath his palm. It is soft and warm, but the room itself is not bright in the way hospitals are; there's only one faint light coming from the lone candle on the wooden table near him.
Still dazed and lost from the dream and new surroundings, he sits up and tries to move as a voice suddenly yells, "WAIT!"
But it's too late, as sickening pain explodes from left leg causing a short gasp before he screams, hoarse and sobbing as he slams back into the bed, arching against the horrid sensation. He tries to thrash, but suddenly there's hands hold him in place, keeping him stuck in this atrocious state.
"Shh, shh. It's ok. It's ok," a soft voice tries to calm him. "Just stop moving and the pain recede. Shh. I promise."
He's choking on sobs with his eyes clenched shut, the noises he's making pitiful and gritty. But he still tries to stay still and prays the pain to fade like promised.
The hands retract slowly as if worried he start moving again. "I'm just gonna give you something for the pain, it should help a lot." There's the sound of shuffling feet followed by a rustle of something near him.
He keeps his eyes closed, willing himself to not move a muscle until after a few minutes, the pain in his leg gradually dies down enough to be bearable. After letting out shaky uneven breaths, he relaxes back into the bed and opens his eyes. He looks towards the other person in the room, and sees it's a woman dressed in a dark sweater and jeans.
After a moment of watching her, he gathers the courage to speak his thoughts. "Who are you? Where am I?" he asks, the tear tracks still drying on his face.
She drags a wooden chair close to the bed, sitting down closer to the light. Now he can see she's older, maybe late 40s as there are a few lines on her face. The woman places her hand on his, patting it kindly. "My name is Jaeun and you're in my home."
He looks around the room, walls constructed of rich brown wood with a high ceiling of interwoven beams. The room is sparse, with nothing more than a bed, side table, and small fireplace in the far corner. He frowns, ignoring his head beginning to feel off balanced. "But...the car accident?"
She nods, making an affirming sound. "You were in a bad wreck on the highway. It's a few miles from here."
He closes his eyes and tries to rub the pressure in his head away with the heel of his free hand. He doesn't understand. "Why am I not in a hospital?"
"We're out in the rural areas and the hospital is at least 100 miles away. I was worried that traveling so far would be terrible in your state so we-I brought you here."
His attention is drawn to the hand she's holding, realizing there's an IV line hooked up to him. "You're a doctor?"
"A nurse, though this would be the first house call," she says lightly.
He reaches down to feel when there's a nauseating throb above his knee. "My leg-"
She quickly grabs his hand, pulling them away from the area and placing them on his chest. "It's better if you don't touch your leg right now, or look it at it."
The statement sits like lead in his gut, but he's feeling too tired to argue or even ask. He swallows lethargically, his tongue starting to feel thick in his mouth and his thoughts beginning to jumble. "I'm feeling-"
"I know," she pats his shoulder, getting up to cover him in a soft blanket. "The medication I gave you not just to take away pain, but also to help you rest. That's the best thing you can do for yourself now."
"But..." there's so many things he wants to ask, so many confusing things he doesn't understand. Answers he needs to know. Why did this happen? Where is everyone? Where are his hyungs? "Are...are the boys here?"
Confusion colors her expression. "The boys?"
He nods, the movement slow and sluggish. "Yeah...my hyungs," he blinks and tries to keep his eyes open. "They...they were there...too."
There's unease and trouble clear in her eyes. She cradles his hand and answers gently, like his mother used to do when she knew he was going to be disappointed by her answer. "No, I'm sorry. When I arrived at the crash site, there was no one else there."
His eyelids are too heavy to hold up as the pain becomes numb and distant, but the words are nonetheless crushing as he's dragged down into a dreamless sleep.