We were carefree not long. The first sign of his comeback was already when we were coming back from the cinema. When we were waiting before the shop for Seungjun, who was buying his usual snacks (not that he ate three packs of popcorn, including mine and Inseong’s), I was unlucky to stay near the shadow and suddenly someone grabbed my arm.
I gasped and stiffened, sure that I would die in any second. Members took my hand in order to free me, but in a moment they also froze, afraid of what’ll happen if they move me.
“I’ve got a message for you,” I heard a hoarse voice and smelled an alcohol. “Be sure to choose soon and wisely.”
“W-What?” I stammered. Drop of sweat ran down my jaw, which I felt like rubbing with cold metal.
At the same time Seungjun came out and squeaked shocked, dropping everything on the ground. Manager and staff saw the situation and got out of the car.
“Rose or thorns. Remember: choose wisely.” And he walked away, wobbling.
Luckily I didn’t faint, but my body felt weak and I sat down, trembling. In a second everyone gathered around me. Youjin squeezed my hand, which he hadn’t let go since earlier, and Heejun clung to me. Maknae was shaking too.
“What happened?” manager asked nervously, kneeling before me.
“He’s on move again...” I whispered, surprised that my voice didn’t tremble, like the rest of my body.
“It was him!?”
“No...” I looked at the alley, where the man disappeared. “His voice was different. That wasn’t him, I’m sure of it.”
“So... he’s using someone again?” one of the staff asked.
“What did he say?” Seungjun muttered.
“I must choose... but I think it was to all of us. Rose or thorns... what the hell did he mean?”
I looked up at Youjin, who was holding something with a scared face. It was a piece of paper. He gave it to me.
“It was under your sleeve,” he explained. “I think that man slipped it into it...”
I frowned and opened the paper. Something cold and heavy settled on my stomach, when I saw the words:
I’M AT THE STATION, WAIT FOR ME.
“God...” I muttered and looked around with fear. “Is he serious?”
“Wait...” Inseong snatched the paper from me and read it with an anxious face. “It sounds familiar...”
“Did you see it somewhere!?” manager said, angered. “You received a threat and didn’t tell me!?”
“That’s not it. I meant the sole sentence. Wait a minute...” He looked at me. “What was the last threat? The one Heejunnie received?”
“Mm... I’ll come and see you soon.”
“And the one before it?”
“Why did you do it. What’s your point?”
Inseong clapped his hands.
“That’s it!” he shouted and sat beside me, forgetting that we were still on the street. “Why did you do it, I’ll come and see you soon, and I’m at the station, wait for me! They’re changed fragments from an urban legend!”
“What urban legend?” we all asked together.
Inseong looked at us with disbelief.
“Really no one heard that? It’s from the Japanese urban legend. There’s even a novel titled ‘Merry’s Mail’, I read it there. It’s about a doll named Merry, which was thrown away. One day the girl, who threw it, received first mail:
This is Merry. Why did you thrown me away?
Then there was another one:
This is Merry. Can I come see you?
And after that:
This is Merry. I just arrived at the station. I will be there soon.
It’s just like the legend! I mean, REALLY similar. If he’s a psycho, I wouldn’t be surprised if he was toying with us like that.”
We didn’t answer right away. I felt curiosity, then anxiety, and at the end the tremendous fear. I started trembling again. Heejun hugged me tighter.
“But Inseong-ah...” Youjin again looked nervous. Man, what now? “That legend... how does it end?”
Inseong pursed his lips into a thin line.
“Hyung... ?” Heejun looked at him with widened eyes.
“I... I’d better not say this to you now...” Inseong whispered. “But, like in most of scary stories, you can guess its ending.”
“Rose or thorns...” I muttered, unconsciously changing the topic. “Rose or thorns... what’s the meaning of it? Rose has spikes, thorns don’t have flowers. What the heck?”
All of a sudden Youjin’s face turned white.
“You’re right,” he said.
“Rose has spikes, thorns don’t have flowers. The first one is beautiful but dangerous, the other one is dangerous yet ugly. But in both cases you can get hurt.”
“I don’t get it,” I stated.
From the look on their faces, I realized that only I didn’t get it.
“That means,” Youjin continued. “that you don’t really have the choice. You’ll get hurt whatever you choose.”