by Tari Gwaemir
All that he desired from her was the present tense, the possessive case.

All that he desired from her was the present tense, the possessive case, but she had tried to transform those summer days of lovemaking into eternity, humming charms under her breath as he slept beside her: may he remember me, may he remain with me, may he return again and again to me. "You wrote your name not only on my bridal skirt but also on my eyes, my hair, my skin," she murmured in his ear, that last night before he left, "and I shall be your past and future. In consuming me, you embed me in your heart; the thread that ties me to you will never break. I shall use it to embroider you a new robe when you return."

Head bowed, arms outstretched, he snaps a fan open in the momentary silence. The drum beats once.

In alternation, she noted the heavy honey scent of overripened watermelon, the salty sweat that trickled down her neck, the faint odor of dung in the unswept courtyard. She waited, shifting beneath the ropes digging into her arms, and remembered the cool night breezes that had fanned their entangled bodies, stirring the soft perfume of the incense burner she had set in the corner. The whip lashed against her legs, and she gasped in astonishment at the pain, the humiliation. Never before had anyone lifted a hand to strike her, for fear it would mar the symmetry of her features. She stared at the blood welling in the lacerations with reproach and composed her first defiance.

The drumbeats, frantic, punctuate the rhythm of his falling, turning voice.

The last lash, she was too weak to utter more than a whisper of reproach. Instead, she imagined how his arms had wrapped around her soft waist, how he had laughed into her ear, how his hair fell loose upon her shoulder; she dwelt on every detail, every bright color, until all she could see before her was a candlelit room scattered with discarded clothes, her bridal skirt carefully folded in a corner. She traced the brushstrokes of his name, yimongryong, each character a call to him, unreachable in a distant capital. As they clamped the board around her neck, she gathered each strand of her fidelity and wove them into an impenetrable net; as they forced her back into the dank cell, she slowly lowered herself to her knees on the soiled stone floor and repeated, "I am yours, I am yours, I am yours," to the distance that separated them.

The fan, tracing the arc of a crane's wing, flutters closed. The drum rattles into silence.

In his best court robes, bowing to the king as he received his assignment, he asked, "Send me back to Namwonshi," and wondered why he spoke. That evening he fell asleep, an invisible thread in hand, to the sound of a strangely familiar voice whispering you are mine.

The next morning, he sat himself down before brush and ink, and wrote, "Your heart turns every day into a memory of summer," before departing for home.


Chunhyang is a Korean film based on a much older traditional folktale (often told through pansori, a form of folk opera). The official movie site is here, and a synopsis of the original folktale is here.

Chunhyang, the film, belongs to Im Kwon Taek, Kim Myoung Kon and Lot 47 Films. The original folktale belongs to no one.

Written for chain_of_fics.