12 Hours After - Chapter 1
“This stop is Yeoksam, Yeoksam, the door to get off is on your right.”
The subway door opened, and I, who was standing by the door, started running forward like lightning.
Climbing up the stairs, I swiped the transportation card and began to climb again.
I did not exercise much at all, so my breath quickly ran out. The sky seemed to turn yellow, but I could not stop moving. While running, I looked at my cell phone in a hurry. The clock was pointing at 8:50 a.m. It was up to me whether I would be late or not. I kept running without stopping.
The company was right next to the subway exit. If I left the exit, I would see a crosswalk. I only needed to cross one road. I ran up the subway escalator like lightning. The blue sky came into sight, and now being late was up to the traffic lights of the crosswalk. After leaving the subway station, I immediately looked at the traffic lights of the crosswalk. The traffic light flashed green, and there were only three seconds left.
If I wasn’t Usain Bolt running at full speed, I wouldn’t be able to cross on time. I looked at my cell phone clock. It was 8:52 a.m. I had eight minutes. Thinking about the waiting time for the signal, the game was already over. I was late. I seemed to hear the voice of the section chief, Heo.
“You lazy bastard, that’s all you can do?”
I stood there, balancing on one leg and then the other, dropped my head, and touched my forehead.
I noticed a small yellow and red card right in front of my shoes, which would usually be a flyer saying, “A beauty is on standby for 24 hours’” or “100% Instant Loan.” I would have passed without seeing it, if it had been the same as usual. But the strange words written there caught my attention.
[Pick this up and look at the back.]
[You won’t get in trouble even if you are late today.]
‘What is this?’
I lifted it. It looked like an ordinary card flyer. But it was written in yellow on the red background, ‘Pick this up and look at the back. You won’t get in trouble even if you are late today.’ I giggled with it in my hand.
‘Whoever thought it up… it is clever marketing. Are they targeting people who are late, like me?’
I turned the card around and looked at the back. It said, [Send me your main email address at 919-31413-11721]
‘This is funny…’
The only content was a funny phone number. It did not start with 010, nor did it have four digits at the end.
‘Is it some kind of fun, or a fraud?’
I was thinking of that, and a lot of people beside me started to cross the crosswalk with a quick pace. The light was blue. Without realizing, I put it in my pocket and started running across the crosswalk. It wasn’t to avoid being late, I was already late. It was just because I felt like had to show them that I had run, only to be less late than a minute.
I ran again with my poor stamina. I stood at the door of the company again and looked at my watch.
Two minutes late, breathing hard, this might be excused a little, a little less. I opened the door and went in. I quickly looked for section chief Heo. But I could not see my superior who nagged me every day. Just in time, an employee, Kim, who had joined the company at the same time, was passing by.
“Hey, Han Sang-hoon. You are late, aren’t you?”
I asked him, “What about section chief Heo?”
“Ah… he was hospitalized last night for his appendix.”
I was surprised. “What?”
When he saw me, Kim smiled and said, “You are lucky. If section chief Heo had come to work, you would have been severely told off.”
Kim left and went back to his seat. I naturally put my hand in my pocket. I look at the card and murmured the phrase there.
“You won’t get in trouble even if you are late today…”
It was a strange thing to call it a coincidence. I turned the card over.
Still, that funny phone number was written there. If it had been an ordinary day, I would have laughed at it and passed, but strangely, I was attracted to it.
‘A business email, not a frequent email address… Should I send one that I don’t use much…’
Remembering the old email address I had made during my school days, I wrote it down and texted it.
However, as soon as I sent a text message, I got a reply right away.
[Thank you. Free subscription has begun.]
‘Free subscription? Are they sending me some kind of erotic photos?’
Maybe the flyer was a promotion for an adult site. I recalled adult sites I used to access while avoiding my parents’ eyes when I was a kid.
‘It is old-fashioned… Who would pay to see some kind of erotic photo lately? Well, if anyone is caught in something like this, they may pay for it…’
I turned on the Internet window and opened the mailbox I had left behind without using much. There were 999 emails in the left-over mailbox. I clicked on it. There were plenty of familiar spam emails.
[This is team leader Kim Mi-young. You can borrow up to 40 thousand dollars.]
[Car insurance in the news. Check it out now.]
‘These are not going to be…’
But there was an email at the top of the list, with a prominent title. Under the title was written 12 Hours After. It was a simple email.
12 Hours After? Isn’t that an erotic photo?’
I tried to click on it. But I noticed something strange. The sender address was completely empty.
‘What is this?’
There was no sender. I had never received this kind of email before. It reminded me of what I had seen in newspapers.
‘Awareness of emails from hackers.’
‘Virus transmission via email’
‘Clicking one moment starts data hacking’
It seemed that I had seen such an article in the recent social section.
‘What do I do?’
I was worried for a moment and checked the window in the lower right corner. My virus protection’s real-time surveillance was on.
‘There’s nothing to lose.’
I decided to open it with a left-click. Soon the message was open on the monitor. Seeing it, I shouted inside, ‘What is this?’