Maru grabbed the back of Woofie’s neck and dragged her to the side. She had her own food bowl, but she always wanted to eat out of the Pit Bull’s bowl. It wasn’t like she ate a lot either. She would stuff her mouth in the Pit Bull’s bowl and eat for a while before walking away. She didn’t look at the food in her bowl at all. As for the Pit Bull, it was only after Woofie went away that he slowly walk over to his bowl and continued eating. The funny thing was that upon seeing the PIt Bull eat, Woofie would come back again. The same thing was happening now. She was so greedy, like a certain someone.
When he let her go, Woofie immediately went back to eating out of the Pit Bull’s bowl, so he picked her up and went to the sofa. When Woofie was the only one here, she would never eat unless the food was in her bowl, but now that the Pit Bull was here, she looked like she wanted to set the hierarchy straight. When the Pit Bull first came here, the two of them created an emotional scene by licking each other’s wounds, but now that she had discovered that the Pit Bull wouldn’t strike back, she was being bossy. Only after Maru saw that the Pit Bull had finished eating did he let go of Woofie. She then walked right up next to the Pit Bull with her limping leg. She really was unpredictable.
Maru put away the dog bowls and turned off the lights. He also closed the curtains about halfway. It was 10 in the evening. He sat on the sofa and closed his eyes. He slowed his breathing and thought back to the day he went to the dogfighting arena: the chilly mountain air, the light sticks that guided him, the coinlady selling rice wine with a smile, two dogs slowly walking into a cramped cage, cheers from the audience, blood and flesh splattering, a road of gravel, the vinyl greenhouse, the nose-piercing foul stench, the sharp rod, the boiling water, the barks seeking help.
What director Park Joongjin wanted from him was plain lunacy. Putting aside calculative acting, it was probably necessary for him to become one with the character and express emotions that could not be calculated. Fundamentally, his method of acting consisted of meticulous investigation into the concept and then recreating the whole scene. The reason he was hung up on details was also for the sake of more delicate acting. Once he had a satisfactory amount of data in his head, he would recreate the set and the people inside and have the characters move according to his imagination. If he had a script, then he would base things off that, and without one, he would base everything on the basics of acting he had learned until now.
There was a man inside the greenhouse. There were dogs inside cages. The man walked around while holding a kettle of boiling water and poured it on the dogs little by little. What kind of emotions were he supposed to harbor while watching the dogs run amok? He had to think about Han Maru’s perspective, the character’s perspective, as well as the perspective of the audience who would watch his act. He may not be able to perfectly objectify himself, but he could create a rather plausible-sounding opinion. Perhaps it was thanks to the know-how that he had gained through his acting experience in this life, as well as many of his previous lives. Know-how that did not remain in his memory, but was engraved somewhere on his soul. Whenever the character moved and took action, Maru kept asking questions. He broke down the answers that came from those questions and reflected them into his acting.
The man in his mind had poured water on the dogs a few dozen times already. Maru kept watching and analyzing so that he would be able to respond to the most random requests given to him.
He stood a step away as an observer and kept writing down records. His brain was exceptional in providing long-term memory for things related to acting, so he didn’t need to write anything down. He just needed to narrow it down to a few big keywords on a note or the script. He now had dozens of opinions about the character. Maru stopped there. With more time, he would be able to produce more stories, but that wouldn’t be efficient. It was also difficult to objectify the depths of a character’s nature from a single scene.
He opened his eyes. It was 10:37. Maru tried acting out the image of the character he drew in his head. He brought an empty bottle of water from the kitchen to act as the kettle of boiling water. He walked round and round around the living room while holding it with his right hand. He thought about how and where to pour the water. He was aware that doing cruel things repetitively would make that person eventually become numb to it, but there should be differences in the degree of numbness. The hesitation at his fingertips would probably stem from those differences.
Maru mechanically repeatedly recreated the same situation and did the same actions. He dissolved the list of images that he created in his head and varied his acting slightly each time. As there were no lines, he was only conscious of the keywords ‘plain lunacy’ as he continued practicing. He sometimes walked boldly, sometimes hesitantly. As there was no correct answer, he just continued endlessly until he produced a satisfactory act.
Another hour had passed when he placed the water bottle on the floor. The two dogs were staring at him from the sofa. Owner, you sick? – their eyes seemed to ask.
Maru shook his hands lightly and walked circles around the living room again. He had more or less consolidated the man’s image. That was the result of being hung up on just one character during his rest. He had the confidence to look semi-decent even if he was to act now. However, director Park Joongjin was clearly not someone who would be satisfied with something semi-decent. Maru had seen that personality of his during the kal-guksu incident. He was the type of person to make him stay up all night with a smile.
It would be very difficult to get an okay sign from the director with just a character design that stemmed purely from calculations. A time where he had to leave behind a minimum amount of reason and become the character itself to express emotions would definitely come. Method acting. This was something that the masked man used to take care of. The masked man still shared this body and sometimes talked to him, but he wasn’t as active as before. Ever since he remembered the fact that the masked man was another Han Maru and had watched more than twenty repeated lives, the masked man’s lips became tight. It was probably because of that being called god that both Maru and the masked man cursed. The most he could get out of trying his best to talk to him was a trivial conversation. The masked man had also quit doing the dynamic acting that he enjoyed doing before.
-Even without me, you’ll do well by yourself, Mr. Maru.
“Rather than encouragement like that, I would like practical help.”
Maru voiced his complaint out loud at the masked man’s sudden call. He could hear the masked man laughing.
“You seem like you’re enjoying yourself.”
-Because I’m talking to Gaeul as much as I wish. Of course, I’m not talking about the Miss Gaeul that’s next to you.
“Is the rabbit doing well?”
-Yes, she is. She’s agonizing, but she’s still happy that you are next to her. But the thing is, it’s quite strange. The person Gaeul – let’s call her rabbit since it’s confusing – likes is you, Mr. Maru. And you are also me. So, it is perfectly natural for the rabbit to look at you sometimes with worry, sometimes with satisfaction, and at times, with disappointment. But why is it that I feel jealous when I see her like that? I am you and you are me.
“Because strictly speaking, you and I are different persons.”
-As you say, I’m closer to being the original. You can see that from just the amount of memories I have.
“I think it’s childish logic to decide on who the original is based on by the number of memories one has.”
-I thought you’d say that.
“Because I am you and you are me. Strictly speaking, we are different, but in any case, we do share a lot. Rather than that, what do you think? Do you think I’m closing in on the day of my death?”
-If I knew that, I would have told you already so that you can try changing that thing called fate.
“If possible, I don’t want to feel a lot of pain when I die. I definitely don’t want to get into a traffic accident.”
-Traffic accidents are terrible indeed.
The masked man’s voice disappeared. Maru looked at the dogs sitting on the sofa. They were looking at him, seemingly even more worried than before. It seemed that even the dogs found it strange that he was talking to thin air.
“Can’t you see ghosts or things like that?” he asked.
As a response, all he got was panting noises. Maru grabbed the water bottle on the floor. It was time to throw himself at the character that he had formed, however, he couldn’t do so immediately like his calculated acting. Erasing his sense of self and synchronizing with the character never went that well. It was especially slow since it wasn’t his area of expertise. He stuffed the rational observer self into the character. The eyes of the observer that never stopped analyzing, his third pair of eyes, were no longer there.
He dug into the depths of the character. There were a few obstacles in the way due to the lack of concrete traits, but he should be able to recreate the situation he saw in the greenhouse.
He walked around with the water bottle in hand. Where are the disobedient dogs? – he had to make those that didn’t listen learn what reality is. Whenever he poured hot water, the dogs scratched the ground and growled in pain before whining. Only then did he feel at ease. It would be annoying if the products kept being noisy. When would he be able to leave this dog cage? There was a limit to poking them with sharp rods. A dog that had never tasted the hot water started going crazy again. Maybe he should have studied like the goody-two-shoes in class when he was young? This job was hopeless since there was no future. But why were these shitty dogs so noisy today? Perhaps he should poke them on the stomach or something, or maybe pour hot water on their heads. It would be great for both parties if they stayed still, so why was it that they kept making me the bad guy? They needed a beating to become obedient after all.
Just as he took a step while snickering, he heard a sound that pulled him back to reality. Maru turned around. The Pit Bull had come down from the sofa. He had all four legs planted on the floor and didn’t move at all like a wax doll. Maru blinked a few times before taking a step towards the Pit Bull.
The Pit Bull shoved his head under the sofa. He started shaking violently and started barking. It was not the unrestrained kind of bark, but a bark that contained his will to suppress his instincts as much as possible. Woofie had come down the sofa following the Pit Bull and sneaked under the sofa. Maru sighed and went to the bathroom. He probably made all sorts of noises with his mouth while acting, and among them, he probably produced sounds that stimulated the fear within the Pit Bull. He was unrestrained with his emotions as well. It wasn’t surprising that the memories of violence at the dog cages came back to him as he had been exposed to unrestrained expressions of violence. Maru looked at the mirror. He could see a face that was frozen stiff. He washed his face with cold water and forced himself to smile. The foul stench all over his body and the sound of a boiling kettle that rang in his ear finally stopped. He wiped himself before leaving. The Pit Bull looked extremely wary against him. He carefully sat down in front of him and reached his hand out. The Pit Bull slowly put his snout against his hand while preparing to back off at any moment. When the Pit Bull was right in front of him, Maru sighed in relief and pulled the Pit Bull into his arms.
“Sorry, I should’ve been more careful.”
The Pit Bull in his arms barked softly as though in understanding.