His name was Daniel and I think he was a paedophile. Whether he was or he wasn’t, he certainly was a violent and delusional man, and his brief stint in my life was alarmingly full of coincidence and fear.
Our first encounter was on the subway in downtown Daegu. I was on my way home and I heard someone shouting, “Hey! Wait up!” and when I looked around there was a bear of a man chasing me down the platform.
His appearance was awesome. Daniel was around 6’5 and he was as wide as a bull. He was immensely hairy, too. From his face to his hands he was covered in a thick layer of red hair. He wore a giant LA Lakers shirt over a grey t-shirt, and denim shorts with hi-tops. His hair was huge and frizzy, adding another for inches to his height, and was kept back from his face by a white sweat band.
“Hey! How’re you doin’?” His voice was gravelly. He sounded like a professional wrestler. He spoke so forcefully that pleasantries sounded demanding. I was scared that my response wouldn’t satisfy him.
“Oh, hey…” I said, pretending I wasn’t shocked by his appearance. I knew instantly that I didn’t know him. You remember a person like Daniel.
“I’m Daniel,” he said.
He turned away from me and introduced himself to every single person on the train – “Annyeonghasseyo! Annyeonghasseyo!” – and then turned back to me and grilled me with questions.
I answered his questions as briefly as I possibly could, bearing in mind that I didn’t want to offend this giant weirdo.
It wasn’t that he was an awful person, but that he was loud and forceful. I’m a quiet guy. I answer questions when people ask them quietly and politely; not when they’re barked at me.
“I was a teacher in LA,” he told me. “But I had to come to Korea. Something happened… They took my job. Fucking bullshit, man. A guy can’t fuck up once?”
Daniel got off the train after three stops and I was glad to see the back of him. Daegu is a smallish city, but I knew there was a good chance I’d never see him again. I hoped that if I did I’d see him before he saw me and be able to run away.
It was about two days later and I was in a bar called Nu Skool, drunk to the point of blurred vision and trying to forget that I was surrounded by soldiers and hip-hop ‘music’ when Daniel stepped back into my life.
Daniel didn’t walk into Nu Skool… He burst in. He exploded through the door, speaking in tongues and waving a sports sock full of billiard balls in the air. There were tears in his eyes and he looked ready to murder someone.
I was snapped out of my drunken funk.
The problem with running into Nu Skool with a sock full of billiard balls, looking ready to murder someone, is that Nu Skool is a hangout for soldiers. Luckily for Daniel there weren’t many soldiers there at that time, but there were some, and the non-soldiers were all pretty huge guys, too. They surrounded him instantly, keeping just enough distance to avoid getting their jaws ripped off by the weapon.
I watched as I came to realise fully just who this guy was. At first I’d been shocked by the sight of a maniac, but now I knew I knew the maniac! I felt some weird responsibility. Everything suggested this incident was heading towards an extremely bloody conclusion, and I wondered if perhaps my prior acquaintance with the maniac might manage to avoid that.
I approached Daniel very slowly as he stood swinging his sock. He was no longer spitting outright gibberish, but instead was screaming “I’ll kill you all!” at the room full of people. The look on his huge face said that he meant it.
I got as close as I could, trying to smile. I wanted to offer him a friendly face, because it was obvious that Daniel was about to die the minute he dropped the sock. People don’t like being threatened for no reason, and these weren’t reasonable people. Daniel was in trouble.
“Hey,” I said, too quietly. “Daniel, remember me?”
He looked at me but nothing seemed to register. He looked at me in spite of the fact my voice probably wasn’t audible, but he didn’t seem to recall who I was…
About two minutes later Daniel was outside with blood on his face. He got off lightly, and so did everyone else. His sock smashed a few lights and busted up a door, but made contact with no one, and the guys in the bar hit him only enough to subdue him, then dragged him outside and left him on the street.
I went down to talk to him, half expecting him to kill. But I have a lot of experience dealing with intoxicated people, and I’ve never been afraid of them.
He was screaming in rage when I got down there, and I knew that even the lacklustre Korean police would have to show up eventually.
“Daniel,” I said. “Remember me?”
“Yeah, I remember you. From the subway, right?”
“Yeah,” I said. “You alright, man?”
“They’re out to get me… They all want to kill me… But I’ll get them…”
That was some nice, clichéd paranoid ranting.
“Why don’t you go home, man. It’s alright. They’re not worth the bother. Just take it easy and get out before the police come. C’mon man.”
I spoke with a soft voice. It seems to work well with drunks. Always make it seem like you’re on their side, and you can manipulate their feeble minds…
But was he drunk? I realised just then that he might not be drunk at all, and I ran back upstairs. A few moments later – apparently – the police arrived and took Daniel away.
When I went upstairs two people warned me that Daniel had been stalking them, phoning them in the night and telling them that he wasn’t human. He was something very different.
The third appearance of Daniel was the most troubling. It was what scarred me the most and what sticks with me today, as a warning to avoid the weirdoes of the world.
I was climbing a mountain miles from Daegu, all by myself, when I saw him. I was in the middle of nowhere and there he was, too. He was climbing the same path as me, faster and gaining on me. I knew he hadn’t seen me, so I kept walking. I didn’t know what else to do.
Daniel soon caught up with me and turned and saw me. There was no shock; no surprise. “David,” he said, calmly. I said hello.
He had two people with him – an old Korean man and young Korean boy. They both looked alarmingly tranquil. I wondered if he’d drugged them.
“David,” the old man said. “Hello.”
The young boy also said hello, addressing me by my name.
“David from the farm in California,” the old man said. “I know you.”
Daniel laughed as my skin froze. I had not said a word to him about my time in California. All he knew was my first name and a few details about me. He’d tracked me down and converted these drugged out Koreans into some weird following…
“Literature student. Beatdom magazine. From St. Andrews.” The old guy knew everything about me. I felt sick to my stomach. “You went to Denver, San Francisco, LA.”
Daniel kept laughing. “They know you,” he said. “I know you.”
“I was just heading back,” I lied. “I’m too tired to climb.” I wanted to turn and run back down the mountain but I was afraid he might somehow catch me. What if he had a gun? Something about him scared me so much I couldn’t even flee.
“Ok, let’s go,” he said. “We’ll ride back to Daegu together. I know where you live.”
On the way back down I tried not to speak. He’d taken the little I’d told him and presumably cyber-stalked me, so I didn’t want to give him anything else, in case there was something he didn’t yet know.
“You saw me,” Daniel said. “You saw what they did. I just wanted a drink…”
I didn’t know what to say, so I said nothing.
“I brought the weapon because I wanted to drink. So shit. I just thought it would help me relax.”
“Ok.” I tried to sound sincere. Don’t let him know you think he’s crazy.
“You know what the sad part is? The cops took the sock. It wasn’t even my sock.” He turned and stroked the boy’s face. “It was his sock. They took his sock…” Daniel looked to the skies, tears in his eyes. “I’ll get them all. I’ll get them for what they did to his sock.”
I nodded to show him I didn’t think he was crazy, and then began walking really quickly. I shouted back, “I’ve got to hurry! I’ll see you in Daegu!” and then took off running down the hill. I knew Daniel couldn’t keep up because he was so huge, but I didn’t know what he might do if we ever met again.
Two days later I got an e-mail. It included many accurate facts about me and my life, along with some weird ranting about the injustice of Nu Skool, the bar that was now suing him for damaging their property, and the education system that threatened to remove him from his job, based upon the criminal charges of damage from that night, as well as “things from my past they just discovered.”
He warned me that if I didn’t go to the police immediately and tell them he was an innocent man, he’d “get” me. I made a note to avoid going out in public ever again.
But I’m a crafty bastard, too, and I reverse stalked Daniel. He’d stalked me to get my e-mail address, so I used his to stalk him right back. What I found scared me.
Daniel had a MySpace page and Facebook page, with no friends over the age of about seventeen. He also liked to inform people of his apparent supernatural abilities. Apparently Daniel was an alien with a claim to being the Second Coming of Christ. He called himself a ‘Messiah’.
He also took pictures of his own faeces and posted them for all to see. They were impressively large.
I kept my distance from populated areas until my cyber-stalking informed me of the fact that Daniel had been kicked out of Korea, due to various problems with various employers. Only then did I dare climb a mountain, go out for a drink, or travel on public transport.
About six months ago I was overcome with a strange feeling – the feeling that Daniel had died somewhere.
Daniel and Nu Skool are not real names.