Asleep Are the Dogs: Chapter 3

May 10, 2013 in Asleep Are the Dogs, moonrise31 by moonrise31

If you’re barking up the wrong tree and no one hears it, are you making enough noise?

Chapter 3: Of Missed Texts and Pasts Revisited

Sooyoung watched the pair of medics walk past, another victim limp and bloody on the stretcher between them, and fought to keep her lunch inside her stomach. She had a duty to these people to find out what had happened. How it had happened. Why it had happened.

Somehow.

Somehow, she had to explain why they now needed oxygen masks and pain medications, hospital bills and prosthetic limbs. It was what she owed them, standing not a meter away from the taped off disaster zone on her own two feet, her unmarred hands clutching the voice recorder until her knuckles turned as white as the sheets draped on the broken cement: shrouds covering those whose last moments were defined by a whim, a deranged fancy of whoever had pressed the proverbial red button that very blatantly said “DO NOT PUSH”.

And here was the aftermath.

Of course, to the people on the scene, victims and officers alike, she was just another nosy reporter looking for a story. She’d gained barely two seconds of usable information so far, and her boss expected something substantial within the next few hours. What I wouldn’t give to be writing about that stupid ostrich feed, she thought darkly as she squeezed her eyes shut, imagining how happy this bustling marketplace had been just hours before: crowded with vendors and colors and lively chatter instead of firemen and rubble and the harsh grating of megaphones as the rescuers searched and shouted. She clenched her teeth, not wanting to inhale anymore of the smoke, the sweat.

The death. It clung to the air and sat heavy in her lungs. Choked her and weighed her down, driving her away with waves of despair and suffering and so much searing, lingering, throbbing pain.

Her cellphone buzzed in her pocket. She pulled it out, frowned at the “number withheld” name scrolling across the top of the screen. Her curiosity got the better of her, though, so she opened the message.

[4:46 PM] Want facts? I have them. 

An address listed at the end, and a time. Her eyes flicked to the clock at the top of her screen. Forty-five minutes to get halfway across Seoul? I need a taxi. Sooyoung turned on her heel and strode away from the wreckage, posture now straight and full of purpose. Her “somehow” had come.

She quickly skimmed through her contacts list. Sooyoung wasn’t stupid, at least as far as journalists were concerned. Yes, she was following up on this message no matter how dangerous it could very well be, but there was no way she was going without a backup plan.

The line picked up on the third ring. “Hello?”

Sooyoung stood at the corner of the street and waved frantically at a passing cab. “Hey, Fany?”

The voice on the other end perked up immediately. “Soo! How’s it going?”

Sooyoung withheld a frustrated sigh when the driver sped past without a second glance. “I’m sure you’ve heard about the bombing in Jongno district just now? Dongdaemun Market?”

“Ah, yeah.” Tiffany’s tone damped considerably. “You there right now?”

“Kind of.” Sooyoung bounced on the balls of her feet for a few seconds before deciding to try her luck further down the block. “Listen, I’m following a lead, but it’s kind of shady, so if I don’t get back to you in say, two hours, you should probably tell someone important.”

“Sounds like a plan.” Tiffany was Sooyoung’s safety net whenever her investigations turned sour, her one-way ticket out of all sorts of bad situations. The two had met in university, Sooyoung immediately warming up to the bright American and helping the latter pick up the finer points of the language and culture, as Tiffany had only arrived in Korea after she’d finished high school. The other returned the favor by teaching Sooyoung more than enough to pass English with flying colors. After graduation, they both settled comfortably into the Seoul community, still the best of friends.

“And best friends have each other’s backs,” Tiffany had said a few years ago after she demanded to know why Sooyoung had been crazy enough to chase down a gang member without telling anyone first. She refused to take “I’m a journalist–it’s what we do” as an answer, and Sooyoung was secretly grateful even as she complained about how much of a worrywart her friend was being.

Sooyoung grinned when a cab finally pulled up to the curb, quickly scooting into the backseat. “Thanks, Fany. Gotta go.” She recited the address to the driver, who dipped his head and pulled into the traffic once more.

“Be safe,” Tiffany said. “Come back soon. Work is boring.”

Sooyoung chuckled. “I’ll try. Later.” She wondered what kind of menial tasks Tiffany’s boss could possibly be piling on her, as she was always more than willing to sit through the undoubtedly nail-biting minutes after Sooyoung called, just in case she needed to alert the authorities. With computer skills of Tiffany’s caliber, Sooyoung figured that her friend could get any job she wanted anywhere else, but it seemed that she had opted for some sort of accounting work instead.

Oh well. Her choice. Sooyoung switched her phone to silent, realizing that having it buzz in the middle of her mysterious meeting might not be a welcome interruption for either party. She slipped it into her pocket once more and looked out the window, tapping a fast rhythm on the car floor with one foot.

Ten seconds later, she was perfectly unaware as her phone lit up soundlessly, Tiffany’s message briefly on display before the screen went dark once more.

[4:52 PM] WHEN YOU READ THIS, GET OUT. NOW.

Sunny found herself at the ruined marketplace just as the sun sunk below the city skyline, and she wondered why she was here. She’d been on the opposite side of Seoul when the bomb exploded, her mental state more or less sound and phobia un-triggered. Now, she easily recognized the scorch marks on the crumbling concrete, the stalls reduced to half-burnt stakes, and resisted the urge to let her knees buckle as the echoes of blasts gone by began to ring against the inside of her skull.

She wrapped her arms around herself, seeking a steadiness she was starting to suspect she no longer had. What was it about humans that made them so attracted to what they were scared of the most?

“Brings back memories, doesn’t it?”

She whirled around and came face-to-face with a woman, hair as blonde as her own, wearing a baseball cap that proclaimed “National Assembly Tour Guide” across its brim.

Sunny stuck her hands in her jean pockets and took two cautious steps back. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Of course you do,” the other replied with a smile, apparently not discouraged in the slightest by Sunny’s less-than-welcoming demeanor. “And I imagine your post-traumatic stress disorder can’t be helping that much, either.”

Sunny narrowed her eyes. “Alright. You either work for Dr. Kwon or Dr. Kim, or otherwise every single person in this city and their grandmother knows about my apparent mental illness.”

“Don’t be silly.” Hyoyeon laughed. “Wrong on both counts, just so you know. And I promise you that when everything’s said and done, the number of people who’ll know anything worthwhile about you can fit on your two hands.” She held up her ten fingers and wiggled them for emphasis.

“Oh?” Sunny hoped her skepticism was showing on her face, although it was only a fraction of the suspicion she was feeling. I thought things were supposed to get less complicated after I left the military. “And how do you figure that?”

Hyoyeon shrugged. “It’s what I’ve been told. Here.” She pulled out a sheet of paper and held it out. “Maybe this will clear things up a little?”

Sunny hesitantly accepted the page, skimming the contents.

 

The Meeting

By: Im Yoona

Cast:

Lee Sunny as herself

Kim Hyoyeon as herself

HYOYEON:  I mess up with words and stuff, which is why I need a script to say important things in an even mildly coherent way, but basically I’d like you to come with me. And I promise it’s not as sketchy as it sounds.

SUNNY: [confused, suspicious, and considerably freaked out in general] I think that makes it sound quite sketchy, actually.

HYOYEON: Just come to the Icee Queen. The worst that’ll come out of it is having to pay for your ice cream. And if you don’t want yours, just give it to Yoona. ‘Cause she likes ice cream. Ice cream is good. Yum.

SUNNY:

Sunny looked up. “It’s not finished.”

Hyoyeon waved a hand. “I’m sure we can both agree that Yoona’s characterizations were subpar at best. But it doesn’t matter, ‘cause this story is about you. And you know what that means?” Hyoyeon pointed a finger at Sunny’s chest. “Only you know how it’s going to end.”

“Is that so.” Sunny felt a smirk tugging at her lips. If Yoona was involved, that probably meant Taeyeon was as well, and Dr. Kim seemed to be the type to have more than wacky ideas. If there’s a chance it’ll make me better, why not? “Alright. Let’s go.”

The two took a taxi to the ice cream parlor, Hyoyeon chatting away about everything and nothing and surprisingly didn’t bring up the National Assembly even once. When they entered the Icee Queen, the bell above the door chiming their arrival, Sunny was feeling so lighthearted that she didn’t immediately notice the “CLOSED” sign in the window. She didn’t even realize that there was a woman sitting alone at the counter until Hyoyeon halted in front of the cash register.

“And this is my boss,” Hyoyeon grinned, gesturing dramatically as she added, “her bark is worse than her bite. Usually.”

“Uh,” Sunny said, trying not to feel intimidated by the cool stare that chilled her to the very bone.

“Hello, Miss Lee.” Jessica extended a lazy hand, the other propped under her chin. “I think I have a job that you might be interested in.”