Chapter 2: To Where It All began

April 8, 2013 in Ajitofu, Astral Strings by Wasabi Warrior

For the first time in her life as a messenger, Taeyeon didn’t send the mail she was given. Not only that, she even kept it for herself.

Taeyeon returned to the future and acted like nothing happened.

“Anything new happen today with Miyoung?” Yuri asked, setting her tray down and unwrapping her burger.

Taeyeon shook her head. She couldn’t tell Yuri–not because she didn’t trust her, but because telling people almost always did more harm than good. “Nothing.”

“Then why do you seem different?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Yuri pointed at Taeyeon with her burger. “You sure?”

Annoyed, Taeyeon sent her a sharp glare, the one she usually had on when things were getting down.

“Okay, okay, I get it,” Yuri relented. “Just a woman’s intuition, y’know.”

Taeyeon sunk her fork into her carbonara and took a mouthful. She avoided meeting eyes with Yuri, thinking the thought would pass. But it didn’t and it ate her. As much as she hated giving Yuri ideas, she needed her help on this one. “H-Hey.”

“Hey, what? Since when did you say, ‘hey’?”

“Your computer registers the address of which mailbox Miyoung’s letters come from, right?”

“Why don’t you ever answer my quest–wait. Why do you wanna know about Miyoung? Something did happen.”

“Does it?”

Yuri crossed her arms. “I’m not gonna answer your question until you answer mine.”

“No,” Taeyeon replied. “I’m just curious.”

“You are such a bad liar.”

“I answered your question.”

“Fine. I can find out where she lives.”

“Great. Send the address to my holopad.” Taeyeon held her holowatch over the bill censor attached to the table and waited for the beep. “My treat.”

Yuri stopped chewing. With bits of meat and lettuce in her mouth, she said, “You’re leaving me–alone?”

Taeyeon stood up and patted her on the back. “Thanks. Send it over, please.”

“But I’m still eating,” contested Yuri. “Oh–and are you still gonna eat that?”

Taeyeon closed her eyes, sighed, and smiled. She didn’t need to say anything else to tell Yuri what to do.

Yuri shot up from her seat, bringing along with her a half-finished burger and Taeyeon’s barely touched pasta. “I’m going, I’m going.”

Minutes after Taeyeon left the restaurant to head home, a message from Yuri arrived.

Here. Got it. 5th Complex, Block D3, Section 9.

Taeyeon changed into lighter clothes–a blue layered top with a loose, gray cardigan. Then, she replied.

Kk. Thanks, Yuri. Don’t tell anyone.

After taking a minute to memorize the address, she deleted the message and went on her way. Section 9 was on the end of the city, near the slums. The last time she had gone there, a fight had broken out between the gangs and patrol drones came in swarms to stop it.

Taeyeon stepped onto the hydro-train and watched as a rush of water filled the tube, pushing them across the city. She sighed.

By opening the letter and failing to send it, she had breached her end of the contract. Technically, she should have already been fired. But the company didn’t actually have any way to track if the letters  had been sent. The only way they’d find out was if the clients complained that the changes they hoped for from the letters didn’t take place–and even then the process was long.

She was still scared. For someone who took things seriously, she knew that secrets always surfaced no matter how hard she tried to coat them.

The hydro-train came to an abrupt halt, pushing Taeyeon forward. The water was flushed out and Taeyeon rushed to Block D3.

She located Miyoung’s apartment, but she had no idea which room she lived in. Apparently, the woman never listed it. Taeyeon set post in an alley opposite the lobby, that way if Miyoung left or arrived, she’d be able to tell immediately. In the short year she’d been working as a messenger, she found out that alleys were a world of their own.

Minutes passed and without any signs of movement, Taeyeon found herself tapping her foot against the grungy floor. She decided to take the letter out and read the rest of its contents.

Taeyeon struggled to understand the rest of the letter. With basic proficiency in English, she could only infer that Miyoung was telling her past self a story about Taeyeon–and why she shouldn’t fall in love with her. She wasn’t sure if it was really her, considering there were other Taeyeons in the city, but that was why she was there. She needed to know the truth.

An hour had passed and her holowatch was beeping with alarms from Yuri. Work didn’t seem so important anymore. She was going to be removed sooner or later anyway. As long as it wasn’t the police who’d put her our of employment, it was fine.

A door slid open in the distance, prompting Taeyeon to raise her holowatch to it. She zoomed in. Walking down the stairs was a 50 year-old Hwang Miyoung. Taeyeon thought it’d be difficult to recognize her, but she retained much of her features from the past. Although her hair was no longer a smooth, shiny black, it still flowed gracefully down her shoulders. Her skin was well-kept, and few wrinkles met her face. She donned a faded, black sweater and a long off-white skirt, matched with rain boots. She was carrying an umbrella and a market bag.

Taeyeon peered out of the alley and noticed that there were a few residents around. She decided it was best to wait for night, when was on her way back from the market.

A few hours passed and Taeyeon racked her brain for anything that would connect her with Miyoung. But she had nothing. She was sure that Miyoung’s past self never saw her whenever she delivered mail. She was stumped.

Then, she heard footsteps from the market area. It didn’t matter. She was going to have her answer soon. Taeyeon watched as Miyoung walked up the stairs and waited until she was outside her door. She followed suit.

“Excuse me,” Taeyeon said, bowing. “Ms. Hwang Miyoung?”

She expected her to smile and say hi. After all, Miyoung looked like the friendly type.

But all Taeyeon saw when Miyoung faced her was a surprised look tainted with dread. For a full second, Miyoung’s mouth hung agape and her eyebrows arched downwards. And her eyes–they were the most telling. At first, it sparkled with disbelief, of yearning and years of waiting. Then, realization seemed to have dawned upon her as it glazed fear.

Miyoung dropped her market bag and scrambled to get her keycard. She fumbled, sending it flying towards Taeyeon’s feet.

“What–What are you doing?” Taeyeon asked, puzzled. She picked up the keycard and handed it to Miyoung. “I’m not going to harm you.”

Fidgeting, Miyoung glanced at her, and then snapped for the keycard. She tapped it on the censor and rushed inside, leaving her belongings outside.

“Ms. Hwang, I just wanted to ask you something,” pleaded Taeyeon. “Please.”

There was no reply. The door remained shut and Taeyeon was left outside, hanging. She tried one last time. “I need to know why you know me. How? Where?”

But Taeyeon’s questions were soon drowned out by the sound of sirens. Patrol drones. She must have called, Taeyeon thought.

She couldn’t leave through the stairs, so she climbed down the railings and jumped towards the adjacent building. Her footing wasn’t steady, however, and she fell short. At the last second, she held her hand out and reached for a dangling bar by the ladder. The force pulled her forward, sending her body crashing against the wall. Her holowatch banged against the titanium and she let go. She landed on a dumpster just as the drones rounded the corner.

“Damn it,” Taeyeon whispered under her breath. She glanced at her holowatch, which still seemed to be functioning save for the constant fizzing. “Here’s to the past.”

Taeyeon dove forward, sliding under a hole in the metal fence. She pulled her hand back before pressing on her holowatch.

Her surroundings paused for a brief moment. Then, it morphed and shifted to a familiar scene. One of snow-covered trees, three-story apartments and wooden benches. But it didn’t stop there. Her vision blurred and her breathing became heavy–then, everything turned pitch black.

Some time had passed when she felt a hand lift her face from a pile of snow. She blinked a couple of times and coughed. Taeyeon thought she saw a woman with straight ebony hair and a slim nose with milky skin.

“H–Hey, are you okay?” she heard her say.

Everything felt heavy. It was difficult just to stay conscious. Her mind felt blank.

“Who–am I?” Taeyeon asked.

 

And that was just the first question.