So Let Them Watch – FLOWER POWER

March 30, 2014 in moonrise31, So Let Them Watch by moonrise31

In this ten-chapter fic, each member represents a concept from a different Girls’ Generation music video—with a few creative liberties tossed in, of course.

Seohyun: The robot with a key, some bravery, and quite possibly a heartbeat.

Yoona: An artist with the age if not the years, and the notes if not the experience.

Introducing Sooyoung: You can see your waking dreams, right?

Seohyun landed with a crash, limbs splayed out to the sides in a vain attempt to break her fall. A jarring pain spiked up from the bottom of her spine (did robots have tailbones?) and her palms slapped against hard plastic surfaces on either side, arms still bent at the elbows. Narrow space.

She waited for the brightness from the portal to fade away so she could open her eyes, but the light only dimmed slightly even after several seconds ticked by. So finally, she inched her eyelids open.

Mirror. Stickers with figures and red symbols. A smell that made her want to wrinkle her nose. And a roll of…paper?

Seohyun had never been in a bathroom before, but it didn’t take long for her to realize where she was.

A knock sounded on the door. From the other side, Seohyun heard a muffled female voice. “Hello? Is everything alright in there?”

“Um…yes.” Seohyun tried to push herself up, but one of her hands slipped on the wall and she went down again. One of her legs, previously propped up by the tiny sink counter, slipped off and hit the bolt keeping the bathroom stall locked.

The door swung open.

Seohyun observed the uniform with a small winged pin and the pink neckerchief. The woman stared back. “Are you alright?”

Seohyun didn’t answer, though, because the woman in front of her was most definitely the first flight attendant she had ever seen in the flesh. And a flight attendant meant… “I’m on an airplane.”

“That’s correct,” the attendant said slowly. “We’ll be landing in Tokyo in thirty minutes. Will you be able to make it back to your seat?”

“I don’t have one.” Afterwards, Seohyun realized that she probably should’ve tried to say something else. Or at least tried to phrase it in a way so that she wouldn’t seem like such a nut case.

“Excuse me?”

Seohyun cleared her throat, reading the nametag under the flight attendant’s winged pin to avoid eye contact.

CHOI SOOYOUNG

Choi Sooyoung is really pretty.

But even pretty flight attendants couldn’t be left hanging. “I don’t have a seat,” she repeated, and then paused, wondering how she could make her answer sound better. “Unless the one right here counts.” She’d gotten used to the smell of the bathroom now (the odor was just the disinfectant, she told herself); maybe flight attendant Sooyoung would let her stay here instead of throwing her out the window, or something equally preposterous.

Stop thinking in such exaggerations.

But that was the thing: this hadn’t happened to her before. Her thought process would never have gone somewhere even remotely illogical. Until now. Was this what panic felt like?

“How did you get here, then?”

Choi Sooyoung was taking the entire situation quite calmly, Seohyun decided. Then again, flight attendants might be used to dealing with seemingly delusional passengers. Unfortunately, Seohyun wasn’t one, although she was drawing blanks as to what she could possibly say in order to convince the other that this was the case. “I…fell.”

Seohyun silently readied herself, imagining that a trapdoor would open under her and eject her from the belly of the plane and into free fall.

Instead, the attendant only exhaled slightly louder than normal. She leaned forward with one hand outstretched. “Here, let me help you up…” she squinted. “Seohyun?”

Seohyun looked down as well. Her nametag on the uniform issued by Yoona’s high school gleamed under the bathroom light, the entire plastic rectangle exposed for the world. She wondered why the portal hadn’t given her a change of clothes this time as she wordlessly took Sooyoung’s hand and let herself be pulled up.

“So you’re telling me you don’t have a seat on this aircraft?” Sooyoung asked. Seohyun only nodded. The other’s expression flickered for a moment, a hint of skepticism seeping through, but Sooyoung quickly fixed her smile and put a warm hand on Seohyun’s shoulder. “Why don’t you just sit here in the front, then, and we’ll help you get this all sorted out.”

Seohyun wanted to apologize for the inconvenience, but the situation had gotten incredibly out of her control ever since she’d escaped that room. And really, had she ever been in control, even in that room? Even once?

She obediently settled herself in the empty seat next to a balding middle-aged man. She noted the seatbelt sign overhead and felt around her seat cushion until she found the straps. After buckling herself in and adjusting the belt securely, she chanced a glance at her new neighbor, who had nothing strapped across his protruding potbelly.

Seohyun cleared her throat.

The man only flipped another page in his magazine. Seohyun extended a finger and gingerly poked his arm. He turned and she said, “Sir, I think we’re supposed to have our seatbelts on.”

He blinked at her, then shook out his periodical and continued to read. Seohyun withheld a huff of annoyance.

She was only able to fidget in silence for another minute before Sooyoung returned, now looking quite perplexed. “Seohyun, you’re not on the passenger roster for this flight.”

Seohyun nodded. “I know.”

“Does your passport say a different name?” Sooyoung prodded. “Your nametag doesn’t even have a last name on it.”

“I know,” Seohyun said again. She would’ve felt more inclined to tell Sooyoung the whole story, but the man sitting next to her and his surprising disregard for safety had made her thoughts too agitated to elaborate much further.

“How did you even…” Sooyoung trailed off and shook her head. “Stay on the plane after it’s landed. We’re going to get this sorted out. Excuse me sir,” she turned her attention to the man apparently more concerned with gossip than his safety. “Seatbelts fastened, please. We’ll be landing soon.” The man grumbled incoherently and fumbled with the buckle before it clicked into place.

Seohyun allowed herself to smile just the tiniest bit.

She watched as Sooyoung picked up what looked like a phone receiver and spoke into it, the attendant’s calm voice echoing throughout the entire plane. “Ladies and gentlemen…”

The aircraft descended smoothly. Seohyun stood and waited out of the aisle until the rest of the passengers had disembarked. She watched as Sooyoung conversed with some of the other flight attendants before walking over to Seohyun and gently taking her hand. “Come on, let’s figure this out, yeah?”

“You won’t be able to,” Seohyun said once they’d stepped off the plane and into the hallway leading to the airport terminal. “I don’t think I’ll be on any record.”

Sooyoung laughed. “Why, are you some sort of secret agent? Identity classified?”

“I’m not an agent.” Seohyun shook her head. She paused before addressing the second question. “I’m not sure if my identity is classified.”

“I see.” Sooyoung’s tone made it clear that she didn’t see at all, but Seohyun was still gathering up her courage to explain the whole robot thing even as they stepped out of the hallway. Sooyoung led her to a desk that a couple of other flight attendants were manning, apologetically commandeering a computer before tapping busily at the keys.

Seohyun looked away from the screen and glanced around, suddenly realizing how big of a space they were in. The airport was full of people and suitcases and talk that should have crashed in her ears and left her deafened. But the place was so big that it swallowed every sound so that everything seemed muffled, as if heard through a pane of glass.

Among this mass of disembodied noises, amid the moving hordes of people and things, Seohyun felt very small.

“Oh, here you are.”

Seohyun’s attention snapped back to Sooyoung’s computer. “Wh…where?” The last thing she’d expected was to have a spot reserved in this new setting.

“Here.” Sooyoung pointed, finger tracing the line on the screen.

SEOHYUN……..Depart from NARITA INTL, JAPAN; Arrive at LAX, USA

“You’re on the next flight out of here,” Sooyoung was saying. Then she frowned. “You’re still not on the previous flight’s records, though.”

Seohyun was looking at the names listed above and below hers.

PARK, SUNYOUNG……..
SEOHYUN……..
SONG, QIAN……..

The difference seemed glaringly obvious.

Nevertheless, Sooyoung seemed more preoccupied with her apparent absence on the plane that had just landed. “I suppose you don’t have a boarding ticket for the one just now.”

Seohyun patted at her skirt, but she didn’t expect any pockets and she didn’t find any. “I don’t have one for this flight, either.”

Sooyoung shook her head and muttered something under her breath that Seohyun didn’t quite catch. Louder, the flight attendant said, “Do you have anyone you can call to help you sort this out? Do you know where you live?”

Seohyun blinked. “I’m…not from around here, I don’t think. I got on the plane because I fell into it.”

“You fell into it,” Sooyoung repeated. “Okay.” Her other questions remained unspoken.

Seohyun put on a smile, deciding that it would be better to be out there with nowhere to belong than in here with nowhere to belong. Because out there, no one would notice but herself. “I know it’s too much, so I won’t be getting on the next plane. I’ll be fine from here. Thank you very much for taking care of me.” She bowed.

She turned to leave, but a hand caught her wrist.

“Hey, where do you think you’re going?” Sooyoung protested, tugging at Seohyun’s arm and making her turn around. Then the flight attendant rolled her eyes. “You’re making me look like I’m a part of some Korean drama.” She cleared her throat. “Look, I don’t think you have anywhere to go. And you’re actually supposed to be on board for the next flight, which I just happen to be working anyway, so… let unnie take care of you, alright?”

“Unnie,” was all Seohyun could say.

Being taken care of by a flight attendant certainly had its perks. For one, Seohyun got to board as soon as the airplane rolled up to the terminal. Sooyoung had her sit quietly at the front of the cabin again (“You get a window seat this time, lucky you”), and she heard whispered explanations that she was Sooyoung’s niece, whose parents were both out on a business trip.

I really owe her an explanation.

Sooyoung was too busy to learn just what she’d gotten herself into, however, because by the time Seohyun thought it might be appropriate to call her over, the other passengers started to filter into the aircraft. Seohyun resigned herself to sitting back and continuing to observe. It felt as crowded as the hallway in Yoona’s school, but with a fraction of the people, most of which were older than high school students. Seohyun saw mothers with babies, businessmen walking briskly to first class, a friendly gray-haired man talking to a kid with wide eyes and restless fingers.

It’s okay, Seohyun wanted to tell him. It’s my first time flying by myself, too. Because her mid-flight interruption in the bathroom barely two hours before shouldn’t count.

The loudspeaker crackled to life, but it was a male voice this time. “Good afternoon, everyone. This is your captain speaking…”

“Oh good, you’re buckled up,” Sooyoung commented on her way past, giving Seohyun a thumbs-up before continuing down the aisle. Seohyun returned her attention to the announcement.

“We will be landing in Los Angeles in approximately eleven hours.” She thought of sitting in Yoona’s living room and watching the clock hands push time forward second by second. But perhaps being on a flight would be more entertaining.

The safety demonstration that followed certainly didn’t fail to disappoint—would a robot need an oxygen mask?—and Seohyun found herself perhaps anticipating the feeling of takeoff. She heard the nice man offer a piece of chewing gum to the nervous kid so his ears wouldn’t pop. Then the scenery outside the window shifted, and Seohyun’s attention was drawn outside.

She watched as moving vehicles came to a standstill and rows of trees smudged into one long blur. Suddenly they were in the air, and she watched as the world below began to shrink. She pressed her face closer to the glass, trying to make out the tiny spot that had once been the airport. Once that disappeared, she traced highways narrowed into threads and fields that now looked like pieces from a patchwork quilt. When the plane broke into the clouds, she had to blink at the sudden brightness.

“Enjoying yourself?”

She turned and smiled at Sooyoung. “This is amazing.”

Sooyoung laughed. “It’ll probably get a bit boring once you realize you’ll be staring at the sea for a good ten hours. Here, feel free to watch something.” She reached over and turned on the small TV screen in front of Seohyun. “We’ve got a lot of shows and movies.”

The video selection provided yet another new experience. Seohyun spent almost thirty minutes browsing through the different movies and reading all of their descriptions before deciding on a drama. Sooyoung had to come around another time to show her the set of headphones in her seat pocket. The flight attendant noticed the show she’d selected. “‘The 3rd Hospital’, huh? I like the violist girl in that one.”

Seohyun was only dimly aware of the eleven hours that passed. It was like she was in that room again, absorbing information with no deadline in sight. Except she hadn’t smiled before when she was reading—at least, not this much. She thought of what Sooyoung had said earlier. Robots can enjoy themselves?

Sooyoung didn’t protest when Seohyun refused the meal, and other than a remark about the latter’s apparent disinterest for sleeping, left Seohyun’s flight uninterrupted. When the attendant’s familiar announcement for landing cut short the episode Seohyun had been watching (as well as her internal dilemma about whether Gong Minyoung should end up with Master or the agency head), Seohyun retightened her seatbelt and eagerly looked through the window as the plane began to descend. The rush made her stomach tilt a little as she watched the runway asphalt coming up to meet her. The contrast between the expected sharp jarring once contact was made and the smooth touchdown in reality caught her off guard. She didn’t even notice that the seatbelt sign had been turned off, only realizing that the plane had stopped when people began standing up and shuffling luggage from overhead bins.

“It’s much better riding in a seat than in the bathroom, isn’t it?” Sooyoung asked once the cabin had emptied. Seohyun opened her mouth to answer, but then she realized that Sooyoung’s grin meant that the question had been rhetorical.

The two entered the airport (“Welcome to Los Angeles!”), and Seohyun stood patiently while Sooyoung managed to borrow a computer once again. But when she returned, the flight attendant only said, “So, Seohyun, ever been to L.A.?” And grabbed Seohyun’s hand.

“You didn’t eat on the plane, so you must be starving,” Sooyoung guessed. “We don’t have a lot of time, but there’s this pizza place that you have to try.”

“Thank you, unnie, but I don’t need to—” Seohyun started. Then she let out a yelp as Sooyoung pulled her through the airport (didn’t they need to go through customs?) until they were standing outside.

The warmth gently took her breath away. She couldn’t help but close her eyes and feel the sun’s rays on her face. The sudden open air after being confined inside since she had arrived in Sooyoung’s world was incredibly refreshing.

Sooyoung-unnie’s world. Was that what this was? Did Yoona live in some other universe entirely? Or was she just a plane flight away?

“It’s nice, isn’t it?” Sooyoung broke through her thoughts. “If you’re not careful, you might get tan.” She winked at Seohyun and then dragged her down the street. “Now hurry up; I’m starving!”

Seohyun was so caught up with the sights—cars, people, dogs, palm trees!—that she didn’t even notice they had sat down until Sooyoung shoved a slice of pizza in her face. “Here, try it.”

She shook her head, “Unnie, I actually don’t—”

“I don’t care if you ate a five-course meal before this,” Sooyoung interrupted. “You. Are. Having. A slice.”

Seohyun bit into the pizza.

Robots should really eat more often.

Even while devouring a slice a minute, Sooyoung kept up a steady flow of conversation. Apparently she had decided to leave Seohyun’s background alone, because she only talked about herself. Seohyun learned about Sooyoung’s parents and sister back in South Korea (that’s where Seo Juhyun was from) and the flight attendant’s three little puppies she wished she could take with her around the world. Sooyoung shared stories about her friends and boyfriend (who is actually more than a friend that’s a boy, Seohyun reminded herself. Words could be deceiving).

Sooyoung paused to chuckle and wipe the corner of Seohyun’s mouth with a napkin. Seohyun took the moment to ask, “Don’t you wish you could spend more time with them?”

“Of course,” Sooyoung replied immediately. She crumpled up the napkin and dropped it onto her plate. “But I have to get what I want out of life too, right?”

“What you want out of life?” Seohyun thought of practicing music with friends in a garage and then performing in the street for everyone to hear. The notes spun around in her head and she suddenly remembered Yoona’s face at that moment. “Do you mean what will make you happy?”

“Yeah, sort of.” Sooyoung smiled. “I guess you could call it my dream. See, I’ve always wanted to see the world. Well, more than just see; I want to be a part of it all. And not just try different cuisines or get to know different cultures or whatever else the travel gurus do. I want to help people, regardless of where they are. I want to reach out to anyone and make their day just a little brighter, whether they’ve slipped and fallen or are going through cancer remission.” She paused and glanced down at her plate, cheeks reddening. Her voice lowered in an attempt to sound noncommittal. “You know…that kind of thing.”

And suddenly, a thought struck Seohyun: that maybe the reason Sooyoung had stopped asking her questions hadn’t been because the flight attendant had given up or run out of patience. And it hadn’t even been out of pity. Sooyoung stopped asking because she had sensed Seohyun’s worries and decided to show this strange student with no last name that she might, in fact, belong, even in a world that wasn’t hers.

“I’m still far off from that dream, of course,” Sooyoung continued, a wry twist in her smile. “It’s the kind that ends up spending more money than you earn. But with this attendant job, I’m a step closer, and I have a while left to live, I’m hoping. So I’ll reach it, one day.”

Seohyun nodded. “Unnie, I know you can do it. Because,” she reached out and hesitated, hand hovering. Without skipping a beat, Sooyoung lifted her own hand to meet Seohyun’s and intertwined their fingers together. Finally finding the courage she’d been searching for, Seohyun finished, “Because, you have a really big heart.” Big enough for the both of us.

Sooyoung laughed. “Thanks.” She squeezed Seohyun’s hand, and then pulled out her phone to check the time. “Oh, we better go. I need to be back in twenty minutes.”

“Me too?” Seohyun felt obligated to ask, no matter how unnecessary she knew it to be.

“You’re so mysterious even you don’t know what’s going on, huh?” Sooyoung teased, leaving some bills on the table before getting up. “Come on. Next stop is Paris, and their bread is to die for.”

The exciting view of takeoff from the window seat hadn’t lost its magic just yet: the speed; blurring, shrinking, shrinking; and finally emerging above the clouds. Once the airplane had steadied its elevation, Seohyun browsed through the TV selections again, venturing into the children’s shows since she’d watched everything else. She paused on one particular title.

What’s a Keroro?

She was fifteen minutes into her second episode when the entire plane jolted. The intercom crackled. “We are experiencing some turbulence. Please fasten your seatbelts…”

Seohyun peered into the aisle and narrowed her eyes. Is that…? Her mind screamed to stay put, but her hands unfastened the buckle and her legs carried her towards where the flight attendants were huddled together.

“Seohyun!” Sooyoung hissed when she made eye contact. “Get back to your seat. Now.

“It’s really bright, isn’t it, unnie?” Seohyun said bluntly. “The light. It’s coming from the cockpit, right?”

“Don’t worry. Everything is going to be fine.” Sooyoung patted Seohyun’s shoulder. “Unnie’s got this covered. Just go back to your seat, please?”

“Everything is going to be fine,” Seohyun agreed, gently pulling out of Sooyoung’s grip and brushing past the other confused flight attendants.

“Seohyun, wait!”

She didn’t. She opened the door and stepped into the cockpit with one swift motion. She squinted at the light; the portal had opened at the center of the plane windshield, bathing the entire space in white. Against the glare, the captain was frantically flipping levers and jabbing blindly at buttons. His copilot turned and saw Seohyun, a somehow substantial silhouette looming over their shoulders. “Hey, you—”

“Seohyun, don’t!” Sooyoung screamed from somewhere far off. She’s only a few meters behind me, though. “You’ll make them crash!”

An unpleasant feeling flickered at the bottom of her stomach for a moment—fear? Uncertainty?—but she pushed it down and lunged forward, into the light.

Seohyun!

Seohyun managed to think, I should’ve said goodbye. And then all she saw was darkness.