This story is dedicated to Kayla Lane. Thank you so much for the extraordinary character idea of Brandon Kang!! Please give her some support! Link to her profile page:
This story is also dedicated to Amethyst. She came up with the amazing character idea of Kamara Nowak! Please give her some support as well! Link to her profile page:
“Exit! Exit the highway, you bumbling idiot!”
“Okay, okay! Jeez!” I yelled, making a sharp turn to the right as I exited the highway. The town looked nice enough, but I knew something was coming. I braced myself for him, the loud and annoying voice that pestered me 24/7. I tried to prepare myself for the chatter as he talked about the town.
I wasn’t ready.
“This place is lovely! Especially in the summer, with the happy atmosphere, the bright green trees, the bustling busyness, the gentle breeze--hey, that rhymes!! Ha, I can be a poet, don’t you think, Geonu?”
I felt like rolling my eyes. “You would make a terrible poet. And call me Brandon. My Korean name brings back bad memories.”
I gripped the steering wheel, half in anger, half in worry. I glanced around, as if my parents would pop out of nowhere and chew me out for abandoning them.
I shook my head. I was being silly.
Ignoring my inner struggle, he (what are the pronouns for an app, anyway?) continued babbling on about the town.
“Oh! Turn left! Within a few seconds, you will be driving past a cafe. By the way, in Korean, ‘cafe’ is pronounced ka-pe! At least, I think. I’m not programmed in Korean.”
I raised an eyebrow. “Have you been dating a translator app or something?”
A sigh resonated from my phone. “I wish. Tran is a fine looking app. Great personality, too.”
“Anyway. . . this cafe is actually the best in town! Coffee and Cake! They have some fantastic coffee. Their lattes are divine. You don’t want to come by here without tasting that beauty! Not to mention, their chocolate cheesecakes are so smooth, and, well, chocolatey! I remember one time-- You just had to drive past Coffee and Cakes, didn’t you? I wanted some caffeine and sugar!”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m pretty sure apps don’t drink coffee. Or eat! Can you please tell me where to turn now? Before I delete you from my phone?”
“My, my!” the app blared. Jeedo, I was starting to call him. The map app that talked too much. The app that I regretted developing as soon as I had discovered a few days ago that it had somehow become self-aware. “You would delete me? After all I’ve done for you? I led you to that dark alley two years ago in Chicago!”
“That alley was the hideout of a gang! They could’ve killed me!”
“What about that time I found you a job at a Korean to English translating company?”
I slammed on the brakes, and my phone bounced in its mount. Jeedo shrieked.
“You did that on purpose!” He accused me.
“I did not!” I retorted, lying through my teeth. I quickly changed the subject. ”And that job sucked! I barely knew any Korean. I got fired within a few days!”
“Yet you moved to Korea a few months ago. Even though you don’t know the language.” Jeedo said smugly. “Looking for adventure and lo--”
“Can you shut the f*ck up and let me drive?”
I sighed, trying to drive through the streets and navigate as Jeedo gave me running commentary on the town. “Oh! See that house? Beautiful, isn’t it? Those fine bricks are top quality! It’s the home of the marvelous Edward Banks, who, true to his name, owns the bank of this town! Banks’ Bank. Ingenious name!”
After approximately 0.5 seconds, Jeedo gasped. “You just drove past the town’s bookstore! Sacrilegious. The name of the is in Korean, so I can’t exactly pronounce it. Want to know why? It’s because you put me in the ‘English’ setting, I can only talk in English. You can change that, of course. Would you like--”
I glanced at my phone and grinned.
One percent. Just a few seconds. . .
The phone screen turned black.
I sighed in relief, thankful for the peace and quiet as I drove to my destination.
“Mwo deusil laeyo?”
“Can you please speak English?”
The waitress sighed in exasperation, tucking a piece of stray hair into her dark brown bun.
“What-- would you like-- get today?” she asked in haltering English.
“Can I get a chocolate bingsu with ice cream?” I pointed to a picture on the menu. It was surrounded by Korean words I could barely make out.
“That is not chocolate, ma’am.” The waitress laughed quietly.
I didn’t bother to correct her.
“Then what is it?”
The waitress hesitated. “I don’t know what-- it in English.”
“I’ll get it anyway.” I said, flashing her a smile.
The waitress nodded, scribbled down my order, and walked away.
I intertwined my fingers together as the feeling of boredom crept up on me like a burglar sneaking up on their treasure. Even as a twenty-four year old, I get bored so easily. Too easily.
My parents had once told me something when I complained to them about how bored I was. “If you’re bored, that can be good for you. There will come a moment in your life when it’s good to be bored.”
And I had shot back, “But that time isn’t right now! I’m still bored!”
Then, my father or mother would laugh and say, “Then you can help me make kimchi if you’re that bored. And you can taste it afterwards, too!”
I had always found something to do after they told me that. I hated kimchi with every fiber of my being, and I never went near that stuff. But of course, whenever I tell a Korean that, they look at me strangely, like I had told them I grew up on Jupiter.
I took out my phone and my portable charger, debating my choices. If I do end up charging my phone, it would be so easy to click on Jeedo and have his loud voice (that cannot be controlled by the volume of my phone) blast through this place (and probably through the entire town, too). That would promptly get me removed from the cafe. And I would prefer to have my not-chocolate bingsu before I get kicked out of here, thank you very much.
But I did have headphones. . .
I jammed the charger cords into my phone and waited, scanning the cafe. Nothing exciting was here. Just a bunch of adults on laptops or phones, eating bingsu and sipping their coffee. I sighed. Why did I come here, anyway?
Something flashed in the corner of my eye. A young woman walking up the stairs to the second floor of the cafe. But it was at a fascinating speed, like she saw someone taking away her bingsu. It shouldn’t have interested me very much, but it did. Something seemed off about that lady. Something that wasn’t right.
Leaving my phone on the table, I walked upstairs, scanning the floor. Where was that woman?
I saw her. She sat on a chair in the corner, drinking coffee and reading some sort of book. For once, I could actually read the title. “The Selection”. Her hair was dyed blond, and her features were Asian. She was wearing jeans and a leather jacket, which was uncomfortably similar to what I was wearing.
The woman started chatting with a guy next to her, who looked like a gender-bent version of her. I could barely make out the words of their conversation, but as I slowly walked closer, I realized that they were talking in English.
“The girl next,” the young woman murmured. “She’s causing too much trouble. We need to take her out.”
She crushed what looked like a fifty won coin with her nails, and it crumbled, the pieces scattering on her legs. No way was that coin actually made of metal.
That wasn’t the only thing that seemed strange. Her voice sounded familiar, but I couldn’t grasp the memory. But I was sure I had heard her voice before.
I didn’t need to hear the guy’s exasperated voice to know that he didn’t like whatever she was talking about.
“Why did we meet here?” he hissed, lacing his fingers together. It looked so similar to how I would intertwine my fingers together at moments. “This place is public, Marcella. Someone can hear us!”
Marcella smiled sweetly, like she was explaining something obvious to a child. “What seems more suspicious, Osmond? Two siblings talking together in an abandoned alley with weapons, or two siblings talking in a cafe drinking coffee?”
Osmond sighed. “You have a point.”
Marcella brushed the remnants of the coin off her lap. “Of course I do. Do you know where the girl is?”
Osmond opened up his laptop and typed a few words, staring at the screen.
“Which girl?” he asked, not looking up from the laptop.
Marcella sipped her coffee, trying to conceal her annoyed expression. “How many times did I have to tell you in the last few days? The one named K--”
A voice blared through the cafe, blasting my eardrums. It was a male voice. Definitely the irritating voice of a certain cursed app. A string of swear words spilled from my mouth as I raced down the stairs.
As I rushed towards my phone, Jeedo’s voice continued to fill the cafe. “Could this place possibly be Salang Bingsu Cafe? Wow! I heard this place had great bingsu! The carpeting is quite nice. It matches your wall quite well. You have quite a good rating, too! There’s only a couple of bad reviews. Let me look at them. Ah! Here’s one! A man named Ryu Jaeho. He says that the bingsu was too sweet. His kids had a sugar rush! And he also wrote that the staff was rude. Astronomical! There isn’t a single bad thing about this place! Although, I have to admit, the color of your chairs and tables do clash. . .”
I punched the power button on my phone, silencing Jeedo for the moment. How had he started talking when I hadn’t left the app on? I pondered on that as I walked out of the cafe, disappointed that I didn’t get to eat my bingsu.
I plopped down on the driver’s seat of my car, wishing that I didn’t have to use Jeedo to drive. Unfortunately, my car didn’t seem to have a built-in map system.
Reluctantly, I turned on my phone and opened up Jeedo.
“Hi, Geonu! What’s up? Can we get bingsu?”
I glared at my phone. “What do you think my answer is?”
“Hmph. I wanted some bingsu!”
At least when Jeedo gets upset, he shuts up for a bit. We drove through the town in silence.
The silence only lasted a few minutes before Jeedo started blabbing again. “Soon, you’ll be driving past a Korean grocery store! It sells only Korean food, snacks, drinks, and candy! Incredible! You do have to pay to get the plastic bags, though. Korea is strange. But America, your former home, isn’t much better. They use an entirely different measuring system than the whole world! Who does that? Is it that hard to use centimeters and Celsius?”
I chuckled. “You do make a good point.”
“Ha! So I’m not that annoying all of the time?”
“I never said that!”
Jeedo laughed. It was hard to believe he had been down just a few moments earlier. And I had never heard his laugh. For all of his bubbly energy, he never laughed. Until now.
Jeedo’s laugh was different from what I had expected. It was a giggle, then slowly turning into a cachinnate as it got louder and louder.
I’d have to admit, his laugh sounded human.
I shuddered at the thought.
Once Jeedo’s laughter died down, an ear-splitting word blasted through the car. “Look!”
I winced, making a mental note to start saving up for some hearing aides. At this rate, I would need them soon. “What is it? Do you have to be so d*mn loud?”
“Of course I do! It’s perfectly normal for an app to destroy a human’s eardrums by showing them a house!”
“Yes, it is." I muttered.
Jeedo continued on, undeterred by my sarcasm. “The house is lovely, isn’t it? The house itself is nice, but the garden’s especially well taken care of! The lady living here must know her plants! It’s definitely the thyme of year for carnations and begonias!”
Jeedo paused, as if waiting for a response. I didn’t give him one.
“Can you at least try to appreciate my pun?” Jeedo complained. “I said “thyme” instead of “time”! Because, you know, thyme is an herb?”
I remained silent.
“See if I laugh at any of your jokes,” Jeedo grumbled. “Anyway. . .”
His voice changed back to its chipper tone.
“You know who lives in that house?”
I shrugged. “Enlighten me.”
“It’s Kamara Nowak! That trans girl you dated in college!”
I felt like getting sick and throwing up all over my phone. Kamara was here? In the town I live in, no less? How could the universe be so cruel?
“What?” My yell sounded almost as loud as Jeedo’s voice. “How-- when-- why--”
“Calm down!” Jeedo shouted. “Chill! It’s nothing bad. It’s just that your true love who broke your heart lives in the same town as you do. No big deal!”
“No big deal?” I asked incredulously. “This is the love of my life you’re talking about!”
I bet Jeedo would’ve shrugged if he was a human.
“I do know a bit about Kamara, though.” I could tell Jeedo was baiting me, but I honestly didn’t care. “Should I. . .”
I nodded, excited. “Okay, okay, okay. Is Kamara single?”
“Yes, but no.”
“What the hell?”
“Hey, I don’t know how human love works!”
I supposed that made sense. If I didn’t know how love works, why would an app know?
For the rest of the drive, I peppered Jeedo with questions. Why was Kamara here? What was her job? Was she well?
Jeedo somehow answered all of those questions. For a map app, Jeedo knew a lot about girls.
There were questions I didn’t ask, though. Had Kamara changed from the girl she used to be? Did she still love me? Had she ever loved me? Would she forgive me? Could I forgive her?
It wasn’t long until I parked my car at the apartment building’s parking lot.
“I’m going to turn you off now,” I told Jeedo. “Don’t talk or turn yourself on until we get to my apartment. Or I’m deleting you from my phone!”
“Yes, sir. I will totally obey your reasonable command.”
I didn’t know Jeedo was capable of sarcasm, but I chose to ignore it. I shut off my phone and walked into the lobby, and immediately froze.
Marcella and Osmond from the cafe were sitting in the lobby, talking in hushed tones. They didn’t notice me watching them. Judging from the bulge of a gun now sticking out of their sleeves, that was probably a good thing.
I sneaked up closer to them, trying to make out what they were saying.
“Is the plan ready for action?” Marcella muttered to Osmond. She grabbed a knife from her boot and threw it, and the knife embedded itself a few inches from the ear of the doorman. How did he not notice that?
“Yes,” Brinton typed in a few commands in his laptop, looking satisfied with his work. “The plan to kill Kamara Nowak is in action.”