Days later, Yeung-Sung approached the door of his store. When he last saw it, the screen was smashed and the frame cracked, yet there it stood before him, intact and with fresh glass. Grumbling as he passed through, he was annoyed that it was in much better shape than himself.
Inside, the store was operating as normal, acting like it had always been in the colony: Unassuming customers strolled the aisles with baskets in their hands. The walls were clean and -better than that- decorated with pretty posters, advertisements of upcoming sales. The tail of a soft piano piece frolicked through the air, but after Yeung-Sung took his first step it faded out.
He stood in the doorway like a bear in a mail room. Knowing who was behind all this, he quickly located Woo-Yi working at the tills. The shoppers immediately stared away, wiping the image of his swollen, bandaged bulk from their memory. From their conscience.
Woo-Yi had seen him too but she kept her composure well, continuing to check out customers. She scanned a coloner’s selection of fruit as he stared. Still, he caught her face twitch as he stomped down the first aisle. Hands in his pockets, he took wide steps, making a show of looking about and shaking his head in disapproval.
I’m a stranger in my own shop. All this effort you put in -and you told me that you wouldn’t help me. Hah!
Yeung-Sung knew that she was trapped at the tills until the queue had been dealt with, so he left her there to dwell in awkwardness while he gave himself a tour of the newly furbished store.
It was impressive how she had turned the place around. However, Simon and the other bastards at GLI probably gave her a helping hand, so he wasn’t that impressed.
This right-most aisle, the one he came into, was baked goods; breads; cakes; treats, as well as healthy options. They were on the left shelves while a large drinks fridge ran the length of the wall on the opposite side. Limping through, Yeung-Sung bounced a finger off his bottom lip as he loudly judged everything he could.
“I don’t know about this
“Tut-tut, don’t think so.”
He was a head taller than the top of the aisle, so he was sure to let Woo-Yi in on a view of every remark. Noting that one of the half-pan brown breads was out of date, he exclaimed, “That doesn’t belong there,” flicking it onto the floor. It landed across from a young girl in a chequered skirt who opened her mouth as she saw who it was. Yeung-Sung waved to her as she shuffled away.
Lurching right along, he turned into the second aisle. What he saw there he did not appreciate: Tea and coffee on the same row as cereal; grains, beans and canned fish sharing the same space; Jars turned around backwards so you couldn’t see the label and the worst offender; Packets and packets lay in heaps where they should have been on a rack, or a stand, or at the very least upright. Yeung-Sung pendulumed his head with his words, saying,
“No-no-no-no-no. This won’t do.”
His arm deep in the top shelf, Yeung-Sung suddenly noticed a shopper at the ending of the aisle eyeing him. Stocky, South American by the look of him, he wore a black hoodie with a huge letter ‘D’ stamped in the middle of it. Nodding to him, he moved forward, dragging his arm through every mis-matched item and scooping it out. They spilled off the edge in one long surge like a plastic waterfall.
The hooded coloner remained as the items poured over his feet. Stroking the beginnings of a moustache he said, “You deserve it,” and left the aisle.
Other shoppers peered came to investigate the noise, the queue by the till splitting up and rounding the end of the aisle. They looked at him with disgust, some lowering their shopping baskets to the floor and leaving.
Yeung-Sung heard the flap of the counter and rubbed his hands in preparation. Staring back at the last onlookers with slitted eyes, they streamed out of the store in a huff and he skipped backwards to the far side of the aisle, smiling mischievously.
He roared wordlessly at them. While everything continued to fall in a shower of noise, pain gonged through Yeung-Sung’s being. The tendons in in his arm clicked, then locked up. Yeung-Sung sank to his knees, swerving his heels like rudders as he tried to keep his balance with his forearms weighing limp at his sides. His roared, but his throat kept still.
Falling back, he struck his head against a shelf of dried nuts and fruit. He crunched his lips in between his mouth, his cheeks bloated like a bank ready to burst and waited for the pain to subside.
“Yeung-Sung!” yelled out Woo-Yi in her captivating, natural-born Korean. “What in the hell do you think you’re doing?”
Peering out, he saw Woo-Yi rounding the corner of the aisle to where he was. She kicked out the packets as she stepped to him, her approach a tinfoil tick-tock. He had still been leaning against the aisle -Maybe I can still push myself upright- but as she stood over him with her bulging expression, Yeung-Sung let himself slip down onto the ground.
He winced; She sighed.
“Do you have to do this?” she asked. “I’m the one who is going to have to clean this up, you know.”
She leaned close, one hand pressed into her side, her puffy sweater flopping over her fingers. She made a tsk, yet stuck out a hand towards Yeung-Sung, the peach sleeve rolling up her arm. “It is your store, remember?”
Yeung-Sung hadn’t regained enough control of his hand to move his fingers, but managed to slap her hand away with the stiffened back of his. He looked darkly up at her.
“Do you see how everyone reacts to me?” He pouted his lips towards the littered aisle and spat out, “What bullshit!”
He watched Woo-Yi then to see how she would react; She inhaled into her diaphragm through her nose, but kept her mouth tight. Yeung-Sung was ready for her to hit him, but the attack never came. Still, he didn’t unflinch and kept strict eye contact with her.
Her shoulders remained steady as she exhaled and said, in a quieter voice than her scream before, “You can’t blame them. Yeung-Sung…”. She blushed a little. “You just don’t understand how it works here.”
Yeung-Sung snorted. So we’re back to this again?.
“Oh, I’ve seen enough to know that not everyone is content in this stupid colony, but go on”. He held up an arm to his elbow, rotating a loose slip of his bandage. “Keep preaching to me -of all people- and how I should respect the experiment.”
Dropping it down again, Yeung-Sung grabbed a packet of nuts and tried to peel it open while he waited for Woo-Yi to, inevitably, justify the colony again.
She kept a scream contained behind her lips an pushed her hands up to the side of her head. “Jordan is -he’s seen as…the saviour of the world. I know its not fair, but you have to understand.”
Shrugging, she lowered herself onto her haunches. “He can do no wrong in their eyes.”
He could barely hold the plastic packet, let alone muster the force to tear it open, so Yeung-Sung chucked it away and looked up, finding himself at eye level.
“How? How could I possibly see him like that?”
Blushing again, she looked away as she thought, counting her thoughts by fanning out her fingers.
“He supports every country, “ Woo-Yi began, “ Worked with the UN at every step after the ‘crash’; How about when GLI single-handedly funded the countermeasures to stop nuclear war?”
She extended her hand again, but Yeung-Sung wouldn’t even acknowledge it.
Her eyes were watery, but she continued, “In the public eye, he’s nothing short of a benevolent God.”
“Look -at -me,” Yeung-Sung said.
She did for a moment, before backing away a little and wiping her eyes against her sleeve.
“I’d rather not.”
He leaned forward. “Your God did this to me.”
She turned, still leaning down and started to gather up what she could carry. In between the crinkle of the bags she quietly sobbed.
She sniffed. “He could have done so much worse,” she said, her words croaky, “I don’t know why this happened to you. Not really -And, and I’m sorry.”
She straightened up and re-stocked the shelf, reaching beside Yeung-Sung’s head as he stared blankly at her. But when she finished, she stood up, raising her chin and said,
“But it’s a small price to pay.”
Yeung-Sung couldn’t believe her heartlessness. Or, perhaps he had been judging them rightly all along. A morbid thought came to him;
Has every coloner I’ve met been completely in Jordan’s pocket? It can’t be…
“Is it?” Yeung-Sung retorted.
He cracked down on his thighs and forced himself up. Adjusting back his shoulders, Yeung-Sung stood before this person and really tried to figure out if he could trust her. She seemed to tremble, as if she didn’t believe her convictions. But she never took the words back.
Yeung-Sung turned to go. “Speak for yourself,” he said, limping past her, down the aisle. The music had never returned and all the customers had long gone, leaving only the two of them alone in silence. Each step down the aisle through complete quiet dug into him worse than anything Jordan had done. He leaned into the physical strain further to stop himself from leaking tears. Again, he was thankful for it, but then he heard Woo-Yi, with a frightfully feeble voice say, “I’m sorry.”
At the end of the aisle he stopped. Exhaling, untensing with his back to her he said,
“Finish cleaning up, then show me how you close this place.”
Woo-Yi sprung up in surprise. “Will you come back tomorrow?” she asked. Looking down at the floor, away from Yeung-Sung, she meekly held her arm by the elbow.
“I don’t want to do this on my own.”
Yeung-Sung looked down as well and wondered if they were looking at the same things on the ground. He sighed as he realised just how much of a mess he had made, just how much of an asshole he had been, now and before.
“Maybe,” he whispered.
I have to know if I can trust you. Or anyone. However, Ill need help if I’m going to turn people’s view of Jordan around.
He took a determined breath and took a step to spread his stance.
“Let’s lock up quickly,” he said with a smile, “We’re going for a drink after work.”
In a world full of coffee, I still fall asleep at will.
Hey, I'm Sleepy!
Huge reader, weeb and gamer. I've recently gotten into LitRPGs, and although I wouldn't say any of my work strictly falls under that genre (yet!) I am hugely influenced by it.
Let me get one thing straight, I love a mystery with a huge reveal, really flawed and under-powered protagonists and deep game/magic systems.
Recommend me something you think I'd like! I'd love to read something of yours, or look over some work if you need a hand. One benefit to sleeping all the time is I'm always well rested. Ha!