Saturday, March 30, 2013

Me and Aldaris (p4): Cheonha's Adventure


Yes, this story will change perspectives.  Notedly, Cheonha is not thinking in english, I'm simply writing it that way.  Also, if something seems inconsistent with what I've written before, it's because I've done some editing to the story for when it was posted to fanfiction net.

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Cheonha didn't know what was going on.  Only a few seconds ago she had been on an alien ship with a weird Miguk, and now she stood in on a path in a dark forest.  It wasn't entirely dark.  A few sparce electric lights lit the way on both sides.  One part of the road went further into the forest, and the other led out into a more open area with fields.  Cheonha went toward the open side, the mostly empty plastic bin of strawberries still in her hand.  As strange as her stomach was starting to feel, she wasn't sure she wanted to get rid of her only source of food.

Why are all these lights on?  Cheonha wondered.  That's a huge waste of electricity.  An important person must live here.

Cheonha shuddered.  She didn't like the idea of getting on the wrong side of a powerful government official.  She hoped they were the nice sort of official that only threw tresspassers off their property instead of sicking the dogs or throwing them in prison.  For the moment, there didn't seem to be any mansions or fancy gates or important looking people.  Only fields of tall wheat on both sides.

I've never seen a person as rich as this... Cheonha blinked.  He doesn't even have any guards.  I must be deep in his property.  He better harvest this soon.



Cheonha walked on.  There were more fields and more roads, like a strange world made entirely without people but wheat stalks in their place.  In the cherry glow of the electric lights, it was almost a magical sight, as if Cheonha had stumbled on a world where food was plenty and there was no one else to steal it from her.

A little green shed stood near the side of the road up ahead.  Without any reason other than curiosity, Cheonha went up to it to investigate.  It was a tin shed, and the green paint that looked whole in the dark and distance actually proved to be peeling and doing only a half-job of covering the rust.  It was locked only with a chain and padlock, so Cheonha was able to open the door a crack and see what was inside: old harvesting equipment, some of which would not have looked operable to anyone from countries wealthier than North Korea.

This must be the worker's tools.  Cheonha decided.  Maybe the master keeps his better tools somewhere else.  It would take a long time to harvest the fields with only these.  I hope he has lots of horses.

Cheonha paused, laughing a bit at herself.  Why in the world was she wishing well to some official whom she had not only never met, but could have shot at his leisure?  Then again, if the Miguk saram back on Aldaris' ship had been teleported away from her home just as Cheonha had been, then perhaps she was now in a different place entirely.  Maybe in this country it was illegal to shoot unarmed trespassers.

A sound awoke Cheonha out of her thoughts and nearly scared her half to death.  It was the sound of an engine, and the headlights that accompanied it were already shining only a few feet away from her.  Cheonha immediately dashed around the tin shed, hiding among the wheat stems.  Much to her horror, the radiating light from the street didn't move away.  The car engine slowed, and the voice of a foreigner sounded.  Cheonha's stomach began to turn.  She'd long since dropped the strawberry bin, and if that man got any closer, she was going to lose the strawberries.

Her heart (and some strawberries) jumped up to her throat as she heard the most horrifying sound in the world: a dog's bark.  Only the rich had dogs, and no dog was friendly.  Where she was from, people would debate whether or not it was worse to end up in the labor camp or in the jaws of a dog, if they could have said so without incurring the wrath of a snitch.  Cheonha had always figured that a dog was better, because death came sooner.  Now that the sniffling and snuffling of a canine nose came closer and her hypothetical was reality, her courage dissipated, and she would have given up that fate for a camp instantly.  Cheonha ducked her head under her arms.

"Wuff!" came a deep, lazy-sounding bark.  "Woo-woo, wuff!"

Cheonha peeked to find a floppy-looking dog with skin so thick and loose it hung over the dog's eyes.  It was barking, but not at her.  It was calling for its master.  Immediately Cheonha came to her senses and ran off through the wheat.

I can't escape!  Cheonha ran frantically, knowing she left a clear trail as she went.  Dogs smell too well!

In her haste, Cheonha tripped over her own feet; the run was too hard, and her stomach was too uneasy.  All at once she slammed into the ground, wheat stalks slapping her in the face and confusing her sense of direction.  It was all she could do to sit up as footsteps caught up with her.  Some of these belonged to the dog.  The others belonged to a man.

He was a tall fellow in dirty overalls, tan and wrinkled from constant exposure to the sun.  The dark-haired man's eyes widened at the sight of Cheonha.  She cringed, waiting for him to start yelling.  She almost jumped out of his skin when he started laughing instead, a great big horse laugh that could almost make the ground shake.

Still laughing, the man said...something.  Cheonha only stared pitifully at the man, too confused to try and answer.  It was clear that this man was a foreigner, and Cheonha's few lessons in english weren't even good enough for her to confirm that it was that language he was speaking.  Her confusion didn't escape him, and the man leaned down, speaking a little more slowly and loudly.  When Cheonha didn't answer, he simply rubbed his chin and patted the dog on the head.  After a moment, he pointed to her ankle and said something else.

"Ah...." Cheonha tried, pointing to her ankle.  "Che balmukgi ap'ayo..."

The man nodded as if he understood, but his eyes were as blank and uncomprehending as before.  He didn't know the language, clearly.  Cheonha gave up and tried to get to her feet.  This guy didn't seem so bad, so maybe he would just let her go.  No such luck.  As soon as she tried to get up, he grabbed her arm and began to pull her up.  Fearfully Cheonha tried to pull away.

The man spoke again, and for the first time Cheonha recognised one of his words: "okay".  That was a word she knew from english, and remembered it because it was so easy.  "Okay" meant something like "kwenchanna", and the Yonguk and Miguk said it a lot.  Was he really speaking english, though?  Not that it mattered, as she didn't even know enough english to buy a loaf of bread.  Still, the guy didn't seem very mean, and she wasn't going to get away anyway.  She allowed him to lead her away, and he supported her weak ankle as she went along.

It was slow going, but they eventually made it back to his vehicle: an old, beat-up blue truck that looked as rusty as the tin shed.  Cheonha felt much better: maybe this man was just a normal worker and not a master. Maybe she wouldn't get arrested, then.  Of course, there was no telling what he was going to do to her, but Cheonha had no choice but to get in the passenger side of the funny-smelling truck.  It reeked of gas and old dog, the latter of which was made perfectly clear as the flappy dog jumped in through the driver's side and went to the cramped seat behind the two front ones to lay down.  In came the worker man, and off they went down the road.

Cheonha eyed the dog.  It was getting curious, and kept sniffing her.  But he was clearly not an attack dog.  Cheonha had never seen a friendly dog, though her grandfather said he used to have a dog when he was young.  Despite herself, Cheonha reached back to pet it.

"Annyong, dong-saeng..."

The man smiled and said something that sounded friendly.  Cheonha didn't answer.  There was no point.

It wasn't long before the two of them reached a house, just a few yards off the main road.  Cheonha gasped at the sight of it.  This man didn't live in a worker's hovel, but in a two-story house painted white, with green shutters on each window.  The porch was wide, with rocking chairs and a swing on it, barred off by pleasant wooden rails.  The roof didn't look leaky, but was covered in dark shingles.  Bright electric lights -- not underpowered orange ones -- lit up the windows.

He lives in a mansion!

This freaked out Cheonha even more, and only reluctantly did she get out of the truck.  It was starting to get cold outside, and the more Cheonha thought about it, the more she really wanted to see the inside of the "mansion".  She'd never been in a rich person's home before, and she wanted to make the most of it.  She let the man lead her in.

The inside of the place dazzled her.  There were real carpets on the most beautiful hardwood floors she'd ever seen, and before she did anything else, Cheonha kicked off her shoes.  She was not going to track dirt in a house like that, though it gave her the shock of her life when the man didn't remove his dirty boots.  He left her standing there a moment as he called out something.  A woman's voice responded, and Cheonha let the foreigners talk as she took in the rest of the sights.

It was a strange mansion.  Was it normal for rich people to put pictures of themselves and their families on the wall next to the stairs?  And was it normal for there to be a chicken painting on the wall in the dining room?  Cheonha stared to the left and took in the sights of a grand dining room: it had a grand, rectangular table with chairs that all matched and had cushions on the bottom.  A massive china cabinet held beautiful dishes with rich-looking people in bizarre clothes and wigs, and also glass cups with cartoon characters on them.  The aforementioned chicken picture hung on the wall next to a door, which Cheonha guessed led to the kitchen.

To the right was the living room, it was gorgeous.  A piano, not quite as fancy as the one at school but a nice wooden kind, stood in the corner.  More pictures of family were on the wall, as well as a weird, colorful canvas that Cheonha guessed was done by someone in the house.  There was also a picture of a strange, brown-bearded man on the wall, but it wasn't a photograph.  She wondered if that was the "Great Leader" of these people.  However, Cheonha's heart belonged to the tan, plush couches that lined the walls.  She would love to cuddle up on just one of their cushions and sleep for hours.  Actually, when was the last time she'd slept?  When she was zapped up on Aldaris' kongangpeh, it had been at the end of a long workday in the rice fields, and she'd just barely finished up with a wash in the river.

It was as this point that the man came back, with a pleasant looking woman in a plaid shirt and jeans at his side.  The blonde spoke nicely to Cheonha, but in a tone that sounded like she was talking to a child.  Suspicious again, Cheonha didn't answer.  The man, however, brought her to the living room before the moment could get any more awkward.  He sat her in a plush chair that she hadn't seen from the front room, and only Cheonha's uncertainty kept her from falling asleep then and there.

The woman brought in a little metal tray and set it before her, leaving a moment later.  Though Cheonha hadn't seen the man go, he came back with a blue plastic bucket and a towel, gesturing toward the Korean's leg.  She allowed him to hold it over the bucket, and he dripped a few drops of water on it.  They were hot, and Cheonha winced.  The man, from a cup she hadn't seen, poured some water into the steaming bucket and tried again.  The water wasn't so bad this time, and Cheonha set it carefully in the bucket to acclimate.  The warm water felt wonderful on her leg, and now she really thought she was going to go to sleep.

But she wasn't, and a wondrous smell told her so.  The woman, the man's wife, she guessed, brought out a bowl and a plate, and set them on the metal tray.  The bowl held a salad, with cucumbers and tiny tomatoes -- Cheonha's favorite.  She didn't know what the slices of dark green were, but everything in the bowl was a fresh vegetable.  Vegetables!  When were they ever this fresh?  Were they straight from the garden?  Certainly these generous people would get in trouble with their collective farm administrator.  No one was allowed to have food without first turning it over to the authorities.

The plate held weird things that Cheonha had never seen before.  They were two yellow shells, holding more tomatoes, little bits of cheese, and...was that...could it be?  Yes, it was meat.  Not only meat, but the the most heavenly meat Cheonha had ever smelled.  It wasn't stringy goose dried out for long rationing, but robust, spicy...something.  Cheonha was taught never to ask questions about food, but to clean her plate (when she had a plate).  She certainly wasn't going to rebel now.  It would be unprincipled of her to refuse.

Cheonha set into the food, trying her hardest to take her time and chew, and also use the fork provided instead of her fingers.  Rushing food was never a good idea, and she wanted to savor this.  But as Cheonha bit into the salad, eating the delicious green whatevers, she started to cry.  These people had given her food, and she hadn't begged or promised them work.  Without question or hesitation they took care of her and let her into their house, even though she was certainly not dressed for a mansion.  Cheonha tried hard to swallow her food before her sobs choked her.  Why were these people being so nice?  What did they have to gain from it?  They weren't going to sell her, were they?  But of course, all of this food was expensive, especially the meat.  Who would treat a slave this well?

The wife sympathetically patted Cheonha on the shoulder, assuring her with her almost magical foreign words.  Despite not knowing what it meant, Cheonha nodded and tried to stop crying.  How rude of her.  She must try to be more polite to the nice couple.  They went away and started talking in the front room, but Cheonha didn't mind.  She preferred to eat alone for the moment anyway, and it was easier to stop crying with them gone.  She focused on the food and nothing else.  She couldn't finish half of it.

It's just as well.  I can't spoil myself today because there's no telling how little I will have tomorrow.

With a little reluctance, Cheonha pushed the tray back.  She pulled her foot out of the water and dried it on the towel.  She had the feeling that she should have done something more, like put up the dishes or dump out the bucket.  Yes, she was certain that manners required something from her, only the chair was so comfortable, the her stomach was beyond content, and her day had been so long that just as she had resolved to do something, Cheonha fell asleep.  She didn't notice when the couple came in and took everything away.  The woman put a blanket over her, and without waking Cheonha's hands pulled it tightly around her shoulders.

What seemed like moments later, Cheonha woke.  She was still in the mansion, and a small lamp was still on.  She wanted to sleep even more but something was wrong.  There was a presence in the room, and not altogether a pleasant one.  Look as she might, Cheonha could see no one.  Words popped up in her mind, which she managed to recognize as english.  And didn't get it.  After a moment, the words turned into images and feelings, and Cheonha understood.

It's Aldarisu.  He has to talk like this because he has no mouth.  she rolled her eyes and snuggled into the chair.  What do you want?

Of course Aldaris didn't understand her korean, so she found she had to concentrate a little harder to communicate her feelings telepathically.  Aldaris didn't argue with her.  He simply said to get ready to return to the ship.

Shut up and go away.  Cheonha "said".  I don't care and I want to stay here.

Cheonha clenched her fists tightly and tried to force herself to fall asleep.  Much to her surprise, Aldaris didn't respond.  The annoyed presense simply left.  Relaxing, Cheonha sighed and relaxed.  Maybe the rich people would let her work on their farm.  She didn't mind working fields if she could eat like that every day!

Suddenly, the light got brighter.  Cheonha grudgingly lifted her head and blinked.  Were the rich people awake?  As soon as her eyes adjusted, Cheonha found herself, chair, blanket, and all, inside a vast room with the same architecture as the alien spaceship she'd already seen, still scattered with random objects, as well as three other humans sitting there, staring at her.

"Aaaah!" Cheonha screamed in anger.  "ALDARISU PABOYA!"

With that, Cheonha stuffed her head under the blanket again and tried to go back to sleep, hating all the Protossu saram with all her heart.

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