Chapter 1: I’ve Arrived Y’all
June 28, 2009
It’s finally happened. After six months of turning in painfully complicated paperwork and trips to the Korean embassy out here in Texas, I’m finally here! South Korea! Land of… well I didn’t really research what they’re famous for so I guess more on that soon. Maybe fitness equipment? Everyone out here is so freaking skinny.
The swine flu is apparently known as the American flu out here. It’s made things a little tricky. I’ve been quarantined to my hotel room for a week. Well… it’s not exactly a hotel. The school didn’t want to spring for a hotel, so they’ve put me up in what is known as a love motel. It sounds extra great, right?
But it’s not. Apparently the ‘love’ in love motel is not actual love, it’s just a nice way of designating your hotel as a place for business men to cheat on their wives. Yeah, they put me up in a hotel that you can rent by the hour. I was woken up at 2 AM last night by someone pounding on my door for ten minutes. Guess who didn’t answer the door?
Besides the general grossness of the place, the room is so small it barely even accommodates a twin sized bed and tv. The bathroom is filled with mold, half used shampoo and bodywash bottles, and no towels. Well there’s one, but it appears to be made out of cheese cloth. And it’s no bigger than my arm. I’ve taken to just rolling on the sheets. I’ll probably get an STD.
The language is proving to be more difficult than I had anticipated. I probably should have studied something before coming. Hindsight, right? So, I’ve been using a phrase book my aunt bought me. I guess I ought to get signed into Korean classes. I really thought that what with all the people that are getting jobs out here as English teachers that more people would speak English. Well, there’s always body language. I’d like to write more, but the couple in the next room over are alternately screaming and crying and I think that’s my cue to go take a walk. I’m going to blog all the time though so don’t worry! Lot’s more details coming your way soon!
Chapter 2: Wait, I have a blog?
August 2nd, 2010
I just remembered I had this account! Wow! Time flies when you’re having fun! Or a mental breakdown. I just capped the thirteen-month mark over here. A fittingly unlucky number. This last month has been hard. I thought I was going to be able to go home and visit my family for a few months, but plane tickets are expensive and I lost about a thousand dollars last month at the bar.
See, this is going to sound crazy, but they pay us in cash. Initially it was the thrill of a life time. Every month we’d get these envelopes stuffed with yellow bills (Korea $50 dollar bills. They’ve got a lady on them and everything) and I’d walk it to the bank with my heart pumping in my chest, feeling like a drug lord or something. But this month, pay day had the bad fortune of being on Thursday. Now, you might say, what’s the big deal with Thursday? Well, let me tell you.
Koreans like to drink. You read all the stories about Korean kids and cram schools and assume they’re all sweet little geeks who never do anything but stare at books and play StarCraft. But this is very much untrue. Koreans are only geeks until they hit university. After they finish their college entrance exams, the whole lot of graduating high schoolers hit the bottle and they hit it hard. The legal drinking age here is 18 and those kids don’t play around.
It is generally acceptable to show up to work hung over on Friday. Some might argue it’s expected. So, the weekend starts a day early over here. Unfortunately, last month Thursday happened to be pay day and I had this wad of bills in my purse. I was supposed to go to the bank, but then ‘Loose Mandy’, one of the girls who teaches kindergarten at my school, told me there was a place down the street that was running a special on soju and I just ended up going straight there.
I don’t really remember much of that night, but someone told me that I ended up getting rather chummy with a table full of old business men. They invited all of my table to come with them to the Noraebang, which is a place where you stuff a bunch of people into a little room and then sing karaoke. There is never a bad time to go there. Anyhow, somewhere between I must have dropped my envelope because it was not in my purse the following day. The only stroke of luck I had was that I had stuffed half of the bills into my bra. I have no idea why. But thank goodness for drunk Miranda. She really saved the day. I have to go. Loose Mandy got a care package from her family and I heard there’s Reese’s Peanut butter cups in it.
Chapter 3: What Have I Gotten Myself Into?
February 19th 2010
So here I am. Today, when I mentally came to I was alone in O’hare looking out at the airplane I was to board in about 30 minutes! I’m going to Korea! I was excited, scared and a little nauseated. After six months of hard work and planning I was moving my entire life to a new country! Was I crazy or brave? I had studied Hangul the Korean alphabet before coming but, now I’m starting to think that wasn’t nearly enough! I had listened to K-pop which it seems is extremely popular there. I mean catchy music and hot guys and girls, what’s not to like? Youtube was my biggest insight into Korea and its culture but, now it seems none of that will help me as I board this plane. Did I mention I hate flying?
February 20th 2010
I am here! That was the longest flight I have ever experienced. Maybe going for a nonstop flight wasn’t the best idea but, at least we didn’t crash and die right? It’s really early here, like five in the morning. I swear I have the worst timing of anyone I know. So now I’m just waiting for this organization to pick us up. Yes, us. There are others here thank God. This experience is really strange. Everyone here seems to be in a rush. Running up and down the airport, crammed into tiny convenient stores, and their faces are all serious. I exchanged my money but as silly as it sounds I have no idea how to buy anything. The money however, is really pretty. So much different than the American dollar. Like why is everything in thousands? Maybe I should have done more research. Finally after waiting for 5 hours everyone is signed in and taken to the bus to drive to orientation. I am so tired and all I want to do is get to my city of Gwangju. I guess my new life is going to start soon. What have I gotten myself into?
Chapter 4: A Dream Come True?
May 7th, 2011
I’m not sure if this is a dream or not, but I’m in Busan, which I guess is not all that unusual considering we have a long vacation. But the weird thing is, I’m in Busan with a girl I never met and we’re staying at a 찜질방. If you don’t know, a jjim_jil_baŋg(pronounced jjimjilbang), is like a bathhouse. It’s separated by gender unless you are in the common area. So yes, everyone bathes and relaxes together. Naked! I must be crazy, because I would never do this. I guess it’s another symptom of living overseas. I am however, having a great time with my new friend. She’s super nice and Busan is beautiful. And tonight, I’m going on a date! I know! Who am I?!
May 8th, 2011
So…..my date went well, but last night was extremely weird. We went to this Mexican restaurant/club and the music was great. However, there was this group of Korean guys there who wanted to hang out, talk, and take pictures all night. I kept wondering if this was normal or if maybe I should be flattered. What was so weird you ask? Well, one guy in particular kept asking me for my number and for some reason I couldn’t say no. I knew I was on a date but it felt like I was almost under a spell. He was extremely gorgeous so maybe that’s why? What girl would say no? Horrible I know. Also, it’s gets weirder. In English, he asked where I lived. I said, “Gwangju” and his whole countenance changed. He seemed overly excited and with a smirk he asked again. “I live in Gwangju,” I said, and he whooped with joy. After a minute he was back to normal. Had I imagined the whole thing? Some part of me didn’t care because he was gorgeous, and had my number, so I let it go. But right before I left with my friends the guy pulled me aside and whispered, “You belong to us now, wait for my call.” I was shocked! and didn’t quite know what to do. And I’m sure I saw fox ears. But, that couldn’t be possible right? It was probably the alcohol and the fact that it was four in the morning. Was it a dream? I guess we’ll see.
Chapter 5: Something Weird Happened Today
May 13th, 2011
Something really weird happened today. Not like Loose Mandy hooking up with Greasy Carl weird, like I ran home and hid under my covers weird.
I kept meaning to sign up for Korean classes, but they would have interfered with my night life and my weekend travels. Can you really blame me for preferring to take pictures of myself wearing Hanbok while walking around in a traditional village? No. You can’t. The important thing here is as of now, I speak the same amount of Korean as I did when I came a year ago.
So, this afternoon, I caught a coffee with a friend who lives on the other side of town. After coffee, I had to run into the local convenience store to recharge my bus card. The old man behind the counter stared at me a little when I came in, but that’s pretty common, so I didn’t really think that much about it.
So, this is where the story gets weird. He keeps saying something to me about “Card”. I don’t know what he’s talking about so I keep saying, “No card.” A lot of these little shops have some kind of point card that you can sign up for. I’ve never figured out what you can use the points for, and I sure as heck wasn’t going to give this creepy old man my phone number.
Anyhow, so then, like every other old Korean man in Korea, he asks me, “한국어 잘 해요?” which means, “Can you speak Korean?” Like, it’s clear that I don’t. Why do they always ask? I shake my head and he laughs. As always, annoying, but whatever. Like I care about what an old man working at a dime store thinks.
Then he pushes this little paper across the counter at me and hands me a pen. The only word I even recognized on it was “이름”, which means name. But I’m running late and I have to get that bus card refilled. So I write my name in the name box. He points to another box and says, “Phone.” I write down a random string of numbers. He has me put in my alien registration number, which I hate to do, but whatever, I’m so late and this is taking so long. I don’t know my address, so I just wrote “Gwangju” which is the name of this city. Then, at the very bottom, he makes me sign my name.
As soon as my signature is on the paper, he begins laughing. Like a lot. Like creepy a lot. And that’s when he says, in fluent English, “You should have taken the Korean classes.”
I turn and run to the door. I mean, you would have done the same, right? It’s crazy creepy. So I figure, to heck with the bus, I’ll run home. The problem is, before I can get to the door, the wind slams it shut. I try to push it open, but it won’t budge. So I start banging on it and screaming. But there’s nobody around.
The old man, who is still laughing like a psychopath, says, “You might as well give up, no one can hear you.”
At this point, it’s all starting to feel a little too much like one of those Korean horror films. I start crying, big time. Like streams of black mascara running down my face. The man waves a pack of tissues at me and says, “Calm down. I’m not going to hurt you. Wipe your face and let’s take a look at this paper you’ve signed.”
Creepiest thing to say ever, right? But I can’t go anywhere and this massive snot bubble is very much restricting my air flow, so I end up walking over to where he is. After I blow my nose and wipe my eyes a bit, the man shakes the paper once and hands it to me. Somehow, all of the Korean had translated itself into English. And there, at the top, the words that I had assumed meant “Point Card” actually read, “Contract for Voluntary Servitude”.
“What the hell does that mean?”
“It means you just legally signed yourself over as my servant.” The man shakes his head with a big laugh and takes off his hat. And this is where the story gets even weirder. He has horns. Really, he does. The dude has two little horns sticking up out of his head. I mean, I was taught not to stare, but I can’t help it. And then I scream. And start to run, but of course, the doors are still locked so I can’t get anywhere.
“My name’s Cheolsu. I’m a dok-gaebee. You know what that is?”
“No.” I figure it’s the name of some weird disease or something, you know.
“We’re kind of like your country’s imps and gremlins. Magical beings.”
“Like I’m gonna believe that.” This is the point where I realize that he’s definitely crazy.
“You don’t believe me, watch this.” And then, the guy pulls this massive club out from under the counter. Like unbelievably huge. Like almost half the size of him. At this moment I am positive that I’m going to be on the news.
Cheolsu says, “You got a smart phone?”
I can’t talk at this point so I just shake my head. He’s still laughing. He whacks the counter and when he lifts that huge club back up, lo and behold, there’s a smart phone.
“Take it. It’s yours. Number’s the one you wrote on the card. I’m guessing that’ not your real number?”
I shouldn’t have touched the phone, but it was a Samsung Galaxy. A model I’d never seen before. Anyhow, I pick it up. He laughs, says, “I’ll be in touch,” and then charges my bus card. Somehow, I ride the bus home.
I didn’t even go to work today. My boss called me like ten times. I bet he’ll fire me. The little smart phone hasn’t rung yet, so I’m hoping that it’s broken or something. Maybe I just dreamed it all? Here’s hoping.
Chapter 6: He Called…
May 20th, 2011
He called. It wasn’t a bad dream. That weird gremlin guy called. This morning. I woke up to the phone going off at like 11:30. The ring is this weird music that I’ve only ever heard in cabs. I think they call it ‘trot’.
I glance at the screen and I’ve missed fifteen calls. I’m so groggy, I can’t decide if I should answer or not. I don’t. Eventually it stops ringing and I’m sitting on the bed freaking out. Like what am I supposed to do? This whole thing is crazy. So finally, I take the phone, turn it off, and drop it in my trash. Seems like a good idea at the time.
I go to work. My boss is still really pissy about me not coming in the other day. I swore I was sick, but she didn’t believe me. Finally, I told her it was my period and gave her some spiel about how white girls sometimes get cramps so bad they pass out. As usual, she bought it. But she’s still not being nice about stuff.
So I’m sitting at my desk, pretending to prepare a lesson for my middle school kids. Actually, I’ve already decided that they’re so horrible that I’m just going to give them a worksheet I found online and then tell them to ‘self study’. Like a pack of monsters, those kids. Last week, one of them literally spent the whole of class drawing a very realistic hand flipping me the bird on his desk. Ten out of ten for artistic ability. Zero out of ten for English ability. But I digress.
I’m at my desk when that horrible trot music starts playing. It’s coming from my purse. I definitely yelped. Everyone looks at me, but luckily, I’m the only foreigner at my facility so no one is really brave enough to ask me questions. They all hate speaking English. Which is odd, because all of them are English teachers. More digression.
Anyhow, the phone’s going nuts at this point and it’s clear that I can’t not answer it, plus how the heck did it even end up in my bag? I’m sweating. Glancing around real sketchy like, I reach into my purse and sure enough, the phone is right there on top. I pull it up and accept the call.
The first three minutes of the phone call are just Cheolsu yelling at me. I don’t even understand most of it ‘cuz he’s mixing Korean and English and some other language I’ve never heard. But after a few minutes he calms down and says, “Listen carefully, I’ve got a job for you.”
I nod, which is stupid because it’s a phone. There’s a long silence and he says, “I said I’ve got a job for you. Did you hear me? Are you stupid or something?”
“Sorry. Yes, I heard you.”
“So, there’s these… let’s call them girls. They owe me something. They’re going to drop it off at your school. All you have to do is bring it to my convenient store.”
“What? They can’t come here.”
“Yes. They can. I’ve already given them the address. Don’t look in the package.”
“Wait! What package?”
“I just told you. 세상에 you’re stupid. Never mind. You’re smart enough to ride the bus.”
So just as I get off at nine this girl shows up at the front desk looking for me. I don’t know how to describe her. Unpleasantly sexual? She’s wearing boots that go almost all the way up to her butt cheeks and a short skirt that’s so short that aforementioned butt cheeks are almost hanging out of it. Long hair. Like all the way down to her teeny tiny waist. Lot of makeup. A lot of makeup.
“You Miranda?” Her voice is, I don’t know how to describe it, snarly.
“Yeah. Do you have a package for me?”
“Yeah. Don’t open it.” She holds out this black plastic bag. I take it gingerly. It’s weirdly heavy and kind of sloshy.
“What is it?” I ask timidly.
“I just told you not to open it, Stupid. You don’t need to know. Just take it to Cheolsu.” She just glares at me for a moment and then pulls me in for this intensely aggressive hug. Leaning in, she whispers in my ear, “You tell that piece of garbage Dok-gaebee that this is the last time.”
So I ride the bus the whole way to 매곡동 and at about 10 I walk up to the convenience store. Cheolsu’s waiting for me at the counter.
“Took you long enough.”
“I had to wait for the bus.”
“You ought to get a scooter.”
“I don’t have enough money.”
“Not my problem. Give me the bag.”
I hand him the bag. He glances up at me, raising an eye brow slightly. “You look in?”
“Good. Next time I call, answer.”
And like that we’re done. I still can’t believe it happened. But on the upside, it seems like maybe whatever work I have to do for this guy isn’t that hard.
Chapter 7: My First Delivery
June 5th, 2011
So today started out pretty normal. I went to work, the students behaved well, they served my favorite lunch, and my co-teachers bought me a cake for my birthday. Awesome right? Then, as I was walking home, my phone started to ring. Usually I don’t answer when I don’t know the number but this time I did. I thought maybe if I answered in English the person on the other line would hang up.
“Hello”, I said.
“Hey! remember me?”, a sultry voice answered back.
“Ummm.. who is this?” I asked, extremely confused.
“Your friend from Busan, I have a job for you; hurry I’m at your apartment,” he said sounding quite annoyed.
I was shocked to say the least, had I given a stranger my address? I basically ran the rest of the way home and just as he said, the ridiculously gorgeous guy from Busan was standing in front of my apartment.
“Ummm excuse me, how in the world did you find me?!” I kept myself fromscreaming, not wanting to make a scene.
“Here, take this”.
He handed me a small package, tightly wrapped with an address on top.
“This needs to be in Sangmu in no less than two hours.” He said this so matter of factually that I believed he was serious.
“Do I look like an errand girl to you?”
“Like I said before, you work for us now, and unless you want trouble, you’d do well to do what I ask. I could just come to your school next time.”
Again, I was speechless, but I didn’t doubt his words. He had found my apartment with no problems. He could definitely find my school. ‘How did I get myself into this mess?’ I thought.
“Better get going, Minji doesn’t like to wait.”
With that he walked away. I was left with this mysterious package, practically shaking. I guess I had no choice and quickly called a taxi to get me to Sangmu. I didn’t want to be late, because these people now knew where I lived and worked. I’m sure they’d be capable of anything. I arrive in Sangmu in about 20 minutes. Luckily the taxi driver was nice and took me directly to the address listed on the package. He looked worried but didn’t say anything. I quickly paid, said thank you in my horrible Korean and got out of the taxi. The restaurant he had brought me to looked super sketchy. I could see why he was worried. I definitely looked like I didn’t belong here. I walked in slowly, and said ‘hello’ in a quite voice that I’m sure no one heard.
“야!” someone yelled from a corner by the restaurant’s far left window.
The girl I saw must definitely have been Minji. She had long hair, tons of makeup, and skirt so short that I’m sure she was trying to show all her goods to the world. For all accounts I could have sworn she might have been a prostitute. Do they even have those in Korea?
“You Dayna?” she asked, slightly annoyed. “You got the package for me?”
“Yeah, here it is, but what is it? And how do you know me?”
I asked so many questions, but literally received no answers.
“We’ll call you again when we need you. Answer your phone, 빨이빨이, I don’t like to wait.”
“Yeah, so I heard.”
I don’t know why I felt so snarky but after having my life interrupted, I guess bravery or maybe stupidity started to set in. After leaving the restaurant, I quickly found another taxi and started on my way home. What else could possibly go wrong? And why did Minji also have fox ears? I’m really starting to think something may have been slipped into my drink in Busan.
Chapter 8: Surprises in the Bathroom
June 5th, 2011
Cheolsu called again this morning. I had kind of hoped that maybe this would be a once a month sort of situation, but I guess that was too much to hope for. Just like before, his call woke me up. I’m getting really angry about the whole situation. I kinda thought about going to the cops, but it seems like a lot of hassle.
For one thing, I’d have to find someone to go down and translate for me. Then there’s the weird contract. And the magic phone situation. The thing about him having horns. I don’t think anyone will believe me. I mean, I’ve been here for a couple of years. I never heard anything about anyone getting conned by something called a dok-gaebee. It doesn’t seem that common. Or maybe all of us victims are just too scared to come forward.
I researched dok-gaebees. Turns out they’re a real mythological creature. I don’t know how I never noticed before. But none of the research I did said anything about a dok-gaebee mafia. Which Cheolsu assured me today is very real. It was all fairytales for kids. Not real stories. Speaking of which, Korean folktales are scary AF. Makes me really worried about what else might be true. Like what was that girl the other day?
So first of all, Cheolsu clarified a few things for me today. For one thing, he’s not really some little shop owner. I mean I guess the little convenience store is really his, although explain to me how a mythical creature managed to get property rights. But the shop is just a front. Apparently, he’s part of what he calls the dok-gaebee mafia.
They’re a bunch of lowlifes that joined together in the nineties when IMF shot the Korean economy to heck. They do a little bit of everything, extortion, gambling, petty theft, blackmail. Today, I found out a little bit about the blackmail situation. It seems Cheolsu has some rather incriminating photos of a spirit named Cheukshin and her paramour, a house-hold god named Seongju. Cheukshin’s desperate to keep those pictures out of the hands of Seongju’s rather vengeful wife, Jowang. Real exciting, right?
So Cheolsu tells me that I have to collect his fee from Cheukshin and bring it to him. Seems she’s a bit dangerous and he’s scared of what she’ll do to him. I try to figure out where I’m suppose to meet her, but he just says, “Don’t worry, she’ll find you.”
So, it turns out that Cheukshin is the spirit in charge of the bathroom. Yeah. You heard me right. She’s hanging over your head every time you sit down to pee. I’m watching TV after work and there’s this banging on my bathroom door. I admit I screamed.
“Open the door!” A voice from the bathroom screams at me.
“No. Who are you?”
“Cheukshin. Didn’t Cheolsu tell you I was coming?”
“Not from my bathroom.”
“Where the heck else did you expect me to be?”
I barely manage to get myself to the door. Counting down from three, I yank the door open, and there she is. There are so many things to say about her, I don’t know where to start.
She’s hot. Like beautiful. Puts my sad self to shame. Shouldn’t have bought that cheese from Costco. On top of that, she’s got this crazy long hair. Rapunzel long. But it’s black, and it’s filthy. Like what if Rapunzel was a real person with hair that long just dragging around on the ground all the time. It’s a little weird because she lives in a bathroom, like you would think she could find time to wash it. Whatever. Most importantly, she’s straight up naked. Not like wrapping herself in her hair like Eve in all those paintings, no, just naked.
Her hair kinda spills out of the door. I can’t stand the idea of it touching me, so I jump back. “So he told you about the hair, huh? No worries, I’m not really interested in some foreign girl so stupid she signed one of Cheolsu’s voluntary servitude forms. Anyhow, this is for him.” She holds out this bag. I don’t really want to touch anything that’s been in her hands, but there’s not much choice.
“Don’t open it.” She snarls, stepping back and starting to climb up the wall. She climbs all the way up to the ceiling and hangs there holding onto the ceiling with her hands and feet, hair hanging down over the toilet like some sort of horrible nightmare spider.
“Oh, just professional curtesy, you’re constipated a lot. I think it’s the cheese. Maybe eat some fiber?” Her hair snakes along the floor, reaches up and pulls the door shut and I’m left standing there holding the black plastic bag.Cheolsu doesn’t bother to explain anything to me. Just grabs the bag from me. As an afterthought he motions to the coolers. “Grab a drink and get out.” I’m so upset from everything I’ve just seen I can’t even consider sleeping. And now where am I supposed to go to the bathroom?
Chapter 9: My Friends Call Me Gator
June 12th, 2011
So I’m going to take a break from all of this dok-gaebee mafia stuff and tell you a story about college. There are many things I do not remember well from university. Let’s assume it’s not because I’m so old. But every now and then, a story comes back to me. Today, the story on my brain is Gator.
So, I’ll be honest, I partied in college. But my partying had some major restrictions. For one thing, somehow my parents convinced me to go to an all-girls school. Seriously. They must have used some sort of brain washing.
Not only was the school only for girls, it was also located in the town of Denton, Texas. There are many things you should know about Denton. No, scratch that, there’s basically nothing anyone should know about Denton. It’s tiny. The main attraction is an ice cream parlor downtown. There are exactly three clubs and bars in the whole city.
One of those bars is named, I kid you not, the Groovy Mule. This club was especially attractive to me because it had a cage on a raised platform. You could go up into the cage and dance. Yeah. You heard me, cage dancing. Like something out of a bad ninety’s movie. So, I was there a couple times a week, trying to get my groove on.
I don’t remember exactly when in my college career this story happened, only that it definitely did. I’m up in the cage, dancing with some girlfriends. It was a tried and true way to get someone to pay for your drinks. The song finishes and I glanced around, looking to catch someone’s eye. And I see him. This tall, pretty good-looking guy, staring right at me.
He’s definitely interested and I’m really thirsty, so I slip through the crowd, real minx like and walk up to him. “Hey there.” I was really into sexy talking back in college.
“Howdy.” Remember this story happened in Denton, Texas. Howdy is not cliché there, it’s just what people are saying.
“I like how you was dancing up in that cage. Real sexy.”
I know I’m in. “Thanks.”
“You want a drink?”
“I never say no to a handsome man.”
He’s really grinning at this point. He looks a little older, like maybe he’s a senior. I’m getting really excited about the whole situation. He takes me to the bar, buys me a beer and leads me to a table.
“What’s your name?”
“Miranda.” I try smiling seductively at him. I’m sure it’s effective, despite the fact that sweat is running down into my eyes and I’m kind of squinting.
“My friends call me ‘Gator.” He chugs half his beer, burps and wipes his hand across his mouth. Sexy.
“That’s a cool name. Where’d you get it?”
He leans in and winks at me. I feel pretty good about what’s about to go down. “That’s what they called me in lock up.”
“Yeah, I just got out of prison last week.”
“Oh, that’s neat.”
“You looking for a boyfriend?”
Now my situation has gotten a bit out of control. I look around for my friends, but I don’t see any of them. I’m really starting to freak out, but I don’t want to upset this guy so I smile and say. “Excuse me, I need to run to the bathroom.”
He grabs my hand and says, “Don’t get lost on your way back.”
Needless to say, I got lost on my way back. After that, I was always a little more careful when I used cage dancing to get drinks.
Chapter 10: Gue-miho (구미호) Go-go
June 29th, 2011
So I hadn’t heard from Cheolsu for almost three weeks. I kind of thought he’d died. Wishful thinking, right? Last night, my phone goes off like crazy. I recognize the number and kind of hesitate, but really there’s not much left to do but go with this thing, right?
He starts talking really fast. Something about he needs me go to 상무 district ASAP. It’s already 11 PM so I start to tell him to go jump in a lake, but he goes absolutely nuts on me. Screaming, threatening; crazy stuff. Anyhow, I saw that club of his and I don’t know what a dok-gaebee can really do, so I kind of hesitate and finally agree.
All he wants me to do is go to the store and buy a bag of chicken livers. Well, of course there’s no store open in my neighborhood at that time of night. He gets angry again, screams a bunch of stuff I don’t understand, and tells me he’s gonna send me a message with an address. Apparently he knows a butcher that has plenty of chicken livers available for purchase at 11.
I hop in a cab and show the driver the address. He kind of gives me the side eye, but then I’m on my way. It’s almost 11:30 by the time I get there. Sketchy does not begin to cover this place. First of all, in my experience, most reputable meat markets close by 9 or so. There’s just no good reason for a dude to be selling chunks of pigs later than 10. But on top of that, the place is filthy. Not like quaintly run down, like ‘What the heck is that smell?’.
I anxiously walk in and this dude is standing at the counter like he has nothing better in the world to do than sell meat at 11:30 at night. I awkwardly ask for a bag of chicken livers. He laughs. “You must know Cheolsu.” He says.
That freaks me out. What the heck is Cheolsu doing with chicken livers that this guy knows it’s him? I nod but don’t say anything. He shuffles around in the back for a bit and walks out with a bag stuffed full of nasty looking meat. I accept it and ask how much it is. He shakes his head. “Cheolsu has a tab.”
A tab? At a late night meat market? But you know what? So what. He’s a magical imp thing with horns and a magic club. What do I even care if he’s got a thing for late night meat. I hop in another cab and show him the second address Cheolsu sent me.
Twenty minutes later we’re in 상무. The cabby swerves up next to the curb. I pay and clamber out. Not ten seconds after I get out of the car, three girls slip up out of the shadows and surround me.
“You’re Cheolsu’s girl, right?”
“Not sure I appreciate that label.”
“Literally no one cares what you think.” One of the girls snarls.
“I think these chicken livers are for you?” It sounds insane.
“You think, huh? Wanna add yours to the mix?”
“Nope.” First time in my life anyone’s ever asked me if they could have my liver. Not a fan of the experience.
“Then you’d better get.”
The girls start laughing. I recognize one of them from the other day at the hagwon. Something about all three of them is just unsettling. Creepy. Their faces are too sharp or something. I stumble back over to the curb, waiting to flag down a cab, but I keep glancing over my shoulder. They’re all huddled together, looking in the bag and talking animatedly.
And that’s when I see it. Weird ghost like shadows behind them. No, like coming out of them. I kind of half shriek. One of the girls glances over at me. She smiles and I realize all of her teeth are sharp, like a cat’s. Another yell out of me. “You never seen a gumiho? Better get used to it.” She cackles.
I dart across the street. Thank mac and cheese its almost midnight at this point because it’s six lanes of traffic. Luckily I manage not to get hit. Lots of honking, but honestly with all the drunk businessmen out in 상무 it’s not like it’s unheard of for someone to be in the road.
I run and run and run until I have no idea where I am. My phone goes off. Cheolsu.
“What the hell are those girls?” I’m screaming.
“You ever heard of a nine-tailed fox?”
“Maybe on TV.”
“Well now you’ve met one. 상무’s crawling with them. I’d get home fast.” He hangs up and I flag down a cab. Bad day. Bad bad day.