The Most Beautiful Quarantine In Life

Yes that’s right, it’s the long-awaited return of Kpopalypse fanfiction!  Please enjoy the following story and remember that all names, characters, and incidents portrayed in this story are fictitious, and no identification with actual persons (living or deceased), places, buildings, and products is intended or should be inferred, unless it upsets someone who totally deserves it.  Thanks for reading!

The Most Beautiful Quarantine In Life

You’ve had to wait a while, but you’re finally on an airplane journey to see your relatives across the country.  You haven’t wanted to take this journey too soon, but with quarantine restrictions easing in your area and the local government mostly in control of the pandemic, now seemed like a good time to catch up with your family, just in case a second wave of the outbreak hits and flights became completely locked down again.  It certainly has been a stressful few months for you which has been playing on your mind, but you’re also acutely aware that you didn’t experience the worst of it – all your family and friends are alive and non-infected, and you didn’t even lose your job.  However seeing society around you suddenly change in unexpected ways has been, at the very least, deeply concerning.

You try not to think about the pandemic too hard as you sink back in your chair as much as your economy-class seat allows.  At least with the new social distancing rules, the seat immediately next to you has to remain vacant so it’s not too hard to stretch your arms out horizontally.  It’s going to be a long journey, so you start looking through the in-flight TV channels, maybe there’s something you can doze off to.  You flick through various news, all about the pandemic of course, which you’re equal parts concerned about and totally sick of hearing about.  You keep flicking to find something else and eventually settle on some movie, something about zombies invading a high school or something.  This looks appropriately stupid, you should be able to fall asleep to this.  Just then, a voice.

“Can I get you anything?” – it’s the air hostess, the meal cart has arrived at your section of the aisle.  She’s not talking to you but the person on the other side of the aisle, one seat in front of you.  You overhear a conversation with the passenger, a female.

“No I don’t need any food, but take a look at this!”  The passenger shows the hostess something, but you can’t see what it is from your seat, nor do you really care.  You just want to get to sleep but obviously you’ll have to wait for the meal cart to do the rounds.

“I’m sorry, but there’s no electronic devices allowed on this stage of the flight.  You’ll have to put that away.”

“But I can’t get this on the built-in TV!”

“Sorry, please put that away, it’s not allowed right now.”

The passenger mumbles something under her breath, presumably complying.  The hostess moves on to your aisle.

“Can I get you anything?”

“No thank you”, you politely mumble. 

The hostess continues with her cart, moving further down the aisle behind you.  You turn your attention back to the zombie film, where some students are talking to each other about their weekend plans.  You note that it’s the boring “exposition” part of the film where you’re supposed to discover all about the relationships, goals and motivations of the students so you vaguely care later on when they inevitably get ripped apart by zombies.  It’s a good idea in theory, you think to yourself as you gradually doze off.

You wake up.  You mustn’t have been asleep very long, as the zombie movie is still playing.  The high school students in the movie are now at some kind of house party, drinking alcohol, it doesn’t appear that you missed any zombie action as you don’t notice any cast members missing.  You can hear the chatter of other people on the flight in the seats around your vicinity.  Something feels different however.  You gradually become aware that the seat next to you is occupied.

“Take a look at this!” says the person occupying the seat immediately next to you.  You instantly recognise the voice, it’s the same girl who was told off by the air hostess earlier.  Before you can even react, she shoves an electronic tablet in your face.  On the tablet is a music video, by some boy band.

You’re still feeling dazed from your recently interrupted slumber.  “What’s this?” you ask.

“It’s BTS!” she replies.  “This is their song!  Aren’t they great?”  She sounds happy and chirpy, which is a little nauseating given that you’ve just woken up.

You adjust your eyes to the closer visual range of the tablet display.  You’ve heard of this group before, but just in passing.  Maybe you read about them in a news article or something.  You don’t really follow much music at all.  You try and recollect the very little you know about them.  “Oh… a Korean pop group?”

“They’re NOT k-pop!  They’re BTS-pop!  It’s different!” she scolds, before instantly returning to her previous demeanour.  “You should watch this video and read about them, they’re amazing like nobody else!”

You continue to watch the video and listen to the music of their latest song.  You have to admit it… they’re rather good, whoever they are.  The music certainly sounds better than the typical boy dance-pop that you’ve been exposed to, the video has impressively high production which certainly helps them look impressive, and they even dance quite well.  You weren’t that invested in the zombie film, having obviously missed a great deal of it, so you continue to focus on the tablet.

“You can keep the tablet!  I have plenty more of them!” says the girl.  Before you can even protest, she leaves your seat and moves back up the aisle to her own seat.  While it’s awfully nice for this stranger to give you a tablet, it seems oddly generous and weird.  Why does she care so much about this BTS group anyway, you wonder as you continue to watch the tablet.  The song finishes and another one starts, by the same group.  It’s pretty much the same except the beat is slightly different and they’re dancing in a differently-coloured room.  “It’s alright, I guess”, you think to yourself.

“Take a look at this!” – you can hear the girl talking to someone else, a couple rows ahead of you.  You keep watching the video, which then ends and another one starts, similar to before.  There are still many hours of the flight to go, you feel drowsiness approaching again as you begin to doze off.

You wake up.  You still feel restless and sleep-deprived, as if not as much time has passed as it should have.  You gradually open your eyes and look at the tablet in front of you, the screen is blank but a light blinks in the corner, it appears to be on a standby mode.  The in flight TV is also off, having similarly gone into some kind of waiting mode.  It seems oddly quiet on the plane, the chatter from other passengers is gone.  Perhaps you’ve landed?  Looking out the window, you can see that the plane is still up in the clouds at cruising height.  You half-stand up in your seat – it’s uncomfortable to fully stand due to the seat design – and take a look at the other passengers.  Everyone on board the flight before is all still there, but none of them are talking to each other, they all seem to be watching the in-flight TV.  Standing up a little more to get a better look at what’s apparently so interesting on the TV, you can see that they’re actually not watching the TV, but tablets – all exactly the same type of tablet that the girl handed you earlier.  Did she really hand out tablets to each and every person on the flight?  Looking closer at the tablets, you can see that each person is watching videos from that boy group BTS. They all seem transfixed and none of them look up from the screens.

You look for the girl who handed the screen to you, you can see that she’s not in her seat.  You figure that she must be somewhere else in the plane, giving yet another person a free tablet.  “She must be a really big fan, and very generous”, you think to yourself.  You wonder what inspires fans of pop groups to such wide acts of generosity, and think that BTS must be a really whole-hearted group to inspire such virtuous actions, as you gradually drift off to sleep again.

You’re jolted awake by some turbulence – your plane is coming in for landing.  You feel more well-rested, like you’ve finally slept for a sufficient amount of time.  The plane is abuzz with loud chatter as the previously quiet passengers have all started talking to each other:

“That BTS group sure is great!”

“I love their dancing and Jungkook is so attractive!”

“I read all about their Saudi Arabian concert, what angels to perform for such an oppressed regime and give those people hope for a better tomorrow!” 

“I hope that the BTS boys are doing okay and keeping physically and mentally healthy during these unprecedented times!”

“I can’t wait to tell everybody I know about BTS!”

A large bump reverberates through the aircraft as the rear wheels touch down on the tarmac, and you feel the roar of the jet engines as the reverse thrust is applied to slow the plane down to tarmac speed.  Over the noise of the engines and chatter, you also hear some broken glass, as a passenger loses the grip on their tablet and it smashes somewhere.  

“Guess I’ll be buying another one in the airport lobby”, you can hear someone remark.

You wait in your seat as the planes taxis along the runway to the arrival gate.  When the aircraft stops completely and the overhead “fasten seatbelt” signs switch off, you don’t get up – it’s easier to let others go first.  You watch as other passengers move to the aisles collect their bags from the overhead lockers, which seems to be taking an inordinately long amount of time, possibly because the passengers are mostly taking the time to store their tablets in their bags.  After a few minutes, the passengers start getting restless, because the aisle isn’t moving.  It appears that there’s some kind of delay with disembarking.  Lots of sighing and “when will they let us off this plane” comments from the passengers.  Bored and with nothing else to look at, you stare out the window.  There’s a few of those strange airport vehicles of indeterminate purposes buzzing around the tarmac as usual, but you’re not seeing any luggage unloading.  After what seems like a very long wait, you can see half a dozen white vans approaching.  They park underneath the plane, out of your field of vision from the window.

An announcement comes over the cabin sound system.  “Good afternoon passengers.  Apologies for the delay in disembarking.  New government quarantine requirements have come into force since our plane disembarked, which require all passengers to undergo additional contact screening.  Please resume your seats for now, we will hope to have you all on your way shortly.  We apologise once again for this inconvenience, and remind you not to use any electronic devices until you are safely inside the terminal.”

A simultaneous groaning sigh is heard from almost all the standing passengers, as they return their bags to the overhead lockers and take their seats.  The loud chatter recommences, a roughly equal mixture of expressions of adulation over BTS and annoyance at the wait time for disembarking the plane.  Suddenly, the middle exit door opens from outside, and two people enter – armed soldiers.  Immediately all chatter ceases.  The stewardess rushes to meet them at the door, and they all start moving in your direction.  Your heart skips a beat as they come to the aisle immediately before yours and forcibly pull a lady from her seat, the same girl who gave you and the other passengers the tablets.  The soldiers escort her out of the plane and through the exit roughly, each soldier holding onto one arm of the girl.  “End violence!  Speak yourselves, love yourselves!” she yells out at the passengers just before she exits and the stewardess shuts the door behind them.  The stewardess then disappears without a word back into the cockpit area, not making eye contact with any of the passengers.

The passengers start talking to each other again, clearly unsettled.  Another announcement comes over the cabin sound system.  “We are pleased to announce that disembarking will commence in five minutes.  Please be patient, and whether you are going away or returning home, thank you for choosing to fly with us.”  This seems to calm down the chatter and general feeling of panic down a little, but not much.  You decide to try and find out what’s going on while you wait, and poke the in-flight TV, but it’s been deactivated.  You then switch on the tablet you were given – it starts playing another BTS video.  You fiddle around with the tablet controls but there doesn’t seem to be a way to make it do anything other than play more BTS videos in an endless loop, so after a couple minutes of experimenting you switch it off again.

You just start to consider getting your mobile phone out when you hear a scream – you look over at another passenger who already has her phone out, and is visibly panicking.  “Look, look!” she stammers, holding up her phone to some of the other passengers.  You can’t see what is written on the phone screen as she’s a few aisles away from you, but everyone close to her who reads her screen starts to visibly become extremely concerned.  Conversation among the passengers becomes loud as they start to discuss what will become of them, but among the noise it’s still not entirely clear what is going on.

Suddenly all the doors to the plane open simultaneously.  On the other side of each doorway are soldiers.  Each group of two soldiers enters the plane and escorts one passenger, moving them by grabbing onto their upper arms in exactly the same way that the lady with the tablets was removed from the plane earlier.  Some of the passengers protest as they are led out, either due to their rough handling or because they are not being given a chance to collect their luggage from the overhead lockers, but as soon as they reach the doorway and look outside, they all become eerily quiet.  As these evictions are happening one at a time, it takes some minutes for the plane to begin to empty.  You sit and wait for your turn to be “collected” by the soldiers.  When they come for you, you make sure that your phone is in your jacket pocket but don’t attempt to carry any luggage.  The soldiers collect the tablet you were given before collecting you.

“What’s happening?” you ask quietly to the soldier who grabs onto your left arm.  No reply or eye contact is given.  Seeing a soldier up close for the first time, you notice that he has something in his ears – a hearing device?  You’re not sure, but it doesn’t look like one as it seems to be purely made of some kind of foam.

As you reach the doorway and walk down the exterior stairs onto the tarmac, you can see why everyone went silent when they reached this point.  There’s an entire fleet of vans here, with more arriving every minute, each one allocated to transport just one passenger, and each one accompanied by two more armed soldiers.  Even more concerningly, as you are led along the tarmac, you can’t help but notice a group of soldiers standing in a circle, around a tarp which has been placed on the ground to cover half a dozen objects lined up in a row, of roughly human dimensions.  One soldier has his pistol drawn and is fiddling with the reloading action, another smokes a cigarette.  Fortunately you are not led in the direction of the soldiers by the tarp, but into one of the waiting vehicles instead.  You enter the back of a van along with your escorters, and the vehicle starts up and moves off almost immediately.  There are no windows inside the van, so you sit in silence and wait.

After a very long drive, the van stops and you are let out, and led into the foyer of an unmarked building.  The two soldiers present you at a reception desk, where a lady looks you over.  The two soldiers continue to flank you as she addresses you.

“ID please”, she asks. 

You present your driver’s licence to the receptionist.

“How long have you been an ARMY?” she asks.

You look to one side, and then the other, at the two soldiers who escorted you, neither of whom have said a single word to you this whole time.  “Do you mean me, or them?  Sorry, I don’t understand the question.” 

The receptionist clears her throat.  “Let’s try again.  How long have you been a BTS fan?”

“Oh.  I’m not a BTS fan!  I only just heard about them recently.”

She raises an eyebrow.  “So you… don’t listen to BTS?  At all?”

You nod.  “Not until today.”

One of the soldiers opens up his backpack and hands the receptionist the tablet you were given.  “The passenger had this, ma’am.” he says.

The receptionist turns on the tablet and a BTS video immediately starts playing.  She immediately winces, and then adjusts something in her ears – you now notice that she has exactly the same foam-like devices in her ears as the soldiers.  She plays with the tablet for a while, before turning it off and putting it down.  As soon as the music stops playing, her face becomes more relaxed again.

“This tablet only plays BTS videos, doesn’t it?  Where did you get this?”

“A lady gave it to me on the plane.  She was a fan.”

The lady looks at the soldiers, and then back at you, with no expression.

You protest.  “Look, I don’t know what’s going on.  Can you tell me why I’m here?”

“Because of the outbreak, of course.”

“But I thought that COVID was under control?”

The lady sighs.  “Can I ask you, what do you think of BTS now that you’ve heard them?”

You think for a moment.  “I don’t know, I’ve only just heard them, but they’re alright, I guess?”

“Just alright?”

“Um… yeah, I guess so?  I mean they dance quite well, and the songs aren’t too bad… plus they look good, I guess that’s a plus.  Sorry, I don’t quite understand what you mean?”

The lady looks at the soldiers, and then back at you, again.

“I’m going to have to keep you under lockdown for a while while we collect data.  From there, it’s probably okay for you to get a transfer to somewhere low-security, like a hotel.”

You’ve been trying to keep your cool as best you can, but now you start to become visibly upset.  “But I did nothing wrong!  Why am I going to a hotel?  I came here to see my relatives, not go to a hotel!”

“Sorry, but we have to control the infection.  We can’t take any chances.”  She nods to the soldiers.  “Please take the patient into the holding cell.”

The soldiers grab you immediately by the upper arms and escort you down a corridor and into a cell.  As the bars slam shut behind you and the soldiers walk off, you take in your new surroundings – a bed, a toilet in one corner, a small desk, a small bedside with a lamp.  Across the room there’s one other cell.  A teenage girl is there, sitting up on her bed.  She looks at you.

“You’re ARMY, right?” she says.

“What army?” you reply.

She groans.  “Oh great, trust my cellmate to not even be one of us.”

“Can you tell me what’s going on?”

“Fuck off, you woke me up.  You’re not even ARMY anyway, I don’t owe you anything.”  She lies back down on the bed.

“Fine then.” you say.  You remember you still have your phone in your jacket pocket.  You take it out and start web searching.  Despite lying down on the bed, the girl in the other cell notices this immediately and sits back up.

“Fuck me… you have a fucking phone?  How the fuck did you get that in here?” 

You shrug.  “In my jacket pocket.”

She looks amazed.  “They didn’t search you?  Why the fuck not, you’re… oh wait.  You’re not even ARMY, of course they didn’t search you.  Give me your phone, I need it!”

You raise your eyebrows.  “I don’t owe you anything.”

The girl snorts.  “Well, fuck.  Fine, then.  What do you want to know?”

Where to start?  “Soldiers invaded our plane on landing and brought me here.  Why?”

“Looking for ARMYs.”

“But they ARE the Armies!”

“No, I mean looking for BTS fans.  BTS fans equals ARMYs, got it?  So were there any ARMYS on the plane?”

“Yes, I told you – soldiers invaded our plane!”

She rolls her eyes.  “Fuck me, this is going to be a long conversation.”

A few hours later, you’re sitting in a one-bedroom hotel, after you gained “clearance” from the soldiers for suspicions of BTS-related fan activity.  What you learned from your cellmate: the whole mess started when 237 different domestic and international flights globally were hit in a co-ordinated strike by BTS ARMYs attempting to indoctrinate passengers into the BTS fandom by using tablets that could only play BTS videos.  According to her the authorities (SM biased) and military (Loona biased) were already aware that the “infringing tablet” wasn’t your own, but was handed to you during the flight, the tipoff of the use of tablets came from an ex-member of the criminal underworld (YG biased) who helped manufacture the tablet technology firstly for use in religious cult (JYP biased) conversions, before being given a more lucrative contract by ARMYs for manufacture as a mind control weapon. You of course have no idea how true this is, and it certainly does sound like the deluded ravings of an “us against the world” diehard fan, but it’s not like you have any better theories.  All this information cost you were a few plays of BTS videos on your phone, which was enough to calm your cellmate right down.

When you were released from the cell, you were told that many of the passengers who were given tablets succumbed and turned into fully-blown fans during the flight, thereby spreading the contagion even further, and as a result are now in a high-security facility.  However since you weren’t considered a “true fan” but just a “casual listener”, they advised that lower-security containment would be more appropriate and all that would be required was for you to limit your own exposure to BTS and their related fandom material so you could return “to normal”.  They were quite nice in the end all things considered, allowing you to contact your relatives to explain what happened, even returning your flight luggage to you, but insisted that you must stay indoors for the duration of your hotel stay and not interact with any BTS fans.

You’re watching news on the hotel TV, trying to learn all you can about the spread of the BTS outbreak, when you hear a knock at the door.  You open it to a young man wearing a supermarket uniform. 

“Supplies!” he says cheerily, holding several bags of various groceries.  You hold the door open for him.  “No need to assist, I got this” he says as he brings in all that he’s carrying plus some more bags and cartons of food in crates.

“How much do I owe you?” you ask.

He smiles.  “Compliments of Blockberry!  Just be good and stay away from contagions!”

“Who do I call if I need something specific?” you ask.

“Oh here, have a card!” he says, handing you a card for his supermarket chain, which you take.  “Number’s on the back!  Oh and one more thing…” he says, producing a blowtorch “I need to weld your front door shut, so don’t mind the noise!”

You’re shocked.  “You WHAT?”

“Can’t be too careful!  Anyway, have a great rest of your day!” 

The man shuts your front door in front of your face and immediately begins welding, whistling merrily as he goes.  After a few minutes he’s done, yells out “Cheerio!” from behind the now-sealed entrance and leaves.  You sigh and start packing away the groceries.  There’s a lot here, at least you won’t have to worry about food and toiletries.  Eventually you finish packing everything away and return your attention to the TV. 

Even though it’s not ideal circumstances, it feels good to relax finally.  The news is over and now a pop group special is playing, including clips from several Korean groups, however every time BTS appears their faces are blurred out and the sound is muted for their songs.  You wonder how much your cellmate said was true.  You feel your phone vibrate.  One new message.

You type the code into the television and sure enough it works – BTS suddenly become uncensored.  You spend a while watching their clips as well as others on the TV special, before going to bed – it’s been a long day.

You wake up with a startled shock.  It’s nighttime.  It’s pitch black and you can hear something banging around inside your hotel room.  You try to get up but for some reason you can’t – your body feel strangely heavy.  It takes a while but soon you realise that you’re actually tied down to the bed by your wrists and ankles.  Suddenly the light comes on and a girl looks at you.

“Oh hi!  Sorry, I was just messing around in the kitchen!  I wanted to see if you had any pie!”  She smiles broadly.

“There’s no pie, I don’t think there was any in the groceries I was given.  Hey why am I tied up?”

The girl makes a sad face.  “that’s a shame – Chuu likes pie!  When Blockberry do the groceries they always forget the pie!” 

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that, but – I’m tied up, why?”

She instantly returns to smiling.  “You’re tied up so you can’t move!”

“Yes, but why can’t I move?”

“You can’t move because you’re tied up!”

“But why am I tied up?”

“Silly, you’re tied up so you can’t move!  I just told you that!”

“But… ” you think of how to rephrase the question.  “Look, what do you want?”

“Oh, I don’t want anything, you just need to be still!”  She turns around, picks up an axe leaning against the wall and turns back to you.  “It seems you’re a little contagious!”

You start sweating and panicking.  “How?  I didn’t leave my room!”

“YOU didn’t but the sound of your TV sure did because you had the volume up LOUD!  Now the neighbours have been hearing THAT group… we can’t have that.  We did some investigation and it turns out that your phone had been compromised.  Now we have to move everybody in this hotel to the high-security facility.  That’s very inconvenient you know.”

“Why not just move me there?”

“Clearly you’re a rabid BTS fan, you just can’t help yourself.  I think you planned this to compromise our quarantine zone, you’re clearly too far gone to be running around mixing with anyone, even prisoners!  You would probably mess up our whole prison system!  Anyway just lie back and relax, this will only take a moment!”  She swings the axe above her head, still smiling.

“But I’m not even a…”

You wake up.  You mustn’t have been asleep very long, as the zombie movie is still playing.  The high school students in the movie are now at some kind of house party, drinking alcohol, it doesn’t appear that you missed any zombie action as you don’t notice any cast members missing.  You can hear the chatter of other people on the flight in the seats around your vicinity.  Something feels different however.  You gradually become aware that the seat next to you is occupied.

“Take a look at this!” says the person occupying the seat immediately next to you.  You instantly recognise the voice, it’s the same girl who was told off by the air hostess earlier.  Before you can even react, she shoves an electronic tablet in your face.  On the tablet is a music video, by some boy band.

You’re still feeling dazed from your recently interrupted slumber.  “What’s this?” you ask.

“It’s BTS!” she replies.  “This is their song!  Aren’t they great?”  She sounds happy and chirpy, which is a little nauseating given that you’ve just woken up.

You adjust your eyes to the closer visual range of the tablet display.  You’ve heard of this group before, but you don’t really care about them, so you play dumb.  “Oh… a Korean pop group?”

“They’re NOT k-pop!  They’re BTS-pop!  It’s different!” she scolds, before instantly returning to her previous demeanour.  “You should watch this video and read about them, they’re amazing like nobody else!”

“I’m sorry, this just looks like every other bullshit boy band to me.  Can you please fuck off and leave me alone, I’m trying to sleep, thanks.”

She starts yelling.  “HEY, stop HATING on BTS!  They’re GREAT!  Maybe you’re just PROBLEMATIC!”

The yelling catches the attention of the stewardess, who interrupts.  “Sorry, is this lady bothering you?” she asks.

“Actually yes, I was trying to sleep, can you please make sure I’m not interrupted by this crazy fan?”

The air hostess addresses the girl.  “You know you’re not allowed to use electronic devices on this part of the flight, this is the third time I’ve told you!  I am going to the captain and he is going to serve you a written rebuke.  If you show your k-pop group to anybody else on this flight, we will put you in handcuffs and we will be calling security when the plane lands!  Now get back in your seat!”

The girl moves sheepishly back into her seat without a word and the air hostess walks down the aisle to the flight cabin, accompanied by a round of applause from the passengers.  You think to yourself, that even in these troubling times, that there are many signs humanity has infinite potential to find a way through the darkness.

2 thoughts on “The Most Beautiful Quarantine In Life

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