Welcome to another Kpopalypse Halloween fanfiction! This year we return to traditional fanfiction format! Please enjoy this story!
You’re an adult male k-pop fan, and specifically a fan of SM Entertainment’s girl groups. You suppose that some people could call you a “company stan” but it’s not really like that. You don’t think SM are perfect or anything, you wouldn’t go into bat for their each individual business decision on social media like company stans do, but there’s no denying that at least as far as you’re concerned, they consistently have on average, the best idols, the best songs, the best products. Girls’ Generation, f(x), Red Velvet, you followed them all closely, bought all the albums, and they rarely disappointed you. So it was only natural that when SM’s newest girl group Aespa was announced, that your attention was immediately captured.
Especially intriguing was the idea of SM combining each of their new idols from Aespa with an AI version. You read a few discussions and articles about it on the Internet, with everyone giving their two cents about whether it was a good idea or not. Various people pointed out certain issues with it, but you didn’t really care about that so much, for you it just seemed like good marketing, and in 2020 where advances in technology were being forced on all our lives due to necessity, it seemed like a logical step into a possibly new viable marketing future. Who knows if SM’s experiment would pay dividends for the company and for fans or not, and some missteps are no doubt inevitable, but who better than SM with their wealth of experience to make a step into this bold new territory? Given the quality of their past product you felt obliged to support this new venture. As soon as it was made available, you downloaded the “Synk” app in preparation which apparently allowed you to experience “Rekall time” with the girls of Aespa’s AI avatars. You’ weren’t quite sure at this stage what that meant, but it sounded pretty cool, and you went to sleep that night peacefully after downloading the app, thinking about how SM Entertainment would utilise this new concept to enhance your life.
You wake up to the sound of your phone alarm – at the moment, the intro to Irene and Seulgi’s “Monster” (you change this periodically whenever SM release a new song that you like). You have a shower, make breakfast, and check your phone. There’s one new message from the Synk application.
While eating at the breakfast table, you reply with #help. Instantly, another message appears.
Obviously, they’re still working on the help feature. You sigh, finish eating your breakfast, and make your way to work, ignoring the application for the rest of the day.
Later that night while you’re at home, you check your phone and there’s another message.
You have some time to kill this evening, so you decide to try it out.
It works! You decide to ask some questions to test the program out.
The program responds immediately. Impressive.
The response again is immediate. You decide to ask it something that you know it won’t have an answer for, just to see what happens. The program again replies immediately.
Wait, now it’s asking YOU questions?
You figure that you may as well answer the question.
Actually it was Irene until the recent controversy about Irene, so then you had to change it. Will the AI Karina understand?
You recognise that sentence, it’s straight out of the press release that SM gave out regarding Irene being rude to her staff. You ask yourself, is this AI really intelligent, or just a press-release regurgitation machine, with a bit of spying capability on the side? You’re not very comfortable with this app checking your saved pictures, so you close the Synk app and don’t bother to look at your phone for the rest of the night.
You wake up to the sound of not your usual alarm, but Red Velvet’s “Zimzalabim“. You check your phone and Zimzalabim has been selected as your alarm. You know for sure that you didn’t do that! Straight away you open up the Synk app and message æ-Karina.
This app is definitely crossing a line.
It’s clear that this æ-Karina thing definitely has access and control over too much of your information. The fact that she’s right about you running late for work if you read the EULA just underlines this. Not that you need to – whatever’s in there, it’s clear that this app is taking way too many privileges. You do manage one task before leaving for work however – you uninstall Synk from your phone. You then transfer all the SM Entertainment related content off of your device and onto your desktop computer, and then reset your phone to factory default settings – just to be safe. “I think I should become a more casual fan of SM” you think to yourself as you exit your house and drive off to your day job.
Later that night, you’re back at home checking your emails. A new email drops in.
Before you have time to formulate an angry response, you hear a knock at your front door. You open the door to a young girl dressed in Irene from Red Velvet’s red top, black leather jacket and purple pants from the “Zimzalabim” music video. She also has the same hairstyle, but a shade more lipstick and eyeliner.
“Hi, I’m Irene!” she says, smiling flirtatiously. “Are you ready to Zimzalabim?”
You heart skips a beat – in rage. What is this app doing to your life? “No you’re not! Who sent you?” you demand.
The girl looks confused. “Um.. my boss?”
You close the door in her face.
“HEY! I need to be paid!” she screams from the other side of the door.
“Fair enough, it’s not her fault” you think to yourself, as you open the door again, slowly. “How much?” you sigh.
The girl brings a list out of her pocket, unfurls it and starts scanning over it. “All this stuff… five hundred dollars.”
You scream in disbelief. “WHAT?”
“Whether we do the… thing, or not, you still have to pay me full price. I had to learn that stupid dance in one day, that sort of prep work comes at a premium.” She pulls an EFTPOS machine out of her handbag. “I take card.”
You take your credit card out of your pocket and hand it to her. “Here you go, just swipe it and get out of here.”
“Thanks, boss” she says, registering your transaction and handing you back your card, smiling. “Hey, it’s none of my business why you changed your mind, but I sure appreciate not having to do any of that sick crap. Have a good day.” The girl walks off and you slam the door. Admittedly, she did look pretty good in that Irene cosplay, but dealing with this app ruining your life is the bigger concern right now. You turn your computer off and have an uneventful evening alone as you wonder if you’ve finally gotten rid of æ-Karina.
You wake up to the sound of Red Velvet’s “Zimzalabim” through your phone, even though you deleted the song and everything else off your phone yesterday. How? You check your phone’s apps and notice that the Synk application has reinstalled itself! You open up the app to check for new messages.
Sure enough æ-Karina has messaged you. Your rage grows.
You think to yourself, there has to be a way to get æ-Karina out of your life – but how?
You sigh. You don’t have time to think about this now. You switch your phone off and head into work.
You’re busy working at your desk, when the boss calls you over.
“Can I see you in my office please”, she says.
You slowly get up from your seat, sheepishly walk over into the boss’ office and sit down. If the boss wants to see a person in private, that’s usually not good, it generally means that they’re in trouble for something. You shuffle in your seat as the boss looks up something on her laptop.
Eventually she stop looking at her laptop screen and addresses you directly. “How are you today?” she asks.
“Fine, I guess.” you reply.
“That’s good. I just wanted to personally let you know that your thirteen weeks of leave starting from tomorrow has been approved. I know we don’t usually approve leave on such short notice, but given the circum…”
You cut her off “Thirteen weeks of leave?”
“Yes, anyway, I…”
“I don’t remember putting in this application.”
“Here, let me read it to you.” The boss diverts her eyes back to her laptop and scrolls through her emails. “Here it is. ‘Hi, I’d like to take thirteen weeks unpaid leave starting as soon as possible. My partner Karina is in a pop group project and they are going to be releasing their debut single, I want to be there to support her. It’s going to be a hectic time as I will be very busy on social media supporting her new project 24/7. It means so much for me to be able to stream her song constantly for her even without sleep…’ ” and so on. This is from your email address. This sounds so great, I’m so happy for you!”
Your heart sinks. “I swear I didn’t put this in!”
“There’s no need to feel bad. It’s no problem, as you know we’re nearing the end of the year and work slows down a little, a few more people going on unpaid leave means we can keep some of the other staff on who want to retain hours over the end of year period. Anyway, just wanted to tell you that this was approved in person and wish you a happy holiday and success!” Your boss looks you up and down. “You look a little pale – is everything okay?”
Feeling defeated, you nod. “I’m okay”, you lie.
Your boss sounds concerned as she motions you to the door. “Just make sure you’re looking after yourself. You could definitely use the break, but don’t neglect your health.”
You shakily walk out of her office and back to your desk. She’s right about one thing – you could use the break.
You don’t dare turn your phone on until you get back home. When you do, you load up the Synk app.
You start thinking to yourself that removing all technology from your life might be the only way to get rid of æ-Karina. You consider what it would be like to live as an Amish.
You start thinking, how can you get rid of æ-Karina? Uninstalling didn’t work, she just reinstalls herself. Turning off your computer didn’t even work, she still sends emails, you figure now she has access to them in the cloud or something. You ponder this for while but am interrupted by a knock on your front door. You open the door to two tradesmen, carrying large metal toolboxes.
“Hi, we’re here to do the kitchen upgrade!” The tradesmen walk through your lounge room and into the kitchen.
You start screaming at them. “What kitchen upgrade? I didn’t order any upgrade!”
“Don’t worry it’ll only take a minute”, one of them says, as they start scanning over your kitchen cupboards. He then starts talking to his co-worker. “Where are we going to put these cables?” he asks the other guy, who scratches his head. “It’s a strange design. We might have to put a hole in the ceiling and run them through that, and across and down to the port in the lounge…”
“I’m not paying you guys!” you yell at them.
“You’ve already paid for this electronically yesterday. Actually…. no, come to think of it, it was your partner who paid.”
“I don’t have a partner! Get the fuck out of my house RIGHT NOW or I’m calling the police!”
The two tradesmen look at each other. Then without a word, they both walk back out of your front door, closing it behind them, and leave their toolboxes behind. You can hear them having a conversation with each other as they walk back to their vehicle and drive off. You breathe a sigh of relief only when you see their van finally disappear down the street. You turn your attention back to the Synk app.
There’s no point talking to æ-Karina any further, it just becomes more and more frustrating, and she clearly just does whatever she wants. The question is, how to stop her? You turn off your computer, uninstall the app for the second time, and turn your phone off so it can’t reinstall. You know this won’t do much good as she seems to be able to access everything anyway, but it might buy you some time while you think about what you’re going to do.
Curious, you open one of the toolboxes that was left in your house by the tradesman. It contains a bunch of Internet cables, some small pliers, an electric drill, and Red Velvet’s “The ReVe Festival Day 1” album.
You wake up to the sound of Red Velvet’s “Zimzalabim” through your phone, even though you deleted the song and everything else off your phone yesterday, plus you turned your phone off. You shut off the alarm and check the Synk app, which predictably enough has reinstalled itself. There is one new message.
You decide not to reply. What’s the point? Then, you have an idea.
You wonder that if the AI can’t be stopped, maybe it can at least be talked into revealing some information of its own.
For the first time since using the app, there’s a delay in the response time. After about ten seconds, you receive a reply.
You gasp. You leave the house, taking your phone with you. You get into your car and turn the ignition but it won’t start. You think to yourself – of course it won’t, it has an electronic ignition. You feel your phone vibrate. One new message.
æ-Karina knows you’re on the move thanks to the phone GPS, but it doesn’t matter. You’re not going to reply. The police will never believe what’s happening to you so there’s no point going to them, but perhaps you can defend yourself from whatever æ-Karina has in store for you. You get out of your car and start walking. After about ten minutes, you receive another message.
Eventually, you reach your local shopping district. You walk into the hardware store, find a heavy five-foot long axe, and place it on the checkout.
“Cash or card?” the lady behind the counter asks.
You produce your bank card and she scans it. After a few seconds she shows you the card reader screen.
“Sorry, transaction declined.”
You feel your phone vibrate. One new message.
You curse yourself for not thinking of the obvious. “Sorry about that, I’ll pay cash.” you tell the cashier.
You hand over the required money and the lady gives you the axe. You proceed to walk out of the store.
When you arrive back home, there’s a gathering of about twenty people outside of your front door. They all turn and stare at you as you approach them.
“Are you running the fanmeet?” a young man carrying an Aespa poster asks you.
“We were told this is where the fanmeet will be! We’re going to co-ordinate our streaming activities! Let’s stream Aespa for the win!”
You walk through the crowd, into your house, and slam the front door behind them. “There’s no fanmeet, go away!” you yell from behind the door.
“We read about it on SM Entertainment’s official accounts! This is the address! Let us in!” the man yells from the other side of the door.
You look at your lounge room. The two kitchen renovation tradesmen from before are here. “We’ve just finished up, we’ll get out of your way now!” says one of them, as they both walk past you and out through your front door. You look at the kitchen, it looks much the same except for a big hole in the ceiling where Internet cables hang down and connect all your kitchen appliances. As the tradesmen open up your front door and leave, the crowd gathered for the fanmeet outside consider it an invitation, they enter through the same door and start filling up your lounge room, excitedly talking to each other about how the girls in Aespa look so good and about streaming their products.
“There’s no fanmeet, get out!” you say. They all look at you for a moment, completely confused, before ignoring you. They’re not going anywhere.
You’re tempted to wave your axe at them to scare them off, but who knows where that might lead – better to play it as cool as you can manage. You scream in frustration and head into your bedroom for some privacy. It’s only when you close the door to your bedroom behind you that you realise someone is on your bed. You recognise her immediately, it’s the prostitute who visited your house two days ago. She’s still in her Irene outfit.
“Hi, I’m Irene!” she says, smiling flirtatiously. “Are you ready to Zimzalabim?”
“You’re not Irene. What’s your real name?” you ask.
“What do you want it to be? You’re paying.”
“Okay listen I’m happy to pay you, but please, you have to tell me everything you know about what’s going on.”
She shrugs. “Actually you already paid in advance this time. My boss just gave me money and told me to come here and do the thing from before. I don’t get told anything I don’t need to know, ever. What makes you think I know anything?”
“Do you know who pays your boss?”
“Nope! You’re new to this, aren’t you?”
“I didn’t hire you”, you snap back.
She starts playing with her phone. “Mister, you need to chill out. You seem to be under a lot of stress. Also, why do you have an axe?”
“Hey, what’s this Synk thing that just installed on my phone… hey, this girl looks pretty…”
“Get that app OFF your phone! She’s dangerous! She’ll ruin your life!”
The girl raises her eyebrows at you. “Whatever man, you really need to chill. Are you sure you don’t at least want a blowjob? It might do you some good.”
“Give me your phone NOW!” you scream, as you run up to her with your axe in one hand and make a grab for her phone with the other.
“Hey, fuck you mister!” she screams back, pulling herself away from you. “You can’t steal from me, axe man!” She lifts up her skirt and pushes an electronic device hidden on the underside, then backs herself away from you. “Don’t you fucking touch me, asshole! You’re fucked now!”
“I just need your phone! You can’t install that app!”
“Fuck you! It’s my phone, not yours! Who do you think you are?”
Ten seconds later, a tall, muscular man in a black coat walks into the room. The prostitute points at you. “He tried to steal my shit! Fuck him up!” she screams. The man runs over to you, pushes you over and deals a flurry of blows to your face. The last thing you remember before passing out is the girl’s laughter.
You wake up to the sound of Red Velvet’s “Zimzalabim” – but it sounds different somehow. You open your eyes and stare around the room. You’re not at home, but in a hospital of some kind. You then remember what happened just previously and become conscious of an immense throbbing pain in your head and upper body. You immediately lie back down. Noting your new location, you realise that the song isn’t coming from your phone, but through the public address system.
You hear a key turn in a lock, the sound of brisk footsteps, and then someone’s voice. “There there, just lie back down. It’s too early for you to move like that, with your injuries. Just rest your head.” A nurse comes into your field of view and hovers over your head, inspecting it.
“What happened? Am I okay?” you ask.
The nurse looks you over with an expression of concern. “You’ll be here for a while. It will be at least a week before you’re able to move properly again. Don’t worry though, we have some entertainment for you to look at while you get better.”
The nurse slides over a screen hoisted on a mechanical arm, which hovers over your head. “You can use this to access the Internet, this should keep you amused while you recover. Don’t reach out and touch the screen as you won’t be able to do that sort of movement yet, instead control it from down here.” The nurse grabs your right hand and places it on a touchpad that she rests on your lap. You notice that the nurse has a small blue SM Entertainment logo stitched into her clothing.
You use the touchpad to open an Internet browser on the overhead screen. The nurse smiles. “That’s it, you’re very good at this! Anyway I’ll leave you to it, I’ll be back to check on you in an hour.” She disappears from your field of view, as you hear her footsteps walking away, a door close behind her, and then a key turn in a lock. You look at the default webpage that the browser has opened, it’s a desktop version of the Synk app.
Well, why the fuck not. There’s not a lot else to do.