This is the original short story version of “Show Me Love”, which was later expanded into a full novel.
Click here to pre-order the Show Me Love novel on Amazon (release date 1st March 2023).
Please note that the below story contains partial spoilers of the novel, as it is actually the same story in some respects (but not all). If you haven’t read this story yet, you may wish to read the novel first (or not, if you’re one of those weird people who actually enjoys spoilers).
DISCLAIMER: Trigger warning: everything. I’m not even joking. No, really. Not joking about this. So not joking. You have been warned.
SHOW ME LOVE – A SHORT STORY BY KPOPALYPSE
1. INTRODUCING THE GROUP
So while I’ve got you here, for this small amount of time, I might as well tell you a bit about myself. I just feel the need to share. You don’t mind, do you?
So as you know, my name’s Hana, and I’m in this k-pop group. However I can’t tell you who we are. That’s not because of a non-disclosure agreement or anything (like I’d even care, after all, this is just between us and definitely isn’t going anywhere), that’s just because we don’t even know – our agency hasn’t named us yet. We’re going by the name “Peace Party” for now, but that’s just a little joke between us members, they’re not going to actually call us that. Well, you’d hope not, but our company does some pretty strange things sometimes so who knows? But I really don’t think so.
If you’re wanting to know how I got into this mess, and I’m sure you are, well, I was scouted. Some guy in a suit just turned up at our school gym one day and picked me right out of gym class and started talking about “do you want to be a star” and so on. I didn’t have any dream to be an idol or anything, and I wasn’t even that keen on the idea at first when they were pitching it to me, but it sounded better to me the more he explained it. Honestly, it sounded pretty good. Lots of gym and hardly any schoolwork? Living away from my mother for years with no contact allowed? No more going to my shitty classes and getting picked on? Hey, sign me up! It couldn’t be worse than the current state of my life at that point, surely. Of course they had to ask my mother about it and she was like super keen, I couldn’t believe it, I was certain that she would just rule it out but she was all over this guy asking about it. Perhaps she saw dollar signs (typical), or was super-charmed by the guy (ugh), or maybe she just wanted me out of the house as much as I did, but I wasn’t going to question it.
Our group is a six member group so now I’m going to tell you about the five other members, because I’m sure you’d like to know about them, too.
I’ll start with Nari, she is the leader of our group. When we had a meeting with the CEO about the group needing a leader, she was instantly, hand up, straight away “I’ll do it”, it actually made me jump how fast she volunteered. We all just turned and stared at her instant reaction like “okay then, why are you so keen”. She’s that sort of person though, a natural leader, really motivated, tries hard, is really good at getting the dance moves right, never complains about having to work too hard… certainly never complains to the staff about us being worked too hard, because why would she. Basically a bitch, I think she likes being the leader a little too much, but then if she wasn’t doing it one of us would have to do it and I really don’t want to and I don’t think anyone else does either. So I’m glad it’s her and not me. Plus I’ll be honest, she’s pretty good at it, a little too good for my liking. I’ll get to that later.
I get along okay with Nari though because I can keep up, so she doesn’t get shitty at me, at least not about performance anyway. Nari always gets into fights with Youngsook instead, she is the singer. I know, that sounds weird to call Youngsook the “singer” when I suppose all six of us are singers, but really, that’s who she is, only one of us can really sing properly and that’s her. The rest of us have to train hard and even then we barely can hit the stupid high notes in these insipid girly-voiced songs we have to grind our way through, it’s really annoying actually to have to work on singing parts for hours and then we watch her and she just nails it straight away. We get our revenge though when we have to practice dance routines, which is most of the time, Youngsook’s sense of rhythm isn’t great and she tends to lag behind the group, or maybe she just has a lazy slug brain I don’t know, anyway then Nari gets stuck into her with choice lines like:
“What do you think you are doing, keep up with us”
“Are you deaf, actually listen to the music”
or my favourite:
“Stop dreaming about [insert food here] and follow the rhythm”
Don’t get me wrong Youngsook isn’t fat or anything, but we all have to do weigh-ins which are super harsh and she’s always the heaviest and gets in the most trouble with the staff over it. So whenever Nari gets frustrated with Youngsook she always hones in on the food like a goddamn laser beam, which is a laugh riot, I swear. The best thing about this insult is that Nari will change it up depending on how frustrated she is on that particular day. Nari does try to keep it professional and if she is just feeling normal (well, whatever normal is for this bitch) it’s just:
“Stop dreaming about potato chips and follow the rhythm”
But if she is having a shit day or is in a real mood and really wants to stick it into Youngsook it transforms into something like:
“Stop dreaming about fried chicken with extra deep fried onion rings and potatoes with garlic butter and special sauce and an extra thickshake and follow the rhythm” (yes Nari can actually say all this while dancing at the same time and not missing a beat, got to hand it to her she’s got coordination)
I’m not good at holding my emotions in, you know? I mean, you guessed that about me by now, I’m sure. So whenever Nari pulls out that one, or something like it, I can’t keep a straight face, I just start fucking giggling hard and then of course I have to stop dancing, and then everyone else stops dancing too. Youngsook sometimes just puts up with it and we just continue on after a few seconds, but occasionally she gets the shits completely and starts having a crack back at Nari’s weak vocals, usually something like:
“Hit E6 you’ve got three seconds 1 2 3 sorry too late” (all said at the fastest possible speed)
Nari never backs down however, she will keep pushing and pushing and will refocus any attacks straight back onto Youngsook’s dancing:
“They can Autotune my vocals, they can’t Autotune your legs”
As Nari is the leader, and also the eldest so we have to “respect” her (ugh), most fights just end in Youngsook apologising, sulking a bit and then we continue on. Sometimes she leaves the room and we continue without her, something which doesn’t bother Nari one bit. Only one time did it actually threaten to devolve into a physical fight, where the rest of us had to separate them before management came in and carted the two girls, both crying, off to separate rooms for “mediation”. One of the rare times Nari lost her cool because she usually doesn’t, usually it’s her breaking off fights between the rest of us. Anyway it’s always hilarious and never gets old.
The next girl is Caitlin and she’s one of the foreign imports into the group, she’s Korean but she was scouted from the USA so she’s basically a dumbass, but she’s honestly too cute. I think that when we finally debut (or should I say if, but whatever) she’s going to get the lion’s share of the attention from the horny desperate disgusting male fans and that’s fine because maybe it will let me off the hook for that bullshit and I won’t have to appear on any of those jack-off sites. Anyway she’s not just pretty, she has a really likeable personality, because she really isn’t talented at all but she works hard and everyone can see it. Nari abuses her and she just takes it really well and says “yep, I’ll do better” and does her best and she still sucks at everything but I guess we can’t all be good.
The best thing about Caitlin is that she’s so naive, which is a lot of fun. She was the last person to be confirmed in the lineup, so I told her that we were originally going to be a seven member group but that Nari beat up the seventh member so badly that she had to go to hospital to get her face reconstructed, Caitlin actually believed that for weeks and was really really quiet around Nari the whole time. Eventually one of the other girls ruined it for me and told her the truth, what a shame, and that was Iseul because Iseul has to be that kind of person who ruins fun for others.
So now we get to the members that I don’t like. Iseul is some prissy bitch, and I tell you what, she is good at absolutely nothing. Can’t sing, can’t dance (yet Nari just gives her a free pass and picks on Youngsook all the time instead, super annoying), is ugly, is really prudish and just mega uptight about everything. I guess she’s pretty smart though, I suppose she’d have to be to get this far with absolutely zero talent or looks, so by process of elimination it must be brains. This of course makes her even worse because it means I can’t trust her, I know she probably has an edge on me somewhere or some kind of secret connection and will whistle-blow me super fast if she finds out I’m doing anything not approved by the company (like our little tell-all meeting right now, for instance) so I just try to keep my distance from that nosy little skank whore as much as I can.
The other girl is Shu, she’s the other import, she’s a Chinese girl, and I hate her most of all, I don’t really know why. She just bugs me, what can I say. I don’t know why we have to have a Chinese in the group. I mean yeah, I get that China is a big country with a lot of people, but don’t they just pirate everything anyway? Doesn’t seem like a smart marketing strategy to me. Anyway she just sort of keeps to herself and doesn’t say much, which is a good idea for her own survival, but she still finds ways to piss me off somehow. I mean at first I barely noticed Shu’s dreary presence in the group at all, like the way you don’t notice that a dining table might have a chair under it. She doesn’t say much so she was easy to ignore, but after a while I just found that she irritated me. That weird desperate stare that she has, her strange voice when she speaks, her smell oh boy, even just her presence in the room at all, she just gets under my skin, as soon as she enters the room it’s like an instant downer, and because we all dorm together she’s always in the room. So I thought that since I have no choice but to put up with this bitch, I might as well start having a little fun.
At first it was just a few taunts, like telling her that she stinks a lot and has major B.O. which is true by the way, I mean, you should smell this woman. You know how some people just stink, and they try to cover it up with heaps of product but they’re just so naturally gross that their natural stench just overpowers whatever perfume they’re using? So you get this massively huge perfume smell, because they need to use so much of it, but underneath there’s still this lingering mustiness. Anyway I didn’t see any need to be subtle about calling it out because I hate her so making her miserable is just funny. If she stood close to me in line-up I’d just nudge her away a bit and wave my arms in front of my face like I’m fanning the smell away, and she would just scowl at me and not say anything. There’s this one dance routine that we do, where we have to get really close together for this body-roll section (which is kind of gross when you think about it) and every time we did it in practice I’d cough really loudly. I didn’t even have to fake it that much, she is so smelly I swear. After a while Nari started noticing the pattern and told me to stop coughing, and I just let loose.
“I’m sorry it’s just really hard to breathe when we do this.”
“What do you mean by that?” Nari asked.
I totally just bugged my eyes out at her. “You can’t tell? Shu has crazy B.O, it’s disgusting, I can’t do this, for real.”
Nari rolled her eyes. “Right.” Trust her to not believe me. Nari then motioned us to stand together and went right up to us both and sniffed us, like really close, around the neck and arms, it was really invasive, like right up in my personal space. Then she starts up again.
“Actually she does stink, but so do you. We’re supposed to be getting this dance routine perfect, and you’re both pretty far from perfect, so a bit of smell means you might actually be working up a sweat actually trying to be good. So be good. And stop coughing, or I’ll give you something to cough about.” Nari shot me a glare as she walked back to her position. Everyone else also glared at me for the rest of the day, it sucked. This didn’t go according to plan, so I knew I had to step it up a little.
2. THE MYSTERY BOOK
We don’t get a lot of downtime, but when we do, Shu likes to read. She was reading some mystery novel or something each night to get to sleep, I can’t even remember what it was, I don’t like reading books so I didn’t pay any mind to it. But the mystery is always revealed at the end, right? So when nobody was looking I snuck the book into the bathroom, ripped the last few pages out, flushed them down the toilet, and then put the book back on her bedside exactly where it was. I tried to do the tearing of the paper really neatly so you couldn’t tell that anything was missing just from picking up the book normally, I was hoping that she’d get right to the very end before realising. I must have not been careful enough though because she only took a couple days to say something, and there’s no way that she would have read through the book that fast. I was just sitting on my bed in the dorms doing my nails and she thrusts the book in front of my face, opened up to where the missing pages were.
“You did this.”
“You can’t prove it” I shot back, not making eye contact, I mean I’m trying to focus on my nails here.
Shu starts raising her voice. “I don’t need to prove it, who else would do this?” Okay, she has a point. Nobody else would have done this, it was obviously me. Any reasonable person at this point would just admit that they did it and apologise. But why should I be reasonable, where’s the fun in that? I want to milk this situation for maximum pleasure.
“Maybe Iseul did it”, I reply.
I look over at Iseul, she was just going to sleep but she immediately sits up in her bed and starts giving me a massive death glare, but she doesn’t say anything. I know that Shu isn’t going to believe Iseul did it, and Iseul also knows that Shu isn’t going to believe me, so she knows I’m just fucking with her. It’s well known that Iseul is not the type of person to do a thing like that even if she did hate Shu as much as I do, which she doesn’t. I just aspire to upsetting them both at the same time, I consider it to be an achievement. I spend a few seconds gloating in the moment.
“You are a liar”, intones Shu in that annoying Chinese accent of hers that I can’t stand. Ugh.
I’m thinking of what to say back to her when she reaches down and snatches the nail polish out of my hand. I’m immediately upset by this, partly because I want to do my nails in peace and she’s now made a mess of them, but mainly because this was about me feeling good and putting Shu in her place and now she’s turned the tables, I don’t like this at all.
“Give me my nail polish back, Shu.”
“You have to admit that you ripped the pages out of my book, and apologise”, Shu retorts.
Like that’s going to happen, no way. I don’t say anything.
Iseul gasps. “You did what?” She sounds so funny, like she just found out I killed someone. She always overreacts to everything. I swear nothing interesting has ever happened to Iseul in her entire life, for her to flip out the way she does over such tiny events. Iseul gets out of bed and storms out of the room. No doubt she’s gone to get Nari, who is still in the gym.
“I want my nail polish back or I’m not saying anything to you.” I stare at Shu up and down, she’s holding my nail polish behind her back, I’m determined to get it.
Shu just stares at me for a full minute with her hands behind her back and won’t say anything. Eventually I decide that I’ve had enough of this. I lunge forward and grab around Shu’s waist, reaching for my nail polish, but she’s too fast and pulls her hands away, this causes us both to lose balance as we land on the floor together. Shu clenches her fist tightly, with my nail polish inside, while I try to prise it open with my fingers. Her grip is tight, I can’t get more than one finger of her fist open. After about ten seconds of me futilely clawing at Shu’s fist while she tries to push me away, Nari storms into the room, drags me up onto my feet and slaps me hard across the face. Nari is strong and the sting of the slap hurts, the last person who hit me that hard in the face was my dad, the memories it brings back drain my will to fight. I half-heartedly wind up to slap her back, but Nari stares me down and I lose my nerve.
“Hana, don’t even try it. Do you want management involved?”
I really don’t want management involved, so I sigh and sit back down on the bed, nursing my cheek. Nari is tough, but management’s discipline style is another level again. There’s a reason why Nari takes being a leader so seriously, it’s got a lot to do with protecting us girls from direct interaction with management. When we first formed, we were treated incredibly cruelly until she made a deal with them: “Leave the discipline with me, and I’ll keep them in line so you don’t have to”. I don’t know how she got them to agree to that arrangement, but she did it somehow and we’re all grateful. So we almost always respect Nari’s authority as leader, even if we hate it or disagree with her decisions. The alternative is so much worse, you don’t even want to know.
Nari turns to Shu. “Shu, give Hana her nail polish back.” After about ten seconds of bitterly staring at me with tears running down her face, Shu presents the nail polish. I snatch it quickly, doing my best to try and scratch Shu’s hand with my fingernails during the grab motion, but Shu anticipates this and withdraws her hand swiftly so my nails don’t have a chance to connect with anything. That sneaky fucking bitch.
Nari then turns to me. “Hana, apologise to Shu.”
“But I’m not sorry.”
“If you’re not, you will be. Do it now, while I’m still being nice.” Nari stares me down, raising her hand again in readiness for another slap.
I flinch, I’m in no mood for another hit. “Okay, okay. Shu, I’m sorry I ripped out the last few pages of your stupid book.”
Nari snorts. “You don’t sound very sincere, Hana.” I go to say something else but Nari stops me. “Tomorrow, you go out and buy Shu a new book, the same one.”
My jaw drops. She can’t do this, we have no income! “With what money?”
“That’s your problem, perhaps you should have thought about that before you decided to ruin her property. You’ve got 24 hours to replace that book, or I’ll just take you to the CEO’s boardroom and he’ll decide your punishment instead. What will it be, Hana?”
Needless to say, I had to sneak out and beg and plead my disgusting mother for money and lie and say it was for some new dance shoes so I could get enough cash to buy Shu a book. Of course, once Shu had that book she made a point to read it every fucking night, staring at me each and every time she’d turn a page. I really hate her now. My hate is becoming a mountain, but I can’t do anything about it now because Nari has got me figured out that I’m totally enjoying bullying this bitch and she just puts a stop to anything fun that I do straight away. Like that time that I figured out how to lock the toilet’s privacy latch from the outside with a nail file, in a way that it can’t be unlocked from inside the cubicle at all, so of course I locked it while Shu was in there. No kidding, not two seconds later Nari was right there like a rocket.
“You’re going to unlock that, right?” Nari asked, leaning up against the cubicle door.
“Oh, I’m not locking it… I’m just checking it’s not loose” I replied, quickly unlocking the latch and fidgeting with the nail file nervously.
“Sure thing.” Nari nodded and walked away. She didn’t have to say anything else, we both knew that she caught me red-handed. Seriously, I can’t do anything fun anymore, so the hatred just builds up inside, you know?
3. RECORDING THE “HITS”
So in the midst of endless dance practice and myself trying to terrorise Shu and failing, we’ve also been recording our album, and our last session was such a bad experience. All six of us were locked in the studio cutting our final vocal parts for “the album”. I don’t know if that’s what they’re going to call it, but the whole thing has such a lack of imagination that it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they just called it “The Album”. So let me break down for you what a complete joke this is.
The first problem with “the album” is that they’re making us all sing right at the top of our vocal range and we can barely even get there, but of course we have to sing high because they want us to sound “feminine” and “girly”. None of us can get any of the parts right, apart from Youngsook of course, and even she complains and says that it’s pitched too high for her voice. If Youngsook is complaining, and seriously this girl is a good singer, she can sing IU’s high notes like it’s no big thing, then the rest of us don’t have a hope in hell. So I’m not taking the recording very seriously because it’s not going to sound any good anyway. I’m no expert on singing but I don’t see how they’re going to twist what we’ve been recording into something listenable by the general public, but I do hope they can salvage something good out of what we’ve done so far because I really don’t want to do more vocal sessions.
Then there’s the songs themselves, and they are just bad. Even if we could sing them, I don’t think we could save them from being so awful. You wouldn’t want to hear even the best singer do this rubbish. To give you an example the title track is called “Show Me Love” and it goes like this in the verse:
When I see you looking at me
I don’t know how to tell you how I feel
You don’t know the feelings inside my heart
The secrets I keep buried deep inside
I can’t explain everything away
I just want to make you understand that my feelings are real
And then we have the chorus, which is… wait for it…
I just want you to show me
Show-show-show me love
Will you ever know me
Know-know-know my love for you
This is obviously so awful but it’s easily the best song that we’re working on right now, so you can just imagine how bad the others are. Nobody is going to buy this trash unless our marketing department is somehow like total genius tier.
The other thing that is making recording the album really fucked, is that the producer is a disgusting creep. For example, when Iseul was recording her part for “Love Light”, which has like a bit where the music stops and kind of goes all quiet, he kept trying to make her do it “more breathy” and “more sexy” and he instructed her how to put all these super sexual moans and whispers in like she’s in a porn or something. He did dozens of takes of this, too, he spent nearly an hour just on this one part that is only twenty seconds long. Iseul might be a prude but she’s also not naive, she knew exactly what she was being asked to do and was real uncomfortable with it, but he just made her do it anyway because he said it needed to be the right mood and it’s not like any of us have any say in how it sounds, he just does what he wants, we don’t have any rights at all. I mean, I get it’s meant to have a sexual element to the song, but why’d he have to pick her to do that when she clearly had issues with it. Nari tried to save her by suggesting that either Nari herself or me do that part instead and I honestly wouldn’t have even minded, but he wasn’t having any of that, no – he’s got to get Iseul, the girl who (he thinks) is a virgin do it and feel weird about it because he’s probably got a virgin fetish itch that only she scratches. The result sounds so shameful and gross because it’s just not her thing, none of us have heard the final product yet but we’ve all heard a rough mix and I just felt so sorry for her when I heard her part. And I really hate Iseul, she’s such a prissy little goody-two-shoes who thinks her shit smells like lavender, so for me to feel sorry for her, you know it was something really inappropriate.
The absolute worst though is when he did Caitlin’s vocal takes. Unlike Iseul, who’s uptight, unpleasant, talentless and bitchy but at least she has a brain, Caitlin’s actually a nice girl with no brains whatsoever. Hey, intelligence isn’t everything, I like Caitlin. Unfortunately, so does he. Even worse is that Caitlin is kind of naive so she just has no idea sometimes. He didn’t make Caitlin do anything musically inappropriate but he was doing this weird thing where he’d reposition the microphone stands in all these weird spots to get “room echoes” or whatever and I think it was just an excuse for him to take a look at her body from all these inappropriate angles. He was leaning over and doing all types of shit and it was pretty obvious that it was so he could stare down her top. And it gets worse, at one point after she did a particularly bad vocal take he just started massaging her shoulders out of the blue and started talking about how it would relax her for the next cut. The rest of us were behind the soundproof glass in the control room at the time, our jaws just fucking dropped right to the fucking floor and we looked at each other like “what the fuck, no way is this happening”, Caitlin saw our reaction (the glass is sound proof but not vision proof) and that’s when she realised something was wrong and this wasn’t normal, I mean yeah she’s dumb but she’s not that dumb. But we can’t just blow out the session, we have to keep going with this creeper, so we just had to fucking pretend everything was fine.
The funny thing is, when Nari, myself and Shu all did our parts – he didn’t pull any of that shit. That’s how I know he’s a creep. I didn’t get any goddamn massage between takes even though I probably screwed up my vocal part just as bad as Caitlin, we probably recorded for all of fifteen minutes, not even, then he just gave up on me. That was a great relief actually, because if he tried to grab my ass or something I’d already decided that I was just going to immediately stab his eye out with the pen I had on the music stand, consequences or not. Luckily for me I guess I wasn’t his type, thank god for that because I didn’t want to go to jail, not for that anyway. Youngsook he was totally pro with as well, although he spent a lot more time with her but it was just on the vocal aspect and he wasn’t doing any weird shit like getting on a ladder and hovering microphones three feet above her head and “checking to make sure the angle was right”. Oh and the worst thing of all, he gave out business cards… just to Caitlin and Iseul. Not just his own business cards, but also some business cards of other people. All men of course, all people who he said “can help with career advancement”. Yeah, right. When we got back to the dorms that night, Iseul threw her cards straight in the bin, and demanded that Caitlin do the same.
“Are you sure? What if one of these is a legitimate opportunity?”
All five of us at once just screamed at Caitlin “throw them out!”
“Fine then”, she mumbled, and Caitlin put the cards in the wastepaper bin. We all then went to sleep and hoped that the next vocal session was a long way off.
4. THE ASSESSMENT
While Nari does her best to be the leader of the group and keep management involvement with us to a minimum, they’re still the ones in charge and we always know it, and there’s also quite a lot of things that they insist on doing themselves. One of those things is evaluating our progress, an event that absolutely nobody in our group looks forward to.
Here’s the thing about me and my place this group, that you need to understand before I go any further on this topic. I don’t know if this group is going to succeed or fail, and I’m not really that invested in it in that kind of way. So why am I training, then? Well, I just know that I hate school because I can’t do bookwork any good and the other students are all thugs, and I hate being at home because I hate my mother (I mean I do love her at least technically or whatever because she’s my flesh and blood, but I also hate her so much because she’s such a cunt, like you have no idea), and I honestly don’t even know where else I would go or what else I could do. What future is there for me? I don’t know, but being an idol in training means that at least for now there’s no school and no home, and I just get told what to do, and that’s fine, at least my life is simple. So I want to perform well enough and be good enough and not get in too much trouble so that I can stay in the group and not be sent home, and that’s really my plan at this point, just to get by.
So our company does these assessments quarterly. They assess us on various areas – singing, dance, physical appearance, and charm. They play our songs to us and we have to sing and dance to them and do all those cute little “aegyo moves” at the right times where we smile and do little heart shapes with our fingers and stuff. We also have to do a weigh-in and a mock interview session. Then we get a report for all of these areas, which is read out to all of us.
So I’m not going to go through everything that happened, because this shit takes all day, I’ll just give you the “highlight reel” of the actual assessment.
Nari – scored best in dancing, they really liked her moves. Also, surprisingly, did really well in the charm section. I don’t see it often but she knows how to turn on the aegyo when she has to. Didn’t score quite so well in singing or physical appearance, but she at least passed the weigh-in (we have to weigh 49kg or under, which is ridiculous I know) plus she gets bonus points for being the leader. She also however gets a bonus lecture from the CEO, who spent ages admonishing her for inter-member conflict. Basically, whenever the staff notice that we’re fighting, and they always do because CCTV is everywhere, Nari is the one who gets in trouble for it, because she’s the leader and it’s her specific job to squash any drama between us. By the end of the lecture she was in tears and promising to do better. I don’t see Nari cry that often. Once she was done bowing at 90 degrees to all the staff she sat back down and didn’t give me or anyone else eye contact. I felt guilty about it, I’m probably the reason why she was given such a hard time. She’s tough though, she’ll get over it, but I wish there was a way I could terrorise Shu more without making Nari’s life more difficult.
Youngsook – predictably she aced all the singing, and actually earned some applause from the management staff mid-song, I’ve never seen that before, however I don’t think they cared that much at the end of the day because they absolutely shat on her in every other category. Quotes from the CEO: “why are you still so fat”, “you move like a disgusting slug”, “you’re not charming at all”, “you have too much thigh fat, and a fat face”, “you are supposed to be liked by the public but nobody is going to fall in love with you if you don’t take care of yourself” – she’s only just over 51kg and she’s not even that unattractive, they were totally unfair and giving her such a hard time. She was told she has until the next assessment to get under 49kg and sharpen up her dancing or she’s out of the group and we’ll just debut as five. Youngsook bawled her eyes out all the way through the assessment once they moved past vocals, then she just ran off at the end, back to the dorm to cry into the pillow I guess, Nari went with her for a while, then came back to watch the assessments for the others.
Caitlin – she aced the charm section and got like a B-grade in everything else. The judges were super lenient, I thought Youngsook did better in every category and I’m glad Youngsook had gone and wasn’t there to see Caitlin get the red carpet treatment just because Caitlin is pretty and management are gross perverts. Caitlin is the only one who didn’t get yelled at. She still cried a bit anyway, but I think it was just stress at being under scrutiny, they really weren’t giving her that much reason to be upset.
Iseul – fared kind of average in everything, except the charm aspect where she scored poorly, they spent a lot of time talking about how she has to “open up” and “accept love and show love”. The discussion became very strange and almost spiritual or something, I don’t even know how to describe it, I must admit that I didn’t fully understand what was being said, it was just beyond my brain. Iseul seemed to get it though, she was nodding along, saying “yes” at the right times, crying at the right times and so on. She kept her poise throughout it all and just sort of absorbed it, I tuned most of it out I guess because I really hate listening to that bitch talk in her pompous posh voice, I wish I could just slap her in the head sometimes.
Shu – bombed in every category. Fucking useless. They said they’re going to throw her out of the group tomorrow, she has 24 hour to pack her bags. Oh wait, sorry I fell asleep and was dreaming there for a moment haha. Actually she didn’t do too badly, but not outstanding either, but she did bomb out in the charm category completely. They had a long chat to her about how she has “great talent” and “just needs to apply herself more” and they repeatedly kept telling her to “smile more”, “you have such a pretty face” and so on, like how fucking disgusting are men when they say that. Anyway she didn’t cry much which was disappointing, I wish they had gone a bit harder on her but oh well I guess they’re all assholes too so maybe it takes one to know one.
So then it was my turn. I did pretty pathetically on the singing, but I did better at the dancing. I passed the weigh-in fine because I just naturally eat like a bird, and didn’t do too badly at the charm school stuff, I mean that stuff is easy to fake. Oddly enough the staff didn’t talk to me about any of that, instead they just kept harping on about how I’m really distracted and don’t have my head in the game and “are you sure you really want this”, I mean to be honest I’m not that sure but I can’t say that of course, so I just sort of nodded along. I mean honestly I just tuned out, but then they started getting angry because I wasn’t responding that much so I thought I’d better try to cry a little because they like that sort of thing, they think it means that they’re getting through their ideas into your head and having a big impact, it feeds their egos. So I just started thinking about some really, really upsetting shit that I knew would make me cry, like that time at school when my supposed best friend at the time set me up on a date with a rapist and I only just escaped and when I went home and told my mum about it she asked me what I was wearing, and I said just my school uniform and she started asking how long the skirt was and I just went off screaming at her like “how dare you judge your own daughter I just nearly got fucking raped you cunt” and then she just fucking dodged the issue like the cunt she is and got all shitty at me like “how dare you call your mother that, you’re disgusting” and I was like “if the shoe fits, cunt” and so she grounded me for a whole six months because of that and she enforced that curfew every fucking day, like am I supposed to hate my mother this much I hate her so very much god I hate her I hate her why can’t I have a normal mother and wow did that get the tears going strong and then all of a sudden it was too much, I couldn’t control it. I just fucking collapsed on that stage and started bawling and screaming. Nari and Iseul (yes, really – guess she has a heart after all, I still hate her though) had to carry me off the stage and back to the dorms because I had made myself so catatonically upset that I could barely walk. The CEO and judges probably thought they were the most profound people ever who gave me such a revelation of k-pop career guidance that my entire body and brain just gave up on me at once because I couldn’t handle the incredible insight, but actually my emotional display had nothing to do with those shitheads and I wasn’t even listening to them. Give me a moment, okay? I’ll continue in a minute.
So for the next day it’s up early and back to my usual grind with 18 hours of straight dance practice, shit meals of one boiled chicken breast, a tiny salad and like one egg that’s supposed to last the entire day and having to put up with these bitches in the group as we gradually progress on our collective road to probably-nothing-much. We’d all sort of gotten over everything from the assessment the day before, like life goes on, you know. You just have to deal with it.
We’re all doing stretches in the morning before we start with the dancing, but there’s only five of us. Youngsook is missing. That’s pretty normal, she’s often a few minutes late, after all dancing and physical activity really isn’t her thing. A few more minutes drag on and we all start to notice that she still hasn’t turned up.
“I’m going to check on Little Miss Fried Potatoes, she’s probably still in bed absorbing carbs from the atmosphere.” says Nari as she scoots out of the gym area and off to the dorms to check up on her. I stifle a giggle at her remarks and keep on doing leg stretches. “Hey hamburger, wake up!” I can hear Nari yelling from the dorm area. Then I hear her come running back.
“She’s not there?” I ask.
Iseul pipes up. “She didn’t sleep with us last night either. I assumed that she was back in the gym.”
Nari scratches her head. “I took her back to the dorms, and sat with her for a while because she wasn’t feeling that good. Then I came back to watch all of you do the assessment. That’s the last I saw of her.”
“What did she say?” asks Iseul.
“She was worried about being thrown out of the group for not measuring up. She didn’t say she was going to leave though” Nari shrugs.
Just then we hear a knock on the front door to the dorms. Shu opens it because she’s closest, and Youngsook limps through the doorway. She’s clearly injured, she looks like she’s been in a car accident or something, I don’t even know what but she can barely even walk. Nari grabs her and leads her to her bed, where she immediately lies down. There’s bruises all over her face, arms and legs. We’re all in shock.
“What happened?” asks Nari as she sits down next to Youngsook’s head on the pillow.
Youngsook just lies on her back and stares at the ceiling, saying nothing but clearly in a fair degree of pain. She’s not noticeably bleeding or anything but her bruises look intense and her gaze looks like it’s a thousand miles away.
Nari takes a deep breath. “Fuck this derelict company for not giving us phones. I’m getting management to call the hospital.” She runs out of the dorms and off down the hall to the offices. I take Nari’s place sitting by Youngsook.
“Youngsook, do you want to say anything? Nari’s getting an ambulance. You’ll be alright.” says Iseul.
Youngsook says nothing, but raises her left arm slowly. In her left hand, is a business card. Iseul takes the card, goes over to her bed, and looks in her wastepaper bin, where she discarded the cards that the producer gave her the other day.
“There’s one card missing. Youngsook, you didn’t – did you?”
Youngsook smiles weakly, and for the first time since she walked in, she says something.
“Don’t worry – I refused.”
Everyone in the room looks at each other. Nobody says a word. I take the card out of Iseul’s hand.
I’m sure you know which card it was, don’t you.
6. THE CARD
I think you know the rest of the story from here. I’m going to tell it to you anyway, because I love a good story, and we’ve come this far, haven’t we? We might as well end it properly, it’s no good leaving someone hanging.
So a few days later, after Youngsook – who is stable, by the way – was taken to hospital, I of course snuck out and rang the number on that card. Gosh, you were such a charmer, telling me about how I could advance my career, giving me the directions to your apartment, and so on. Very helpful, I mean you can never trust GPS directions. When delivery people come to our dorms they always get lost and it’s because they’re always relying on the GPS, which tells them to drop all the deliveries up a street near us that doesn’t even exist, so if we know a delivery is coming someone has to track the package and then stand out there on the main road like an idiot and look for the truck. It’s worth it sometimes just to laugh at them though as they go up and down the street looking for the non-existent turn-off. GPS is great when it works but often it doesn’t, so I really appreciate the help there.
Anyway, I couldn’t come straight away to where you were when you asked, that’s because I needed a bit of time to prepare. I made sure to look my best, I put on my special dress, that I have on right now, this is the same one that I’m going to be wearing in the “Show Me Love” music video, so I’m told, although management might change their minds about that after they’ve seen the mess I’ve made of it. So you know, don’t count on it I guess. I also made sure to bring this pistol along, and this was hard to find, certainly it was the thing that took the most time to arrange, but it also wasn’t quite as difficult as I thought it would be, like you’d think it’d be literally impossible to get something like this but no not really. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was definitely an essential item to bring along.
When I arrived at your door, of course I had no idea what was waiting inside. Who knows, there might’ve been five guys in there about to abduct me and sell my organs or something, so I had to keep my hand in my purse, on the gun, while you opened the door, at least until I knew what the situation was, what if things got messy straight away and I just started having to whip out the gun and start shooting people? I was being paranoid of course, that didn’t happen – of course you’re too much of a charmer for that. It was just you there alone, and all nicely dressed too! You asked me to sit down on the lounge and you poured me a drink in the kitchen. I scanned my surroundings and there didn’t seem to be anyone around, so I figured that maybe the drink was spiked and that was the hook, perhaps after I drunk it was when things would kick off. I don’t know, is the drink spiked? I guess I won’t know now, but of course I wasn’t going to drink any of it and find out. I just watched you bring it to the lounge and place it on the coffee table, then I just stared at it.
“You’re not drinking?” you asked.
“Not yet. I just got here, I want to let it sit. Good alcohol should sit for a while first, you know?”
Such a fucking lie, what do I know about “good alcohol”. I don’t even know where I got that line from. Anyway I managed a slight smile, but I was pretty nervous and I think it showed. I mean, coming to some man’s apartment specifically to kill him is not something I’ve ever done before, it’s a big deal so there was a lot on my mind. It’s not something that I can just do easily. It’s certainly a step up from that time in school where I told my best friend what happened with that date and how that guy tried to drag me off and she said “I didn’t know he was going to be like that” but that felt like such bullshit, I mean either she’s lying or she’s a total dumbass who deserved to be hit, so I just got up out of my school desk, went over to her, pulled her to the ground and started stomping her in the fucking head. I was legitimately trying to kill her at that moment, but I was also doing it in an almost-full classroom so I wasn’t really that fully committed to it because I knew I’d only have time to get in a few good kicks in before the other students or a teacher stopped me. I did my best to make the most of it. Each time my school shoe connected with her head was just a beautiful cathartic moment, with each kick at her stupid empty skull I could feel all the pent up angst about my mother and father and everyone at school just come flooding out of me and it felt fantastic and I just started kicking harder and harder and screaming like I didn’t know if I was angry or laughing or what but it didn’t last because about five girls all grabbed me at once and pulled me away, I was so wound up that it literally took all five of them. The girl wasn’t even that badly hurt after it, she didn’t have to go to hospital or anything, she just went home for the day and the next day she was a bit bruised and wore an eye patch for about a week but she was basically fine. So what I’m saying is that this situation with you isn’t anything like that, because there’s no safety net, you know? I knew that once I started the ball rolling with you, this time nobody was going to stop me, I’d have to own everything about what I did, and the consequences.
So I was sitting there, looking at this wine in the glass, which I figure probably has some drug in it, and I’m thinking about when I’m going to, you know, get the party started. I mean eventually you’re going to get suspicious about why I’m not drinking it and at that point you might start getting physical (which I know you can do, I mean I’ve seen Youngsook’s bruises) and I know I’m not going to beat a grown man in a physical fight if one starts, so I know that I have a limited amount of time to work with here. However at the same time I’m not really feeling the vibe, I mean I’m not sure if I can even go through with this. It’s a big step, you know? Anyway you were rabbiting on, talking about how you can help me in the industry or something – fuck, I dunno, I must confess I wasn’t really listening to you very closely as I was pretty wrapped up in my own thoughts – and I started getting a bit tearful. What if all of this was a big mistake? Shouldn’t I just go home to the dorms, or was it too late now, had I already gone too far? Could I even get out of this apartment now, or would you try to stop me from leaving? I was really starting to lose the vibe. But then, you – bless you – you made everything easy for me. You noticed that I was a bit upset. So you looked down at me, on the couch, and you said those magic words:
“You’re upset. Don’t be sad, you’re such a pretty girl. Why don’t you smile? You’re so much more beautiful when you smile.”
That did it. I felt my anger instantly building up again, and I knew that this was the time. You have no idea how much this statement upsets me. I mean it’s a pretty condescending and shitty thing to say to anyone really, because it’s really saying “I control you, present how I want to you” wrapped up cutely in a little bundle of fraudulent compliment, I think it would upset anyone with a pulse. However it’s made even worse specifically for me, because as a k-pop idol in training, we hear this all the time, we’re told to fucking smile all the time, we get no choice in the matter, we have to comply, and we even get assessed and graded on how well we do it. We do not want to meet some guy with supposed good intentions and suddenly he’s telling us what to do with our face just like the CEO is, you know? That’s the real objectification in this business if you ask me, not wearing short skirts or a booby top or whatever idiots think it is. Like I don’t care if you jack off, because you will anyway, your masturbation isn’t that important so don’t flatter yourself – do what you want but just don’t tell me how to fucking behave, okay? Is that too much to ask? Anyone who says “you should smile more” should just be fired straight into the fucking sun. I knew you absolutely had to be killed, that was obvious enough, but this just confirmed everything I was feeling a thousand times over. So I pulled the gun out of my handbag and pointed it at you straight away and… nothing, just a click. That’s weird, I know I fully loaded it. Oh fuck, the safety switch is still on! Thankfully I realised straight away and quickly flipped that off, fortunately before you worked out what was going on, and then I just started firing bullets in your general direction as fast as possible. I think the first six or so shots completely missed, I mean I’ve never done this before, I didn’t realise how much of a kick this thing has to it, but by about the fifteenth shot I’m pretty sure I was hitting you properly. I have to say though, that while seeing you panic and groan and bleed and fall over is certainly excellent and fantastic, the actual act of shooting you itself wasn’t as much fun as when I kicked that girl in her fucking head back in school. There’s something about the lack of direct physical contact when using a gun that just makes the violence seem more distant and not as satisfying, it was honestly a bit of a letdown. So if you’re wondering why I just started stomping on your face after you already had a whole bunch of holes in you and you were just lying there, well, that’s why. I was just trying to see if I could make the activity a bit more fun for myself. I hope this is clear, I just don’t want there to be any misunderstanding between us.
So anyway thanks again for the career opportunity and I guess our story has to end here. Or at least yours certainly does. Who knows what will happen to me, but I guess it doesn’t matter. I’m not quite sure how conscious you are right now, but don’t think for a moment that I’m going to just let anyone find you in any state other than completely dead, I’ll make sure that I finish what I started before I leave. I can’t exactly rely on the authorities to do the job properly, after all, Seungri only got three years.
Care for a final song?
When I see you looking at me
I don’t know how to tell you how I feel
You don’t know the feelings inside my heart
The secrets I keep buried deep inside
I can’t explain everything away
I just want to make you understand that my feelings are real
9 thoughts on “Show Me Love – short story draft version”
“she’s only just over 51kg” OMEGALUL
I assume this is a one-shot (no pun intended) but I hope there are more stories about these girls. I became invested in the characters beyond Hana’s story of retribution. Really well fleshed-out!
Hana’s really got an iron resolve and a heart made of radium, she’s a bit of a corrosive tool to Shu for like no reason other than nationality, but it’s nigh impossible to not be charmed by her courage. I’m assuming her choice to confront Mr. Producer Guy was rooted more so in past trauma and growing resentment towards a shacking system that refuses to treat her with dignity rather than a genuine affection and care for her groupmates, which means she has a more developed moral compass than most of us MURICANS.
Also Hana, it might be in your best interest to befriend Caitlin. Yeah she’s probably as intelligent as as a piece of gum rotting onto concrete if she’s Californian like I am, but she’ll probably just agree with whatever you say and do if you sound convincing enough, plus you could use some assistance with that gun aim.
I have a feeling that this might be based off of the group, [REDACTED], with the same member setup. Except instead of the American member being bullied, it’s the Chinese one. The pov of course would be through the lens of our beloved maknae, who has used this career advancement opportunity to become a soloist.
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I enjoyed this, though I felt very sad for Hana, given the total failure of every adult in her life to protect her. The bullying of Shu read to me as jealousy, because Shu was more literate and came off as being able to cope better with being on her own.
Can we have an adaptation of this instead of Squid Game S2?
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