fiction

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Friends Hospital

Fiction by Bradford Philen

 

“No, not figuratively dimmer, actually dimmer.” 

With that, professor Zhi Xun nodded to the student in the audience who had asked the question. He was a doctor actually, professor Zhi Xun: an esteemed Doctor of Philosophy in Chinese history. The student was Bill Hurley, an American, from Dover, Indiana, studying and working in Beijing on a Fulbright scholarship. Bill figured he was nearly fluent in Chinese, but thought maybe he was missing something. 

The panel discussion Life after Mao and Mao in the After-Life had just ended. There were artists, politicians, government officials, writers, and scholars on the panel. Mostly Chinese men. Zhi Xun was taking a few questions.

“It is a scientific fact,” Zhi Xun continued. “When Chairman Mao died in 1976, we have astronomical measurements that the sun grew dimmer.”

His face didn’t move or twitch and his eyes didn’t wander to see the audience react. It was as if he’d said something so known to be true, speaking it had little value. Chinese eat rice with chopsticks. True always and always true. The birth of Mao brought the shining sun in the Far East. True and true and true.

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The View

Flash fiction from Shanghai by Josh Stenberg

 

Jason called out of the blue. He was staying at a fancy hotel in Pudong; I should come over. The view was amazing, he said. Had I ever been? So, come.

I was startled and almost stumbled in the street. I agreed instinctively, out of confusion. Once I put down the phone, a prick of self-loathing. I wasn’t going anywhere special, so I bought a pair of new shoes in self-parody. Leather is also a kind of substance abuse.

Despite the shoes, the day was suddenly empty and smelled perilous. There was too much time before I was to go meet him and I knew that at home I would only mull and stew. So I just kept walking. The streets were cradled in that brief spring when the temperature is still comfortable but the threat of summer has already made the rounds. Things begin to sweat, especially things like us, who don’t belong, who prickle and rash. The climate is trying to excrete us.

This thought proved I hadn’t slept enough, so I repressed the desire for a cigarette and groped about in my mind for some duty or escape. I followed a sign, as if it held some kind of authority, like it might fulfil a perverse need to foil expectation. I turned into the Sun Yatsen residence.

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Aquila

Bedtime texts – short fiction by Kevin McGeary

 

Fantasising about Minnie was the best way to ignore his sister’s snoring. On the top bunk, where he could still smell shoes and discarded instant noodle packets, he saw Minnie the way she appeared last week on Lianhua, a breeze blowing black hair over her eyes.

It was there, under the watchful statue of Deng Xiaoping, that everything had gone wrong. His imagination wasn’t strong enough to alter what had happened. He saw himself whip out his English grammar textbook and three pages of hardcore Japanese porn fall on the grass. Minnie gave that absent gap-toothed smile that appeared to have nothing to do with happiness or amusement. The magazines weren’t his; they were courtesy of his prankster roommate, the spotty police chief’s son who went by the name of Angelababy.

As he felt the train slow down, sliding into another dark town, he focused on Minnie’s buttock cleavage and the way it rose above her dropped waist jeans.

“I need to borrow your phone,” his Sister Yezi called from below after being woken by the alighting passengers. He wiped the phone on his blanket before handing it down.

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Brother Guang

A house of cards – fiction by Hannah Lincoln

 

Ed: Friend of the Anthill Hannah Lincoln has published a collection of short stories from Beijing, Ashen, with gorgeous illustrations by Amy Sands. We're proud to present one of the stories from the collection

 

When the kang-kang man came by they were playing cards on a plastic table in the hutong.

The kang-kang man was the only grown-up on the lane who never smiled at Du Er. He only took the cans and paper and Ma ran after him to give the bottles from the customers last night with the big bellies. Du Er pinched a scrap of paper off the ground and ran after him too. “Uncle, I have paper!” he looked down and did not smile, just kept clanking kang-kang. Du Er bumbled back to her Ma and announced, “Look, paper!” but she was counting her coins and didn’t see.

Brother Guang hadn’t moved from his stool next to the table with the cards on it.

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Escape

Trailing visions – a short story by Dipika Mukherjee

 

The smell of the manuscripts hits her nose like a memory. Like the scent of mashed wet earth on a child’s palm after a spell of rain.

Tess shivers slightly. It is cold inside, although she can see the harsh glare of the July sun through the cracks in the old wooden door. The books lie in neatly labeled rows, the tiny words sheeted in white paper under glass cases, as structured as a cemetery. The ones 400 years or older are under special lights.

In this room there is nothing but books and old furniture. Yet Tess feels, more than sees, green. Grass under gently falling rain, and a jade bangle glistening on the slender arm outstretched to catch a drop. She has to close her eyes until the vision disappears. When she forces herself to reopen her eyes, she sees rosewood chairs inlaid with marble and heavy low tables. She glances up at the heavy wooden beams on the ceiling, her eyes drop to cement floors. She breathes her relief.

Life in China, as a trailing spouse, is driving Tess mad.

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