fiction

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Saving Princess Pingyang

New fiction by Sze-Leng Tan

 

The sky at almost dusk is bright and promising, as it was half a lifetime ago on the day I saved her. The plump clouds floating above the Shanghai skyline are innocent, so no one would expect a stirring in their tranquillity. Yes, the sky is still the same as it was that day.

***

“Keep going … push harder! Go on! Yes, that’s right.”

The blood.

“Congratulations. Finally, it’s here ... it’s …”

Silence fell as I heaved my chest and head, releasing the deepest breath I had ever drawn, along with the weight I had been carrying. I exhaled.

“Is it a boy or a girl?” Its destiny, and mine, depended on the answer.

Another silence followed my question, the longest, quietest silence. I waited – it had already been nine months, after all.

Guang came in and broke the tension. Hastily, my husband asked, “With or without the chiguding?” The beak-like tip on an arrowhead tuber, the chiguding resembles a baby boy’s genitals.

“It’s …” said Gerna in a trembling voice, “… a nü’er.” 

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Dumplings

Short fiction by Michael Salmon

 

Another meal together. They couldn’t simply spend the evenings ignoring each other. Gary still wanted to complain a little.

“Why don’t we find a new place, outside the complex? I’m starting to feel like I’m living in a fortress. Let’s go somewhere out on the streets, you know?”

“Fine,” his cousin replied. “I know a good place.”

They walked to the back of Charlie’s apartment block, around the high metal fence you couldn’t see through. The buildings dropped in height and grew darker, and the streetlights changed colour, orange instead of white.

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Blackout

Lessons in the dark – fiction by Daniel Tam-Claiborne

AN EXCERPT FROM WHAT NEVER LEAVES

In non-coastal cities in America, area blackouts are about as common as getting struck by lightning or becoming infected by West Nile Virus. They’re so rare even that the simple mention of a date and place can often conjure up memories of an exact moment in a person’s life.

In Taigu, Shanxi province, where I was teaching English for two years, area blackouts occurred about as frequently as trips to the dry cleaners. Rare was it that a few weeks passed without our breakers going haywire and the school losing power to one half of campus or the other.

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Beige Spirit

History repeats itself in Inner Mongolia – short fiction by Jeff J Brown

 

Every day after school, Xiao Ding came sprinting across the fields to be with Beige Spirit, his parents’ gift for his thirteenth birthday. His father had offered as many pointers as he could and, for months Xiao Ding did his best to exert mastery over the big, tall gelding horse. But the beast was downright contemptible. Xiao Ding had tried everything: food, love, brushings, wash downs and even whispering in the big beast’s ears, as its huge, black eyes gazed down menacingly. Over the months, Xiao Ding came to realise that their relationship had become a war of dominion. Only one of them could be the boss and, for now, Beige Spirit was winning hands down.

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Editor in Brief

A short story by Susie Gordon

THIS STORY FIRST APPEARED IN HALITERATURE

 

My name is Tom Winston, for all the good it does me. I remember when a name like mine used to mean something in Shanghai. Being Tom Winston opened doors. 

We journalists think we own the city, and in a way, we do. A part of it, at least. Don’t ask us why we’re here instead of working on a broadsheet back home. We’ll only wane lyrical that the jackboot of censorship is preferable to the sheepskin shoe-boot of some cashmere-clad Daddy’s girl who lisped her way into the editor’s chair of some gently right-wing rag.

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