flash fiction

The Roast Duck Killer

Halloween flash fiction by Carly J Hallman


Ed: This story is the winner of the That's Beijing Halloween flash fiction competition, beating off some very impressive competition, including skin-crawling stories of misdelivered heads, ghosts in the rain, and a poem by an 11 year old. Congratulations to Carly, and we're looking forward to reading her novel Year of the Goose when it's out this December. Happy halloween all, and make sure you check what the meat is if you're having Peking duck for dinner ...

I parked my scooter at the west gate. A minute passed before Mr. Wang approached. Tall. Thin. Wire-rimmed glasses. I sized him up as an engineer or programmer, something in Zhongguancun with a high salary, good benefits, occasional trips overseas.

He squinted. “Detective Li?”

“Please,” I said. “Call me Granny Li.” As Beijing’s #1 Senior Citizen Private Investigator for three years running, I had better things to do than nurse an ego.

Mr. Wang led me into the children’s playground, past swings and slides, and filled me in. Around seven a.m., his daughter and her nanny had happened upon a gruesome discovery. He wasn’t impressed with the official investigation thus far, and he’d heard I was just the detective to make things right.


Summer Shorts: Friday Night Fug

Our summer shorts season ends – by Christian Shepherd


They never stop here this time of night.

Her deadweight numbs my shoulder as I stand in the middle of the street recycling gestures: dog-pat wave, five finger swipe, one finger salute.

An orange blink registers and we're in motion. I launch her into the cab before our predecessor leaves. She lies where she lands, splayed across the backseat like roadkill, indecently exposed skinny limbs jutting at improbable angles. As the passenger door slams shut, I resolutely take my place by her side.

“Xiāng Jiāng. Huā Yuán.”


Summer Shorts: Understanding the Chinese

A short short story by Aaron Fox Lerner


I never understood why Derek disappeared until I got the business card. Before that it was a mystery. One day he was there, the next he wasn't. I didn't see him at the nice hutong bars he normally haunted, or at his favorite burger place in Sanlitun, or at the indie rock shows he used to attend regularly. He was nowhere.

After asking around, I discovered he wasn't the only person to have vanished. Everyone else shrugged the phenomenon off. It's Beijing. Going away parties are more common than birthdays. Foreigners leave all the time.


Summer Shorts: Comedy Club

Punch lines – flash fiction by Hannah Lincoln


It’s Wednesday night and still too early for the bar to fill with bodies, let alone cigarette smoke and laughter. This isn’t the type of crowd to smoke, anyway: Westerners in their twenties, mostly white, simply dressed, with patient faces waiting to be entertained by tonight’s comedy, sharp eyes ready to judge, and over-invested analyses already penning affected reviews. Myriad blog posts could flow from the fingertips of their sweating hands, damning you, tonight’s entertainment, to legendary mediocrity.

As the audience trickles in, your heart staggers under the weight of this possibility. Jenna, your best friend, sits alone near the back


Summer Shorts: Brain Smog

Not for the faint of lung – flash fiction by Matthew Ryan Sadowski


The throng transudes from the burning bus like a popped pimple. Gray fumes fill the cabin. Smoke and air – you can hardly tell the difference anymore. Bleary eyes on the exit, you squirm wildly through the crush of coughing commuters, and thrust yourself from the vehicle. Breathe in, breathe out.

You don’t stick around for the aftermath. Twenty minutes till work, and you can’t afford to clock in late again. Your recurrent tardiness is building a case against your original claims of punctuality. You hock a loogie – saliva greyer and grittier than usual. Here you are – another laowai unaccustomed to the great Beijing shroud.