The bullet train arrived to Wuhan on a cold winter’s day.
Smog and construction cranes were all one could see.
Chabudi, the Monkey Queen, had a large drone implanted in her backside and collected me from the platform with a toilet plunger and flew me from the train station to my new apartment.
The unit was on the 44th floor of an 88-storey building shaped like a squat toilet…
We swooped down, landed on a balcony. A red trapdoor had facial recognition technology and opened automatically, vacuuming us inside.
There were large star shaped windows everywhere. The place was practically a glass box, with sweeping city views of smog, square concrete structures and what seemed to be a river, its dark water like molasses. Cars and motorbikes crisscrossed a bridge running over it.
Chabudi wore a curvy qipao. Quite the cougar, she glided, air walking me through a tour of the unit. I stole quick peeks of all her floral patterns. She had a small jumpman tattoo near her right ankle.
It was freezing cold in the apartment and grayish breath swirled out of Chabudi’s tiny mouth as she spoke. Her lipstick was black, as were her fingernails, and she wore her hair in a tidy little bun with chopsticks. I caught a whiff of halitosis.
Chabudi had Migos' “Slippery” as her cell phone ringtone, and there was another tattoo on her right hand that looked like a dragon or maybe a cobra…
In the living room was a wooden couch. On it sat a stout, middle aged Chinese man. He was in tighty whities and a stained wife beater that was rolled up to his chest, revealing an exposed beer belly. He was chain smoking.
I asked Chabudi who the man on the couch was. She ignored the question, threw the keys at me and strapped on a surgical mask with a cute bear on it.
She hovered to the balcony and clapped her hands. It sounded like a burst of firecrackers as the door slid open and she flew away, fading into the smog.
I asked the man what he was doing in my apartment. He didn’t answer. So I asked him again, this time in Mandarin. He again didn’t answer.
He took a swig of baijiu, belched and made a guttural “en” sound. I decided to go out for noodles and a hand massage. When I came back, he was gone.
When I awoke the next morning, he was back. This time he wasn’t wearing a shirt. There were dark circles under his eyes. He looked like a panda.
He was smoking a cigarette backwards, filter first.
Again, I spoke Mandarin to him. Again he only replied with the same guttural sound. I sat next to him and turned on XXTV News…
Shu Shu Xin Xiang was visiting a village in Nongzhou, Henan. A beaming pig farmer walked with him arm in arm. Shu Shu’s upper lip never moved...
I turned to what I figured was my roommate. He was drinking from a canister of gasoline and his two parallel tufts of hair were on fire. I ran into the kitchen to grab the extinguisher, but, when I returned, my roommate had dissolved into ash. The odor of cigarettes remained.
That afternoon I met a neighbor downstairs named Rainey. She had a two year old boy on a silk leash. There was an open slit in the back of the child’s Minion pajamas and his buttocks hung out.
The boy pointed at me, yelled out “waiguoren”, and ran into the corner of the hall, squatted and defecated, smiling gleefully as he did so.
Rainey asked me into which apartment I’d moved. I told her. She nervously laughed, scooped up the boy and took off running.
I texted Chabudi, asking if there was anything I should know about the apartment. She replied with “no why”.
So I Baidued the apartment and found a news article on 1344 dot com dot cn and copied it into my Pleco app’s clip reader…
It was about a man named Sha who’d discovered his wife was having an affair. When he confronted her, she admitted it and said she’d be divorcing him and taking their son.
He then choked her to death with a plastic bag and poured gasoline all over the apartment, set it alight, and chained the front door shut. His mother in law and his wife’s aunt were napping in an adjacent room. Both burned. His son was away at boarding school.
An archive picture showed dancing ayis that night pausing to watch their comrades join the haze.
The police found Sha later at a massage parlor. He confessed and shortly after was executed via a bullet to the back of the head. His kidneys were donated to a boy with cancer…
That was four years ago.
That evening, in the elevator, I met a neighbor named Rocket. He had suction cups for feet and prosthetic legs.
He said no locals had lived there in ages and that the place had been rented out to a series of foreigners, mostly English teachers.
They all tended to move out quickly. One died from gas inhalation.