A gentle touch

/ February 19, 2017/ Begin, Stories/ 0 comments

Mr Ping was in high gear. Last night, when he had closed the Tea House, he had set the cleaning bots to work, clearing every speck of dust, every crumb, from the floor and from the tables; every splatter was now gone from the walls. The bots had been going all night, ensuring they missed nothing, and had only retired a few moments ago. This evening, the doors would be closed to the public. This evening was a Special Occasion.

Once a year, Mr Ping closed the Tea House to the public. Nothing short of a great honour would usually move him to do such a thing, and the noodle bar downstairs was still open. But tonight, the restaurant itself was sealed off, reserved for the kung fu masters of the Sphere of the White Crane, and their students. Today, it was Chinese New Year, and the martial artists gathered for a grand celebratory meal. Read More

Trigger Warning

/ December 14, 2016/ Begin, Stories/ 0 comments

I know some people will want to blame my parents but I don’t think that’s right. It’s true they were liberal but it wasn’t their fault; it was the way they were raised. My grandparents came of age under Xiong Ling so maybe you should blame her, or the whole Xinyang Dynasty. It was a different world back then. They fell for all the leftist propaganda – on my mother’s side, particularly. They believed in it fervently, and took great care to instil those warped values in their children. Even when times changed they clung to the old ideas. They never accepted the evidence of Empress Xiong Ling’s sorcery, and would often mutter darkly about a vast right-wing conspiracy. On my father’s side they were less extreme, but my mother never had a chance. She was a headstrong woman, brainwashed from an early age into wilfulness and radical thinking. Is it any wonder then, that she passed the disease on to me? These things run in families. In a way we are all victims of the dark legacy of the Xinyang liberals. Read More

Red Silk

/ November 7, 2016/ Begin, Character Sketches, Stories/ 0 comments

Natalya was confused as she left the house, that day. Her father had just informed her that he had found a husband for her to marry, one with a good family and guanxi. She would be leaving within the month. This was good news. At last, she would be free of the shackles of a father who did not make it a secret that he wished she had been a boy.

But at the same time, what would she be going into? What of this husband she had never met? And she would not just be marrying this man. She would be entering his house to live with his family. She had only heard of the Mas; had never met them. But she knew who they were. And she was going to marry the eldest son, Maksym. Was he kind? Good-looking? Or was he ugly, and grateful to be married to someone as handsome as Natalya, even though she came from a far lower-ranking family than his own? Read More

Not Much of a Criminal

/ November 4, 2016/ Begin, Stories/ 0 comments

Everywhere Yanmei looked, there was stuff. Great piles of smart parchment slid gradually off chairs and onto the floor. Scattered here and there were fast-food cartons, leftover rice or noodles now spilling out cold and forgotten. Bundles of coloured wire tipped with all kinds of interface plugs poked out from a large wicker basket.

A big box of dusty circuit-boards sat on a workbench in the middle of the room, together with an old pair of sandals and a soldering iron. On the floor in front of the bench sat Xiaofan, peering through a large magnifying glass at what, if Yanmei was not mistaken, was a rust-covered squirt-unit from an old Moppitt-250.

Xiaofan looked up. “Don’t just stand there. You’re doing my head in.”
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Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 5

/ October 17, 2016/ Premium, Stories/ 0 comments

Read Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 4 here After breakfast Jakaranda led his two friends through the forest, leaving clear signposts of dung and urine for the others to follow later on. Soon they arrived at the glade, where the shaman sat still staring at the sky – though the moon was not yet visible. He remained covered in shit, but now it had dried to his fur and matted it together so it stood up in little brown tufts. The Tyrant spotted the elephants and ran up to meet them. “What are you doing here?” she demanded. “I have come to dance,” replied Jakaranda. “Have you forgotten?” “Haven’t you caused enough trouble already?” “Watch your tone!” Sapturpani glared at the little creature. “This is Jakaranda, the Great—” “I know who he is,” snapped the Tyrant. “Like everyone Read More

Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 6

/ October 16, 2016/ Premium, Stories/ 0 comments

Read Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 5 here As the water kept rising, the elephants sank ever deeper into the foul sludge, lifting their noses high to prevent it clogging their nostrils. Almost all the adults were stuck now, plus one or two juveniles, who were in real danger – including Mudilla. He was only small, and the muck was already up to his shoulders. Portia was beside herself. “Help!” she cried. “Who will save my child?” Several of the nearby bulls tried heroically to break free, but only succeeded in churning up the mud further, and sinking deeper in. They cried out in frustration, but it was no use. Try as they might, they could get no closer. Mudilla was doomed. So, it seemed, was Jakaranda. The water was almost over his head now, and soon only Read More

Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 4

/ October 16, 2016/ Premium, Stories/ 0 comments

Read Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 3 here He awoke the following afternoon lying in a pool of diarrhoea. He had shat himself in his sleep – repeatedly, by the looks of things. The stench was dreadful. Jakaranda struggled to his feet, groaning at the dull stomach ache left over from the violent cramps of the previous day. Desperately thirsty, he seized the nearest piece of fruit from the pile and crammed it into his mouth. Chewing and swallowing gratefully, he reached for more – but then his insides rebelled. He cried out in pain, sinking to his knees as his arsehole gave way yet again. As shit dribbled down Jakaranda’s legs, he began to cry.  “Oh, woe!” he sobbed. “Why me? What have I done to deserve this? I am just a humble elephant. All I want Read More

Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 3

/ October 16, 2016/ Premium, Stories/ 0 comments

Read Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 2 here Jakaranda returned to the glade the following morning via a different route, which avoided the place where the mice had their burrows. Holding his nose high in the air and waving it from side to side, he followed the scent of his own urine as far as possible down the main path before finally veering off and pushing his way through the scrub. Suddenly he stopped in amazement. There in the middle of the glade a peacock strutted, its fan-like tail raised and quivering in full iridescent display. Jakaranda held his breath and stared. The peacock strutted and turned, shaking his tail. “Piaaa-oww!” he cried. “Pia-ow! Kok-kok kok-kok-kok kok-kok. Kah-aaan. Pia-ooow!” He turned again, spotted Jakaranda, and stopped. “Honk!” he yelled. “Honk!” Then he stretched his neck out and peered Read More

Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 2

/ October 16, 2016/ Premium, Stories/ 0 comments

Read Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 1 here The next day, Jakaranda set off early to explore the forest, taking a narrow path through the scrub that was not normally used by elephants. His progress was slow; he had to pause several times to uproot troublesome undergrowth and tear branches from the trees that might otherwise have poked him in the eyes. At times he found it hard to maintain his footing; it was as though the very ground was collapsing beneath his feet! Still he pushed on, grumbling under his breath. But that didn’t stop him enjoying the scenery. The forest really would make a spectacular setting for a dance; it would help to achieve a certain atmosphere – une ambiance, if you will. It was hard to explain what he had in mind – it was not yet Read More

Jakaranda, The Great Elephant Dancer Part 1

/ October 16, 2016/ Begin, Premium, Stories/ 0 comments

Long ago, back when humans still lived on a planet called Earth, a sage of ancient China crossed the great mountain range to the south of the country, and found on the other side the dark and untamed region of India. It was a land of marvels, filled with exotic animals the like of which the sage had never seen, nor even imagined. One such creature was the elephant. It was as tall as ten men, and weighed as much as a hundred. It was covered from head to toe in orange fur. It had fangs almost two meters long, and as sharp as razors. It had a long nose like a snake, with a hand at the end. The elephant was very strong – it used its nose to tear large branches from the trees, cram them between Read More