Size / / /

Part 2 of 2

Read Part 1 here

The trip to Shantou was like going into the future. They sent a van to pick us up and we rode through the crapscape of Guiyu for a while, then we left it behind and were on the highway with bright, clean billboards for bright, clean products surrounded by bright, clean cars. We got off the highway in Shantou and stopped in front of the Westin Hotel and some guy opened the door. Little Bun got out.

"Come on," she said. "What are you waiting for?"

I'm proud that I keep myself looking sharp, but in the lobby I suddenly felt like some filthy bug going where it doesn't belong. One of Mayor Yuen's tough guys took me and Little Bun to the elevators. There was classical Western music playing inside it. What good is classical music? You can't break to it. It's shit.

The elevator kept going up and up and up and no one was saying anything and then it stopped at 28. The doors opened and they took Little Bun out. I tried to follow but they stopped me. Little Bun's face looked scared as the doors closed and I went up more. 38. 40. 45. 55th floor. We stopped and they let me out. The hallway carpet was so thick that I felt like I was floating. They took me to a door without a number on it and we went inside.

It was the biggest room I'd ever seen. Every time I expected to see a wall, there was just more room and more room and more room until it finally ended at a balcony where I could see Mayor Yuen sitting at a table. He had four cell phones in front of him and he was speaking on a fifth.

I was taken outside. We were so high up I was scared to look over the edge. Mayor Yuen talked for a while and then hung up the phone and looked at me.

"You're the useless insect that's supposed to negotiate with me? What qualifies you? I ought to throw you off this balcony. I bet you'd float to the ground like a piece of trash."

I took Joeman's cell phone out of my pocket and called Little Bun the way we'd planned.

"This shameless old guy has dog farts coming out of his mouth," I said.

She sighed.

"You don't know when to shut up. Hand him the phone."

I held out the phone. Mayor Yuen gestured for one of his tough guys to take it. The guy wiped it with a tissue and handed it over. Mayor Yuen held it with two fingers and kept it an inch from his ear.

"What?" he said.

I heard a string of curse words explode from the earpiece. Little Bun was really scary when she was angry, like some kind of homeless ghost come to tear off your skin with her tongue. Mayor Yuen turned to the side and cupped his hand around the mouthpiece, whispering reassuringly. Finally, he gave me back the phone and sent everyone away. He gestured for me to sit down and lit a cigarette.

He offered me one, but I shook my head.

"You know why you're here?" he asked.

"You want Little Bun to have your baby."

"Little Bun," he smiled. "I call her Shu Mei. That's funny. Little Bun."

He chuckled. I didn't. I kept my face as cool as the butt of an egg.

"I love my wife, but she can't have kids," he said. "I don't have a mistress. Too troublesome. But I need to know someone is going to clean my grave. All my brothers ask me when I'm having kids, when my wife is pregnant, and I tell them what does it matter if I have kids early or late? If I'm destined to have a son, who cares? But it's all I can think about."

It was like he'd never said anything about this before. It rushed out. Seeing this big boss act like a nervous farmer made me feel uncomfortable.

"So how much?" I asked.

"For what?"

"For Little Bun. How much compensation are you paying her?"

He looked at me sideways for a second.

"34,000 yuan," he said. "She'll live here while she carries it. While she's here I'll give her a credit card for spending money, an apartment, a driver, a new wardrobe, and 34,000 yuan."

"40,000," I said.

"34,000," he said. "Don't forget who you are, kid."

"Now it's 45,000," I said. "She's no public bus. Not everyone gets a ride."

His face got dangerous.

"Kid, I'm giving you one warning. That's the last time you say something disgusting about the mother of my son."

"Who's negotiating with who here?" I said. "I'll say what I like. Who are you? Just some useless old guy, hanging on to life and trying to bust the melon of a young girl."

I didn't even see him come across the table. He had me by the collar and lifted me up onto the balcony rail. Shit, he was strong. I felt gravity pulling at me from behind. His boys rushed outside.

"I'm going to give you some respect," he said. "35,000. That way you can say you did your job and negotiated a higher rate."

"Okay, okay," I said. And he dragged me back onto the balcony.

"I've got a contract she needs to sign."

He threw a thick bunch of papers down.

"Tell her I'll take her to my lawyer when she's ready."

He waved me away.

Three of the tough guys took me to Little Bun's room and I told her about the price. Her face got dark. Then she read the contract for a long time and made me write comments on yellow pieces of sticky paper and attach them where she showed me.

"Why don't you write the notes yourself?" I asked.

"Because no one takes a woman seriously. I don't have you here for your brains, I have you here for your balls. That's the only thing these guys respect."

I took the contract back upstairs. They put a towel on a hard chair and I had to sit on it like a dirty animal while Mayor Yuen sat at his table on the other side of the glass doors and went through the contract on the phone with someone. Probably his lawyer. It took an hour. No one brought me anything to eat or drink. There was a bowl of sesame crackers and I reached for it. The tough guy sitting across from me slapped my hand.

"Not for you," he said.

They gave me another contract and I went back downstairs with it. More changes. Back upstairs. Then back downstairs. Then back upstairs. Damn! Did they think I was their running dog? Back downstairs. More changes. Back up.

Finally they agreed on the terms and went to see Mayor Yuen's lawyer. They paid me 500 yuan and sent me home in the van. I took out our cash and added the 500. If I didn't squeeze it was almost three fingers thick. All this work and only three fingers? Guiyu had never looked so dirty.

The next day was Sunday. I couldn't find Little Bun or Catshit so I decided to work overtime at the riverbank. A few hours later, Catshit came down. Just looking at him made me want to bust caps.

"Where's Little Bun?" I asked him.

He shrugged.

"You know she's in Shantou!" I said. "With Mayor Yuen! Do you like wearing a green hat?"

"I'm worried about my bug," he said. He showed me his wrist. I didn't want to look at it, but he pushed it in my face. It was red and swollen. There was a second bump next to the first.

"Should have let me chop it off," I said.

"It feels like something's moving in there," he said. "And I have a fever."

But I wasn't listening. Mayor Yuen's Mercedes was parked at the top of the sand hill and Little Bun was getting out.

Little Bun told me that she was home for a few days before going to Mayor Yuen's. She said she needed some time to explain to her dad. That night Catshit and I heard her explaining through the walls. Then I heard Uncle Li explaining back at her. Catshit just put his hands over his ears and turned to the wall.

At six I got up and he was already gone, probably crying over what he'd heard the night before. We were leaving soon, anyways. Even with just three fingers of money, this place was like the saying "Villages cheat towns, towns cheat counties, and counties cheat the country." I was sick of these rich men who took anything they wanted and treated me like a beast. I was sick of my lungs hurting. We'd go to Guilin and sell lucky pens to students taking the big exam.

I worked all day: lungs burning, head pounding. At seven, Joeman left for dinner but I just wanted "Save the Earth Hour" to come so I could go to bed.

"Hsst, MC," someone said in the dark.

"Oh, go back to your grandma," I said, not caring.

"It's Catshit."

He was crouched behind the shed. His voice sounded thick.

"Boss is pissed you never came to work today," I said.

"I need you to get me a doctor."

His voice sounded like it was going to break in half.

"Is it that damn bug? Come on, I'll dig it out."

"I need a doctor," he whined again.

"Where are you going to find a doctor here?"

I was in a black mood, ready to take a razor blade and dig that ugly little capacitor bug out of Catshit's arm.

"I don't know," he whimpered.

"Stop farting around," I said. The fear in his voice was making me angry and I stepped around the shed and snapped on my flashlight.

Catshit stood up quickly. His bug arm was swollen, like it was full of water, but then I realized that it had lumps all over it. Big bunches of them, heavy beneath his skin, hanging off his arm like grapes. They were moving. "Holy shit," I said and sat down in the mud.

Catshit moved his mouth like he wanted to say something, and then he ran away into the dark. I want to say I went looking for him but I didn't want to be anywhere near that sick arm. I ran home, slammed the door and wrapped a piece of wire around it in case he tried to come back. In the middle of the night I heard him scratching, trying to get in. I covered my ears.

Catshit was missing all the next day and when "Save the Earth Hour" came I paid one of the retarded kids five yuan to burn circuit boards for me and went looking for him in the ash fields and the dust heaps. Everywhere I went I thought I heard capacitor bugs scrabbling through the burned trash. Next to one of the garbage canals, I thought I saw three plastic bags slip off the bank into the water and swim downstream faster than the current, but when I turned my flashlight on they were gone. After midnight I gave up and went home.

Catshit was in my room.

When I turned on the light I almost puked. His whole body was covered with the lumps now. I recognized him by his clothes, not by his stretched and distorted face.

I tried to talk to him but he was crying and gagging. I kept my distance. Maybe it was contagious? I sat in the doorway and he stayed by the wall and after an hour of crying and making some noises he got still. I think my being there made him calm. He knew I was his big brother and I'd take care of him no matter how ugly he was. And then his face hatched. One of the capacitor bugs crawled out, pushing its way through his cheek like a worm. Then another one hatched on his forehead, and one on his neck. Catshit woke up and screamed.

I ran to get Boss. He lived over the workshop. I slapped his locked door until my palms stung and I yelled and I yelled.

"What do you want, Little Cheung?"

"Call 110! We need a doctor!"


"Catshit is dying!"

This was beyond me. We needed a white hospital with an ambulance full of expensive medicine that could clean the dirty bugs from his body. We needed surgeons and nurses and injections and bright lights.

"You useless guys are more trouble than you're worth," Boss said zipping up his tracksuit.

As we walked downstairs, Joeman came out of his bedroom. He was yawning and wearing a tracksuit, too. "What's the trouble?"

"This stupid birdie says Big Eyes is sick."

Joeman came with us. In our room, Catshit was a seething, writhing mess on the floor, streaked in yellow fluid. He whimpered and mumbled and little capacitor bugs crawled out of every pore in his body.

"He needs a doctor!" I said.

Boss and Joeman ran outside and tried to slam the door on both of us but I shouldered my way out after them.

"Monster!" Boss said.

"It's radiation," Joeman said.

"We have to call 110," I said.

"You want police here? I'll get closed down if they see him," Boss said. "Mayor Yuen is going to be pissed off if we don't take care of this."

Then we saw the bugs crawling out from underneath the door and we all jumped back.

"How do you mean take care of this?" I asked. "We take care of this by calling a doctor."

"What do you know? You're the reason he's like this!" Boss shouted.

"Me?!?" I said. "It's not my fault. Say that again and I'll jack you up!"

Joeman stepped between us.

"Stop fighting," he said. "We have to take care of Big Eyes."

Then the door banged open and Catshit stumbled out, vomiting a puddle of bugs onto the ground. He lurched away from us. My flashlight beam saw his back disappear into the darkness as he ran over the sand hill and away.

The next morning the owners of the neighboring workshops sat with Boss. Word had gotten out that something in the river had bitten Catshit and he was sick. I hung around near their meeting and pretended to strip wires. Everyone else was doing the same thing and soon there was a crowd of people pretending to strip wires around the circle of bosses.

"He's a monster," the boss from a workshop I didn't know said. "He's going to pollute us. Now we can't drink the water, soon we can't go to sleep."

"What do you want to do?" Boss said. "Call the army? The police? What will happen if they find out there's some disgusting guy sick like this? We'll all be out of business."

There was more argument and finally they agreed that Boss would call Mayor Yuen.

"Tell him that this isn't our fault, we're safe and follow all the rules he tells us," the boss from Wu Family Workshop said. "We even wear our face masks."

Boss made "shut up" motions at him with his free hand. He already had Mayor Yuen on the phone. Boss was talking and bowing his head again and again.

"What's going on?" Little Bun said, pinching my arm.

"Catshit is sick," I said. "He's got some kind of poison. We need to get him to the hospital."

"What are they saying?" she asked.

"They're saying he's a monster. They're asking Mayor Yuen what to do."

"Where is he?"

"We can find him," I said. "Let's get him before these turtle eggs do something stupid. They want to lock him up so they don't get in trouble."

We turned to go.

"Hey!" the Boss of Yao Family Commercial Concern shouted, pointing at Little Bun. "That's his girlfriend. He might have gotten her dirty."

Boss ran over and put his body between Little Bun and the bosses.

"She's my daughter," he yelled at them. "Don't you think I would know if she's dirty? She's clean. No problem. I'd throw her out on the street if there was a bug on her, but she's clean."

His anger convinced them, but the Yao Family boss was still angry and he got everyone to tool up and go look for Catshit. By now, all the businesses that were by the river knew what was going on. Thirty or forty people were walking to the river strapped with pipes and choppers. They didn't have to go far. What was left of Catshit was stumbling towards them from the other side.

He saw me and Little Bun standing at the top of the sand hill and he reached out his infected arms to us.

"Help!" he shouted. "Doctor!"

Little Bun started to cry. My boy was halfway across the river when he noticed all the families waiting for him. I wanted to run down and make them leave him alone, but Joeman pushed me back. Catshit tried to stumble away, back to the other side of the river, but three young guys from Song Brothers Holding Corp. caught up with him as he reached the far bank. One of them hit him in the back of the head with a long pipe and Catshit tumbled in the mud. He raised his arm, but they broke it with their pipes. I heard him yell again:

"Help! Doctor!"

Little Bun was screaming and Joeman picked her up and carried her away. I just stood there like a dummy.

One of Mayor Yuen's white vans pulled up behind me. I thought maybe they were going to take him to the hospital but they were carrying cans of gasoline and they were on their phones, and I knew they were talking to Mayor Yuen and he was telling them what to do. They walked down the sand hill to the river and put a board across so they could walk over without getting their shoes dirty.

They weren't going to do this. Not with so many people around. But they did: they poured the gasoline over Catshit. Then one of them lit a twist of newspaper and dropped it on him. Catshit screamed like a woman and the fire ate him alive. He tried to stand up but the fire had attached itself to his chest and it was clawing at his face and spreading down his swollen arms and he fell down in the mud again. One of Mayor Yuen's men took a video of Catshit burning on his cell phone. The screams lasted a long time. I was still hearing them when I reached the other side of Guiyu.

No one talked about Catshit again. It was like Mayor Yuen and the bosses had erased him. What city is this with no laws? What city is this where they can burn Catshit in front of everyone? Little Bun told me the next day that she was moving into the Westin to have Mayor Yuen's baby. I told her she was worse than a beast to sleep with him after what he did to Catshit.

"What choice do I have?" she asked. "I signed a contract. He'll make trouble if I don't."

I told her that we could make Mayor Yuen pay for what he did. I told her that we couldn't let him get away with this. She gave an ugly laugh.

"Who do you think you are? Mark Gor? You're going to go into his hotel with a gun in each hand? You retard! That's not the way the world works."

I had already thought about this. I didn't have a gun, but I wished I did. I wished I had a gun big enough to shoot the world, but there were no guns out here. But in Guiyu we had something worse than guns, we had bugs.

How to get bugs close to Mayor Yuen? That's what Little Bun yelled at me. She said I was stupid if I thought he'd let anyone from Guiyu except her get close to him after Catshit. She said that I needed to shut up if all my ideas were this bad. She said that she was crying because I was so stupid.

Then I told her how we could snatch the last word. Qu Yuan drowned himself because he was the only sane man in a world that was a stinking place with no laws. When you have no pen then you make ink from your own blood. Like in the Middle East where the suicide bombers kill the Americans because they don't have any other weapons but their bodies. What did we have here but our bodies and our bugs? We had so many different kinds of bugs in Guiyu, and weren't they stronger than guns? You can't stop them the way you can stop guns, and they're mad cheap and we don't need to buy them from a factory because our bodies are the factories.

I told her this and I told her what I was thinking to do and she got very quiet. She didn't say anything, just stared at the tabletop in her daddy's kitchen. I asked her if she would do it, but she didn't say yes and she didn't say no. So I left, I went back to my room and looked at me and Catshit's cash. It was only three fingers thick. Pathetic. We had both worked until we were sick and this was all we had to show for it? I waited until it was nighttime, then I went across the river.

I was a small potato, and I wasn't going to get any bigger. B-boy? I couldn't even dance anymore. My lungs burned all the time from breathing this air. My back was ruined from stirring barrels of acid all day. I was never going to get out of Guiyu. Tiger gives birth to tiger, farmer gives birth to farmer, trash gives birth to trash. I lay down in the ash field where I belonged.

It was dark. After a while I heard something coming, like an old man with knives for legs, walking delicately through the rubbish. I couldn't look. I just stared up at the night sky. It was "Save the Earth Hour" and black smoke blotted out the stars.

Two big pincers touched my face and when I flinched they pulled back. But I was brave and I held still. They touched my face again and I almost screamed but I thought of Catshit. I thought of Eminem and 50 Cent. I thought of all the real OGs and all the street hustlers.

And I opened my mouth.

The sun was starting to rise in the east when I knocked on Little Bun's door. She hadn't slept. She looked at my dirty clothes, the red sores on my arms, the way my throat was stretched and she knew what I had done. She took me to her bed and pulled me down. I didn't say anything. My mouth was full. We kissed and I felt it explore her mouth and go inside. She was as brave as me. We both thought of Catshit and Mayor Yuen and the baby that was going to be inside of her soon.

Afterwards I fell asleep, and when I woke up she had already gone to Shantou. Boss would find me in Little Bun's bed and he'd fire me but it was too late. I could feel the new life inside of me, reshaping me to suit its purposes and there was so much of it inside of me and inside of Little Bun, so much of it just waiting to come out and like they say: if you dare to think, if you dare to act, then the youth will change our great nation forever.

This is MC Master Kicks, coming to you raw from Guiyu village. Peace.

Grady Hendrix's work has appeared in Variety, Slate, Playboy, The Village Voice, and Pseudopod, and is forthcoming in The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination. He attended the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers' Workshop in 2009 and if you want to read more of what he has to say, go to Amazon and buy his book, Satan Loves You. For more about the author, see his website. You may contact him at
Current Issue
6 Jul 2020

And they all knew about it.
By: Stephen O'Donnell
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Anaea Lay presents Stephen O'Donnell's “Last Orders in the Green Lane.”
Landing feels like getting off a trampoline, / The weightlessness fading to muscle memory
By: Thomas White
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
In this episode of the Strange Horizons podcast, editor Ciro Faienza presents Thomas White's “After.”
Issue 30 Jun 2020
By: Carlie St. George
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Janelle C. Shane
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
Issue 22 Jun 2020
By: Neha Maqsood
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Podcast read by: Neha Maqsood
Issue 15 Jun 2020
By: Remy Reed Pincumbe
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Preston Grassmann
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 8 Jun 2020
By: Kathleen Jennings
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Keaton Bennett
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 2 Jun 2020
By: Sheree Renée Thomas
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Maggie Damken
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
Issue 1 Jun 2020
By: Jessica P. Wick
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
Strange Horizons
Issue 25 May 2020
By: Dana Wilde
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 18 May 2020
By: Johnny Compton
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Jong-Ki Lim
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 11 May 2020
By: Gabriela Santiago
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Ashley Bao
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Issue 4 May 2020
By: Vida Cruz
Podcast read by: Anaea Lay
By: Raimo Kangasniemi
Podcast read by: Ciro Faienza
Load More
%d bloggers like this: