Suspiria 2

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***

‘Oi sing yan.

‘Mo chor.

‘Means alien?’

‘Yup.’

‘Okay…’ said Sila, looking to the left of his brain where he’d been told his language conduits were, ‘Oi sing yan hai…yee gah…chu lido…hai Heung Gong.’

‘Aliens are living in Hong Kong?’

‘Yup. Were the tones okay?’

The teacher smiled. The same way she’d smiled when he mixed up wife and grandma. ‘Some.’

‘I’ll take that.’

‘40% accurate.’

‘Ho geh.

‘Lei yau mo gin gwor oi sing yan?’

‘Huh?’

‘Have you ever seen an alien?’

‘Ah. Yau mo gin gwor. I knew that.’

‘Ho lak ju.

‘What?’

 

#

 

The rest of the lesson carried on in pretty much the same way, the same way it’d gone for the last eight years since he’d first murdered ‘lei ho’, not realising he had to sing it, not say it, or say it but with elasticity, showing four tenths teeth and moving his mouth in an alien way, alien to the way he’d been taught while growing up, which wasn’t really taught either as sheep had once been geep, think had once been fink, and Batfink had probably always been Batfink.

Cantonese…the eternally replicating brick wall…the language even native speakers warned against learning.

Sila didn’t really care though as long as something was going in.

‘Ho lau sum.’

‘Ming ba,’ he said, not really understanding at all.

‘Lei gei mm gei dut?’

‘Remember?’

‘Yes. Do you remember it?’

‘No…mm gei dut. I think. Remember what?’

On the table next to them, an old man jabbed a finger at a younger man in a ‘Thaitanic’ t-shirt, shouting at him in Mandarin.

The teacher hunched her shoulders and shuddered, saying to Sila in English that ‘the guy was annoying.’

‘Are they arguing?’

‘No, he’s just talking loud, it’s annoying.’

‘It sounds like he’s angry.’

‘He’s telling his friend that he went to the museum near Tai Wai, that it’s quite busy. Not angry, just annoying.’

‘Ah, just like Korean people.’

‘Korean people are fine, this guy’s annoying.’

‘My mate at Uni used to shout at his flatmate all the time, another Korean guy, and I asked him what they were fighting about and he said, nothing, we’re talking about dinner.’

‘No, it’s different. These guys are everywhere.’

‘Everywhere?’

‘And there’s 150 more of them coming in every day, to live here.’

‘That’s a lot.’

‘In 10 years, they’ll be the majority.’ She nodded backwards with her head, like Wu Ding Yan in the eunuch drama. ‘8 million clones of him.’

Sila looked at the back of the old man’s head, said ‘he’s not that bad, just loud,’ then asked her how to say ‘clone’ in Cantonese.

 

#

 

At home, with his body slouched on the sofa, Sila watched the news and tried to follow what the anchor lady was saying.

TVB…too many mainland tourists…protests…kicking luggage…pulling an old woman to the ground slowly because she was carrying karaoke equipment…they thought it was milk powder…

Overall he got about 20%, the rest of it gained from the pictures on the screen.

Not too bad.

Faye agreed.

‘Your tones are erratic and mostly wrong,’ she said, ‘but you’re getting better.’

‘About time,’ he said.

‘Yup.’

Harsh, he thought, but she’s right to say ‘yup’.

Eight years and he wasn’t even intermediate. Couldn’t even say the colour ‘blue.’

He remembered two years earlier when he’d lived in that shithole in To Kwa Wan and his 47 year old flatmate with the 15 year old computer had told him to learn Mandarin instead.

‘It’s easier and you can talk to more people.’

‘But I don’t live in China.’

‘You do.’

‘Ok, maybe, but people here speak Cantonese.’

‘Now, yes. Later, no.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Look at China, look at Guangzhou.’

‘Don’t they speak Cantonese too?’

‘Their news is Mandarin only.’

‘But the people…’

‘People speak both. Soon, 20 years, they speak one.’

‘Man, your computer’s old.’

‘It still works.’

‘But…’

‘Learn Mandarin. It’s better for you.’

‘Okay.’

‘You learn it?’

‘Maybe.’

Sila never really believed him back then even though the Chinese Government were, was, is implacable and unrelenting because how could you ever stop 60 million people speaking their native language?

You couldn’t, it was impossible.

‘News is back on,’ said Faye, elbowing him in the side.

‘Hey, not again…’

‘What?’

‘I can hear, you don’t need to whack me too.’

‘It didn’t hurt.’

‘How would you know?’

‘News.’

Sila rubbed his side and looked at the TV.

The anchor was talking about suicide and Sham Shui Po and then something he couldn’t understand a word of.

‘Was that Cantonese?’

‘Mandarin.’

‘Huh?’

‘They slip it in sometimes.’

‘Can they do that?’

‘Apple Daily will be all over it tomorrow. Mm sai dam sum.’

He nodded.

The news anchor was still talking.

She said something about the Government…the Government hitting the streets and trying to sell fruit…and then dropped in some more Mandarin.

‘… … … … …,’ said Faye in Cantonese, annoyed.

‘Twice in one bulletin…’

‘She’ll get slaughtered for this.’

There was a noise in the background.

The light broke off in the TV studio, five seconds dark then it turned back on.

The news anchor said her line again.

And again.

And again.

She tried to say it a fourth time, but a man in a black mask appeared in front of her, shouted something in Cantonese then cracked her skull open with a chopper.

The news anchor remained calm.

She repeated her line.

The masked man chopped again, harder, and this time her head broke in half.

‘… … … … … …,’ said Faye, holding her mouth.

But it was okay.

There was no blood.

No brain either.

Just a glass box full of circuits with the letters ‘PPPP’ written on the side.

‘Is this real?’ asked Sila.

‘I don’t know.’

The TV screen went blank for a minute then another newscaster appeared next to the woman with a computer in her head, pointing inside and telling the audience not to worry, it was an experiment in robotics by the studio, it wouldn’t happen again.

‘Looks like ORAC,’ Sila muttered, watching them pull out the glass box.

‘Meh?’

‘Never mind.’

‘What’s ORAC?’

‘Ask Terry Nation.’

‘Terry what?’

‘Forget it.’

‘… … … … … … … … …’

 

#

 

The next day Faye googled ‘Terry Nation’ and ‘ORAC’ and didn’t like what she found.

Sci-fi again.

She put down her phone.

Mo liu Sci-fi shit for the seventy thousandth time.

She did some work on the application letters her boss had dumped on her earlier to try and forget about it all, but it still bubbled away under the surface. If she even had a surface. Did she? She wasn’t sure. The metaphor was related to volcanos, probably, but humans weren’t volcanos and weren’t the bubbles always on the surface anyway? Wasn’t that why they were bubbling?

Mo liu metaphors.

 

#

 

Lunchtime came.

Her boss didn’t tell her she could go, but she didn’t really care, so she picked up her bag and left anyway.

Not that it mattered.

No one ever got fired from Government work.

Not even the guy who’d threatened to cut his boss.

That guy…

he just got a new desk, in the corner, about fifteen feet away from everyone else.

 

#

 

Faye walked past the park full of old men in vests, covering her chest.

She wiped her forehead with the futurama face towel Sila had given her. Sci-fi could be funny too, he’d said.

‘I don’t like sci-fi.’

‘You will…’

‘Will not.’

‘…even if it takes a lifetime.’

‘Ha.’

She took the towel away and started sweating again.

‘… … … … … …’

Mong Kok was hotter than a volcano, no metaphor. If someone had dipped her into lava right then she was sure it would be around the same number Celsius.

‘… … … … … … … … …’

She walked inside the building that used to show Cantonese operas, but was now showing Jurassic Stuff 7, found a bench, sat on it, folded the towel, put it away, pulled out her lunch and thought backwards.

Backwards to the night before, to Terry Nation.

To the guy sitting next to her, referencing space stories and robot shit, sharing her bed.

Literally her bed, she’d paid for it. He’d just bought the pillows and the Japanese bear with the implacable face.

She went back further, to all the other boyfriends [and girlfriend], the ones who never gave a shit about science fiction.

Was it better then?

Okay, one of them had self-studied Latin and hated the working class, which meant he never came round to see her Dad the factory worker, but still…

Wasn’t it better, generally?

Did she even like this guy?

She remembered one particular line he’d said, she didn’t know when or where, or why she was thinking of it, but it was very clear.

If you live in a place, you should learn the language.

Well, it’d been eight years already and he couldn’t even say ‘I love you.’

Or the colour ‘blue.’

It was crazy.

She could speak better Portuguese than he could Cantonese and she’d only ever had eight lessons.

And the science fiction thing.

What was the point?

Martial Arts Fiction was infinitely better, everyone knew that.

Even the philosophical ones.

Even the one where the Monkey King went to Sri Lanka and wed a leopard.

It had ideas and reason and…

It had a sense of actual realism, of the past, of real history. Real things that really, might have, probably did happen.

What did science fiction have?

Robots, lasers, spaceships, moon prisons…

Her internal dot to dot was stopped by the audio equivalent of Ukrainian border control. A mainlander, at the exit, shouting at someone to get out of the way, and the ‘someone’ shouting back in Cantonese.

‘Fuck yous’ were traded, in Cantonese and Mandarin, then two became ten and shouting became pushing and pushing became…

Faye put in her earphones and switched to local radio, a pirate station in Kwun Tong.

‘These intrusions into our…’

 

#

 

Back in the office, the air con was broken.

Everyone turned on their own fans, except for the security guard who didn’t seem to be hot at all.

Full uniform, puffer jacket and the guy wasn’t sweating a drop.

Faye’s boss emerged dead-eyed from her office, handed Faye the work she’d done in the morning and said, not good enough, do again.

‘Which part?’

‘Meh? All of it.’

‘I mean…what’s wrong with it?’

‘You use ‘all-round’ instead of ‘all-rounded’.’

‘Isn’t that correct?’

‘No.’

The boss returned to her office within an office and climbed back inside her iso-chamber.

Faye sat down at her desk and started making corrections.

Each ‘all-round’ morphed slowly, inexorably into ‘all-rounded.’

 

#

 

Weeks passed, in episodes.

Episode 1 – Faye and Sila go to the beach, get lost, find robot arm torn off.

Episode 2 – family dinner, family argument, politics

Episode 3 – Taiwan trip, total Mandarin, Sila isolated

Episode 4 – Office Hell, broken iso-chamber, talk of robots

Episode 5 – Cheung Chau day trip, suicide hotels, no suicide

Episode 6 – Politician accused of being robot, cuts arm to prove himself human, media demand more proof, cliff-hanger

 

#

 

Despite the cliff-hanger, Faye continued each day up the hill, past the shopping mall, into the office.

She sat at her desk with the application forms, editing backwards.

She corrected ‘gain more exposure’ to ‘show more exposure’ over and over and over while her boss lay upright in the iso-chamber, running on minimal power.

She tried not to think about the increasing number of robot exposures occurring across the city, but it was no good, her work was too mundane and every correction had the word ‘exposure’ so what else was she gonna think of?

She thought of robot exposures.

While thinking, her computer flashed and an e-mail self-opened on the screen.

The characters were simplified Chinese.

‘Please stop accusing govt. officers, we are not robots. Thank you.’

She read half of it out loud and laughed.

Then stopped.

She thought of her dad.

What he’d said the other night.

Don’t make any trouble, and they leave you alone.

The man who’d escaped from the Communists

who’d swum to Hong Kong

who’d lost his home

was on their side because…

Because of stability.

She looked out of the window.

It was depressingly grey.

He’s an old man, she thought. A stubborn old man. And all old men turn conservative eventually.

She deleted the e-mail.

 

#

 

At home she did very little except say how bad Sila’s Cantonese was and how despite being bad he was improving a little, bit by bit, and yes, she did know who Terry Nation was now and no, he couldn’t have the narrative back, it was her brain, her story, her right as a Hong Kong citizen to comment on all the weird robot shit happening around town, not his.

After arguing a little, she watched the news – more robot parts discovered, this time on a rubbish dump near Lam Tin – then went to their shared room and picked up the book she’d been meaning to read for the last four years, the one by the Mongolian philosopher who lived in a tent made from little pieces of other tent, and as she read the first seventeen pages she realised the Mongolian was speaking directly to her:

‘This robot situation, Faye, it will leave you alone, yes, but it will ultimately surround you and alter your environment and influence your children, if you decide to have children, you may not, and although on the outside and the inside you’ll be the same you, you will also, inevitably, be alone. I know this because I smoked half my tent and saw your future in the fumes. Scratch that, all our futures. Wanky, I know, but I happen to believe it. Tread with care.’

 

#

 

On the news, there was a story about a mainlander jumping into the Shing Mun river and rescuing a four year old girl, a local. They interviewed him in Mandarin and the first question they asked was, were you scared?

No.

You didn’t think you might die?

Yes.

Then why jump in?

Instinct.

Faye watched, alone in the flat, peeling an orange with a knife.

It’s a trick, she thought. Why don’t they ask him questions in Cantonese? Why don’t they do a blood test?

She put down the knife and ate a piece of the orange, most of it covered with the white under skin.

Why don’t they cut his arm?

 

#

 

Faye sat at work, a changeling.

She’d changeling’d from being someone who’d tolerate all the things that were happening to her city to someone who’d brought a fruit knife to work.

On her desk was a huge pile of forms, probably applications.

She ignored them in favour of her knife.

The news anchor appeared to the right of her head, in a bubble the shape of Guangzhou, and told her to relax.

The anchor’s eyes were red and her skin was metal but it was okay, she said, I’m a passive robot, not American.

‘I don’t understand.’

‘You really don’t need to worry. Nothing will change. Just surface things.’

‘I don’t believe you.’

‘You’ll still eat the same food. Drink the same drink. Watch the same slightly edited movies.’

‘No.’

‘No what?’

Faye looked through the glass into the office within an office and saw nothing but the iso-chamber, even though there was also a window.

An e-mail appeared on her screen.

‘Re: minutes 26/6 – further police officers will be requested, not more – please make correction.’

She checked the online dictionary and muttered something in Cantonese.

It was true, why would her boss make these mistakes? Too much sun in the iso-chamber?

Or…

‘… … … …’

She spied around and noticed some scissors on the desk. She grabbed them and stood up.

Better to know for sure, she thought, entering the sub-office, opening the lid of the iso-chamber and pulling out her boss’ arm.

‘Hey, I’m not done, get off…’ The boss’ eyes narrowed, suspicion not fear. ‘Wait, those are scissors?’

‘No,’ said Faye.

‘They are, they’re scissors.’

‘They’re all-rounded.’

‘Meh wah?’

‘I’m sorry, but I don’t trust you.’

‘Okay, put the scissors down, get…’

‘I need to be sure.’

‘…off me.’

Faye ran the inside edge of the blade along her boss’ skin and waited for the wires to spill out.

Instead there was blood.

‘… … … … …’

Her boss sounded like a hyena.

Faye took the other arm, gripped it tight and cut a line the same length as the first.

Another thin stream of blood surfaced.

Shit, blood, but

no

there had to be blood.

After all, they had to be convincing

didn’t they?

And if it were just wires then it’d be too easy to be discovered, and the news had said, there were blood packs, blood packs found in Sai Kung and

The chain of thoughts hit an abrupt full stop as the boss’ trophy for 2nd place in a charity marathon came down hard on the back of Faye’s head

really hard

hard enough to kill her

if her boss had really been a robot.

 

#

 

The plastic seats in the hospital waiting room were filled with surprisingly agile old people, so agile that Faye asked Sila if they were a] from Hong Kong and b] if he could take the small knife she had in her pocket and find out if they were electric or bio.

‘How about we wait for the doctor instead?’

‘You don’t think it’s strange?’

‘Not really.’

‘You’re too trusting.’

Sila opened his mouth to remind her why they were there, but she cut him off fast, saying, ‘fong sum, I’m joking, I’m not gonna do anything.’

Half an hour later, the doctor told Faye that although her head injury wasn’t serious, it might cause some discomfort in the next few months, specifically headaches and bouts of extreme paranoia.

Faye shifted in her seat and looked at the door.

‘These bouts won’t last long, but they may feel quite overwhelming when they occur, so keep that in mind.’

Sila tried to ask the doctor in Cantonese what they could do to limit the damage of these bouts, but he lacked vocab on this topic [and most other topics too], so the best he could come out with was ‘her before sick stop how?’

‘Sorry, I don’t understand,’ said the doctor in English.

‘How can we limit the damage of these headaches and the paranoia?’ Sila repeated, slightly annoyed.

‘I can speak for myself,’ Faye said.

‘I know, I was just asking…’

‘Don’t.’

‘Okay, you want me to wait outside then?’

Faye looked at the doctor, her arm, her eyes. ‘No, stay.’

Sila nodded.

‘I can prescribe some pills for you to take,’ the doctor continued in Cantonese, ‘but, obviously, you’ll be unlikely to take them during the paranoia. That’s the physical side of it. To adapt mentally, I suggest several things that you can add to your daily routine. For example, watch more Mainland dramas, skip the news, read up on Chinese history, especially the Yuan and Qing dynasties. All of these things should reduce your anxiety and increase your sense of trust.’ The doctor adjusted her glasses. ‘To be frank, I’ve given the same advice to a lot of patients recently. These are troubling times.’

Faye shifted in her seat again.

‘Is there anything else?’

‘Are you from Hong Kong?’

‘Excuse me?’

‘Were you born in Hong Kong?’

The doctor breathed out, as if she’d heard this a lot over the last few months. ‘I was born in Guangzhou, I moved here when I was eight years old.’

‘Eight…’

‘Yes.’

Faye looked at the scalpel on the desk.

The doctor tapped on the folder in front of her. ‘According to your file, you were also born in Guangzhou.’

‘I came here when I was five…’

‘Yes, almost the same.’

‘Can I see your birth certificate?’

‘Sorry?’

‘Can I see your birth certificate?’

‘I don’t think that’s necessary.’

‘Why not?’

The doctor picked up the folder and placed it over the scalpel. It was hard to see clearly, but there were tiny drops of sweat growing on her forehead. ‘I know this is a difficult time for you, but I assure you that as your doctor I have your best interests at heart. Wait for a while, let your mind rebalance, and you’ll know I’m telling the truth.’

‘My mind is already balanced. I want to see your birth certificate.’

‘I’m sorry, I’m afraid I do not have it here.’

‘Go and get it, I’ll wait.’

‘Okay, I think we should go,’ said Sila, not understanding 70% of the conversation, but recognising the words ‘birth certificate.’

Faye didn’t move.

‘Do we get the medicine now?’ Sila asked the doctor.

‘You need to wait five minutes for the prescription to be processed. There are seats outside.’

‘Great, thanks.’ Sila walked to the door, but he was the only one. ‘Faye…’

The doctor typed something on her computer then glanced at Faye, who was staring at the folder.

‘You can go now,’ the doctor said.

Faye didn’t move.

The doctor looked at Sila, who was already walking back to Faye. ‘Can you take her?’

‘Yeah, sorry.’

Before Sila could reach her, Faye stood up and made a move towards the folder. The doctor anticipated it and pushed the folder forward, taking the scalpel underneath.

‘I really think it would be better if you waited outside now,’ she said calmly, putting the scalpel in her jacket pocket.

‘I’m not taking your pills,’ said Faye, withdrawing and letting Sila guide her to the door.

‘That is your choice.’

 

#

 

Paranoia was not something Faye could recognise herself, not as it happened, but from Sila’s observation of her over the following two and half weeks, there were around seventeen times, in blocks of one to two hours, where she asked him weird things like

1] Where are our neighbours from?

2] Why was that child speaking Mandarin?

3] How long have our neighbours been there?

4] What are our neighbours doing?

5] Are you sure that’s what they’re doing?

and then rejoinders to her own questions that usually ended in ‘maybe we should push them over, see if they bleed.’

The headaches, in comparison, weren’t so bad.

 

#

 

The other part of the doctor’s advice, which was deconstructed by Faye and put together again as her own, wasn’t so tough to initiate, not during the downtime. Faye said it was a good idea not to watch the news as it just made her sad and one of the most recent mainland dramas was uploaded on YouTube, all episodes, and even though Sila thought it was a bit on the sentimental side, it did deal in history, and the characters did speak in Mandarin and, personality-wise, ranged from good to bad to stupid to sneaky to tyrannical to romantic to funny to rigid to romantically heroic.

After two episodes Faye was hooked.

When she wasn’t watching the drama or asking for a pair of scissors so she could cut the neighbours, she was actually quite rational, more than that, she was analytical, analytical about her own sickness and how to solve it.

It was true, she told Sila one night, while drinking hong jo cha in the kitchen, that although she’d mellowed a bit and understood the separation between people and its government, she was still worried about the idea of exceptionalism.

‘You mean separating people?’

‘Into groups, yeah. Mainland drama actors equals good, random mainlanders on the street, bad.’

‘I suppose…’

‘I don’t know how to fix it.’

‘It’s tricky.’

‘Actually, I do know, but I’m not sure if it’s a good idea or not, at least not for the next month or so.’

‘What’s your idea?’

‘Language exchange.’

‘Huh?’

‘With a mainlander.’

 

#

 

It wasn’t hard to find someone to practise with

they were everywhere

the problem was

who to choose?

Sila thought it should be a female student as they were easier to get along with, but Faye said it should be a guy as the doctor had been a woman and so had her boss.

In the end, they got it down to five, three women, two men, sending each the same e-mail: ‘my Mandarin is weak, I want to improve it, can you help?’

Four of the five replied, suggesting weeknights and coffee shops on HK Island.

‘Which one?’ asked Sila, looking over her shoulder at the screen.

‘Don’t know.’

‘You could even do two, one after the other.’

‘Maybe.’

Sila looked at the clock on the wall. ‘Is it time for your meds?’

‘I’ve taken them already.’

‘All of them?’

She nodded.

‘Okay, I’m gonna watch my sci-fi shit then. Talk in an hour.’

After Sila had gone to the other side of the room and phased out, Faye read through each e-mail again, looked at the pictures, sweated, turned on the fan and decided that

as long as she kept watching the dramas

and reading about Qing

her Mandarin would be okay and

besides

4 out of 5 of these faces were probably metal anyway.

 

#

 

Four months after the scissors incident, Faye walked back into her office and sat down fifteen feet away from her colleagues.

When they came to her, they came slowly.

No one invited her to lunch.

 

#

 

At home, online, she went on forums and read up on history and solutions to anxiety and how to fix paranoia.

It’d been a month since the last bout, but just cos it wasn’t in bout form anymore didn’t mean it wasn’t still persuasive, it was, it just popped up less and less, like Choi Sze Pui after her Cheung Chau sex tape.

‘If none of the above works,’ said notthatbad.wordpress.com, ‘try detaching from reality for the weekend, longer if necessary, go to a forest or a beach, get away from people, remember that we all came from the Sudan and we’re all going back there.’

She thought of the waterfall in Tai Po, the third in a close chain of four. There was a myth about that one, that a monster lived inside who, if you could survive the night, would grant you a wish.

There was also the beach on the east side of Sai Kung, that didn’t have many people, probably zero mainlanders.

But after the weekend was over, then what?

 

#

 

The following Sunday was overcast but she convinced Sila that it would be ideal for hiking, so the two of them set off for the waterfalls near Tai Po.

To get there, they had to walk past a village, a mini-temple and a shack with four dogs sleeping outside on the concrete, stretched out like an animal murder scene.

Sila stopped to take a photo and so did another group, the one holding the camera turning back to her friends and saying something in Mandarin.

Faye took the water bottle out of the bag and drank and waited until the group had gone out of sight before talking again.

‘What did they say?’ asked Sila, taking the water bottle.

‘It looks like a police crime scene.’

‘The dogs?’

‘Yes.’

‘Ah, same thing we said…’

Faye took the water bottle and put it back in the bag. ‘I think we should go back.’

‘Why? They’re harmless…’

‘I don’t like it here.’

‘There’ll be locals up there, relax. And if there’s not, if it’s tree to tree Mandarin, we’ll turn round and come back.’

Faye played it out in her mind. They’re not bad, they’re just hiking. Hiking in a group. Maybe they killed those dogs. They’re robots. They’re robots with a subtle plan. They’re not robots, they can’t be. How could one Government have enough cash to make that many robots? They don’t need many, they need a few. A few make news and influence the many. A country is not its Government. Culture transforms immigrants, immigrants change. Keep going up, listen to their sounds. Take a photo of Mainlanders next to a waterfall. Do the language exchange. Go back home, visit the cousins. Go to Guangzhou and stay with

‘… … … … … … …?’

Faye switched back on and saw a man looking at her.

‘… … … …?’

‘I’m from Hong Kong,’ Faye said in Cantonese.

The man looked at two other men, his friends, and laughed, saying in Cantonese, ‘shit, sorry, I thought you were from the Mainland.’

‘I’m not.’

‘Yeah, it’s hard to tell. They’re everywhere now.’

‘They are.’

The man looked at Sila, nodded then went back to Faye. ‘Actually, we’re a bit lost. Do you know if this is the path going up to the waterfalls?’

‘That one,’ she pointed further up. ‘I don’t know how far it is.’

‘Thanks.’ The man took out a tissue and wiped sweat off his head. ‘Pretty hot today.’

‘It’s summer,’ Faye said.

The man said, ‘forty degree summer,’ then put the tissue back in his pocket, As he did so, the end of his jacket lifted up, showing a handle tucked into his belt.

Faye couldn’t be sure, but it looked like a knife.

 

#

 

At the third waterfall, there was a cave but no monster. Also a sign, in English and traditional Chinese:

‘DANGER: FALLING ROCKS!’

Faye took a photo of Sila next to the sign and then another of him standing near the waterfall, bending down to give him the Homeric POV.

‘You want me to take one of you?’ he asked.

‘No.’

‘I’ll make you look like a river child, it’ll be fun.’

She ignored him and walked into the water, going right up to the entrance of the cave and letting the water drop onto her head.

‘Wash away your sin,’ shouted Sila, wading over to join her and adding ‘sorry, bad symbolism’ when he got close, but she knew it wasn’t cos even after the water had hit her, part of her still wanted to walk back down the path and cut the arms of those Mainlanders and…even the arms of the knifeman for mistaking her for one of them but

to be fair to herself

it was only a small part.

 

#

 

Back down at the entrance to the village, there was an ambulance.

Two medics were bandaging the stomach of a woman, the one from before with the camera. Two of her friends were shouting at the medics in Mandarin, while the other was punching the trunk of a tree.

‘Shit…’ said Sila, holding Faye’s hand as they walked past, heading to the minibus stop on the other side of the road. ‘I hope she just fell over…’

Faye rubbed her temple, her hair still wet.

 

#

 

At home, the news on TV didn’t feature a story about the waterfall attack, but it did show a video of a Mainland couple and their two kids. It was a ten second clip, the father shouting at passers-by in Mong Kok for not helping them,

help them do what, thought Faye,

push a pram?

The news didn’t elaborate so she went online and read the news on battlehk.wordpress.com which said the couple had let their kid piss in the street and all the comments below the line said, that’s what they do, it’s disgusting, fucking robots, ban them all, except one commenter who asked why everyone was watching and doing nothing

not even pointing them towards a nearby toilet.

Faye checked the profile of the commenter, saw it was a Brazilian name and thought, yeah, he or she is right, why are they recording, why aren’t they helping, they’re not metal,

it doesn’t make sense,

even a Brazilian can see it.

She replayed the clip then read some more comments, all of them negative. Large colonial houses on a hillside appeared in her head, along with bile. She scrolled back up the comments page, stopping on the rogue positive one.

A Brazilian, she thought.

What were they? Socialist?

Conservative?

She wasn’t sure, she knew Venezuela was, and Ecuador too, but she didn’t know about Brazil so she clicked onto another site, one she could trust and

they were

kinda socialist

white and brown people

not many Chinese living there, which meant

what?

Wait, was this person even Brazilian? There was no way to check the IP, no real name to track, so how could she know?

It could be one of them

tricking her

making her think that

 

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