The bawdy and good folk of That’s Shanghai have published the three winning entries from its erotic fiction competition held earlier this month at Glamour Bar as part of the Capital M Literary Festival. (You might remember Jacob Dreyer’s review of the event for this site, which was heavy on Bai Ling.) As That’s editor Ned Kelly so delicately summarizes:
Sam Gaskin, champ in 2012, got all Tang Dynasty sex texty with us, Eric Fung Chen did it in a hospital, Jamie Fullerton imagined scenes of intimacy happening at the Camel Pub Quiz, Aymeric Fraise had a thing for a tattooed lady and Shanghai soul man Carlton J. Smith talked about anal sex in threesome done in relationships (and got away with it, but only because he is Carlton J. Smith…)
…Best Story was a shared between Danielle LeClerc, with a tale about Sapphic love, and Anthony Tao, with a tale so revolting you’ll just have to read it for yourselves.
But the big winner of the night – the huge throbbing winner of the night – was Meredith Yarbrough, whose Invasion of the Ferns was a tale of intergalactic automaton love coming a cropper in Shanghai, earning her Best Performance and People’s Choice, and two vibrators (and probably Best Story had we not felt the need to share the honors out a bit).
Danielle LeClerc’s “Pink,” Meredith Yarbrough’s “Invasion of the Ferns,” and my story, “The Biwalkers,” are all on the That’s website, so go on over there for a read. The Biwalkers is also republished below with permission. “So revolting,” says Ned Kelly.
We are simple, we are persistent, and we are like you in every way except one. We are spirits unafraid to transgress, to truly love those who are different. We are biwalkers. Or, as the world calls us, beasts. I prefer that designation. Save the linguistic flounce and ribbed crepe for Valentine’s Day poems. We’ve been driven from the traveling circuses of the American south, the ranches of Mexico, and the petting zoos of northern Europe. We’ve offended Russian mobsters, been banned from temples, and beaten up by Southeast Asian sex workers. There is only one place left on this earth that would harbor our kind, one enclave where we can safely express our malformed rapacity and harpy lust: Shanghai.
Through one of my zoo connections, I was introduced to a woman known as Madame S. I arrived as instructed, at a back entrance precisely ninety minutes after closing, along with Hector Madagew, a friend I met on a SHEXpat online forum. As we waited, he nervously flicked cigarettes, half-smoked, onto the pavement, where he crushed them to embers with the tip of his boot. Eventually a rotund figure, like the shadow of a blimp, appeared out of the leafy shades.
“I’ve been expecting you,” she cooed in Chinese. I imagined her breath smelled like tar. A wicked smile like a knife wound spanned her pudgy face.
I grunted and walked ahead to indicate we were not men for words.
I felt her ghastly, vile smile directed at me. She caught up and overtook us. We were guided off the main path, through bushes. She snapped on a flashlight, likely for our benefit – I suspect she’d made this trip before. Finally, she put out an arm to motion us to slow. We had reached the edge of the pen.
We lowered ourselves down the embankment, grabbing at the bamboo to keep steady. I don’t know how, but that whale of a woman deftly, soundlessly joined us. Her light directed my vision toward a back wall, where I saw them, closer than in dreams: the brown of their eyes rippling with the water of desire, their snouts wet enough to sniff our warmness, soft like a gentle uncoiling, hard like a spring-loaded release into the pleasurable and unspeakable. One of them was turned to a side, its rump like a sumptuous moon ten thousand miles from here to nowhere. I imagine they must have shivered, sensing the eruption of our pheromones as we approached.
“This one is Cao Cao,” Madame introduced. “And that one over there is Sao Sao.”
“The little one is mine,” I said.
“Now, now, you have all night.”
“Which I’ll need.”
“Goodness, you biwalkers are as they say. Your lust is as imponderable as the jungle.”
Was she teasing, that bloated beast?
“Would you prefer the boy panda or the girl?” she asked.
“Do you prefer one hole or…”
I hastily waved off her question. “No need for such vulgarity.”
Hector shifted where he stood.
“You have arranged the payment?”
“Yes, yes of course.”
“Good,” Madame said, again contorting her face. Normal people turn the sides of their lips upwards to smile, but hers went the other way. “Give me a smoke, now that we’re friends.” I elbowed Hector and motioned at his cigarettes, and he obliged. She took two. “We will go inside, where your suits are, and you will give me the money. Cao Cao and Sao Sao will then be let off their chains, per instruction. And then” – this next part she said in English – “the hunt begin.”
I know all about you: you who retain, in your immaculate marrow and God- or death-fearing bosom, traces of humanity. But imagine, for a moment, your heart not as an 11-ounce pump of life and blood but a caged gerbil you both loathe and adore. Watch it run. Watch it pursue its reflection in the glass, for otherwise shame seizes it and drowns it with unqualified love.
Ah, the hunt.
“Put out that cigarette, Mad,” I snapped. He did so. We hardly breathed as we tiptoed in our panda suits.
A rustling made us freeze.
Hector switched on his torch: the shaft of light landed square on his mark’s face. “Ah-ha!” he shouted, his voice like a pistol shot. He rushed off, and I knew better than to follow. The next five minutes were a mad scramble. I was assaulted by scents of displaced twigs, damp leaves, and the sound of scurrying feet. Just as quickly as it started, it stopped, again with Hector’s voice: “I got you now, ha ha!” There was a sharp, ursine cry, some punching or pounding, a bout of heavy breathing, a squeal, and then Hector again – “OW! ha ha!” – before he and his prey – lord help that panda – found their rhythm.
My ardor gained expression then and there, a fire blossoming into conflagration. I aimed my light in all directions with no discretion. It passed like a flash, or a delirium: a muzzle, a mat of black and white. I imagined moist marbles for eyes filling with resplendence upon my entrance. I took four quick paces, dropped my light, and leapt.
The panda resisted only perfunctorily, oddly silent. I dragged it to the base of a massive tree on an incline and bent it across the bough. “You like it dirty, I hope,” I crooned. And then I began.
What has become of me? What transformation? Is it possible to become what you so desperately seek? I am a panda, I said. I am a panda. I am a panda. I am a panda. Three minutes or so later, we were done. I rolled off that mound of fur and flesh and exhaled into the crisp night’s cover.
“That was a lot of fun.”
I listened with my eyes, hoping my other senses could undo the mistake of my ears.
The silence persisted. Blood flushed into my cheeks. The gerbil in my chest ached for breath.
“But,” I began. I did not know what I meant to say. I heard the click of a lighter. Once. Twice.
Squinting, I rubbernecked, my nose twitching, and in that antic dark which concealed everything, even desire, one pall of moonlight swept across like revelation over a hairless surface: copper, peach, lustrous like saliva, or the calk of plastic bamboo, her dermis glabrous and sickly like that of a… biwalker. The smell of tar infested my nostrils before I could see: cigarette smoke; an aslant, grotesque grin.