Short story: Here I Am (for P.K. Leung 梁秉鈞 [Ye Si 也斯] in memoriam) by Xu Xi


He was not a zombie. Nor was he a ghoul, mummy, wraith, ambulatory skeleton or operatic phantom. He wasn’t even geong si, a dressed-to-the-nines Qing dynasty vampire that could at least do an approximation of the Lindy Hop, transcending time and culture into the Jazz Age. However, he was clearly dead, or undead if you parsed language to its core.

Jonnie Tang sauntered down the pathway of Southorn Playground, skirted the border of the court, waiting to be seen. His real name was Tang Chun-ying, or CY, but a little over a year ago, he had started going by Jonnie, not wanting to be ragged on for his English initials that were the same as the city’s Chief Executive. At least he used to be Jonnie Tang until 0555 hours. The idiot driver of that Bimmer M3 barrelling East on Hennessy, along the north border of the playground, had run the light and slammed into him. Asshole didn’t even have the balls to stop.

The Best Asian Speculative Fiction

The force of impact had flung him into the plate glass window of the second floor hair salon above the Circle K. Shattering glass severed his vocal cords, and a large, jagged, blade-like shard almost decapitated him. Not a desirable angle of repose, to be unrecognisably swathed on a gurney, smeared in blood and faecal matter, like a chicken with its head chopped off. Even the emergency team paled. He was gruesome.

Next thing you knew, Jonnie was the corpse on TVB Jade’s 1830 hours evening news, being too late for the morning news at 0630 hours.

He could imagine his mother tsk-ing away at the radio news report later that morning. Those reckless 有錢 boys and their cars! Hate to death those have-money brats. They should be locked up and forced to clean public toilets as community service! His mother was tsk-ing about something else on the news, until the call came from the police, are you the family of Tang Chun-ying? Ma, he called across what he presumed to be an ethereal, omniscient panorama, I’m here, but his voice box was gone. He couldn’t even say before he disappeared that this wasn’t her fault and that she shouldn’t blame herself as he knew she would.

Except that he hadn’t disappeared, not really.

At Southorn, the gang was all there, waiting for him, calling out his mother’s cunt at his tardiness. It was a little past 0630 hours, their appointed time to shoot hoops each Tuesday morning, a ritual observed for the last five years.

Hey, he yelled at the gang, here I am. King-wah was dribbling the ball in a slow dance. Jonnie tried, but could not step over the painted white line on the ground that bordered the court. What was this weirdness of being, voiceless, invisible, movement-impaired? Uncertain of his new existence, other than the certainty that he was dead, he avoided touching or bumping into solid objects, afraid that he could not pass through them (or was he actually afraid that he could?). Would he disintegrate when the sun rose, assuming it wasn’t another rain-soaked morning? Did weather delay eternity?

 

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