A Christmas Story
Short Story by: Oleg Roschin
It was a cold morning of December 25th, 2077, when Honey Zhang left the Super-Communist Massage Parlor on the Huaihai Road in Shanghai. Looking back at the slogan, white characters on red background, saying: "All Together We Shall Try To Achieve a Big Orgasm For Future Prosperity of Our Homeland", she suddenly noticed a man standing nearby.
A laowai, to be exact. He was probably around thirty, with long brown hair and a full beard. He was dressed very shabbily - the way laowais always do, must be a law in Laowaiguo or something - and looked at her with a queer expression. His gaze was intense but she felt there was also pity in it - or perhaps desire. Just a laowai. She was used to them. And they were much easier to treat than those wackos from Yisilanguo, anyway.
"We're closed," Honey said, looking at the laowai from below fake eyelashes.
"I know," the laowai said, still staring at her. "I didn't come for that."
She expected him to say something else, but he was just standing there, his gaze steady on her, sometimes scrolling down to the thin legs nicely clad in furry boots. What a weirdo. If he didn't want "that", why the hell was he just standing there? Those laowais had too much spare time, really.
"We open at 3pm," she tried again. Since there was still no reply, she added awkwardly: "Merry Christmas."
"You know about Christmas?" the silly laowai looked surprised. Must have been living on Mars lately, really. Who doesn't know about Christmas? Maybe some Yisilanguo guys or whatever.
"It's the biggest holiday everywhere, I get good customers usually - Middlelanders, of course, you laowais prefer to stay home - you know, this kind of stuff," she said impatiently. "Look, if you don't want anything..."
"But do you know what the... ehh... meaning of Christmas is?" the laowai asked.
She sighed and started walking towards the bus station. The bearded wacko followed her, smiling stupidly.
"I told you, it's this huge holiday, I get good Middle Land customers, and... hey, you really don't know what Christmas is?" she looked at him, slightly amused by his stupidity.
But the guy just smiled.
"Are you hungry?" he asked suddenly. "Let's eat something. I'd like to talk to you... just a bit. If you don't mind."
She shrugged her shoulders. Free dinner - that was always good. And she was hungry, as a matter of fact.
They entered a small restaurant that claimed to serve "Middle Land's traditional food cooked in laowai fashion with Yisilanguo flavor." The restaurant was appropriately named "Socks Tasty".
The menu card offered a dish translated into laowai language as "Hairy Blood Prosperity". Honey couldn't really read laowai language, but she knew it was just a usual Sichuan-style spicy dish. She ordered that and a glass of "Lemon May Be Happy", the most popular drink in the world.
The strange laowai asked for two cups of water. A dreamy waitress brought the food and the drinks and sat down in the corner, staring at laowai's neck.
"So," Honey said, "you're from Laowaiguo, right?” As if it weren't obvious. But she felt she had to say something. The silence began to annoy her.
"From the USDW, yes," the laowai said. She knew that laowai word, yu-aisi-di-daberyu. Was either the way they called Laowaiguo or a name of a new famous pop band, she wasn't sure.
"United States of Democratic West," the laowai continued. "Or, to be exact, a territory it occupies now. The Caliphate claims it's been a part of it for centuries."
"The what?" Honey asked.
"The Caliphate. What you call Yisilanguo. The place I come from is the only part in the area that doesn't belong to the Caliphate. So it's dangerous there. It's been dangerous there for many years now."
She nodded, barely listening. She was bored. Couldn't he tell her something interesting - like something about that cute new pop singer from the Sun Origin Islands, the one who wears this super-cute furry pink coat, and has this super-cute face with super-cute earrings and super-cute peach-colored hair. What was his name, Mountain-Rice Field something, those Sun Origin guys always have weird names, kept using them even after the Great Annexion. If he asked her to marry him she would, really. But no sex before marriage, of course.
The laowai took one of the cups with hot water and handed it to Honey. She sipped from it, but the water tasted strange.
"Hey," she said. "I thought you ordered water.”
"But this is wine," she said.
"Oh," he looked puzzled. "That's weird. Maybe they gave us wine by mistake. Doesn't matter. Just drink it."
For a while they sat there silently. She'd finished eating and was just waiting for him to pay and go. But he kept sitting there, looking at her thoughtfully.
"You know, I feel pretty lonely," he said with a smile.
"So many of your people around," she said, frowning.
"They are all different," the laowai said. "They just look the same to you. Mine was a small nation, but it gave the world many great men. For example, have you heard about Einstein?"
"Aisidan," she nodded. "Sure. He's the laowai who invented electricity. The one who said 'I know that I know lots of stuff' to that laowai king, cuz he was blocking the sun or something. I went to school too, you know."
He didn't reply.
"So," she tried, "what happened to your people?"
"Not many are left," he said. "And those who are usually can't agree with each other."
There was silence again, then his face suddenly lit up, and he said:
"Today is my birthday, you know."
"Great," Honey said indifferently. "How old are you?"
"Thirty-three," he said. He sipped some of the wine and continued: "I thought that would be a good time to start traveling around the world, you know what I mean? It is a bit boring, have to admit that. My parents still talk about the times when there were more than three countries in the world. Now it's hard to imagine, isn't it? USDW, the Caliphate, China - Middle Land, as you call it - and there you go. Nothing else. And people are too similar. In USDW they don't talk to each other, everybody minds their own business. There is a new law there now - you can be arrested if you stand too close to somebody. And in the Caliphate people are always angry, don't know why. Can't really talk to them - they only praise their God and say how evil USDW is."
"What about Middle Land? Like it here?" she asked impatiently, looking at her watch. No, that was really no ordinary laowai. She knew they were weird and had way too much free time, but not to this extent. This guy was probably mental or something.
"Here people are too busy," he said thoughtfully, "and think too much about money. I've been thinking a lot lately... something must happen. I don't know what yet, but something must happen. It can't go on like this anymore. The world needs a change. Maybe I'm the one who should do something to bring this change."
He stood up abruptly, called the waitress, and paid the bill.
"What's your name?" he asked Honey.
"Honey," she said, rising. "And yours?"
He didn't answer. He just smiled at her once again and then went out without saying a word. Outside, the street was decorated with Christmas trees and shiny bells. Cute Christmas music was playing. People rushed about, in a hurry to buy presents. The tops of the skyscrapers were lost in a thick fog. Cold wind was blowing. And Honey suddenly felt something. She couldn't say what it was, but she wanted to cry. Or call the laowai, tell him she wanted to stay with him and listen to his stories.
But the laowai was already far away. She could still see him walk along Huaihai Road, getting smaller with each step. And for a moment it seemed to her that there was a strange golden glow around his head - sort of a transparent circle. But that must have been her imagination.
© Copyright 2017 Oleg Roschin. All rights reserved.