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East Asian Suspense Drama

In Hong Kong last Friday night, Li Ying saw flashing police lights below her window. She thought it odd that she didn’t hear any sirens, that felt worse, so she nudged the curtain with her little finger. 

In the busy nighttime street below, illuminated by neon signs, a line of white vans with government insignia had parked. In the front and bank were police cruisers. Workers in High Vis vests were already out and stretching yellow police cordon lines. In one van, people were zipping up into the white bunny suits, the ones she saw often on TV. Li YIng screamed “Shit! They are quarantining our building!”

Two hours earlier, before all this happened, she had arrived home from work.

“Benson, are you home?” She said automatically, but clearly he wasn’t home yet. She put the Pork Chop rice boxes she bought into the fridge. Feeling slightly abandoned, she sat down at her tiny desk and emptied two packets of sugar into the Milk Tea that came with dinner. 

Li YIng sipped her tea. She pushed yesterday’s half finished cup of tea to the back of the desk. She didn’t want to accidently sip that one while scrolling. A Cantonese cover version of “Somewhere Only We Know” played loudly across the hall, absentmindedly she sang along with the first few verses of lyrics.

Scrolling through the day’s photos, they all started to look the same to her. She spent the afternoon taking photos of overstocked luxury handbags, Bottega, Fendai, Chloé, at her job at an e-commerce company in Kowloon Bay. She’s had start the job last year.

From Facebook notifications, she saw an update about buildings that were being locked down. Some Hong Kong residents had been trapped inside for days and were running out of food. Well she was tired of reading about Covid and that sort of news wasn’t of much interest to her, except for trying to talk Benson into finding time to register for the vaccine.

Bored, she went to Benson’s room and poked around his things. Then it occurred to her that someone as organized as him would realize if anything was moved even the slightest, so she went back to her milk tea. At least he would be home soon.

The floppy ears of the Little Pig doll she kept on her desk got her attention. Her mind went back to how they she and Benson met at the 2019 protests. They spent almost every waking moment together for 6 months. The excitement of being on a new mission every weekend was exhilarating. It showed how unfair the world is, that everything they were asking for had been rejected, and were now even far worse than before.

At least, being just two people in the hundreds of thousands that were protesting, any fears that the police would grab them in the street one day were long forgotten.

Li Ying remembered that tomorrow they had a trial lesson at the pottery school downstairs, at least that was something new.

She heard the elevator whir, footsteps in the hall, the door opened.

“Li Ying, I’m back!” Benson said cheerfully. 

“Why are you so late?”

Benson held a smile and did not answer, when there was something on his mind he often did that. 

“If you cared about me, you wouldn’t be late!”

“Don’t worry about it honey. Hey, should we go out and eat something?”

“Don’t you remember this is Friday, and I bought your dinner and we have that pottery class tomorrow morning?“

“Oh,that's right!!” Benson smiled even wider.

Li Ying stared angrily at Benson, who himself kept a constant smile and a warm look in his big eyes. The music playing across the hall now felt irritating to Li Ying.

Spontaneously, Benson suggested they look at her photos. They sat down, and she showed him her favorite ones. Benson complimented each one in a unique way. When he spoke he often chuckled and giggled. Li Ying felt the tension releasing from within herself.

After they were done looking through them and catching up on the events of the day, Li Ying reheated the Pork Chop rice boxes and they ate dinner and started having a cozy night at home.

Bam! Bam! Bam! They both jumped at the sound of pounding on the door. It had now been ten minutes since Li Ying had seen the flashing police lights. In the meantime they had done nothing but watch the proceedings from their window.

In the hallway a woman’s voice said sternly, “This is a mandatory lockdown, you will need to receive covid testing tonight at the ground floor or else be in violation of Epidemic regulation 34.2.”

“Understood!” Benson said loudly, instinctively taking charge, and then softly muttering to himself “F-ing government thugs”.

After the government CHP employee was gone, Benson blurted out “We need to get out of here!”

“Why? How?” Li Ying said.

Benson stared at the wall silently, standing shifting his weight from side to side. He pulled out his mobile and started sending text messages, explaining he was contacting protest groups he knew on Telegram.

“Good good. There are protesters across in the next building”

”They say we might be able to get across, it’s really close. But we need to get to the roof.”

Cautiously he opened the front door, and they both saw an empty hallway. They heard a cacophony of angry shouting from the neighbors' apartments, but no one was in the hall.

In a quick flurry of activity, they grabbed a few essential items and then slid out the door. Li felt her heart pounding as they moved toward the staircase. She heard the elevators buzzing. “The government thugs are taking the elevator. Listen Benson”. He nodded and with small swift steps they moved down the hall and into the staircase. He gave her a hug and then held her hand as they climbed to the roof. 

Once out onto the roof, they suddenly could hear the medical workers and policemen's’ voices from the street very clearly. On top of the next building, as they hoped, they saw Benson’s Telegram friends crouching and discreetly waving at them.

Benson waved back, looked around the roof, searching for anything to help them make it to the next building. After a moment he reappeared with what looked like the building's repairmans ladder.

While Benson was searching, Li had begun to think about surveillance cameras. They were in the hallways, on every street corner, in every shop, the government eye watching us broken things. The weight of awareness that their names were registered to this building’s address also started pushing down on her. She couldn’t get it out of her mind, but felt too afraid to say anything now.

Benson half dropped half threw the ladder across the short gap to the next building. It spanned the gap, making a loud wooden banging noise on the opposite concrete roof ledge. None of the busy people below seemed to notice. 

The group on the other side came out of hiding, took out ropes and tied the ladder to anything they could find on that side. One of them threw a thin white line over to Benson.

“Do you want to go first?” Benson whispered in her ear, but before she knew what to say, he said “I had better test the ladder to make sure it doesn’t break”.

Time slowed as she watched Benson tie the rope around his waist, get on his hands and knees, and hand over hand start crawling toward the other side, being careful to keep each shin centered on a rung on the ladder. Li looked down and saw 14 floors of bathroom lights and darkness in the tiny alley below.

The distance was shortm before she knew it, Benson was on the other side and his new friends grabbed his shoulders and pulled him over. 

Li Ying was lost in thought, thinking about which direction she would take next.

January 29, 2022 03:22

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3 comments

Kendall Defoe
23:54 Feb 02, 2022

Not bad. Some of the language is overused by other writers ("cacophony of" & "quick flurry of"), but you have created a real story with all the tension, pace and drive it needs. Let's have more! ✌

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01:23 Feb 03, 2022

Thanks loads for the encouragement, that's exactly the type of feedback that helps! Will try to avoid overused cliches, and say things directly or occasionally use metaphor. I've seen so much amazing prose on this website, and writing good sentences is definitely the part I'm working on improving.

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03:32 Jan 29, 2022

Thanks for having a look, if anyone would like propose any line edits that would be awesome. Ive just started trying to learn creative writing.

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