A Swedish friend of mine in Shanghai asked me to write a treatment for a short film he wants to make. This strange, disconnected story is what I came up with. Maybe there is the premise, minus the obvious violence, for a good TV series in here. Who knows?
The Giants game was on TV. They were playing Atlanta in the San Francisco home opener. I had had a long, shitty week, so I didn’t want anyone, or anything, disturbing me or the game, or stopping me from putting my fingerprints on the pint of Asahi Super Dry resting on a coaster on the arm of my Adirondack chair.
I was home and safe, and it was baseball season, and I…….
……saw the room…..fill with light….felt the light….
…..explode into my eyes.
And there I was again. I even knew I was on the same bench. Before my vision cleared, a process which seemed to average about two minutes, I could feel with my right hand the ten notches I had cut with my knife into the edge of the bench from previous trips. I reckon it had been several months since the first notch, because it and the second were feeling a bit worn and smooth from other people sitting on this exact spot. I guessed.
After taking the moments I needed for my eyes to clear and adjust, I looked around to confirm what I already knew:
I was in Shanghai. Again. Seated on a wooden bench along The Bund, at night under a very starry sky. Well, as starry as the ambient light from this insane bottle-rocket of a burg would allow. And by looking at the stars I could tell that, as usual, I had arrived at about 2 o’clock in the morning. Hey, after this many involuntary teleports I had decided after the first two trips that I had better know my stars in this hemisphere for reference.
Also as usual, there were a lot of people out along The Bund. I sat there for a moment looking them over, scanning them, seeing if I recognized anyone from my previous trips. Luckily, I did not. That would make things easier. And there were, as usual, no signs from anyone walking within ten yards of me that they had seen me appear from nowhere in the spot I now occupied. Like the actual teleportation process and the reasons behind it, I had not figured that part out yet. Maybe it was some naturally occurring thing. I don’t know.
I always tell myself I will figure this out later. But I haven’t yet.
Maybe I won’t.
Since it was two o’clock Sunday morning, it was always two o’clock Sunday morning, the people along The Bund were the young, late-night party crowd. Younger than me, and too tired, drunk, self-absorbed or all three to really notice a large, older gweilo hanging out on their periphery. That was fine. I wasn’t interested in them anyway. After ten trips, I had learned that these youngsters weren’t the sources I needed. So I stood up and started scanning the crowd for the older, wealthier type of source which would have what I needed to get home.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take me that long this time. Previous trips had taken me as long as ten minutes to spot a sufficient source. This time, thirty seconds. And he was alone, which was good. No fancy hired girl with him to get in the way. I didn’t like doing more damage than was absolutely necessary.
I think he was looking for a girl, though, because he was walking off The Bund, away from the Huang Pu and towards Guang Dong Road. I knew from my sixth trip there were a couple of side streets there where gentlemen could procure a lively girl if they had the discretion and the cash. Which meant my source must have had the cash.
This was good, too.
I checked my jacket pockets just out of habit, to make sure I had the things I needed. I was always teleported from home, and I always wore this jacket when I was there. Even when I slept. The second trip made me realize I had to do this. So:
I had my wallet, but only about 100 bucks U.S., and the very, very convincing fake California driver’s license. And I had an equally exquisite and fake U.S. passport. These, plus the renminbi I got off the source, would get me a ticket back to San Francisco, through immigration and onto the plane. I always had to fly back.
And I had my knife, of course. The same knife, every time. A cheap but very sharp carbon steel job I could get easily and anonymously in San Francisco Chinatown whenever I needed, since I always left the knife behind.
So, with the source still in my sight, I was ready.
He did, in fact, go down Guang Dong Road, towards the second side street. I followed him to the dark entrance of that street, but stopped at the corner after he went around it. I had become good at this, but still had to be careful.
So I slowly peered around the corner, and saw him immediately about twenty yards away. This side street was dark, very few street lights were on. And he was alone, in his expensive party suit, thumbing through the wallet he must have had in his breast pocket. He had, I just noticed, a couple of gold rings on each of his hands. His wallet looked fat. I had chosen my source very wisely this time. Between the rings and the wallet, this source had to have at least the 14,000 renminbi I would need to get home.
So, it was time.
I got out my knife, and rounded the corner to the darkened side street, pretending to be a bit drunk. More of a safe amusement and less of a threat that way, even for a big gweilo like me. It always worked.
He wouldn’t see it coming, and I promised myself he’d feel no pain. I made the same promise about the ten sources I had used before this one, and I was pretty sure I had made good on it. The Shanghai cops might have an alert or a sheet out on me by now, but I really didn’t care.
I was always careful. And being in Shanghai was never my fault anyway! What the hell was I supposed to do?
I had to get home.