This story is part of SmokeLong Quarterly’s Global Flash Series. The English translation follows the story in its original language, Chinese.
translated by Tony Huang
The panda breeder came to the zoo earlier than the panda. This was a dangerous forced landing. Unprepared. Everyone was shocked when this howling baby appeared in a lion’s cage. He was naked, energetic, unashamed, like a beast. His crying penetrated the clouds and could even scare the gods in heaven. The lions dismissed the idea to add a meal, and the zoo director decided to break the long-established employment policy.
The panda, which was only five months old, was brought to the panda breeder. They hugged tightly, prattling, drinking the same thick and gamy milk, and growing up together in an imaginary green bamboo forest. From a distance, it is difficult to tell which is human, but if you venture to get closer to this pair of untamed animals, you will see the gloomy green light shimmering in their eyes. The zoo director was satisfied with this arrangement, and felt he should be able to retire with peace of mind. A week later, the kind old man left the zoo with a sense of loneliness that was exclusively possessed by people outside the cage.
Four years later, the old man returned to the zoo, this time as a visitor, for some ineffable, yet reasonable reasons. He held his excitement down and visited other animals one by one before his beloved panda hall. Surprisingly, he did not see the two intimate figures in the artificial green bamboo forests. After many inquiries, the old man learned the following fact:
On a Sunday afternoon, in front of the zoo visitors who crowded the panda hall, the panda breeder blatantly bit and killed the docile and sophisticated animal he raised. When this happened, the panda, just like what it often did, was showcasing all the talents a stout animal like it could have. It rolled on the floor, stood straight, bowed, walked on string, and stood on rollers. While showing its deftness, it also spent the same effort pretending to be clumsy, to be tempted by the food, to be intoxicated by the applause, to stumble and to struggle to stand up.
Exactly at this moment, the panda breeder dashed toward the panda and slammed the poor, and still clowning, animal onto the floor. Amid frightened screams, the breeder bit into the throat of the animal and tore it into pieces.
In court, the panda breeder confessed to his crimes. In order to evoke the breeder’s conscience, the defense lawyer tried to remind him of the life of the panda, but the breeder just briefly took it with a few words of contempt. He laughed at the animal’s weakening body, mocked its becoming gluttonous, and claimed that he had never taught the animal to juggle or play the fool.
Finally, when asked about the motivation, he answered, unexpectedly, “I just want to see if in the body of this beast hides the soul of a dog.”
Notes from Guest Reader Tony Huang
Tang Fei’s world sounds bizarre, a world we unfortunately cannot avoid, which, though not always bloody, is full of anesthetizing cruelty.