from A Contrarian’s Tales

Yang Dian

Artwork by Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee

Folding Bed In the winter of ’52, Zhou of Luoyang was sent a foldable steel spring bed by a relative in South America. Asleep on the bed, a person could sink into its center where they were folded like paper, with only their head exposed, not one limb visible. A year after receiving the gift, Zhou suddenly contracted myasthenia and eventually passed away. His bed’s still brand-new steel frame began to ooze oil from every inch and shuddered like a beast—revitalized—after absorbing another animal’s vitality. Zhou’s family thought this a bad omen and after ’58, tossed the bed into a backyard furnace to be smelted down and destroyed.

Nyctambulis Exorrhiza There is a tree that walks the Kunlun Mountains at night. Woody, leafless, flowering. One day the tree is perched upon the mountain’s left face, the next, on the mountain’s right. It lumbers along in the drifting sands and shade cast by the sun. Hypersensitive to moonlight, when the moon appears to the east, the tree hides to the west. It is only on pitch-black nights that the tree stands tall and still.

Revolving Door
Seventeenth year of the Republic of China, summertime. A canteen located in Shanghai’s French Concession installs a revolving door. For four days straight, whosoever enters via this door disappears amid the spin of its panels. No trace of them can be found either inside or outside the threshold. French Concession Police circle around the compartment to investigate but produce no clues. Then, without warning, the hem of a qipao appears, protruding from between the glass, as if all of a sudden, a person has somehow wriggled inside. When an officer reaches for the corner of material, it slips back into the gap out of sight.

translated from the Chinese by Jack Hargreaves