Rabbit Hole

by Katrina Hamlin

Once upon a time someone had told her not to go out into the dark, dark city when the sun went down. Shanghai was full of monsters after midnight, she was warned.

She was told not to go out into the dark, dark city. But she went out.

She left a trail of rice behind her, so she could find her way back.

She followed the music in the air, towards the bright, distant lights.

She found a city built from the Frankenstein shards and splinters of other places and peoples. She couldn’t understand what she heard and saw, because they didn’t make sense, together or apart; red rabbits and Father Christmas and pink tinsel and gold characters and toneless speech and sing-a-long, ghostly laowai and rosy cheeked Shanghairen slamming glasses on the table, dancing on the bar, sleeping on the floor, falling out the door and blowing smoke into the night.

Still she listened and she watched until someone noticed her, listening and watching, and passed her a drink. The bottle said ‘Drink Me;’ her companion said ‘ganbei;’ so she did.

She kept listening and watching, wide eyed and open mouthed. The bottle was a magical one, and magically it replenished itself whenever she thought it was finished. Her eyes grew wider.

Her companion asked her if she felt alright. She told him she was scared,she’d never been here before, but she’d left a trail of rice, so she’d find her way home. He looked at her sideways.

They drank their bottles empty again, and again they replenished themselves.

The lights and the tinsel were melting into shimmering blurs at the edge of her vision, and the people were all at sea, swaying and lurching in the night time breezes and the blossoming clouds of smoke.

She could feel fire rising behind her cheeks as the liquor soaked through her. She slipped from the high stool to move through the smoke, towards the doors and the cooler, darker air outside. Her companion watched her go, swaying on his stool in the smoke. Behind him, the bottles replenished themselves.

She stood on the pavement, breathing deeply. Another redfaced girl offered her a cigarette, and she accepted it. The girl lit it for her with a lighter that flared high in her face, filling her dark eyes with fire.

She tried to take a drag,  and coughed. She tried to take another drag, and coughed again.

The other girl took a drag on her own cigarette, and exhaled as she spoke; “Are you alone?”

She looked around at the people stumbling and singing and falling around them. “No. Neither are you.”

The girl looked uncertain.

She took a third drag, and didn’t cough. She inhaled slowly, watching the cloud grow and thin and vanish.

Then the girl raised a balled hand in between them, and opened her fist palm up to show her two pills. She looked closely; in very small characters, she read, “Eat Me.”

She hesitated.

“Is it past midnight?”

“I heard the clock chime two minutes ago.”

She inhaled too fast and choked on her smoke. “I must go.”

“Go where?”

“Home.” She looked around for the trail of rice. “I left a trail of rice…where is it?”

The girl seemed to understand. “The street cleaners will clear it away every time. Never mind. Have this.” She passed her the pill.


In the morning, she walked the streets of Jing’An as the sun came up, searching for a trail of rice. The street cleaners watched her go by; no one tried to help her.

The sun was more golden than she’d ever seen it before.

She walked until the sun had reached its zenith.

Her feet hurt.

She looked down. She saw that she’d lost both her shoes. She didn’t remember that.

She walked for hours more, until the sun sank and died behind the gleaming emerald towers.

She saw the street cleaners creep back to the streets for the night shift. One of them had shoes very much like her own.

At last, at the end of a long dark street, she felt something familiar; bright night lights and the pulse of too many too loud songs.

She gave up on the trail of rice and went towards the lights.