by Fei Wu

Henry crushes the remainder of his still-burning cigarette into the plush floral patterned carpet with his scuffed Italian leather shoes. He takes a deep breath in front of door number 666, and lets himself in. The door whirrs and clicks open, and Henry finds himself face to face with a topless teenager. She’s young, probably younger than both his daughters. There is cocaine residue beneath her nose. Her eyes are unfocused, her tits are small. She raises her bird-bone hand toward his face, and Henry flinches backward.

They’ve destroyed the suite. The yellow wallpaper has been torn into Plathian shreds, the air smells of blood and alcohol, the walls are pulsating with bass, and his boss – the treasury secretary of the Shanghai Train Bureau is sitting, draped in a sleek, brown, bear’s pelt amidst a pile of writhing young women, empty Mou Tai bottles, and 100 RMB notes. Henry tries to sneak into his room, the smallest room, unnoticed, but his boss is uncannily alert. He calls to him.

“Hengray. What I pay you for? Teach me Engrish.”

“You look pretty busy. Another day.”

“What is my name. The name you give it to me.”

“It was just a joke. You didn’t get it.”

“No. I get joke. Tell me, the name.”

“Alpha. I named you Alpha.”

“That’s right. I am Alpha. I am like god. I say teach Engrish. You teach.”

“Okay. What do you want to learn?”

“I want to learn the American culture. How do Americans fuck their bitches? Eh? In China, we want fuck our bitches, we buy a Prada, da da da, legs open sesame. Show me how Americans fuck bitches.”

Alpha sneers and grabs the arm of the delirious woman nearest to him, and shoves her at Henry. She stumbles half-heartedly and falls into his arms. Her eyes are bloodshot and wandering, her lipstick is smeared in a sad, downward slope. She looks to be Lisa’s age.

Alpha speaks to her in Chinese, but Henry can understand every word.

“Hey, horny cunt, bend over and let this fat old American fuck you. I want to see what he’s carrying between his legs. Don’t worry, I’ll pay you for being a slot machine.”

Henry feels acid rising up in his stomach. His head begins to pound when she slips off her skirt dazedly and drapes herself over the arm of a couch. Henry stares at her pussy, then quickly looks away. The music blares, and Henry’s face heats up as he feels every eye in the room fix on him.

“I quit. You can’t do this to me. I’m a teacher.”

Alpha pushes the girls off his lap and stands up. He stalks toward Henry. His footsteps are steady, and this makes Henry all the more nervous. The shorter Chinese man stops when his face is an inch away from Henry’s face, and he says in a soft, putrid voice.

“And where you go. Ah? I pay you good. Six months, you work for me. Every day I give you 1000 kuai. You leave me, I call the immigration bureau, kick you out of China. Where you go then? Manila? Or, if you don’t give me any face, I call police, tell them you rape Helen over there. You go to jail.”

Alpha pauses, and Henry notices once again how smooth the man’s face is. It is almost featureless, like a burial mask with the paint worn off after years of decay. His nose is so flat that it barely rises from his face, his eyebrows are non-existent, his eyes are heavy lidded and narrow. But his boss’s pupils are round,unnaturally large. So large that there is barely any white to his eyes. They are jet-black, shiny, and fixed.

Alpha continues.

“Don’t lie. You cannot quit. You cannot go. But I don’t need teacher anymore. My English fantastic already. You are my running dog now,and she is my bitch dog. You are same species. Should fuck.”

Silence weighs heavy in the room. One of the girls has turned off the sound system. Henry glances at a vase on the bookshelf and thinks about bashing it into Alpha’s skull. The image gives him a nearly sexual rush to the groin. A high-pitched gale of laughter bursts from the balcony. Then comes a low, rumbling roar that shakes the entire room.

Alpha yells in Chinese

“What the fuck are you dumb cunts doing out there?”

“Nothing, Lao Ban. Just playing with BenBen out here. He was sleeping, but we wanted to play.”

Alpha snaps at Henry and tilts his head toward the balcony.

“Bring it out.”

Henry comes to his senses and fumbles for his keys. He finds the correct one, and goes onto the balcony. His hands shake as he unlocks the cage as quickly as he dares, careful not to let his fingers linger on the bars. He swings the door of the cage open, and the girls behind him scramble into the room to hide behind their Alpha.

Henry grabs at the leash once, but recoils at the answering growl.

“Bring it out. Now.”

Henry closes his eyes and grabs again for the leash. His fingers make contact with the thick, heavy chain, and he tugs at the animal with all his might. The beast won’t budge. Henry puts his hand in his pocket, and searches for the beef jerky he keep stowed there. This entices the animal out of the cage, and Henry nearly faints as it closes its large mouth around his hand. The animal bumps against Henry’s leg, nearly knocking him over.

Henry lets out a deep breath. It’s in a good mood tonight. He leads the creature toward Alpha, and avoids eye contact.

Alpha grins, reaches out his unnaturally small hand, and bats the tiger on the nose. The animal growls, but Alpha just laughs and points to the empty sofa.


The tiger doesn’t budge. So Alpha swats him again, earning another low grumble.


The beast still doesn’t move. Alpha goes to the large vase full of plum blossoms on the bookshelf, and selects a branch. He raises it above his head and whips it across the animal’s flank. The cat bares its teeth at Alpha, readying itself for attack. Henry can sense the excitement of every creature in the room. The sweat and booze rolls off the women, sour and monkeyish. Henry can smell the stink of fear emanating from his damp armpits. But the smell that covers all the other, lesser scents, is the smell of the tiger. It has been lying in its own filth for much of the day, but it still smells powerful, yeasty and pungent, yellow and rotten.

But before anything can happen. Alpha takes a black, rectangular device from his pocket, cranks the knob, and pushes a button. The tiger yowls in pain, and collapses to the floor, writhing in agony from the shocks radiating through the collar around its neck. Henry closes his eyes as Alpha begins whipping the paralyzed creature at his feet, and the more tweaked out women begin to giggle hysterically. No one is looking at him anymore, so Henry can slink to his room while the tiger takes his punishment.

Henry falls asleep to thoughts of his old life in America. The remembered whirr of lawnmower blades cutting grass. The smell of smoke coming off the grill in the crisp Autumn air. His wife’s soft, white body, spread out cooly beneath him. Days spent on the beach watching young women sunbathe, skin all brown and simmering under the July sun. Their tawny, young flanks unfurling in the sand, twitching, moving, all leonine and soft, prowling toward him with their golden, slitted eyes, their pink tongues long and licking, tickling his neck with their sandpapery texture.

Henry starts awake. It is the darkest hour before dawn, he can feel the silence ringing inside the room. And the tiger. He can feel the tiger lounging in his bed. Reeking. Licking its wounds and also licking Henry. Purring.

Henry looks at the tiger, and it stares back at him. There are patches of fur missing all over its body. The animal is at least twenty years old, ancient for a tiger. Henry holds his breath as it places its paw on his chest. The paw spans more than half the width of Henry’s pectoral muscles. The cat flexes its paw and Henry braces for pain, but none comes. He’s forgotten, the tiger has been declawed. The animal yawns, and Henry breathes a sigh of relief, they remembered to drug him after all. He takes the tiger’s leash and leads him back out, into the living room. The room is empty, all the women have gone, and only Alpha remains, naked, curled up on top of the bear pelt. His penis is small and brown, nestled between his thighs like a defenseless woodland creature. Henry stares down at his fetal form, and remembers the humiliation dealt out on this night and so many other nights. The tiger grumbles deep in his throat as well. Hate bubbles in Henry’s gut, and a series of images flash.

The expression on his daughter Emily’s face when she walked in on him and Ying Ying in the den. Ying Ying’s shapely red lips wrapped around his cock. The empty house after his wife took the kids with her to California. Ying Ying’s disgust when she realized the man she’d stolen and brought with her to China was a fuck-up who couldn’t afford a house or even Cartier. His key, broken in the door, when Ying Ying changed the locks. Classrooms full of students, with their upturned, doubtful faces. One serious conversation after another in one boss’s office after another. And finally, Alpha’s black, beetle eyes, glittering up at him.

Henry stalks into the kitchen and takes a raw steak from the freezer. He opens a drawer, and takes out the brick of cocaine Alpha keeps inside. He tears open the plastic wrap on the kitchen counter, and spreads the coke evenly on the surface. He scoops up a little in his pinky nail and inhales. Then, he dips both sides of the steak in the coke, and carefully covers the edges in the white powder. When he is done, the steak looks like it’s covered in flour, ready for a deep fryer. He feeds the drug-laced flesh to the tiger. While it’s eating, he unfastens the electroshock collar, and exits the hotel room. He doesn’t shut the door behind him. When he is outside the hotel, he breaks into a run toward the street, and hails the first cab he sees.

In the cab, Henry has a dream. He dreams he is stalking down Nan Jing Road. The street is deserted, and the waning night air is filled with foreign smells. Trash, and rubber, flowers and dust. He walks toward the lightening sky at the end of the long road, ignoring the dogs and vagrants that notice him and quickly duck away. He comes to the river just as the sun has risen. He jumps, noiselessly onto the edge of the boardwalk. There is a group of women, standing in a formation. They move slowly and fluidly, their backs are to him, so they cannot see him just yet. He watches as they turn on their heels to face him, in perfect synchronicity. All of them see him at the same time and stop, their faces freeze in expressions of disbelief and awe. Henry grins, and lets out a loud roar of triumph. Restored in his rightful place, throat full of blood, he is once again, the king of the savage, wet, jungle. The spell of silence is broken, and all the women begin to scream and scatter. He turns away from them, and leaps, in a graceful arc into the rippling waters of the river and swims out towards the sea, towards home.