Short Story Highlight: “起狮,行礼 (Rising Lion—The Lion Bows)” by Zen Cho

Strange Horizons have recently published new story, 起狮,行礼 (Rising Lion—The Lion Bows), by Malaysian writer Zen Cho:

The hotel was not like any hotel Jia Qi had seen before. There was no drive swooping around a fountain featuring little peeing babies, no glass doors opening onto a golden lobby lit by chandeliers, no men in white gloves to open the doors for you.

Perhaps English hotels were different. This one was a blocky old building made of weathered grey stone and covered with ivy. It looked like it should come equipped with knights and pointy-hatted ladies. The manager who came out to greet them looked incongruously modern in comparison—he wore a suit and a bright red tie, but no gloves. His name was Nick.

“Thanks for coming,” he said to Tiong Han. Tiong Han was technically the president of the troupe. “The guests are really excited about the performance, really excited. So am I. I’ve never seen a lion dance performance before. It’ll add a touch of culture to the night. Whoop! Need help with that?”

He was already moving forward to help Simon unload the lion head from the taxi, but Coco stepped in front of him before he could touch it.

Coco had been with the troupe for six years. She had never been their official president because she preferred not to deal with technicalities; it gave her more time to actually lead the troupe.

“Are Mr. and Mrs. Yu around?” she said.

It was Mr. Yu who had emailed them to ask if they would perform at a Christmas party that was being held at his hotel. It was a new hotel and this was the first big event they were hosting, so he was willing to pay them a generous fee. They had agreed that the troupe would perform before and after dinner. There were also going to be fireworks, and a disco.

Sensibly, Mr. Yu and Mrs. Yu had stayed indoors, but they were very hospitable when the cold dishevelled troupe poured into the lobby.

“We’ve got Chinese food, Chinese decorations, lanterns, fireworks,” said Nick. “It’s all been done up to theme. The company does a lot of business out in China, so they were very keen when we suggested a China night. When we heard about you we thought, well, that’s ideal! We’re so pleased you could make it all the way out here.”

“Very pleased,” said Mr. Yu in English. In Cantonese, he said: “The ghost is in the upstairs cupboard.

“Thank you, we’re looking forward to it,” said Coco to Nick. To Mr. Yu: “What kind of ghost is it?” – continue reading.



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