In Zhao Song’s newly translated thriller, a recluse moves into a mysterious apartment block where not everything is as it seems
In the spring of 1989, I moved into a Japanese-style apartment building in the old part of town. I rented a single room on the first floor. There was a shared kitchen and bathroom. Not long after I moved in, the people living across the hall moved out. After that, the room sat vacant for a long time.
I appreciated the peace and quiet. I only had a single room and I never went across the hall, but I enjoyed feeling like I was the master of an expansive suite. The way I figured, if I was going to live alone, I might as well enjoy the solitude. If I needed someone around all the time, I’d go out and get married.
I’m a lazy person by nature. Back then, I spent most of my free time reading. I liked wuxia stories—martial arts masters descending into the underworld to seek revenge, that kind of thing—or collections of strange stories about ghosts and immortals. I wasn’t even above picking up the occasional gossip magazine. In order to preserve my indolence and give me enough time to read, I found a job as a night watchman guarding an engine room. My shift started at four o’clock every afternoon. Each day, I showed up with my book, dutifully took my post, and read until midnight, listening to the machines whirring behind me. Except for whoever came in to relieve me, I never had to deal with any coworkers. That was another perk of the job.
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Neighbor | Fiction is a story from our issue, “Public Affairs.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.