Fiction

The Quarantine Diaries, Part One

A watercolor style photograph of a city skyline.
A watercolor style photograph of a city skyline.
Photo courtesy of the author.

This is the first in a series of short stories. To read them all, head here.

When the virus put the city into lockdown, I spent my mornings on the roof of my apartment building. I liked the routine; I walked six flights of stairs to the twelfth floor, leaned against the rusty railing that ran the length of the building, and tried not to think about the world ending.

The roof wasn’t a very interesting place. Mostly it was just air conditioning vents and the pipes that spidered out of them. The only sign that people had ever been up there was a faded green stool and a small card table next to the door. …


Fiction

The Quarantine Diaries, Part Two

Orange and white cat sitting comfortably on a giant dark grey bean bag.
Orange and white cat sitting comfortably on a giant dark grey bean bag.

This is part of a series of short stories. To read them all, head here.

When the virus put the city into lockdown, my cat started talking to me.

“You’re so lazy,” she said.

“What?”

“All you do is sit there and watch TV.”

“Nobody’s allowed outside,” I said. “What do you expect me to do?”

“For starters, you could learn to play that song you’re always humming in the morning. But for now, how about lunch?”

I got off the sofa and poured some cat food into Maguro’s bowl. She gave a quiet nod and began nibbling at it. …


Fiction

The Quarantine Diaries, Part Three

A masked woman standing beneath a flowering tree.
A masked woman standing beneath a flowering tree.
Photo courtesy of the author.

This is part of a series of short stories. To read them all, head here.

When the virus put the city into lockdown, I got hit in the back of the head by a flying CD case. I don’t know where it came from, but it hurt. I suppose I could have been more careful, but who expects a CD to come hurtling through the sky, you know?

I was on my way to the local coffee shop when it happened. I just wanted to pick up some coffee beans, head home, and make a cup of coffee. I didn’t plan to stay out long. We were in the middle of a pandemic, after all. …


Fiction

The Quarantine Diaries, Part Four

Mailboxes outside apartment complex.
Mailboxes outside apartment complex.
Photo courtesy of the author.

This is part of a series of short stories. To read them all, head here.

When the virus put the city into lockdown, my job actually got busier. Delivery requests spiked. I spent the days cycling through the suburbs, stuffing pamphlets into letterboxes. They were about what you would expect: supermarkets, restaurants, local businesses, and the occasional suspicious masseuse.

I had initially assumed I would go broke. I saw the news and I looked at my cat, and I said, “We’re probably fucked.” But instead, I was scrambling to keep up with demand. Every business had something: delivery services, special discounts, online reservations, free masks with every purchase. …


Fiction

The Quarantine Diaries, Part Five

Dark empty city street at night, save for a lone dark figure.
Dark empty city street at night, save for a lone dark figure.
Image courtesy of the author

This is part of a series of short stories. To read them all, head here.

When the virus put the city into lockdown, my friend Takeshi made me go out with him to Shinjuku every night. He was a freelance writer with dreams of becoming a real journalist. He saw the virus as an opportunity. A big one.

“Most television stations won’t send their own reporters out on the streets,” he said. “Do you know what that means?”

“That it’s too dangerous to go outside?”

“No. It means there might never be an opportunity like this again.”

“You mean to catch the virus and potentially die?” …


Fiction

The Quarantine Diaries, Part Six

A slightly filtered image of a small neighborhood street in Japan.
A slightly filtered image of a small neighborhood street in Japan.
Photo courtesy of the author

This is part of a series of short stories. To read them all, head here.

When the virus got especially bad, the city was completely locked down. People stopped leaving their houses, the shops closed, and the trains stopped running. Businesses were paused indefinitely, people worked from home, and in worst-case scenarios, makeshift dormitories and campsites were set up in facilities designated essential. The government introduced drone-delivered rations, and we were told not to leave our houses. A mist of quiet and fear settled over the country, the end of which felt very hazy.

During this time, I went on a lot of walks. …


Fiction

On travel, and how it changes us

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Image for post
Photo: Gueorgui Tcherednitchenko

Before she left again, Min said the world had changed. It was not something she could see or explain easily, and yet she was sure something was different. When I asked, she said it was like opening a book she had read a long time ago and realizing the story was not as she remembered it.

“The words are the same as they always were,” Min said, “but now there is new meaning in them, and I can no longer see them any other way.”

I thought of the books I’d read with this concept at their heart — where the characters discover hidden truths beneath a surface of well-crafted lies — and how I could always put them down and return to the life I knew. But for Min it was different. The world was a story she wrote as she went; she could not simply put down the book because the book was her life. …


Internet Time Machine

If Facebook is a club, Twitter is a dive bar

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Image for post
Photo: Pexels

This story is part of the Internet Time Machine, a collection about life online in the 2010s.

As a writer, I often go to house parties. These parties take place at the homes of some guys I know. You’ve probably heard of them: Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. They’re alright people most of the time.

House parties are a bad idea for writers like me. When I’m at them and I don’t talk, I feel like I’m not supposed to be there. When I’m at them and I do talk, I feel like an idiot. Parties for me are like existential dread with other people. All the same, I still go to all the parties. I don’t know why. …


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All original art by Dao Thao (Instagram/Website — and thanks!)

I went to Shimabara because of a newspaper article. It said a young man by the name of Keigo Kirino had died at a local speed eating contest. It was a riceball that did it; a chunk which became lodged in the young man’s throat and refused to leave. He died on route to the hospital.

He was 29.

Apparently, nobody had died at a speed eating contest before. Kirino was the first, which made him famous, or at least, famous enough to make the newspaper. …


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All original artwork by Louis-Étienne Vallée (Instagram, website — and thanks!)

Lee stumbles down the alleyway. Falls. Picks himself up.

Footsteps closing in. Hard, decisive. Clear in intent. Not stumbling. Not high on dust. Not regretting that third beer. Not like Lee.

He falls again, lifts himself up.

A sharp kick in the back. Lee tumbles into a pile of scrap. All skeletons of technologies that don’t need a physical form anymore. Items once indispensable. Once worth more than a small country, perhaps as important. Everything thrown out with the new iterations and the oncoming rush of new discoveries. No better than trash now. Treated as such.

But something about it, still. The trash. The cold and the grey. The abandoned. Lee feels a little at home here. …

About

Hengtee Lim (Snippets)

Fragments of the everyday in Tokyo, as written by Hengtee Lim.

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