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Eels, A Short Story Inspired by the Kowloon Walled City

Painting of a fish man

After our little gastronomic excursion, literature returns with a short story written as part of the Club Contreforme. For those who would like to try it, here are the rules: within 48 hours, write a text of five hundred words maximum, inspired by Kowloon.

I hope you’ll enjoy this read and, if the theme gives you ideas, don’t hesitate to send me your stories.


On one side, the viscous magma of smooth, lustrous eels that still seemed intact, ready to open their pointed mouths or writhe in a final spasmodic effort of desperate yearning. On the other, the pile of refuse, of entrails, bones, tails, and fins, in which cockroaches and plump rats crept. In between, on the workbench, pale fillets tucked neatly into their plastic boxes waited to be turned into croquettes. In front of it, Tim, following the rhythm of his large knife, breathed an almost mechanical energy into this fetid microcosm. To the smell of fish, there was added a nauseating stench from the adjoining toilet, separated from the kitchen by a curtain decorated with bubbles, lending a colorful note to the underwater atmosphere of this all too dark room.

Tim had to make up for Sam’s desertion, who, instead of standing behind him like a faithful double, had left his post due to issues with his bowels. The large knife glistened and danced in a precise, jerky solo. The beads of sweat that Tim wiped from time to time with the sleeve of his faded T-shirt slithered down his forehead and burned his eyes. Under normal circumstances, he would have gone for a cigarette in the dark passageway barely lit by a few neon lights, but today he would have to deal with the morning’s delivery alone.

Suddenly, water began to trickle from the ceiling to his right, down the wall, and he wondered once again how it chose its route. Why this wall rather than another? There was no way of knowing where it would flow beforehand.

“Are you going to be out soon? Come on, what are you doing in there?”

“Take my word for it, you don’t want to know. I feel like it’s calming down though.”

In fact, Tim knew full well what was going on in the toilet - the olfactory fumes accompanied by the audible blasts left very little to the imagination - but he hoped his admonitions would hasten the end of this gastro-intestinal evacuation. Irritated by a pain in his shoulder and the need to inhale some nicotine, he continued in his work and tried to suppress an unnecessary outburst of anger. Sam hadn’t chosen to just sneak off. Like the rain that always found a path, other phenomena obeyed the relentless laws of nature. Once he had recovered, to make up for his absence, he would give him a few more hours of rest, while he would take care of…

The knife stopped in mid-air. Incredulous, Tim looked at his fingertip lying on the chopping board. Blood dripped down from it in ruddy threads. He felt no pain, just surprise at such clumsiness. He found a clean rag and tore off a strip to wrap around the severed chunk before stuffing it in his pocket. He wrapped his index finger with the rest and pressed down.

Alerted by the silence, Sam pushed aside the curtain just enough to reveal his pale face.

“What’s going on with you? How come you’ve stopped? Oh wow. What a mess.”

Translated by L. O. Boult

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