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‘Jiak liu lian’ by Yap Xiong

— Lyrik Courtney

At just under one-thousand words, ‘Jiak liu lian’ is a tiny, perfectly-executed exercise in suspense centered around two mysteries; despite the fact that only one such mystery is concluded by the story’s end (with the other being the identity of our POV character), both of the uncertainties are commendable—considered together, they leave me satisfied with the potential of my own unknowing. Second-person narratives are easier to write than they are to read; contest that if you so desire. I’ve had the illuminating experience of reading a variety of fiction-genre and literary-fiction written in the second-person that is less than stellar, and it is based on this experience that I say more often than not, the primary cause of this flatness has to do with how the perspective choice is often prioritized at the expense of other formal elements, such as pacing, dialogue, or the “fleshing out” of characters’ motivations and interests (no pun intended).

This is as supple as human flesh,” she says.

Now you understand where the smell’s coming from. You have the barest of glimpses of her smile, bordered by blood-encrusted teeth.

In this story, Yap Xiong has realized a vampire narrative that is not just enjoyable to read, but offers a fresh, engaging spin on an otherwise-stale mythos, and I love this bit of writing for all the cultural tensions it implies. The most tangible of these tensions being the rivalry between two particular impulses, which is quite subtly characterized in-text: there is the baser urge to inflict violence as indicated by the usual vampiric bloodletting, albeit only through indirect visual language; countering this is the protagonist’s refusal to surrender to that urge in spite of its ease, and while the reasons behind this rejection are not elaborated upon in great detail, the protagonist’s commitments—and the coloring of their internal conflict considering said commitments—situate these decisions neatly into the foreground of a story whose landscape is blurred to deliciously monstrous effect.