Gothic

Home

Back

 
 

 

Bradley, R. J. (1994). Hong Kong Macabre and Other Stories. Hong Kong: Hong Kong Horrors.

There is no actual story called ‘Hong Kong Macabre’, rather this is the collective title given to the first four stories described here. The stories deal with supernatural and natural murder and death. They frequently involve people who are alienated from their surroundings, either through prejudice, myopia, or necessity. Hong Kong acts as a backdrop to these stories and as an active element in them: It is never a landscape without threat, it is home to unpleasant expatriates and criminals (playing to general preconceptions of Hong Kong as purveyed by popular fiction), and even when it is sought as a location of beauty (as in the first two stories) it is also a location of death and destruction.

"An Afternoon Out"

Told from the perspective of a ghost. The narrator and his family are playing at the beach when they are interrupted/by another, Australian family, who are somewhat grotesque and uncouth. The Australian man keeps going on about how the beach is haunted by a family, killed by lightning. The narrator becomes so fed up with the unpleasant family that he calls on his ghostly family to leave at which point they gather round him and disappear by physically re-enacting their death by lightning, to the horror of the Australians. It is only at this point that the reader realises that they are ghosts.

The story is set ‘in a tiny cove on the remote side of the Sai Kung peninsula’(3). The ghost family are, by implication, British expats. There is a certain rivalry between the narrator and the Australian about their knowledge/experience of Hong Kong, although this is presented briefly. It reflects the common enough experience of rivalry to know places ‘off the beaten track’. And an authenticity of the experience of living abroad, i.e., the desire not to seem a tourist/newcomer.

"Off Season"

Louisa, an author goes from London to a newly constructed beach resort on an island in Hong Kong, off season, to have peace, quiet and the sea, in order to complete her novel. She finds to her annoyance that she is not the only person in the resort. The next door cottage is occupied by a blonde woman, whom she has seen arguing with a well dressed Chinese man in the nearby village. After an evening disrupted by noise from these neighbours, she wanders out along the beach, in the morning, and finds various items which, to the reader, clearly indicate that the woman has been murdered. However, Louisa, intent as she is on her romantic novel and on finding material for it, fails to see these “clues”. Returning to the cottage the Chinese man turns up in a mess and basically confesses his guilt to her before walking out into the sea to drown himself. Once again Louisa misreads all this, despite her personal pride in her ability ‘to see’ things, and assumes that he is a workman for the resort, and that he has simply gone for a swim in the sea.

"A Pile of Rags"

Carleton works for a gangster called Mr. Chang, whose offices are in an area of disused warehouses on the waterfront. He is on his way, at night, to drop off the money he has collected for Chang when his car breaks down. He is not far from the building so he gets out and begins to walk. The route is unlit and derelict. He thinks he hears something behind him but cannot see anything. Hearing it again he looks but seeing nothing carries on. Then he suddenly realises that a pile of rags had moved. He is pursued by the pile of rags and is finally attacked and killed by it. The rags appear to enter his body. Carleton's body is found later by Chang’s men and, being utterly mangled is disposed of in one of the nearby derelict buildings. As the leave it behind, looking like a pile of rags, they fail to see it move. The story represents the buildings as a place in which both natural and supernatural predators reside, unnoticed.

"Overkill"

An unhappily married couple, Philip and Lucille, fall out on their way to a party in the new territories. Phillip's short cut has led them nowhere and they have ended up having to get out of the vehicle and walk. He strides off ahead and disappears from view. When she sees him again he is coming out of the bushes as if he has been for a pee. He refuses to wait or slow down for her and trying to catch up she falls over but he still doesn’t stop. Enraged she runs at him with a sharp stone and bashes his head in with it until his face is unrecognisable. At first she is horrified by what she has done then realises this is her escape. She drags his body to a precipice and pushes him over into what she can hear is a river below. Continuing along the track she eventually sees a light and is taken in by the Chinese occupants. She acts as if fainting and overcome with grief and on the arrival of an English-speaking member of the family, Stanley Wong, claims her husband fell. He takes her to the house of her friends which is a long way away. On her arrival everyone makes a big fuss of her and they say that her husband is in another room. Going through, expecting to see the body of her husband she is horrified to find him at the fire alive and well saying that she got out of the car and stamped off without him. As they clap eyes on each other they both are shocked and she realises that he has set her up to be murdered by the man she has just killed.

Lucille’s views of the Chinese are stereotypical, fearing that when they try to assist her in their house they may be poisoning her in order to steal her jewels; and when Stanley Wong tells her that it is a long way to her friends’ house she imagines that he is only saying it to receive a big tip. he darkness and unfamiliarity of the nightscaped new territories, in which the couple are first shown, represents, in some ways, the disorientation of her psycho-social geography.

"Cold Hands Warm Heart"

About a woman who is murdered by her haunted fridge. Not necessarily set in Hong Kong, the cleaner is called Mrs. Chu, but there is no reference made to the world outside the woman’s kitchen except for her husband going to and returning from work.

"Hunchbelly"

Fantasy story about a man, Eskashan, who has moved with his wife and child to the city to make a living as a performing poet. They live in a poor area since he doesn’t make much money. He hears that Hunchbelly, a solitary shopkeeper, who never seems to do any trade, is thought to horde a treasure in his shop. Eskashan breaks in and finding a trap door goes down to find a room full of human bones. Moving further into the caverns below the shop he follows tunnels to a series of burial chambers until he finds a recently dead woman adorned with jewels. He robs the bier but as he is lifting her golden death mask the corpse begins to move and he runs back out the way he came. However, having made it safely back up into the shop he is attacked by the living dead, who hold him hostage until Hunchbelly returns. Hunchbelly explains that this is his trade – he provides bodies to the living dead (which he carries around strapped to his front, which is what makes his belly look humped like a camel) and they in turn provide gold and jewels. Finally, Eskashan is fed to the living dead, and as he is mauled by them he sees the remains of his wife and child in Hunchbelly’s bag, ready to be fed to the living dead too.

 

 
All entries and data copyright © The Hong Kong English Literature Database