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The dreams fuelled my desires and I follow them willingly – Simon

Ghosts Through the Cracks by Sarah Zama is a historical fantasy novella set in 1920s Chicago. Meet the main bad guy, Simon.

Black and white photo of a young Asien man in a smart suit, sitting at a club table.

The world is changing so fast it is unsettling.

I remember plains of grass extending to the horizon. The sound of the wind swishing among the long green blades. An untamed river. Birds flying in the sky. Where has this maze of concrete come from? And when?
But no, what I remember is a city of wooden houses and people jamming everywhere. Shouts and calls and laughter and cry. Beijing, where I was born, on the other side of the world.

It is hard to remember, sometimes. I can hardly say what part of me is remembering. San Francisco? It’s a haze on the back of my mind, some sort of ‘before’, though I’m not sure before what.
I hated it there. I hated San Francisco the moment I walked out of the ship. I was examined, asked questions I couldn’t possibly understand. And then thrown in a part of the city that was like China slapped on the face of San Francisco. Why had I crossed the ocean if then I found myself in China, only without being in China? So that they could expect me to act like a Chinese when I wasn’t expected to act like an American? Which, in their eyes, I’ll never be, anyway.
It was just crazy. I was going to leave that behind. Soon. As soon as possible. And to do that, I needed money.

I met this man in San Francisco Chinatown, a fellow Chinese from Beijing. A lot older than me. He had started an import/export enterprise, bringing stuff from home to this new land. He mostly worked for Chinatown, but some of the things he brought in he sold at fabulous prices to Americans. He made money so easily it was shocking. And worth learning.
I’m a fast learner, you know? He liked that. In a very short time, I became his assistant, hen his associate. I learned English fast and good. I learned to deal with Americans a lot better than he ever did. I was learning, and I could see the day I’d leave San Francisco getting nearer and nearer.

Black and white photo of a young Chinese man in a smart suit.

Then my associate decided he had gained enough and wanted a family. There were crowds of Chinese in Chinatown, but very few were women. So he did what most of us did: he bought a wife from home. I thought that was a sensible way to go. I had many women, I mean non-Chinese women. Usually for just a few days. But when I set up a house, of course I’ll want a Chinese woman. He got in contact with home, asked for a woman suitable for marriage. Asked after her looks and personality, and when he was satisfied, he asked for her to be sent over.
Two weeks after this, he caught the flu and died.

And the new wife… can’t say it bothered me to have her come here without reason, but it was an annoyance. What would I do with this woman? I didn’t need a wife yet.
But when I saw her…
She was beautiful. Tall, with a stately countenance. Fair skin, sparkling dark eyes, with a lot of life in her. And she was lost. So lost. I thought I could help her find a way into my life and my bed. She never complained about that.
It was perfect. I had a woman, and I had enough money to leave San Francisco with her.

I don’t know how I learned about the speakeasy in Chicago. Another businessman, most likely. I didn’t know where Chicago was even when he told me it was in Illinois. It was fine. I didn’t care where it was as long as it was far away from San Francisco. And I was happy when I learned there were so few Chinese in Chicago that I was unlikely to ever stumble into one.
I bought the place straight away.

"But I remember the dreams. They inspired me. I followed them willingly".Read Simon's version of the story, 'Ghost Through the Cracks', a #historicalfantasy #novella set in 1920s Chicago Share on X
Black and white photo of a young Chinese man in a smart suit standing against a wall near a big lamp shaped like a giant lotus bloom.

I remember this quite clearly. Early times in Chicago – I don’t remember just as clearly. But I remember the dreams. Strange dreams that would visit me every night. I can’t say I know what they were about, but they were inspiring. The feeling is still with me. They inspired what I should do, what I wanted to achieve and how to achieve it. They gave me purpose, and I gave myself to them. I followed their inspiration willingly. When I lay beside Su Xie in our bed, I always hoped dreams would visit me.

That’s all I remember.

But no, no, I also remember what it was like before. The need to share. The loneliness of not sharing. It was like a drug. I felt incomplete without sharing. Sharing my desires. Sharing my aspirations. Sharing my knowledge. It was normal, before. Before – I don’t know when that before is.

And I don’t know… What would I share? I knew that sharing would allow me to gain what I deserved. But the desire will burn. It will burn everything and it will need to be fed. That’s why I never stopped Su Xie from pursuing her desires. I wanted her to stay genuine and strong. I wanted her to be happy and satisfied because that would feed her loyalty. That would keep her near.

And now I need her more than ever.

Pinterest Pin. Title: Give in to the Feeling by Sarah Zama. The blurred image in green-blue tones of a young Chinese man in a smart suit.
SIMON (Ghosts Through the Cracks by Sarah Zama) - A black and white pic of Chinese actor Chen Kun as Simon (Ma Shu)
Pinterest Pin. Title: Give in to the Feeling by Sarah Zama. A black and white image of a drop of water on a wide, wet leaf.

Who’s modelling as Simon

Chen Kun

Kun Chen was born on February 4, 1976 in Chongqing, Sichuan, China.
He gained a following after appearing in one of his earliest films titled Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. He rose to new heights when he played Chen Qiushui in The Knot.
Hundred Flowers Award winner for his performance in the film Painted Skin as Wang Sheng and Golden Horse nominee for A West Lake Moment. He is also notable on television for his performance in Love in Shanghai.

Image of a book titled "Ghosts through the Cracks" by Sarah Zama on a tablet computer.


  • Alex Hurst
    Posted February 13, 2016 at 14:27

    What a fantastic excerpt, Sarah! I love, love the voice here. It feels very authentic, slightly flawed and just really well done. :)

    • Post Author
      Posted February 14, 2016 at 10:39

      Thanks Alex!
      Simon doesn’t get a POV in the story, so it was particularly fun to write :-)

  • Sara L.
    Posted February 15, 2016 at 15:41

    Yup. This sounds like the Simon I know from the story. It’s interesting, because we only see him from other characters’ perspectives, so hearing Simon “speak for himself” (so to say) allows us to get to know him better.

    I would say more… but I won’t, for fear of giving away spoilers from the story. ;) But nice job again, Sarah!

    • Post Author
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 09:41

      Thanks, Sara.
      It was fun writing in his perspective :-)

      And yes… we are in the know ;-)

  • Ali Isaac
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 00:41

    Intriguing, Sarah!

    • Post Author
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 09:42

      Happy you like it :-)
      They say every character’s should act as if the story were their story. this is basically what I’ve done with this short. It was such fun!

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