BLADE RUNNER X MOULIN ROUGE, 1930’s Shanghai.
Twenty-year-old showgirl Jingwen spends her nights under velvet walls and neon stage lights, dancing with charming strangers—a life she embraced to escape a dark family secret. But when a mysterious attacker begins to steal cabaret dancers’ faces around the city, Shanghai’s glittering mirage begins to crack. To solve the mystery, Jingwen must delve into the world of her estranged grandmother, an outcast surgeon who makes cybernetic limbs for the city’s most powerful gang—who will tell any lie to regain Jingwen’s trust.
Every Friday, I deliver the bones the way my grandmother taught me, with my shoulders down and my chin held high.
“Be proud of my art,” she said, so I strut down the alleys of the Old Chinese City with her package wrapped in brown paper, wearing my pride like an ostrich feather fan behind my head.
The way night unfolds in Shanghai, like a sigh against a mirror, makes the city harder and harder to read as the hours crawl by—the bluish gas lamps above the fortune tellers’ stalls, the hooves of a slaughtered cow swinging gently over the pebbled sidewalk, the large wooden mallet falling with quiet thuds onto a sheet of peanut brittle. Everything is muted, like the beginning of a dream. As I catch the bloodshot eyes of the pork butcher eating noodles behind his stall, I begin to think the streets are inhabited not by warm bodies, but by ghosts.
Past the blinking neon sign for a Turkish bath, the man I’m looking for is sitting on a crate beside a fruit stand in the crumbling wall, smoking a cigarette. As he draws his hand away from his mouth, his fingers glint silver in the washed-out moonlight.
I’m not sure he isn’t a ghost.