Asian American Battle Royale

by Eliot Li

After a long piss-poor day in your cubicle at work, you’re ready to sit down and play some video games!

You start at Level I: Los Angeles Massacre of 1871. You select your character, Wong Chin, railroad worker turned shopkeeper, scrappy in his tan derby.

The angry white mob rides into town on horseback, chanting “Hang the Chinamen!” You’re inside a Spanish adobe building where you and the other Chinese immigrants live, when a man punches a hole in the roof and jumps into your bedroom. He holds a rope. He runs at you, but you swing your pickaxe—direct hit to his skull! He lurches backward, arms flying up, as his pixelated body blinks and disappears from the screen.

More men slip through the roof. They have guns. You dodge as they fire. You can’t fight bullets with a pickaxe, so you run. This is your home, you know where to hide. In the dirt, under the floorboards.

In darkness, you listen to the screams. The sickly smell of smoke and embers.

When finally there’s silence, you emerge from hiding. Outside, the hanging bodies sway in the moonlight. Your neighbors, your friends.

You are the last one standing. You are the Victor Royale!

Advance to Level II: New York City, 2022. Lots of characters to choose from—James Nguyen, 70 year old Vietnamese American man walking to the store for cigarettes. Sylvia Chang, 30 year old Chinese American female account executive trying to get to work. You choose the account exec.

You’re walking in your pantsuit on the streets of Manhattan. People everywhere are trying to push you down to the ground, yelling “Go back to your country!” You sprint zig zag patterns to avoid them.

You run down to the subway and wait for the Orange Line, which stops at your Rockefeller Center office. As the train approaches, a guy comes flying at you, trying to push you onto the tracks. You kick him in the nuts, and body slam him onto the platform, where he convulses before blinking and disappearing.

You’re on board the train now. When the doors close, you’re declared Victor Royale!

On to Level III: The Final Battle. The last, most formidable villain.

There’s an old white man, with a hideous comb-over, behind a lectern at a political rally. He’s talking about a Chinese Virus, and chanting “Kung Flu” to a roaring crowd of admirers.

You release a cauldron of vampire bats. They flit and flap and aim their fangs at the old man’s neck. He twirls around, swats in every direction, but manages to stay upright. He doesn’t stop spouting hate.

You open a wooden crate and release a swarm of killer bees. But the old man puts on a beekeeper suit, and the bees just bounce off his glossy white hood. You realize it’s not a beekeeper suit, but more like flowing cotton robes. It’s white, it’s hooded, and it keeps the bees out.

“Game over, man! Game over!” you shout, as you punch the screen.

Eliot Li lives in California. His work appears or is forthcoming in Trampset, Necessary Fiction, SmokeLong Quarterly, Gone Lawn, CRAFT, Pithead Chapel and elsewhere.

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