There once was a man called Zhang Duyu (张独玉) who worked as a freelance writer for several magazines that mainly catered to the teen market. He had often thought about writing a novel, but had never done anything about it. He was not married; nor did he have a girlfriend. He found it hard to talk to women unless it was about everyday matters or in connection with his job. If he wanted to talk to some woman because he liked her or thought she was pretty, shyness would overwhelm him and he would not dare say anything for fear of making a fool of himself. And when he thought about it, he did not know what he might say anyway. He once wrote in his diary that he would not mind if his girlfriend turned out to be a ghost or a fox spirit, but no beautiful and mysterious women ever appeared. This often depressed Zhang.
One day, he ran into his neighbour, Wang Dalong (王大龙) as he was getting into the lift. Zhang Duyu hit the button that opened the doors just before they were going to crush Wang. Zhang observed that his neighbour was looking pleased with himself, like a cat that has flagrantly eaten a canary and then been rewarded with a saucer of milk. Wang did not hesitate to tell him that he had a new and indescribably beautiful girlfriend, adding boastfully that the sex was to die for. Zhang remarked how lucky Wang was, but he looked at his pot-bellied neighbour and wondered how he could have a girlfriend when Zhang, who was much better looking, had none. He was inclined to be sceptical about Wang’s description of her as a peerless beauty. But when Zhang happened to see her her a few nights later, he found, to his irritation, that Wang had not been exaggerating. This made Zhang even more depressed.
A few days later, the two men net again under similar circumstances. Zhang instantly noted that Wang was looking pale and haggard. He commented on his neighbour’s sickly appearance, but Wang denied anything was wrong. To the contrary, he readily informed Zhang that he now had a second girlfriend who was possibly even more beautiful than the first and just as good in bed. Again, when Zhang caught sight of this new girlfriend, he saw that Wang had no more exaggerated on this occasion than he had on the first. He sighed unhappily.
The next time Zhang Duyu saw Wang Dalong, the latter was looking even more gaunt. His skin seemed grey and his eyes tired, but he still insisted on boasting about his two girlfriends and how he was hoping to persuade them to engage in a threesome. He complained that his attempts to arrange such a liaison kept being thwarted and how frustrating it was. Zhang listened and thought that Wang had no real concept of the word frustration.
It was some time before Zhang saw his neighbour again. Wang had lost a lot of weight to the point where he was beginning to look skeletal. In spite of his shocking appearance, he boasted that his dream of a threesome had come true. Zhang had a nightmare about it soon after. He could not remember the dream very clearly, but in it, some woman kept pushing him away from her, even although he had not approached her. She ignored Zhang’s protestations and in frustration, he burst into tears.
It was from Mrs Lao (劳), Wang’s other neighbour, that Zhang heard Wang had fallen ill and had been taken to a hospital accompanied by one of his girlfriends. It was from Mrs Lao that Zhang then heard that Wang Dalong was home again. He went to visit his neighbour and, for the first and last time, met one of his girlfriends, Hu Lijin (胡丽锦). He sensed something odd about her, but was distracted when he saw just how ill Wang looked. But Wang assured him that he was now feeling much better and well on the road to recovery.
A few days after that, Zhang was woken by activity in the passage outside his door. But by the time he had roused himself sufficiently, the passage was empty. Later that day, he heard from his other neighbours that Wang had died during the night. His two girlfriends were mentioned in hushed voices, the suspicion among the middle-aged residents being that they had murdered him, while the elderly residents talked about ghosts and fox spirits. Those who were neither middle-aged nor old doubt that those two hot babes could murder anyone and dismissed ghosts and fox spirits as superstitious nonsense. They did until the rumour went round that a dead fox had been found in Wang’s flat. As a result, the fragile-minded youths had to lie down for a time in a darkened room until they recovered from the trauma.
The next night, Zhang was just beginning to fall asleep when he heard his bedroom door being opened. His heart started pounding and he opened his eyes a fraction. Bathed in a slight, ethereal glow, Wang’s other girlfriend entered the room. Zhang could not believe his luck. He was going to get shagged to death after all. He sat up without even bothering to pretend that he was even half asleep.
“Oh.” The girl sounded disappointed. “Wrong flat.” And she vanished without another word.