Pale Pale Fire
By Chelsea Lin
A somewhat satirical account of the life of a fictional protagonist who would be born in the year of the cat.
There is no cat in the Chinese zodiac. Yet I am convinced that I am a cat; I have nine lives. Death 1: Age two. Choked on the cauliflower Lily left on the dining table. When Lily tried to flag down a rickshaw, the drivers peddled away as fast as they could, seeing a screaming lady carrying a purple-faced child, begging for a ride to the hospital. Oh, that last poor driver who didn’t get away in time... The doctor declared death after my breathing stopped for 20 minutes. When I came back to life, they never found the cauliflower. Death 2: Age four. Fell off the balcony of a three-story building. Three ribs and a collarbone. Death 3: Age five. Fell into a muddy puddle while biking. The puddle must have been an abyss in disguise, for it was much deeper than I imagined. Technically, I did not die, but my heart died when nobody came looking for me. Death 4: Age seven. Drowned in Auntie’s swimming pool while Lily was cutting watermelon. Auntie declared “even if she wakes up, she would be a vegetable.” The doctors agreed without agreeing. Death 5: Age ten. Poisoned by a slice of raw fish. In the haziness of death, the doctors recognized me as the cauliflower girl! Death 6: Age twelve. So they did find the cauliflower, just in weird places. An intense surgery that featured many machines beeping faster and faster, all muting, then beating rhythmically again. Death 7: Age fourteen. A wrist and a visit to the emergency psychiatric ward. Death 8: Age sixteen. Took AP Physics. Fortunately or unfortunately, there is no resolution; I’m still waiting for Death 9. Meow!
Born in the year of the sheep, I’ve been fascinated with the Great Race, the fable detailing the reasons behind the sequence of the twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac.
This fictional piece, titled “Pale Pale Fire,” is a mashup of the Chinese zodiac and the saying “a cat has nine lives” In this excerpt, the protagonist lists her eight encounters with death, either physically or emotionally, with a humorous tone.
Chelsea is a freshman at USC studying Business Administration. Chelsea is an environmental activist, a social entrepreneur and a writer. She is inspired by her experiences growing up as an unwanted daughter in China and she writes about her childhood in hopes of empowering others like her. Chelsea enjoys reading many genres, especially fiction and mystery. Some of her favorites books include The Three-Body Problem and the Hercule Poirot series. In her free time, Chelsea can be found bowling with her friends or baking with her siblings.