Chapter 1
The alarm on my cellphone goes off, it’s 5:30 am. I feel the hotel bed sheets against my skin as I slowly commit to getting out of bed. I stand up and turn on the light, looking at my luggage as I decide which shirt to wear. I take a few more minutes to get belongings organized and then walk out the hotel door. I sit in the LYFT car and look out to the San Francisco Bay, or at least a Bay in San Francisco.
It’s my first time in San Francisco and I’ve only spent less than 12 hours here in an airport hotel.
I walk into the airport and make my way to the international terminal. I go through security and then make my way to my gate. My flight is still about 3 hours away so I’m not at much risk for missing it. As I sit down at my gate I see that the world I’m about to enter is a bit different from the already strange existence most everyone on the planet has gone through over the past 9 months.
Many people waiting for their flights are in full body hazmat suits, not exactly necessary for the flight rules but people are taking precautions. It’s October 2020 and most everyone is well accustomed to COVID protocols at this point. I continue to wait for another hour or so until my boarding group is finally called. I get on the plane and initially notice just how empty the plane is. Each row of 3 seats averages about 1 or two people.
I find my seat in a row completely by myself. I browse the entertainment screen and after a few minutes of deliberating I settle on The Life Aquatic of Steve Zizzou. I finish one movie and start Isle of Dogs but eventually get bored. I then realize the flight has the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance which I hadn’t actually seen and start that. A 10 hour documentary and it concludes about 30 minutes before we are scheduled to land in Seoul.
We land in Seoul but I and many others stay on the plane. We wait for around 40 minutes as the flight switches pilots. After some time we are back in the air for the very brief flight from Seoul to Shanghai. The plane lands for the second time and I am finally at my destination. I grab my belongings and make my way to the exit. As I’m standing in line to exit the plane the pilot and many others refer to an app that I had not heard of.
China is uniquely keen on apps for registration and otherwise. I also begin to realize my cellphone is not connecting and has no data. I switch SIM cards multiple times without any luck of connecting. I begin to panic a bit as I have no way to download and or register with this app that I have just heard of. We walk into the airport and make our way to a line of people. I stand in line and continue to fiddle with my phone. I eventually connect to the airports Wi-Fi and can finally communicate with my colleagues and parents. With an incredible amount of struggle I finally manage to download the app registering my passport and recent health information. I then take another winding passage of gates and queues.
I sit down and take a COVID test and then walk up a dark set of stairs. I again follow the masses of people and finally see a sign. Final Destination: Beijing. I stand in line and show multiple people my information. I eventually sit near the airport doors and wait with a group of about 15 people. Another man checks all of our information and we wait for another few minutes. Eventually a bus pulls up outside and we make our way to it. A different man again checks all of our information and we board the bus.
The trip on the bus seems to last over an hour as we wind across the highways and streets of outer Shanghai. It’s close to midnight and the streets are largely empty in the darkness outside. After a long and drowsy bus trip we arrive at our destination. We file out of the bus and make our way to another registration booth. After having our temperature taken and registering with another app we pay our 7800 RMB and are given keys to our rooms. I make my way through the back door of the hotel and up the elevator to my hotel. I open the hotel door and see the rather pleasant and clean hotel room which I will be confided to for the next two weeks.
After a full night’s rest off of jet leg I wake up to the morning sunlight of Shanghai. Not any particularly interesting part of Shanghai, just some semi-industrialized region of hotels and residential compounds. I stare out my window on the fifteenth floor observing all of the cars, bicycles, and pedestrians passing through the traffic lights.
After a few more minutes a knock is at my door and I open it up to a tray of food on the floor, identical to the ones at every other door. I take the tray inside and observe its contents. A chinese bun, some mixed vegetables and an egg. The food is neither terrible nor amazing. It’s a sufficient breakfast, in a sufficient hotel room, with a sufficient view. With breakfast finished I begin to organize myself to start my online class. I have two classes each weekday, AP Calculus and Precalculus, teaching to my class in Beijing.
My AP Calculus students I am familiar with, having taught them in-person in my time brief time in Beijing pre-pandemic. I’d taught online for the entirety of the Spring Semester but the difference being they had their own computers. The new teaching arrangement was now much more difficult now that the students had returned to the classroom, with me still being online. Teaching without actually being able to see the students faces or hear them ask questions made for a very awkward arrangement of me clicking through a power point. I had around 3 more weeks left of this arrangement and we were already almost 2 months into the semester.
I finished teaching both of my classes and then breathed a heavy sigh. I browsed twitter and youtube then went to rest on the bed a bit. I opened my eyes at around 3 pm. I went to open the hotel room door and collected my lunch which I set aside on the counter, I wasn’t hungry at the moment. I went to my luggage bag and took out my copy of Infinite Jest. I had been reading the book for about a month and a half and it was a mix of witty, bubbly, incomprehensible, and grueling all at the same time. I wasn’t particularly invested in whatever the story was in the book but I was determined to finish it and I certainly had some time to kill during quarantine to do it. After reading about 30 pages I closed my eyes again and attempted to take another nap. I groggily opened my eyes around 11pm. My sleep schedule was already becoming distorted. I browse twitter some more and try watching a movie. I occupy myself until around 5 am and then rest a bit more until I wake up for my class around 7:30 am.
The city outside keeps moving as I sit in a chair and again continue to watch the day pass as I stare out my hotel window. Nighttime creeps up again and the streets become vacant as the street lights illuminate and empty city grid. There’s no nature or greenery to be seen from my hotel room’s perspective. I have my hotel’s address but there’s nothing particularly notable about the location I am at all. I’ve been in Shanghai now for almost 10 days now without so much as stepping two feet out of the hotel room door. The food is left without ever seeing the people leaving it. The main human interactions I have each day are with my students, who I also can barely see from the perspective of the assistant teacher’s laptop camera. The night and day start blending together.
I do exercises on the desk chairs, standing up and down from it for an hour. It’s actually a pretty intense workout if done correctly and helps pass the time. My sleep is just random naps whenever I can get myself to rest, 6pm – 1am, 3 am – 7am , 10am – 5 pm, there’s nothing to wake up for, besides my two classes a day there’s no reason for a schedule. I skip meals, I usually have most of my breakfast and a bit of my dinner depending on what is served.
And then some form of the same thing again the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day and the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and the next day and then….. Freedom!
Finally it’s the thirteenth evening, tomorrow I can leave. I receive a phone call and am able to discern through my very broken Chinese that I will elect to leave at 10 am rather than later in the day. With my bags basically packed I try for one more night of intermittent napping.
The morning of the fourteenth day I rearrange my desks and tables from the chaos that I had them in back their original places. I stand outside my hotel room and see the twenty or so other people eagerly trying to leave as well. After a few more minutes an announcement is made and we take the elevator to the ground floor. I sign a few papers, receive my documents confirming I completed my two weeks quarantine.
After fourteen long time distorting days I am finally free, I bask in the brisk October morning sunshine.
I look back at my hotel and happily say goodbye forever.
I take a taxi to the train station and after a few hours board my bullet train back to Beijing. While China is in general very heavily populated the train rides can remind you how much open and empty spaces still exist between the metropolitan areas. A few giant apartment megaprojects still dot the horizon but still there is a bit of peace as you stare into the grassy fields and farms.
As I sit on the train I reflect on everything and how much had to happen for me to be back in this position. I had moved to China in 2019 after a tumultuous two years of teaching high school math in Colorado. I had always had a difficult time making friends and adulthood had proved to be no different. Living alone in Colorado in an apartment that took up a large majority of my teaching salary grew lonely. I had no social circles and only went out to hang out with my old high school friend that also happened to live in Colorado as well. Life was feeling increasingly uninspired and emotionally deficient. I had nothing to look forward to and had almost no one to spend time with. My performance in my job reflected a lack of focus and discipline as well and after the winter break I was told that they wouldn’t be automatically renewing my teaching contract, I could reapply for the same position. Rather than fight to get my job back I started browsing the internet and posting my resume on job boards. I had a few interviews with schools nearby, one in Santa Fe, New Mexico, some calls with some schools in the Denver metropolitan area. After a lot of mixed to bad results I received a phone call from a company called Dubelle, a teaching company in China.
I was quickly put through the application process and was scheduled for an interview. I had never in my life considered living in China and initially the idea sounded a bit insane. After some conversations with my friends and family it started to feel like more of a possibility. I had a very smooth online interview and within another day or so I signed a contract and began working on my Visa. In August 2019 I had my bags packed for my first overseas trip in twelve years, my first trip to Asia, and the beginning of a completely new chapter in my life.
My train eventually arrived in Beijing around 8pm. I got off of the train and made my way to the station. I hadn’t eaten since before noon so I looked for somewhere familiar to eat, KFC or something similar. I see multiple options and try to enter.
“Sao JianKang Bao”
A woman standing in the front directs me to scan a QR code. I had lived in China for five months before the pandemic and had never seen anything like this before. After reading a bit I realized it was something regarding health but didn’t understand much beyond that. I attempted to scan the QR code but with no luck. I realized that they wouldn’t let me into the restaurant without scanning this QR code in the right way, or with the right app so I looked for another restaurant. Every individual restaurant had the same code to scan. With my main priority being to go home I decided to skip dinner and find a taxi. After about an hour my taxi arrived at my apartment complex grounds. I carried my bags through the complex and made my way to my own building. I got to my door and unlocked it. I entered the apartment I had left 8 months ago without knowing how long I would be away. A seemingly normal winter holiday trip to Thailand turned into an 8 month stay back in America as a global pandemic consumed the entire planet. I looked around my small living room and saw multiple cards and some small gifts from my students and co-teachers welcoming me back to China.
I still had seven more days of “soft” quarantine before I could reenter my school. I could leave my apartment but still had to teach online, with my school now directly across the street from me.
It was November 1st, and the US election was now two days away. Joe Biden was leading in the polls but it was impossible to know or guarantee anything that would happen in two days’ time. The US response to COVID had been a disaster up to this point, hundreds of thousands of people dead.
Marches and protests regarding masks and government mandates were organized all across the country and generally were politically aligned with Republicans and Donald Trump. America has always been a place of conflict and arguments but had never been better demonstrated during my lifetime than during the COVID pandemic.
Whether from Fox News, Facebook or some Youtube conspiracy theorist, a certain percentage of the American population had gained a massive distrust and disdain for anything even hinting at a COVID prevention policy. The summer of 2020 in America was loud, chaotic and deadly for those that did and did not believe that COVID was a threat to the health of humans.
Famously the first cases of COVID-19 were detected in Wuhan, China. While initially the local governments practiced a form of prolonged denialism regarding the disease once China fully accepted it as a threat they fully mobilized to contain and control the virus. Multiple hospitals were built within days to treat those infected in Wuhan China. The entire country entered a period of partial lockdown as the nation grappled with the spread of what would become the greatest viral epidemic in over a century.
It had now been 8 months since Wuhan had went on full lockdown and had now fully opened up operations as a city as well as most of the country. While traveling to and from China was difficult, operations within the nation started to regain a strong sense of normalcy, even when compared to much of the world. Restaurants and stores were open as normal in Beijing and social events were relatively back to the way they had been before the pandemic. While much of the world was also starting to open up restaurants it wasn’t due to a decrease in COVID rates, mostly it was a decrease in tolerance and patience for any and all COVID prevention measures. China was able to function normally while still maintaining close to zero COVID infections nationwide, due largely to a comprehensive system of health monitoring.
While I was happy to be back in China and back to my pre-COVID life I was still adjusting to the new changes. After some deliberation and help from the office workers at my school I was finally able to get my health code app working on my phone so I could enter restaurants, malls, and basically every indoor space. The health code tracks all of your COVID related medical history as well as the buildings and cities you have visited, the type of app that would give Alex Jones and other American right-wing news sources ten hours of content each.
In the afternoon on my first full day back in my apartment I went out for a run by the canal near my apartment complex. It is about four kilometers just to get there but once you arrive it is one of the most beautiful parks I have been to in my entire life. American media might show some of the urban and populated parts of China but if you know where to look there can be some really amazing scenery. I would always run alone on this canal, one because I really didn’t have anyone to run with in the area of Beijing where I lived and also because I rather enjoyed running alone.
I had long been a runner and had had many teammates and running partners over the years. As time went on and I aged into my late twenties I continued running but lost contact with many of my college running teammates. Many of high school friends I was still in touch with but most had moved on from their running days. At this point in my life, and probably for most runners out of college, I was running for myself. I don’t think you ever really can have the same spark or love for a sport than when you’re doing it as part of a real team, a team you’ve grown up with. Regardless of all of this I continued to go out and keep focused on some sort of goal for myself. Break 35 minutes in the 10k? I had done this before but it was something to work towards again if I were to be working towards anything athletically.
Along the canal I saw kids playing in the parks and couples holding hands on the pathways. The weather was beautiful and cool. Early November is a bit cold but there is still enough sunshine to make everything worthwhile. After 5 miles I reached the end of the canal park and turned around and headed back the same way I came. I felt a bit stiff after 14 days of quarantine but was relatively happy with my fitness level considering everything.
I continued teaching my last remaining days of online learning. I still had yet to meet my Precalculus class in-person, after two and a half months of classes. With such an awkward arrangement of classes it was difficult to really know what level my students were at, especially with AP Calculus. We had a few assessments and generally it seemed like the students were struggling and a bit below where they should be relative to the schedule of the class.
November 3rd finally arrived and the 2020 US election was finally upon us. Without going into a great amount of details Joe Biden won. Eighty million voters came to push Donald Trump out of office whether he wanted to leave or not. As we all know Donald Trump gracefully conceded the race and nothing weird or bad happened regarding the results of the 2020 election.
Watching the election results finally confirmed a few days later I was relatively content. The election of Joe Biden confirmed America had at least a partial bit of sanity left even if it wasn’t particularly revolutionary. America’s racism, capitalist exploitation, and corruption would finally be a bit more subtle, like it used to be.
I was finally ready to go back to school in person. After a global pandemic, 2 international flights, multiple lay-overs, and 8 months of online teaching, it was finally time to teach AP Calculus in person a reunite with my students. As I walk over across the street to my school I feel a bit nervous with anticipation. Will the students cry? Will they cheer? It’s been so long will they be difficult to recognize? What about my precalculus students who I have never met before at all? As I walk through the school doors I see the principal of the international department where we work in, Nick. He welcomes me back and leads me to location of our new classrooms, slightly different from where the previous ones had been.
I’m then led to my Precalculus class, I give a wave and the students give a scattered “Hi” to me. I then go to the AP Calculus classroom and see my students who I had left almost a year ago. A few turn and wave to me. Peter comes up to me and says “Hello Mr. Truedson”. I say hello to everyone and they go back to working on their papers and walking around the room.
I head back to our new office and start to organize my papers and desk space. I meet the few new teachers and get a few updates and the new operations of the office. Things are starting to get back to normal and life begins to resume to the way it was before the world had turned upside down.
I didn’t really have any friends in Beijing, I had one on co-teacher who I occasionally did things with who was fired while we were teaching online in America. Also there were some British primary school English school teachers who were never able or didn’t want to come back to China. I did things mostly by myself and my list of activities was extremely limited. Browse Twitter and Youtube, go running, occasionally go grocery shopping and then walk around the mall watching people. As far as public spaces goes there’s a great deal of predictability and routine in the life of people in China. As far as what you see in public spaces everyone is well kept, wearing branded clothing and shoes, drinking coffee or something similar, keeping mostly to themselves as they stroll from one place to the other.
The subway in China is particularly sterile from noise or anything else. There’s no one playing drums on the subway platforms, there’s nobody yelling about how only Jesus Christ will save you in the subway car. Everyone has headphones in or is sitting silently mindfully waiting to be transported to their destination.
China, like anywhere, is very lonely without any friends. It felt a bit better than the loneliness in Colorado but not in a way that is easy to articulate. Maybe because I was in a slightly better position financially or didn’t feel like I was quite wasting my life a way in the US but at the end of the day I was still just wandering around a mall all by myself waiting to get tired enough to go home and do nothing there either.
I would try to make food at home, either some sort of stir fry or Western dish, but it was never quite the same as it had been with a truly American grocery store which I was always used to. There are plenty of delicious restaurants in China, Western and Chinese, but I lived far enough from the city center that I usually settled for my own cooking or KFC.
My life had settled back into a routine, I wasn’t as chronically depressed as I was teaching in the US but I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as happy either. The pandemic was far from over but people in America and elsewhere were already beginning to operate as if it was. China had now gotten a handle over their COVID situation and life within the country was back to normal. As far as I was concerned things weren’t that bad but they also weren’t very good. Maybe happiness wasn’t really obtainable after all. Maybe life is really just about getting to the end in one piece. I hadn’t died from a deadly respiratory disease, I hadn’t been strangled to death from the knee of a police officer, I wasn’t dead broke but I also wasn’t rich. Life was fine, the world was getting by and moving on even after millions had already died from COVID. Joe Biden was elected president, and maybe that’s enough.
Chapter 2
In my brief time back in Beijing I tried to make a bit of an attempt to connect with the few social circles and activity groups I was already aware of. As a runner a while back I had just searched “Running” on WeChat, China’s primary and ubiquitous social media platform, and I quickly found a group called HeyRunning.
I had joined HeyRunning before twice and didn’t particularly like it. They met up multiple times a week and particularly on Saturday mornings. At the time I had been training pretty hard and was in relatively good shape. Most of the runners at HeyRunning were average to below average runners, beginners or something similar. I was getting tired of sitting at home by myself so I decided to join their Saturday morning run. I took the 50 minute subway ride to the city center and made my way to the park where they meet up to run. I introduced or reintroduced myself to the runners there who I recognized and after a few minutes we left for our run. We did about a 2 kilometer warm up and then some short intervals. We did another cool down back to our meet up spot and finished with some stretching.
After the run we went back to the mall area to get some coffee and lunch. Some people ordered smoothies, rice bowls, or sandwiches. I ordered a kimchi steak rice bowl which I had ordered previous times before. I began socializing with some of the other runners and asking where they were from. Some of the American runners were laughing about Rudy Giuliani’s recent mix-up at Four Seasons Total Landscaping. I then began talking to one of the runners and the videographer. He was from the UK and was at HeyRunning mostly to shoot video. I had been in the front for most of the run and he was commenting how I would benefit from joining some of the other running groups in Beijing.
“There’s this other running where a lot of the better runners in Beijing group, it’s called Hash, Hash House Harriers I think”
“Ok, I’ll check it out”
I had never heard of a group by this name in my entire life but I was interested in meeting some higher level runners in the city.
“Just search hash or hash house on WeChat”
I looked up on my phone and quickly found their WeChat page. I looked up when their next run was and it was the following Saturday.
“Looks interesting”
I scrolled through the information of the upcoming run and was a bit confused about the listed information. Mostly commenting on how “shitty” the trail was going to be and how much beer they would drink.
“This is a running group?”
“Yeah, they run all over the city, I think the location changes every week” “Sure”.
I follow the accounts WeChat page and then save the information. I talk a bit more with the rest of the table and then eventually say goodbye to everyone.
I go to school as normal for the rest of the week, the biggest issue being with my AP Calculus students. While we had online classes it’s beginning to become apparent that for a small group of students the online learning was effective but for the majority they didn’t quite absorb the lessons in the way that was needed. I continue to review the material from previous lessons while also trying to move forward  with the requirements of the semester.
I also began to spend a bit more time with the English teacher from our department August. August was from South Africa and spent a lot of time at home as well. August in particular was very adamant to stay away from the cold weather and wouldn’t leave his apartment for anything other than work past October. August did still try to run a small bit when he could but the majority of the time was spent in his apartment smoking cigarettes. August was friendly and we would walk home from work together and he would tell me of his life in South Africa, teaching in the Middle East, and his experiences at his other job in Beijing. With a department of only 3 foreign teachers including our center principal we were very close and stuck together for most of the working day.
Saturday came around and I got on the subway to make my trip to the running group Lewis had told me about. This particular running group switches locations every weekend so there can be a lot of travelling. This run was about 50 minutes west of the city center and I lived about 50 minutes east of the city center so the trip over all was close to 2 hours. The run was at 2pm and I left my house around 11am, eager to be on time. I was all dressed in my running clothes and left out my door. I sat and read my phone for a bit as the train passed by each consecutive station. After 50 minutes or so I made a transfer then for a few more stop then another transfer. The stop was on the very last station on the line and I got off when we arrived. I scanned my card to exit the station and then walked outside to see the foothills of the Beijing Mountain-scape. The far east and far west sides of the city are relatively desolate compared to the very middle of the city but as far out as we were there were still lots of people milling about heading home or to a park. I hadn’t eaten much that day so I checked if there was something that looked appealing. A few trucks serving noodles or rice dishes but nothing that I felt was worth purchasing. I meandered over to the starting location of the run and could tell I was the first one there. I walked around bit more waiting and observing the area in general. I went back and sat on the sidewalk and continued to wait for anyone who might show up.
After another 30 minutes someone showed up who seemed like they could be part of the group.
I was in a far corner of the parking lot and we made eye contact. He was hanging around the meeting point so it seemed pretty certain that he was waiting for the same running group I was. After another 3 minutes or so I got up and talked with the man.
“Are you with the running group?”, I said.
“Yeah, Yeah” he replied.
“Ok, cool, What’s your name?”
“Pickle Boy”
“Pickle….Pickle Boy?”
“Yeah yeah, Pickle Boy”
“Ok, nice to meet you”
We wait together for about 10 more minutes, finally more people start to trickle in and by 2pm there’s a crowd of around maybe 20 people. I begin to introduce myself to people. I go up to a woman who seems friendly.
“Hi, how are you my name’s Erik, what’s your name?” “Hi, my name’s Anal Compulsion”
I’m slightly taken aback but don’t say anything. “Nice, where are you from?”
“Canada, you?
We have a short conversation about how we were both teachers and how she moved to China and about her living in Thailand previously.
I eventually start ask someone else the same thing. “Hi,how are you, what’s your name?
“Banana Shoes, what’s your name” “Erik”
“Nice to meet you Erik”
Everyone was very friendly and nice and everyone had very strange names. I tried processing it a bit but also started focusing on what was expected to be a run. There were people of all ages and sizes, people also didn’t exactly seem dressed for running but I decided to just follow what the group is doing.
Eventually there was an announcement that we were to get started. “CIRCLE UP!” a woman yelled.
We all form a circle behind the subway station with the woman standing on a bit of a platform. On the ground there are different shapes and symbols written in chalk. Before I can process what any of it means the woman makes an announcement.
I step into the circle by myself and a different woman begins to explain what each of the marks supposedly means. I’m really unable to understand what she is talking about at all and am wondering how any of this figures into a running group. Finally they finish with a sort of christening of 3 of the people and after that the crowd disperses from the corner in the back of the subway station. We then again to stand around near the front of the subway station waiting for the next instructions. Suddenly Anal Compulsion walks up to me and says
“Aren’t you a runner?” “Yes”
“They just left, you should go now”
I look over and see people running away and I sprint a bit to catch up to them.
After catching up with the group I see them all over not going in any particular direction, going ahead and then running back and past me.
“Are you?” one says
“Checking!” another responds
I am completely bewildered as to what is happening but I continue to follow a man who seems to be the leader, or is at least one of the loudest people.
We continue to scramble around and then the group eventually decides to run all the way back to where we had originally started.
The running group scatters around and eventually jumps into a ditch. “Found it! ON ON!”
The crowd of runners then jumps into the same ditch and I dive in too, we are then running around a narrow edge of a canal and I try to maintain my balance as I follow the main group completely confused as to what is happening or why.
We then reach a wider part of the canal that has running path the group of runners continues to yell and shout”
“ON ON!”
“ON ON!”
I have yet to understand what these words mean or why they’re being yelled. Then as I’m running I look to the ground and see what looks a like the letter “h” with an arrow at the top pointing in the direction we’re running. I look and see the lead runner still running ahead.
“ON ON”, he yells.
I see another chalk “h” and then another, it starts to become apparent that the marks are leading a trail and the “ON ON!” call is to represent when someone’s found a mark. Now understanding the point of the game a bit more I start to run a bit faster. I catch up to the lead runner and we are in stride together.
Suddenly a new mark shows up, a big chalk circle. “OPEN CHECK!”, the lead runner yells.
The lead runner runs up the stairs to his left and I decide to keep going forward, not completely sure again why. I run up the canal a bit more and eventually reach another chalk circle but with three “x”s written inside. I look around and see runners scattered everywhere heading in all sorts of directions. The mark is different than the typical “h” I had seen so I decide that it wasn’t worth going forward. I start to turn around and hear a loud “ON ON!” . I follow running in the direction of the yelling.
The year is 2026, 90% of the global population is dead, the majority of those that are still alive reside in China where their zero COVID policy has been upheld and maintained. Despite even China’s best efforts the COVID virus continues to mutate and is beginning to spread across the country, seeping into people’s quarantined homes. A national lockdown had been implemented and enforced in 2024, the last time most people have left their homes. Smoke from bodies being burned by people in hazmat suits in apartment compound fills the Beijing skies. The apocalyptic stench of rotting and burning flesh lingers in the air while the screaming subsided a long time ago. Contact with the outer world at this point is limited but the last word was that self-proclaimed “Emperor” Tucker Carlson was running extermination camps in Texas and Arizona for the remaining few survivors unwilling to support his regime. The US government along with the government of every EU country has collapsed and is run by scattered military squadrons, mostly to find and hoard supplies for themselves. It’s hard to say how much longer those of us remaining will last. There’s no real evidence that any of us are immune to the virus, just that we haven’t yet succumbed to the most recent mutation but as has been the case the virus continues to evolve and it seems inevitable that we’re all counting months, weeks, and days rather than years in our time left on this earth.
I sit alone in my apartment as I stare out the window. The smoke from the incinerators travels high above my view on the fifteenth floor. I see the tiny figure of the hazmat suited workers moving wheel barrows to and from a pile of bodies. I sit down at my table and write myself a note on a piece of paper.
“Today is November 13th, 2026. My name is Erik Arthur Truedson. For those of you who knew me I hope that I treated you fairly and with honor. My biggest regret is not being with my family when they died, that is something I can never take back and will have to take with me. I apologize to those I hurt and that I didn’t do enough to prevent this tragedy, however small a difference I could have made. Whoever it is who is reading this….if anyone at all….know that I really wanted to make the world a better place, even if I didn’t always succeed.
Yours truly “Pukelid’s Taxivomitry”
I put the pen down as I sit in the dim glow of my apartment. I can hear the revving of large machinery faintly coming from outside. Phones and books had been confiscated long ago so people were even more inclined to dwell deeper into the darkness of their own minds.
Suddenly the sound of a piece of paper of heard sliding from under the front door. I walk over to the door and grab the piece of paper”
“#2167, Singaporn Star’s naming spot, Tonight 8pm”
I don’t dare open my door knowing what could be on the other side. I grab the note and back into the darkness of my living room. I sit on my couch and look out the window. The sun begins to set. The hash begins in two and half hours.
Chapter 3
After regrouping with the other runners I begin to start helping a little bit finding marks but still a bit confused. We then run up to a mark with two circles with two dots in the middle of each.
I stand waiting for someone to tell me what this is supposed to mean. The lead runner then begins to explain.
“This mark is an open check but only women can find the mark, or they have the choice to show the their boobs and then all the men can check”
“Ok, I see”, I reply.
The only woman running with us then goes out and looks for a mark while the men just stand around awkwardly waiting for her to shout something.
“ARE YOU?”, the lead runner shouts? “CHECKING!”, the woman replies back.
The woman then turns around and runs back towards us. “Not that way”, she says
The men continue to stand and wait. The woman then runs in the opposite direction and looks around on the ground and lamp poles.
“ON ON!”, the woman shouts gleefully.
The men then start bolting in the direction and in unison shout
We continue to weave and wind through the streets of Beijing as I increasingly to find myself lost in the maze of the city, desperately trying to keep track and keep pace with the leaders of the group. Dashing through alleyways and across canals, past food carts with steaming meats and vegatables on sticks, under grimy tunnels, a while locals gaze and gawk at the bizarre troop of foreigners shouting and running back and forth yelling for each chalk mark they find.
We keep running as I try to stay focused until eventually I see a mark with the letters “BN” with a circle around it.
“BEER NEAR!”, the lead runner shouts.
We continue running and then start running across the street. We then see some of the faces from earlier sitting outside a convenience store with large green bottles of beer in their hands.
“BEER STOP!”, one of the runners shouts.
I stop and look around, waving “Hi” to the people I had talked to previously. The woman from earlier  hands me a big green bottle of beer and pops off the cap with an opener.
“How did you guys get here so fast?”, I ask the people that weren’t running.
“We just walked, you just cut across the street over there”, pointing a bit from where we had come from.
“Have a seat, drink your beer”, she says.
I sit down on the curb of the sidewalk and sip my beer as I try to figure out exactly where we were. I think I had a fairly solid concept of the game and strategy but was still a bit confused as to how or why anybody would do any of this. As I’m sitting on the curb of the sidewalk a Chinese man from the group comes down and sits next to me with a beer in his hands.
“Where are you from”, the man asks.
“Uhhh….America…..Minnesota”, I respond a bit nervously.
“Cool cool. So who brought you to hash?”, he asks as he takes a sip of his beer.
“Uhhh….a guy from another running group told me about it. He’s….he’s not here I guess”, I say as I start to wonder if I’m being interrogated.
The man seems to be in his mid-twenties or thirties, metal framed glasses and a solid blue t-shirt. He has a noticeably calm demeanor with an expression that was a bit hard to place.
“So what’s your name?”, I ask.
“Spicy Penis”. He replies with a chuckle.
“Spicy what?” I ask with a cringe.
“Spicy Penis, that’s my hash name”.
“So….why……”, I say as I try to think of what question I want to ask.
“Why does everyone here have such strange names? I don’t really understand”
“It’s part of the hash, when you come to enough hashes you’ll get a name. But it will be about something bad you’ve done or something. It’s how you know you’re really apart of the family.”
He says calmly as he finishes his beer.
A few things start to make a bit more sense but I’m starting to now have more questions than answers.
“6.9 Seconds!!”, someone yells nearby.
I look around and again try to figure out what to do next.
“You gotta go.”, Spicy Penis says as I see the runners leaving me behind.
I throw my bottle in the recycling bin quickly and sprint off as I try to catch up to the group. I again begin to see the “h” marks on the ground and follow behind as I continue to hear shouts of “ON ON!” up ahead.
I catch up to the group again as continue to wind through alley ways. As we continued to run I became better and better at finding  the marks. After a few more kilometers of running dusk began to settle in and it was beginning to grow dark.
“ON ON!” “ON ON!”
We were running through a park just as the sun began to set. The street lamps began to turn on and I began to grow concerned whether we would ever make it home.
“ ON LEFT!”, someone shouts.
We all turn left and follow him for another couple hundred meters. We run past a few Dumpling and Noodle restaurants and then see a crowd gathered up ahead. We reach the crowd and we notice it is the people who were walking earlier. The lead runner stops his watch and goes and gets some water from a store.
“Now what?”, I ask one of the runners.
“This is it, we’re done.”, one responds.
“But now we have Circle”, another replies.
“We have what?”, I ask breathlessly.
“CIRCLE UP!”, someone yells from across the crowd of people gathered.
I look up as everyone files past me and to the direction of some dark area of a park nearby. I follow everyone not exactly knowing what is going to happen next.
`We reach a dark corner of the park and a circle of people is formed, everyone who I had talked to and met that day. Everyone stands silently as I was anxiously figuring out what we were all
doing here. The cold November air starts to blow and I begin to shiver a bit as I wait for further direction. Did I do something wrong? Is there going to be some sort of punishment? I contemplate slipping away before something goes horribly wrong. As I start to look for an exit behind me a man puts his arm around my shoulders.
“You Ready?”, the man asks.
“Sure….”, I respond anxiously.
I look up and can begin to see the moon creep in through the clouds, the moon’s glow illuminating the tops of the pine trees in the park. I look back down and still see the silhouettes of the people still standing in the circle.
“We have BEER!”
Two people carrying blue crates of beer come walking towards us. They walk into the middle of the circle of people and put the beer down. As soon as I can think they start passing out beers to everyone, with “pop” sounds filling the evening air.
Once everyone received a beer a person emerges from the circle and begins to shout.
“SHITTY!”, the circle then shouts in response.
“THE HARES!”, everyone gleefully chants in response.
Then suddenly 3 other people emerge from the circle. I then recognize that it was the woman from earlier who explained the marks and two other people who I couldn’t recognize.
“DO WE HAVE A SONG FOR THESE SHITTY HARES?” the person in the circle shouts.
I hear the people in the circle start to clear their throats and begin to sing to the tune of the “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” theme song
“S. H. I. T. T. Y. T. R. A. I. L. , SHITTY TRAIL” “IT SUCKED”
I look around to make sure I was seeing the same thing everyone else was.
The three people leave from the middle of the circle. The original person then begins to make another announcement.
I look around and see no one walking towards the middle. I realize it is just me so I hesitantly shuffle in and stand in the very middle. I look around and see the shadows and figures all gazing upon me as a wait for what’s to happen next.
The person then begins to shout to the crowd again.
The person then looks directly at me.
“What is your name?”
“Erik”, I respond.”
“HI JUST ERIK”, the crowd reflexively shouts.
“Where do you come from”, the person asks me. “Minnesota….errr….the US”
“MINNESOTA!”, the person shouts.
“And who made you come?”
“A guy, he’s British, ummmmm, I forget his name.”
The crowd again begins to clear their throats before the burst into song to the tune of Bicycle Built for  Two.
SO WELCOME TO THE BEIJING HASH”, the crowd chants.
I look around as everyone takes a sip of their beer.
“OK, thank you virgin, now fuck off”, the person says to me
I then silently wander back to join my spot in the edge of circle. The central person then brings a few more people into the circle, and then makes another final announcement.
“And now with that I will bring our R.A. into the circle”
A different man then emerges from the circle and the crowd begins to shout and sing again. The man then runs around the circle clinking beers with everyone as he passes.
“R.A.! R.A.! R.A.! R.A.! R.A.! R.A.! R.A.! R.A!”, the crowd shouts in unison.
The crowd continues to sing for another minute or so as the man in the middle gathers his composure.
“ALRIGHT SHUT THE FUCK UP!”, the man laughs as he takes a sip from his beer.
“THE HARES!”, the crowd shouts again.
Another song is song somehow calling the trail or the “hares” shitty somehow. The man again begins to talk.
I really still didn’t understand what any of that meant but I figured I would just wait quietly until things made more sense.
A person then puts their beer to their head.
“Yes, Gobblin’ King”, the man says as he directs the other person to talk.
“Can I get the HARES in the circle for getting us lost on the walking trail. We walked 800 meters in the wrong direction before we were back on trail.”
The three “hares” then walk into the circle and another song is sung.
The crowd continues to jeer until another person puts their beer to their head.
“Yes, Kiddiepoo”, as the man instructs him to begin.
“Can I get Spicy Penis in the circle for spilling his beer at beer stop two?”
The man from before then walks into the circle and the crowd again begins to sing to the tune of the Barney theme.
The men then leave from the center of the circle.
“I HAVE AN ACCUSATION!” a man shouts from across the circle from me, the man’s face still hidden within the shadows of the trees
The man emerges and it’s the lead runner I had been with for much of the run.
I look around and again slowly shuffle into the center of the circle of people. The lead runner then talks to me and the crowd a bit simultaneously.
“I know you’re a virgin but you weren’t calling any marks. When you see a mark what do  we yell?!”
“ON ON!” , the crowd shouts in unison.
“Well….I….”, I start to reply.
“NO REBUTTLES!”, someone from the crowd shouts.
“Cheers”, the lead runner then taps our beer bottles together.
“DO WE HAVE A SONG FOR OUR VIRGIN?”, the organizer of the crowd shouts.
The crowd then just begins what seems like more of a chant.
I then stand in silence and realize it’s time for me to file out of the circle again. A few more “accusations” are made and the crowd continues to sing some sort of song after each one.
Then finally the organizer of the circle comes back into the center of the circle and makes another announcement.
“I think we’re done with announcements so I believe it’s time drop your vessels”
Then everyone puts their bottle of beer down somewhere around them. And people start to make loud noises to clear their throats.
The man in the center of the circle then makes a broad hand gesture, as if rocking a baby near the ground. Everyone else in the crowd followed along as well and the crowd of people once again began to sing in unison.
As I tried to follow along with the song each lyric had some strange hand gesture which made me be particularly discombobulated and awkward.
While still processing everything that was going on around me I noticed a pattern emerging that the
word “coming” was always interchangeable with the word “cumming” regardless of context. With the lyrics in the song being accompanied by a “jerking off” hand gesture each time it was said.
Then the organizer shouts something else.
Then everyone in the circle scrambles around and dances while locking arms with everyone they pass chanting and singing the same song.
ME HOME! HOME! HOME!” the crowd shouts in unison again. “MAY THE HASH GO IN PEACE!” the organizer shouts.
And with that it was over. With a few murmurs people began to grab their beers from the ground and started filing away from the park.
A few people still lingered around as they were discussing the rest of their plans for the night. I began to check my phone to see how far away the subway station was from where we were currently. Then the man with a grizzled beard apparently known as “Gobblin’ King” then walks up to me.
“A few of us are getting pizza at my apartment, you’re welcome to join us.” I try to gather my thoughts as I was still in a daze from everything that had happened.
“I…..uhhh……I live kind of far away………maybe next time. Thank you though”
“Alright, no problem, but you’re coming back next week though right?”
The entire day had been a whirlwind. Expecting to go for a normal run I now found myself in the middle of this strange community. It was silly, adventurous, and cultish all at the same time. But after everything, I think I kind of liked it. They were weird and obnoxious, harassed each other with silly songs, but somehow it still felt like a family. I’d felt alienated for so long, never feeling a true sense of inclusion from anywhere, especially in China. This group seemed to have a purpose, I wasn’t exactly sure what the purpose was yet exactly but I now wanted to find out more. The chalk marks, the beer, the vulgar songs, the rituals, it all added up to something.
I looked up at Gobblin’ King.
“Yeah, I’ll be back”
“Cool, see you next week then.”, Gobblin King says giving me a fist bump.
I begin to turn around as Gobblin’ King shouts back at me.
“And also..”
I turn around and look at him again.
“Keep your head up, I think you have potential.”
Gobblin’ King gives me a head nod and turns away. Gobblin’ King and few more people then walk out of the park. I look around for the other exit and head towards the subway, bracing against the frigid November wind.
“I either die in here or die out there” I think to myself.
Even if I wanted to escape I wouldn’t exactly know how. The hallways are often times patrolled by armed guards or service men. I went to get my wrist watch from inside my mattress. Watches were also confiscated by the police but I was able hide one to at least know what month and year it was, the logic, I guessed, for confiscation being that people won’t be able to complain if they don’t know how long they’ve been locked in their apartments.
“NOV 13 2026, 5:37 PM” the digital clock face reads.
I knew exactly where Singaporn Star was named. In normal times I would be able to bike there in 10 minutes or run there in 25 minutes. If I wanted to go I would need to leave now.
But how, how could I get out of this apartment building? The walls in the apartment compound were covered with barbed wire and also the grounds were again often patrolled by armed guards.
I then recalled from the times I had been outside a few months ago that there was a small portion of the wall where there seemed to be a gap in the barbed wire. I’d always considered trying to escape but of course where would I escape to? Any previous thoughts of leaving this place I’d been trapped in were dashed in the reality of knowing that everyone else left in the city was in the exact same position I was.
But this time was different; someone had clearly risked their life to leave me this note. Was there a hasher in this apartment building? Was it delivered by someone else? Is this entire thing a trap?
Maybe the entire thing wasn’t worth it. On most days I still had food here. I was still alive which is a lot more than the rest of the planet could say. The television still worked and the Chinese soap operas weren’t so bad, my Chinese was getting good enough to understand most of the plot. If I died that would mean it’s all over, the last of my family members dead. My legacy would end and I would be forgotten as soon as I’m thrown into the incinerator along with the rest of my belongings.
But what legacy is there to preserve now? I used to be a teacher, I had students that I cared for and supported. I used to have a girlfriend and a happy life and now they’re all dead. Who will remember me even if I stay alive? What do I have now that’s worth protecting? I used to be the GM of the Beijing Hash House Harriers and now I have nothing. Everything has crumbled to dust and my mind and body are rotting away in this one bedroom apartment.
If this note is genuine that means there’s someone out there, if this note is real that means that I still have some connection to my past and that I don’t have to be just a number waiting in line to die.
I was going to go to the hash but I needed to figure out how. I put on my haberdashery and grabbed my beaded necklace. I then looked at myself in the mirror.
“Pukelid’s Taxivomitry” the necklace read in colorful lettered beads.
If I did die out there I felt some strange feeling of optimism that there would be at least some small chance that a token of me and who I used to be could be preserved, that the hash would live on
Chapter 5
Autumn became Winter. The leaves had all fallen and the canals had frozen up. There is generally very little snow in Beijing so white pillowy fields are exchanged with brown grass and gloomy skies. The new year passed as 2021 arrived. Within a month or so I turned 30 years old. I had started attending Beijing Hash every weekend now. Running through cities and drinking beer in old Chinese corner shops along the way.  The Hash started to become sort of my family, my Saturdays that were once spent walking around shopping malls by myself were now spent meeting and socializing with new people. I was generally one of the lead runners on the trail and would usually be the one to help solve the many “Open Checks” when there was a split in the trail.
My teaching was starting to have issues. After a few months of being back in the classroom with my students I began to realize that my AP Calculus students were missing some very critical foundational concepts from when I was out of the classroom and the process of reviewing with them while also staying on schedule with the curriculum continued to prove difficult. The school and company I worked for had very high expectations for the students and, with a few exceptions, by February the students did not seem to be on track to meet those expectations. I would continue to work with the students and try to reinforce some key concepts but quiz scores continued to be below
expectations and the semester would need some sort of big readjustment for things to get back on track.
Ever since around age 20 I had always had a few issues with alcohol.  I never would have described myself as being dependent on alcohol but when people were socializing and when drinks started pouring I would often get a bit carried away and lost count and control of how much I was drinking. Usually beer but often hard liquor too I would get black out drunk but almost always find my
way home, even if that depended on a few people being stuck with helping me get into the back of a taxi or not falling out of a chair. As soon as a joined the hash, the “Drinking Club with a Running Problem” I felt a bit at home. I liked running and I liked drinking alcohol, for me it was a perfect combination. With running generally the worst thing that can happen when it’s done in excess is some sort of leg injury. With drinking the worst things that can happen are a leg injury, a head injury, an arm injury or a combination of all three along with even more.
One day after a hash we went to the hash’s main bar, Paddy O’Shea’s, to have some more drinks. As we walk into Paddy’s we see the sea of foreign expats chatting and sipping their pints of beer and mixed drinks. I look up to the walls and ceiling of the bar and see hundreds if not thousands of posters, flags, and pictures representing all the local groups the bar sponsors. From Football, to Rugby, to Cricket I gazed upon the hundreds of pictures of teams from years past of people participating in clubs in Beijing. While not professional leagues the members of these clubs took their sports and their teams very seriously, big burly men with their blue sweaters representing the Beijing Aardvarks Rugby team sat at a table in the bar, their booming voice resonating across room as they recap their most recent victory.
I continue to walk around the bar and then see another giant wall filled with hundreds of more pictures.
“BEIJING HASH HOUSE HARRIERS” big wooden letters sit above the frames.
I look closer and see the entire history of the Beijing Hash. A few people I recognize, most people I don’t.
In almost every picture I can see big groups of people laughing and cheering, almost all holding a green bottle of beer.
I look at the inscription underneath one of the photos
“Beijing Hash House Harriers Run #1000, June 2003”
In the picture are over a hundred people posing for a photo, most with long cloaks and a beer in their hand.
I look at the inscription under another photo
“Beijing Hash House Harriers 40th Anniversary, July 2019”
another right next to it reads,
“Beijing Hash House Harriers 100th Run, September 1981”
The black and white photo showed gleeful hashers all posed around Tiananmen Square, which felt strange
as there was now a lot of security just to even enter the area.
I sit and try to absorb all of the people and memories that lived on this wall.
“A lot of history there”
I turn around and see Gobblin’ King standing behind me.
“Maybe some day you’ll be up there. Need to get you a hash name first though.”
“Yeah, yeah I’m working on that”, I say hesitantly.
“C’mon, we have a table over here.” Gobblin’ King says as he leads me to a table with about 10 other hashers.
I sit down as most are engrossed within a game of Cards against Humanity.
I order an IPA from the waitress and sit and observe the card game being played.
“We gotta get you to hare soon, I think you’d be good at it.” Kiddiepoo says to me.
“What exactly goes into haring” I ask as I continue to sip my beer.
“Hares scout the trail, they find the route and then mark the trail with chalk. You need to find all the beer stops and find a good circle spot where you can avoid trouble with the police.”, he says.
“Why are they called hares?”, I ask.
“Ummmm…actually I’m not really sure. I think it goes back to the beginning of the hash.”
Gobblin’ King is sitting next to us and starts to interject into our conversation.
“It’s because everyone is trying to catch the hares, or that’s how it used to be. Hash started around World War two and they used to mark the trail as the hashers were running, like a dog chasing a rabbit.”
“In Beijing?”, I ask
“No, Hash House Harriers started in Malaysia in the 1930s or something”, Gobblin’ King replies.
“Hash is all around the world, you can go to Hash in any major city, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Paris, any big city will have a hash.” , Kiddiepoo says.
“So, what’s the point? Is there some sort of goal to hash? Like a winner or something?”
“The goal is to drink beer, what else?” Gobblin’ King says laughing.
“I guess that makes sense.” I say as I take another sip of my beer.
“Well you can win patches”, Kiddiepoo says as he lifts up the cloak type garment he is wearing.
“Patches?”, I ask.
“If you complete a challenge, like drink 12 beers in an evening, you can get a patch and sew it to your “Happi coat”, that’s what I’m wearing now.” , Kiddiepoo says confidently.
“Don’t worry, you’ll get one eventually, but you’re new, you don’t even have a Hash name yet.” Gobblin’ King replies.
“How do you get a Hash name?” I ask
“You have to do something stupid usually, like, I don’t know, get robbed by a stripper or something.” Kiddiepoo says.
“But you keep a pretty low profile. It might be hard to think of a hash name for you.” Kiddiepoo says.
“Yeah, I guess I’ve been a bit boring so far.” I say nervously.
“Well tonight’s the night” Gobblin says laughing again as he lifts up his glass as we clink our pints of beer together.
I sit for a bit and continue to sip my beer as everyone else goes back to playing their card games.
As the beer settles in and I start to get a bit more comfortable with the group around me I start to get a bit more anxious for some more excitement. I run away from the table and go up to the bar.
“Twelve Tequila shots please”, I say in a bit of a drunken stuper.
“Twelve Tequila shots coming up.”, the bartender replies.
I scan my phone to pay for the shots and run back to my table holding two racks of six Tequila shots each.
“Whoa, buddy. What do we have here?”, Gobblin’ King asks jokingly.
“Everyone has to drink one” I say as I try to pass them around to people.
A few disenchanted stares at the shots as a most people shake their heads and hands to decline.
One or two people reluctantly grab a shot as I smile at them. I pressure people a little bit and then realize that not everyone is as into the idea as I am. I then spontaneously  decide to just do the rest of the shots in a rack myself, around 4 in total.
At this point I’m starting to feel good about myself; I finally have a group of friends to hang out with, I live in one of the biggest cities in the world and I’m starting to finally get a hang of living in it.
After about a half hour or so my brain stops recording things. The next day I have vague recollections of standing over a toilet as Gobblin’ King is helping me throw up, later seeing the pictures to prove it. Eventually I am helped out of the bar and put in a taxi that one of the other hashers called for me. My apartment is about an hour away from the bar by taxi so I try to sit back in the seat as the drunk daze washes over me. I rock back and forth as the car turns each corner and begin to feel a bit nauseous. Within my drunken stupor I wake up slightly to realize something in my stomach is not quite right. I look out the passenger side window and try to figure out exactly how I’m feeling. The street lights continue to rapidly flicker as the car speeds along the highway, lurching left and right with each sharp turn around a corner. Then, all of a sudden, I vomit all over my shirt and pants.
The taxi pulls over to the shoulder of the freeway and I stumble out. I try to figure out if I need to vomit again. In my tequila and beer fueled trance I awkwardly check my phone to see what
time it is and how far away I am from my apartment. 2:17 am, 21.6 kilometers away from my apartment.
I stand wobbling on the shoulder of the road trying to figure out what I want to do next as my body is still processing the copious amounts of alcohol flowing through my bloodstream.
The taxi remains running in the cold winter air as smoke billows from the exhaust. I eventually come to the conclusion that the taxi would never want someone who is covered in vomit to get back into their taxi so I try to wave the taxi driver away. The taxi waits for a few more minutes and then drives away. I stand shivering and my mind continues to spin and my stomach continues to churn.
I start stumbling up the shoulder of the road for a few hundred meters before finally processing how far a walk of 21.6 kilometers is at 2:30 in the morning. I eventually try to call another taxi and stand waiting. The new driver eventually pulls up and I fall into the passenger seat. We eventually reach my apartment complex and I roll out of the car, get to my door, and crash into my bed.
I wake up with my bright morning light beaming through my bedroom windows. I lay with my eyes closed as I start to process everything that had happened the night before. I reach to grab my phone on my bed stand. My phone’s not on my bed stand. I reach down to the floor and grab my pants and check my pockets. There’s no phone in the pockets either. I wearily get out of bed and check my bedroom more thoroughly without finding any phone. I start to wake up a bit more as I realize my phone is not in my apartment at all. While losing your phone is distressing for anybody, losing your phone in China has a few more layers of issues. Almost all payments are processed with your phone as well as any formal communication with your employer. I begin to panic and realize that I can’t even remember where it could be. After thinking a bit I recall calling the second taxi as the last time I had used it.
I exit my apartment and knock on my co-teacher August’s door. I explain the situation and he agrees to help me do what he can to find the phone. While only having the phone for a few months I couldn’t actually remember my own phone number but knew I had it written down somewhere. I call one of the staff members to help call my phone number and eventually someone picks it up. We arrange to have the phone dropped off and I retrieve it filled with dozens of concerned messages and questions if I arrived home safely.
I go back down and lay on my bed. I put my phone on my bedside table as I try again to recover and get some rest.
Chapter 6
February 13th, 2021 the day I was named.
Everyone who is a part of Hash House Harriers eventually receives a hash name.
Receiving a hash name is not a simple process and generally takes months after joining the hash. It is a sort of an initiation and rite of passage to the group as a full blooded member of the community. Every hash name is unique and is supposed to represent something that is characteristic of each hasher. Whether it’s something embarrassing from a person’s child hood, or a full story such as how a person lost their virginity or got arrested in a foreign country, each hash name is supposed to be a person’s identity and something that they will carry with them for the rest of their life.
This particular day in February was unusually grizzly and smoggy. It was a Valentine’s Day themed hash with hashers wearing red or white socks depending on their “availability”. The air pollution was thick with some of the runners wearing masks throughout the day. While hashing can generally include some beautiful scenery including rivers and mountains, this was not one of those days. Freeways and sidewalks, busy streets and traffic, it was an ugly and cold day and a truly “shitty” trail.
We start the run in the middle of the smoggy city as locals take pictures of us dressed in our typically strange and brightly colored hash branded clothing. The hash marks take us through small tightly packed Chinese Hutong neighborhoods, dashing under clothes lines as locals continue to yell at us in Mandarin.
Up bridges and under tunnels we cross through more of the urbanized and congested side of the city. Passing heaps of trash spilling from the overflowing bins, half eaten noodles and soup containers spilling onto the concrete, the smells from which are difficult to distinguish exactly.
We continue to run until reaching another open check as hashers then spread out all across the intersection, narrowly dodging speeding traffic in an attempt to find the next mark to direct them closer to the next beer stop. As a hasher finally finds the next mark a shout of “On On!” can be heard as the hashers then congregate back and continue on along the trail.
After about three or four kilometers we reach the first beer stop outside of a small convenience store as the 30 or so hashers meander around socializing with each other, trying to stay warm in the early February weather.
Red Snatcher, a Chinese hasher, comes up to me as I stand around and drink my beer.
“How are you feeling today?” she asks me.
“Umm….I’m ok…..this pollution is terrible though. Is it good to be running in this?” I reply.
“Well, uhhh, probably not but I guess we have no choice”, Red Snatcher says.
I stand and think for a second about the statement. Then immediately Gobblin’ King comes up to me and grabs me around the shoulders.
“Hey Buddy! How you feeling?”, he says with a smile.
“I’m……I’m ok” I say hesitantly.
“Still ‘Just Erik’. How many months have you been on the hash? Four? And still no Hash name.”, Gobblin’ King says laughing.
“Yep, still ‘Just Erik’” I reply.
“Well, just wait, just wait.” Gobblin’ King says with a smile as he puts his beer bottle up to clink with mine.
After another 5 kilometers or so and a few more warm beers later we eventually reach the end of the hash and we begin the “Circle”. The formalities begin, virgins are introduced and the RA, the Religious Advisor, eventually comes into the circle. The wind swirls as the smog shifts slowly across the sky. After a few “accusations” and plenty of innuendo filled songs the RA eventually makes another announcement.
The RA then walks around the circle and asks a question to someone.
“You sir, what is your name?”
“Steaming Pile of Shit”, the man responds The RA then walks over to another person.
“And you ma’am, what is your name?” “Banana Shoes”, the woman responds.
The RA then meanders and scans the circle and walks directly towards me. “Annnnnnd you sir, what is your name?”
“Just Erik”, I mutter.
The crowd begins to cheer as I walk into the circle. The RA then begins the formalities of the naming.
“Our dear hasher Just Erik doesn’t have a name, but first we need to learn a little bit more about him. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?”
“Ok”, I respond as I try to think of something to say.
“I….uhhh….I’m a math teacher, I’m from Minnesota…..I joined hash thinking it was just a regular running club then realized it…..was a bit different than that”
The RA then stops me abruptly.
“OK, and now do we have any questions for our dear hasher Just Erik?”
“I…mmmm…..missionary…I guess”, I respond hesitantly.
“Uhh…..maybe 3 weeks ago” I say blushingly as I start to cringe with a bit of embarrassment.
“WHY’S YOUR DICK SO SMALL?” Banana Shoes shouts jokingly with a smile.
“Alright, Alright, I think we’ve asked enough questions. Do we have any name suggestions for Just Erik?”
The crowd begins to murmur, then Kiddiepoo emerges from the circle holding a beer to his forehead.
“My name suggestion is Thor’s Hammer, because of the time that Just Erik drank a half a liter of Baijiu (Chinese Liquor) from a plastic hammer” Kiddiepoo shouts and then returns back to the circle edge
“Alright, Alright, ‘Thor’s Hammer’ we’ll write that down”
Another hasher emerges from the edge of the circle.
“My suggestion is ‘Vomit Comet’ because he’s always throwing up and vomiting”. “Ok, Ok, writing that one down”
A few more suggestions a thrown out with mixed enthusiasm.
Then after a bit of a pause Gobblin’ King emerges with a beer held up to his forehead.
“I have a suggestion”, Gobblin’ King announces.
The crowd then turns and waits for him to continue.
“We all know that Just Erik is a math teacher, and we all know that he drinks a lot and has thrown up in a taxi multiple times. For those of you who are not aware there is a famous Greek mathematician named Euclid and is now famous for his studies in what is now called ‘Euclidian Geometry’. “Euclid”, sort of sounds like “Puke” so my name suggestion is “Pukelid’s Taxivomitry”.
Gobblin’ King then smiles and then walks back to the edge of the circle.
“Alright I think we have enough suggestions.” the RA announces.
“Now I’m going to read the list of names but do not vote, just shut the fuck up until I tell you. The list of names is Thor’s Hammer, Vomit Comet, and Pukelid’s Taxivomitry”
The crowd then murmurs a bit more. The RA then continues.
“Ok, now I want you to vote, If you like a name then scream, shout, clap, vomit. Do anything to show your support. Ok, the first name is ‘Thor’s Hammer’.”
A few scattered shouts but generally grumbling among the crowd. “The second name is, ‘Vomit Comet’”
A few more shouts from the crowd and some scattered jeering.
“And the last name suggestion is ‘Pukelid’s Taxivomitry’”
The crowd then erupts and shouts and cheers fill the circle of people.
“ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, ALRIGHT, OK, I think we have it, on your knees”
I then begin to take off all of my clothes down to my underwear. I then get down and kneel on the wet stone tiles as the crowd of people starting yelling and cheering with joyful anticipation.
I look up to the sky and then down and the ground as I brace myself for what I know is coming next. The RA then broadcasts loudly to the whole crowd.
And then without a moment’s hesitation a shower of beer is poured on my head from every angle. The cold beer flows all over my entire body as I continue to close my eyes.
Everyone’s beer bottles are eventually emptied as I am still nearly naked and now surrounded by a pool of cheap Yanjing beer. As a start to open my eyes an empty beer bottle is put into the back of my underwear. I reach back, grabbing the bottle, then pour what little is left into my mouth. I was finally a named hasher and I finally felt like I was exactly where I needed to be.
Chapter 7
I knew that the stairwell of my apartment building had a window and generally it wasn’t locked unless something had changed. The stairwell window was just a few meters from my bedroom window so it was possible that I could crawl to it. I grabbed my backpack and some water then I opened my bedroom window. The red and grey skies shifted slowly as I stared deep into the horizon. The rows of apartment buildings extended far and wide until they eventually faded into the smoggy haze of the city. I turned around and looked back at my apartment, a few shoes and some empty trays for the food that had been delivered during the week. I put my head out of the window and turned to the right, 3 meters, that was the distance to the stairwell window. I take a deep sigh as I look around for anything to hold onto for me to make it across the side of the building. I look down below and see the cement 15 stories below me. I reach out and put one foot out to test the slight ridge that comes out from the side of the building, not more than half the width of my foot.
There’s a vent in the middle just above the window that I can’t reach from my current position. I swing my other foot out of the window as I shift towards the left side, sitting on the edge of the window sill. I then turn around and start to shift my weight to my right leg, the front of my shoe gripping the narrow ridge. I then shift right a bit more and attempt to move my left foot to the ridge as well gripping the window tightly with my left hand. I then look up and see the air vent just a bit above my head. I try to reach it with my right arm but miss it by a few centimeters. I again turn my head left as I try to judge my grip on the window. I realize that I will need let go of the window and reach up towards the vent so I can shift to the middle between the two windows.
I take a deep breath and stare at the air vent. I close my eyes as I try to commit to what I know I need to do. I take one more breath and let go simultaneously extending my legs as I reach for the air vent. I grab the narrow edge of the vent as my body wobbles a bit.
I move my legs directly below me and stand and regain my balance. I look to my right and see that I’m now almost within reaching distance of the stairwell window though it’s still a bit beyond me. I reposition myself as I try to analyze exactly what the best place to hold onto the window is. The last time I had been in the stair well, the window was visibly cracked open.
This time it was closed but hopefully not locked, if it was locked then I would need to completely reassess my strategy. I shift my weight a bit more slightly to the right and let go of the air vent. I hop slightly and grab the window’s edge. With such a narrow and smooth surface I lose my balance and fall down. I reach out my hands as my feet fall from the ridge.
I then am able grab a wire just below the window as I am now hanging almost 200 feet in the air. The wire begins to loosen as I try to reach one hand up to the window sill. My hand slips a bit but the surface is rough enough that a I able to get some stability, I pull myself up and am able to grab another side of the window. I put my feet onto the wire and lift myself onto the window sill. I finally am able to turn myself around and sit on the edge and regain my nerves a bit. After a few seconds to calm down and breath I check the window. It’s locked.
I sit there demoralized as I lay back and close my eyes. I don’t even consider looking back to my apartment window. I try to escape from my present reality and pretend that I’m somewhere completely different. I try to remember some of the happier moments from my childhood or the nervous optimism on my first day of school. I remembered spending time on the lake with my parents at my childhood home in Minnesota, staring out into the clear blue waters and wondering how many fish were swimming right below the surface. I drifted away for what felt like an eternity as I began to imagine life if everything had been different, if even one thing could have been changed that could have stopped all of this suffering and misery.
I open my eyes and the skies appear to be noticeably darker. I look at my watch, 6:42 pm. I continue to lay on the window still and begin to feel something in my backpack, something awkwardly pushing on me. I carefully move my back to the front of my body and reach inside. The water I had packed for myself, a few scattered socks, some pieces of paper, and one more thing, a large empty green beer bottle. I take out the beer bottle and hold it in my hands. I think for a second about what I want to do. I turn around and look at the window behind me. I look in and see an empty stair well leading down to the ground floor. I take a deep sigh. I push slightly on the window to test its strength. I shift the bottle in my left hand. I pull the bottle back and count to three, waving the bottle.
“One, two, three” SMASH
The sound of glass falls onto the cement floor of the stair well and shards fall down from the heights of the apartment building. A few voices of shouting in Chinese can be heard from below. I look at my left hand as it’s now covered in blood. I throw my backpack into the stair well and I shift my weight to my knees and carefully put my legs over the remaining shards of glass protruding from the window sill. I stand up and then start racing down the stair well, jumping down 8 stairs at a time. I reach the bottom floor and see a large read sign in Chinese and English.
I burst through the door and start sprinting to where I remembered the gap in the barbed wire fence was. As I’m sprinting I hear dogs barking and people shouting loudly in Chinese. I weave through the shadows of the trees and apartment buildings as I see in the distance that the opening in the barbed wire still exists. The wall is about 3 meters tall which I realize I am not tall enough to reach. I look around quickly and don’t see much that could be used as a bench up. The shouting grows louder and sirens start to go off all around me. I look to my left and I see a bike with a lock around the wheels, I grab the bike and carry it over to the wall. I lean the bike up against the wall and jump up putting my toes on the seat. I reach up my finger tips and the palm of my hand is just able to get a grip on the walls surface. I pull my weight up and flip over the side of the wall, landing with a loud thud on the cement side walk. I lift myself up, my hand bleeding and my clothes full of rips and tears. I see a dark alley way and I start sprinting towards it, the sirens growing a bit more quiet behind me.
Chapter 8
Hash House Harriers was founded in 1938 by British colonialists in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The group was associated with the country’s rubber plantations and started as a modified version of the old English schoolyard game of “Hares and Hounds”, in which some players, called
“hounds”, chase others, called the “hares” who left a trail of paper scraps along their route across fields, hedges, streams, bogs, and hills.
One of the earliest Hares and Hounds events on record was the “Crick Run” at Rugby School in Warwickshire, England, first held in 1837. Hares and Hounds as an adult sport began in the fall of 1867 with a group of London Oarsmen who wanted to keep fit during the winter. Also called “Paper Chasing” or the “Paper Chase”, the game became very popular after its introduction on the Wimbledon Common in 1868 by the Thames Hare and Hounds. Early clubs called themselves “Hare and Hounds” or simply “Harriers”. H.G. Wells was even known to participate in one of the “Hare and Hounds” clubs, but reports are disputed.
The group in Kuala Lumpur gained popularity with members working to find the trail and then partaking in beer, ginger beer, and cigarettes at the end before heading to the Selangor Club.
The first run in Kuala Lumpur was held in December 1938 with members including A.S. Ignatius “G” Gispert, Cecil Lee, Frederick “Horse” Thomson, Ronald “Torch” Bennett, and John Woodrow.
The group’s name came about primarily because local authorities required legal registration of the club. While the “Kuala Lumpur Harriers” would have made the most sense, “G” decided instead to use the nickname for the Selangor Club where a number of local harriers both lived and ate the meals. Due to lackluster food, the dining room was commonly referred to as the “Hash House”
Hashing died out during World War II shortly after the Invasion of Malaysia, but was restarted in 1946 after the war by several of the original group, besides A.S. “G” Gispert, who was killed the Japanese invasion of Singapore.
Eventually Hash House Harriers began to expand to other countries all around the world. Over the years Hash House Harriers has brought people from all backgrounds together to learn, share, and laugh with each other. From embassy workers to theoretical physicists Hash House Harriers lets anyone and everyone (of drinking age) join in the circle and sing a song with a beer.
Beijing Hash House Harriers was founded on July 9th, 1979 by Brian “Ewor” Rowe. For over 40 years Beijing Hash House Harriers would have runs every Saturday Rain or shine. With ebbs and flows Beijing Hash House Harriers continued on as the culture and economic situation of China grew and the nation became a global superpower.
Over the decades GMs or “Grand Masters” have come and gone from China. While Hash House Harriers is not exclusively compromised of foreigners it has always been a large portion of the management and organization for the group. People from around the world come to live in China for teaching, business, diplomacy work and many other reasons. They may spend a few years here and then return to their home countries or start a new adventure somewhere completely different. Hash House Harriers, like any group, requires the commitment of a rotating group of people that are devoted because of their love and passion for the community.
By the spring of 2021 many of the foreigners in China were leaving. The COVID prevention measures and lockdown protocols were taking a toll on the population and the majority of people that had the ability to go back to their home countries did so. I however stayed in China, with a combination of American teaching salaries, housing costs, and poor quality of the schools across America I never felt that it was financially viable to return back to my home country and state. Life in America was terrible before I came to China, why would I ever want to return? I was the most miserable version of myself, alone in an empty apartment I could barely afford on a stagnant teacher’s salary.
On April 24th, 2021 I was sitting in my office when my center principal asked me to meet with him in the next adjacent classroom. The classroom was largely empty except for one of the leaders from the company we worked for. They asked me to sit down and started to explain the situation.
“We’ve had a long conversation and we’ve reviewed everything. The students aren’t performing well and you haven’t demonstrated the necessary amount of urgency to fix it. We are citing it as a lack of profession which allows us to nullify your contract.”
I look at the two men sitting and start to understand where the conversation is headed.
“We are recommending that you take the offer we have organized rather than forcing us to make this complicated. We will let you formally resign; you will forgo your bonuses and stay on until the end of the semester in July. Due to you signing a contract already for
the next school year you have a second option but I would strongly recommend against it” “We will give you until noon tomorrow to accept our offer”
I sit in silence as the wave of what was said is being calculated in my head. “How are you feeling?”, the man from the company asks.
“I…….I’m not sure”
“You really can’t be too surprised can you?”
I had seen the scores from the AP Calculus practice exams we had done already and they were far below what was needed. Whether from my own mistakes as a teacher, the abbreviated time I had within the actual classroom, or some other factors, the students weren’t meeting the academic standard necessary and I needed to accept the responsibility for it.
I continued for a while to dwell in the room as the men patiently conversed with me while processing the situation.
After about another 15 minutes I exited the room and went and sat on a couch out in the students’ break room. After another bit of time I wandered back to my office where I saw August by himself sitting as his desk typing at his computer.
“I got fired……basically”
“Oh no, wow, when just now?” August replied. “Yeah”
“Oh, wow so………”
“I’ll stay until the end of the semester then…..I don’t know” “Ok, well, sorry mate”
I sink into my desk chair and stare at my computer screen as I continue to think about where I am in my life.
Chapter 9
By the summer of 2023 most of the foreigners in the Beijing Hash House Harriers are gone. A few teachers remain but someone continues to leave every month or so. The rest of the world has long announced COVID as being over while China continues to maintain its zero tolerance COVID policy. In April 2022, after a wave of the Omicron variant hit China, mandatory daily COVID testing was implemented nationwide, with testing booths and queuing pedestrians filling almost every street corner for hours each day. Lockdowns continued as people still were shuttered in their apartments all across the country on a moments notice.
Despite everything a few of the teachers still remain as well as a shrinking pool of embassy workers and government officials. Bangasaurus Sex and Hot Girl Farts, along with their now 6 year old daughter Table One moved to Shanghai and still remain in contact. The rest of the Beijing Hash continues to have difficulty recruiting anybody new and struggles to maintain normal operations. In July of 2023 another GM of the hash leaves China and another vacancy appears.
The rest of us that remain have a meeting to resolve the situation. Red Snatcher then makes an announcement at the table.
“So we’ve all voted to maintain Beijing Hash and have no plans to fold operations any time soon. So the next order of business is filling the vacancy of GM. Who are our options?”
“Singaporn Star but he hasn’t seemed very interested, Sneaky Sausage isn’t interested in continuing” Spicy Penis, another Beijing Hasher replies.
“So that really just leaves Pukelid, who isn’t planning on leaving any time soon from what he said” Red Snatcher says.
The table all turns to me.
I think about the entirety of the situation. Beijing Hash House Harriers had been running continuously for 44 years and the 6 people left to manage it were sitting at one table.
“Yeah, I can do it”
Red Snatcher continues with her agenda items.
“So tentatively we will write down Pukelid as GM for the rest of the year as we decide what to do for 2024”
There was still a lot in my life to be happy about. I still had a job, I still had a girlfriend, and I was going to be GM of the Beijing Hash House Harriers. Maybe we were experiencing a dip in new members joining but life is full of ebbs and flows. Life is never going to be perfect and it’s always important to make adjustments and compromises when times are tough. Beijing was still a big city and at least things were still relatively normal. Restaurants would still occasionally close but it was a compromise everyone still in China was forced to make. Beijing Hash would still continue operations and there would still be beer and a running trail every Saturday.
April 2021:
I walked into my apartment feeling a mixture of anger and ambivalence. My principal and the man from the company were right about some parts of what they said, I probably never did have a true passion for teaching in the same way some other people did. I never woke up at 6 am pouring over my student’s tests and searching them out all one by one to make sure they work and revise all of their mistakes. I graded tests and homework and would try my best to answer questions
when they were asked. I did care about my students’ success but I would never say I was as emotionally invested in it as some other teachers I’ve seen. I liked teaching and I liked teaching math. I liked helping students and I liked helping the students who really wanted to improve their understanding of math and how it works. Was every day perfect? No. Did I do everything possible to push and motivate my students to understand AP Calculus? Probably not, but I explained it the best way that I could and in a way that made the most sense to me.
Was it time to go home though? If I’m not a teacher what else am I doing in China?
What about my friends here? What about everything I’ve built. It’s only been about 5 months back but I finally felt like I belonged somewhere, that my life had some direction, despite that the purpose still had a lot to do with beer and alcohol.
My only option to stay in China was to continue teaching, nothing else would be viable, and I had to move fairly quickly as it was already mid-April and the end of the school year and my contract was in-sight.
I turned on my computer and decided to start browsing LinkedIn. Immediately I was taken aback by how aggressive the job recruiters in China could be. With the exodus of foreign teachers in China there was a palpable desperation in the way they would approach people to accept an interview for a teaching job. I sent a few messages and got multiple responses back in minutes. Within an hour I had multiple interviews scheduled. Despite everything I wasn’t going back home. I wasn’t ready to leave this city just yet. I still had unfinished business here and I needed to keep moving forward.
Chapter 10
I push branches away as I I crawl along the edge of a fence and try to stay hidden within the darkness. I follow the length of a canal which I distinctly remember as Singaporn Star’s naming location. I was about half-way there and seemingly on track to make it on time. I check my watch.
“7:39 PM”
I still have 21 minutes to make it to the start. Despite everything it seemed like I was actually going to do it.
I then thought about who was left who would meet me at the start. Who left the note, Red Snatcher, Spicy Penis, Little Red Shittinghood? I really had no idea and I really didn’t know what I was getting into. Maybe this was all a trap. Maybe it was a note I had written years ago. Maybe I’m going completely insane? Is any of this real? Why am I still in Beijing anyways? I should have gone home years ago when my family got sick. I should have done something differently. What’s money if you can’t spend it on anything? Currency in general has basically collapsed all across the planet by now but it still doesn’t feel that far away when a few extra thousand dollars in your salary meant a lot. Would I still be alive if I had went back to America, statistically speaking almost certainly no but maybe the time that I would have spent would have meant something more. Certainly better than this, certainly better than running along a canal running to a hash where it’s more than likely a bullet will be waiting for me.
I continue to move through the brush as quickly yet as quietly as possible knowing that time is only on my side if I keep moving forward. I look across the canal and see police cars racing along the street with the lights and sirens blaring. I look above and see a helicopter race over head. With the thermal cameras they have it’s really only luck at this point if they don’t see me. I freeze motionless as I wait for the helicopter to pass. As it moves away I then resume my march through the brush. I then think back of running along this same canal back when things were normal. I even hared a hash on this same canal once or twice.
I remember all of the runners scrambling during an “open check” on the exact same bridge that was up ahead. I get closer to the bridge and dart under it as the path passes under the road. I walk quietly and hear the echoes from the gentle movement of the canal in the evening. I look to my right on the wall and scan all of the graffiti and markings, after a few seconds I finally see it. A small “h” with an arrow at the top written in chalk, an “h” I had written almost 2 years before. I admire it for a few seconds and then move forward and out from under the bridge, able to see my destination a few hundred meters away.
Chapter 11
“BREAKING NEWS, A new COVID variant, B.2.849, now referred to as the Lucifer Variant has now spread across most of Western Europe and is killing people at staggering rates that are completely unprecedented even this far into the COVID-19 pandemic. Reports state the in just 2 weeks up 12 million people may have already died, including children as young as 3 years old. New cases of the Lucifer Variant have been detected in over 78 countries including multiple states across the US. Politicians are now urging the public to once again follow basic health protocols to limit the spread of the rapidly evolving and deadly virus. But, with an increasing distrustful public patience and cooperation with government officials is hard to come by 4 years into the COVID-19 pandemic.
With CNN I’m Erin Burnett”
May 19th, 2024, the day everything changed. The last week of Beijing Hash, the last flight out of China, the last time I would really see any human outside of a hazmat suit. In hindsight it might have been smart to leave with the American Embassy workers but most of them probably didn’t last long back home either. Initially there was some hostility to the last remaining foreigners but once everyone was locked in their apartments most people moved on to focusing on how to keep their own sanity.
We still maintained online teaching for the 2024-2025 school year despite everything happening outside the world. China was able to deter most of the brunt of the Lucifer variant until around the fall of 2025 when even people isolated inside their apartments were dying at rapid rates from the disease. Nowhere was safe and the functions of basic society were crumbling by the hour. December 2025 is when all phones, computers, and electronic devices were confiscated. Books could be reviewed for permission by government officials but the list of permissible books became fewer by the day. My girlfriend Gloria was living with me until around February 2025 when she was granted permission to go visit and stay with her parents in Henan, promising eventually to return. We maintained contact up until the day the electronics were confiscated and then I never heard from her after that.
After that was just existence; sleeping, waiting for meals, waiting for a bug to fly from the window, waiting for an ant to make its way into the kitchen. I still had my wrist watch so I still knew how much time was passing which didn’t feel like it made it any easier. The sunrise and sunset was really the only event to ever look forward to each day. The smoke from the incinerators across the city actually made the sky look a bit more beautiful, which is a thing people probably wouldn’t have talked about if there had been anyone to actually talk to. The red and purple haze lingered over the city and the sliver of light falling beneath the horizon would further dazzle among the colors within the clouds.
And after all of that would come night time where the only thing anyone would want to do is sleep and the only thing anyone could do is stare at the ceiling. Turning on the lights at 3 in the morning and writing notes to yourself just in an attempt to keep your own sanity. Sometimes I would mumble hash songs to myself in an attempt to go to sleep and occasionally it would work.
“s. h. i. t. t. y. t.r.a.i.l, shitty trail” “it sucked.”
“shitty trail”
“it really sucked”
“the motherfuckers made a shitty trail, I would rather suck a dick that hash a shitty trail
s. h. i. t. t. y. t. r. a. i. l.”
I looked at my closet where my beaded necklace still hung on the handle. “Pukelid’s Taxivomitry” it still read.
I thought about the “Brooks was Here” scene from Shawshank Redemption but never quite built up the motivation to scribble my name on the walls, and also it felt a bit corny.
Chapter 12
It’s April 9th 2022, the flowers are just starting to blossom, the sun is finally starting to shine and the condensation drips down from the icy cold glass of the beer. It’s the Pukelid Hash, for some reason or another Bogan Banus decided to dedicate an entire hash for just me, completely unprecedented as far back as anyone could tell for a hash to be dedicated to a single hasher. Gloria my girlfriend who also happens to be a hare for the hash is scrambling around trying to get the walkers to head in the right direction and to make sure the beer is cold and the restaurant has enough seats. The running trail was long and the beer stops were both in beautiful parks with blossoming flowers. 30 to 40 people showed up to the hash and everyone appeared to be having a good time.
I stand around at the first beer stop and hear a voice behind me.
“Wassup Boyyyyy!”
I turn around and immediately see Bangasaurus Sex, Hot Girl Farts, and their 4 year old daughter Table One approaching me.
Bangasaurus Sex and Hot Girls Farts, two hashers in their thirties from Florida, always knew how to make an entrance. Bangasaurus Sex with a loose grey t-shirt, bleached blonde hair, and arms and a chest full of tattoos from everything to Kurt Vonnegut to the Dead Kennedys.
Hot Girl Farts was always equally conspicuous with a tight sleeveless black top and jean shorts.
They could blend in easily in any night club or punk rock show while simultaneously being an encyclopedia when it came to literature.
“What’s up guys. How’s the walking trail?” I ask.
“It fucking sucks, nah I’m just kidding, it’s pretty chill. The weather is so beautiful today.”
I reach to give Bangasaurus Sex a hand shake and a hug and give Hot Girl Farts a hug too.
I look down and see Table One smiling holding a coloring book she had been drawing in.
“How are you Table One?”
Table One giggles as she hugs her mom.
“Good…..” she says.
Table One then sees some local children close to her age at a bench in the park we are in.
“Mommy, can I go talk to those kids?”
“Sure baby, just don’t go too far from Mommy and Daddy. Make sure we can see you.”
“Ok, Mommy”, Table One says as she runs away laughing.
Table One then introduces herself to the other children in Mandarin as she starts to show them her drawings in her coloring book.
Bangasaurus Sex then turns to me.
“What are you doing tonight, we found this club downtown last week, you totally gotta check it out it’ll blow your fucking mind. The DJ is incredible. Best night of my fucking life”
“It was really fun, you’d totally love it”, Hot Girl Farts says.
“Yeah, sure maybe, I gotta check with Gloria but maybe.” I reply.
“Spicy Penis was there until like 5 AM I think, we left around three I think”, Bangasaurus Sex says.
“RUNNERS OPEN CHECK!” I hear a voice from behind me shout as an indication that the runners would need to get back to finding marks.
“I’ll see you guys at beer stop two” I say to them as I start to chase the hashers that were already running away.
The second beer stop was in another beautiful park with flowers and trees blooming everywhere in the warm spring sunshine. Little Red Shittinghood, a British man in his 50s and the primary photographer on the hash, was taking pictures of everyone posing among the radiant pink and purple hues of the blossoming trees.
As usual I grabbed a beer and sat down and socialized a bit with the people around me asking how they enjoyed the trail. The whole day was completely unexpected but everything I could have hoped for.
After taking a few more pictures Little Red Shittinghood came over grabbed a beer and sat next to me.
“Aye, great run mate, really great run”
“Yeah, it’s super nice, the weather’s amazing”, I respond
“Yeah man these flowers and with this wide lens I got on my camera, just taking some great pictures man. Just really a lot of great looking women man.”
“Yeah, yeah it’s gorgeous”, I say as I take another sip of my beer.
“Aye man, we should do more trails like this, good trails we need more good hares like  you mate. You know you’re a charismatic guy you know that?”
“Thanks yeah, I agree it’s a nice trail” I say as I continue to sip my beer and look out at the park.
Little Red Shittinghood then gets a little bit more in my face as I continue to drink my beer.
“You know man I was thinking man, that Swing Low Sweet Chariots song we do, you know at the end?”
“Yeah, of course”
“It’s kind of fucked up that we do that man? You know that song is a slave song from America right? It’s a real song from the Deep South sung by African American slaves. It’s about people whose lives were so bad that they could only hope and pray that God would take them away to heaven.”
I pause for a bit because I actually hadn’t been aware of that up until this point.
“Yeah and we just make jokes about it about cumming and fucking and shitting likes it’s nothing man. It’s just kind of fucked up.”
“Yeah you’re right” I reply back.
“I don’t know man, I just think it’s kind of fucked up man. But great hash man, this has been a great hash man. Cheers big ears”
Little Red Shittinghood then clinks our beers together and then sits and drinks from his bottle for a while.
The beer stop eventually ends and we start running again, continuing to search for the chalk marks dotting the pebbled pathways.
Chapter 13
I made it. I check my watch.
I look around and there is no one around me. We’re in a small park by the canal and there is no one in the vicinity in any direction. I stay crouched under a tree as I continue to gauge the situation.
I check my watch again.
There’s no one coming from either direction down the path. I wait for a few more seconds as I start to get a bit more anxious.
I check my watch again.
What is going on? I didn’t understand what I was supposed do at this point. I also started to realize how difficult it would be to get back to my apartment complex now. Would they just kill me on the spot?
With the risk of the virus spreading it’s probably the most likely outcome, never mind a punishment for escaping from the quarantined apartment in the first place.
I walk over to the exact spot that Singaporn Star was where he was named, the exact few bricks he knelt on. I look and saw something white, I bent down and about half a centimeter wide was a small h with an arrow at the top, pointing to a small wall made from circular stones.
I walk over to the wall and examine it. I look closely and eventually see another tiny, half centimeter wide “h” pointing at one particular stone. I look around, and even behind the wall without seeing anything. I then begin to push the stone and it begins to move.
I wiggle the stone a bit more and it slides out and the mortar filled hole seems to go a bit deeper than the size of the stone is.
I reach inside to see something and feel something metal. I grab it and it appears to be a flashlight. I turn on the flash light and immediately the violet hue of an UV flashlight illuminates the brick wall. I then begin to realize what this particular kind of flashlight can do. I turn around and point the flashlight at the ground behind me and immediately a much larger h with an arrow is seen on the brick pathway, about 10 centimeters long. I follow in the direction of the “h’s” arrow and after a few meters another similar “h” is seen. I start running and following in the direction of the arrow gaining speed because I knew exactly how I was going to get to where I was going even if I had no idea where that was.
Chapter 14
Quite immediately any new hasher recognizes how loved and how important Banana Shoes is to the Beijing Hash House Harriers. Celebrating her 69th birthday in 2021 a warm and loving group of people came out to support her and show her appreciation for what she does. While Hash House Harriers is ultimately a drinking club with some unusual traditions there’s still a lot that goes on behind the scenes that is needed to keep the operations running.
Banana Shoes was in charge of the finances, the run counts, and the general scheduling of hash events across Beijing. She kept the ship running in many ways all while doing it with a positive attitude. Banana Shoes was originally from Australia and had been living in China for over 20 years. She was the person any would go to for advice and the one people would call if they just needed to talk about something that was bothering them. She also had a particularly crude sense of humor that all of the people that knew her well enough appreciated.
One other thing that Banana Shoes was in-charge of was the beaded necklaces that every hasher received once they were named. After one day in June 2021, sitting on the rooftop for dinner after a hash, Banana Shoes came up to finally give me my long coveted beaded necklace.
“How are you love?”, Banana Shoes says as she leans in for a hug. “Good, good” I reply.
“I have your necklace, you just need to put the letters in the right order on the string”
Banana shoes then hands me a plastic bag filled with different colored lettered beads along with some rainbow colored string.
“Here you are”
“Thank you so much” I say as a smile crawls across my face.
I lean in for another hug and then begin assembling my necklace at the table. After a minute or two I tie up the string and hang my brand new necklace around my neck.
“Where do you get these beads from anyways?” I ask Banana shoes.
“Well since I’ve been in Beijing Hash we’ve always had the same distributor who gives us them for free. They’re a bit secretive though so I can’t really tell you a lot about it.”, Banana Shoes replies.
“Really, for free?”, I ask.
“Yeah, I think it goes all the way back to the first hash, as far as I can remember” Banana Shoes says.
“Interesting, good to know I guess”, I say as I take a sip from a beer.
“How are you doing love, how’s life? Work going ok? When do you start your new job?” Banana shoes asks.
“Work’s been alright, the semester is almost over and then I’ll start at my new school in August.”
“I think a fresh start will be good. Just think of the whole thing as a learning experience. You’ve done so well this far. Everyone at the hash loves you you know.”
“Well…..Thank you, that means a lot”, I say with a bit of a shrug.
“Are you seeing anybody right now” she asks me.
“No, not really, it’s been a bit tough recently actually”
“Just give it time, you’re doing great, we all love you so much. And you’re a handsome guy you know, things will work out.”
“Thank you” I say.
“I really appreciate it, Thank you for the necklace and everything”, I say as I lean in to give her a hug.
“Don’t worry, you’re doing great, you’ve already come such a long way”, Banana Shoes says as she pats my back.
I smile and walk over to some of the other hashers on the rooftop as they hand me a glass and a pitcher of Margaritas. I sit in the sunshine and sip my margarita as I look out at the skyline of Beijing, allowing myself to appreciate things for just a moment and how maybe things were going to work out ok for now.
Chapter 15
I felt my beaded necklace dangling around my neck as I continued to move forward, every 20 meters or so I would look around and eventually see another “h” mark. I checked my watch again.
I’ve maybe ran 7 kilometers or so while we’ll watching everywhere I was to avoid detection from police.
I was now in the farther edge of the city and there were fewer police in this area but I was still being as careful as possible. There were marks and a trail but now the question was who made this trail and why?
What was this leading to and what happens when it ends? I scan my UV light on the ground again and see another mark. I continue to move forward.
After another 25 minutes or so I eventually see a different mark. “BN”
A “Beer Near” mark. I continue to scan the ground for marks and run for another few meters. “BBB”
A “Beer Stop” Mark. Nobody was around. I was in the middle of a big overgrown park, grass was towering over every sign. I look with my UV light to see if anything else was around but nothing besides more grass and rows of trees disappearing into the darkness.
I search the area a bit more; I look up into the leaves of the trees without any luck. I look at the signs in the park, explaining the types of planet life that is in the near vicinity in Chinese and
English. I look a bit closer at the ground and at the trees nearest to the “Beer Stop” mark. At the base of the tree nearest to the mark there is a small hole in the roots of the tree. I bend down and put my hand in the hole. There are two items, both feel metallic.
I take one of the items out, one is a can of beer. I pull out the second item, a loaded Forty-five caliber pistol. How anyone got a loaded gun into China during a two year national lockdown was completely beyond my understanding but I accepted it. I then realized that there may have been a small sliver of possibility that I could return back to my apartment alive and that carrying a loaded handgun would diminish that possibility significantly. Why would I need a handgun? This was supposed to be a hash, a hash is just an excuse to drink beer and hang out with your and now I’m carrying a gun on one? If I bring the gun with me then I had better be prepared to use it if I really needed it. Maybe there would be something at the end of the trail waiting for me, maybe there was someone behind me coming. I checked the safety was on and I put the gun in my backpack, I reached for the beer to put it in my backpack and paused for a second. Despite everything, despite all of the death and misery, despite
the fact that this might be my last few hours alive this was still a hash and on a hash you’re supposed to drink beer.
I cracked open the beer and took a sip. It wasn’t ice cold but for the first beer in over 2 years it wasn’t too bad. I knew time was still crucial so I finished the beer quickly and threw the empty can in my bag. I stood up and kept running along the trail.
Another hour or so passed as I ran along empty freeways and through alleys. Every time I heard talking I would wait for a few minutes before it subsided and then continue to move forward. I
wasn’t sure if the police were still looking for me or if anyone had actually seen me. No one in the entire country was supposed to be out so I felt particularly conspicuous. It was a new moon so I could hide within the darkness much more discretely. Each step felt like I was walking closer to my death, but at the same time every step since leaving my apartment building has felt like freedom.
In normal times hashing already had confrontations with the police. A rowdy group of foreigners in China always drew attention for better or worse. Generally we were just told to leave, or find a new spot to drink beer and act like hooligans. Obviously it was a bit different when the potential consequences involved death but it still felt a bit familiar and comforting to be back running a hash trail, dodging the authorities.
I continue to run and see silhouette of what looks like an industrial park. Smoke towers and warehouses, clearly not operating anymore, filled the horizon through the trees. The marks are pointing to the industrial park so I continue to run towards it. Even within the deep darkness of the night I can see truly how old and decrepit this area truly was. Rusted metal, collapsed roofs and fallen brick walls littered the giant compound, at least a kilometer wide on each side. A collapsed steam tower can be seen in one corner of the lot.
Surrounding the industrial area was a tall chain link fence with even more barbed wire. I make my way down a small grassy hill and reach the fence and look around. No one can be seen or heard in any direction. I point my UV light at a nearby tree as a few crows caw and fly away. I look all around to figure out what to do next. I turn my flashlight to my right and see a few large boulders. I walk over to the boulders to make out what if any marking is on them.
Another “Beer near”, I’m on the right track and still heading in the right direction. I continue on for another few meters and eventually stop seeing marks. I look around confused. I look ahead a bit and then back into the forest a bit. I then start to head back from the direction where I came from. I see the boulders again and wonder if I was heading in the wrong direction completely. I then turn to my right and see a medium sized electrical box near the chain link fence. I put my UV flashlight on the surface of the box.
The second beer stop. I see that the electrical box requires a key but I tap it anyways. The door of the box creaks open and I shine my light inside.
Sitting inside the box is another can of beer and a pair of wire cutters. I grab the beer, crack it open and take a sip. I sit down take a bit more time to enjoy this beer as I stare up into the night sky. Beijing, a once glowing city and home to over twenty million people was now consumed in darkness. However, with each vacant apartment the vast span and depth of the Milky Way was shining as brightly as ever before. Billions and Trillions of stars littered the entire night sky as I stood there and admired it. I then began to think of the inherent likelihood that there had to be life out there somewhere, just based on the number of chances. Would every civilization or life in the universe inevitably suffer the same fate  humans did? Is life supposed to feel this fleeting? If there really was another planet out there with something that looked a bit like us I guess it was nice to think that this wasn’t really the end after all, not entirely. Maybe someone someday will find this planet and find the good things that used to be here, even if it takes a little bit of looking.
I finish my beer and put the empty can again in my bag. I grab the wire cutters and begin to cut the chain link fence. After a minute or so I make a hole in the fence big enough for me to crawl through. I walk in and see the crumbled concrete surface stretching into the decaying and abandoned factories.
I walk slowly as I continue to look for a sign or some sort of further direction. Eventually I find another small “h” with an arrow at the top.
Why would they make me cut through the fence if they already got in here some other way, I guess at this point it’s not important. I continue on as the marks lead me into the depths of the factories and warehouses. I crawl into the shadows made from the towering structures and keep my flash light illuminated to maintain my sense of direction. I see another mark, I’m still on the right trail.
I continue to pass through the pathway that separates each building. I step over sheet metal and wood beams as I continue to stay as quiet as possible. A gentle wind blows through the broken windows high above me as I move forward. I hear some rustling up ahead and see the shadow of a rat pass across the alley way. I point my flash light to the ground and see an “h” with an arrow pointing right.
I look to the direction the arrow is pointing and I see the entrance to a Giant Factory with a sign in Chinese that I am unable to read. I take a deep breath and walk to the entrance of the factory, stepping over more sheet metal.
I slowly enter into the factory and see giant turbines covered in decades of rust. I creep forward and as I see another “h” mark on the ground of the factory. I walk forward, suddenly feeling a growing fear swirling in my stomach. I looked up at the towering ceilings of the factory and saw more broken window panes as dust fell through them. I could tell that my breathing was starting to become a bit erratic so I tried my best to control it the best that I could. I continued to walk towards one side of the factory. Eventually I saw a path way that was completely covered in the shadows. I reached the pathway and saw that it was a set of cement stairs leading down to a lower level. The pathway was on the side of a cement wall that towered high above with windows only at the very top. To either side the cement wall stretched with only a few small industrial components scattered on the side.
I looked down the stairwell again and shined my flashlight down it. Deep in the distance I saw a metal door on it, again with a sign in Chinese that I was unable to understand.
There was no point to turning back now. I had nowhere else to go but through that door.
I turned around and looked at the giant turbines and machinery behind me, trying to figure out what they possibly could have been used for. I put my backpack and grab the water that I had brought and take a sip. I put the water back and see the gun that was sitting in my backpack.
I take the gun out and hold it in my hands. I analyze it a bit and try using the sight, pointing it at one of the turbines. I zip up my back pack, stand up and put it back on my back with the
gun still in my right hand. I again look down the stairs. I take one step down the stairs and then another. The complete and total darkness of the cement tunnel surrounds me.
Looking back the small bit of light from the entrance grows smaller. I take a few more steps down the stairs and grip the gun in my hand in bit tighter. I try to stay as silent as possible and as I get a few meters away from the door begin to hold my breath. After a few more steps I reach the floor and am standing directly in front of the door. I put my head down and close my eyes, blinking a few
times to make sure I wasn’t having some sort of nightmare. I open my eyes and put my hand on the door. I lift the gun with my other hand keep it pointed up. I begin to twist the door knob and see that it is open. I push open the door as a beam of light breaks through the crack.
Chapter 16
A.S. Ignatius “G” Gispert, one of the founders of the original Hash House Harriers in Kuala Lumpur, was an accountant by trade but always had an interest in science, specifically atomic physics. He never had the confidence in his abilities as a mathematician or science to pursue a degree in Physics at University but his childhood passion for exploring the intricacies of the universe remained with him his entire life. Most people that knew him would describe Gispert as a very sociable and friendly person and the creation of Hash House Harriers only furthered his popularity among those stationed in Kuala Lumpur. Everything in Gispert’s life centered around the Selangor Club which became the center and home of Gispert’s newly found community.
While the Selangor Club was always a vibrant and social place Gispert noticed that after a hash people were even more particularly friendly and willing to share their feelings and opinions.  Gispert would always make sure everyone he was talking with and the Club had a cold beer and would ask them all sorts of questions to keep them talking. He was particularly keen on talking with anyone who knew anything about the latest breakthroughs in quantum mechanics. Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, he would always read everything he could about the subject and try to find anyone he could to talk to about it over a pint of beer.
The group that Gispert started flourished and by August 15th, 1941 Hash House Harriers was able to celebrate it’s 100th run. Nearly all the runners were members of the Selangor Club but were still from a wide variety of backgrounds and professions including many government officials.
Gispert was still in Malaysia primarily for the War that was still raging all across Asia and the Pacific and was made a Company Commander with the Selangor Battalion of the Federated Malay States Volunteers.
In the latter half of 1941, Gispert went on leave to Australia, but returned as soon as war broke out in the Far East. By the time he reached Singapore, the Selangor Battalion of the Federated Malay States Volunteers and been disbanded following the loss of most of the Malayan Peninsula, and Gispert joined the 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders on January 21st, 1942 where he was OC Mortar Platoon.
Records state that during the battle for Singapore Gispert was killed at Dairy Farm Road early on the morning of February 11th, 1942 at aged 39. His body was never identified.
While “G” himself was gone, in 1946 the Hash House Harriers resumed with the help of his fellow hashers Torch Bennet, Philip Wickens, and Cecil Lee.
On February 19th 1962, Ian Cumming, a former Kulala Lumpur Hash House Harrier founded a second Hash kennel in Singapore paving the way for Hash House Harriers to become the worldwide phenomenon that it eventually became.
With every beer, with every chalk mark, with every accusation and song in the circle the legacy of “G” has continued and remains within the spirit of every hasher.
Chapter 17
I swing the door open and quickly scan the room with my gun. Bright fluorescent lights shine in my eyes, I become blinded as I my eyes struggle to adjust to the abrupt change.
“PUKELID! YOU MADE IT”, I hear a child’s voice shout.
“Huh?” I look as I squint and try to make out what and who is in the room.
“We didn’t think anyone was going to come”, a woman’s voice calls out, a voice that sounds strangely familiar.
I again try to blink a few times as I block a bit of the light with my left hand.
As I regain a bit more of my vision I see four figures, including one that’s a bit smaller.
“Red…….is that Red Snatcher” I ask as a I begin to make out some of their faces. “Yeah it’s me, Spicy Penis, Hot Girl Farts, and Table One”, she replies.
Five Beijing Hashers, myself included, all occupied the room, among them Hot Girl Farts and her now nine year old daughter Table One.
“Why……..” I stutter as I try to find my words.
“We don’t know”, Hot Girl Farts says “We just followed the marks”. “From Shanghai? ” I ask completely bewildered.
“We were told we needed to do a mandatory check at the hospital and then thrown into a military van, or what looked like one, then after a 15 hour drive we were given a flashlight and pushed out of the van, exactly at the circle spot of our first hash.”
“Ok” I say even more confused.
“Where’s Bangasaurus Sex?” Hot Girl Farts lowers her head.
“He didn’t make it”, Red Snatcher mutters.
I see Spicy Penis standing in the corner.
“Hey” I say to him and I wave “Hey” he replies back to me.
“So…….what…..why are we all here though? ”, still as confused as before.
“We don’t know, we’ve just been sitting here for about an hour” Spicy Penis responds.
I scan the room a bit. Fluorescent Lights line the ceiling as dirty beige tile fills the walls of the completely windowless room. To the right side there is a desk with stacks of books along with some more book shelves on each side of the desk.
On the left side there are a few metal cabinets with some scattered machinery and tools stacked on top of them.
In the middle of the room is a large machine, about the size of a small car with pipes and wires going into it from the floor and ceiling.
“What is this for” I ask pointing at the large machine. “We have no idea” Hot Girl Farts replies.
“Does it turn on?” I ask.
“We don’t want to try it, we have no idea what it does”,
Red Snatcher says with concern.
I stand silently completely lost for words.
“We found this notebook, on the middle of the desk” Red Snatcher says quietly.
I look up and walk towards her. I look at the front. The only thing on the notebooks cover is a small letter “G” in the corner.
“Did you try reading it?” I ask.
“Yes, it’s about Hash?” Red Snatcher replies tentatively.
I grab the book from her hands and turn to a page near the front. “May 28th, 1937
I have just been informed that I am going to be stationed in Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur specifically. I have never been to that part of the world but I have heard the weather is much nicer than that of London. I don’t know what to pack but certainly my sporting shoes and trousers. I hope that I can continue to keep my athletics up in Malaysia. I will miss my parents but have told them I will always write when I can and will try to bring back some preserved Malaysia Fruits if I am allowed when I return home. As we all know Calm waters do not make a skilled sailor and I intend to be as skilled as any.
– Yours Truly “A.S.” I turn to another page.
“December 10th, 1938
Today was our first official ‘Harriers’ run. We had a few lost runners but overall it was a merry and delightful day of sport for everyone. The event at our ‘Hash’ Club afterwards was great fun and a few runners probably had a bit too much beer to drink. I plan to continue having a run every weekend as long as I am here in Malaysia. Cecil and Ronald seem to be just as enthusiastic about our club as me and I think they will help me find new members.
– Yours Truly “A.S.”
I flip into the notebook further.
“July 8th, 1939
Today was very hot, I barely survived the heat on our run today. We have finally settled on a name for the club, “Hash House Harriers”. It has a nice ring to it I think and John and Cecil agree. We’ve also decided to refer to ourselves exclusively by our “Hash Names”.
We had a grand ceremony at the Selangor Club and I have officially been dubbed as “G”. My fellow hashers are now referred to as “Horse” and “Torch, so I will refer to them as such from now on. The Harriers has been a spectacular success and I think we will continue to grow. I have met so many interesting people through this group and have learned so much. I had the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle explained to me today which I found truly fascinating. I hope to continue to learn and meet other people and especially people with such a rich knowledge of science.
• Yours Truly “G”
– I look up from the notebook and see Hot Girl Farts and Spicy Penis looking at me, Table One sitting down, rolling a pencil across the floor. I continue reading.
“September 5th, 1939
War has broken out in Europe. I, as well as many others don’t have much confidence in Poland’s defenses but we can still hope. If the war spreads I’m sure Britain and other allies will get involved and I am dreadfully worried of the consequences of a situation such as that. Asia as well continues, Japan continues to occupy much of Asia at this point and much of the Chinese mainland appears to be lost to the Japanese as well. There have been rumors that we will soon be deployed to somewhere in Asia but much of it depends on what the Americans decide to do. I am extremely worried that things here will soon get much worse. For now I will continue focusing on the Hash House Harriers. With everything going on in the world it is nice to there is still cold beer”
– Yours Truly “G” I flipped through a few more pages.
“January 11th, 1942
I am being called to War, the region near Singapore is under attack and they are calling us up for defenses. If I am being honest I don’t really believe in this War at all, I have heard what the Japanese have done but I am not sure why it concerns me. Why should I have to die for a country that isn’t mine? Britain is and was in Malaysia for rubber; there is no bigger cause, to ship rubber and other goods that never belonged to us in the first place. Everything regarding my purpose here feels meaningless and empty. In fact it’s worse than meaningless, it’s exploitative. If I die in this war it won’t be because I believe in this
war or my country. It will be because I was enlisted and ended up in the wrong place under a belief in a system that I am working to disband from. I have been doing a lot of reading lately and I think there certain merits to the communist party that most of Western Europeans choose to ignore. If this is goodbye I want to be remembered as a son, a friend, and a Hash House Harrier.
-Yours Truly “G”
I flip ahead and see that there is still about a quarter of the notebook filled with journal entries.
“February 13th, 1942
I am now on the run. I am hiding in an attic in a fishing village in Malaysia and waiting to arrange for a boat to Hong Kong. I am sick of this war and I am sick of fighting in it. I have been reading the works of Mao Zedong and believe he is the only voice of reason in this chaotic mess of world we are living in. There is still a war raging in the Chinese mainland and I believe it is my responsibility to help fight with them, with the Communist Party of China. My Mandarin is not good but I am a quick learner with languages and intend to do everything I can to improve. As far as A.S. Gispert is concerned, that man and identity are dead to me. I left my dog tag on a burned body near a crashed air craft and never turned back. I leave my parents and my life in London behind as well as my friends and fellow hashers in Kuala Lumpur. I am starting a new life and I may soon die in this one as well, but for I finally feel like I am free.
-Yours Truly “G”
I put my hand on my forehead as my mind spins with what I am reading. “You read all of this?”, I ask Red Snatcher
“Most of it yeah.”, she replies I continue reading ahead.
“September 6th, 1944
I am now living in a small village in Southern China. I managed to convince a family that I would help work for them and that I was not a threat. Communication with the family is still not easy but I have worked hard and they have begun to accept me. I have very little contact with the outside world but a newspaper I found seemed to say that the Americans and Allies have successfully retaken part of France and are now moving forward towards Germany. Even though I have defected from my mother country I am still a bit proud to see them challenging Nazi Germany. The war in China and Asia on the other hand seems to have no end in sight. The Japanese continue to occupy much of the territory and any challenge against it has been sparse. I grow weary that this may be our new reality, and that an allegiance with the Chinese Communist Party was significant miscalculation on my end. I have not had the courage to go out and fight. I fear how I would be accepted. Most of the fighting is still farther north and a great distance from where I am now. For now I will continue to remain a coward and hide to see how things unravel.
-Yours Truly ‘G’” I flip forward a few pages again.
“August 16th, 1945
VICTORY!!!!!! THE WAR IS OVER!!!! The Japanese have surrendered and China is free! While my Chinese is improving I still had trouble understanding the newspaper I found but ultimately could understand the general idea. From what I could read the cause of the surrender was a large fire or bomb of some sort. From my talks with some scientists in Malaysia Albert Einstein had theorized about a giant bomb that used the energy of atoms, something I never could completely understand. It’s possible that was involved somehow. Regardless the war is over and China can build and recover. I have heard from some locals that Japanese Troops are already leaving China. I am not sure what the future now holds but I am now filled with optimism.
-Yours Truly ‘G’”
I continue reading head a bit further.
“May 2nd, 1949
It has been four long years of fighting in China, I have moved a northward and have noticed that the language dialects are not very consistent across China and communication remains difficult. After the fighting it appears the Communist Party is very close to victory and the Mao Zedong will soon become the leader of China. I will continue to make my way north and hope to join ties with the Communist Party when a true victory is declared.”
I read another entry two pages over.
“October 10th, 1949
The war is truly and finally over. Mao Zedong has declared the establishment of the People’s Republic of China with the capital city in the north now named Beijing. I now feel that it is my time to join with my brotherhood and complete my journey that has now spanned almost a decade. I have sacrificed everything for this and I intend to finally have validation I have been searching for. I will continue to make my way to the capital city and hope to be there before the winter months arrive. “
“So……” I say as I look at everyone in the room. “Pretty crazy huh….” Spicy Penis says.
“So we know he made it to Beijing I guess”, I say.
“Wait, that’s all you read? You didn’t even read the crazy part.” Hot Girl Farts says. “What do you mean?”, I ask.
“Did you read the part of him trying to develop a Nuclear Bomb with the Chinese Government?”, Hot Girl Farts asks energetically.
“Wait what?”, I say as a flip back into the book
I search through the back of the book and scan for anything that refers to Nuclear. “Oh fuck….here it is”, I exclaim.
“February 25th, 1952
I have been successfully able to convince the Communist Party of China that I am an Australian Nuclear Physicist. After a long period of “deliberation” I have successfully been able to convince them of my loyalty to China and the Communist Party. Surprisingly enough they have now assigned me on their project to develop an atomic bomb. Through my time of hashing and socializing with other scientists I have been able to demonstrate enough intellect to act like I know what I’m writing but most of the time I just have been nodding and trying to look busy. I’m not exactly sure how long I can keep this ‘performance’ of sorts going but for now I have learned a lot about atomic physics and a significant amount of Mandarin.
On second thought, writing this all down in a journal doesn’t seem particularly smart but most people won’t look in the sock drawer I keep it in.
-Yours Truly ‘G’ “
“What the….what the Fuck”, I say completely jaw dropped. “Yup”, Hot Girl nods. “It gets weirder” she says.
I flip towards the last pages of the notebook and read one of the last entries. “August 19th, 1952
I’ve been able to evade detection and still continue to work in the Atomic Lab in Beijing. I have started to try to stay busy in other ways so I can avoid more suspicion from my colleagues in the lab. I have found my own office and have been running experiments, working to grow different types of crystals. After a few months of trying to look busy I accidently stumbled upon something that I believe could have great potential for some scientific breakthrough if my calculations are correct. I have developed a crystal that, after multiples trials, seems to have a non-negligible effect on the passing of time with a large amount of electricity running through it. I will need to do more trials and will keep my experiments secret from my colleagues until I understand the properties of the crystal more.”
“This can’t be….”, I say to everyone. Hot Girl Farts shrugs. “I don’t know”.
“August 23rd, 1952
I have decided on a name for the crystal I have developed, “Hashnium”. After a few more trials I believe I have conclusive evidence to support my theory that Hashnium has the ability to distort time and space. I have still only used small quantities in my experiments and intend to do trials with much larger quantities in the coming days. I truly believe this crystal has the ability to change human history as we know it once its powers are harnessed. So much suffering has occurred since the beginning of the war and all anyone has been able to do is grieve for the dead. If my life and my life’s work could be used for one thing it would be to take away from the suffering of the war, not adding to it like so many others have. I have yet to figure out what this crystal can be used for but it is now my life’s mission to find out.
– Yours Truly ‘G’ ”
“There’s one more entry”, I say to everyone.
“Read it, we know what it says”, Red Snatcher replies.
“September 4th, 1952
Today will be my first trial with a large quantity of Hashnium. It doesn’t sound like much but 200 grams is the largest sample size that I’ve used in my experiments by a factor of one hundred. I have built a large device that can handle the necessary amount of current needed to activate the Hashnium’s properties, according to my calculations. I have even made a token to remember the moment by. A necklace made from a bit of Hashnium with some colored string I found in my desk draw. I even carved a G in the crystal itself.
I’ll report back how the trial goes and let you know what I discover. Goodbye for now.
-Yours Truly ‘G’”
“That’s the end of the book”, Red Snatcher says. “So….now what?”, I ask.
“We don’t know what to do, we were hoping you would”, Spicy Penis says. “Hashnium?”, I say. “What the fuck is Hashnium?”
“The crystal in the journal”, Hot Girl Farts says. “Yeah but, why have I never heard of that?, I ask. “I guess he kept it a secret”, Red Snatcher says.
“But, why are we here? To read a notebook?”, I say as I grow frustrated. “I don’t think so, but I have no idea otherwise” Hot Girl Farts says.
Suddenly a voice is heard from the corner of the room.
“I think you guys should turn on the machine”, Table One says.
“Wren, baby, be quiet honey, we’re trying to get us back home”, Hot Girl Farts says. “But you didn’t even try it, how do you know what it does?”, Table One continues.
Everyone then looks at the machine in the center of the room.
“Did you guys find anything else? Anything else that could help us understand what this does, or anything that could help us at all? What about those books in the bookcase?” I ask.
“They’re just textbooks, nothing explaining what this thing does or anything else helpful, we looked through all of them, all through the desk too.” Spicy Penis says.
“So this is it.” I say with an exhausted sigh. “This is it.” Red Snatcher says.
“There’s a switch on the side of the machine”, Spicy Penis says.
I get down on my knees and look on the side of the machine. A switch on the side is in the down position.
I wait for a few seconds and then put my fingers on the switch.
With my fingers holding the switch I look back up to everyone standing near me.
“Yes?”, I ask.
“Yes.”, everyone says in unison.
I turn on the machine and it immediately begins to make twirling and spinning sounds. I stand up and back away from the machine, as does everyone else in the room.
As the machine runs on the top of the machine is a small hole that a bright blue beam of light starts to emerge from.
“What is happening”, I yell across the room.
“I don’t know”, Red Snatcher responds nervously. Table One runs to hold her mother as they both look on in shock.
We watch the machine whirl for a few minutes and nothing seems to happen. “What do we do now?”, Spicy Penis yells.
“I don’t know”, Hot Girl Farts screams.
We again continue to stare and look at each other for answers as everything continues to shake. My breath begins to shorten as I try to figure out what to do next and what I possible disaster I should be expecting.
“Our necklaces!”, Red Snatcher suddenly says.
Everyone looks at Red Snatcher in complete confusion.
“Our necklaces we need to throw our necklaces into the machine”, Red Snatcher says more confidently.
“What the fuck are you talking about”, Hot Girl Farts exclaims.
“The Hashnium, the Hashnium is in our necklaces” Red Snatcher starts to say assertively. “The necklaces are made from fucking plastic beads”, Hot Girl Farts shouts.
“I don’t think so Banana Shoes always said she got the beads from somewhere special and never told us where. I think the Hashnium is in the necklaces, in fact I’m almost sure”, Red Snatcher says to everyone in the room.
“This is ridiculous”, Hot Girl Farts says with an eye roll.
I start to move away from the wall and walk towards the machine. I walk up to the machine and look at the blue light coming out from it.
Slowly I start to take the Necklace off from around my neck. “What are you doing”, Hot Girl Farts screams.
“We need everyone to do it at the same time”, I reply back calmly.
“Are you fucking crazy? You have no idea what this thing even is or what it does!”, Hot Girl yells even more assertively.
“He’s right, we need to do it together”, Red Snatcher says confidently.
Red Snatcher then walks up to the machine. After a few moments Spicy Penis follows her to the machine as well.
Hot Girl Farts still stands motionless against the wall.
The three Beijing hashers are now gathered around the machine with their necklaces in their hands. A few more seconds pass and Hot Girl Farts begins to pull away from the wall.
She then gets down on her knees and looks Table One in the eyes.
“No matter what happens I want you to know that Mommy will always love you. We’ll always be together. You know that right?”
“Yeah I know, I love you too Mommy”, Table replies back Hot Girl Farts then grabs Table one and hugs her tight for a minute.
Hot Girl Farts then pulls away and with tears in her eyes struggles as she tries to talk.
“Now you gotta take your necklace off now baby, Mommy’s gotta take it from you. We’re gonna do a game.”
“Ok, Mommy”
Hot Girl Farts then pulls the necklace off from around Table One’s neck and the places both their necklaces in the palm of her right hand.
All five of the Beijing Hashers then stand around the machine with the necklaces ready to throw them into the machine.
“Wait.” Red Snatcher says. “Let’s sing a song.” “A song?” I ask. “What kind of song.”
“A hash song, we had a hash and now it’s time for circle we need to sing a song for circle” Red Snatcher says with a slight smile on her face.
“Oh…..ok”, I say nervously.
Red Snatcher then looks at everyone and starts to sing softly and slowly. “Beijing……Beijing…… what a wonderful place to hash.”
Everyone looks at each other as they share a knowing glace of the familiar lyrics. Everyone then begins to slowly sing the song as well.
“We have great fun dodging the shit and trash.
Our skies are never clear, but we have cheaper beer. We like our drinks, our singing stinks,
so welcome to the Beijing – “
Suddenly a loud bang is heard at the door, everyone turns and sees a team of police covered in riot gear with Automatic Rifles drawn on them.
“BIE DONG! JU QI SHOU LAI!” the police immediately scream at us. “JU QI SHOU LAI!” the police officers scream again.
Red Snatcher and Spicy Penis Quickly put their hands up while Hot Girl Farts, Table One, and I quickly follow suit.
The officers stay with their guns drawn as they report back with their radios.
With guns pointed at us and our hands up I turn back and look at Red Snatcher. Red Snatcher then gives nod to me. I look at Spicy Penis and he gives a nod to me as well. I turn to Hot Girl Farts and Table One who both nod together.
Suddenly Red Snatcher starts to open her mouth. “One, Two, Three!” she shouts quickly.
Then all four of us holding the necklaces throw them into the hole with the bright blue light coming from it.
Simultaneously the police start firing bullets across the room as I feel them piercing my skin.
As I fall to the floor I hear the revving of the machine grow louder and louder and louder and the room was becoming brighter and brighter and brighter.
Then nothing.
Then I saw nothing.
Then I saw myself floating through a white void, spinning with my legs tossing over my head. My ears were ringing but I still couldn’t feel anything. I tried to blink a few times but I was still surrounded by the bright white void.
After what felt like an hour the void began to grow a bit dimmer. I was still spinning but much more slowly now. The white void turned to grey and the grey void started to turn to black. Suddenly white dots emerged, faint at first but then growing brighter. Suddenly I could see the swirls of the Milky Way galaxy and realized all of the tiny dots were stars. I look to my left and see the sun hanging in space. I then look ahead of me and see what looks like a giant cloud of gas and white vapor growing bigger.
After staring at the object I began to realize it was earth, or where earth had been. I began to feel surprisingly peaceful and began to close my eyes. I then let my body drift away by itself without any struggle as I fell deeper into the cosmos.
Chapter 18
The alarm on my cellphone goes off, it’s 8:30 am. I feel the bed sheets against my skin as I slowly commit to getting out of bed. I stand up and turn on the light and try to figure out where I am. I’m in my parents’ house in Minnesota. I look around and then walk out of the bedroom.
“Erik! Good morning”, my mom exclaims.
“Hey”, I say as I look around my parents’ kitchen confused.
“You’re up early”, my dad says as he sips his coffee from the couch as he watches the weather channel
“What, why am I here?”, I ask.
“What do you mean?” my mom asks.
“I mean, like why am I here, why am I here in this house?”, I continue. “I don’t understand the question”, my mom says confused.
“I…..I was in China”, I say stuttering a bit.
“China?” my mom asks confused “When did you ever go to China?” “Erik, are you feeling ok?” my Dad asks.
“Maybe we need to refill his medication”, my mom tries to say quietly to my dad. “What, what day is it?” I ask feeling a mix of exhaustion and confusion.
“It’s Thursday”, my mom says.
“Like what day of the year”, I ask again.
“It’s June 5th”, she says.
“June 5th…..June 5th……June 5th what?”
“What do you mean what?”, my mom asks nervously. “Like what year is it?”, I ask feeling a bit sick now.
“Erik, it’s 2021, it’s June 5th,2021. Maybe we need to take you to the hospital”, my mom says with concern.
I start to show a bit of emotion and then try to hold back tears.
“I… I was in China, what do you mean it’s 2021? Where am I.” as I start to panic. “Erik, we need to take you to the hospital.”, my dad says.
“I …..I don’t need to go to the hospital. I…. none of this makes any sense.” I start to say as my voice gets louder.
“I was in China, I was trapped in my apartment for 2 years, you all died of COVID!”, I start to shout.
“COVID?”, my mom asks.
“What’s COVID?”, my dad asks.
I stand and stare at both of my parents as they give me concerned looks. I walk back to my bedroom and grab my cellphone.
I go to the calendar app and check the date. “June 5th, 2021”
“US President”, I type into my phone’s browser. Google search results pop up and show Donald Trump’s face.
“ ‘COVID-19 Pandemic’”, I type into my phone again with quotation marks.
Zero Results found.
I bury my pillow in my head for a few minutes. My mom comes into my room.
“Erik, are you feeling OK?”, my mom asks as she sits on the edge of my bed “No, not really actually.”, I say as I start to sit up in the bed.
“Do you need to go to the hospital? I double checked and you’ve taken all of your medication this week. Maybe you should take today’s right now”, my mom says to me calmly.
“I’ve never…I don’t remember ever taking any…..was I ever a math teacher?”, I ask.
My mom looks at me with a worried face again.
“Yes, but you came home remember, you weren’t doing very well. You went to the hospital, remember? Do you not remember that?” My says as she looks at me and checks my eyes. “You were having some mental…..issues”.
“No, honestly I don’t remember that”, I say looking at my bed sheets. “Just get some rest Erik” she says as she tries to pat my shoulder.
I put my head down back on my pillow. I was still extremely tired and some rest would probably help. Maybe I’d wake up and I’d be back in China, or maybe I never was in China I was honestly too tired to even remember clearly.
I lay my head down and then I start thinking about the hash again. Where was Gobblin’ King, Banana Shoes, Kiddiepoo? The more that I think about it those do sound like some pretty made up names. I had a bed and for now and maybe that was enough. Tomorrow I would try to make sense of it all.

Hash: Novel tells the story of our brave and noble protagonist Pukelid braving an apocalyptic hellscape to find adventure, friendship, purpose, and most importantly BEER! Pukelid’s story emerges from our beloved (and in real life still alive) hasher Singaporn Star’s naming location so this hash is dedicated to this sacred and legendary site.

Join us for Beijing Hash House Harriers Run number 2139 as we relive the magic of Hash: A Novel and discover the power of hashing and possibly the wonders of Hashnium.


Hash Cash:

30 RMB (run, beer, circle), 105 RMB (run, beer, circle, dinner)

Pukelid’s Taxivomitry, 2 Slow 2 Cum
A-A (dog friendly route but not the restaurant). Bags can be dropped at the restaurant.    
Sunday, February 25th 2024
Meet up at 1:30pm and start the run at 2:00pm SHARP!
Address: Guolin Jia Chang Cai 郭林家常菜 酒仙桥
Restaurant Address: No. 27, Jiuxianqiao Rd., Chaoyang District, 北京市朝阳区酒仙桥路27号

D’Erections to Meet Up Spot:
Take line 14, get off at Jiangtai Station, get out from exit C cross Jiuxianqiao Rd and walk south for 300 meters, the restaurant will be on the right side.

As usual, this is an adult activity in which we behave like children so expect to see nonsense, licentiousness, a modest level of drunkenness and considerable rude behaviour going on. There may be vomiting on this occasion. Don’t be offended; we’re always like that and if you’re here you’re doing it too. For all of those reasons this isn’t a kid-friendly activity so – unless you’re table 1 – best stay home. More regular members of society are of course very welcome and can of course take part, but be polite, don’t be purposefully rude and remember that if you’re running there’s no winner.