“Monkey King, Faerie Queen” by Zen Cho

“Monkey King, Faerie Queen” by Zen Cho

Now to be fair, Sun Wukong was already in a bad mood when he arrived at the Faerie Court.

You don’t know who Sun Wukong is? You’re kidding! You haven’t heard of the Great Sage Equal to Heaven, the one who is Mindful of Emptiness, the Exquisite and Most Satisfactory Prince of Monkeys, defier of gods and Buddhas alike, scorner of other people’s dignity and personal inspiration to little monkeys everywhere?

One day a stone cracked and he jumped out: that was the miracle that was his birth. His fur is as silken as your favorite shirt and as golden as the midday sun. He has eyes of fire and the biggest ears anyone ever saw on a monkey. And if you want to look up his name in the Book of Life and Death, forget about it, because he went down to Hell and wiped that shit out himself!

You know who he is? Why didn’t you say so? You didn’t know his name? That’s okay. All gods have more than one name, to give the mortals more chances to swear. You can call him the Monkey God or Monkey King or just plain Monkey, whatever you like. It’s the same simian in the end.

This was in the pre-Enlightenment days, you understand, before Sun Wukong mended his ways and became a Buddha. In the days when Sun Wukong was still naughty, and enjoyed the occasional punch-up.

This old Sun Wukong had yet to transcend the sin of lust. One day on the Mountain of Flowers and Fruit, where he reigned, Sun Wukong was trying to impress a pretty monkey. Pretty monkeys with a cynical curling lip are the cause of so much trouble in this world!

“With my staff I can control the tides and whack the sea dragons kau-kau,” said Sun Wukong. “And when I am finished, I can make my staff small-small and put it inside my ear.”

The pretty monkey was at her most enchanting when she was bored.

“Maybe I am very shallow,” she said, “but I always think size matters.”

“My staff weighs 13,500 jin at normal size!” said Sun Wukong.

The pretty monkey yawned.

“With my eyes I can see evil no matter what form it takes,” said Sun Wukong. “No matter how it tries to hide, it cannot hide from me.

“Once I saw a pink baby dolphin frolicking in the sea. It leapt out of the waves and danced back down into the sea together with its mother. The salt from the water blurred my eyes and at first I smiled upon them. But when I blinked, I saw there was a demon within the baby dolphin! The next time it turned to its mother, it opened its mouth and there was way too many teeth for any dolphin in there!

“I flew down and snatched the demon from the sea and we fought above the heaving waters for eight days and eight nights. On the ninth day he tore out a chunk of my beautiful fur and as I howled in pain, he vanished into the air. I went down to the sea to tell the mother she was safe, but she beat me for taking away her baby. She gave me two and a half bruises.”

“How cruel,” said the pretty monkey, frowning. Sun Wukong wasn’t altogether comfortable in his mind that she was referring to the dolphin mother, so he hurried on.
“Of course I don’t really fly. What I do is much more exciting than flying,” he said. “My master taught me to travel by jumping from cloud to cloud. For me it’s as easy as swinging from one tree to another. In one somersault I can travel 108,000 li.”

“Oh, really?” said the pretty monkey, with the most delicate, infuriating inflection of disbelief.

Sun Wukong was getting a little annoyed.

“Yes, see!” he said.

He did one jump, but on the second cloud he stumbled, and to correct himself he made another jump. Now he was tens of thousands of li away from the pretty monkey. He thought of jumping back to see if she was impressed yet, but he was not quite pleased with his last somersault. He tried another one, to see if it would be better. Then another one.

In this way Monkey hurtled halfway across the world. Beneath him snowy deserts unfurled, peopled with bears and wolves. Rivers thundered along their courses and elephants went on parades, shaking their bedizened heads. Sleepy old men nodded off on their doorsteps; women with floury hands molded dough into turtle-shapes. Humans with icicles in their hair sneezed themselves awake. Humans fell asleep under palm leaf roofs, slapping away mosquitoes. Night and day met each other on their way across the world and shook hands. Sun Wukong tripped on his sixteenth cloud and fell flat on his face in Fairyland.

How could it be so easy to get into Fairyland, you say? But the boundaries of that world are more permeable than you think. Humans are so curious, fairies so easily bored.

Besides, if you are the Monkey King and you are doing the long jump around the world, you are hardly going to land in a petrol station outside Bidor, are you? You’re going to land somewhere interesting.

Sun Wukong did not realize he was somewhere interesting when he got up and looked around. He was in a green-gray land and the air bit at him with freezing teeth. Mist clung to the earth, making a mystery of trees and distant hills.

Sun Wukong observed that the ground was lumpy — the rolling green meadows stretching out beneath his feet were dotted with green-furred mounds. Then he saw that there were people watching him.

This put him in a bad mood. A king never likes to be caught falling flat on his face by barbarians.

For to Sun Wukong’s blazing eyes, these were obviously barbarians. Those who wore clothes were in strange, ill-fitting garments, which warped and squeezed their shapes. This barbarian attire was nothing like Sun Wukong’s flowing, manly robes, made of silk and richly embroidered with dragons and golden suns.

Several of the barbarians did not wear clothes at all. Of these, many could not have worn human clothes if they had wanted to: they were too small, or too tall, or they stood on all fours and had so much fur they did not need clothes. Some stood on two legs and were broadly human-shaped, but did not have hair, or eyes — at least, not in the usual places. Some of the people you could see through; they were as insubstantial as the mist.

Others were human-looking enough, save that they had nasty pale faces with large tapir-like noses, far more unbeautiful than even the average furless mortal.

The people started chattering to each other in a strange tongue, making a noise like wo-wo-wo.

“That’s no mortal, by its smell,” said a Barghest with glowing eyes and streaming jaws. “It’s not the lass we seek.”

“But what manner of beast is it?” said a water hag.

“A furred bird, methinks,” said a pooka, “to come plunging out of the sky in such fine plumage.”

“Whatever it is, Herself will want to see it,” said an elf.

Sun Wukong always felt sorry for beings who were less wonderful than he. He decided to be stern but kind.

“Haa!” he said chidingly. “Is this any way to treat a guest? You gossip about them like they are not there and you don’t even offer them something to eat!”

Perhaps they had some modicum of intelligence despite their unpromising appearance, for the people now gathered around him, nodding and smiling. A lovely girl with the big soft eyes and whiskered snout of a seal took his hand with one paw and tugged it gently. With the other paw, she pretended to drink out of an imaginary cup.

“Aha,” said Sun Wukong. “That’s more like it!”

As they lead Sun Wukong into the hill, let me explain who these people were.

In foreign countries people don’t do things the way we do them. Instead of calling nice nice and not nice not nice, they like to say that what is bad is good and what is good is bad. So this benighted ragtag group of unreverenced lesser godlings were known as the Fair Folk, despite their pinched unpleasant faces. They were the Good Neighbors, even though they soured their human neighbors’ milk and stole the occasional baby. They were called the People of Peace, even though their favorite past-time was declaring war and perpetrating grotesque crimes upon each other.

You can imagine how peculiar this would have seemed to Sun Wukong, possessed of such elegant and appropriate titles as “Beautiful Monkey King” and “Stone Simian”.

However, as the foreigners could not speak his language, Sun Wukong had no opportunity to learn about their curious naming customs. All he knew of these strangers was that they lived underground like rabbits, and they were trying to press on him a drink that smelled nice.

Sun Wukong drank some. It was not as good as real wine, but it was not bad.

He leaned back in his uncomfortable chair and looked around. The room was larger and finer than he’d expected, considering they were beneath the mounds he had seen earlier. The floors were carpeted and on the walls hung tapestries showing gruesome scenes of battle and ichorshed, as well as happier scenes of weddings between horses and ordinary household objects. Dim corridors led out of the room to unknown places.

A banquet was laid out on the table where Sun Wukong sat, with glowing fruit in silver bowls and a barbecued whole pig laid on a platter. The pig yawned once in a while, but it did not smell any less delicious for it. The place was lit by tinkling winged things like fireflies with faces.
“You have funny insects here,” said Sun Wukong to the elf. “Our flies are shaped like rice or beans. But your flies are shaped like humans. They wear clothes also. Does it make you feel weird about swatting them?”

“How he chatters on,” said the pooka, who was watching the proceedings with malicious interest.

“Did you give him the right brew?” said the selkie. She took the flagon and sniffed it. Her eyes rolled up.

“Your friend doesn’t have much stamina,” observed Sun Wukong as she flopped wetly onto the floor.

The elf was beginning to have a shiny look about the eyes. He poured more wine into Sun Wukong’s goblet.

“Drink more, dear heart, best of strangers,” he said. “Drink, drink, and slumber.”

“Perhaps you should cradle him to your breast and sing him a lullaby,” said the pooka. “That might work just as well.”

“It’s as if the creature is made of stone,” said the water hag. “He’s had near the whole flagon!”

In fact Sun Wukong was starting to feel a little drowsy. The glow of the strange human-flies became fuzzy around the edges, and their constant background tinkling seemed to come from far away. Sleep pressed down on his eyelids; its soft velvety darkness started to blanket his brain. His spirit stirred and put on its robes, preparing to go out and wander the world, as your spirit does when you go to sleep.

Hoi! thought Sun Wukong. Don’t go anywhere! I want to stay here and explore!

His spirit was already pulling on its boots.

You always have all the good times, said his spirit to his waking mind. You only sleep four hours every night! Why don’t you at least give me chance to travel once in a while?

Sun Wukong got cross. You already get to travel every night and you still want to complain! Who is doing all the work around here anyway? I don’t see you eating and shitting and brushing our fur. I am the one who has to make sure everything is running properly.

That is your job, said his spirit haughtily. I am a poet. You cannot expect me to worry about these mundane matters. Anyway, I’m already dressed and I am going and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Son of a turtle! exclaimed Sun Wukong. Dare to speak to your big brother like that?

He threw a punch. His spirit dodged, and the punch landed on the table. The table cracked in half. The pig squealed; the fairies scattered; the fruit bowls grew slim pewter legs and scuttled away.

Dare to punch your own precious spirit? said Sun Wukong’s spirit. If you want to fight, let’s fight!

“What a peculiar beast it is,” said the Barghest as Sun Wukong danced around the room, slapping himself.

“I am not certain Herself would like it,” said the water hag. “She prefers the biddable type.”

“Perhaps we had better put it back where we found it,” said the elf. He was tired of pouring wine.

“But what entertainment!” said the pooka. “How he is trouncing himself! If every mortal were like this I’d have nothing to do but sit at my ease and laugh as they each sent themselves to the Devil. What a fool!”

“You’d best not laugh yet,” said the Barghest. “It is no mortal, remember, and we know not what powers it may have — ”

Sun Wukong decided to try kicking himself. Because he was a trifle tipsy on the wine of Elfland, his aim was poor. Instead of kicking his spirit, Sun Wukong kicked the wall. Fortunately he did not hurt his foot, or even injure the charming tapestry depicting a frog being put under a geas, as the pooka was standing between his foot and the wall.

“Still entertained, coz?” said the water hag to the pooka, but the pooka did not seem to be in the mood for conversation.

“We had best tell Herself of this before the creature has murdered all the fae in Elfland,” said the elf.

“Oh, the pooka’ll feel better soon enough,” said the water hag, but when the elf crept out discreetly, she and the Barghest followed him.

After a while Sun Wukong got bored of fighting.

“Do you still want to be punched, or you want to have a truce?” he asked himself.

There’s no use doing this any longer. You have woken yourself up with all this jumping-here jumping-there, said his spirit sulkily. Anyway we need to pee.

This was true. The room was dark — all the twinkly tinkly things had fled. Sun Wukong fumbled around, kicking away broken glass and splintered wood as he walked, until he found a place where the wall fell away. In the distance, down the passage, he thought he could see light.

The passage opened on a grand hall. The carpets and tapestries here were eight times as beautiful as the ones in the dining room had been. Veined marble pillars held up a vaulted ceiling, from which hung an effulgent chandelier made of tens of thousands of human-flies imprisoned in crystal.

There was a big wooden chair in the middle of the room, but nobody was sitting on it.

“Haa,” said Sun Wukong dubiously.

But he really needed to pee. At least with this light he could see what he was doing. He looked around to double-check that there was nobody there, strolled over to a pillar, and relieved himself.

As Sun Wukong pulled his trousers up, there was a squeak. He peered down. What had appeared to be a patch of shadow behind the pillar turned out to be a terrified lump of human.

“Aiyah,” said Sun Wukong. How embarrassing! “Did I splash you?”

But now he thought about it, he began to feel indignant. Who sat around behind pillars in precisely the dark spots where a person in need of the toilet would seek refuge? What kind of uncivilized behavior was this?

“What are you doing there anyway?” he demanded.

But of course the mortal woman did not understand his speech either, any more than her unimpressive gods had done. She shrank back, her eyes round with terror. She had a pale waxen face, speckled like an egg, and tangled orange hair. Her eyes were ringed like a panda’s. She smelled terrible.

Sun Wukong withdrew a little, for he was a cleanly monkey, but he felt sorry for the human.

“You are very poor thing har,” said Sun Wukong. “Come, don’t sit there in the dark. There’s a chair over there. You can sit there, be more comfortable.”

He took her arm and led her to the chair. It was like picking up a doll: she went along bonelessly, without resistance, until they reached the chair. Then she opened her eyes wide and jerked away, gabbling.

“What?” said Sun Wukong, but there was a loud creaking sound. He looked around to see the large doors at the end of the room swinging open. The human grabbed his arm and pulled him into the shadows behind the pillars.

“She comes!” she hissed. “Be quiet, good monkey, dear monkey. O, why do I do this? Doubtless when she comes, you will deliver me to her. You are an uncanny beast indeed, but I thought you had kind eyes — you were trying to help me. But I am so tired. I do not know my own mind. Sometimes I am even afraid I shall forget why I came. Oh Johnnie, oh my Johnnie!”

Sun Wukong was about to tell her off for venturing to haul the Monkey God around as if he were a mere mortal, but the woman moaned her last words with such unhappiness that he didn’t like to do it. Besides, at that point a most interesting scent came to his nose, and his ears pricked up.

Sun Wukong smelled power.

It was a whole stream of people that flowed into the hall, yelping, shrieking, cavorting, gliding, floating, tumbling, crawling, and hopping. Among them Sun Wukong discerned his friends, the elf and the water hag and the Barghest. He pointed them out to the human:

“Good fellers, but no manners.”

But his interest did not lie with them. They were mere subjects, he knew now — peons, minions.

In the middle of the crowd stood the big boss, the one he was interested in. The rock in the rushing brook, the still heart of the tornado. A woman built on a gigantic scale, towering above her subjects. Her red curls were nailed to her head by enormous pearl hairpins; her dress was made of rich velvets and patterned silks; her neck and wrists and ears were starred with jewels. Her pale, eyebrowless face shone out of this barbarian luxury like a strange moon.

It was Herself, the Faerie Queen.

She sat down on the wooden chair.

“Hah!” said Sun Wukong. He sprang up and walked out into the center of the room, ignoring the mortal’s flailing attempts to stop him. “It’s a throne!”

The thrones he was used to had more gold and dragons on them. The kings and queens he knew wouldn’t have been satisfied with any old chair. But obviously you could not expect equal grandeur in such a poor country as this.

It occurred to him that it might appear impolite to sound so surprised. He modulated his tones:

“Very nice. Very nice. I like things to be simple also. Maybe back on my Mountain of Flowers and Fruit I will call my artisans to make me something like that. Can put it in the garden.

“But I haven’t introduced myself. Of course you are the Queen. I am Sun Wukong, the Gallant and Unsurpassed King of the Monkeys.”

He bowed. The Queen stared at him with strange pale eyes. A native would have called that gaze eldritch, for the local people had special words to describe the Good People.

Sun Wukong did not know these words, and he was not burdened with any preconceptions. To him the Queen’s eyes brought to mind some vicious unthinking animal — pure of purpose, single-minded, and utterly unscrupulous.

“What is this creature?” said the Queen to her subjects. She held out something in her arms for an attending hobgoblin to take. Only then did Sun Wukong observe that she was holding a baby.

A cry broke out behind Sun Wukong. A second later a bad-smelling orange breeze passed him. The human woman threw herself at the hobgoblin, but the Queen held up a hand and she froze.

“Johnnie, Johnnie,” cried the woman. “You shall not have him, my darling, my sweet one. Give him back to me.”

She might as well have been a mosquito for all the attention the Queen paid her. Looking fixedly at Sun Wukong, the Queen said:

“Who are you?”

Sun Wukong did not understand anything anybody was saying, but he did not have to understand their speech in order to see what they were doing.

Here was a red-haired infant who smelled mortal. Here was an upset red-haired mortal woman who was trying to get to the baby. Here was a powerful ruler with merciless eyes — and the courtier to whom she had handed the infant did not know how to hold a baby. (As a popular king Sun Wukong had kissed many a monkey baby in his time, and he knew you were not supposed to let their tiny heads dangle in that way.)

The human woman began to weep and lament.

In later days Monkey would have to learn to behave himself in foreign courts, but at this time Sun Wukong’s head was still unbound. He did not have to obey anybody, or follow any rules. In those days, the only thing he listened to was his warm beating heart.

Sun Wukong is not a thinker; he is a doer. No sooner had his heart moved in his chest than he was in the air, leaping across the court. A punch — the hobgoblin dropped. Sun Wukong scooped the baby up before it could hit the floor — supporting its head, thank you very much — and then he turned to meet the wrath of the Faerie Queen.

Now this was a fight worth traveling for!

The Faerie Queen turned into a great serpent, her scaly coils filling the court and winding around the pillars. She opened her mouth: her breath filled the air with lightning. The Queen’s subjects ran, slithered, fluttered, and shambled out of the hall, chittering with fear.

As he ducked lightning bolts with joyful speed, Sun Wukong plucked a hair from his head and breathed on it. Another Sun Wukong sprang into existence, bright-eyed and curly-tailed.

“Sun Wukong #2, look after this baby!” He thrust the child into his replica’s arms.

He tore off seven more hairs in quick succession. Every hair became a Sun Wukong, each lovelier than the last (but none quite as lovely as the original, of course).

“Come, little brothers,” he cried. “Let us chop this snake in half and have it for dinner. There is enough for all of us to eat until full!”

“Ah, snake gall liquor — our favorite!” said his little brothers. They scattered in every direction. One started pulling the serpent’s tail. Three were at her head. Everywhere you looked there was a monkey tormenting the snake.

Sun Wukong took a golden needle from his ear and shook it. It grew into a golden staff, longer than Sun Wukong was tall, luminous with power. With a shout, Sun Wukong dived in and hit the Faerie Queen in the eye.

The Faerie Queen roared and vanished. The seven Sun Wukong replicas capered: “Very good, very good! Congratulations, Sun Wukong! How come you are so clever? Who make you to be so handsome?”

It is convenient to be able to summon a clone army, but unfortunately, hairs do not have much brain. The original Sun Wukong did, however, and he saw the air grow black.

“Don’t celebrate so fast, idiots! She is coming back!”

But it was too late to warn them. Already the air was full of fleas. Tens of thousands of midges buzzed and stung every monkey. Lice burrowed into their tender monkey flesh.

Sun Wukong’s heptaplicates cried out and slapped their heads. Even the first Sun Wukong started itching wildly, but he was not about to be defeated by some bugs.

Scratching himself with one hand, he whirled his staff above his head with the other. Faster and faster the staff spun, until it pulled the air around it into a cyclone. Brighter and hotter the staff burned, until the air around it shimmered like the air above a fire. The fleas were drawn into the wind and burned by the thousands.

“Haha!” said Sun Wukong, but before he could gloat, the fleas melted away. He blinked, and the Faerie Queen leapt for his throat.

Sun Wukong was too caught up in the motion of his staff to ward her off. He hit the floor under the weight of a wolf. She pinned him with her paws, looking into his face with mad eyes, and growled.

“Woi, close your mouth!” Sun Wukong exclaimed. He had a particular horror of bad breath.

The Faerie Queen had an enormous red mouth, full of sharp teeth. For a long uncomfortable second, Sun Wukong wondered whether foreigners liked to eat monkey brains. The next moment seven monkeys hit the Faerie Queen in the side.

With a slash of her paws she ripped them to ribbons. They vanished; seven little hairs came floating down to the ground.

But by now the Queen clearly thought Sun Wukong enough of a challenge that it was worth transforming into her most powerful form. She turned into a woman.

Not the rich woman Sun Wukong had seen earlier, towering in her grand dress and jewels. This was a naked little starveling creature. There was something appealing and sorrowful about it — its face was seamed with wrinkles, like the face of a little monkey baby. The fingers of her small hands curled in like the petals of a flowerbud, and her mouth when it opened was toothless, her gums as soft and pink as an infant’s.

But the eyes were wrong. The eyes were like burnt holes in her face, at the very bottom of which was a flicker of blue — the abyssal blue of an empty sky.

When the Faerie Queen reached out, it was like the movement of the tree outside your bedroom window on the day it decides to awake from its vegetal slumber, lean into your room, and enclose you in its bark.

Sun Wukong had been to hell and back again, taking the scenic route each time. He had seen demons of all kinds; he counted among his good friends some quite startlingly ugly monkeys. He had never encountered anything as terrifying as this.

He chortled.

“Good!” he said. “Now we are getting serious!”

Alas for the schemes of mice and monkeys! In the tremendous effort of showing her true self, the Faerie Queen had taken her mind off her other magics. The human woman, forgotten in a corner, suddenly found herself able to move. Sun Wukong #2 was singing the mortal baby a little song about bananas when she tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around, she kneed him in the crotch.

His shout drew Sun Wukong’s attention. The sight of the woman speeding away with her Johnnie clasped in her arms drew the Faerie Queen’s.

The Faerie Queen made a creaking sound of fury.

She lifted her twiggy hands and a forest sprang up around the woman. The Queen lifted her hands and the sky was crowded with black crows. They were no longer in a grand hall, but outdoors. Sun Wukong smelled damp air and mulch. Leaves rustled underfoot. The birds were cawing.

Ahead of him the human fell on her knees, got up again, fell. She was still holding her baby close, protecting him from every fall, and Sun Wukong could hear her sobbing breath.

Among the trees lurked fearful shapes. Bright malicious eyes shone in the darkness under the leaves.

Sun Wukong looked at the Faerie Queen, incandescent with power. He looked ahead at the human. She was forging ahead doggedly, stumbling over roots, looking at her feet as if they were the only thing she needed to pay attention to, as if she could not see the shadows converging on her. Her thin shoulders shook, from fear or cold.

Hai,” said Sun Wukong.

That human had kicked his poor replica in the balls. Did a Monkey God put up with this kind of thing from mere mortals? Did a Monkey God allow himself even to appear to be running away from a monster as stimulating as the Faerie Queen? Did a Monkey God ever stop fighting before the fight became boring?

“Hai,” said Sun Wukong sadly.

A Monkey God does not ignore the dictates of his importunate insides. Everything from Sun Wukong’s heart to his liver told him the same thing.

He leapt across the room. It was only a room, after all. The Faerie Queen could fill it with the smell of rain on the wind and the squish of deer shit under foot all she liked. All of this was easy enough to see through if you were a Beauteous and Keen-Sighted Monkey King.

He picked up the woman and her baby, none too gently because they were spoiling the fun. He bounded into the air, and hurled himself right through the roof.

They came bursting out of the hill with a sound like the biggest firecracker in the world, earth scattering around them. Outside the sky was full of clouds, ripe to be flown upon. He picked one and jumped right out of Fairyland —

— into the world.

He left the human and her baby next to a flock of sheep, so that if they got hungry, they would have plenty to eat. Of course, they might have to fight the grumpy-looking old man who was slumbering on the stile next to his flock, but if the human was capable of traveling to Fairyland to defy its big boss, then she could deal with an old man. Probably she would knee him in the crotch and he would offer her all his sheep.

As for Sun Wukong, he went back to look for Elfland — but like many other adventurers, he could not find it again. For a while he stood in a damp green meadow and complained.

It would have been some comfort to him to know that the Fair Folk had to move out of the mound where he had fought the Faerie Queen. Sun Wukong had used his head to create the hole in the ceiling, and hundreds of his hairs had got caught in the earth as he went.

Every time the fae tried to repair the hole, the hairs turned into things like monkeys and scholars and calligraphy sets. And the monkeys scratched and howled at them, and the scholars rapped their knuckles with rulers, and the calligraphy sets swept beautiful lines of stinking black ink across their faces.

But he would never know this, because he never saw any of them again.

Fortunately Sun Wukong was an inventive monkey. He could not long face a problem without seeing the solution standing behind it. The answer to his dissatisfaction came to him as he was cursing the sodden sky for daring to rain on such a Well-Groomed and Debonair Monkey King.

If a poor foreign kingdom had been that much fun, what manner of interest and incident must there be in the wealthiest and most powerful kingdom of all? The only court that mattered — the only citadel worth storming — the Heavenly Kingdom?

No barbarian land, that. It would be full of intelligent people who would understand proper speech and recognize the Monkey’s multitudinous virtues at once. Also there would certainly be excellent treasure to be admired — or given — or taken.

You should have seen the smile that spread across Sun Wukong’s face.

The gods stirred in their beds. In the Heavenly Palace the Jade Emperor sneezed —

But you know the rest of this story. Let us leave Sun Wukong there, hurtling towards his next adventure, intent on getting into trouble — not yet Buddha-like, never yet trapped, but dauntless, immortal, and free.

Zen Cho is a Malaysian fantasy writer living in London. Her short story collection Spirits Abroad, published by Fixi Novo in summer 2014, was a joint winner of the Crawford Fantasy Award. Her debut novel Sorcerer to the Crown is due out from Ace/Roc (US) and Pan Macmillan (UK) in September 2015.