Pathlight: Miao Wei – Cops and Aliens

Illustration by Wang Yan

They met in the library’s journal reading room, where the lights stayed on all day so you didn’t know how dark or cloudy it might be outside. Zhao Xiaochen was looking through the Law and Order Journal anthology for 1997 in search of an article entitled “The Death of Lu Xianzhou”. Mr. Ding was ahead of him in line for the photocopier, clutching a bundle of back issues from The Journal of UFO Research with the pages marked with paper tabs. After ten minutes of fiddling about he turned to face Zhao Xiaochen. “Sorry, sorry about this.”

“You’re into UFOs?” asked Zhao.

Mr. Ding nodded. “Curious, just curious.” Mr. Ding was wearing a neat and tidy ensemble of a V-neck sweater with a blue jacket, khaki trousers and rubber-soled shoes; he looked to be about forty. Zhao Xiaochen was wearing jeans and a hoodie.

“I saw this film recently,” said Zhao. “District 9. It was about aliens and UFOs. Have you seen it?”

“No, no I haven’t.” Mr. Ding seemed to have a habit of repeating himself. He looked at Zhao, waiting for him to continue.

“The aliens in the film arrive on earth, in a UFO, but the UFO’s damaged so they can’t go home again. So they settle down in Johannesburg, and they get segregated from the locals.”

“Interesting, interesting.” Mr. Ding’s eyes gleamed.

“Well, I could bring you the DVD next Saturday. Will you be here next Saturday?”

“I will, I will,” said Mr. Ding.

Zhao Xiaochen was a programmer at a big company out in Haidian. He came to the library every Saturday to take out a couple of books, but didn’t always read them once he was home. He was more into movies. Every weekend he’d spend the whole of Saturday night watching four or five films in a row, then doze at home on Sunday. Normally he had to get up at six o’clock sharp to catch the bus to work. One morning, when he’d got off the bus at Renmin University, he saw Robert De Niro coming towards him through the throng. He looked just like he did in the movies, right down to the mole on his face. He stopped in front of Zhao and said: “We’re planning to rob the China Construction bank at Zhichunli. We’re one man short. Are you in?” Zhao gawped. “I’ll give you five minutes to think about it,” continued Robert De Niro, before he disappeared into the crowd.

Zhao thought about it for nearly three minutes, then raced after him. When he reached the KFC opposite Renmin University he saw Robert De Niro on the other side of the window, tucking into a chicken leg with a cup of iced tea in front of him. Zhao banged on the glass. “Robert,” he yelled, “I’m in!”

Read the whole story in Pathlight Winter 2015: Influence.