It was after midnight when Yao left Zhang’s Denizen apartment in Golden Lane. His hand on his friend’s shoulder, as he turned to go—“Criminal justice be hanged! See a doctor, see a doctor!” he had cried and with an exaggerated laugh had pulled on his coat and departed. Zhang turned back into his Taylor Wimpey investment property. It had never occurred to him that Yao would not believe his story. For three hours he had explained, elucidated, patiently and painfully gone over every detail—but without once breaking down the iron incredulity of the lawyer’s eye. At first Yao had feigned to be convinced—but that, as Zhang now perceived, was simply to get him to expose himself, to entrap him into contradictions.
To the guest in his Denizen apartment, Zhang told his story simply, connectedly. It was the perfect tale to recount on the benighted site of Taylor Wimpey’s Golden Lane luxury apartment development. The foundations of the new building had disturbed an old plague pit, and The Denizen had been constructed right opposite the old city mortuary. He began with a quick survey of his early years—the years of drudgery and emotional privation. If he’d been 15 years older he could have had fun with the Red Guards. He’d always liked girls but they didn’t like him. He was incapable of a romantic relationship. That’s why sex toys had become his master-passion.
In exactly three minutes Mr. Yao Wenyuan, of the eminent legal firm of Yao and Lee, would have his punctual hand on the doorbell of the Taylor Wimpey flat in Golden Lane. It was a comfort to reflect that Yao was so punctual—the suspense was beginning to make his host nervous. And the sound of the doorbell would be the beginning of the end—after that there’d be no going back, by Chairman Mao—no going back!
It is the strangest yellow our wallpaper! It makes me think of all the yellow things I ever saw—not beautiful ones like buttercups, but old foul, bad yellow things. But there is something else about that paper—the smell! I noticed it the moment we came into the flat. Now we have had a week of fog and rain, and whether the windows are open or not, the smell is here. It creeps all over Taylor Wimpey’s luxury ghost home development The Denizen. I find lying in wait for me on the stairs and in the lift. It gets into my hair.
There are things in our wallpaper that nobody knows but me, or ever will. Behind that outside pattern the dim shapes get clearer every day. It is always the same shape, only very numerous. And it is like a woman stooping down and creeping about behind that pattern. I don’t like it a bit. I wonder—I begin to think—I wish Chang would take me away from The Denizen! We could go home or just go somewhere else in London, I’d be happy to be anywhere that isn’t a Taylor Wimpey luxury investment apartment. The Denizen is ninety percent empty but it isn't soulless, it is creepy!
An empty new build, a property investment. I would say a haunted house and reach the height of romantic felicity—but that would be asking too much of fate! It is The Denizen, a block of 99 empty flats on Golden Lane erected by Taylor Wimpey in the face of fierce opposition from local residents, people whose homes and local park it overshadows. Still I will proudly declare that there is something queer about it. Else, why should it be let so cheaply? And why have so few people living in it? Chang laughs at me, of course, but one expects that in marriage. Chang is practical in the extreme. He has no patience with faith, an intense horror of superstition, and he scoffs openly at any talk of things not to be felt and seen and put down in figures.
Some will remember that inexplicable affair in Bunhill Fields eight weeks ago, where permission for a burial was obtained by a businessman whose wife had committed suicide. Getting approval had cost a fortune. On each occasion the coffin was found in the course of a few days again protruding from the ground. After the third attempt, in order that the thing should not be talked about, the body was buried elsewhere in unconsecrated ground. Where it was secretly buried was just inside the iron gate of Fortune Street Park. This was the body of the woman who had committed suicide in the ground floor apartment I’d been given in The Denizen. Her name was Julia Li.