Ghosts, Spirits, and Ancient Gods Live!
“The keilin would not step on any living thing, not even plants. As I watched, it swung its head upward for a moment into a clear profile. The single horn shone slightly in the moonlight.”
Ghosts, spirits, ancient gods, and folktale creatures inhabit Jack Hong’s world—and ours—but he doesn’t know it until he hits the road alone across America to follow an ancient Chinese unicorn wherever it leads. He finds ghosts who need to be put to rest, fox fairies in the Ozarks, and a young woman who also hears the voice of a melancholy spirit.
Jack tells the complete tale in ten adventures that lead him to a new understanding of himself, the untold history around him, and the supernatural figures who live among us.
Wandering ghosts need to be put to rest, while other spirits confront Jack about his own comprehension of the world. From a ghostly sailing ship in the sky above Iowa, to the Chinese god of war facing the devil in Mississippi—from a tragic, century-old romance in New York City to a mystical Charlie Chan movie in Hollywood,
Jack discovers a part of America he never knew.
With an introduction to the episodic novel and author’s afterword with each adventure.
For an audio excerpt:
Excerpt from the adventure called "The Caravan of Death":
Someone could die here without even attracting flies.
Of course, if a hitchhiker demanded to be let out right here in the middle of nowhere, he could see it close up.
Ahead of me, not too far in the darkening thickness of trees, the single-horned head of the keilin waited just until I had seen it once more, then was gone again. Soon I was pushing through branches I couldn’t see as the light failed. The terrain was not too difficult, though I felt cautiously for footing and stumbled a few times. Even picking my way slowly, one foot at a time, I quickly lost any sense of distance. I did have a vague idea that the highway was still more or less straight behind me.
“Don’t move,” a woman said sharply.
I stopped, as much from surprise as from her firm tone.
“Turn around slowly. Toward me.”
I turned carefully to my right. The yellow flames of a very small fire were just barely visible through tree trunks that were invisible in the night. I couldn’t see the woman at all.
“You a ghost?” I asked quietly.
“What?” She laughed once, sneering. “How long have you been up in these mountains, young man?”
I grinned sheepishly. “Too long, I guess. But not very.”
Suddenly she flicked on a flashlight and shined it in my eyes. Even with the glare, I could see part of her silhouette. She held a pistol in her other hand, awkwardly.
“All right, come over here. You’re not armed.”
“I am. Don’t forget that.”
It wasn’t likely.
She backed toward her fire, holding the gun away now, but still ready. I paid a lot of attention to my footsteps so I wouldn’t stumble in her direction and make her shoot me on the fly, out of panic. In a moment, she was on the other side of the fire and I could see her clearly. She was a gray-haired Asian woman, dressed in a loose red-and-yellow plaid flannel shirt with two pockets in the front, baggy old jeans, and brown hiking boots. Her flashlight was a small metal one with a narrow handle.
“Sit down.” She waited until I sat on the cushion of pine needles, then lowered herself slowly, a little stiffly, with care. Now that we were in the circle of firelight, she snapped off the flashlight and stuck it handle-first into one of her shirt pockets, where it made the fabric sag. “Who are you?”
“I’m Jack Hong.”
“What do you want?”
I almost talked back to her snidely, but I saw no reason to be impolite to an unpredictable old crank holding me at gunpoint.
With her other hand, she took some sticks from a pile and laid them on the fire. Her hand was delicate, but lined with age.
“Is that legal here?” I nodded toward the fire.
“I doubt it. But the wind is nothing to speak of. I’m too careful to start a wildfire and I’m too old to obey laws passed for fools.”
“What are you doing here?” I asked, with another glance at her gun hand. She had let go of the gun to let it rest in her lap.
“It seems like an odd coincidence to meet another Oriental up here. But I asked you first.”
“You wouldn’t believe me.”
She twisted a reluctant smile. “You may not believe me, either.”
We looked at each other in silence for a moment. Firelight shifted lazily across her face. The fire was too small to be very warm.
“I’m looking for the remains of my grandfather,” she said finally.
“Was he buried up here someplace?”
“See?” Her smile had the faintest hint of weary playfulness.
“Maybe you’re right. How did you get here, anyhow?”
“That’s my business.”
I figured that meant she had a car hidden near the highway somewhere. Since pressing the point might have made her more jumpy, I forced myself to shrug. She was certainly sharp for her age, whatever it was. “How about building up the fire a little more? No sense getting shot in the cold.”
Now smiling grudgingly, she put on another big stick. It crackled a few times and caught to burn a bright orange and yellow with blue at the core. Reflected flame flickered along the gun barrel in her lap.
“Your turn,” she said. “What are you doing here?”
“Hitchhiking. Looking for a place to spend the night.”
“That’s all.” She nodded, mostly to herself, making her short gray hair sway. “I’m Arlene Davis. That is, Arlene Yip Davis. And I’ve spent a number of summers looking for old sites of Chinese settlements from the frontier.”
(End of excerpt)