Prologue


Yulin, CHINA

A moped approached her from behind. To make room, she stepped from the narrow path into the wet grass, turned, and watched the fully loaded moped meander its way between the muddy puddles. The small two-stroke engine was having trouble pushing the weight forward and occasionally sputtered. The driver, a small, wiry, skinny man, was dressed in frayed pants full of stains and a sleeveless green shirt displaying an unknown logo, his eyes hidden in the shadow of a baseball cap, his face behind a black handkerchief tied tightly over his mouth. In a large basket woven from iron wire and provisionally attached to his handlebars, he was transporting chickens. Dozens of curious heads poked through the holes of the cage. 

The man ignored her, refusing to make eye contact, but that did not stop her from smiling politely at him. 

The reason for the handkerchief became clear as soon as the moped approached. Hanging from the handles of his handlebars were a number of small carcasses of unknown species. The acrid smell of rotting flesh stung her nose. A swarm of flies easily kept up with the moped and eagerly sucked the sour juices from the dangling carcasses. 

Her smile melted into a frown of disgust. 

The moped’s driver slowed down to avoid a deep muddy puddle and deftly steered along the edge of the path. As he shot past her, she felt a warm wind slide along her skin. A muggy waft of acidic sweat mixed with the disgusting smell of corpses haunted him like a ghostly shadow. 

Clasping one hand in front of her mouth, she continued walking along the path, watching the back of the moped. It took her a moment to realize that on the bike rack was a small dog, perhaps a puppy. With its paws tied together and a piece of tape wrapped around its mouth, it was lying cross-legged over several bags of grain. To make sure it couldn’t get away, the poor animal had been wedged under two tight straps. The doggie raised its head, looked at her with its watery eyes, and began to squeal. 

She grabbed her cell phone from the back pocket of her jeans and started filming. 

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