Durians, and The Monster We Face

Henry Tran is a multi-hobbyist from Milpitas. As a kid, he would take BART up to San Francisco for concerts, thrifting, and taking photos "Durians, and The Monster We Face" was selected as a finalist in BART Lines contest, 2022.

Image of BART Lines - 2022
Image of Short Fiction
An elderly Vietnamese woman pushes a small metal cart full of groceries through the entryway of the train. The train is an empty yet incredibly loud function, due to a boy obnoxiously playing ClikClok videos on his phone's speakers. The elder's wheels get caught upon the yellow bumps jutting from the floor of the platform, and she jostles her carriage free. She has just spent the entire day's energy in a trek for her fruits, so she is too uncaring of the boy to hitch onto another car.

She sits with her purse on her lap and her arms embracing the treasure in her cart; durian, dried prunes, and mangoes galore. Her head slumps and her eyelids droop down, her mind gravitating towards her grandson. The loud phone-speaker boy annoyingly raises his volume just because he can, but it does not deter her. She slowly drifts away. In four hours time, she will save the world.

"You won't BELIEVE what happens–TAP–A day in the life of a s–TAP–This is my skincare routine–TAP–TAP–don't jiggle jig–TAP–Here's how to make the BEST fried squid, first take your knife and cut right through the—" SCREEEEEEECH!

SMACK! A giant tentacle sears through the train car, slicing right between the Vietnamese grandma and the obnoxious teenager. The phone whistles right out of the boy's hands.

"HOLY MOTHER OF R—" screams the boy as another tentacle rips through the metal from the other side and attempts to grab at him. SLAM!

"TRỜI ĐẤT ỎI, CÁI GÌ VẬY?!" curses the half-awake grandma as she pushes her cart to the other side of the moving train and makes a jump away from the tentacles.

CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! CLANG! Sparks fly as a million teeth circularly grind like a Demonic table saw on the butt of the train. The end of the train is completely swallowed and exposed, and all that can be seen is an enormous tooth-spattered mouth.

The slimy tentacle makes a successful grab at the boy, wrapping around his torso with an anaconda-like grip.

The boy screams, "LADY! PLEASE! HELP!"

The grandma grabs her metal cart and smashes it against the tentacle, but the beast thrashes the metal cart off the train. She dives toward the ground, then grabs and throws the mangos at the tentacles, each one cartoonishly bouncing off the beast. The tentacles draw the boy perilously close to the demon mouth.

"CHẾT ĐI, MAI CON QUỶ!" she screams as she picks up a durian and, with perfect quarterback motion, flings it right into the mouth of the horror. Playing out in slow motion, the durian smoothly flies towards the throat and flicks the bulbous hanging thing in the back of the beast's mouth. Her eyes glimmer. The mouth closes up and the tentacles start violently vibrating and flailing, their grip on the boy weakening enough for him to slip free.

SCREEEEEEEEECH! The train halts.

Bing Bong. Daly City Train, this is a Daly City Station Bound Train.

The boy and the grandma make a mad dash into the bustling Civic Center crowd, a frenzy of panicked ‘Friscans crashing through the exit doors. They find themselves in the twilight of San Franciscan streets. Surrounding them, a whirlwind of people run left and right with no concise heading.

"That. Was. AMAZING!" yells the boy, still covered from his hoodie to his basketball sneakers in tentacle goop. "What WAS that? How did you DO that? What WAS it that you threw at that thing? Where are we? What was that thing? Are you a WIZARD? Oh my gosh, WHAT just happened!?"

The grandma —not understanding a single word the boy said—reveals a durian, still unbruised, and stares deeply into it. A calm breeze passes as they both ponder the fruit, as if it were some magical orb.

The calm is cut short by violent shaking, car alarms, and loud cement crackling. The eldritch horror emerges from beneath the city, revealing an incredible, dreadful, thousand-eyed face that only a thousand-eyed mother could love. A gargantuan kaiju with hundreds of tentacles of different sizes, all covered in luminescent slime. At the underbelly sits its circular, million-toothed mouth, now covered in its own acidic spew.

"A biblically accurate angel . . ." said the uses-phone-speaker-in-public boy, mouth half-open from awe. "What are we going to do?"

The durian-beholden grandma knows just what to do. She pulls out her cellphone, its text size set to 400 percent, and with a slow helicopter-finger, she diddles with the device and then puts it away. She points at one of those electric rental app scooters. "You want me . . . to ride the scooter?" She makes a gesture and pointed at herself. "You want us . . . to ride? At the same time?"

We bring to you breaking news. It appears that a giant, multi-eyed monster has erupted right in the middle of San Francisco. The monster is wreaking havoc upon the city! It has so far destroyed four blocks, and, wait . . .  What is that? In the midst of this . . . is . . . is that an elderly woman and a small boy riding on an electric scooter? At the same time? Isn't that against their app policy?

"It's working, it's actually working!" The boy announces as he zips the scooter along the surrounding blocks. The elderly lady breaks apart the durian piece by piece and flings small chunks of it at the tentacles, forcing the tentacles to curl back as each durian piece gets absorbed through the monster's dermis. "Wait, what happens when we run out?"



"Mahjong." She repeats. As the scooter approaches Chinatown, she points at a group of ten elderly ladies, all with metal carts full of spiky fruit.

The ladies, colorfully dressed in Adidas tracksuits and transparent visors, all nod in sequence at the grandma. The grandma tosses a durian piece at the tentacles, showing off its repulsing nature toward the monster. They then run in perfect tai-chi choreography and throw durians at the tentacles, each one retracting at the fruit's touch. The monster rolls to its side, revealing its massive, thousand-toothed mouth, rotating circularly in its familiar buzzsaw fashion. They stare into the seemingly endless void of mouth like it is a death portal.

Breaking their awe, the ladies throw all their durian left into the monsters mouth, each with perfect precision. The monster shakes and flails violently once more, spewing and twitching.

Now with most of its tentacles retracted, the beast spins its remainder at an incredibly fast speed until it makes a deafening helicopter sound. It flies away, leaving wreckage and slime in its wake. As it ascends, it bellows out in a deep voice, "THAANKKSS FOORR THEEE FOOODDD, IT TASTED GOOODDD."

"Wait . . . what?" the boy says.

The sun sets upon the city of San Francisco. Police and sunglassed black-suits cover the area in yellow tape, assessing and recording the damage. The boy and the durian-painted ladies sit in front of the ruin and destruction. They share in the tasty joys of jackfruit, and watch ClikClok videos together. They all smile at each other and exchange laughter. All is sort of right with the world, or at least with San Francisco.


You might also like…

Short Fiction

The Night Library

E. E. King

I heard it before I saw it, a jingling of bells like the soundtrack to a corny Christmas movie. Then out of the mist rolled a small carriage, round and bright as a converted pumpkin. Florescent ... [+]