Heaven Under Earth

In the far future on New Zhongguo, women are scarce, and men turned into caihes bear children. Liang Pao is one such caihe, but what will he do when his husband buys a real woman? On the Tiptree Honor List for 2013.

Husband’s new spouse is brought home in a hovering palanquin decked with red lanterns, its curtains displaying images of mandarin ducks and kingfishers—the symbols of a happy marriage.

First Spouse Liang Pao has gathered the whole household by the high gate, from the stewards to the cooks, from the lower spouses to their valets. He’s standing slightly behind Husband, with his head held high, with pins of platinum holding his immaculate topknot in place—in spite of the fact that he’s been unable to sleep all night. The baby wouldn’t stop kicking within his womb, and the regulators in his blood disgorged a steady stream of yin-humours to calm him down. He’s slightly nauseous, as when he’s had too much rice wine to drink—and he wonders why they never get easier, these carryings.