New Rice District

You turn the corner, and you’re back in the ghetto again.

Khao San Road, the cankerous heart of Bangkok. It rises up from the night, an overflowing river of noise and light and filth. Smells like banana pancakes and urine. You’ve always thought of it as the center of everything fucked up and wrong in the world, the place where you landed on your feet and started walking the trail. Sometimes it feels like no matter how far you’ve come, this is as far as you’ll ever come. America’s little beachhead in their world. The white neon Mecca calling you home. Khao San Road.

For a moment it overwhelms you. You feel like stumbling, gawking up at the lights, but you straighten up and walk fast. The trick is to look purposeful, eyes front, always look like you know where you’re going. Pause too long and it’ll reel you in. They’ll reel you in.

Pancake sellers, stray dogs nipping at their heels. Taxicabs with a dozen little Buddhas on the dash, ferrying wasted whites back to their shitbox hotels to crash on flea-bitten mattresses. Tech-women hawking their wares, their coats laden down with dangling RAM arrays and fist-sized tubes of nano-tech designed to execute gods know what reconfigs on their customers’ unsuspecting flesh. Behind all that, the weird little back-alley ‘Sexy Shops’ with their carefully misspelled signs – ‘PROFILATICS’, ‘SEX WITH ROBOT’, ‘BEST FLESH MODELS’.

Sex with robot. Not as great as it sounds, at least not here on the Road, not at these prices. You should know – you misspent your youth just like everyone else. It’s not something you’re proud of, but fuck it, right? You only live once.

You know this place well enough, and you wish she hadn’t agreed to meet you here. It’s the worst place in the world if you need some clarity; fucking terrible if you’re into peace and quiet. It’s the best place in the world for an illegal drop.

You touch the bulge in your jacket where the holster hangs. You rub your eyes, clear out some of the lights’ blur. You’re back in the ghetto again, but this time you’ve got a job to do. No room for mistakes. Time to go to work.

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Xander Bennett rearranges words for fun and profit. Read a preview of his new book at

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