Illustration by Dan Evans.
As the sun descends on the city of London, Wendi Deng wakes up. Rolling to one side, her eyes adjust to the fading orange light spilling into the luxury hotel suite atop The Shard. As she steps out of bed, she snags her satin nightgown on a broken femur sticking out from the pile of bones arranged like a nest in the middle of the room. She sighs and checks her phone. A missed call from the nanny, six from her assistant, endless texts from Hollywood royalty and heads of state asking what she’s up to this weekend. A gaseous grumble emanates from the pit of her stomach, sounding a lot like Peter Hitchens delivering a speech from deep within a festival toilet. Pressing one hand to her abdomen, she BCCs them all on an email, types “I’m working”, and presses send.
After showering, and using her big toe to poke the small lumps of flesh and congealed blood that had dried on her body down the drain, Wendi duct-tapes her tail down the back of her thigh so it doesn’t stick out, and wriggles into a black Prada pencil skirt and matching blazer. Not too fashion, not too showy, perfect for concealing any dramatic stains. She applies a mask of minimal yet elegant makeup and gives herself a cold, hard stare in the bathroom mirror. She thinks about Tony, who was always so charming and well-dressed, and Rupert, very distinguished, even during the custard pie fracas at the Leveson Inquiry. But they both went so… soft.
Her reflection begins to disappear as the sun sinks completely into the Thames, taking the last bit of light with it. Time to go.
Wendi grabs her phone, lipstick, and diary full of Henry Kissinger erotica, and pops them all in a small shoulder bag. She smooths down the front of her skirt, opens the biggest window in the room, and spreads her arms like Charnabog in the final segment of Fantasia – but just as her enormous set of black rubbery wings are about to burst out through the back of her designer blazer, she catches herself. “No, Wendi,” she whispers. “Keep a low profile, you idiot. Take the elevator.”
Making her way over London Bridge towards the city, she passes newsstands, shops, and underground stations strewn with newspapers. She sees the front page of the Daily Mail: “Roman Abramovich missing after being spotted frolicking on his yacht with maneater Wendi Deng”.
“Fucking British press,” she spits. Head down, Wendi walks and walks until her hooves begin to ache. Looking for somewhere to sit and think, she turns onto Watney Street and is greeted by the faded red and yellow sign for Wimpy. Perfect! She thinks. Nobody will know me in there. Nobody even knows Wimpy is even a thing still. Pushing the door open, Wendi’s nostrils widen and her mouth fills involuntarily with saliva. She spots him immediately. Illuminated by the depressing light of the Wimpy menu board is Vladimir Putin, Forbes’ Most Powerful Person of The Year 2015, standing in the queue and arguing with his two bodyguards. “Look, I’m getting the absolute biggest thing possible and you guys are having Quorn burgers off the kids menu and I won’t hear another word about it,” he snaps. “It will look very amusing when the painter comes to -”
Through the triangular gap between his bodyguard’s shoulders, Putin locks dead, unblinking eyes with Wendi Deng and falls silent. He approaches her slowly.
“Wendi. I have heard a lot about you,” he says.
“Say, how about I grab this Double Wimpy Cheeseburger to go and we head back to my £75 million apartment in Deptford? I have something I would like for you to see.”
All Wendi wanted was somewhere quiet to hide out, to think, to reassess herself and her place in the world. But fate, it seemed, had other plans.
“Sounds great,” she says, feeling her wings bristle against the lining of her jacket.
Back at his apartment, Vladimir Putin hands Wendi Deng a flute of champagne. She takes it from him and the glass shatters in her hand. Neither of them break eye-contact as the bloodied shards rain to the floor.
“Sorry about that,” she says.
“That’s fine. I like a strong woman,” says Putin. He snaps his fingers and one of his bodyguards scurries in on all fours and sweeps the broken glass into a pan. “As long as they don’t get in my way and do everything I ask. Now, let us move into The Great Big God Room.”
Putin shows Wendi into a code-protected wing of the apartment filled entirely with oil paintings of himself. In one, he is riding a dragon through the Siberian mountains. In another, he stands thigh-deep in a river holding a fishing rod, cargo shorts billowing in the wind. In another, two completely naked Vladimir’s lie entwined on a bed of money and anti-LGBT propaganda. In another, he is shooting tranquilizer darts from a crossbow at Pussy Riot.
“These are magnificent,” Wendi says.
“What is your favourite thing about me, Wendi?” Putin asks.
“Your blue eyes – and your power, of course.”
“Oh, and your really, really good butt – honed over endless judo sessions.”
“And also your cracking set of pectoral muscles, which you frequently choose to display in public.”
“Better than Tony’s?”
“Better than Tony’s, yes.”
“I have a black belt in judo, you know.”
“Yes, you did mention.”
“I can catch a fish for you right out of The Volga with my bare hands and cook it on my abs in the sun.”
“I could annex a country for your birthday.”
“That won’t be necessary.”
Putin turns Wendi’s attention to a large canvas the size of an entire wall, obscured by a red curtain. “This is what I wanted to show you,” he says, walking towards it. He tugs at a gold tassel and the red curtain slides aside, revealing an enormous landscape oil painting of himself sitting topless on a horse, his ghostly pale chest glistening even paler in the Siberian sun, with Wendi Deng sat behind him – the Eve to his Adam, the Sandy to his Danny Zuko, the Jiang Qing to his Chairman Mao. “I have dreamed of this day my whole life,” Putin says. “We will do the making out now, yes?”
There, on the cold, hard floor of The Great Big God Room, Wendi Deng and Vladimir Putin begin to kiss. Thoughts begin to race through Wendi’s mind at an unstoppable pace, driving her wild – the private fortune, the access to nuclear weapons, the alleged physical prowess demonstrated by extreme sports and staged interactions with wild animals. She can hardly contain herself. Interrupting her fantasy, Putin clears his throat and asks, “Would you mind calling me Batman?”
Wendi looks at him like an old dog that just passed wind. How many more sad pitiful encounters would she have with power-hungry oligarchs who will never feel mighty enough?
“No?” Putin says, slightly hurt. “What about James Bond?”
“Why don’t I just call you Vlad?” she suggests.
“Iron Curtain Man?”
Wendi’s pupils widen so her eyes are almost entirely black.
“What’s that unfurling out of your skirt?”
“Oh, nothing! I’m just pleased to see you.”
But it was too late. Wendi could already feel her breath deepening, her vision becoming obscured by a black storm cloud of equal parts lust and hatred. Her tail lashes out of its binding and rips through the fabric of her skirt. Wendi’s huge wings tear through her Prada blazer and unfurl to dimensions almost as wide as the room. Her hands swell and into giant claws. False nails with little pineapples painted on them fly off to make room for real ones. “You powerful men are all the bloody same,” she hisses. And then, in one fell swoop, lashes his head clean off.
Back at The Shard, the click-clack of Wendi Deng’s shoes echo through the hotel reception, empty besides the concierge. He watches, pale and horrified, as Wendi – with her shredded Prada outfit and enormous bat wings – stalks towards the elevator leaving a trail of blood behind her. She holds her hand up as a greeting and gives the concierge a polite smile. He is violently sick in a bin behind the desk.
Wendi enters her room and walks straight to the pile of bones. Doubling over and jerking her neck back and forth like a pigeon on a treadmill, she regurgitates what’s left of Vladimir Putin onto her nest. She dabs her mouth delicately with a tissue, making sure not to smudge her lipstick, and begins to remove more bones from the pockets inside her blazer, adding each one thoughtfully to the pile of once-powerful men. In her diary, she writes “Vladimir Putin” at the bottom of a long list of names, and then crosses it out. As the sun begins to rise again, Wendi curls up on her bone nest and does a little satisfied burp. She closes her eyes and begins to drift asleep, smiling, dreaming of the headlines that would appear in the next few days: “Maneater Wendi Deng Saves The World.”
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.