“一个虚构的灵异,一个残酷的真实”

The seventh day

And on the seventh day God finished thework that he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all the work thathe had done. ——Genesis. 2. 2

   

When I was finallyawaken, it seemed that all the things before was a living nightmare, beenforgotten after I reopened my eyes. My senses were open, but my sights stayedin the impenetrable darkness, and my body laid on the lay stall.

Where I am?

Why I am here?

It seemed that notlong ago——never mind how long precisely, I had been tasting the sweet odor ofmilk aunt Hui Ying had offered me——could you believe that? Milk, thesubstantial very real milk! At that time the unreasonable happiness hadpermeated in every bit of my thought, in fact, I was probably the first andonly child in the entire village that actually tasted the odor of it. Icouldn’t remember why this woman, who’s very appearance were in the situationsfighting with Ma had suddenly acted so nice…but where was she now?

I tired hard to rubmy eyes, but still it appeared to be the color of dead coal briquette, dark,filled with algor, I could not feel any pain, the things that really hurts wereonly the frozen darkness, the odor of trashes along with could winter breeze.

When I finallyrealized the fact that I was slowly freezing, having nothing to guide myselfaway from all the subtle, hallow sensitivity, to fill in some random evidencein the fear of non-existence and emptiness, I decided the only thing I could doright now was to try to find a way home. The pebble floor had becomefluid-like, it was like solving a math step without an obvious answer key.Desperately and hastily groping around, the cubes were faded cartons; the sphereswere the rotted apples, half-cut melons and a pair of clammy, sticky littleballs, the objects without specific shapes were the forest of endless twistedfragments of plastic bags…finally, a long, cold stick-shaped object came nearmy hand, I grasped it, just as the straw to clutch, and began my journey,wandering, without a specific direction.

I juggled, I hitthe bumpy block wall then I turned. When I was too tired to continue walking, Icrawled.

*   *     *         *           *           *                *

I could notremember how long it took to finally reach there, after passing the endlessmaze of lanes, alleys and dusty roads. I was walking in scary silence, thesilent darkness. Until the long waited voice of Ma told me that I had finallymade it.

“Ma——”I cried, butthe sound of woman’s cry suffocated me, it was the cry that I had never heardbefore, it was the cry damped from tears and snow. Why were she mourned sohopelessly?

“Ma!” I shouteddesperately, fumbled forward, tried to avoid the wastage of empty bottles andthe hilled paper boxes, still she cried, why doesn’t she answer my calls?

“Ma!”

“Help me…” Fallendown, I whispered, “Ma…”I tired to throw myself into the sound source, but insteadof her arms, I straightly embraced the cartons laid in the back of the littleroom, she must had leaned beside some how.

There was noresponse; only the continued mourns that penetrated through my ears. It was notthe elegy of some noble causes her soap operas always displays, but it remindedme the howling of the half-dead animal in the butcher’s shop.

Does it means, evenher, had abandoned me now? It reminded me all the rumors and gossips that hadbeen passed along my classmates about the abandoned, disabled children, theshadows of the new classmate that you never see again after a couple of weeks,it reminded me the homeless idiot that always wandered in the street next tothis little rental room that had disappeared in a hopeless winter of mychildhood, it reminded me the little shoes and coats left lonely in the laystall where sometimes we picked up.

Mom, answer me,please, answer me…

*   *     *         *           *           *                *

My body had draggedme from the cement room, though my senses were numbed with indifference. Wherecould I go? Here or else where, does it matter? It was only the blades, whichhad answered me, the blades of wind and ice and drizzly December that chilled intomy soul. If the world had left yourself alone, will you ever feel the fear?

I was wandering inthe stillness of winter, the deathly stillness. Therefore I went back to theonly place I could think of to lay still, the lay still. I had taken the smellof there with me; I wander if all the perfumes filled in colorful bottles inthe grocery could sweeten this little body. When I passed carefully for a shortdistance, a bus-stop-like object had stopped my way, just like it was abruptlyraised from nowhere. I raised my hand and tried to feel the temperature of therusted metal, the gigantic, cubical dustbin had no warmth at all, but stillwarmer than the world outside. I traced the warped pattern of the open gate andcarefully climbed inside, just habitually with teeth chattered, I shrunk closerto the almost extinguished embers. I closed my eyelids, although it made nodifference at all.

The air inside wasfilled with thick and dense smokes, and a veil of voices, like five tranquil waveletsof still water.

Fortunately andunfortunately, they seemed had neglected me just like everyone else, then whyto make any trouble? I shrunk, and began to witness their conversation.

“It was so coldoutside…” The first one whispered quietly in a dreamy voice.

“I am glad here’snot anymore…” Answered the second, in a raising intonation.

“Yeah, I couldn’teven remember the frozen breath,” replied the third, “Po, here’s more rice foryou.” His voice roved from far away, like the weeds of mountain, swaying,bloomed in the bleak of fog.

“Brother, youshouldn’t light the charcoal in the first place. ”

“I knew, I knew.”

“Brother, I’mfainting.” Said the little one, blurredly.

“Then sleep.” Afourth voice appeared.

“Brother, will webe found by the watchman?”

“If they found us settingfire in here, will they drive us away?”

“We were alreadybeen forced here, what more can they do? There’s no more watchman here.” Exclaimedthe bigger one; he seemed thrilled, though it wasn't that big of a coincidence.

“Lin, what day isit?”

“It’s the sixthday.”

Then there were thesounds of deep breaths, “Ay, the sixth day. Have you packed yet?”

“Do I have anyf**king thing to pack?”

“Oh, nor do I.”

“…Brother, I’m soscared.” Whispered the smallest one.

“Be a man, Po, ifyou still have the chance.” The fourth one sighed, after a moment of silence,he continued, tried to comfort the smallest one, “You will no longer be afraidtomorrow.”

“Is there tomorrow,brother?”

The brothersremained silent, and I supposed they might remain their silence even untiltomorrow. Couldn’t stay quiet anymore, I answered for them, “Yes, there mustbe.”

But there was noreply. After a certain amount of time, it sounded like the dawn had come,although the croaks of rooster in the nearby market seemed from very far away,suddenly the whispers were cut, but I hear no open sound of the trash bin gate.

I wondered wherethe five boys in the bin had gone. However, it was a question that no one couldanswer. 

From time to time,I would dream, but only about hollowness, empty smog and carbon monoxide.

*   *     *         *           *           *                *

“Oh my gosh…forgod’s sake, where is god?” Out side the bin, but very near, I heard the exclaimof a young woman. She must belong the people from the city, since “god” onlymeans the painted image in the New Year’s Eve in the village. But it was verystrange to hear a city-er been surprised so much——what was happening outside?Unable to do any help, my curiosity had made me stayed.

“Please, Miss.Xue…” There was pledging from a man… was it the head of village? He was a niceold man who gives speeches during school anniversary celebrations. 

“No, I can’t stopby such thing, such violence!” Then the sound of shutter appeared.

“Miss Xue——thepaper won’t let you publish such a ——incident.” The officer stopped suddenly,tired to find an appropriate word, he was another cousinof my rich but ignorant uncle. ——So she is a journalist.

“It is myresponsibility, to record it with authenticity——all the evidences are pointingout to an crime organization, no one can avoid the fact that the corneas aregone——” the young woman proclaimed, but she hadn’t got a chance to finish herline, it was followed by an suffocated scream.

What had happenedto her? I tried to get out but a muffled crack had resisted against the otherside of the gate, the putrid odor grew thicker, I tired to cover my nose but itwas still there, I tired to cover my ears but the groans were still obviouslyaudible, I had shrunk even more, then after about one minute or so the moansslowly faded and could be heard no more.

“Pah,responsibility, ”said the old man, in a tone I had never heard before, thesharp voice was like a needle of ice that chilled done to my bone and marrow.

It was over, wasit?

What did they do tothe journalist?

*   *     *         *           *           *                *

I stepped out,unconsciously tramped on something soft and warm, it might be another deadanimal, since the butcher always throws them here. Shocking my head, I pressedon, but the sound of some operating machine nearby had stopped me. 

“Sister, why thewashing machine is still moving?” A swift voice of a girl asked, she spoke likeshe was singing.

“Because it’sworking.” Answered the bigger one.

“What is thepurpose for working?”

“Why? To earnmoney.”

“So Ma can pay the familyplanning people? They knocks everyday, I don’t like them.” The little girlasked curiously.

“My teacher saidthat they are the good people, that will help to create a peaceful, clean androomy village.”

“They dashed in andshout on Ma! I still don’t like them.”

The second voicesigned, like a little adult, “even so, its far not enough, how many steamedbuns can pay off the forfeit? ”

“But then Ming Mingcan’t go to school!” the little girl exclaimed worriedly.

“Yes, he now cango, without us, he’ll be able to have Hukou (resident account)”

“So he can go toschool? Yeah! It’s a good thing, I like to go to school,” the girl stopped fora while, and mourned, “but sister, I don’t think I can go to PE any longer, myleg hurt…”

“Don’t worry, dear,it won’t hurt for much longer.” The sister tired to be jovial, “see, I’m herewith you.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

There was the soundof something craping from the sound source, then the fluid touched my feet, Ibended down, grasped a drop of it and moved my finger in front of my dry,chapped lips, it was the salty, rusted taste.

I said nothing, Icould think of nothing; I wandered in between of dust and darkness.

Although there wasthe warmth from a wisp of sun came through the mist, it failed to deliver anywarmth. In the beginning there was faith——which was childish, moral——which was vain,and illusions——whichwas dangerous. * I could hear things were happening, in the most fast pace, toooblivious, and at the same time, too subtle and profound for a blind, 10 yearold boy. Never shall I forget the small voices of the children whose existenceresulted in silence under the silent darkness. I was nothing but a body,perhaps even less——alost mind. For five more croaks of roosters I had been wandering in the frozendarkness, thinking about things that should never happen, either should ever bethink. Thinking about my first cup of milk, the five boys in the bin, the youngjournalist, the sisters in the washing machine, my village, and my self. Thevillage had lost its dawn and sunset; it had lost its morning and night.

The strange, coldodor was with me now, from day to day it grew thicker and thicker, wherever Iwent, it never fades away. It penetrated me, but time had made me habituate forit. It had enveloped me, suffocated me, it stuck to me like sticky glue, but Iwas unable to touch it. The strange sense had appeared again, something washanging beside my nose, also something downward my cheek, I used my hand totouch it, and found out the thing beside my nose was my nose, the thing belowmy cheek was my cheek, they had moved through out my face.

In the seventh dayof my wandering, when I accidently passed through the old radio in front of thebutcher’s shop in the market, I heard the formal voice of the head of villageagain, “Our village deeply concern about such a horrible accident, that thissuspect, the aunt had done such an unforgivable deed…No, no, there’s no such ancrime organization, the eyeball? It’s just a personal affair. The department ofspecial case had identified the suspect for the dead boy, which is his auntZhang Hui Ying, this criminal suspect had committed suicide in her own well inAugust 30th, which means our village need to follow the neweducation policy established by our party…”

*   *      *        *           *           *                *

According toChinese culture, in the first 7 days of death, the spirit of the dead willattached to the bone and wandered around the place he used to live, on theseventh day of wandering, still stays consciously, the soul shall realize itsphysical death. This is called the seventh day.

 

Appendix——Miss. Xue’s past reportages

In conclusion, through debatable theme, dramatization of realnews, a twist with foreshadows, unique characterization and tradition adaptation,the writer tries to create a memorable short story, at the same time, appealingto her readers.


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