2nd version (revised)
Not long after the start of winter, everything seemed to be getting out of hand gradually. All the animals started to die in batches as though they were infected. Without any signs or reasons. Every morning when farmers went into the barn that held all the animals, they would discover a new batch of dead animals lying stiff on the ground. And for those that were still alive, they stood still among their dead companions, staring with their black and unfocused pupils as usual, snorting hot steamy breaths. The speed that the corpses were decaying was strikingly fast. It was early winter already, and windows had thin layers of frost on them, yet within half a day the flesh would blister, have liquid burst out of them, and rot. Countless numbers of maggots would busy themselves into and out of the rotten flesh. Sticky and greasy white dots looked garish within the blood stained red.
The sightings of shadow creatures were reported not long after animals started to die. People went through a stage when they were panicking, because the creatures came out of nowhere and went into nowhere. They dashed through small alleys and narrow streets in the city, leaving a fast passing shadowy impression. But when people walked close, they would discover nothing on the snow. No marks or traces would be left behind. Everyone was saying that they were ghosts, dead spirits, that they were revenge angels sent to make the human race extinct. However, a few weeks had passed, and though they were increasing in numbers, increasing in times that they were seen, they seemed not to have any intent in contacting with humans. They were just there, being themselves and moving around. So people relaxed and treat them as though they were yet another things presenting in this world, nothing special to be mindful about. Naming them ‘creatures’, was only because they could run, could make actions.
The shadow creatures had no exact forms, but a foggy chunk of lines forming somewhat a shape. They still had individual differences, so according to those who had impressions of the real animals, they could match them roughly with the animals that they were once familiar with. Those that fly in the sky, could be birds, be bats. Those that run on the ground, could be horses, be rhinos. Sometimes it seemed like they were growing huge horns on top of their heads, thick and curving dangerously. The horns seemed to be larger than their bodies. But after people blinked their eyes, they’d see that they were still the same creature standing there, vaguely blurry, like a horse but not a horse, like a sheep but not a sheep. Because of their shadowy characteristics, they appeared to be thin bundles of grey mists under strong light, and disappeared into real shadows where there was no light. Thus only before sunrise and sunset, when the sunlight was mild and soft, could their full forms be clearly seen.
The first time that I met Cai was at the age of nine. At that time Mom had died just a year earlier. I was sweeping the floor when I heard footsteps near the door. The strong mid-noon sunlight poured in with an unreserved manner, and for a time I saw two figures at the door, one large and one small. I thought I saw it wrong at first, and when the shadows blotted the sunlight and walked towards me, I saw that next to Dad who was not supposed to be home until night after he had finished working, stood a boy. He was slightly taller than me with a thin frame. His face was lowered so I couldn’t see his impression. Except for squeezing my eyes hard I didn’t know how else to react. I had never seen a person this closely before besides my parents. All the others I could only see from a distance at the city border when we went there in the exchange season. Dad did not explain much, only said that his name was Cai, and that I should call him my older brother from now on. Only after a long time did I find out that Cai was actually three months younger than me.
Six years had flown past since then.
“Dad, how many have died again?” I yelled at the barn, standing at the empty space behind it. I was digging a pit with Cai, and even though I was wearing gloves, I was experiencing piercing pain in my hands due to the weather. We needed to bury the newly dead animals as soon as possible, or else it would be like the first time when we had a maggot explosion, and two nearby animals were eaten alive.
Dad, through a layer of thick linen, dragged a dead animal out of the barn with both hands, leaving a bloody path the width of the animal in the snow behind him. Pieces of skin and hair were rubbed off and had stuck on the path.
“Almost ten. ”
It had been almost a month since the animals started to die. At this rate, we would have no living animals left before the next season came.
I turned and looked at Cai cautiously, and as expected he had a terrible enraged expression on his face.
“Bastards! It’s not our fault yet they wouldn’t give us any explanations. What a bunch of bastards!” Cai balanced on the crutches under his arms, and dug into the pit with all of his strength as though to let off his anger. The shovel made loud scratching sounds on the gravel.
Today was the first day that Cai was able to be outside of the house. He had stayed in bed for two weeks to nurture his broken leg. Two weeks earlier, the mailman had delivered a letter from the city, which not only did not explain why the animals had died, but wrote with a threatening tone that if we failed to submit the assigned amount of meat and milk in the spring, our supplies would be cancelled for the next season. Cai, couldn’t bear the rage, ignored Dad’s interception and the law and went to the border of the city looking for an explanation. Half kneeling on the ground, Cai crawled his way back home. It was already nighttime, and Dad and I had been looking for him anxiously at the door. Suddenly the rice stocks in front of the house started to stir. We ran over, and saw that both of his hands were mangled. Bare feet, with one leg losing half of the leg of the pants, dragged at an awkward angle behind him. All the toes and the knee revealed white bones inside. His mouth was filled with white foam. We lifted him back into the house, and dealt with the wounds as best as we could. It was fortunate that though he was badly injured, the bleeding was not so severe, and that it wasn’t snowing that much, so he was able to survive after all. During that time the city delivered news to us once, and briefly mentioned the shadow creatures that had been spotted in the city.
“Cai, stop it. What’s the use of that? Why don’t you go back to the room? What are you doing here just when your leg got better?” Dad said through heavy breathing. Corpses were heavy, but he wouldn’t let us touch them saying that we might get infected if they were contagious. Even those maggots, if one got onto you, you could have a hole in your body.
“There’s no need. I’m alright.” Cai was still angrily mumbling to himself, with a few curses now and then. I sighed, and lowered my head to keep on digging the dirt, and helped dad to push the body into the pit with my shovel. Cai eyed the body with disgust.
It took us hours to finish burying all the corpses. I stared at the new grave mound and all the other dozens of grave mounds around it. We were soon going to be running out of space for burying new corpses. I needed to clear more spaces. I rubbed my forehead and felt tired. I threw my shovel away, and sat down on the spot where I was standing. I looked around. They were huge graves, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t help but think of them as giant monsters hibernating beneath the earth. Maybe it was because of the shadow creatures, though I had only read about them once. I kept wondering, whether they had climbed out from those grave mounds when nobody was watching. Could they be the spirits that the big ones let out to gather information first before they themselves awoke from their sleep? The shadowy figures that rose from the grave mounds on silent nights……
I grabbed a handful of gravel and watched them fall through my fingers. The structure of this world, because of an environment mutation fifty years before, almost collapsed entirely. All the plants died in the mutation, except for this mutated rice field that separated the cities. Almost within one night, innumerable rice straws blossomed out. They broke through concrete and pitch, occupied rivers and seas. They engulfed almost everything, and turned everywhere into grey gravel. Before human could take any action, they had already shrunk and split the continents into small pieces of lonely cities, stuck inside of the grand field. Almost all the animals had died too, except for some farm animals that lived highly industrialized lives, and were stripped away from their identities as living beings. They were only raised as resources for meat and milk and they had survived. Now we simply called them animals. Animals had the combined genes of pig, cow, horse and sheep, and they all had two sets of reproductive systems and breasts. They were sexually mature at the time of birth. Now they were moved away from the cities where resources were scarce, and got assigned to farmers to be raised. They gained back some of the rights as living beings this way, though it was a pity the animals had already lost emotions or reactions that living beings should have. They mostly live in a numb state. They ate rice when it was time to eat, were milked when it was time to be milked, and showed the back of their necks without resistance when it was time to be killed.
But before the animals suddenly started to die, and shadow creatures started to appear, the city that we lived in was yet another ordinary city in this world. Like all the other cities, they were each isolated by the sea of rice field that surrounded them. Farmers such as my family lived inside of the stone houses that we built ourselves near the borders of the cities, at the edge of the rice field. We ate rice from the field, and raised animals that the government had assigned to us. All families were far apart, so we almost lived self-sufficient, isolated lives. We weren’t allowed to go outside of our own territories except for at the beginning of each season, when we had to go to the city border and hand in the assigned amount of meat and milk, as well as get our supplies for the next season. The city would send newspapers to update the latest events that had happened in the city. City people lived in the cities, and were forbidden to have any contact with the peasants. They used wind-powered electricity, went to school and worked. I wondered if the city was as chaotic as the countryside was.
Not far away, on the ground, was a twisting white dot. I went over, and saw that it was a thick fat worm. I picked it up and it struggled hard. It opened its mouth wide and showed the rows of barbed tusks. It stretched itself longer with a sudden force and tried to bite back at me. I got startled, squashed it and threw it hard on the ground with one foot stepping on it ceaselessly.
I had long been used to dead animal bodies. Ever since I learnt to walk, I was already at the slaughterhouse helping my parents clean up chopped up meat and blood. But Cai was different. He grew up in the city, and got educated at school. He had never had blood on his hands before. It happened to be slaughter day the second day after he came. Dad was already choosing animals with meat ready to be cut. Cai did not know what was going to happen next, so he showed great interest while running with me around Dad. Within a day we had become good friends. Though I had not heard him say a single word since he came through the door, we were both kids and we communicated effortlessly anyways. Dad led two animals and headed for the slaughterhouse. I led Cai and we were picking rice grains on the way for fun. You need to hold the whole fringe of the straw loosely with both of your hands, and slide it off with carefully controlled force. The rice grains would all fall off like a miniature snowstorm. We both had our hands full of rice grains when we arrived at the door of the slaughterhouse. I raised my handful of grains towards my mouth, opened it large pretending to be eating them, and he smiled his eyes into curves, opened his mouth large to pretend to eat his grains as well. And that was when he saw Dad raising the butcher’s knife high.
Right in front of my eyes, his eyes grew huge with terror, quickly exposing large areas of the white of his eyes. The force coming from the muscle beneath his skin pulled his mouth open sideways and revealed his back teeth and gums, like a horrifying smile.
“Cai? What’s wrong?” I asked with a shaky voice. Dad kept making banging noises with the fall of his knife behind me. Back then, I did not know that killing animals was supposed to be a scary thing. I could not understand what caused Cai’s face to lose its original shape.
Cai’s face became increasingly twisted, and the reddened white of his eyes started to leak large drops of tears. He clenched his hands into fists in front of his chest, and rice grains sank deeply into his palm. He started to pant heavily. Drool trickled down his lips. I burst into tears with a loud cry.
Maybe it was the noise that broke his state. He let out a shriek, raised his hands high above his head. Crushed grains sprinkled over him. He turned and ran towards the rice field.
“Plum, what happened? Where’s Cai?” Dad came out to check after hearing Cai’s shriek, but only saw me standing at the door crying loudly. There were shrieks coming from the field, each time further away.
“I, I don’t know, I don’t know what happened. Cai was, he, he, he suddenly……” I pointed my finger towards the rice field, unable to make a full sentence with my sobbing.
“Stay here.” Dad said, and left in a hurry. He went into the field where Cai had disappeared, and the sound of him passing through the field soon couldn’t be heard anymore. The air suddenly quieted down, and I realized how invasive my crying sounds were and stopped crying abruptly. I looked around and saw only the animal’s head hanging up side down with half of its neck chopped, staring with its black eyes unblinking at its own legs through the blood. I stood and watched with a tilted head for a while, then threw away the rice grains, turned and ran all the way back to the room, onto the bed and covered my head with a blanket.
The next time I woke up was in the middle of the night. I was awakened by a series of noises. Still half dreaming, I saw a figure on the ground rocking back and forth. It was Cai! He was squatting on the ground rocking drastically. It was clear that his throat could barely produce any sounds, but he was still screaming. All he managed to produce was dry gagging noises from his throat together with out of tune sobs. He kept switching between these two kinds of noises. He must be hurt! I sat up and wanted to get off the bed while Dad, sleeping on the other side of the room, got up even faster and rushed over to Cai. He squatted down trying to touch him. I did not know what happened next, but he stopped screaming. The air quieted for a second, then was filled again by a small voice.
Cai said the first word I had ever heard from him with a hoarse voice.
“Don’t, don’t, don’t! Don’t! Don’t! Don’t!”
He said this faster and faster, faster and faster, but the volume was not raised.
His voice was small as though he was begging. The rocking started again.
Dad paused, and did not try to touch him again. He walked to the side of the table, lit the candle with a match and sat down, quietly staring at the mumbling rocking Cai.
I was only able to see that Cai was completely naked with the candlelight. His clothing was torn into strips and left on the floor. His posture was strange as well. Even though he was squatting, he had his head deep down to the side of his feet, touching the floor. His back was arched, and I could see every single rounded bone that was poking out from his spine like they wanted to break through the skin that was covering on top. His upper body sank in between his thighs, and both of his hands reached down from the front of his body under his bottom, awkwardly hooked to the back. It seemed like he was clutching something. With the vigorous rocking of his body, his head banged heavily on the stone floor from time to time, making loud and muffled noises.
“Dad, is Cai sick? Or injured? He must have been infected right?” I got out of bed, cowhearted, and walked towards my Dad. I stopped in fear before I reach the range of the candlelight.
Hearing my voice, Dad’s shoulders jerked, as though he was just reminded of my presence.
“Your brother, he was, something happened to him before……” Dad turned halfway towards me. He did not look at me directly.
“What thing?” Seeing that he did not answer, I added, “ Did it happen before he came here, when he was still in the city?”
“Kids shouldn’t ask too many questions. You are too young. You won’t understand and you never need to.”
The harsh tone in his voice let me know that I better stop asking. I looked towards Cai again, and saw his legs had patches of bright red on them.
“But, won’t he get sick because of the cold?” I hesitated, and asked after a while. Though we had burning coals in the middle of the room to keep the house warm, the temperature was still low. It was only just warm enough not to freeze anybody to death.
“It’s alright. I will put him right back to bed once he calms down.”
I didn’t have anything else to say. So on at that cold winter night, my Dad and I stared at Cai in quiet, waiting for him to calm down.
He lost his strength not long after. He stopped making any noises or rocking his body back and forth. He fell on his side with a muffled sound, and his dark bundle of shadow spread out instantly and became several shadows of skinny limbs. Dad walked over and lifted him under his arms, like lifting up a newborn animal. When Dad walked passed the brightest part of the candle light, I saw, clearly, that in between Cai’s legs, swelled to a purplish black color, was a thing hanging limply covered in dried blood. Tame and inert. Of course I knew what that thing was. It was to be used for peeing and mating. Dad had it, and animals had it. But Mom didn’t and I don’t. I didn’t know if it could feel anything, but if it were to be like a finger, then Cai must be in so much pain now……
The middle of February was the coldest of all, and this year was colder than ever before. The unexpected weather threw us for a loop and we spent the second half of last month on reinforcing heat insulation and collecting rice grains. All the windows were completely sealed with paper made from crushed grain husks. The barn that the animals used to live in was sealed as well, and the rest less-than-fifty of them were moved to a smaller barn that was used for storing rice. The dead animals didn’t need to be buried either. As long as you dump the body outside, it would freeze within minutes, and in less than a day would be buried by snow.
Dad had been more and more down emotionally. He talked even less than before. Everyday, the most that he did was to complain and to worry. Complained about too many animals dying, complained about the city not delivering newspapers anymore because of the snow, worried about the animals, worried about the supplies for the next season, and also worried about the government sending us to exile if actually all the animals died. Besides, the sudden increase in the use of coal had made the rest seemed to be in danger of being used up. If the weather kept getting colder, our lives would be in threat. Days of accumulations of tiresome worries and work had made Dad’s body shrink down extraordinarily fast. The deep wrinkles between his brows and on his forehead seemed like another feature on the face. Plus the cold that kept him in a cringing posture, he looked barely able to hold his frame. Cai and I were scared and worried all day long as well, and nobody dared to talk much.
A blizzard happened this afternoon. Fierce wind and angry thunder lost their temper and were raging in the sky, turning it into a bitter grey. The ceaseless sounds seemed to be from a hand-to-hand battle between two giants, bumping each other with their giant chests, howling out air currents that swore to tear up the sky.
A sudden clap of thunder exploded somewhere near us, so close that I thought it happened right above my head. All the windows whined fearfully, and the house wailed as though it was getting crushed. Right after that, from somewhere not far outside came a collapsing sound, and it lasted for a brief while.
I screamed and leaped from the chair I was sitting on into Cai without a second thought. Cai held me tightly, and turned his head to Dad:“ What just happened? Did the thunder hit something?”
Dad’s face was extremely worrisome as well:“ Don’t panic, it might just be the large barn.”
“But what about the small one? All the animals are in there!”
“Wouldn’t all the animals be dead?” I was so scared that I was on the edge of crying.
Dad’s brows were locked tightly together. He walked to the door with large steps and took down his coat and hat from the hanger near the door, “I am going out to check, you guys wait inside.”
“But it’s so dark outside, how can you see?” Cai pushed me away, started to walk towards the door with a lame leg, “ I am going with you.”
“No, Cai, stay with your sister. It’s too dangerous outside.”
“But I want to go, I can help.” Cai insisted, still walking towards the door.
“I said it was too dangerous, can’t you understand!” Dad was furious all of a sudden, and his voice carried impatient anger. His shrunken body seemed to be expanding to its limit: “What kind of help can you be! Stop messing with things around here!”
Dad tightened a rope around his waist to secure the coat and put on his hat. He pushed on the door with all of his strength and managed only to crack it open a slit. The wind that roared in swiped off his hat from his head with a terrible shriek. Dad didn’t stop pushing, and finally made the gap large enough for him to go through. His eyes were forced open, forming two thin slits, and the skin on his face was brushed back by the wind and stuck tightly on the bones. For a second I thought he was going to be blown back to the room like the hat. But he successfully squeezed himself out, and got buried in front of the door by the blizzard and the night.
The door got slammed back into its frame with a bang.
“Dame it! Damn it!” Cai was still standing not far from the door, and suddenly turned and smashed a bowl on the ground. The broken pieces fled hurriedly across the floor.
“He has to get used to it.”
That was the answer I got from Dad the next slaughter day.
With no other options, Cai was forced to start with the easiest task like cleaning off the blood. The first couple of times he only made the mess worse. Then he would neither cry nor say a word, but wipe his mouth clean and ran out from the slaughter house. He would come back a while later. Dad never chased after him. He would only take a bucket and a mop and clean the vomit up.
The first two years that Cai came, whenever he was emotionally stimulated, he would lose himself and start to scratch and pull on his penis really hard. Until his penis swelled to a purplish black and blood streamed down from it like a line of trickling pee dripping all over the ground. His butt would be covered in newly formed bloody scratches on top of layers of old scratch scars that crawled all over like centipedes. It seemed like his habit was already formed a long time before he came to our house. But after over two years of controlling himself, when Cai turned eleven, he was well able to suppress his impulse. Even though when he got riled up he still flexed his fingers, mimicking scratching moves, and his butt still twitched stiffly.
I tried to ask Cai what it was all about, but every time, he closed his mouth tight with both of his hands kneaded into fists, and shook his head.
Still not getting up? The sun is almost down.
I sat in front of the table eating porridge that I made two days ago. The porridge was cold, and every swallow was accompanied by a shiver. But I couldn’t light the fire and heat it up, because we had little coal left, and we needed to save some for when it was absolutely necessary. I turned back and looked at Cai who was still sleeping. He seemed to be really tired for the past few days. He couldn’t sleep enough, and when he was awake, he had no energy. He barely ate or drank anything, and just sat there all day thinking about god knows what. He didn’t look at me, and he didn’t talk to me. I knew that he must still be in a lot of pain, but it had been a while, and if he continued to be the way he had been, I didn’t know how long I could endure before I broke down too. Tears suddenly started to stream down my face, along my cheeks and hit hard on the floor. My throat made an uncontrollable choking noise. Just then, Cai turned over. I quickly looked away and wiped the tears off with my sleeve. I didn’t want to be seen. He murmured something, and curled tighter into a ball inside of the blanket and fell asleep again.
I put down the half eaten porridge, and decided to take a look at the only surviving animal, to see if it was still alive. I put on the coat, thought for a second, and put on Dad’s old hat and went out. The animal was moved back into the large barn. The night that the blizzard happened crushed the entire roof of the small barn. Almost all the animals were blown scattered, and froze to death in different places. And Dad…… it was already several days later when we found him. I didn’t know how long the blizzard trapped Cai and me inside of the house. Each time that Cai wanted to go and find Dad, I hanged on to his leg tight and wouldn’t let go, no matter how hard he kicked or screamed. “Dad said that it was dangerous and he didn’t allow you to go out!” That was all that I was able to repeat. The morning that the snow stopped, we found Dad’s dead body under an animal buried upside down in snow. The two bodies were frozen tightly to each other and formed a gigantic lump of ice, like an overly realistic ice sculpture. Dad seemed to be crushed into a flat piece then stuck to the spine of the animal, with all his limbs folded and twisted, and hugging its curves perfectly. His face buried deep inside of the mane on the animal’s back, his hair tangled and frozen with that of the animal’s. The two bodies merged with each other so perfectly, unable to be separated apart.
I walked into the barn, and saw the only animal standing in the big empty room looking lonely. The room once held almost a thousand animals, and now there was only one left. I walked over and petted his neck gently, looking into his pit-black pupils. Only he managed to survive like a miracle till today. I was even thinking, that maybe Dad’s soul was in the animal’s body now so he could continue protecting us.
I left the barn and went to the edge of the rice field. There were a few shadow creatures lingering at the far end of the field, and occasionally beams of sunlight shone through their bodies and flared, obscuring their figures for an instant. They started to show up after Dad died. And just like the newspapers that described them before, they were huge and left no traces behind. But they weren’t appearing then disappearing. Every time I saw them they were somewhere far away, moving slowly without any sound. It seemed to be, that rather than being shadows, they were more like dark clouds on the ground. Large but weightless. Seemingly without any threat, but no one knows when they will turn into thunder and storms. They made me feel uneasy, and I fear them.
“Cai?” Suddenly waking up from a nightmare, I looked to my side immediately. His blanket was half on the floor. I reached out and laid a hand on his bed, and a trail of coldness climbed up from the fingertips. I retracted my hand at once, and sat up looking around with a blanket wrapped around me. The room was dark. There was no sign of Cai.
Where is Cai? I walked to the door, opened it a bit and looked out. The cold air that came in grew goosebumps on me. I laid one bare foot on top of the other tightly.
“Cai? Are you there?” I yelled and got no response.
Could something have happened? I pressed down the panic, put on my shoes and coat in shivers and ran out. Under the bright moonlight, there were huge shadows swaying in the rice field. Shivering, I saw that the door of the barn was open, and I could see the dim yellow light inside.
Is it Cai? I walked to the door, and looked in through the open doorway.
At the candle-lit edge of the barn, the animal was standing in front of the water tank, with a giant purple penis the thickness of a forearm sticking horrifyingly out from between its legs. The top of the penis was buried inside of Cai. Cai was half-lying on the edge of the tank, his right leg raised high. His lame left leg fell to the side limply. He bent both of his arms back forming almost straight lines pressed against the wall barely able to support his body, which was blushingly red. His neck was bent back deeply, almost folded in half towards his spine. I could see the testicles that were hanging behind the animal’s penis, like an enormous heart beating in rhythm, bumping into Cai’s protruding butt bones. Both of his eyes were closed tightly with his mouth open wide, and saliva flowed along his cheeks and cheekbones all the way to his scalp, and mixed with sweat that swung off of the tip of his hair from the vigorous humping. His own penis was half standing in the air as well, swelled to a tender baby red, with scars crawling all over it.
I almost threw up, but all I could think of was Dad. I ran to Dad’s old bed and cuddled into a bundle. I cried myself all the way till sunrise. Cai did not return for the whole night.
The next day he came back at noon. Still not talking, not looking at me. I held it in for a whole day, but I didn’t know when or how to start. I was just cleaning the house as usual, or sitting and zoned out. I did not go to the barn again.
Until we both went to bed at night.
Maybe it can be over now? Maybe I can talk about it tomorrow? I thought maybe that this thing could just pass, but not long after, Cai snuck out from his bed and walked towards the door silently.
“What are you going to do! I am not allowing you to go!” I jumped from the bed to the floor, looking at him, shivering all over.
He paused, then spat hard on the ground, “what the fuck are you talking about! Shut up!”
“I know everything! I saw everything!” I yelled as loud as I could, trying to hide the fear inside,“ I saw everything that you did, you disgusting shit!”
Cai dashed over to me, grabbed me by my wrists firmly,“ What the hell are you talking about! I told you to shut up!”
“Gross! Gross! Get away, get away from me!” I got out of his capture, and punched him on his chest with all my force.
“What did you just say? I dare you to say that again!” Cai grabbed one of my hands with one hand, and grasped me on the neck with the other forcefully.
“I said that you were gross! Gross! Gross! Don’t touch me you dirty filth!” with great pain, I squeezed out my anger from my throat, “ you are a fucking whore!”
“Where the fuck did you learn that word from!” He slapped me on the face once, and all of a sudden I went blank, and I couldn’t see anything.
The next second when I could react again, Cai had already left the house. I ignored the dizziness and ran outside, and I caught him half way. I held him by one arm and bit into it and didn’t let go.
“Are you out of your mind!” Cai pulled hard on my hair. I felt strands being pulled off, and pain washed through my scalp.
I added more force and bit a big chunk of flesh off his arm. Cai squatted on the ground in pain, and the blood from his wound soon formed a puddle. I suddenly got scared, and squatted down as well, not knowing what to do.
“You think I am gross?” Cai said with a deep husky voice while covering his bleeding arm, “you think I am dirty and don’t want me to touch you?” His eyes locked onto mine.
My anger rose up again, and I cried and shrieked: “You are dirty, you are gross, how could you do that to him! If dad was still here……
Without finishing my sentence, Cai grabbed a sharp rock and started to stab me with it. The next thing I knew, I saw the world suddenly become so bright then dimmed down rapidly into complete darkness. Then pains so sharp that they were unbearable came from all over my body, my chest, my thighs, my arms, my belly. One after another, the sounds of skin and flesh being penetrated, the ones that I grew so used to when I was killing the animals, and hearing them now gave me a confusing strange yet familiar feeling.
Were the animals thinking of anything when they were being killed? I could still hear the mixed sounds of rage and cries from Cai, something like the sounds that he made when he used to lose his nerve. But are they the same? I can’t quite remember. Is Cai going to lose it again? The pain came in waves, one after another, and slowly the sharpness turned dull, and the sounds from the outside started to quiet down. My body became warmer and warmer, and I remembered something from when I was younger……
“Cai, what do think the shadows are?”
“En, what do you think they are?”
“I don’t know, I never went to school……”
“Plum, let me ask you, do you know why the shadow neither float above our heads nor walk with us side by side, but stay below us?”
“Below us……I don’t know.”
“Well, obviously it’s because the shadows are heavier!”
“Ah! That’s why! Hahahahaha!”
There is light shining on my eyelids. My world is a bloody red.
I wake up, and feel my eyelids squeezing together because they are swollen. I try to open them, and with some effort, I succeed in forcing my left eye open a slit. Right in front of me is the horizon shooting up straight as an arrow. A white sun is floating at the intersection where the yellow rice field meets the blue sky. I can’t tell if it is sunrise or sunset. I try to move my head, and see that Cai is curled up next to my feet. He is naked, and retains a stiff posture which I have seen so many times before: head sunken deep down to the side of his ankles with his face unseen. Both of his hands reaching down from in front of his body under his bottom and hooking back to grab on to something. All of the bones in his body are poking out starkly. The skin so thin that it is almost poked through by the bones is a blackish purple from the cold. His hair has some dew on it, and below him is a pool of dried blood. Quivering, I force my self to sit up, yet I feel no pain from it. I am still wearing my coat, and the thin clothing underneath is almost fused into my skin with the dried out blood. I can see the bloody holes on my stomach, the flesh inside rising and falling with my breathing.
Closing my eyes, I take a deep breath. The March air is quite warm already, and the snow that had been accumulating all winter is finally starting to melt. They form countless skinny rivers the purl across the ground.
Spring is finally coming.
Breathing heavily, I stand up and feel like my chest has a hole in it, that it is unable to trap air inside. The sky appears a beautiful color gradient. The luxurious deep blue above my head rolls all the way out to the far distance, and turns rapidly into burning red and thick orange at the furthest of the rice field. The tremendous white sun perches at the center of the horizon, facing a world of immense golden field. The light is bright but not dazzling, as though the sun is well aware of its destructive power as opposed to humans, thus it bears a merciful heart to sympathize with the earth. Before the horizon stretches a large herd of ghostly grey shadows. I watch them with my one slit-visioned eye, and walk forward towards either sunrise or sunset, step by step. The blurry shadows under the sun are becoming clearer, then dimmer. They can be birds or beasts, or insects or worms.
They seem to be waiting in place, or rushing toward me, to swallow me whole.