About The Book
Ayi awoke again at dusk. The hail on the ground had already mostly melted. The field was a complete mess. The corpse of an owl lay at the foot of a pine tree. Something like fish intestines hung down from its branches.
His teeth trembled uncontrollably, and his body was bright and pale like an electrically charged strand of tungsten filament. Am I still alive? Perhaps I've already died and entered the netherworld mother had spoken of.
The greenish flames slowly gathering around, are these the demons from the fires of hell? There were all kinds of them. Some jumped down from the treetops, and others rose from out of the ground. There were those with ox’s heads and horse’s faces, and some were shaggy little creatures wearing tiny red silk underpants. They all bore two great big teeth and stared with glass eyes. Each had two transparent ears, bigger than its head. These demons danced incessantly around his body and babbled out some song. All of a sudden, some jumped onto him, got close to his ears, and in faint, delicate mosquito voices asked him questions; some nibbled on his ear, and others bit the bridge of his nose. Two of them sat cross-legged on his wrists. They nibbled on his two thumbs that had been cuffed together, gurgling and squeaking like a rabbit gnawing on a frozen carrot, nibbling and biting. He encouraged the little goblins. Bite my thumbs clean off, then I’ll be free. Little goblins, do you have a mother? Ah yes, you have a mother. I also have a mother. My mother is sick, she spits up blood. Bite my thumbs from my hand, and I’ll be free to go see my mother. Suddenly, he was exceptionally clear-headed. He thought of those two bags of herbal medicine. My medicine? The medicine I’d collected for mother? The medicine that I’d traded mother's silver hairpin for? The two bags had already been smashed to pieces by the hail and soaked by the rain water, the herbs now mixed in with the mud and weeds. Ayi was engulfed by complete despair. Mother, mother, your herbs – it’s done for. He thought of biting at the tree bark again, but as soon as his teeth were about to touch the coarseness, he felt immediately discouraged.
The west was a blood red slab, and broken clouds sifted through the sky. The shattered sky was at times like dark green tree leaves and occasionally like rose-colored flower petals. In the field, the sounds of women’s cries could be heard, first from the east and west, then from the south and north. The cries quickly became a wall of noise. The wheat! The wheat! Oh Heavens! Oh Heavens! There'll be no noodles, or rolls, or dumplings. There's nothing. Everything's gone. It’s all been smashed into the mud. Destroyed.
Among the cries emanating from all over the field emerged one person’s singing. The resounding singing voice reverberated around, and the noise of weeping became dampened, quieted, and then muted. A round silver moon rose in the sky, and the red clouds dulled, scattered, and were gone. Inspired by the repeated singing, he stood up, trembling like a spring. The singing was like river water, or wheat, or coat. The singing was the moon, lighting up the inner vestiges of his heart.
He stretched his head forward and bit at his thumb; it felt like he was biting into something that was disconnected from him – something icy and disgusting. He bit at it with all his strength, unrestrained and unflinching. He could feel the thumb fall off in his mouth and lowered his head to spit it out onto the ground. He heard it hit against the ground. He then opened his mouth and bit down on the other thumb with all his rage channeled into his teeth. He spat it out, and again heard the sound of it falling to the ground.
He didn't look at the fingers, but he could imagine them merrily running away. Overflowing with hope, he started to move his body. His arms were stiff and couldn’t bend, as if they were two iron sticks. He could feel his wrists obstructed by the tree trunk. A tremendous fit of fear swept over him, and he instinctively raised his body to look up and move backwards. At that moment, he heard the sound of the thumb shackles breaking off from the remnant stubs of his thumbs, and then he heard them again as they landed on the ground. Looking up to the sky, he stretched back on the ground. He watched the pine tree that had left his embrace, and happiness suddenly descended upon him. A round, limpid, bright full moon spat out luminous and brilliant light into the clear sky. Countless clumps of white flower petals fell heavily down from above.
A gentle fragrance drifted from the moonlit petals was intoxicating like alcohol. The white flowers unremittingly descended upon him. Before him spread a path of these fresh flowers. The overpowering fragrance assaulted his senses. Trembling, he stood and fluttered toward that alluring avenue, but he was heavily unbalanced and fell over. He felt his lips meet with the ice-cold ground.
A while later, Ayi saw a little, earthen-reddish child crawl out of his own body like a little chick breaking out of its eggshell. The child's body was sleek and its movements nimble just like a little black fish swimming in the moonlight. He stood under the pine tree, waving his hands and the medicine scattered throughout the mud –roots, coins, leaves, and pellets –rapidly gathered together. The child tore off a piece of the moonlight to bundle up the medicine. It tore off like satin with a sound akin to silk splitting.
He waved his arms like a bird flapping its wings and flew toward the fresh, flower-paved moonlight path. From the stub of his two severed thumbs sprayed rich, sparkling pearls of blood that clattered and jingled down upon a bed of snow jade carved into flower petals. He called out for his mother, sang a song of wheat, and on the magnificent pure white moonlit road soared forward, moving faster and faster. The fluttering moonlight was like smooth stone powder flowing off his body. The fragrant wind filled up his lungs. There was a thatched hut along the road, and his mother opened the door and spread her arms open wide. He threw himself into her embrace and experienced a warmth and safety like he had never known before.