A Stone Ladder
A Beautiful Bride
A Forbidden Love
4, A Life in the Wilderness
Deep in China’s heartland in Sichuan province bordering
Guizhou and Chongqing, there is a vast expanse of primeval
forest. Deep in the forest, there is a majestic mountain
called Middle Slope (半坡头) with its summit 1500 m above the
sea level. Deep in the mountain where the dense foliage is
cleft to a broad open field, there was a hatched cottage.
Next to the cottage under a shed, there were baskets containing
wild walnuts, jujubes and herbs; before the cottage on a
leveled ground, leaves of mujiang trees spread
out drying in the sun in preparation for flour milling; around
the cottage along gentle slopes, there were cornfields and
vegetable patches growing potato and sweet potato.
Somewhere off in the distance, there was a lush grove where
beeboxes were placed and swarms of bees buzzed in trees that
bore with wild fruits and had howler monkeys perched in.
Nearby in a hollow, bordered with stones, a mountain stream
rolled its winding course through the shades. The water was
limpid, reflecting a green glow. When the late afternoon
sun slanted golden gleams across the flow, a topless young
man straightened out his back, hands griping a fish struggling
to slip out of his strong hold. "Pan!" this 20-year
old shouted at a 13-year old. "Yeah, Uncle Guojiang,
here!" the 13-year old hurriedly presented a wooden
pan to allow the fish to be tossed in.
Barefoot, Guojiang jumped onto the shore and strode towards
the cottage, with three kids hopping around him, and monkeys
hopping around the kids.
In front of the cottage, a toddler was doing its best to
take a wobbly walk. Next to it, Xu was busily plying her
needle. Seeing the group approaching, she stopped her work
and took over the pan to prepare a fish soup dinner. Then
the family of six sat under the sky to have a meal, in the
company of the restless monkeys springing around for leftovers,
and a flock of birds that from time to time shove the hilltops.
Soon the dazzling clouds paled - the sun in mountains forever
retired early and in great hasty, even during summer season.
Having settled the children into bed, Guojiang and Xu returned
to the open.
Outside was a field of silver. The moon had climbed high
in the sky, illuminating the landscape with its humble and
simple reflection. The pair rested on the meadow slope, viewing
the murky outlines of the hills. As Xu caught a glimpse of
the dark mass of forest looming in a short distance, and
heard down the shallows the stream flew fast in turbulence,
she asked Guojiang, for the 101th time since they fled the
village to the abandoned cottage in the wild, "You sure
you have no regrets?"
"Here you come again," Guojiang got red in the
face. "Do you really want me to rip open my chest to
show you my heart?"
"Shoo…" Xu covered his mouth with her hand. "I
just think you’ve lost so much..."
"I only lost gossips, but I’ve got you!"
Xu averted her sight to the sky, where the stars spangling
sweep of the firmament flickered in the black space, like
tears twinkling in her black eyes.
Little they suspected at the time that their simple happiness
was soon to be tempered and they would be forced to flee
One day, the world suddenly turned gloomy above and below
as the clouds gathered thick and dense, blocking the sun
in all directions. Moments later, a string of freak claps
of thunder exploded over the little settlement and flashes
kept hurling down lightening balls, which eventually tore
open the sky. The rain pelt down in wrath. Amid the intense
bombardments of thunder and shafts of light, the mountain
torrent rolled and roared, and the violent spewing flood,
tumbling with white foams, shook the foundation of the house,
while a powerful gust of wind ripped off the hatched roof
and tossed it down the gully.
By the time the clouds rolled away and the sun re-emerged,
what was revealed in the field sparkling like crystal was
a paradise lost. In the swirling mists and vapours that lingered
around, they witnessed hopelessly their refuge was reduced
to a ruinous heap.
A House on the Hilltop
Thousand Love Calls