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True Story
6,000 Steps to Paradise (4)

26 November 2006

1, A Stone Ladder
2, A Beautiful Bride
3, 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 once again.

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.

5, A House on the Hilltop

Pre A Thousand Love Calls
Next: Spokeswoman of Confucius


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