Ruins and Moon Flowers (Excerpt)
Ruins and Moon Flowers
Walking through the dark corridor, Wu Zi was going back to his dormitory. He left it ten days ago. He took a glance at Dai Meng’s door, and only found a closed one. It’s too dark to recognize anything, but he just cannot get rid of that habit. Dai Meng is the girl next door. She used to wear clothes in red with a red scarf, sitting in the desk near her door and writing or reading.
He wondered how she is now. Something incredible has been spread among the circle. People are gossiping these days that she had a boyfriend.
Some friends told him about that and sighed with pity. At first glance it seemed unbelievable. He said, “That’s ridiculous.” She may someday be in love with a guy, but Xiao Yang is not the right one. He’s ten years older than her and isn’t a respectable person, at least Wu Zi thinks so. On the other side, everyone likes Dai Meng. As Shu Yefei said, she doesn’t belong to marriage because she’s an angel, a kind of symbol. She represents the beauty and pureness of the world. Who in this world deserves her love? If one day she gets married or falls in love with someone, imagination will be blocked. What a pity it is, thought those artistic young people.
Wu Zi is plotting out a novel named Ruins. He portrays Shu Yefei, small in size and yet intelligent, as an artist. He always calls himself a super artist the same as those embracers and friends of Nietzsche in the way boasting themselves as philosophers and poets.
In his novel, Shu Yefei’s tear is red, sometimes turns green, and sometimes turns white. He doesn’t know the reason why his tears feel like that. Those dark, keen and dazzling eyes seem to outflow something colorful. Although most of his works are painted in the dorm with grey background, the reflection in his eyes is bright in color with the light of desire. Yet Dai Meng held different ideas about the description of the tears of Shu Yefei, a painter. She thought they should be colorized and more importantly transparent. Shu Yefei is exactly this kind――the honest. Wu Zi is wondering what Dai Meng’s characteristic should be in a novel. A girl never stops writing? And did she disappear afterward, or not? She shouldn’t, but will she? Before he finishes the Ruins, is she going to leave this poetic mood? And maybe decades later she will come back to this hall, step up on the narrow stair and see only behind the curtain the illusory and beautiful Dai Meng. It’s all dreams, or actual ruins. But why are we so pessimistic?
Why must Wu Zi write the Ruins to build up a ruined world for young men. Why, Wu Zi cannot figure it out himself. Maybe he writes from feeling. According to some books, without being a philosopher and thinker at the first place, a writer doesn’t able to create brilliant work. Regarding this, Wu Zi decides to read more before starting his novel.
It’s time for eating. Dai Meng happens to open the door at the same time. She is in red as usual but with a dark red scarf. She doesn’t tie her hair with a bowknot as before and they fall down on her shoulder.
They smile at each without talking.
They eat steamed stuffed bun. One student is offered only four buns.
Wu Zi needs six but Dai Meng only two so she gives the rest to Wu Zi. Shu Yefei runs to them and yells.
“Dai Meng, why not give them to me? I need more as well.”
“Cause he’s handsome?” Shu Yefei jokes sensitively, and kind of seriously.
“I am so sorry, Shu Yefei. Here you are, one bun.”He responses with “that’s more like it” and sits down keeping talking about his philosophic theories. Luckily they understand and sympathize with. Sometimes he’s just so presumptuous and conceited, yet in a good way. Wu Zi smiles and nods gently even when disapproving. But Dai Meng likes to hold opposite ideas. They argue, but neither one succeeds.
Dai Meng is actually an ordinary girl. She isn’t a beauty, just as Shu Yefei said, a pretty girl. Her notable characteristic is natural. She is like the green grass, or a quiet streamlet. In college, several professors appreciated her unaffected nature and made her the model of their children. How would it be possible? Expression and temperament originates from the heart.
After finishing the meal, Shu Yefei punches the table to announce the end of the conversation. Everybody stands up and begins to go out the cafeteria. Wu Zi stops at the door and says, “After you, Mr. Premier.” Shu Yefei keeps the head up and passes by laughing with his hands back.
Wu Zi begins his novel. The first chapter is about Dai Meng. He begins to write. The ruin has transformed into the original hall. This house was built as a consulate of a European country. It’s in Russian style, with high ceilings and glass doors around. Pendant lamp is decorated with exquisitely carved white flowers. The floor is put together by little lumber hubs and always waxed smoothly. Its boxy shape makes it set in majesty and emptiness. His hero and heroine are playing in this house the game of “dropping the hand scarf” which children like. They however are not kids any mor
Shit! Bullshit! Wu Zi throws the pen slightly away and leans against the chair. Shu Yefei’s frames and paintings are laid on every inch of the floor and even the bed. They occupied all available space. His only choice is to stay on the chair. Recently, Shu Yefei is sawing the wood on Wu Zi’s bed—there’s no other choice but to utilize his bed. The ugly wood was cut into little blocks and nailed together according to the length. After fixing the frame, Shu Yefei sighs deeply with relief.
Wu Zi is too tired and wants to have a nap, but Shu Yefei just folds back his sleeves, prepares his palette and starts painting. Sometimes he just paints in concentration, sometimes laughs and dances, and all of a sudden he makes washbasins and bowls fall down and bang, and sometimes he yells in wrath. Wu Zi cannot sleep at all, but he has been used to it. He just sits there still, smiles and looks at him as though he’s a child.
“Oh, God! Look at the excellent composition. Wu Zi, look!”An hour later after his work begins to take shape, He yells, daubs Wu Zi’s face, and pulls him up.
He can see the dark place under the crust through a cut earth. It’s a boundless universe. With the distance increasing, the bottom shines empty and distant light. It is a red cross that sparkles. It’s dark outside the crust so that to create a sharp comparison with the light inside.
“This is the consciousness of nirvana, you understand? We cannot live with this kind of consciousness,” says Shu Yefei, still engaging in his composition and adds a little bit of black paint on the dark crust.
“Oh, Dai Meng should come over and have a look! I’ll get her.”
It is almost twenty-five to one at midnight.
Before Wu Zi can stop him, he already opens the door and stretches his hand to knock hers. The doors are very close.
Dai Meng is half awake and opens the door. The owl hanging on her door shocks Shu Yefei a little. Dai Meng was sitting in the little white desk and unconsciously fell into sleep. She tried to write some poetry but in vain. In the past, poetry flew out of her mind randomly and got published. But today when publishers come to invite her to write poetry, she cannot write anything. She doesn’t understand.
Shu Yefei says, “Nirvana, my new work, come on and see.” She looks at her watch and smiles, “We’re all owls.” In fact, she isn’t interested in the consciousness of nirvana. She is her own world and never acknowledges the outside one.
The next morning, Dai Meng gets up early, puts on her sport shoes and goes out for jogging when the boys next door are still in deep sleep. The yard has already been occupied by elders who’re doing gongs. Tens of them are earnestly learning disco. They pose and keep still. It’s their kind of disco. Every time when Dai Meng passes over them, she cannot help laughing, but they’re exactly the motivation for her to keep the morning jogging. Their spirit and willpower inspires her. When she’s a middle school student, she liked the morning, the sunshine in the morning and the wood in the school in the morning. She ran over there, stopped and just listened the bird singing. She knew what they’re talking about. The morning on the campus is fantastic. When jogging into the playground, she would join the other competitors. It was so exciting that she struggled to get out of the bed even during the most tired period. But now, life tends to be quiet, she feels tired all the time. To be or not to be? She has to ask herself every early morning. She has indeed found some reasons to comfort herself when she’s reluctant to go jogging. Mostly, it ends up with a giggle. Then she gets dressed. The scene of the elders learning disco is reminding her.
Joggers can only run between those stay still. Dai Meng changes her direction all the time to avoid the people. When she approaches the Ji Hong Bridge and turns into a broad way leading to the lilacs in cluster. However, too many people are doing setting-up exercises to music that she cannot get through. She’s wondering why not pass the lilacs. A young man suddenly appears out of the bushes and says, “A child died here.” After that he disappears again. She shocked terribly, prevents her eyes from seeing the lilacs and runs straightly out. The lilacs used to be her symbol of poetry! She’s inspired by these pretty flowers and wrote lots of poetry. It was her spring of inspiration. Some ideas suddenly come out of her mind. Life is a liar. Her poetry is lies and she has dedicated those hypocritical feelings to the readers, those who worship her. She thinks how ridiculous she has been! At the same time, she’s doubtful and chooses to evade those things. She wants to run faster but the railings narrow the road and she cannot. People behind her keep complaining. She gets into a daze. She thinks someone has trampled her and passed by. Her heart is crushed into pieces of bloody petals.
At night, Wu Zi comes by and tells her that the corpse of the baby has already been cleaned away and air freshener was used. Dai Meng, however, shocks her head with her eyes full of tears and says, “But it smells disagreeably. The flowers would never give off scent again.
They sit still in silence for a while. The night comes and brings the silent fragrance. It is so sweet-smelling and so confusing.
“Spring again, time to write some poetry”, says Wu Zi.
“Poetry? Spring?” replies Dai Meng dryly. It sounds different for Wu Zi. She then adds, “They should sentence the parents to death.”
“Oh, It maybe a bastard”, he sighs slightly.
“But it’s life! How can they treat it like that! How can they throw a corpse into the lilacs? How can people do that? How?“She cries wildly with her face wet with tears.
The next whole day no one sees Dai Meng. There is no movement inside her room. In the third day at dusk, Shu Yefei comes back from the painting society. When he passes her door, he can’t help stopping and listening. He hears Dai Meng’s mutter, “Moon flowers, I dreamt about the flowers on the moon……”
Shu Yefei thinks she goes nuts. He knocks the door, gets in and notices in a sudden that she’s haggard.
“Are you still thinking the stuff?” asks Shu Yefei.
It seems that she doesn’t hear anything, but she replies seriously, “I at last realize, that all the humans just have the same fate.”
“A philosopher once said that the people who die as soon as he was born is the luckiest one. That babe was just lucky.”
“I dreamt, I dreamt about a flower with pure whiteness and faint scent growing on the moon……”
“What’s wrong with you?”
“Nothing, I’m fine.”
“Sing a song for me.”
Wu Zi is standing outside, he sighs heavily, opens the door silently and gets on the bed. Soon he is in a dream. He sees lots of people are struggling among the sea of clouds.
So tired he is. He cries out to Shu Yefei. Yet no matter how hard he tries, Shu Yefei cannot receive his message. Then he’s shaken awake by him. It is only two past eight according to his watch. Shu Yefei is irritated.
“Now you wake up. I’d like to tell you something. Everything in this world has no sense at all. I want to fight back, you understand?”
Wu Zi rubs his eyes. He doesn’t understand.
“I fight with my boss today. Shit! They are slaves for art. They totally don’t understand what creation is!”
Wu Zi echoes him with nods after he rolls up his sleeves and looks agitated.
“I need a dragon. Do you hear me?”
“Only eight o’clock”, says Wu Zi after hesitation.
“You mean, it’s still day and you wanna play piano downstairs? Intelligent! And let me tell you another thing. Dai Meng didn’t go out all day and slept so long. She woke up and was no more the Dai Meng we know. You should notice her eyebrows. Have you?”
“No”, says Wu Zi.
Well, I have. She used to have eyebrow ridge, but now it disappears. It’s the signal of change. And she had a dream, about a kind of flower on the moon…” They come down the spiral staircase and slip into the hall. Wu Zi plays a song in low and soft pitch. Music flows out of his fingers. He sees a piece of red scarf dancing in the air within the hall. A silent song shakes the glass door and that sounds like, “Don’t you leave, don’t you leave……”
Shu Yefei stretches his arms as much as he likes. He kicks and dances wildly to follow the stronger melody. The floor is pieced together by numerous Chinese character of “people” which means human being. He kicks them with wrath and the floor trembles. He doesn’t think he will one day understand the deep secret of this character with two simple strokes.
“I am leaving, you know?” He cries and continues, “My blood is too much and too hot. It tortures me so much.” He then roars with laughter and tears run down his face. The tears are green, as though the blood from a kind of plant.
“Chill out”, says Wu Zi.
“It never goes well. I want triumph, you know?”
“Of course, you will.” Wu Zi soothes him.
“Then let’s go upstairs.”
The moment they open the door of the hall, Dai Meng stands before them and looks pale. Shu Yefei rubs his eyes for concealing the tears.
“I am leaving”, says Shu Yefei.
“Then go.” Dai Meng says coldly and blankly.
“I want to call someone.” She doesn’t look at them in the eye.
“All the phones have been locked.” Wu Zi reminds her under his breath. The night watch is too diligent and plays time difference with them.
“You’re right. All locked up.” They hear the echo in the hall.
They three try to push the entrance door and fail. This one is locked as well. Shu Yefei then kicks down the lock and they burst into laughter. They haven’t been more joyful these days.
Wu Zi begins to work out the plot. He is confused about the characteristic of both Shu Yefei and Dai Meng. He also realizes that his imagination is drying up. He crumples the story he wrote the other day into a ball and starts from the very beginning. It’s too hard for him to continue. The hero and heroine are changing in a way which he’s unable to understand.
Shu Yefei wraps up his package. Then with two leader bags over one shoulder and the wooden frames on the other, he stops at the door and looks at Wu Zi in reluctance on leaving.
“I am leaving now, Wu Zi. Don’t be a stranger! And tell Dai Meng that……tell her, um. Nothing. See you!”
“Bon voyage”, says Wu Zi twice. He’d like to continue, but he speaks nothing.
Taking those frames brings great difficulties to move out of the dormitory building because of the narrow staircase. It takes him half an hour to go downstairs which used to cost ten minutes. He is sweating all over after getting out of the hall.
Wu Zi is fruitless in writing. At the noon he comes across Xiao Yang who smiles at him and takes a pile of papers within his hand.
“My new work”, says Xiao Yang and gives it to Wu Zi. He skims a few pages and it is a fairytale named Moon Flower.
“For Dai Meng?”
“Yeah”, Xiao Yang flushes.
“She’s a grown-up.”
“She needs them……”
Wu Zi decides to have a business trip rather than continuing the novel Ruins. He has no idea about the characters. He’s so tired. He wants another kind of “air” to breath. About two weeks later, Wu Zi is back. He hesitates for a while before Dai Meng’s door and imagines whether she changed. Still in red with a red scarf? He knocks the door but no one answers. He softly pulls the door and it is open. Several white shimmering flowers lay on the floor.
This excites him a little. He seems to hear her giggle which sounds innocent and elegant.
“Dai Meng”, says he and then takes a flower, stands up and runs back to the hall. It’s too late that the old man who watches night has locked the entrance door.
Wu Zi falls into sleep. Lying on the floor pieced together by the Chinese character “people”, he thinks he becomes fog. He’s floating among a great amount of people. Everyone is stranger, despite the familiar name they attached on their body. Wu Zi finds Shu Yefei trudging on his way. He holds up his colorized brushes and moves forward among the crowd. He finds Dai Meng. She’s in a white gauze-made dress. She’s pushed by the people and falls down. She tries to stand up but people start to trample her back as though it is a bridge. She holds in her arm tightly a bunch of “moon flowers”. Wu Zi knows that they are ordinary flowers growing everywhere. She can call it moon flower as much as she likes. It is crude to wake her up from a beautiful dream.
However, can people live on dreams? Wu Zi wants to find Xiao Yang after waking up. When the time comes, he will give him two slaps on his face before Dai Meng and burns down those deceptive fairytale.
At last, he dreams about himself, an unfamiliar and lonely man. He calls Shu Yefei, but he’s gone. Dai Meng is still seeking her moon flowers. He stands alone in the hall and asks himself, “Where am I going?”
Editor: Li Chun