Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Man’s Last Song Chapter 1-1: FOG





1.1 Fog


Dogs can be heard barking in the distance. Song Sung finds that relatively reassuring; some have started to howl, especially on a full-moon night, to theatrically declare their return to nature, reversing centuries of fussy breeding. It gives him the creeps nonetheless. Now that there are no more dog biscuits with nutrient labels, they’d eat anything, including people. Preferably people? 

Yes, they must find humans tasty, even rotten ones. The feasting faces of the German shepherds remain vivid in his mind after all these years. He can still hear their ravenous sound; every slurp, snap, yank, squirt, and grunt. The stench had made the air viscous, keeping everything in suspension, trapping the flies in its space. Blood dripped in slow motion from slimy jaws, like molten plastic. 
He shudders.
Man’s best friend. Sure, when we manufactured dog food. Wolves. That’s right. Wolves. 
I’ll end up wolf breakfast.
He wonders how thoroughly wolves kill before muzzling in. They’re supposedly smart hunters, like humans, perhaps just as cruel. He sees himself pinioned by four big dogs. Canine teeth penetrate his flesh like ceramic nails, clamping the bones, pushing deeper into his guts. He writhes weakly, keeping his eyes closed, trying to relax, submitting. Entrails are being ripped out, but there’s no pain, just a feeling of becoming lighter, being reduced . . . 
To dog food.
Stop it!  He curses his actively silly imagination.
Why not turn back for a warm drink and more sleep then? No. Keep going. No backtracking. Call it pride, stupidity, whatever.
He clutches the walking staff tighter, and treads on.
Dense fog covers everything like a divine correction fluid, attempting to smother the creator’s faulty designs. Why bother anymore? Song Sung thinks. There’s hardly anyone left. 
He labours a deep breath; gummy air sinks inside damp lungs. The atmosphere seems anoxic. Can asphyxiation happen gradually, imperceptibly, like boiling frogs? Probably. 
The misty world started out enchanting this morning. He even thought it romantic, and gaily pronounced so. Then it turned insufferable without changing appearance, suddenly. Or is it me again? But at least it looked calm from the house. Suffocating, but calm. Out here, in the middle of the grey viscous air, he’s flustered by the roiling turbulence. He opens his eyes wider, as if that would help him see further; but depth has been lost, compressed right against his face.
It’s silent, eerily silent. How come? Where are the birds and their clamourous twittering? There should be hundreds of them about the big banyan. This time of the day? He’s not sure . . . 
Am I still alive? Do lost souls know they are dead?
Rhea’s right; it’s dumb to go downhill in this weather. Even dumber to take the footpath rather than the main road. “Dumb it is then,” he mutters grumpily. Pushing the whiteness in front, he walks trancelike towards the overgrown Old Peak Path.

__________________

What’s another day? Not to say a few hours to wait out the fog, Rhea had urged gently. What’s the hurry? Is everything OK? Yes, of course. Everything’s OK, he assured. Just can’t stand this fog; got to go where there’s air. 
Where there’s air . . . ? Right now? 
Yeah, right now, sorry. I can’t breathe. Fogs up here last forever you know.
Sure. Whatever you say. She returned to the dishes. 
She normally leaves the evening dishes for the next morning; cleaning up in candlelight is a pain. Scratching absentmindedly at a speck of food on the porcelain dish, she considered different approaches: A soft purring? Matter-of-fact announcement? A light-hearted “guess-what” surprise? One way or the other, it must come out, soon. He must be told, soon. Why not now? The secret that shouldn’t be has been growing inside, like indigestion: Burning, gurgling, refusing to go through, too chicken to come out. 
Just turn around and say it. Speak: That’s all it takes.
That’s right; that simple. But she said nothing, and stared at her hands instead. How pampered they once were. How silky and diaphanous their skin used to be. And how impermeable and slack they now looked. The tiny furrows and creases seemed a touch more prominent, a bit more assertive then . . . the last time she checked? Just a bit, hardly noticeable, but she checked often. Ageing doesn’t just happen does it? It creeps, steadily, stealthily, relentlessly, all over you, and stays. 
The knuckles . . . look at them. One molecule a time, they swell. One of these nights, while sleeping, unsuspecting, the last breaking molecule would be deposited; the final straw. She’ll wake up to the arthritic pain of red, swollen knuckles — a trademark of old ladies’. Time was undoing her. All quite subtle, but nothing escaped her unforgiving self-scrutiny. These hands, under a thin lace of suds, bluntly reminded she was forty-eight. So what, she thought with a burst of positive energy. I’m still the youngest woman around.
Fine, but old enough to know not to confuse men at the wrong moment. When is the right moment though? 
Not today. Not today anyway.
She could hardly believe the hesitation: Why do I need courage, as if guilty of some unforgivable wrongdoing? Oh well, be patient, time’s ticking — slowly for once, on my side for once. Before long, I’ll be able to sit back and let events take over.  In the meantime, I can afford to dither. Can I?
Too late now anyway. Song was antsy, eager to get out, pausing at the door for a recognisable farewell — any sign to demonstrate her wholehearted acceptance of his sudden swing of mood and anxious departure. Rhea swallowed her brooding thoughts, but refused to lessen his unease. Such a petulant man sometimes. She scratched at the dish again. It squeaked; the speck of food had long gone.

Fog had sneaked through every crack and joint of the lavish mansion, creating big wet patches everywhere. Water droplets slithered down the walls as if they were melting. Everything smelled of mildew. A dull silence throbbed in Song’s head, pouncing him from within. Silence is supposed to be relaxing, but . . . He had to go: Now.
“Sure you don’t want to come?”
“No. I’ve got lots to do here. You go.”
“Should I get a few buckets first?” He saw the pails sitting in the living room, ready for their daily trip to the stream.
“It’s OK. I’ll do that a bit later, when the fog has cleared.” 
Just a bit later, it’d clear. Not forever my love. Do you hear?

__________________


____________________________
         Posted 12 Oct 2010 on Guo Du Blog
         Revised 5 Feb 2011, 10 April 2011, June 2011

小说 “笙歌” 第壹章 之壹 雾





遠處傳來的狗吠聲,令宋笙不寒而慄。幸而這群畜牲聽來狗音未改,令他稍為安心。

不少野狗似乎已經擺脫了人類世世代代的悉心改種,回復本色。月圓之夜,它們隔岸呼應,淒厲的嚎聲響徹山頭,替死寂的香江平添恐怖。人類既然不再服侍兩餐,做狗的當然也無須作狀扮寵物。幾個最佳狗友組班獵食,死活通吃;連從前的米飯班主也不予情面,骨頭照啃。

三條大狼狗吃人屍的景象,宋笙歷歷在目。發黑的濃血黏滿狗嘴。模糊不清的人雜掛在嘴邊。腐屍給它們一搞,臭上加腥,分外嘔心。其中一頭大狗盯著宋笙,毫無懼意。 它誇張地齜牙咧嘴,炫耀與生俱來的武器,一條腸形內臟卡在牙縫:“看甚麼!下次到你啦!”

宋笙打了個冷顫。難道今早真的要當狗早餐不成?他喃喃地詛咒了幾句:“人類的最佳朋友?呸!狗娘養的餘孽,名副其實的狼心狗肺,老在等機會將我五狗分屍。我現在給這臭霧醃泡過,肯定更合胃口!”

狗本來就是狼。狼出名狡滑,善於群獵,可能比人類更聰明更殘忍。他想像自己被四條大狗大字形按在地上的慘狀:冷冷的牙,暖暖的口,把四肢釘死。他軟弱無力地挪動著,閉目待斃。勉強掙扎徒然增加痛苦,倒不如放鬆接受,讓它們吃個痛快,從速了斷。內臟被一串串地咬扯出來,他卻不覺痛楚;只有越來越輕,越來越空洞,一口一口地變成狗糧!

“噯!” 宋笙把自己從白日夢魘中叱喝回現實。無端百事把自己嚇出一身冷汗,簡直神經病。他禁不住傻笑起來。

低頭一看,雙腿插在濃霧,連鞋子也看不清。現在折回瑞涯處沖壺熱茶,休息一會兒,實在未為晚也。不過就這樣回去,面子難過,心裏不服。

“來!別囉嗦!走!” 他手執防身和攀山用的木杖,繼續朝山頂小徑走去。

宋笙深深地連吸兩口濕氣,但仍然感到胸口缺氧,腳下沈重。難道這濃霧像煮蛙的溫水,正把他逐漸窒息於不知不覺?四周灰朦死寂,大地似乎正在溶解,霧化。又莫非這是上帝的御用塗改液,意圖把他老人家嚴重失敗的傑作刪除?唉,人世間壽緣已盡,又何必多此一舉呢?

宋笙今早起床,看見外面的霧境,覺得挺浪漫,甚至充滿詩意。誰料早餐過後,周圍突然變得困悶,令他透不過氣。現在身處濃霧中,心緒更加不寧。他下意識把眼睛盡量睜大,好像這樣能夠看遠一點。但空間失去了景深,無限遠隱約就在眼前。四周死寂,鴉雀無聲。鴉雀怎會無聲的呢?平日成百上千掛在大榕樹吱吱喳喳的麻雀,怎麼一隻也不見呢?宋笙越想越糊塗,覺得神智有些混亂。

難道我已是亡魂,正在陰陽交匯處尋找黃泉大道?
迷失了的野鬼遊魂,究竟有沒有自知之明呢?

真後悔沒有聽瑞涯的話多留一會。要走也應該走大路!宋笙滿腦子晦氣,遊魂似地走向下山的小徑。
__________________

今早宋笙讓著要走的時候,瑞涯曾經勸他多留一會:“外面這麼大霧,急什麼呢?反正沒有甚麼特別事情等著你做。” 他也說不出心焦的原因,只是想離開山頂,越快越好,好像要在窒息前搶到山下吸口新鮮空氣救命。
瑞涯沒有強留。

她心不在焉地洗滌昨晚的碗碟。晚上靠燭光洗碗不方便,她一般都留到翌晨才洗。這家務已經有損皮膚,在燭光下幹隨時連開始老花的眼睛也賠上。她一面用指甲刮著碟子上的頑渣,一面盤算如何把那個不應該是秘密的 “秘密” 說出來。秘密跟腸胃病有些相似:屈在心裏,無法消化,卻又釋放不出來,令人精神彷彿。

何不乾脆轉身,一五一十說個痛快呢?就這麼簡單!

但她沒有轉身,只顧望著雙手發呆。曾幾何時,那雙白嫩的手備受寵愛,幼滑如絲。現在白裏透著黯淡瘀藍。手背的皺紋像禮盒的襯紙,襯托著小蛇似的青根,駝峰似的關節。唉!衰老是一種累積性侵蝕,順著歲月的單程路以微積分的步伐進逼,日以繼夜,不知不覺。她眼看指關節一天比一天紅腫,十分無奈。就算一兩顆細胞的分別,也逃不過女人自我審查的無情眼光。駝峰每天承受多一根稻草,早晚也得垮。

她隔著一層輕紗似的肥皂繼續檢視雙手。它們看上去像四十八歲嗎?唉,像,挺像!手是最不會隱瞞年齡的器官。四十八啦,對男人還不瞭解?特別是宋笙這男人,絕對不應攻其不備。今天不是時候,還是耐性點吧。想到這裏,心中難免一陣不快。自己又不是犯了罪,為何心虛膽怯,一副準備投案自首的模樣呢?她越想越覺委屈。

委屈又如何?為了大局,不能魯莽。反正時間這回破例站在自己這邊,只要耐性,一切都會自然明朗,現在多想無謂。過早攤牌的話,他隨時會反應過激,把事情弄僵。還是耐性點吧!

抬頭一看,宋笙已經急不及待,彆扭地站在大門口等待道別了。瑞涯瞟了他一眼,把所有話都吞回肚裏。

從窗台門底四方八面入屋的霧水,遇到清冷的牆身,便立即現形。水珠或倒懸天花,或沿壁下滑,無聲無息,像進來行刺的忍者。

宋笙覺得太陽穴在“噗噗噗噗”地跳,好像有顆心要破穴而出。他問瑞涯:“真的不跟我一塊下山嗎?”
“真的不去了。這裏還有很多家務要做。”
“要我到小溪多打兩桶水嗎?”
“不用啦。謝謝。過一陣霧散了我自己去打。”
 
————————————————
2010年10月12日 於过渡网发表
2011年2月5号, 6月29号修改

“笙歌” 第一章 之二  孤独师太  将於下周二 10月19号上载

Friday, 8 October 2010

Distraction: Currency War 题外话:货币战争


从朋友口中感觉到外面的世界最近好像比较紧张,所以在网上扫瞄了一下新闻。在英国 金融时报 (Financial Times)中看到 Martin Wolf 的评论:“如何跟顽固的中国打货币战争”。还不是那 “三幅被”?义正词严地叫 中国人学他们,多花点,不要储蓄。呵,还有,升值。
没错,外面在打“货币战争”,但此战并非今天才开始打,人家一早已过了“芦沟桥”,只不过我们香港有些市民特别好客,一见有来宾过了桥,打着 “自由经济” 和博爱民主的动人旗号,便急忙替他洗尘按脚,没有留意到侵略行为而已。
哎,哪有不打的可能?美国于不久的将来,即使全民不吃不住,GDP 也不够还利息。可能吗?我从来不是计划自己个人投资的高手,但想到外面那么多废纸假扮 “金钱”,越扮越七情上面,实在有点不寒而栗 。 。 。
我口多多在 Martin Wolf 的评论下面留了个言,可以在以下网址看到: feed://inferno.t.ft.com/rss/165847-2edb8140。哪么短的几句,不好翻译,翻了过来失了口气;但内容与我的故事有点吻合,所以尽管把心中话来个中文版。大意如下:
“人类面临前所未有的环境和资源挑战,正因为有些人所推动的 ‘挥霍型贪婪经济’ 所致。哈,这批人现在不但不悬崖勒马,还满口仁义道德,去教训,说服,施压于中国,希望这人口大国也跟他们一样:买!卖了扔!丢!再买!跟他们买!我丢!哇,再加上把人民币升值百分之三十,全球经济肯定好刺激,得以‘回复秩序’。妙!最少可以奏效两三天。唷,两三天,对一个只有几年政治眼光的人来说,可不算短啦!”


过渡随笔  8。12。2010



下篇博文:“笙歌”第壹章的1-1[雾](预计下星期二  2010年10月12日 上载)




I did something unusual this morning: A lot seems to be happening around the currencies these days so I logged in to the Financial Times to check it out. I randomly came across an article by Martin Wolf, attracted by the caption “How to fight currency war with stubborn China.” Oh well, the same old tirade: China manipulates its currency (eh, not the US? Europe? Japan? and everyone else?) and a few wise words to advise how China may stimulate consumption (which, unfortunately, out of no option, it will).
Yes, there’s a currency war out there; there’s been a currency war out there. The Americans must find a way to get rid of their debts (or they won’t be able to pay interest with their entire GDP soon), and they won’t do it by working hard and saving. That’d be so un-American you know. But by hook or by crook, they must find a way to default in a self-righteous manner. 
I don’t know how you plan your investments. I certainly never know how to plan mine. But I won’t be shocked if money simply evaporate one day, disappearing back into the thin air where it came from in the first place  . . . So, be careful!
Below are the comments I left with the FT (feed://inferno.t.ft.com/rss/165847-2edb8140):

“While humanity faces unprecedented threats against itself because of those who promote the artificial selection of Homo-consumer genes, the same people are now lecturing, coercing, pressuring, others to do the same, often with a moral tone. Let's stimulate the economy: BUY, throw, and buy more. Introduce Christmas stockings to China! Why not? It'd work for a day or two, and make sanctimonious people with, you know, stuff like work ethic in a free economy triumphant for just as long. Oh well, two days are a relatively long time for those with a political vision of a maximum of four years so . . . Alas.”

Guo Du

Next Posting: Man’s Last Song - Chapter One 1.1 Fog  (Next Tuesday 12 October 2010).




Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Man's Last Song - Synopsis and Characters


2011 Proverse Prize Finalist


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http://www.hkwriterscircle.com/
____________________________
To the post-modern savages, the future is not science fiction, 
but a lonely journey of self-discovery for themselves and mankind.


Man’s Last Song is about the human race facing imminent extinction in the future, but is not science fiction or apocalyptic thriller. The story is set in Hong Kong, with many international characters and events.



In 2090, the global population is less than half a million; median age is about sixty. After forty years of universal sterility, humanity is vanishing while the rest of the planet makes a happy comeback. A small group of survivors in Hong Kong face the challenge of adjusting to life as post-modern savages, rediscovering instincts that had long been suppressed by civilisation. 


Their relationships with nature, each other, and themselves have fundamentally changed. The dilemmas, pains and pleasures of love, friendship, compassion, ageing, and loneliness are heightened by pragmatic concerns. The unknowable: God, Dao, death, even reality, have all assumed new and shifting dimensions in man’s dying world. 

Post-Modern Savages

A barren human world remains ironically over-populated for many years after the last baby has been born. In this End-time scenario, people go to work in the morning rather than watch dragon fights from the balcony. Retirement is postponed indefinitely. People depend on a social order to make a living; and society depends on them being stuck in the rut to function. 

Eventually, the ageing remnants of the human race return to a Stone Age lifestyle. They farm and gather, occasionally challenging the commercial expiry dates on an old can of food for a treat. The pressure to mindlessly overstock is gone. The facade of modernity has crumbled. They survive without utilities, commerce, or medicare, and are again the honest social animals that their distant ancestors once were. 

Reality and priorities have changed. Some are comical. Some are troubling and painful. Others are touching, even sad. Losing one’s dental filling or spectacles can be a comical disaster. Rotten neighbours, more slippery than stiff, require proper disposal before the dogs get to them first. Chickens must also be protected from the dogs, which are vying for a good position in a brave new food chain, one that their ex-best friends, the humans, no longer enjoy eating at the top by default. 

But unlike their Stone Age forebears, post-modern savages have knowledge and secure shelters to make life easier. There are even plenty of leftover fine spirits. Over a glass of exquisite wine, they re-examine humanity from its fading end, and discover love in its true and ruthless form between woman and man, friends, father and son. They wonder about God, Dao, and why people in their past worked so hard to accelerate self-extinction. 
   
While the men philosophise, a woman quietly evolves on the side, refusing to give up . . .  


Our World Now . . . in Hindsight

The post-modern savages may not know where they’re heading, but they’ve all come from a past — the world we now live. 

Reflected with fictional detachment and simulated hindsight, it looks absurd: Overpopulation is a fundamental problem denied by politics. To sustain an abundant populace, the economy must grow indefinitely at suicidal rates. Resources are consumed without beneficiaries. Wastage is encouraged by design, and greed revered. The resultant pollution is so threatening and far-reaching, and the science behind so incomprehensible and controversial, most choose to ignore. 

Climate change, epidemics, cyclical collapses of mega economic bubbles inflated by fake money, and loneliness are met with ludicrous denial. Homo sapiens, the thinking monkeys, are a thoughtlessly self-endangered species.


Characters

Song Sung

Song Sung, 42, is the youngest person alive. When he was born, only two births had happened in Hong Kong in the previous five years; both had died before turning one. His parents tried to protect him from the poison of instant fame and insane adulation. They anticipated how the world might wind down as infertility continued, and trained their son to be a tough survivor. Sensitive by nature, Song has been brought up to live in a primitive world.

He can run two marathons a day, but does that qualify him to be a post-modern savage?

Rhea Rhella

Rhea, 48, like Song Sung, is Eurasian. She grew up in the lost world of the super-rich, and never had a real relationship with her parents. She was closer to her grandparents who had a mansion in Repulse Bay, and a similar villa fifteen minutes away in Shek O. When Grandpa came home from a long day of work that he didn’t need to do, but refused to let go, the magnificent sea view had dimmed down to his million-dollar pitch-darkness. 

From not knowing where potatoes come from, and a lifetime engagement in leisurely activities just to kill time, Rhea follows her raw feminine instincts into the future without hesitation, philosophising, or questioning. 

The future is, of course, just like the very distant past.

Ma Yili

Ma was a prodigy in particle physics. It dawned on him one day that building longer accelerators to bang electrons with more energy is endlessly futile. One can’t measure infinity with increasingly longer tapes. He quit a prestigious research career to concentrate on Qigong and Daoism — things he discovered and learnt from his Scottish landlady and mentor Mary Scott at Oxford. 

Ma eventually returned to Hong Kong to work for the Government — just one way of making a living to support his hobbies. He hid behind the baffling vanity of the system with cynical cunningness, and avoided doing anything substantial in a long and peaceful career in the civil service. 

At 68, the accomplished Qigong master and Daoist follows the flow of life to the very end of a civilisation that he questioned, dealing with his own human weaknesses as they surface.  

John Johnson

Johnson and Ma are antithetical buddies. In the opinionated world of their past, they probably would not have bothered to speak with each other, not to say becoming best friends. 

A few years Ma’s junior, John grew up in the suburban felicity of Kansas City. At 18, his universe fell apart when his Dad’s extramarital affair had been disclosed. He joined the Marines to escape the situation, and to become a warrior. Instead, he became disillusioned. An attempt to rebuild values and beliefs through theology did not work. He could not convince himself that Jesus, a revolutionary thinker, would be Christian if still alive. He switched to Business Administration, then joined an oil company and spent his career as an expatriate in Asia, devoting to work ethic.

Song Huan

Song Sung’s father was an engineer, a pragmatist who dealt with the world through analysis and numbers. His love for Sari Salonen ignited a passion he had suppressed, but not enough. As humanity dwindled, he projected the future on a spreadsheet, and tried to prepare his son accordingly.

One day in 2081, after disposing of a decomposing neighbour’s body, he realised ageing and sickness could make life unlivable for him and his son. He started to plan his exit. 

Finally in solitude, the past comes back to him, mixed with a future that’s increasingly surreal. Is it possible that for most of his life, he had not been himself?

Guji

Guji - Lonesome in Chinese - flickers in and out of this world. She lived near Rhea on the Peak for a while, but moved to avoid contact.

Insanity once saved her life. But can she survive the return of reality?


Table of Content

Chapter One   
1.1   fog
1.2   guji
1.3   path
1.4   victoria
1.5   sweep
1.6   a samaritan dilemma
1.7   goodbye house
Chapter Two
2.1   smile
2.2   bread delivery
2.3   isa's ashes
2.4   ultrasound ghosts
2.5   baby tom
2.6   life and death
2.7   fertility crisis
2.8   birth
2.9   lullaby
Chapter Three
3.1   qigong rhapsody
3.2   awaiting death
3.3   the daoist
3.4   oxford tai chi
3.5   ultimate particle
3.6   confession
3.7   generation z
Chapter Four
4.1   tears in shek o
4.2   runaway
4.3   encounter
4.4   Melody's encounter  . . .
Chapter Five
5.1   battlefields
5.2   extinction
5.3   hole digging economy
5.4   about god
5.5   queen’s pier
Chapter Six
6.1   slippery stiffs
6.2   letter to son
6.3   crossing neverland
6.4   dogs
6.5   first stop
6.6   reminiscences
6.7   one night stand
6.8   song
6.9   plague
Chapter Seven
7.1   birthday party
7.2   trespassers
7.3   what's love?
7.4   annunciation
7.5   tiger
7.6   lonely awakening
7.7   o sole mio