Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Click to read Man's Last Song full Chapter ONE.
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.
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
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。
“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
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！”
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.”
Next Posting: Man’s Last Song - Chapter One 1.1 Fog (Next Tuesday 12 October 2010).
Tuesday, 5 October 2010
2011 Proverse Prize Finalist
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.
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.
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, 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 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.
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 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 - 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
1.6 a samaritan dilemma
1.7 goodbye house
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
3.1 qigong rhapsody
3.2 awaiting death
3.3 the daoist
3.4 oxford tai chi
3.5 ultimate particle
3.7 generation z
4.1 tears in shek o
4.4 Melody's encounter . . .
5.3 hole digging economy
5.4 about god
5.5 queen’s pier
6.1 slippery stiffs
6.2 letter to son
6.3 crossing neverland
6.5 first stop
6.7 one night stand
7.1 birthday party
7.3 what's love?
7.6 lonely awakening
7.7 o sole mio
More about the story and Book Events:
Read Chapter ONE