Pallid and Pale (4 of 4)

After that night I was never the same. Even my closest friend, Hui, began to distance himself from me. ‘Hui! Let’s go run through the storm drains by Yongjin!’, I shouted, but he had already turned away. ‘I can’t today!’ he would yell back, without facing me, as he ran in the other direction. I became numb to the bleakness of being alone. In time, I embraced it. Mother attempted many times to bring new kids around, though they never stayed for long. They would simply vanish back to their happy homes and I wouldn’t hear or see them again, except for at school, where they – just like Hui – would run away from me.

The other kids never saw my creature, my true form, yet without question they were cautious, and decided it was best to avoid me. Sometimes I wish that it hadn’t chosen me, but it had, and that was that. Sometimes it showed itself to me – either in my dreams or when the lights were low – in complete darkness or out of the corner of my eye, a blur of grey motion, too swift to catch, a silvery shooting star. It would hum to me, ‘ 很快我们他们骨头舞蹈 ‘. At first it was frightening, but as the years passed, I began to find comfort in the strangeness of it all, to embrace it as a part of me, ‘ 知道很好一部分 ‘, and after enough time, I found myself yearning to understand the creature, to spend time with it, to nurture it as it had nurtured me, defending me from the cold with its heat and intensity.

Discounting my parents, all seventeen of my years had passed in near isolation.

But now, with father on the ground, extinguished, there would be no more hiding. I could feel the demon just below my surface, now, rising like a submerged titan which’d spent a thousand years under the sea, waiting for mother to return from her shopping trip. Looking out of the window and down onto Tianjin, I could see people from a great distance, moving about. These people had been silent persecutors and bore witness to my life of unwanted quarantine. The demon milled about, I could feel it pulling and pushing, propelling me, thinking that mother was not enough, and after all, she had been kind to me.

‘ 久 ‘

Yes, not for long. I spared one last glance at father lying on the floor – pitiful – as a smirk pulled one corner of my lips into a dimple. I stepped over him and opened the front door, walked out into the sunlight, and welcomed the first day of my new life.

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Pallid and Pale (4 of 4)

Pallid and Pale (3 of 4)

My earliest memory was of visiting my father’s factory, on the outskirts of Tianjin, and watching how he used his muscle to move steel sheets into a massive cutting machine. I remember white sparks shooting from the metal as he pushed buttons and the machine went to work, following a computer program to precisely sear through the thick sheet.

‘You will never do this, Zhang Li. If you were a growing boy, you could do this. But not you. This work is for men.’ He said. I was four years old but already feeling worthless.

That’s when it visited me for the first time. That night.

‘ 红色的恶魔. ‘

I was moments away from falling asleep, my head soft on the pillow and thick with the fuzz of dream, when a pulsating hum surfaced my awareness. A construct, hunched over so as not to hit the ceiling with its head, began to materialize – soft at first, but mutating into a grotesque abomination in short time, covering the majority of a fifteen foot wall span. It’s face was a thing of nightmares, but as I was so young I can remember being unafraid, only curious.

‘Why are your eyes missing?’ I said to it. ‘Why are you on fire?’ Small, beautiful hot flames danced around the outside of its body, blue and orange, soft light in the dark room.

‘ 我为那些没有发言权的人发言。我是均衡器。我是红色的恶魔,恶魔,最古老的我是你的保护者,现在和永远.’ it said in a deep gurgle of hiss and spit.

I removed the covers and walked over to stand in front of the creature, staring up with clear eyes and reaching for its hand.

Pallid and Pale (3 of 4)