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.