On a sunny Saturday, many years ago, four little boys came across a special tree in a deserted square earth building. The tree was full of red round ‘fruit’ that were within their reach because it was not a big tree, and some of its branches were really low.
‘Hey, buddies, look at the fruit. We have got something fun to do,’ Li Zhibin, the youngest boy said.
‘So strange. This tree should not have borne such fruit,’ Li Zhizhou, several months younger than me, gave his opinion.
‘But what on earth are they? I haven’t seen them before,’ Li Quan, the third older boy there, expressed his confusion.
‘It seems that they’re . . . hey, I remember, they’re wild pig bombs.’ After some quick research, I, at the age of ten and also the oldest in this scout team, revealed my discovery.
‘Are you kidding me?’ Li Quan cried in surprise.
‘Come close and you all will understand.’
Indeed, those strange fruit were tied to the branches with short iron wires.
‘It is said that wild pig bombs are very dangerous. I think we’d better get out of here immediately,’ Li Zhibin responded.
‘Come on, baby, I think we have just got a chance to start up an adventure, right?’
‘But I’m scared . . .’
‘Don’t worry. They will be our firecrackers soon. I stepped on a bomb or something before, but I just got my pants burnt,’ I said with confidence, because I really longed for an adventure.
‘Guys, do not touch them, or they’ll blow you up!’
This was a sudden warning from another four boys who happened to pass by. And like all the least supporting roles in any movies or television shows, soon they withdrew from my sight, so did their warning words from my mind, even though some of the boys were much older than I.
The warning was given, but our thirst for firecrackers was on the rise and together with ignorance, gradually wiped the warning out.
‘First, for the sake of security, we’d better do an experiment to see whether they’re right or not,’ I suggested, after having picked some of the new toys. Apparently, I was kind of bothered by the warning.
‘Throw them at the wall as hard as we can – it’s also a part of our fire-cracker show.’
‘Then what are we waiting for? Let’s do it right here right now.’
Several of the red ‘bombs’ were thrown at the wall not far away. Nothing happened.
‘You see, they just scared us. Fortunately, we were not born yesterday.’
‘We do not need to worry. Let’s go further.’
Now, the adventure was officially on and there was nothing that could stop us.
‘Okay, the things inside are what we need. Let’s cut them up.’
‘What a great coincidence! I brought two little cutting blades here from my dad’s workshop.’
We crouched in a circle and began our cutting work. Li Quan and I tried to handle the cutter blades like professionals as there were a crowd of two watching with excitement. I saw the first cut break the wax coating and plastic film on the outside, the second revealed some grey powder, the third followed at a faster pace, the fourth at a much faster pace. No one was aware at all that danger was closing in.
All of a sudden, we felt a seriously noisy ‘earthquake’ and found ourselves surrounded by heavy smoke.
‘Oh, goddam it, what happened?’ someone cried vaguely. I felt an itchy pain in my left wrist, which was dripping red, and I discovered something was hanging there. I tried to shake it off, only to find that that something was a piece of the remaining skin and flesh of my left hand and that the pain was getting worse. I was bleeding! I held my left wrist really hard with the other hand, trying to stop my life force from pouring out and the pain from becoming unbearable.
A figure emerged from the dispersing smoke. My vision was impaired, but it did not take any effort to recognize that it was Li Zhizhou.
He looked in one piece, except that his face was like having been hit by many tiny meteors.
‘Find my dad!’ I shouted to him, even though he was right before me.
‘What?’ the other boy standing next to me shouted back at the top of his voice as well.
Extreme anxiety and impatience grabbed my heart immediately. Then I used a voice that I could not raise more and exploded, ‘Go-and-find-my-dad!!!!!’
‘What on earth did you say? I can’t hear you!’
The explosion had put millions of mosquitoes in our ears, causing chaos, blocking words out and failing any communication. I must find my dad! Pushed by a mysterious strong power I started to run.
I would not have believed I could make such an Olympic dash – I leapt out of the ruins, ran across the newly-harvested fields, jumped over every water channel and surmounted each barrier in my way. It was a 150m sprint, in which I did not sense the ticking clock, or feel the fear of death. But the true desire of seeing my father again, and soon, made me run. I ran, ran, ran, ran and ran for my life.
When I saw my father running towards me with a distorted face, I couldn’t help sitting on the ground with a heavy fall. Then, my father appeared in a blurred mist. Li Zhizhou who had been following me became grey and finally everything turned dark.
When I was lying on the bed of the operating room, my eyes seemed to have been woven together. With the sounds I heard and the pain I felt, I could imagine the real picture – a doctor was cutting my broken left palm off and some nurses hands were holding my unlucky wrist trying to stop the bleeding and the chief of my village cried out, ‘Come on, blood is pouring out!’
My teeth were fighting against each other to prevent a sound from being sent out. My eyes might have felt woven together on that operating room bed, but my consciousness was not blindfolded, from the sound I heard and the pain I felt, I could imagine the picture that was being unrolled before my eyes. One hand was cutting my broken left palm with a sharp surgical knife, at least another three hands were holding my left upper arm trying to stop the bleeding and still the anxious but concerned voice saying, ‘Press harder! The blood is still pouring out.’
Many people from my village must have been outside the operating room because I heard some familiar voices trying to piece the story together, talking about the cause of this accident and comforting my family. My upper teeth were fighting the lower ones to prevent the increasing pain from driving a groan through my throat.
In this way, another day came. The whole operation took several hours of my life. Soon, evening descended and I spent the rest of that night in darkness. Maybe it was because of the sedative, or maybe it was because of the punishment I was afraid that I would get for having done such a bad thing, my eyes did not open until my village people dispersed into the night. It was a quiet night.
The next day, my parents had to transfer me to the county hospital as the local one was not advanced enough to get the fractions of the bomb out of my eyes. The bus broke down in the middle of somewhere – what a joke God played again upon me. The soft wind from the big mountains that was supposed to be comfortable then gave me chills.
‘Mom, I‘m cold,’ I murmured. My mom closed the window, hugged me more tightly and whispered, ‘Everything will be okay,’ in my ear.
The other three boys were transferred to the same hospital, and Li Quan and I shared a big room with other patients.
Li Zhibin had his eye operation before me. I heard the doctor praise him for his bravery and say, ‘You did not move around during the operation. Good boy!’
Then, I decided to present equally good behaviour to earn the same praise. The operation was successful, so was my cooperation, but not the result—I did not get the same merit as Li Zhibin had had, which actually made me feel like I was suffering from injustice.
The two-week life in the county hospital was peaceful and carefree. At least Li Quan had a good time playing games with a girl roommate.
When facing the white walls all around me I couldn’t help but pretend to practice drawing on what I imagined as huge sheets of paper. I craved to walk outdoors so the sunshine could light my face.
No doubt about it, overnight I had become the boy of the hour. Being alive might be good news, but the truth told me that I had to lead a completely different life from before. Whenever and wherever I turned up before a crowd I was in the spotlight – people stared at me, some talked about me in secret, some even in an open way. One sentence I heard millions times was, ‘What a pity such a misfortune happened to an innocent boy!’ Then I realized why famous people were always tired of the media. Meanwhile, the fact that I was not normal, started to drive me mad.
One day, when I suddenly realized that I couldn’t stand the attitudes from the public any longer, a big change was forced on me – shirts with long sleeves took the place of T-shirts to cover my permanent wound, and my little room took the place of the familiar streets. My room became my only haven.
Day by day, loneliness and silence, which had been keeping me company, made me impatient with others advice, those indifferent to my important event, I being sensitive to the words like ‘left hand’.
My parents couldn’t do anything with me. They thought I hadn’t shed the shadow of the nightmare, so they let me do everything as I pleased.
But one day, my father scolded me, for I’d had a quarrel with my younger brother. Keeping ‘I am deserted’ in mind, I sat on the rail of a stone bride, having an impulse to kill myself by jumping into the water. But the moonlight ripples were dancing to the quietness of the night. As I bathed myself in the soft evening breeze, the peace brought by the kindness of the moon reflected in the water and wiped the silly idea from my brain. At the same time, a desire for life was getting stronger and stronger in my body.
However, a long life trapped in loneliness made me an extremist. My classmates couldn’t always stand the excessive way I behaved, so, friendless was my life at my primary school. And that became a second evidence of the so-called fact that I was a monster.
Too much had been placed on me, leaving me feeling breathless. Another night, when I stared at the reflection of the moon again, an announcement was made to the whole world. I was normal! Normal! If not, I would be better than normal. I became determined to outdo others. From then on, my eyes were shining like the sun and no one could look me in the eye. After all, who had the strength to receive the rays full of hostility and heat? Regrettably, my shining eyes became a third evidence of my notorious reputation.
‘Poor guy, you’ll never know more about me if you can’t approach me, and if you happen to know me well, you will realize how stupid you were.’ Those words I often said to myself when I saw someone trying to avoid me.
But inside the hostility was growing. I despised who I was and where I was from – the dark side of me arose. A dangerous signal was shining. Only God knew when it would explode.
Something needed to be done for a change. Maybe God had the same feeling, because he sent four angels to me.
When I was in middle school, I met four special boys. The oldest one, my desk-mate, also the monitor, started the change using his special magic to bring the five of us together. Legend has it that when the five elements, of which the earth was consisted, get together, a new world comes into being (in the Chinese way, the five elements are gold, wool, water, fire and earth). And I had the pleasure to be the ‘big one’ – I was ‘Gold’.
I think I would not have lived if I had not met them. In fact, we were so close that we were like brothers. The importance of true friends cannot be overlooked in a life when troubles come upon you. In fact, looking back, I grew up very quickly. I was still a boy on the outside, but a maturing man on the inside. I knew what it meant to face troubles. I knew what it meant to face a world where you are looked on as ‘different’. I knew what it meant to be lonely and have to rely on my own resources to stay positive.
And here I am now, having learned some difficult lessons. Life for me will never be easy. I must work hard constantly. I must prove myself to be as good as the next man, or even better. Yes, I am a special boy and a complicated boy and I will have many difficulties to face in my life. But how I face them, and what I make of my life is in my hands. In time, I will face all my problems, hold my head up high and say, ‘I have done my best in my life’.
Copyright Peter Li. Englishstoriesforfun.com