Chinese Stories in English
Xin Mengdi worked in a textile factory in Tonghae, South Korea. She lived quite a ways from the factory and rode her bike to and from work, at least forty or fifty minutes each way. There were three shifts at the factory. The late shift and the night shift changed at midnight, so when she got off the late shift it was almost one a.m. before she got home.
Her mom and dad worked in another city and only her and her grandma lived at home. Her grandmother had raised Mengdi to adulthood all alone. She was 19 now and had been working for a year. Her grandmother got worried sick whenever Mengdi had to work the late shift and always waited up for her.
One day in October, Mengdi had just gotten off the late shift at midnight and left the factory on her bicycle. She rode for a little over ten minutes until she arrived at the long, secluded road through the woods called Locust Tree Lane, a narrow byway with thick groves of locust trees on both sides, almost completely blocking the sky. She had to take it on her way to and from work, but she always felt scared when she went through it at night, because one seldom saw another person then. Also, cars were not permitted to drive down this lane, so it always seemed secluded and mysterious at night.
She was the only one on the road this time. She rode very fast and was too anxious to look behind her. She just wanted to get through this road as fast as possible. She was tearing along nervously when, suddenly, she heard a car's horn honking behind her. She turned to look and saw a car coming up behind her, but she wasn't too concerned. She just turned her handlebars a little bit and continued riding on the side of the road. After a minute the car still hadn't caught up with her, so turned to look again. It was driving awfully slow.
Just as Mengdi started to wonder what was going on, the car pulled up alongside her and slowed down to approximately same speed as she was riding. She was surprised to see it was an old style car, jet black in color, with a front end like a truck's and a body like a loaf of bread. She'd never seen this kind of car before. Huh? She said to herself, where did this weirdo come from?
The car maintained the same speed as she did. To Mengdi it looked empty inside; the interior was pitch black so she couldn't anyone, and none of the exterior lights were on, either. There was no light at all. She started to get a little scared and her legs pumped harder. The car gradually picked up speed to keep up with her. She slowed down, and so did the car.
"Bastard!" An angry thought, but in fact she was getting more and more afraid of the car. It was like that until she got to the end of Locust Tree Lane and turned on to the main road. Only then did the old style car pull ahead of her and drive off. She watched it go with a creepy feeling.
Mengdi hurried home where her grandmother was still waiting up for her. "Oh, Mengdi," Grandma asked as soon as she came in the door, "how come you're so late tonight?"
"Ah, it's nothing, Grandma," Mengdi said with a laugh. "You don't have to wait up so late for me, you know. I've got a key to the door, after all."
"Ahh, if I didn't wait up, I couldn't get to sleep, anyway. Are you hungry? We've got some snacks."
"I'm not hungry. You hurry off to bed, Grandma."
Mengdi went into the bathroom when said this. As was her habit, she washed her face with warm water, then went to her own room and looked at herself in the mirror. She'd been concerned that her grandmother would notice something out of the ordinary about her and start worrying, but she saw that she looked OK. Somewhat relieved, she lay down on the bed.
The next afternoon as Mengdi was getting ready to go to work, Grandma handed her a box of food that she had made herself. "Uh, Mengdi," she said, "don't buy anything to eat at the factory today. I made this for you. I'm sure you'll like it."
Mengdi took the still-warm box and felt very reassured. She was actually pretty sensible and often worried while she was at work: Grandma was home alone, all by herself, and there'd be no one to take care of her if something happened.
Mengdi headed for home on her bicycle after the shift change at midnight. Before too long she entered the secluded stretch of Locust Tree Lane. It was gloomy on the roadway and extremely quiet. Hit by a gust of the cold winter wind every so often, she felt chilled all over and couldn't help shuddering. The sight of the trees swaying incessantly beside the road made her feel all alone and afraid.
Just then, a car horn honked close behind her and the strange car she had seen last night appeared like a ghost. It seemed to be following her, not too close but not far away, either. The longer this went on, the more suspicious she got, but she didn't dare stop to turn around and look at the car. She just started peddling as hard as she could and the bike went noticeably faster. She'd just got off work, though, and was really tired. Soon she would be at intersection with main road, but all she could feel was how weak her legs were getting. She really couldn't keep going so fast and had to slow down.
She turned head to look back, gasping for breath, and could see no trace of the car. As she turned out onto the main road, she wondered: Did I go fast enough to leave it behind, or did it slip away? The car really had appeared out of nowhere, like a ghost, and it made Mengdi feel especially afraid.
When Mengdi got home, her grandmother saw at a glance that something was wrong. Concerned, she asked, "What is it, Mengdi? You don't look well."
Without thinking, Mengdi told her, "The last couple of days I've been seeing a car on the way home, a really old style car. Now I wonder if I just imagined it."
"What? Did it hit you?" Grandma asked anxiously.
"No, but I thought it was suspicious. I thought it was following me on purpose. It was really annoying."
"Well, as long as it didn't hit you. What's so scary about a car? It goes its way and you go yours. But…."
Mengdi almost said something else, but when she saw how distressed her grandmother was, she swallowed her words. She went to wash her face, and then to bed, like she always did.
As Mengdi was leaving for work on the third day, Grandma gave her a flashlight. "Take this. If you come to a dark stretch on your way home, use it to light the way.
At first Mengdi didn't want it, but then she thought Grandma might get mad so she took at. As she was walking out the door she heard her grandmother mutter to herself, "Yes, it'll be better if that's the way it is."
Mengdi said goodbye to Grandma and arrived at her workshop in the factory at exactly four o'clock. She told several of the girls she worked with about what had happened as she was going home from work the last couple of nights, and they thought it was really strange. One of them said, "Mengdi, you said the car got very close when it was following you. Why didn't you write down the license number? You could tell it to us, and then on the off chance that anything happened, we could file a police report. The police could use the number to track down the car with no problem."
"Of course," Mengdi thought, "why didn't I think of that? The car didn't have any lights on, and it was dark on that road, but tonight I have Grandma's flashlight. I can use it to get a good look at the license plate." That's what Mengdi thought, but she didn't say anything.
Shortly after Mengdi got off work at midnight, she once again entered Locust Tree Lane. She didn't ride very fast because she thought, if the car really did appear again, she'd take a good look at exactly what it was and would be sure to write down the license number. This time the gloomy road seemed even more secluded, but Mengdi rode at an even pace, neither fast nor slow, paying close attention to her surroundings. The car didn't appear, however.
"Does this mean it was all just a fluke," she wondered. "If that's really what it was, I'd better hurry up and get home." She started peddling faster and soon drew near the end of Locust Tree Lane.
Suddenly two masked men burst out from the dark at the edge of the road and blocked Mengdi's way. She was forced to get off her bike and stood on the spot, shivering all over.
One of the masked men walked toward her, brandishing a gleaming dagger in his hand. "Don't make a sound," he threatened her. "Come with us."
Mengdi had never encountered such a situation before. Trembling, she asked, "What… are you… going to do?"
"Shut up," the masked man said in a harsh voice. "If you want to stay alive, get your money out of your pocket, otherwise we'll make you bleed. Hurry!" The masked man pressed close to her as he spoke.
Mengdi was so afraid she didn't know what to do. When the second guy saw that she was frozen still, he also pressed closer to her. At this critical moment, a car horn blared and broke the tension. The three of them automatically turned as one toward the sound and saw a ghostly, old-fashioned car appear about twenty meters from them.
The sudden apparition scared them silly. Then two beams of light suddenly shot out from the front of the car and shone directly on the two hoods, and the car immediately started to drive toward them. The two hoods knew they'd had it. They lost their heads and fled the scene.
Mengdi didn't know where the car had come from, either, and there was no way she could manage to write down the license number. She just got on her bike in a rush and hurried off toward home as fast as she could go. She couldn't force herself to calm down until she got to the door, and even then she was still sweating from fear.
She took out her key and tried to put it in the lock, but the door swung open. So it hadn't been locked at all. She figured Grandma had intentionally left it open to make it easier for her to get in. She called out but got no answer. Then she saw Grandma sitting on the sofa in the living room with her eyes closed as though she were sleeping.
"I'm home, Grandma. You can go to bed, now." She walked over in front of her grandmother and reached out to help her get up, but Grandma didn't react at all.
"Grandma, what's the matter?" Mengdi shook her grandmother's arm forcibly and spoke loudly. "What's wrong, Grandma?"
Grandma still didn't stir at all. As soon as Mengdi let go of her arm, her grandmother fell over onto the sofa.
Mengdi was scared and called Emergency Services on the phone, then went back to where Grandma lay. She seemed not to be breathing and tears came to Mengdi's eyes. After a bit she got up and went outside to wait for the ambulance.
The ambulance got there quickly. Three medical technicians dressed in white tunics followed Mengdi into the room. One of them, who was a bit older than the others, went to Grandma and took her pulse, and lifted her eyelids one after the other to look closely. Then he stood up and asked Mengdi, "Why did you wait so long before calling us?"
"I just got home from work," Mengdi said. "When I found her I called you right away."
The technician looked at her. "You've been away for a few days?"
"I'm home every day, except when I'm at work. She was just fine when I went to work this afternoon."
"What?" The technician was surprised, then tossed off a comment: "You've gotta be joking."
"How could I joke about this?" Mengdi asked, confused.
"Since you came home every day, you should know," the technician said. "The old lady's been dead for three days."
"What did you say? Dead for three days?"
"That's right." The technician stared at Mengdi as he said with certainty, "At least three days."
"Ah!" Mengdi was petrified.
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