​​         Chinese Stories in English   

God’s Dream
Qian Zhongshu

      Back then, our world had been trained to the point of conviction by scientists, philosophers and politicians. We were convinced that the world is renewed and advances day by day, month by month, following the theoretical laws of creation, evolution, stratification, eugenics and the New Life Movement. Today’s lifestyles inundate yesterday’s, and the cultural level of people in the morning is improved in the afternoon. Life and civilization change rapidly and substantially. The evolutionary changes are so numerous that history can’t record them all, and so fast that languages can’t keep up.
      At the time, “steps” were the units in which the procession of human life was calculated: "a year later" wasn’t said, it was “after another step forward”; people didn’t say "the end of life", but "the final step"; instead of "mourning someone who passed away," they’d "poke fun at someone who retreated” – poke fun because he hadn’t advanced a few more steps. Men and women at gatherings didn’t "flock together", they "flew together"; only a few old-fashioned people would repeat the old saw “maintain five minutes of heat” to wish a couple well, which is equivalent to the current phrase "seniors’ conjugal bliss", even if it’s obviously an impossible dream.
      But there’s a fly in the ointment for a world that progresses like that. Histories of the most recent hundred years, reviews of culture for the last fifty years, diaries, chronicles, autobiographies, "slices of life" and other literary works in the nature of obituaries, all lose their usefulness. How fortunate it was that the people of that era simply had no time to read.
      And the authors of such materials? If they were lucky, they’d rushed to be reincarnated or born in the early years of the twentieth century. They wrote, they died, they were read or not read, and then they were forgotten.
      The immutable laws of development came to the fore later on. Space and time evolved into an inorganic body, which in turn developed into animals and plants, and from defined plants came tranquility. Woman clinging to humanity developed from lively animals into insolent ones and were willing to take a risk with men. Together they made children and dolls derived from children. Thus it was that a Supreme God on High should be the final product of development.
      Producing God is easier said than done, however. Which great man of history did not live in his mother’s womb for nine months before daring to come out into the world? Or like the Yellow Emperor, that father of the Chinese people, whose four billion descendants are now engaged in slaughtering one another, who exhausted his mother with a twenty-month pregnancy; or Lao Tzu, who rightly occupies a position as the High Lord of Ethics, and who stayed in his mother’s womb for eighty years before coming out crying “wah-wah”. He truly deserves the name “Lao Tzu” – “the Old One”.
      Thus after innumerable years, by the time the power of natural evolution produced God, human beings had already disappeared from this world – perhaps because of their "flying together" rather than "flocking together". Even evolutionists weren’t able to wait. So it was that this world, which was stuffed with material things but simultaneously seen as emptiness, was exactly like the mind of a fool magnified countless times.
      It was the middle of the night. An ancient darkness covered the decrepit old world in warmth, like heavy lids sheltering eyes that needed rest. God, pushed straight out of the nothingness by the power of natural development, entered space-time and began to sense his own existence. At that moment, the proofs issued by theologians and metaphysicians since the days of yore, and the prayers of lovers, soldiers, farmers, orphans and widows, at last had a Lord. God had no inkling of these numerous pious expressions, however. They were like letters that a family sends to a wanderer regarding the dying parents’ desire for a posthumous descendant.
      God opened His eyes but could see nothing. The lonely silence surrounding His body had neither boundaries nor bottom. Human beings had already passed from the world, but their legacy was half awake in God’s instincts. Like a child, He was afraid and wanted to sob, but the lonely silence had not been broken by human voices for so long that it had congealed and would not allow any sound to flow through it. God realized that the silence outside His body and the terror in His heart were both the spawn of the darkness. Thus He hated the darkness and craved the light He’d never seen and whose name He did not know.
      His desire grew stronger moment by moment, and after an indefinite period of time, one layer of the darkness abruptly lifted, reducing its heaviness and revealing the hazy outline of an alpine valley. His eyes were now useful and His vision showed results. This made God begin to marvel at the greatness of His will. He thought that the darkness had tactfully given way because He didn't want it. Wasn’t that something! Nothing was there when He’d first looked, but now the darkness had given birth to things wherever He looked, things enormously amenable to his eyes. At that moment, remnants and echoes of the songs of praise that humanity used to sing for the Almighty Creator now seemed to reverberate through God's subconscious.
      God still retained a human temperament, after all. He knew that with power came the enjoyment of using it. He thought he’d go ahead and expel the darkness and see whether it would obey. Wow! Sure enough, before long the East turned from gray to white. Red showed through the white and the sun rose. God was overjoyed. He thought it was his demand, his order, that his had been obeyed.
      The sun blurred His eyes and He involuntarily closed them, thinking “What a fierce son of a gun. I don’t want it for now.” Strange as it seems, everything immediately disappeared, turning itself into a sheet of incessantly red-tinged darkness. It came to this. God could no longer doubt His power and authority. He could get rid of the light by merely closing His eyes. This light must certainly come from His eyes. As proof, he tried opening his eyes again. “See there! Isn’t that the sun? Aren't those mountains and rivers?” They all presented themselves before His eyes in total submission to His will.
      In the past, roosters raised their heads and crowed at hens because the sun wouldn’t show its face until they did. Raising their voices and screeching at the sun made them feel proud. God, while immeasurably greater than a rooster, was now psychologically in the same position as one. His only regret was that the process of natural development had not produced anything equivalent to hens to accompany him and listen to him crow.
      This really wasn’t a flaw in natural development. Rather, it had its own scientific basis. Just like all animals produced in accordance with eugenics (such as camels), or supreme dictators (such as Adolph Hitler), God does not propagate and has no need of a spouse. Cock-like cries of pride are nevertheless inevitable. So God laughed out loud in spite of Himself, and His laugh echoed in the empty valleys of the wilderness. This filled God with admiration for His own voice, that it could be so multifaceted, so loud, so far reaching.
      This God really wasn’t ashamed of being produced by development. He was absolutely different from primitive people. He did not have the superstitions and venerations that barbarians had when they first discovered the universe. He also maintained the “self-reverential” confidence of civilized people. Barbarians had their ubiquitously doubtful Way of the Gods, to which they were subservient and which they worshiped. This kind of thinking, God felt in His heart, had no substance whatsoever. He only took notice of His own greatness and felt that he could command everything without relying on anyone else. The world stretched out before His eyes, and wherever He walked, the ground followed. Only the horizon receded, which demonstrated its fear of His awesomeness. Everything served to enhance his pride and cultivate His vanity.
      He suddenly felt the need for a partner. How oddly tedious it would be to exist alone in such a vast and empty world! A partner to worship and admire Him would be a good way to break through the present solitude. God therefore started thinking about the qualifications that such a partner should have. While His conclusions were not so clear as those described below, the general idea is the same.
      First, this partner must be able to understand Him. This can only be the sort of understanding that a critic has of genius, however, namely the ability to know but not to do. This understanding will not lead him to create ways to compete with God, but only sufficient to make him admire God in pertinent fashion, and wondrously fawn on Him from the bottom of his heart; because –
      Second, the role of this partner is to satisfy God’s vanity. The partner should sing His praises tirelessly and indiscriminately, like a protégé of a wealthy family or a politician who has been bought off or a newspaper editor on the payroll. This would be without God bribing him, though. Rather, his praise would arise perforce from his gratitude and joyous submission; and therefore, –
      Third, this partner should be faithful to Him, and pious, like – like what? Not only would an innocent, unchiseled God not know this. Even those of us who are fully wise to the ways of the world, who have seen the various relationships between father and son, brother and brother, man and woman, master and servant, superior and subordinate, leaders and those who love them – even such people would not know like what.
      Some people mull over things a bit when they go to bed, and then they can’t get to sleep. Others seem to think recklessly about random stuff when they’re awake but sleep soundly when in bed. God may have evolved from the latter; His thinking turned vaguely into dreams, and the docile world followed Him there.
      What He dreamt of was, once again, a yellow mountain and a wild river. His own image was reflected in the water. He was immediately inspired to climb the mountain, to the ridges where rock protruded like bones. There He collected a clump of mud from a relatively fertile area, which He set opposite His image and worked into a roughly human-shaped die stamp. When He blew on it, it started to move. It stooped prostrate at His feet and called out, "Omniscient and omnipotent master! I will never stop singing Your praises.”
      God was both surprised and happy at that. He had no misgivings. Suppose you and I were little girls and heard the dolls we were holding in our arms cry “Mama”; or suppose we were coeds and Hollywood stars pictured in a wall poster suddenly made eyes at us and whispered, "Young girl, I love you." Maybe we could then surmise one ten-thousandth of His feelings at this time. Unfortunately, we’re not little girls or coeds!
      At this time, in His dream, God confirmed that the records in canonical texts and scriptures of all religions concerning the beating of loess into people are prophetic. He did not understand that he was dreaming, or that what He was making in the dream was His own self. He did not know that, in the final analysis, this ball of clay was the stuff of dreams. His squeezing a ball of clay into a man seemed like a man pinching his nose to make a wish.
      God thought that if there really was someone to please Him and liven things up, the praise from then on would not have to come from His own mouth but would still be pleasing. That’s because the best songs of praise for Him would seem to come from the heart, but would have to be heard by the ear. If they were as thoughtful and pertinent as self-praise, they would come from people who depended on Him. We all have this ideal, and maybe we have achieved it by creating someone in our dreams; the unfortunate thing is, when we are awake it’s not so easy to make up such a person out of thin air. We can only transform existing persons. At most, we can only embellish the little people who pander to us and reform them into people of substance, but they will never be as gratifying and satisfactory as those in our dreams.
      This time, God had only come into existence after the extinction of mankind, and He would unconsciously use that circumstance to His advantage in many ways. For example, last time, when two ethnic groups fought, and Group A devoutly beseeched Him to punish Group B, while Group B sincerely looked to Him to destroy Group A. That would put Him, as intelligent and upright as He was, in a real quandary. Such a difficulty would certainly never happen this time. For example, when He created people in His dream, He would create literati for the world, and that was an excellent recipe for wars of polemics rather than killing.
       Looking at it from the point where He squeezed people from mud, God undoubtedly had a naturalistic style of realism, because he saw humanity as so filthy that he drew His materials from the lowest layer. At the same time, he certainly satisfied writers of the classical school in that he followed the saying "all creation is based on imitation". Try to see Him, as an omnipotent being, needing to copy a reflection in water to be able to create the first person.
      It is not known, however, whether the classical school’s theory was inaccurate, or His artistry was crude, or His visage was dreadful. It seems that when He created a human in His own image, He wasn’t paying close attention. He thought His misgivings resulted from the die stamp being too coarse, perhaps because this was the first time He’d set out to make one and He was not yet proficient at it.
      So he chose the softest mud for His next creation – it happened to be ancient soil from the flowers from the funeral of
Lin Daiyu, the beauty from the novel Dream of the Red Chamber. He carefully picked the grit from it and placed it in a shady spot in the valley where the morning dew had not yet dried. He carefully compared its strengths and weaknesses against the first image He’d made, then He used His now experienced fingers to remove some excess mud from the trunk and limbs and correct some deficiencies in the beauty of its appearance.
      He took ripples from the flowing river water to shape the curves of this new model, used the tender light of dawn for the silken blush on its face, and selected the clear blue of the sky to put into its eyes. Finally, instead of blowing His own breath, He gathered the gently wafting breeze to pour into the muddy form. The wind's nature is to expand and circulate, and so the model came to life.
      The first thing she did was stretch her delicate waist and yawn protractedly, setting an example for melancholy young girls. This second model happened to be a woman and was an improvement over God's first product. Men are just God's initial attempt, and women are His ultimate success. This can explain why men who love beauty imitate women, and why fashionable women are forced to behave extravagantly and carry an air of deviltry.
      From that point on, God had things to do. He took great pains to think things through for this couple, creating a variety of livestock, poultry, fruits, and vegetables for them to use and enjoy. Every time He created something, he always asked the man and the woman smugly, "I have devised something new for you. Do you see how great My skills are?"
      At that the couple would sing his praises. "Oh, God, Benevolent Savior of the World!"
      After this had happened numerous times, the couple became accustomed to seeing His miracles and their gratitude included a bit of antipathy. They even suspected that He was obstructing their intimacy. God was astonished at that. “Why is it that the two of them are gradually developing an attitude of indifference? The songs of praise are no longer so loud and clear, and further, the couple are not as quick to bend their knees and spines in supplication as before.” Then God discovered something that made Him unhappy. He’d invented a lot of things since He created humans, but this could be considered his first discovery.
      The discovery was this: Every time a relationship between a man and a woman is involved, "three" is a number that is both unavoidable and unacceptable. Suppose you are the newcomer to the get-together. You of course think that you are indispensable, and one of the other two may also feel that you are indispensable, but the remaining one will consider you unacceptable, and you will consider him or her even more unacceptable. Suppose, on the other hand, that you are one of the original two in this gathering of three. You
will feel as before that you are indispensable, but both of the others may think you are unacceptable. As for one of the others, you may think that he or she is indispensable, but regarding the remaining person, you of course will believe that he or she is unacceptable.
      Mathematicians say that a triangle cannot have two obtuse angles. A triangular relationship of men and women, however, does always have one. When God discovered that the obtuse angle in this relationship was not the rough-hewn man, but He Himself, He kept an indiscreet eye on the pair. This was really enough to make a man – no, enough to make God – angry! He hadn’t set out to create the woman to be a partner for the man. He’d only made her as a lark to dispel his desolate boredom, and as a second die-stamp because the first one was unsatisfactory. Who knew that the two of them would get along well together and put Him aside. He wondered on what basis this woman always kept a respectful distance between herself and He Who is On High, but liked to be close to that inferior man. Then God made another unhappy discovery. This discovery was not related to mathematics, but to physics.
      This discovery was: there is gravity in the universe. It’s because of gravity that everything prefers to head downward, including the apple observed by Newton. It’s also why there are so many inferior people while superior people are rare; and why superiors often tend to be pressed down. It’s why young people become degenerate so easily; and why morals and people’s sentiments deteriorate the way they do – it’s all for the same reason. When God created the woman, he’d mixed in some dew and imitated waves for her curves, inadvertently confirming the ancient adage that "women are water". And He hadn’t gone against another ancient saying: "Water flows downward.”
      Assuming the apple falling from the tree smashed into Newton's head and hurt him, or smashed his nose and broke it, then Newton, while discovering the law of gravity from the incident, would certainly have felt that this example of gravity was too menacing. In like fashion, while God fully grasped the physics of human emotions, He was never at ease about it and still felt that the woman's emotions were bizarre and unsolvable. He even hated the idea that His greatness was an obstacle which wouldn’t allow them to become close. Against expectations, creating this pair of humans had increased His loneliness. In contrast with their intimacy, He felt more and more the ennui of rejection. The maddening thing was that when they had unsatisfied needs, they would still come and beseech Him and ingratiate themselves to Him.
      It was like, if your fruit rots, get a new batch, and if you’re weary of eating domestic stock, switch to game animals. When this pair wanted to wrap God around their fingers, they were loving and warm to get Him to answer their prayers. Once they had what they wanted, they put God to the back of their minds for a long time. God had become a mere servant, which made Him furious. Bottom line, if He had to get them fresh fruits or wild flavors to love before they would love Him, wouldn’t that lower his status to the equivalent of produce or game? They were so intent on their own desires, if He acceded to their every plea, then He really would be just a stupid melon among the produce or a dumb cock among the game!
      God therefore made up his mind to no longer allow their appeals. However, He did cover them with the hood of His integrity and kindness. What would be the good in making their lives difficult over something trivial? He could just wait quietly for them to make an unreasonable demand, giving Him an opportunity to reject them curtly and vent a bit of the dissatisfaction in His mind. The wonderful thing was that God was immortal and could keep things on simmer as He waited for however long you could.
      One day the woman came alone to pay her respects to God. She sat at His feet and looked up at his face, her limpid blue eyes looking like two pools of Mediterranean seawater. "You are the True Lord!” she said coyly. “You are the most loving, and Your abilities are the greatest! I really don't know how to thank You!"
      God used all his strength to resist her tactic, to ignore the electricity flashing from her eyes. "What do you want?" He asked suspiciously.
      The woman smiled enchantingly but with apparent caution. The smile extended from her shoulders through her back to her abdomen, adding new curves to her full-bodied figure. The things she said were accompanied by that smile and seemed to flood up from the bottom of her heart. Every word floated on and was immersed in that smile. "You are the omniscient, the all-knowing Lord Creator! I cannot fool You about anything and truly fear You. In truth I seek nothing. You treat us so well, everything is satisfactory. This thing doesn’t really count as a request."
      "And what, pray tell, is ‘this thing’?” God asked impatiently. At the same time His heart skipped, nudged by the hope that His opportunity was at hand.
      The woman mobilized all the charms she’d been keeping in reserve. "Great Lord of Heaven,” she said, twisting her body. “I admire Your omnipotence so very much! You have only to lift Your hand, even without intention, and it is enough to make us praise You. I really don't want anything novel. I only petition You respectfully" – as she spoke, she pressed her face against God’s legs, which remained indifferent, and gestured lazily toward the man far away in the valley – "I’m only petitioning You respectfully to create another man like that one. No, not exactly like him, a more meticulous die stamp, one a bit more handsome. Compassionate Lord! Is that all right?"
      God jumped up when he heard that, dangerously kicking the tiresome woman at His feet away. “For what reason do you ask Me to create another man?” He asked brusquely.
      The woman put one hand on her breast and the other to her face. "You frightened me!” she said. “Miraculous God! Your strength is truly great, and Your action was really swift! You see, You bumped my face and hurt me – but that doesn't matter. Weren’t You asking for my reason? My man needs a friend. He always accompanies me and is bored. If You make another man, he won’t have to keep me company all the time. Isn’t that right?"
      "Nor will you have to keep him company all the time, right?" God's angry tone evoked faint thunder in the clear sky. "Woman! How dare you make such a request of Me? You are greedy for everything, and wasteful, even for men. In addition to your designated allotment, you also want luxury goods. That's appalling! Get away from Me! I will spare you this one time, since it’s your first offense. If you have any more untoward desires, I will punish you by destroying the one man you have now."
      The last sentence had a great effect on the woman. Her face flushed immediately and she mumbled something as she got up to leave. On the way she muttered to herself: "I was just playing around. It’s Your
problem if You make a big deal out of it. To be honest, I saw through You a long time ago. You don't have the talent to make a man any better than him!"
      It was fortunate that God didn’t hear that. Since the opportunity He’d been awaiting had now come about, the animosity He’d been feeling had gone from His heart and He was happier than happy. He feared He would be embarrassed if the woman saw Him smiling, so He hid His face behind a clump of dark clouds.
      He opened his mouth and giggled, and the porcelain shine of His white teeth shown through the dark clouds. The woman happened to turn around and saw it. She’d never seen the smile of the
black man in the toothpaste ads and mistook the bright flash for lightening. God struggled to suppress His giggles and the “tee-hee” sound rumbled around inside His body. The woman heard it in the distance and mistook it for thunder. She thought God was utilizing terror tactics.
      Both angry and afraid, she ran to the man with extra-long strides. She’d regained her affection for her one and only man because of God’s threat to take him away from her. She sat down beside his head as he lay in bed and woke him with her kisses and hugs. Her every word was imprinted with a kiss and moisturized by her lips: "I have only you, I love only you. I can't live without you. I won't let Him take you away...."
      The man woke up and was amazed. When he heard the woman declare her determination to reaffirm her hold on him, he felt all the more ill at ease because he had a guilty conscience about a dream he’d been having. The woman had run herself ragged and was exhausted from emotions and nervous excitement, so she was eventually able to fall asleep. The man tiptoed over and picked out two pieces of fatty meat left over from their meal, and he went out to offer it to God as a sacrifice.
      "Oh, Lord, Thee of Vast and Liberal Beneficence! I pray that You will reflect on my devotion and accept this negligible gift of filial piety. All that we have was originally bestowed upon us by You, and these things are yours as well. All we are able to place at Your feet as a contribution is our true sincerity.” The man spoke in this manner.
      The happiness that God had felt a moment before now increased even more. He thought, “This is the first time that anyone has come to offer a sacrifice. Surely the woman is remorseful about what sprouted in her heart, but hasn’t the face to see me personally, so she has deputized the man to plead for leniency. However, if I let My joy show on My face, they will look down on Me….” And so He remained silent and did not answer the man. He only gave the man a certain look – a look that French and Spanish novelists use the following symbol to express:
      The man saw that God did not look displeased, so he got up the courage to say, “I have a trivial request to make of my Lord.”
      At this, God immediately apprehended the purpose served by those two pieces of fatty meat. The man's gift turned out to be the equivalent of the woman's coquettish smiles – both were bribes in contemplation of requests. It was fortunate that He hadn’t made the man beautiful because, if He had, the man might not have found it necessary to bring Him any gifts! Concomitant with this realization, He directed the man to explain his request.
      "I beseech you to create another woman for me –"
      God interrupted him. "The woman just came to Me to make the same sort of request,".
      Now God was both disappointed and angry, but the dimwitted man was pleasantly surprised by what God said. He thought, "That woman really is a pixie! How could she have known what I was dreaming? No wonder she hugged me and said those things a while ago. Turns out she’s kindhearted enough to sacrifice her own interests and has already made the request to God on my behalf, even if she didn’t much like the idea of me being snatched away by a newly created woman. Boy, she’s so generous, so considerate! How could I bear to abandon her completely?"
      While he was thinking, he turned brazenfaced to God and said, "Yes, she also feels that life is monotonous and hopes to have a companion of the same sex to accompany her and relieve the boredom."
      "You’re wrong! She didn’t ask me to create a person of the same sex. She asked me for a person with the same disposition. She asked me to create another man, one better looking than the dolt that you are. Get it?"
      The man was no less disappointed than God was then. He hurried to ask: "Lord! Did You grant her request?"
      God felt the pleasure of venting His anger. “I regret that I did not!” He screamed. “You two really suit one another – a great pair of bastards! Get out of My sight right now! If you’re not careful, you’ll see Me ruin the woman!" As if this terrifying threat were not sufficiently powerful, He added, “And I’ll deprive you of the meat you eat!” The man shuddered under these two threats and went away, still trembling.
      God sighed ruefully. “How is it that the people I created are so unworthy? But when I think about it from another point of view, the pair’s sinfulness is so equally balanced, so symmetrical, they’re like parallel essays or a lyrical couplet, and I have to admire the fineness of My artistry.” That thought calmed God down.
      The man and the women had each revealed their personal secrets to God, but the result was that they had achieved nothing. Further, the man was afraid God would tell the woman what he’d requested, while the woman did not know that God had already revealed her desires to the man. In tacit agreement, therefore, the two sides also added suspicion and vigilance to their resentment of God.
      The man said: "We’ve already been given the things we use on a daily basis, so we no longer need to resort to God." The woman said: "I bet He’s already used up all His talent and couldn’t transmute anything new for us even if we begged Him. Forget about going to look at His face! He’s disgusting!" They both said in one voice: "We’ll stay far away from Him. Ignore Him. Consider Him nonexistent." Thus the distance between God and the humans grew even greater. God's goal of having them come to Him to pray was as unattainable as ever.
      God therefore came up with a clever, indirect strategy. They had it too easy, but if they were made to suffer some difficulties and dangers, then they would "cry out to Heaven from need". They would know that it was not good to offend Him.
      That night the man and the woman were startled awake from their dreams by a tremendous roaring. Until then only the humans had eaten the flesh of animals and fish. Aside from them, livestock like cattle, sheep, and pigs had always consumed vegetarian diets. They were inspired by God to embrace the glorious attitude, “I’m willing to have people eat me, but I only graze."
      But now nonvegetarian animals other than people had been added to creation. They not only stole the people’s food – human flesh was also amenable to their tastes. They had no inkling that human flesh is like the meat of cats, dogs and other carnivores. (This is why, in the novel Journey to the West, it was said that the monk
Tang Seng's flesh made the goblins of the mountains and monsters of the rivers drool in anticipation. It was only because his family had not broken with vegetarianism for ten generations!”)
      The sound the man and the woman heard that night was the roar of lions impatiently foraging for food. The humans trembled because they instinctively felt that the roaring was hostile. The livestock crouching around them also bolted upright and held their breath, seeming to be listening attentively to something, which made the humans even more uneasy.
      The lions roared a few times and then stopped, and the night that had been split apart by their roaring closed up again. After a long while, the livestock and other animals seemed to understand that the danger had passed for the time being, and they all breathed sighs of relief. The man reached out and touched the sheep lying supine next to him, and found that its wool was wet and hot, as though it had been sweating. The woman shivered and whispered, "It must be God messing with us. I think we’d better find a cave to sleep in. I’m afraid to spend the night out in the open."
      The couple got up and drove the livestock into the valley, then hid in the nearest cave and lay down. The nervousness in their bodies gradually dissolved and dispersed or sank away. The couple was about to disappear into sleep when, suddenly, they were forced abruptly awake. A frigid, nameless terror spread from their hearts to their limbs, freezing their bodies and their ability to speak.
      The reason for this terror, they figured, was that something lay watching them in the darkness. They did not dare to move or even to breathe deeply. They were soaked in a cold sweat. Time itself seemed unable to pass, frozen to a stop with terror.
      Then suddenly, somehow, the horror went away and he air seemed to grow lighter. The morning sunlight was trying to reach into the cave, and with it a pig’s squeal bounced around inside. The pig stopped in mid-squeal, the sound circumscribed as abruptly as if it had been cut off by a sharp knife, and then there was no further sound in the cave. The pig’s squalling had completely rid the cave of tension. The man stretched his arm out for the woman to rest her head on, to let her sleep in his arms; they had never been with each other like this, without the mutual needs of desire, since they had first come together.
      The two went out when it got light, each going their own way. The man counted the livestock – a pig was missing. The rest of the stock was dispirited and downcast, as though they had also been attacked. While he was trying to guess what had happened, the woman came running back from her trip to fetch water. She was flustered, exasperated and in tears because she had seen a big python coiled up as she passed by the woods – having a nap to aid digestion after swallowing the pig. Then she had seen a big crocodile laying crosswise on the beach by the river, holding its head up toward the sky with its big mouth wide open. Luckily she had run back quickly and it had not seen her.
      It seemed that dangerous things lurked everywhere, and the couple could no longer live a life without worry. "How can so many frightening things get added to the world overnight?" The two of them discussed it. "There’s no doubt that the One we respectfully called ‘God’ created these things to harm us. That means He’s not God, He’s only a devil, the evilest devil. We did not have the eyes to see that He was deceiving us into this state of affairs. Okay! That’s it! Today our eyes have seen through Him and we know what He really is!”
      With these few words, they virtually solved the question that has been the most difficult to answer since ancient times: "If the world was created by an almighty and most benevolent God, how is that devilish savages exist?" It turns out that God is just a devil who happened to do some good when He was willing to give us lesser animals to eat. And the devil is God when He’s in a bad mood and feeds us to the lesser animals. The two are not opposing powers, they are two sides of the same coin. It’s just like calling an eccentric person a genius, or a robber a hero, or a loved one a foe.
      Surprisingly, God did not hear the words whispered between the man and the woman. He continued to think He was unique. He did not know that they now saw the “oneness” of God the way ancient Chinese doctors had noted medicines on prescriptions: “One – half of two”. The reason is that, while He was all-knowing and omnipotent, He was after all an upper-crust type who disdained any personal concern for things that occurred under the blankets or words said behind closed doors. At this time He was just clasping His hands and waiting for the show to begin. As it was, the two humans were downcast and could not think of what to do, but they did not come to seek instructions from God.
      After a while, when the pig was digested in the cobra’s belly and the lions and tigers began to roar nearby, the man pulled the woman hurriedly into the cave and blocked the entryway with rocks. His only regret was that the remaining livestock had scattered in all directions to hide themselves in mountain crevices. God thought: "Wonderful! You’ll naturally come begging to Me once you’ve seen the wild beasts eat all your livestock. Then, hrumph….”
      Go figure. Worldly affairs admittedly cannot completely comport with people’s desires, and human affairs will not necessarily comport completely with what Heaven wants. This use-up-all-their-resources strategy of God’s did not make the humans yield. It was because wild beasts are just that – wild – and lack the cultivation of a culture.
      That python, for example, was uneducated and did not know the incontrovertible saying of the ancients: “Don’t eat mutton or you’ll smell like a goat.” So for its next meal after eating the pig, it swallowed a big sheep whole because it wanted some variety in its diet. The protrusion in its body looked like it was suffering from a severe case of head-and-neck disease, or like a country afflicted by inflation. The sheep had horns, however, which pierced the snake’s throat. It did get a mouthful of mutton, but at the cost of its life.
      The lion and the tiger were like the members of a small family. They were quite similar and didn’t show one another any courtesies when dining. When they were eating a cow they started fighting round and round over it. It ended with the tiger dead and the lion, wounded, going down to a stream to drink some water. There was a crocodile in this stream, an illiterate who had never read
Han Changli's famous essay “Text for the Crocodiles”. Thus it did not go for fish and shrimp and instead wanted a taste of lion meat. The lion was just fine about eating the flesh of other creatures, but had no desire to part with its own flesh, so it fought for its life with the crocodile. They fought to a draw, one dying and the other losing its life.
      The man and the woman were scared half to death by the horrible noises from outside the cave. When they heard the beastly sounds fade away, they opened a gap in the rocks at the cave entrance. The livestock was there grazing in twos and threes, so the humans calmed down and went outside. They could tell the poisonous critters and wild animals were all dead and they hadn’t lost much of their stock, so they were elated.
      They skinned the tiger that the lion had killed. From then on they had a rug for their cave and the woman had a fur cloak. The man had fresh game for a few days. The woman’s eyes had not been dazzled by the sharkskin from American fabric companies and thus the skin they got from the crocodile was enough to make her happy. It was too bad the big snake had not crawled out from the pages an ancient Chinese book, though, and thus did not have pearls in its joints. On the other hand, it was a good thing those ferocious beasts also hadn’t come from ancient Chinese books. Otherwise, if the woman had eaten the lion’s heart and the snake’s gall bladder, she would have added ferocity to her seductiveness and life would have tough for the man! They did not have many good days as it was.
      God was both put aback and annoyed when He saw that the couple was turning adversities into blessings. He understood that, if He wanted to make life difficult for them, He would have to create something that had no hide which could be skinned and no meat which could be eaten. Thus insects immediately appeared in the tiger skin rug, the fur cloak and the livestock’s hair, and the air was full of cruel mosquitoes at night. Whenever the two ate, the flies were like a torrent of black rain. There were tiny little bugs that got into every nook and cranny and couldn’t be defended against.
      God hadn’t expected it, but both humans fell ill at the same time. They vomited and before long they had expired in anger, thereby realizing the universal lovers’ covenant to “die on the same day of the same month of the same year”. The flies still worked, unable to relax, and after a while, fat white maggots were crawling around in the humans’ bodies. These people, who had eaten cows, sheep, pigs, and even tiger and lion meat, were themselves eaten by these little creatures, with only some remnants of bone left over. God had made these bugs, and He was quite happy to note the precision, efficiency and speed with which they worked. He was so absorbed in watching them that He forgot He had hadn’t set out to make the couple die, but only to make them suffer so they would come to Him in supplication and He could preserve them.
      God did not come out of it until the maggots had finished eating the human’s flesh and were about to drill into the bones to suck up the marrow. He regretted that He had not recovered earlier. Maybe the disease microorganisms had worked with excessive speed, or maybe the man and the women hadn’t seen what was happening until it was too late, but in any event God hadn’t get any expression of repentance from them. He had created things to realize His plan, things like humans, beasts and microorganisms, so why was it that things were never the way He’d originally desired?
      God hated it – He opened His eyes wide and saw only the afternoon sun lazing atop the mountain. What had happened just then turned out to have been a dream. He dominated everything, and could do whatever He wanted, but the dream world had been beyond His control and would not follow His orders. It was too maddening! But how could one know if the dream had not been a vision of things to come? This business of creating people to be His companions was something to be fully deliberated. He Himself was immortal, and how could He pass the endless years alone?
      God stretched with tedium and yawned at length at the lifeless setting sun and the world bereft of vitality. He opened his mouth wide, as if to swallow in one gulp all the time He had before Him, endless time that would not be easy to while away.

Translated from 励志一生at

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