Chinese Stories in English
The Cycles of God
[Fannyi – This is an example of what's called "Chinese science fiction", although “surreal fiction” might be more descriptive. Fans of Chinese sf will love it but everyone else will just think it's weird. Incidentally, Fannyi is not aware of any relationship between this story and the messianic Christian book, "The Cycles of God (Celebrating the Biblical Feasts)", by Robert D. Heidler. The fact that this story and the book’s Chinese translation share the same title is presumably coincidental.]
God's original motive in creating devils was to use them to hunt angels. Throughout the ages, due to an ingratiating reality, innumerable angels and their born or not-yet-born offspring have died wretchedly on rusty tables with devils crowded around, or in spotless prison rooms, passing like sand through an hourglass without one second’s pause. And this has been true for a long time without anyone knowing it: Angel meat has always occupied an unrivaled position in satanic food culture.
Angel flesh can speedily cure what ails a sick devil, so there are thousands of tons of spare frozen angels in cold storage in hospitals. The fresh angels, as pretty as flowers, are packed stark naked in ice cubes only after undergoing a rigorous washing. Through the highly transparent layer of ice, one can still see how they looked at the instant they lost consciousness.
The red-eyed ones, their faces stained by tears, were sold at high prices by their poverty-stricken parents. Such angels look muddled and confused. Their bodies lay in the fetal position in the ice, unconsciously maintaining their original posture in their mother's bodies, but they have long since been separated from the parents that gave them life.
Some of the angels have their eyes wide open and are flailing their arms and legs like they were struggling against a late-night abduction. These mostly have bruises from ropes that cut in around their wrists. The bruises faded back to the original color a short time after the ropes were removed, but traces have remained for a long time, looking like delicate bracelets.
Those wearing a light amount of makeup, with expressions as placid as water, may perhaps be from the Buddhist Academy and may have been with a few college students on campus. That’s because of a conviction in some Buddhist colleges that it’s better to make a devotional contribution of the only thing they have, their newly matured bodies....
The ice-packed bodies can’t be called dead. They’re merely waiting, voluntarily or by force, for individual devils in need of treatment, and the ice-packing is the mechanism which enables them to wait. In the near future, they’ll either be unfrozen rapidly by medical personnel feeding them through steam produced in the kitchen by cooking, or put into a grinder and ground into powder for use in making medicines.
At the hospitals’ instigation, some middle- and high-end restaurants have also launched Angel Banquets. Photos of fresh, succulent angels are usually printed on these restaurants’ advertising signs. The designers often have an arrow flying from the corner of the angel’s mouth, pointing to circles with explosive red marks printed in them, saying things like “Come and eat me!" or "Young slave, just turned eighteen!" or "Carefully crafted through a strict, rigorous twenty-five step procedure!” or “Long-established reputation!”. On holidays or during vacation periods, the restaurants will also erect small, temporary signboards saying, "20% Discount!" or "Special Holiday Pricing!"
Whenever working-class devils walk by these signs, at first they’ll spit resolutely. Then, as if by mutual agreement, they’ll all start to burn with anxiety. Those who resist the temptation, when they pass by the next day, will spit and resist again, their common-place lives having been spent in such a cycle. But those who can’t resist, driven to desperation by the angels on the signs, will try by hook or by crook to eat an Angel Banquet – some of them, swaggering all the while, may even succeed. However, it’s more common for them to end up in prison, never again to see the light of day, and to die in the throes of a gloomy depression.
Unlike the wage-earning class, the rich can get tired of eating Angel Banquets. When they do, they have nothing more upscale to eat. They can do no better at such times than to urge the owners of the hotel to update their culinary techniques. Those with the temperament to do so will even go into the kitchen, against the advice of family and friends, to show off their own cooking skills.
Truth is, angels are not just medicine and food. Their figures have permeated almost every line of business and profession in the devils’ world: Industry, agriculture, education, scientific research......
Half of this city is occupied by angels and half by devils. The angels’ half of the city consists of a number of individual gardens between sections of lawn and pavement. Their chic, elegant wooden bungalows are built on the lawns. Aside from that, a web of jade-green lakes in front and back of the bungalows is connected underground. Boats sail on the lakes and pavilions sit on the shores, and a warm breeze blows fan-shaped ripples across the lakes during all four seasons of the year. A variety of fish jump up from these ripples, dripping water from their fluttering bodies and glistening in the sun before falling back into another ripple.
Such scenes are commonplace to angels, but for the tour groups of devils that come to visit every few days, it’s undoubtedly like they’re discovering a new continent. They press the buttons on their cameras nonstop and then run here and there with their video cameras in hand. Some of them tail after big shots like secretaries or reporters, writing rapidly in notebooks to record something.
A steady flow of these devil tour groups has been purchasing large numbers of angels, or abducting them by force or by swindle, for hundreds of centuries. They’ve taken them for use in all lines of business and all professions. And so things have become like this: An angel has the status of normal citizen in this half city; but in the other half it turns into a product – a food dish, a prescription medicine, a laboratory specimen, a funerary article to accompany some devil in the grave....
Unlike the City of Angels, the City of Devils is a forest of iron buildings streaked with rust stains and silver-grey street lamps that burn all night long. Automobile-like transportation devices fly along like wild animals twenty-four hours a day. Flakes of rust flutter down like snowflakes all year round, so the devils all carry umbrellas when they go out.
The entire City of Devils rises two or three meters per year because of the daily downpour of rust. Street rollers press it down at least once a year, and the buildings all add a story every year. Anyone who lived in the basement last year will move up one floor to stay at the same level, and tenants on the third floor this year will surely go up to the fourth floor next year....
Now, after being lifted up for millennia, the City of Devils reaches deep into the clouds. Countless numbers of devils use telescopes to peer down from the city walls every day. The tiny lenses penetrate breaks in the clouds so the devils can see the picturesque City of Angels below them: Miniscule angels play pianos in front of wood houses the size of a grain of rice, or stroll in pairs or groups along the lakesides in bonsai-like forests....
Because of the height, the devils in tour groups are exhausted when they return home. They find consolation, however, in the photos and videos of the City of Angels that they bring back with them, and in the packages of angels. Every tour group is assigned staff who are highly skilled in wrapping the packages. These workers have all gone through rigorous training before taking up their posts. Their duty is to wrap up the angels that the tourists have acquired through various channels, and pack them in boxes before leaving the City of Angels. They also stick labels on the outside of the boxes to identify other products, to facilitate their departure.
To prevent the angels from making any noise, the workers also use their hands to tightly cover the noses and mouths of angels whose arms and legs were bound beforehand. They release them quickly after covering them for a short while. The angels, who have almost suffocated, open their mouths wide to gasp for air, and the workers skillfully stuff their mouths with specially made absorbent cotton that they have prepared in advance. The absorbent cotton is available in different styles that vary in size, but the workers are able to calculate the volume of an angel’s mouth and select the appropriate style by visually observing the width and height of the oral cavity.
After inserting the cotton, the workers seal the angel’s mouth with tape. The cotton is flavored with the taste of the angels’ favorite food, "angel flowers." Her constantly squirming tongue is immobilized by the taste in no more than ten seconds after being suppressed by the cotton, and, now soft and pliable, it presses against the inside of her lower teeth. At the same time, a slippery coat of saliva begins to form on the tongue’s surface and is quickly absorbed by the cotton. The cotton begins to swell from the saliva, and after a few minutes, the angel’s cheeks are bulging. The taste of the “angel flowers” has faded by then and is too faint to discern.
The workers have also placed a surgical mask with a muffler over the angel’s face to keep her squeals from escaping through the tape as she squirms. The workers are always fearful at this time, but also turned on by the angel’s silent struggling. This is despite the fact that the angel’s delicate body is constantly wriggling only because she’s resisting, and her moans are from a feeling of being deeply aggrieved. Any look of lovely hopelessness is enough to provoke the devils’ sexual desire, though, and make them eager to get it on.
In the end, however, their professional restraint always comes to the fore. Professionalism ensures that they will eliminate all unnecessary interference and complete their task without mistakes. Thus, they put darkly reflective shades over the angel’s eyes when she complains. These differ from ordinary eye masks which not only cover the eyes, but also put the angels into an unlimited, solid blackness. The solid darkness of these ordinary masks would only make the angels more anxious and fearful, to the point of desperation.
These eyeshades, in contrast, are much more similar to sunglasses. After they’re put on, a built-in chip projects multiple, completely unique shades of darkness for the angels. The difference between each gradation is minute but there‘s an abundance of gradations. The designers of these shades intended the gradations of darkness to convey an image of softness to angels who are tied up: a faint smile, or a kiss that just brushes the lips....
Obviously, the message here is the same as in the “angel flower” taste of the absorbent cotton. Their function is to soothe the angel’s emotions. But the workers don’t put the eyeshades on the angel first thing every time. They usually throw the angel into solid darkness with a black cloth first. They wait until abject terror from the blackness shows on the angel’s face before initiating a last-second changeover to the eyeshades. The contrast between what the angels can see with the different eye coverings calms them right down every time.
Next the workers take a large roll of medical dressing from their tool box and wrap it around the angel, starting with their toes. After each toe is wrapped securely, they proceed along the arches and insteps, the ankles, the calves and thighs, the vulva and the abdomen.... until the angel has been wrapped tightly into a snow-white mummy. Only then is the to-go packaging complete, and it’s time for a short break.
After the break they attach handles to the mummy, which they use to lift the angels into a human-shaped recess in the tourists’ cargo box. Finally, after careful examination, they fill the space between the mummy and the edge of the recess with bandages. The boxes are then labelled and their work is done.
It’s arduous labor and requires a great deal of patience and physical strength from the workers. That’s precisely why they’re paid so well. Each worker’s monthly salary is enough for three Angel Banquets. Every time a package is finished, the worker looks at the silent, ordinary cargo box and the kind of joy only a laborer can experience wells up spontaneously in his heart.
Batch after batch of angels will pass through these delighted hands. They’ll pass quietly through the exit inspection and eventually enter the City of the Devils without incident. There they’ll become food or medicine, or a tool to nourish the instruments of torture in a torture chamber. Every angel has a garden in the City of Angels, and every devil in the City of Devils has a torture chamber.
It’s more accurate to say that an angel’s garden has not been made for her own enjoyment so much as for the neighboring devils who live in the same city. The angels are jubilant at the arrival of any devils’ tour group. They’ll have prepared spotless bedding for the devils, and flawless cutlery, and will give them the rooms with the freshest air, with heavenly music rising through the atmosphere....
In sum, every garden has automatically become infused with a robust festive atmosphere because of the visits by devil tourists. The hostesses in these sparkling clean gardens don’t know it, but long before arriving to enjoy the gardens, the devils they’re so warmly receiving have already prepared torture chambers for them in the other half of the city, torture chambers that will have them begging for their lives, if not for death. After the end of their delightful tour of the City of Angels, the only thing these guests want to do is wrap up the garden angels and carry them off.
Many gardens have been left to grow wild in this way. However, it’s seldom long before the hostess’s relatives and friends take over the gardens despite the absence of a will. Then, without realizing it, they’ll receive the next group of devil tourists who are already drooling for them.
High up in the city, the devils’ torture chambers differ from the streets in the City of Devils in this way. You not only won’t find a piece of rust in the exquisitely decorated, soundproofed rooms; even the random pieces of torture equipment have been wiped so clean that they shine. Every citizen of this City of Devils has an innate fascination with torture, and the equipment is rich with associations of enjoyment. Cleaning it is therefore a beautiful and pleasant task, and even the richer devils don’t turn it over to their servants. Most of a devil’s life is spent in repeatedly cleaning his instruments of torture, and it goes without saying that all the other household belongings go wanting.
When a devil dies, it would be unthinkable to place an enlarged portrait of him in the memorial shrine as a remembrance picture. The pictures they use are always photos of him cleaning torture instruments. A devil willing to spend the money uses a retouched and enlarged color photograph. The tight-fisted consider it more reasonable and appropriate to use a small, black-and-white snapshot.
Even so, every last one of the latter types has also exhausted his life's sense of esthetics and beat his brains out to photograph his most satisfying demeanor while cleaning his instruments of torture: The ones with small eyes deliberately open them wide so it looks like they’re working as hard as they can on their torture devices; If a part of their body that will show in the photo is disfigured, they’ll try their utmost to conceal it with some ingenious props; for example, they’ll hide a hand with a missing finger under an expensive-looking polishing cloth, or rent a wide bracelet or high-class watch to conceal a scar on the wrist….
Although these cover-ups raise suspicions of false vanity, they’re not sad. Or even if they are sad, the blame can be laid on society or the times. These devils can be considered well off compared to the one who was congenitally blind and had to conceal it by wearing shiny glass eyes for his remembrance photo. In order to take a spurious photo of him cleaning his instruments that could be passed off as real, the latter devil, at the exact moment when he took off the leather blindfold he’d been wearing for a lifetime to replace it with the purportedly shiny glass eyes, his excitement and sadness led to despair – the two emotions mixed together and hit him so hard that he started to bawl and the tears came like a flood. In short, for a devil, their instruments of torture are no different than money for a miser or love for a romantic.
In the mind of a devil who is preoccupied with the instruments of torture, an angel who gets thrown into a torture chamber is like the setting used to show off a jewel. She’s prey that a hunter can point at to train his hunting dog.
God put a myriad of torture devices in the devils’ hearts at the time he created them. They are the distillate of all the intelligence and wisdom of the greater half of His existence: a tight leather garment with barbs that can pierce the skin and drill through the flesh, and on into the bone marrow, where they can move around freely; a pair of earrings that continuously gains weight at a rate of three tons per second; grapes built with eighteen sharp, bare blades arranged in a fan that opens up when swallowed; a soft bed covered ice cubes and charcoal as hot as the Gobi Desert, and covered with pins and needles that line up astonishingly well with the pores on an angel’s body…. These are things that are uniquely part of the torture chamber itself and that the angels are compelled to maintain – the two-fledged tranquility is so intoxicating, so fascinating! In the midst of such intoxication and fascination, every devil in the City of Devils tirelessly nurtures his instruments of torture through one angel’s carcass after another.
When the angels are being tortured, their bodies feel the pain of having no way out. Then the final struggle begins, the one that destroys the angels’ consciousness and makes them retreat straight into the realm of dreams. They start from a recent dream and proceed, one dream after another, like people on an escalator, following their original path through the time they were young woman, then girls, then babies. Without their realizing it, a change occurs in the desperate cries of angels on torture devices as they retreat back through the realm of dreams. Eventually, they are born again through the first sounds they made as babies.
Various editions of encyclopedias include this bit of common knowledge about the City of Devils: The angels’ resurrection through the devils’ instruments of torture shows God's favoritism toward them; when God has the devils witness with their own eyes that propagation of the self is the theatrical result of their murderous goals, this is a cruel joke that God plays on them.
Every devil has a rather extreme inborn aversion to God. That’s why they never go easy on the angels, who are always pious and devout. Perhaps the secret of the three of them lies herein. God created angels akin to His own gender, and created devils diametrically opposite to the angels’ gender. God allows devils to hunt and kill angels, but he also lowered Himself to mix in among his own creations to help them resolve the danger. God receives both hatred and worship by releasing His (or Her) purity and wickedness at the same time. In the fourfold cycle of purity, wickedness, hatred and worship that goes on day after day, God, alone and ardently, carries on in never-ending self-improvement.
21st Century Chinese Literature Compendium; 2002 Internet Compositions, p. 119
Translated from 暗地病孩子 at http://www.sickbaby.org/txt/fiction/maniu43.htm
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