Guardian Stories (Pages 1 and 2)

            These stories were published in the Chinese Herald, a Chinese-language newspaper in Auckland, New Zealand, as part of The Fourth World Chinese Same-Topic Flash Fiction Exhibition (第四次世界华文同题闪小说大展). The topic of each story, which can also serve as each story’s title, is Awakening (苏醒). We have organized the stories on each page alphabetically by author’s name or pen name.

Page 1 stories were translated from
Page 2 stories were translated from


Mai Shengmei (麦胜梅)
Murmur (呢喃)
Qu Shaoling (区少玲)
Teng Lin (滕林)
Zhou Changli (周长莉)

​​         Chinese Stories in English   


Leisurely Rain (舒雨)
Remote Splendor (悠彩)
Stone Girl (石妮)
Straightforward (阿爽)
Wang Ke’nan (王克难)

Leisurely Rain (Auckland) 舒雨(奥克兰)

      "Look at that fellow Zhuang Ni. He graduated at the same time as you, and immigrated to Auckland about the same time as you, too, but he’s got money and power. He became a real estate agent and made his mark before ten years had passed.... He moves into a new place every year, each one bigger than the last. His wife has nothing but the best to eat and drink, and she’s always going with her friends to have a good time. They say last year their whole family took a luxury cruise to the United States. Plus, this year they went with their son on a study tour to Europe....
      “Jeez, really, you’re the same as him, but he’s got a better lot in life. How come he has it so good? Look at you. Every day you go to work early and come home late, driving your taxi. You sit all day long until your butt goes numb. And you can’t change your lot no matter what…. Jeez, my life is so hard!”
      “Dad, I got promoted out of ninth grade. When school started today, Teacher told us that every student will have to have their own iPad so we can go online and search for educational materials....”
      “Oh, man! Looks like our family has to tighten our belts. Our daughter gets promoted to high school, so we’ve got to buy her her own computer. And we’ll have to buy her a new uniform, too....”

      “Oh, Hell! Get out of bed right now, girl. Your dad’s been working extra night shifts, lately. Maybe he got too tired. When he was driving last night he got into a head-on collision with a private car, and now he’s being taken to the hospital for emergency treatment.... Hey, hurry up! We’re going to go see him!”
      “I'm sorry! We’ve done everything we can to treat your husband, but he... he was too seriously injured and suffered massive bleeding in his brain. I’m afraid... he’s going to be a vegetable....”
      “Oh, Doctor, please do something! You’ve got to save him…. Ooh…. My husband, wake up! You can’t leave your wife and daughter alone! It’s all my fault! I was always nagging you.... My husband, if you’ll only hurry and wake up, I’ll be willing to live an even harder life! Wake up now…. Ooh….”

Remote Splendor (USA) 悠彩(美国)

      “Anna, dinner’s ready!” Sun Lin called downstairs to her daughter. Ever since she’d started high school, Anna had been obsessed with playing computer games with several of her classmates. Her grades were getting worse and worse.
      Ten minutes later Anna came to the table. She picked up a plate and a fork, chose some food and headed back downstairs. “Anna, sit down and have a meal with your mother!”
      Anna had already set foot on the stairs before she turned her head. “I have a lot of homework to do, Mom. More than I can finish.” Sun Li sighed as she watched the beautiful image of her daughter going down the stairs. “The girl’s growing older, becoming an adult, but she hasn’t matured.”
      She picked up a glass of water from the table, opened the cabinet door and took out some pain medication. Two pills. “Child, when are you going to wake up from this obsession?”

      The phone rang at four in the afternoon. “Are you Anna? This is the emergency room. I got your number from Ms. Sun's phone....” Anna ran out of their condo like she was crazy, rushed downstairs to the garage, started the car and sped off. Her ash-grey mother was laying on snow-white sheets, with lots of IV tubes stuck in her. Medical staff ran in and out of the room.
      Anna propped herself up on her mother’s bed. “What' s the matter with you, Mom? Mom! Mom!”
      Four doctors were waiting for Anna in the office. “Your mother’s liver is bleeding. She needs to be taken to the operating room right away for emergency treatment!”
      Anesthesia risk, surgical risk, blood transfusion risk.... She signed the papers.
      She sat waiting outside the operating room in an ice-cold chair. A clock was ticking loudly on the wall, one hour, another hour. Anna’s mind was tossing around like a small boat on the ocean: her Dad's car accident, the magician in the game, her mother's voice, the clicking of the computer keyboard, the Letter to Parents from her school teacher, the report cards she’s hidden under her mattress, the credit card bill for games she’s bought....
      “Anna, I’m sorry. We’ve done everything we can!” The doctor's soft voice pierced her ears like a bomb.
      “Anna, dinner’s ready! Anna, your laundry’s done! Anna, go to bed early! Anna, where’s your report card? Anna, don’t play games on the computer so much!”
      “Mom, wake up! I won’t be obsessed with those games anymore!”

Stone Girl (Christchurch) 石妮 (基督城)

      That year, she was suffering because their love had crystalized but then gone sour. She ultimately lost hope!
      While she was in the hospital in labor, he’d gone away on business! She’d unfortunately had several miscarriages since then. It had become the norm.
      She cried secretly from guilt, blaming herself for her failure to fulfill a wife’s responsibilities. It made him feel disheartened! She gradually realized that he was as cold as ice around her and treated her with indifference. Also, he often came home late at night, saying as an excuse that he’d been entertaining a business client.
      She felt the pain deep in her breast, alone at night in their bedroom, crying silent tears....
      For love of him, her repeated failures to create a "made man", to conceive a child, caused her to undergo much suffering.
      If she didn’t blame herself, who could she blame?
      Then one night he was driving drunk and got into a serious car accident....
      He was hospitalized for treatment after the accident. The doctor recommended an amputation; he made up his mind, after struggling through stabs of pain deep in his heart, to send her a tearful text message before deciding to have the operation:
      "The doctors diagnosed me long ago with a chromosomal abnormality due to a congenital defect…. Your repeated miscarriages were not caused by any problem of yours.... I beg you, leave me immediately and find someone else with whom you can achieve your wish to create a ‘made man’! You have my blessing...."
      Her tears fell like rain after she read the message. She immediately deleted it….

Straightforward (Auckland) 阿爽(奥克兰)

      Y had yearned for the good life, a beautiful married life, and had been eager to be on the road to that castle. But he’d fallen on hard times, too bitter to swallow; he got caught on the edge of the doldrums....
      X said her life was like eating wax because she was so weary of married life. She’d do anything possible to escape that castle.

      He had met her (or she he) in loneliness and confusion, and they’d touched off a gorgeous spark....
      Their green lights were always on in the "Solitary Dog" online chat room. They met there every night and always chatted for an hour or two.
      They talked about the most controversial and trying aspects of married life.
      X: “Some say marriage is like a castle, and that it depends on whether the people in it have a positive attitude and a healthy state of mind....”
      Y: “Yeah! I’ve heard that the wedding vow is ‘Whether in good times or bad, in wealth or poverty, we remain faithful unto death, growing and staying together’....”
      X: “Maybe those outside the ‘castle’ would really like to come in, but those inside desperately want to escape.”
      Y didn’t say anything, but sent a yellow “bitter-face” emoji.
      For some time after that, neither X’s nor Y’s green lights in the "Solitary Dog" chat room lit up.
      Eventually, though, X agreed to marry Y on two conditions: that he would accept her son; and that he would go with her to the United States to study for a PhD after they married.
      Y’s parents did everything they could to encourage him to rush the wedding. He decided to quit his high-paying job, sell his house, and accompany X on her studies. He bought a house in the United States with the money he got from selling his house, and intended to live and work there in peace and contentment. Who would have guessed that, after six months without finding a suitable job, he’d be extremely depressed!
      X was busy studying from dawn till dark. Y, on the other hand, was busy taking X’s son to and from school, helping him with his homework, buying groceries and preparing meals.... The days ground him down until his morale was completely gone.
      Then one day he accidentally found out that the child was actually X’s little brother. Their parents had died in a car accident, leaving X to take care of him.
      Y was aware that he’d been defrauded. He’d gone from being a stepfather to being a brother-in-law who spent all his time at home because he couldn’t find a job. Angry and anguished, he asked for a divorce and flew home alone.
      X sent him a letter from her attorney demanding that Y pay half of all his assets for the living expenses of "mother and child"! Having just awakened, Y fainted dead away.

Wang Ke’nan (USA) 王克难(美国)

      Her: A Southern California accountant of some repute among her circle of friends. Her annual income, which everyone said they envied, had risen to over three hundred thousand a year before she knew it.
      Him: A young university professor, thirty-five years old. He was urbane and he loved to travel. She’d long been interested in him, but usually he was busy working; he always answered her by saying "I’ll call you later."
      This year he wanted to tour the lakes region of northern Italy during his summer vacation from school. She put aside all her business affairs on the excuse that she would be touring Europe on her own, and also chose the northern Italian lakes region.
      Before starting her trip, she called him several times to ask him about his visit to the lakes district. He answered all her questions enthusiastically and promised to meet her in Portofino. So she asked an old classmate of hers, who had opened a travel agency, to reserve a double room for her in a small luxury hotel not far from the harbor.
      She didn’t usually have the time to pay attention to how she dressed, but now she chose special apparel for day, evening and night-time wear. She began to daydream about strolling by the lakeside with him, and sharing a drink by her hotel room window while they watched the sunset, and the sunrise.
      It seemed like a dream as she waited in her luxury hotel by the harbor, dressed meticulously, in the small romantic seaport town of Portofino.
      Through the window glass, she saw him coming, sitting in a small boat. There were only two people in the boat, him and his exotic, six-foot-tall, movie-star-handsome lover, kissing warmly….
      She picked up the phone and called her classmate, who was still sleeping and dreaming, to immediately get an airplane ticket back to the U.S. for her.


Mai Shengmei (Germany) 麦胜梅(德国)

      One day Lao Du heard that a stranger had been weeping in front of her grave. Almost every day thereafter, cut flowers were placed there. He began to wonder who this stranger was, after all, and what relationship the man had had with his wife.
      So he went to the grave every day to wait for the man to appear. He always came a step late, though, and didn’t see even half a shadow. He only saw wisps of smoke from a few sticks of incense and the fresh flowers that had been left there.
     With some difficulty, he went to the grave early and waited for the man to appear. He was filled with misgivings. Originally he wanted to shout his questions at the stranger, but in the event the man’s refined and scholarly appearance intimidated him.
      The stranger spoke first. “Cloud and I were colleagues,” he said. “Some time ago she helped me get through a dark period in my life. She blessed me with her kindness, so now I come here to pay my respects. And there’s something else. I’m also reminding myself not to walk down that same old road to ruin!”
      He went on to say, "Back then I wasn’t careful about making friends and got off on the wrong track. I drank every day but felt no need to change my ways. My mother was worried sick about me, to the point where she passed away. That’s when I saw the light, but by then I had a lifelong debt to pay and I got to feeling sorry for myself. Cloud was the only one who had any sympathy for me. She always comforted me by saying, ‘The only way to make up for the wild years in your past is to make a new man of yourself from this day forward.’"
      As Lao Du listened to this story, he felt ashamed beyond consolation. What this stranger was saying fit him just as well, didn’t it? The only difference was that he had worried his own wife to death, not his mother.
      On the way home, Lao Du suddenly felt like he had been set free and given hope for himself. He’d been melancholy and gloomy in the year since she’d gone, as though he were a dead man walking, but now he could start anew and bring an end to this time of muddle-headed ignorance.

Murmur (Germany) 呢喃(德国)

      The snowfall reached historic proportions this winter. The marvelous weather spread from the other side of the ocean to the European continent and from North China to the south. Chinese people believed that the heavy snow promised a rich harvest. Foreigners battled the snow, and it became faddish to play ridiculous winter games. As the spring wind swept the elegant snow from the ground, everyone was enraptured by expectations for the New Year.
      Daddy was cold as ice and still lethargic. He’d shown no reactions whatsoever for several days. His servant Zhang Luo had packed up his old clothes and placed them at his feet a while ago.* Every day people in the clan would ask about him and pray for him. His daughters kept watch by his sickbed day and night, awaiting his orders.
      He heard one daughter’s name and suddenly, as though gossamer had brushed against his frozen nerves, at that moment he opened his eyes and looked around slowly; eventually he no longer moved his eyes. His face showed no expression, but he made his meaning clear through arm motions.
      Gradually his face softened and grew limber, and he weakly asked his daughter some questions. She could no longer contain herself. She stroked his grizzled hair, and when their palms locked together, love flowed through them as powerful as an electric current, even as their tears streamed incessantly down.
      As winter’s end approached, Daddy had proven worthy of his background as an aviator. Once again, through the grace of God, he had smashed his way through obstacles and landed to complete the mission. He’d turned the corner. All at once people in the clan were aboil with the best news they’d heard all winter. It was more exciting than the Spring Festival.
*[It’s customary to discard old clothing and buy new apparel for the new year—Fannyi]

Qu Shaoling (Brazil) 区少玲(巴西)

      Mrs Chen got an urgent call from her son-in-law. "Mom, your daughter hasn’t budged or said a word today.” His voice trembled slightly. “It’s like she’s seen a ghost. Hurry over here and see if you can do anything for her."
      The son of a gun hung up as soon as he finished talking, like he didn’t want anything more to do with the matter, and Mrs. Chen sped over to her daughter's. She’d put up the money to buy this condo. It was near her place and convenient for her daughter Lili to visit her mother. Lili was really spoiled. Whenever she thought she was suffering from some illness or other, she’d look to her mother to save her from it.
      Mrs. Chen had her own key and opened the door. There wasn’t a soul in the living room, but Lili stood in the doorway to the bedroom. She was staring at the bed and mattress. She seemed to be made of wood and didn’t respond in the slightest to her mother's anxious calling, slapping and shaking!
      Mrs. Chen took Lili’s hand and led her to the hospital’s emergency room, where she took a number. Her daughter put up with people pushing her around like an abacus bead. After examining her, the doctor said: "The patient probably suffered a great shock which caused her to shut down as a kind of self-defense mechanism. Take her home now to recuperate. We won’t be able to treat her until we know what shocked her, so find that out right away."
      Although her son-in-law refused to answer his phone, Mrs. Chen was clever enough to contact his boss at work for help. The boss ordered the young man to go home to face up to what was happening.
      Lili sat in the living room showing no sign of life. Her mother-in-law was chewing her son out. “Don’t bother to weave lies or put us off. Just come right out and tell us what happened, and be quick about it!”
      The young man whispered, "… I got a stomach ache at work. The woman who sits next to me, she’s always been nice to me, and she brought me home so I could rest up. She was massaging my stomach for me when… when… before I knew what was going on, the two of them were rolling… rolling around on the floor.... Lili’d come home to get some important document.... So then..."
      Lily was sitting off to one side. Her cheeks started to quiver and she opened her throat to scream, "Ahh...." Tears whooshed down her face.
      Her husband, blushing from shame, got down on his knees in front of her and begged forgiveness. "I’m sorry! Forgive me this one time for not being able to control my weakness! Give your piteous husband a second chance, please! You’re the one I love! I only love you!”
      Mrs. Chen left quietly. She’d wait until the next day to say all she had to say.

Teng Lin (Brazil) 滕林(巴西)

      A sky so blue, an earth so green.... Legend has it that you’ll step on gems if you walk down this road. Even today a variety of ores and materials from mines in this area are dispersed all around the world.
      There’s not a trace of humankind in any corner of this vast expanse of luxurious green, except a patch of bare, yellow soil and dismal buildings. From the air you can look down on a number of backhoes digging, searching for treasure. This treasure isn’t gold or silver, though. It’s iron, a treasure commonly used by the masses.
      Foreman: "There’re an estimated 40 billion metric tons of iron ore reserves here. We've been developing the area for two years!"
      Technician: "The dam’s getting full and needs to be enlarged. We have more advanced technologies now to handle the iron mine’s residue and make sure it drains, but the cost will be several times higher."
      Foreman: "Heck with it. It’s not our place to worry about all that. Let’s keep on working!”
      It wasn’t long before the worst environmental accident in history struck here. The dam collapsed with an overflow of sludge and industrial waste. The water was polluted by heavy metals.
      As soon as he heard the alarm, Robin, a young and vigorous man, heroically drove back and forth across the area several times, rescuing his neighbors and taking them to safety.
      In the brief span of ten minutes, 62 million cubic meters of polluted water, in a wave10 meters high, destroyed a small village of only 600 residents five kilometers away from the dam. The unstoppable disaster engulfed everything.
      In the 18th century, when gold was being mined in the area, the only road to get to the interior and bring out the gold and diamonds led through this small village; in recent times a lecture hall and memorial stele had been put up there. They were completely buried.
      A tsunami of rocky mud overflow attacked 39 towns as it swept nearly 650 kilometers down the river. The turbid slurry of polluted mud flowed into the Atlantic Ocean. The calamity caused an ecological, environmental and economic crisis in the disaster area.
      When will human morality wake up to its benefit? This small village was born because of mining, but was also exterminated by mining, and has forever disappeared from the map....
      Robin was on the list of missing persons.

Zhou Changli (Brazil) 周长莉(巴西)

      From child- to adulthood, we seldom hear our mothers praise us. What we hear most is our mothers saying how good other people’s children are. That’s why Wheat had felt all along that she and her mother didn’t understand each other. They maintained a relationship that was neither close nor distant. Even ten-plus years after she’d left home, Wheat still wasn’t ever willing to admit that she sometimes missed Mama.
      Wheat found her way overseas and had been living in Brazil for many years, supporting two babies. She lived a challenging life on a heavily travelled street and had forged a variety of martial arts skills through trials and hardship. Her whole body was filled with bile, and she’d become an iron-tough mother herself.
      Spring Festival in the Year of the Monkey came with sadness. She was surrounded by the cheers and celebrations of the entire country; she saw the good-luck characters written in scarlet; she heard the familiar New Year’s messages; but her tears of homesickness flowed and Wheat fell apart.
      In a trance, she returned to her childhood. Her mother was holding a peach-wood comb as she gently tied up Wheat’s braids and added a pink bow. With kindness glowing in her eyes, she took Wheat’s little hand and said: "My precious daughter’s new clothes are so pretty."
      Outside the window, snowflakes filled the entire sky under the glimmering starlight. A stream of moonlight poured onto the path outside their door.
      The past surged in her heart with the force of a landslide or avalanche. She thought of things that had happened between her and Mama: her face turning red about doing homework, fighting over a haircut, running away from home because she wasn’t allowed to watch TV. She saw Mama’s shadowy figure standing in the pure white snow under the dim streetlight at the far-away intersection, trying to look stern even though she was obviously very worried, pretending to criticize her: "Don’t you know what time it is? You’re just now coming home?”
      But the warm lamp-light in the room slowly faded away, and Mama’s youthful looks gradually became blurred. She let loose of Wheat's hand. In the blink of an eye her hair grayed. She faltered, and looked weak, and had no spirit in her eyes.
      "Ma! Mama!" Surprised, Wheat woke up with tears wetting her pillow. She did still remember after all, and indeed she couldn’t forget, all these little things that had happened between her and her mother. The flower of memories still bloomed in her heart as she dialed her mother’s number....

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