The mist curled around the green mountains that held
up the sky. It made the leaves of trees slick and green like jade. The birds awoke in their homes and began to sing clear and sweet over the forested hills.
He had been awake for a long while…watching the
into day. He had done it since he was a young boy. He would sit in
perfect silence, listening to the forest awaken and watching the sun
burn away the cool mist. Now everything was distorted …because of the
Memory seared his mind and he tried to block it out.
He had lived those events repeatedly, dreaming up every possible outcome. There was
nothing he could do to the past though. There was nothing he could do
to bring them back.
He was suddenly tired of watching the morning. Weary of pleasure…it didn't seem possible
there was such a thing, but he was feeling it. He stood and went away
from the clearing. He knelt by a cold mountain spring that cut
through the rich forest floor.
He stared at his reflection a moment. A young face, open, one eye brown, the other
permanently closed because of a white scar that marred the left side
of his face. When had the wound become a scar? When had
it stopped hurting? He wasn't sure. His heart still hurt.
He splashed the water on his face before any memories
could surface and drank some. Standing, he wiped his face with his sleeve then ran a hand through his hair and continued with his journey.
He didn't know where he was going. He was just walking. Had it been a year? Now that
he thought about it he realized it was true. He was twenty now, far
from home. Except he didn't have a home anymore. Didn't have anything
He picked up his pace until he was running…running
as he could, aimlessly. Trying to ignore the flashes in his mind and
the pain in his heart. He tripped more then once over roots and stones
path until his palms and knees were sore and bleeding.
Still he ran until he could no longer breathe and collapsed on the cool ground. His head
banged painfully against an upturned root and he slept. When he
regained consciousness his mouth was dry and his stomach was empty. He
sat up, leaning back against the tree and rubbing his forehead. Tree
leaves made dappled patterns on the ground and a fresh wind cooled
His forehead itched. He reached up and encountered
something sticky. Blood. His fingers encountered something sticky and he saw
it was blood. He wiped his hand on his clothes absently and stood up again. His stomach growled lightly. He had some coins, enough to haggle a small bowl of rice and some tea. After that…after that what did it matter?
After a short while he found a village at the edge of the forest. It was large for this area, boasting not only several houses, but a small inn. It was afternoon and children were playing in the streets. Once they saw him they stared. He knew what they were looking at. A scarecrow… ragged, unkempt and frightening. If it were different…if he was like he used to be…he would have cared not to upset these children. Now he only cared about…
He spent the rest of his money on watered down rice and bitter tea. When he was done he
continued on the main road. The blistering heat of the summer sun kept
his mind off things. His forehead itched and his lips were
chapped. He was thirsty again but he had no idea
where the nearest spring could be. It didn't matter.
Nothing mattered anymore…not to him. Evening came.
As the sun sank he went off the main road and back into the forest. As he walked the terrain
got steeper and rockier and he had to concentrate on working his way up.
Something was pulling him now and…he realized…had been pulling him
all day. A certain spot not to far away.
It turned out to be a cliff, a slab of rock leading off the mountain with thick forest
below. He went up on the rock. The sun had set and the sky was ablaze
with color. Something cracked inside of him and he remembered. He
couldn't stop it now…as much as he wanted to.
He had brought the perfect present for her. His beloved…who he would have married. It
was a hair comb, delicate and beautiful…like she was. He went
to see her underneath the shade of a willow. There she was, in the
arms of his best friend. He felt hurt…and betrayed. She broke from his friend
and stared at him, shocked.
"Houjun…" she whispered.
"How could you do this?" he found himself saying. Before she could answer, he was running. And he kept on running, even when his best friend called for him to stop.
Later he went to her to let her explain. All she
that she could no longer marry him. After that he avoided them for
days, trying to make sense of all he'd seen. It was raining hard
during that time, like the skies were crying with him and he'd spend
hours watching the rain. Until one day the shock wore off and
the anger set in.
Anger…consuming anger and jealousy. It was ironic that the only sunny day in weeks was
the day he decided to kill his friend. He hunted him down like an
animal; his only weapon a knife and his only thought
on bloodshed. He confronted his friend by the riverbank. He attacked viciously, screaming like a mad man. The world roared with him and a surge of brown waves exploded down the river sweeping away everything in its path. They were the only ones the water hadn't touched…but there was a narrow strip of land separating them from being sucked down into the maelstrom.
He attacked again and again, lunging and slashing with the knife. His friend managed to
avoid all of it and was trying to tell him something. He didn't listen;
he didn't want to. He pushed his friend back further and further until
the ground gave way beneath his friend's feet and he went tumbling
toward the raging water.
In that instant his sanity came back to him. An overwhelming fear for his best friend
caused him to drop the knife. He reached out and grabbed his friend's hand
before the water could entirely claim
"Don't let me go! I don't want to die!"
"I won't Hikou!" he promised. Then he saw
it out of
the corner of his eye. A large branch that had been snapped off was hurtling down river toward them. Its jagged edge heading right toward his face. There was no time to move out of the way. Nothing to do except let go…but he held on.
Then…wham! He could feel nothing but pain. Someone was screaming but he didn't know whether that was his friend or himself. The pain was so intense that he blacked out. When he came to…Hikou was gone. He'd let him go. He'd let Hikou go! He'd let his best friend of so many years die because he couldn't hold onto him. Because he'd drove him to that river. The flood had destroyed his village as well and he was left with nothing.
The memories faded and he was crying. He walked to
of the cliff and threw out his arms, gazing up at the unforgiving
stars that were blazing in full force. He wanted to die. He wanted to
be with them. All he had to do was jump. Feel the wind screaming past
him for a split second then nothing but peace.
…Peace. Sitting on the soft ground…listening to the bird song and watching the sun rise
and take away the last remnants of night. The past never changed but
each day the sun rise was different. Each day the jade leaves would let the
mist dust them with tears and then the warm sun would dry the
tears away. The night never staid forever and the sun always rose.
He needed to watch it…just to make sure the sun
To make sure the night would fade and the stars would hide their fiery
faces. He sat on the cliff and watched and waited.
The mist rolled in, making everything wet and cold. The stars faded to cobalt blue and the
birds woke and began to sing good morning. A fresh wind shook the
sleep off the leaves as the sky became a melody of colors. The sun
held up its golden head, lifting higher and higher until the mist
crawled away to hide until later.
The sun had come today …but it might not come tomorrow and he had to make sure. He had to make sure it came every day. Houjun stood and upturned his face, greeting the sun. He turned back into the forest to wash up and scrounge up a decent meal. Soon the sun would rise again on his heart because night never lasted forever.