12: Spaces Between

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Chapter Twelve- Deviant Heartbeats

Tyson's Chapter

壞預兆

(Huài yùzhào)

(Bad Omen)

The sign hangs on us already. It isn't a real sign, of course, but a bad omen, designed to follow us both throughout our entire lives. I can sense it.

I had other siblings once. I think I was the oldest of twelve or so.

Is it horrible that I can barely remember any of them?

All I remember is Ji and my parents. Everyone else is faded.

We're perched outside, in the baking hot sun. My little sister Ji hovers behind me, like a chubby little dog. She's the only one I can remember. Her cheeks are so round. So expectant.

A group of strange men stroll across the wooden bridge, which is held sturdy by numerous stones on each edge. Across the shallow river, the sun is rising higher. A tiny-toed woman stands near us. My mother. Her eyes gaze out with silken calmness.

(Later in life, I'll pretend that I remember what she and my father looked like, and make two sculptures. But I've got nearly every detail of them wrong. I can't stand forgetting them.)

I remember this, though. The strange men come across the bridge, my little sister bobs up and down like a frog. She thinks there is good news. Then someone said that our father passed away in court, and that's the end of it.

快樂的人

(Kuàilè de rén)

(Happy Man)

"Wouldn't it be fun to run away?" my sister used to say with a grin. "I'm sick of worrying about honor."

I'd just stay stony-faced. The boring brother. "Don't say things like that. It dishonors the ancestors."

I'd become a man rather easily. The market was easy to assess. My activities in trading were against filial piety, but they fed my family. Not to brag, but I was always confident beyond measure.

My female siblings were growing into women. Both Ji and my mother had taken up weaving, which gave us coinage like nothing I'd ever seen.

I can't remember if my mother remarried. I can't even remember if that was allowed. Honestly, I've been alive for so long, it all blurs together.

But here's one thing I remember. Trading was a disgusting profession in my culture. No respect came with it. But I'd failed the civil service exam, so it was all I could do. I had brothers who passed the exam, and went on to do other things. But traders were lower than dirt. Half the time, I pretended I didn't belong to my family, so my bad reputation wouldn't rub off on them.

I used to wish we could have a small house and dirty clothing. I'd trade it for all our old honor back.

吸血鬼

(Xīxuèguǐ)

(The vampire)

"Xiang Long! Xiang Long! Xiang Long!"

A few of my confidants cycle around my Silk Stall, with a strange figure in tow. It's nearly nighttime, so I blink in the darkness.

A strange voice strums evenly, like music. "I've been looking for the best-quality silk in the land, and your friends tell me that this is the place to go..."

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