The raindrops which splashed against the car window were swept away by the windscreen wiper and left a blur of water marks. The illumination emitted by the car’s headlight was drowned out by the heavy rain, leaving only a faint shadow. Meanwhile, flashing road signs disappeared rapidly, like horrifying ghosts.
“Shen Jiankun, tell me clearly!”
The voice over the phone was loud, familiar, and full of anger. His body trembled slightly and his eyes were black and cold.
“You said we could pay off the money together! There is news that the stamp duty will soon …”
The wheels of the car rolled violently over the speed ramps and strong jolts were accompanied by the squeaking of rubber tires.
“You can’t afford it? What do you mean?!”
Clenching the phone, the sound of heavy breathing echoed in the car.
“30 years old? Am I also not 30 years old?! At least you’ve got a fucking younger brother! … Don’t fucking talk to me about Song Ju, Don’t fucking talk about that money! You can tell me! Tell me the fucking truth!!”
The angry roar was replaced by a whisper. Soft and painful yet full of apology … The beep of the dial tone sounded in his ears.
Tears slipped from his eyes, and a bright light suddenly penetrated through the rain curtain and through the haze in front of him, hitting him directly. There was a scream in his ears, as well as the shrill screeching of skidding car tires. Glass shattered instantly and the iron bars stabbed into his skull. His knees and ribs were crushed and torn and the pain was overwhelming.
With a little tremor, Chen Yuanming opened his eyes. The pain was so vivid. Like a shadow which caused cold sweat to slip down his back and dampen the clothes on his body. He gasped hard, trying to escape from the nightmare but the heavy cotton quilt pressed against his body, like a boulder. Even his fingertips could not move at all.
He gasped for a long time and let the pain sweep over him until two other sounds interrupted the silence. Two breaths, one deep and one shallow. The heavy one was snoring slightly, puffing from time to time and his teeth made a slight rubbing sound, the other voice was much softer, just a smooth breath. A breath, peaceful and serene like someone who had fallen into a sweet dream. Accompanied by these two sounds, Chen Yuanming finally relaxed his body and escaped from the nightmare.
All the imaginary pain faded away leaving only sticky sweat and a damp sensation. His long johns were soaked, and his body was cold as though immersed in iced water. After hesitating for a while, Chen Yuanming reached into his quilt and took off his long johns. It was early January and the warm season was long over but there was no warmth in the room.
The cold wind swept in through the window slits, scraping across his face. The temperature in the room was almost the same as the temperature outdoors. The bed quilt was stuffed full of old cotton. It was thick and heavy but it did not provide much heat and after being soaked by cold sweat it was even more tormenting.
Under the influence of the chill, his brain gradually cleared but his movements became slower. This room was only about ten square meters. The small bed underneath his body was crowded in the corner by the window and it was only three or four steps away from the other big bed. If he was not careful he would accidentally wake up the two people on that bed. His long johns were very loose, but when he took them off, the neckline still got caught on the gauze bandaged around his head and brought on a bout of real pain. Chen Yuanming did not make any noise and gently placed the two wet clothes on the pillow.
The moonlight shone in through the thin curtains and the bright silver light, like that of a street lamp ,fell on the pillow and reflected a thin arm. His skin color was a bit dark and there was almost no meat to be found on the bones of his wrist. His fingers were very long, and his middle knuckle was dry and protruding. Only from this could you see the image of an adult. Looking at this hand, Chen Yuanming was a little embarrassed. In his memories, this hand should be bigger and more powerful. The back of the hand should be full of blue veins and his joints malformed because of the work during his early years… It should be a man’s hand, not a boy’s.
The cold wind burrowed down from his elbow and into the quilt, making the bed that was already not warm even colder. There was a rustling sound from the pillow filled with buckwheat husks and his bangs pressed against the wounds on his head.
Chen Yuanming slowly retracted his hands and tightened the quilt around his body. It was the seventh day after the fight ended and a lot of things had suddenly popped into his head. On the contrary, everything around him had become strange, as if he had been away for decades. At a point he had believed that he had broken his head and was suffering from a mental illness, but the real and continuous nightmares prevented him from deceiving himself.
The dream was a car accident, which played slowly, over and over again. A tragic car accident that was accurate to the last second. He could still clearly remember that the car he drove was an oyster grey Audi A6L,which was heading for the Chengyu-Chongqing Expressway along National Highway 318. He had driven many times on that route and could drive across it with his eyes closed. But the phone call, the heavy rain, and the stalled truck destroyed everything. He died in that car accident and not even a whole body remained.
But everything was so ridiculous. Because now, at this moment, it was 1991.
In this era, there should be no Audi in his memory, no “FAW-Volkswagen”, no terms like “National Highway 318”, or “Chengdu-Chongqing Expressway”. But the memory in his mind was so vivid, so real that it was creepy. He seemed to have ended his life and just like an old cassette tape he was quickly flipped back to side-A.
What was this abnormal trajectory that caused him to fall into endless nightmares. Who died? Was it himself? If that was true, who was he now?
His brain was full of complicated thoughts and the wound on his head was still aching. In this pain and confusion, Chen Yuanming slowly curled up and closed his eyes.
The author has something to say: Note: On February 6, 1991, FAW and Volkswagen established a joint venture with FAW-Volkswagen. The Audi A6L was produced in 2005.
Chengdu-Chongqing Expressway opened to traffic in 1995.
T/N NOTES: I am considering picking up this novel as my next project.
The current translator has not updated for about two months and as I wait to determine whether or not this novel has been dropped I intend to re-translate the first three chapters that are missing because the very first translators either did a poor job or have shut down their site.
If after the month ends it becomes clear that the current translator has dropped this novel, I will pick it up.
As you might have realized, I love slice of life novels. My current fixation are novels that give me a glimpse of the lives of main characters within a specific period in Chinese history.
Currently I am thoroughly enjoying novels concerning the period of time around China’s economic expansion.(i.e from the 70’s to 90’s).
This story is one such novel. Set in the 90’s it paints a picture of china’s economic history and the danmei romance is actually less of a focus. This is my personal preference. There is a lot of economic speak and financial lingo but I nevertheless think this is a very interesting novel because of the well researched window it provides into china’s economic history
Let me know your thoughts after reading the first three chapters