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Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Outcast: Volume 1 Chapter 3

Volume One: Eastwood Is All Stones

Chapter 3 He is lonelier than the fireworks in the sky

The Bell-Tower Street in the Riverwest State Capital City of the Eastwood Grand District doesn’t have a real Bell-Tower. It acquired such an old-fashioned name because when the Federation Troops were first stationed on Eastwood Planet, they made a retarded and heartbreaking mistake – incorrect gravity estimation.
This is where the battleship crashed. The fireworks-like display of smoke and explosions reflected on the many servicemen’s faces, making the faces turn into colorful displays of red, blue, white and black. That was when the Fourth Military District Commander said that famous quote with a heavy sigh:
“My heart at this moment is lonelier than the fireworks in the sky.”
The big antique bell-tower clock brought along by the Fourth Military District Commander fell out of the battleship wreckage amidst the splendors of the fireworks and crashed hard onto the surface of the mine planet. The battleship was completely destroyed, but the big clock somehow survived the crash and remained functioning. This was undoubtedly the most heartless ridicule to the abilities of the Federation Government and Federation Military.
The following outcomes proved that the Fourth Military District Commander’s poetic comment was not very far off – the Federation Administrative Committee was furious about the accident, extremely furious. They demanded a full district-wise investigation, dismissed many military officers, and also ordered then to leave that still-running big clock where it was, as a reminder for all government workers. That Fourth Military District Commander was also reassigned to the remote frontier border of the Westwood Grand District, where he spent the rest of his life in loneliness down and out.
Many years went by. That big bell-tower clock had long perished from the frequent acid rains and ended up in a waste station at some unknown location. The name Bell-Tower Street, however, lived on.
Today’s Bell-Tower Street had neither fireworks, nor loneliness. It was actually quite different from the normal days, filled with angry but also laughable chanting. Tattered slogan banners drifted up and down in the crowd. Excited Eastwood residents hyped-up from drinking too much coffee joined in the crowd, and testy drunkards from drinking too much liquor also joined in. Immediately, the police force working hard at maintaining order became overwhelmed, and the chaotic scene began to develop into an absurd drama.
Bao Longtao stood behind the blockade line with a stone-cold face. He had no worries about the possibility of the Eastwood residents breaking through. Although the Eastwooders had been bored for so long and became overly excited at the perfect opportunity to vent their emotional stress, although the blockade line was only made of thin, yellow tape … the Federation was a society of law and order. Everyone knew what could be challenged and what could not.
What really bothered Deputy Chief Bao was that earlier thought. The time these goddamned orphans chose to show up was just perfect, and the reason they picked for the protest also appeared to be too lovable. As soon as the news media got involved, even the Governor’s Office couldn’t really do anything to the orphans. All and all, behind the chaos, there seemed to be some hidden order. And that feeling set off an alarm inside him.
“Jian Shui-Er!”
“We want to watch Jian Shui-Er!”
The chanting of protest continued. Those young, tender voices had become hoarse, but that did not dampen the exultation and excitement.
Bao Longtao had made the decision to inform the Governor’s Office at the very beginning, requesting expert negotiators from higher-up federal departments, instead of executing a strong oppression – partly because of the presence of reporters, and partly because it was really the State Government who was in the wrong this time; finally, his cautious nature also played an important role.
Not long after, officials from the Governor’s Office, the Federal Telecommunication Committee, and the Public Relations Office of the State Police Department all arrived, rushed to the center of the Bell-Tower Street parade, and attempted to persuade the Eastwood residents to call it off. However, regardless of the excuses they used, they could not explain why that light-purple haired figure was still missing from the local television screens.
No official would admit that the stupid decision to protect the local Production Department of the Riverwest State TV Station actually came from themselves. All attributed the problem to technical difficulties. As the negotiation continued, more and more orphans stealthily slipped into the crowd and disappeared under Bao Longtao’s sulky stare.
Not long after the leader boy Brother Wei led those unbending orphans and vanished into the crowds, the entire Bell-Tower Street erupted into a joyous cheer!
The joyous cheer marked the end of the negotiation, and with a beep, the ultra-thin scroll-screen television in the coffee shop was turned back on. The entire Bell-Tower Street quickly quieted down. Numerous police officers finally had the chance to wipe the cold sweat off their foreheads, while the female reporter curled the corners of her lips upward triumphantly and the many officials cursed secretly at the stupid and integrity-lacking Governor.
At exactly eight-thirty in the evening, Channel 23, together with the pretty face of Jian Shui-Er, returned to the Capital City of the Riverwest State, and the whole planet joined in the jubilation.
The night sky of Eastwood always looked eerie. The dark-grey sky with a constant diffusing dark-red glow looked similar to the Hell’s Gate described in many cleric’s books. Though for residents of the planet, this was a scene they had watched for many years, a scene they got used to that deserved no more attention.
The sky lacked clusters of stars. The only few sparkled stubbornly, as though they couldn’t resign themselves to the fact that the stone-like Eastwooders simply ignored the star rays they worked so diligently to spread over the planet.
Two silhouetted figures snuck through the shadows under the streetlights, one big and one small. They skillfully avoided the security cameras along the way and slipped through a small alley by the Bell-Tower Street, until they saw a big green tree in front of them.
The big green tree sat on a small green hill. There was no light around. With the distant night sky as the background, the picture looked almost like an exquisite paper-cut art piece.
In the middle of the picture someone sat under the big green tree. The outline was that of a youngster. He sat cross-legged, and the object he placed on his knees shone with a faint glow, making his silhouette appear even lonelier.
“Why is Brother Le always … always alone all by himself?” The smaller figure out of the two murmured slowly. His voice was still hoarse from the thousands of times of chanting the words “Jian Shui-Er” earlier that afternoon.
The other figure was obviously the leader boy Brother Wei. Gazing at the lonely view of the boy under the big green tree, he couldn’t help but gasp in admiration.
“He is lonelier than the fireworks in the sky….”
That famous saying of the Fourth Military District Commander many years ago had become a well-known and unforgettable quote for all the residents of the Eastwood District, so well-known that even someone as ignorant as Brother Wei knew how to use it.
Brother Wei and the younger boy ran up the green hill. As they got near that lonely back view, they suddenly noticed that the shoulders of the boy were twitching as though he was weeping silently.
Brother Wei’s face turned pale. He walked next to the boy and asked.
“Xu Le, what’s the matter?”
The lonely boy did not raise his head. Still fixing his gaze on the portable ultra-thin TV on his knees, he stared at the purple-haired girl on the screen. The faint light from the screen illuminated his face as tears streamed down his cheeks.
After a long while, when the ending music of the episode started in the quiet night, the boy named Xu Le finally looked up. Narrowing the pair of honest and sincere eyes, he wiped off the tear drops on his face and the drool by his lips and declared in a most earnest tone.
“Jian Shui-Er … is so absolutely… gorgeous! One day … I’ll certainly and positively … make her my bride!”

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