Important announcement by ayszhang...
Important announcement by ayszhang...
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’
But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and prosecute you,
That you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
Xu Zheng jerked awake.
He sat up from the bed, head plastered with sweat, heart beating a mile a minute on the verge of popping out of his chest.
He panted for a long time with his hand pressed to the left side of his chest and then called out, “Gege.”
The window was opened just a crack, and the morning breeze flapped the curtains rather loudly while the sunlight beamed down.
The side where his brother had lain was empty, and the quilts all covered him. All the clothes that had been carelessly tossed aside amid the rush last night had been picked up and folded into neat piles on the bed.
Xu Zheng felt assured when he saw the clothes.
He fell back into the bed again, filling his nose with the scent of his brother lingering on the pillow.
He had a dream – Xu Zheng almost never dreamed, for he usually fell dead asleep – the first half of which had already blurred away so that he only remembered rowing a boat with his brother somewhere. The weather was wonderful, and blooming lotus flowers were all around them. His brother spoke softly to him, and he felt a full happiness even in the dream. He had his head bent helping his brother shuck lotus when his brother gently called, “Xiao-Zheng.” He looked up, and his brother gave him a light kiss, and he felt something warm inside him overflowing ceaselessly, filling every limb and bone. Blushing, he called back with a stutter, “Gege,” and Xu Ping grinned at him. The next thing he knew the dream shattered like a broken mirror.
Xu Zheng jerked awake from the dream.
He didn’t know why he would have such a dream, and this made him a little anxious. He wiggled around the bed while burying his face in Xu Ping’s pillow and taking big breaths.
He used to always get scolded by his brother for doing this because the pillow was very dirty, but Xu Zheng never corrected this behaviour. He thirsted for his brother’s scent like an opium addict, and he couldn’t stop himself from licking Xu Ping’s neck like a big puppy when they were in bed.
At that thought, Xu Zheng felt his body heat up.
He grabbed a t-shirt and clumsily slipped it on and then stuck his legs into his shorts.
First he went to the bathroom to take a leak and then he hopped down the stairs looking for Xu Ping.
Xu Ping wasn’t in the house. The luggage was lined up nicely in a corner of the corridor. There was a cup of steaming water on the kitchen counter.
Xu Zheng took a look around but didn’t find Xu Ping.
He opened the mesh door that led to the sea. The beach was empty except for two pieces of clothing.
Xu Zheng picked them up and sniffed. They still had his brother’s scent and heat.
He shouted. It reached far away frightening two birds scavenging on the beach. They flapped their wings and soared into the sky.
Xu Zheng felt his limbs turn cold. He lifted up his arms and saw goose bumps crawling all over.
Xu Ping felt as though he were walking down a dark tunnel.
But instead of fear or horror, he felt peaceful.
He didn’t know where he was or where he was headed. It was as if all the negative emotions were sucked out from within, and he felt light and floaty. Even the darkness made him feel joyful.
He walked towards one end of the tunnel where there was dazzling sunlight. It made longing grow in his chest, as though something were beckoning to him.
He approached it.
There were two silhouettes in the light, a man and a woman, and glowing colours surrounded them, their faces blurry but pristine.
Feeling absolutely at ease and joyful, he stood before them and called out softly, “Dad. Mom.”
He recalled the many things that he thought he had forgotten, and they became clear again. “Am I dead?” he asked.
The two figures only looked back at him.
For some reason, Xu Ping didn’t feel scared at all. Everything was peaceful and good in this world. No pain. No worries. It was like heaven.
He looked back at his life and did not feel regret; he had fulfilled his duty.
He smiled. “Take me.”
He stepped forward to enter that light, but he heard a heart-wrenching scream from afar, “GEGE!”
He faltered and looked behind himself.
The shout penetrated the shrouds of darkness and beat against the drum of his heart.
Xu Ping felt excruciating pain as the voice seemed to tear his soul apart.
The next thing he knew, tears were flowing.
His eyelids felt heavy. He was soaked and cold, completely immobile.
Someone was pressing hard on his chest and then pinching his nose and blowing into his mouth.
After blowing for some time, the man pressed his ear against his chest and then began pushing on his chest again. “Don’t do this, Xu Ping.” His voice was shaking. “Don’t do this.”
It sounded familiar to Xu Ping, but he couldn’t remember whose it was.
The man repeated CPR a few times, but Xu Ping was still lying on the sand, eyes closed and motionless save for the shallow breaths that were as good as none. He began choking. “You come back right now, Xu Ping! I saw you crying just now! You’re conscious, aren’t you?! Come back! Come back!”
The man sounded so hurt that Xu Ping felt the pain, too.
He wanted to move a finger but found his body was constrained by invisible chains.
Cupping Xu Ping’s face, the man continued assisted breathing, but Xu Ping didn’t wake up. He hugged his head and made a strange gasping sound.
Xu Ping thought he was laughing but soon felt warm raindrops on his face.
“All my fault…all my fault…”
Xu Ping had no idea what was going on.
He tried his best to open his eyes to see who this weird person was, but the next moment he felt the man’s lips on his own.
The man deepened the kiss until Xu Ping felt as if his tongue was being eaten.
Then – WHAM – he heard a fist hit cheek bones.
The man flew away.
He heard his brother’s angry roar as he charged towards the man to engage in battle. The two rolled around the sand.
Xu Zheng was swallowed by rage.
He had swum out many times but had not found his brother which made him more frustrated than ever. Maybe it was because he had been abandoned once by Xu Ping when he was young. Xu Zheng could still remember a bloody Xu Ping sitting on the ground telling him, “Just go die. I don’t ever want to see you again.” Despite the amount of time that had passed, there was still a part of Xu Zheng that believed he was not good enough for his brother, and one day his brother would leave him without any notice like this, taking away all the light in his world and leaving him alone in the darkness.
Xu Zheng remembered that feeling, and he feared nothing more than it.
Dripping, he returned to the shore, despair, anger and fear roaring within him. He didn’t understand how all of this happened. His brother had been very good to him lately, doing many things with him that he could’ve never imagined. His brother opened his body to him. He could kiss him, hug him, with such intimacy and joy that Xu Zheng felt like he would explode like a bloated balloon. But the next thing he knew, Gege disappeared.
He furrowed his brows and clenched his jaws, the muscles on his face trembling.
And in that instant, he spotted his brother lying on the beach, eyes closed as though in slumber, and then a stranger bent over and kissed him.
For a few seconds, Xu Zheng stared bewildered at the sight, his muscles frozen solid. Many thoughts flashed through his mind, but they were messy and convoluted. Some not even Xu Zheng understood, but they all became one – Gege didn’t leave me. Gege has been stolen from me.
Half of the anxiety, fear and despair turned into rejoicing and the other half into rage.
Gege didn’t leave me. Gege has been stolen from me.
He lunged for the man’s neck and swung a fist at his face, sending blood spraying out of his nose.
When the man tumbled away from Xu Ping, there was still a look of amazement as he stared at Xu Zheng as though he couldn’t believe he had just been hit.
Xu Zheng stepped over his brother and grabbed the man’s shoulder, about to land another punch. The man snapped back and locked Xu Zheng’s wrist, joining him in a bout in the sand.
Ignoring the man, Xu Zheng pushed him down and planted punch after punch on his face.
The man was strong, and fists scraped over his eyes, drawing bloody tears from the corner of his eye.
But he felt no pain.
He felt the fire in his chest was about to boil his blood. His temples were pounding, and his head was blank except for one thought:
KILL HIM! KILL HIM!
They rolled around the sand locked in battle. The man’s fury seemed to have been triggered as well, and he fought back with a hundred and ten percent.
They eyed each other with wild, hatred-filled eyes, each plotting the murder of the other.
Never had Xu Zheng been this furious. He felt such fear at the thought of his light being taken away and hidden by this man, and of him living the rest of his life in pain, that he shook at his core.
He howled like an angered bear and leapt to strangle the man and push his head into the sand.
The man struggled away from the ground and spat out a mouthful of sand. “Xu Zheng!” he yelled hoarsely.
Xu Zheng clenched his jaws and continued hitting his face with no regards.
“Xu Zheng, your brother’s dead.”
Xu Zheng’s right fist stopped above the man’s nose, faltered for a second or two, and landed heavily.
The man coughed out blood.
Xu Zheng picked the man up by the collar and slammed him down again.
The man stared at him and whispered, “Xu Ping’s dead.”
Punches rained down on him, and it was as if he had given up on resistance. He curled up in the sand and hid his head behind his arms in silence.
After god knows how long, the assault ceased. A sweat soaked Xu Zheng began panting roughly, hands on his knees.
The man continued coughing intermittently on the ground, his lungs making a worn, deflated sound.
Xu Zheng slowly straightened himself, stepped over the man and came to Xu Ping.
“Rise and shine, Gege.”
He gently shook Xu Ping’s arm.
“Let’s go home, Gege.”
Xu Ping kept his eyes shut.
A little hurt, Xu Zheng chewed his bottom lip and considered his words.
“I was wrong, Gege. I shouldn’t fight. Don’t be mad at me.”
He grabbed Xu Ping’s hand.
“Let’s go home, Gege.”
His only answer was the sound of the waves sweeping the beach.
The man started sobbing on the sand.
As though unaware, Xu Zheng stared dumbly at the sand before suddenly kneeling down and kissing Xu Ping on the cheek.
Carefully, he studied his brother’s expression like a bad dog trying to please his owner.
“Is it ‘cause you’re tired, Gege?”
Xu Ping didn’t answer.
Xu Zheng lay down beside his brother. He turned to face him.
“You’re tired, Gege. I sleep with you for a bit.”
He nudged Xu Ping a little closer to himself and tucked his own arm underneath his head.
Xu Ping’s face was deathly pale. His lashes were tightly laced. Only his lips were slightly pink, but combined with the other things it only seemed inauspicious.
Xu Zheng felt that his brother was cold, so he took off his t-shirt and laid it on Xu Ping.
He lay back down and touched Xu Ping’s lashes.
Lovingly, he planted a kiss on his brother’s eye.
“Sleep well, Gege. We’ll go home when you wake up.”
The sky gradually darkened, the heavy clouds blocking the sun. Black clouds were gathering at the edge of the sea like the military ready for battle. Faint claps of thunder sounded from within the thick veil like war drums. What were missing were the strikes of lightning across the sky, and then the fat drops of rain would be unleashed and wreak havoc upon the world.
“Get up,” the man was now standing beside Xu Zheng and ordering coldly. “Let go of Xu Ping.”
He tried to reach for Xu Ping’s arm, but Xu Zheng opened his eyes and swatted him away.
He sat up and stayed defensive in front of his brother, glaring at the other man like a murderous wolf.
After a period of silence, the man spoke, “He’s dead, Xu Zheng.”
Immediately, as though his own words had stabbed him, he raised his head and trembled as he tried to hide his teary eyes.
Xu Zheng only stared back warily.
“He had a terminal illness. He came here with you only because he wanted to make some happy memories with you in his last days.”
As he spoke, he tried to reach around Xu Zheng to get to Xu Ping.
Xu Zheng swatted his hand away.
“He’s always been this way. He looked smart, he was good at school, but really he’s a stupid fool who didn’t know to do things another way.”
The man tried again, but Xu Zheng kicked him down.
“All these years, I couldn’t come back, so I asked people to keep an eye on him. I did something terrible to him, and it’s haunted me like a nightmare. I’ve been thinking these years that I’d stand before him when I had the fame and power and ask for his forgiveness. I’d give him things he’d never even dreamt of…the money, the status, the life…”
He struggled to climb to his feet. He dusted off the sand on his face and stepped towards Xu Zheng.
“Do you know how it feels to go to school in the day and work at night, only sleeping three hours every day? How it feels to work intensively for twenty long hours and get sent to the hospital for epileptic spasms? How it feels to bribe, threaten, blackmail and betray anyone you could betray just to climb up the ladder? How it feels to go against your sexual orientation and marry a woman you feel absolutely nothing for, and put on a facade of love every day in front of her rich father just to get funding?!”
He stood up tall in front of Xu Zheng.
“You don’t know anything,” he whispered. “You retard.”
With one kick he dislodged Xu Zheng, and then he dove for his neck. Xu Zheng began writhing.
He dodged Xu Zheng’s flailing arms, and as he applied more force around his neck, he said with narrowing eyes, “You were born as his brother. He loved you, cared for you, gave up everything for you, but what have you ever done for him?! You were born a retard who can’t even take care of himself. What makes you think you can keep him all to yourself? You’re not good enough for him!”
Xu Zheng couldn’t breathe, and his face was bright red. The man’s hands were like cuffs around his neck, and he waved his arms trying to knock him away, but the man evaded them easily.
“I’d finally…finally…” he began choking up. “I learned he had cancer and thought I’d take him away this time, get him cured and give him the best life. I kept telling myself, just hang on, just hang on, I’ll see him after your vacation ends and tell him I’m sorry, tell him I’ve missed him all these years, tell him I’ve contacted the best doctors who will definitely cure him, but…but…”
Xu Zheng felt a few drops of something warm falling on his face.
“It’s too late. It’s too late… Xu Ping’s dead. He was so weak, but he chose to go swimming so early in the morning. He must have done it on purpose. Aren’t you his brother? Didn’t you treasure him and love him so much? Why didn’t you keep an eye on him?! WHY?!”
The hands around his neck broke away at last. The man took a step back and fell back on the sand wailing with his hands on his forehead.
“You should just go die. Go die for Xu Ping and bring him back. He was so good to you. If you really see him as your brother, then go take his place!”
Holding his neck coughing, Xu Zheng slowly sat up and stared at the crying man before turning to Xu Ping.
He bent over and touched foreheads with Xu Ping.
He stared at his pale face and blurted, “Gege.”
He gave him a push.
“Get up, Gege.”
He shook his shoulder.
“Wake up, Gege.”
The other man looked up at Xu Zheng.
Xu Zheng shook Xu Ping. “Get up, Gege.”
He abruptly smacked Xu Ping across the face.
The other man went through shock and fury in a few seconds and quickly leapt up to stop him.
“What are you doing?! He’s dead already!”
“He is not!” Xu Zheng retorted in a roar.
“He is not dead. Gege is right here. I hear him talking to me.” He tilted his head to listen carefully. “He tells me, don’t be afraid. He asks me to wait for him.”
The other man widened his eyes and slowly released Xu Zheng.
Xu Zheng leaned down and called quietly, “Gege.”
He kissed one cheek and then the other.
The other man seemed unable to watch this scene and turned away, eyes raw and lips pursed.
Xu Zheng grabbed his brother’s hand and kissed every finger before placing the hand against his own face.
“Gege, I’m not afraid,” he enunciated clumsily. “I’m here, not going anywhere.”
“I’m waiting for you, Gege.”
He leaned in and kissed Xu Ping’s lips.
His voice wavered at the end like that of a hurt child.
His hair stuck out messily, and his face was black and blue.
With an arm he wiped away the tears that suddenly broke free, again and again.
“I love you, Gege.” He choked through the words that he had wanted to say. “Don’t leave me behind, Gege.”
A single tear rolled out of Xu Ping’s eye, across his temple and into the sand.
The tears kept flowing one after another and painted a dark circle on the beach.
Xu Zheng was still crying. It was the first time he ever shed tears.
Behind him a man was fumbling with his cell phone.
“…ambulance…yes, goddamn it, tell them I said so. Get a helicopter here this instant…”
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
ayszhang: And on to the grand finale...
Announcement: I will be taking a break from posting (but I will be around to answer any questions and read your lovely comments ^^) and will be back with (hopefully two) new stories for you to enjoy in May! The reason for this is because I am graduating with my bachelor's degree, and the last term is going to be a little bit hectic. I am also working hard to publish one of my translations of Korean literature in the Azalea journal, so that's also keeping me busy XD
Hope you will be back in May for the new stories! <3
Brother - English Translation by ayszhang is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.