PDA

View Full Version : Adventure of a US Girl in Ancient China (1)



xlwoo
August 23rd, 2015, 03:13 PM
[I forgot if I posted this novel here before. If so, tell me and I'll stop posting. Thanks.]



PrologueThe day broke fine and clear. The sun showed his ruddy face above the horizon and clambered out by degrees. His face then turned radiant and dazzling. It was the Valentine Day in 2004—the day for lovers to meet. Linda was a blonde with sky-blue eyes and a model's figure, exactly the type akin to a goddess in Greek mythology. She was a senior in a local high school in Bergen County, New Jersey, a girl full of fanciful whim. But she could still use her reason to deal with everything in reality and could restrain herself against impulses. She was also a cheerleader and a member of astronomy society in the school.
She had a telescope set up in her room at the window. Of a clear night, she would watch the starry sky, imagining herself flitting among the sparkling stars like an angel. She always thought that the sky was really her home. Her great ambition since a little girl was to be a woman astronaut so that she could travel in a genuine spaceship to explore the mystic outer space. She wanted to see everything in the universe in person, not just on science movies. Once she dreamt that she was hovering in the nocturnal sky and approaching a sparkling star. She knew that stars should be fiery balls like the sun. But when she got close enough, she found that it was an enormous ruby reflecting the light of other stars. She was about to take it into her hands when she was awakened by the alarm clock. It was time to go to school.
A certain astrologist told her parents that a girl endowed with such a spirit and temperament might magnetize some mysterious force in the universe, but Linda did not care. As a matter of fact, she longed for it so that she could have some unpredictable change in her boring routine life. She often manifested that a day passed in an exciting adventure was more worth living than a hundred tedious years.
Frank lived next door and was her playmate since childhood, and now in the same classroom of the same school. They went to school together every morning and came home together every evening. Their fellow students jested that Frank was the shadow of Linda as shadows cannot be separated from objects. Frank joined the school football team and every time he played in a contest Linda would cheer for him at the side of the court.
That day, they exchanged gifts, a box of chocolate for her and a new tie for him to wear on the prom night a couple of months away. They would soon graduate from high school. They might go to separate colleges as their interest in the life's goal was different, but they could still get together during the vacations and after graduation since the love between them was a strong rope to tie them together. The eternal separation for them seemed impossible in their opinion.
One day Frank took Linda out for a spin in his new convertible that his father had given him as a gift for his seventeenth birthday. They went to the highway and Frank drove at a high speed.
“Don’t drive so fast. You’re way over the speed limit.” Linda warned.
“Watch out for the cops for me.” Frank suggested, “It’s all right. Only eighty. Most people drive at eighty on this highway.”
Linda knew that she could not dissuade him. Frank was sometimes very stubborn. The late afternoon wind blew Linda’s long golden hair flying behind her like the tail of a comet. Frank seemed to accelerate in his high spirits. Linda had a last resort that she could take to make Frank listen to her.
“If you don’t decelerate, I won’t go with you any farther.”
“What do you mean?” Frank glanced at her face in doubt. He was at a loss to understand Linda.
“I’ll jump out.” Linda said calmly.
“You kidding?” Frank was surprised to hear it. He knew that Linda often did something out of his expectation. But this time it was too drastic. Before he could say anything else, Linda began to unbuckle her seat belt. Frank hastily lessened the speed, but when he turned to check on Linda to see if she had really jumped out, Linda was nowhere to be seen. She was not in the convertible. She was not on the surface of the road if she had jumped out. At that time there was not much traffic. She could not jump into the passing cars of other people. She just vanished into the thin air like the steam having evaporated.
He had to hurry back and inform her parents of the serious situation. They reported the accident to the police, who sent out the message throughout the nation, but Linda could not be found anywhere in the country.

xlwoo
August 24th, 2015, 01:48 PM
Chapter 1

Linda was sucked into a space tunnel by a mysterious cosmic force. She was in a state of dream. She dreamt that she was spinning in an airy whirlpool and feeling dizzy. She wanted to cry, but no sound escaped her mouth. She felt like being suffocated. She fell into a swoon. When she came to, she found herself outside a huge city in the broad daylight. She lay on a meadow half a mile away. She was not sure whether she was still in a dream or not. She pinched herself on the left forearm and felt pain. She closed her eyes and lay there for a few minutes longer. The sun shone on her face warmly and a gust of wind played on her long hair. It must be spring right now.
When she got to her feet she beheld people hurrying towards the city on the thoroughfare, which was paved with dry mud, and which, in her opinion, was too narrow, compared with the highways in America. All the people she saw on the thoroughfare were dressed in weird clothes, which looked like a kind of gowns. The gowns most people wore were shabby, in a single dull color of grey, blue or black. They were shod in cloth shoes with holes here and there, or in straw slippers. A few were donned in silk or brocade of red, green or colorfulness. No doubt, they were from rich families. Some horses with riders on them galloped towards the city and a horse-drawn carriage or two just rolled by in the opposite direction.
Linda walked among the poor people into the city. She was aware that mingling with these people, she looked weird, like a queer fish out of water. People around her looked at her, too. To them she was dressed in weird clothes: a denim jacket and pants of jeans with a pair of snickers on her feet.
She realized that somehow she had got into a strange land. She caught some broken words from the conversation between people around her. She decided that it was Chinese as she had had some Chinese girlfriends at school and had known a few Chinese words. And the faces she saw in the streets looked like those of Orientals. She wondered how she could have landed in China. Perhaps she had gone through the center of the Earth and emerged on the other hemisphere.
She strolled in the streets, not knowing what to do and where to go. She was a stranger in this big city. She could not guess what city it was as China had so many cities. She only knew Beijing, the capital, and Shanghai, the largest city in China. She wandered aimlessly. She estimated that this main street was fifteen feet wide, with shops lined on both sides. The shops did not have shop windows. They opened from wall to wall. She could look right into the shops and see what they were doing or selling. When she heard some striking noise like iron hitting iron, she looked into it. It was a blacksmith’s shop, swords and spears on the shelves against a shop wall and bows and quivers of arrows hanging on another wall. One shop displayed scrolls of colorful cloth, silk and brocade. A shop assistant was measuring a scroll of pink cloth with a ruler for a female customer. A confectioner across the street sold all sorts of sweets, from malt candy to sweetened dried fruits. One store she could not recognize, because it was an herb store (drugstore). Herbs were not supposed on display. There were cabinets with rows of small drawers in them standing against the rear wall. One kind of herb was stored in one drawer. There was a long counter in the middle of the shop facing the street and separating the shop into two parts. The shop assistants stood behind the counter and the customers before it. When a customer came with a prescription, a shop assistant would take the herbs one by one from the drawers and weigh them on a small steelyard to the right amount stated on the prescription. Every herb was put on a small piece of paper and wrapped up. Then all the wrapped herbs were laid on a large piece of paper and wrapped into a big package. So the prescription was ready to be picked. The Chinese herbs must be decocted in water in an earthen pot. No metal pot was allowed to use. It was said that the herbs might have some unexpected chemical reactions with the metal. When the water looked like a juice of a dark color, it was ready to be taken. The dark juice was poured into a bowl with the dregs left in the pot. The patient only drank the dark juice. The dregs were thrown away at night on the middle of the street just before the front door of the patient. It was believed that when a passerby stepped over the dregs left on the street, he would take the sickness away from the patient. As for whether the passerby would get sick or not, it was not known nor stated in this bad tradition.
Whenever she passed a restaurant, she could judge all right from the people sitting round tables covered with plates of food. For some she could easily find out by the cooking smell wafting out from the kitchen. Standing in front of a restaurant, a sudden feeling of hunger struck her. She looked at her watch on her left wrist. It was half past one. No wonder she felt starved.
Looking at the people inside busily swallowing food, she had wished that she could have eaten something in that restaurant, but she did not know how she could pay for the meal.
From the fact that there were no cars running in the streets, no public phones anywhere and no modern equipments to be seen, she concluded that she had plunged in a different period of times than hers—times much earlier in the human history. She had watched enough movies about time machines in America and had enough knowledge to draw such a conclusion. Although she had not entered any time machine, she had no doubt about it.
She had a 20 dollar bill in her pocket, but she was sure that she could not use it here. She felt the banknote in her pocket once more and fortunately she touched chocolate there. Frank had given her a dozen and she had six left. She took out one piece, and stripping it, put into her mouth. But she could not live on her chocolate for long.
She walked on and on till she came to a place where she saw some women dressed in ancient Persian clothes, which she had seen on TV when at home. She went up to them for help. But as she approached, she heard them speaking a language she did not understand. Those were the wives and daughters of the Persian merchants who came here to trade their goods. So they were speaking Persian. Then she noticed a young man in the crowd looking like an Englishman. She went straight to him and said “Hello!” He did come from England, though the words and sentences he was using sounded like from Shakespeare’s plays. Luckily she had learned some Shakespeare’s works in high school. So they conversed for a while. From him she learned that it was in the sixteenth century and the city was Peking, the capital of China in Ming Dynasty (1368—1644). She could not understand why the capital was called Peking, not Beijing. Maybe it was a dialect.
She asked, “What is the currency used here?” The young Englishman took out of his purse some broken silver and a few brass coins, each with a square hole in the middle so that the coins could be put on a string. People tied both ends of the string into a knot to form a coin ring. They would put an arm through the ring and move it up onto the shoulder. Thus it was easy to carry
Then he picked a big piece of broken silver from his open palm and said to her, “People just weigh the silver piece to decide its value. The basic unit is one tael, like a pound in English currency. They have smaller units, such as qian equal to one-tenth of a tael, and fen equal to one-hundredth of a tael, somewhat like shilling and pence in our system.”
Linda thought how she could get some silver bits to tide her over till she found a job. She doubted whether she could be back at home in the future. She might live in China in the sixteenth century for life. So she must work to support herself. She felt that she could trust in the young man and consulted him. He said, “You can work for my father, who is a merchant coming here from England. Can you read and write?” She nodded. “You can be his secretary. You look so smart.” He remarked.
The young man worked as a secretary for his father and he did not like this boring work. He aspired after adventures in a foreign land, wielding a sword, not sitting in an office and holding a quill all day long. Now he was happy to find a substitute.
They walked side by side while talking. Suddenly she turned her face to him and said, “Can I borrow some money from you? I'll pay back when I get my salary.” Then she added, “I want to buy some food.”
“You didn’t have your lunch yet?” He wondered. “It’s long past the lunch time.” He looked up at the sun in the sky, and fished a watch out of his fob to check the time.
“I don’t have money.” She pleaded.
“All right. I'll take you to a restaurant.” He observed. “It seems the first time you are here.”
“Yes.” She replied curtly.
“How did you come here?”
“I came with my father.”
“Where’s your father now?” queried the young man.
“Last night we lost our way in the mountains and met a tiger. My father fought with it while signaling me to run away. I don't know how my poor father is now, or even alive.” She said in her heart, “Sorry, dad.” She began to pretend to weep. Surely, she had every reason to weep for herself, not for her father, who was now safe in America in the twenty-first century. She herself was away from sweet home, now in a strange country and in a strange time.
She followed him into a restaurant. When at home, she had had Chinese food from time to time. So she was familiar with the smell and the taste. In fact, she liked Chinese food. She had some egg rolls and a bowl of wanton soup while he sat across from her, sipping tea. After she finished eating, he took her to his father’s house a few blocks away.