Hu Dong stirred on the green grass he lay upon. He sat up and looked around him. He felt disoriented but fascinated by the landscape; the place was surrounded by different shaped hills of green and red, which seem to be floating in midair. The air was filled with the fragrance of wildflowers and the sound of birds singing. He opened his hand and looked at his small guide who wriggled awake.
‘Where are we now? Where have you brought me?’ Hu asked the genie. He looked to the right and saw a waterfall shimmering in the distance, the mist from the crashing water blown into the air by the wind. Beyond the waterfall, there was an open field, where a garrison of soldiers was preparing for battle. But they all looked different from each other. Some were in monk robes bleeding from their heads, some were bare-chested with fresh wounds on their shoulders. There were women with their eyes gouged out and young babies attached to their breasts.
‘We are on the way to Shambala. It is your past that is coming back to you.’
‘But who are they?’ Hu Dong pointed with his hand to the direction of the open field. ‘They look like an army garrison preparing for a battle. But every single one of them appears to be wounded.’
‘The injuries those people have were inflicted by you. I sense that you haven’t been a good man. They are the victims of your deeds.’
Hu Dong pondered for a moment and then looked towards the waterfall. The garrison seemed to be on the move, blue and yellow flags fluttered in the air from tall masts.
‘I was following orders. I was told to show no mercy. It wasn’t my intention to harm them. How can I escape them?’ Hu Dong asked with a repenting voice, keeping his eyes in the direction of the waterfall. The sound of trumpets and beating drums floated towards them as the soldiers marched.
‘You have to bear the fruit of your deeds,’ Thebrang declared in a firm voice. He stood up in the palm and his features were becoming more recognisable and his voice sounded human.
‘But for the moment we still have time, so we shall continue our journey.’
The small genie leapt on to Hu Dong’s shoulder and pointed to the direction of a small green hill far in the distance and commanded,
‘Let’s run away from your fate while we can.’
Hu Dong started to run, the wind blowing in his hair. The ground was soft against his bare feet. The grass was a luscious green and the hills in the sky were gently moving. As he ran along, he turned his head towards the little man on his shoulder and asked,
‘How far do we have to go?’
The noise of the drums was barely audible as they approached a field of colourful flowers. He stopped briefly before walking through it. The smell and the beauty of the flowers mesmerised him. They felt fragile against his hand as he touched them a colony of butterflies took to flight. Once he reached the middle, the flowers started to move around and away from him dragging their roots, leaving a big crust where black sticky earth was exposed. With Thebrang on his shoulder Hu Dong realised that he couldn’t move, his feet were stuck to the ground, with an audience of flowers watching him. Now and then the flowers turned their heads to stare at each other and then back at the man stuck on the ground.
‘Do something. I can’t move.’
Hu shouted to his companion, who was holding on tight. As he was struggling to free himself, there was a loud buzzing noise and the flowers stopped moving. He looked up to see a giant bee flying straight towards him, it circled overhead a couple of times and then paused, hovering mid-air, staring right at him. Suddenly, it moved into action with its sting out ready to kill.
Hu shouted, ‘Go away, you ugly insect.’
He called to the genie, ‘Do something! Get me a weapon.’
A white light flashed from the tip of Thebrang’s fingers and a brightly glowing sword materialised in Hu Dong’s hand. He waved it at the giant insect, which buzzed away, turned around and flew in to attack again. Hu managed to lay low watching the massive sting as it narrowly missed him. The bee circled back and flew towards Hu again, but he ducked aside at the last minute, and the bee hit the sticky ground. It buzzed its wings frantically. Hu seized the moment and sliced the sword through it. A green slimy liquid gushed out of the lethal wound onto the earth. The rest of its body struggled on the ground with its big legs kicking in the air before finally becoming still. Almost immediately the flowers rushed back to their places once again. The corpse of the dead bee disappeared under the moving flowers. Hu Dong, now free from the earth, walked out of the field with Thebrang on his shoulder.
The white sword was glowing in his hand; with it, he felt safer and stronger. He began to think of Thebrang as his friend, and it felt good to have him on his shoulder. They reached the edge of the land that dropped off like a cliff into space. Below them, billowing white clouds floated in the void and among the clouds in the distance was a stupa of white marble.
‘This is the gateway to Shambala,’ announced Thebrang finally.
‘But how do we get there? I can’t see a bridge,’ Hu Dong responded.
They could hear the sound of chanting prayers and clashing cymbals coming from the stupa. The sky above them was clear and the breeze cool on the skin. Tentatively, Hu lowered his legs over the edge and tried to feel with his feet, but it seemed to drop away into a great emptiness. He climbed back up and walked along the edge, searching with the sword trailing from his hand. His friend on his shoulder wore a melancholy look as he declared,
‘The rest of the journey depends on your destiny.’
The little man jumped down from Hu Dong’s shoulder and stood on the ground. Hu knelt in front of him to continue their conversation, but Thebrang announced,
‘This is where we have to part.’
With those words, the small guide disappeared into thin air.
‘Wait, wait…’ Hu Dong called out in earnest, but it was too late.
A sense of loneliness welled up in his chest. He looked at the sword in his hand; this was to be the only protection he would have from now on.
He saw a spot coming towards him from among the clouds. As it got closer, it turned into a dragon. It flew out of the clouds, spreading its wings, with a shriek that echoed around the hanging hills. It glided around in the sky before landing near Hu Dong.
Hu kept his sword ready and approached the dragon cautiously and then spotted that it had reins and a saddle. He gently stroked the animal and, holding his sword between his teeth, mustered up the courage to climb onto its back. He held the reins for a moment, then gave it a little tug. With a giant leap over the edge, the dragon took flight and glided over the clouds in the direction of the stupa. He could see far into the distance, evermore green hills were dangling in the air. He looked back to the place he’d just left, it too was hanging in the air.
There was a certain joy in Hu Dong as he approached the gateway of the stupa; it appeared bigger and bigger as he drew closer. The enormous stupa doors were made of gold, studded with sparkling precious gems that reflected the rays of light brightly. His face was shining with glee, the wind was blowing in his hair and flapping shirt. He slipped the sword into his belt.
The dragon abruptly stopped in midair with a violent jerk as though it had crashed into an invisible barrier. Then, to Hu’s horror, from the clouds ahead of him he saw rows of winged yaks fly at them with menacing horns. The sky above them was filled with blue and yellow flags and the soldiers he had seen earlier in the open field were riding the yaks. They were gradually coming towards him. The troop stopped a short distance away. The sky fell into silence, only the occasional grunt of the yaks and the dragon’s breath could be heard.
One of the wounded monks, who rode a white yak, flew a few feet above them. He grabbed a horn trumpet that was slung across his shoulder and blew into it. A deep, long noise rang out through the sky. The moment the noise ceased, the soldiers charged towards Hu Dong with their silver swords drawn, screaming their war cry. Hu pulled hard on the dragon’s reins, steering it the other way trying to escape but he soon realised he was surrounded. So, he grabbed his sword and charged towards the enemy line. The arrows shot at him passed by, narrowly missing him. Then, a bare-chested man flew towards Hu and brought his sword down on him. He protected himself with his sword; there was a shower of sparks as the two swords clashed. He managed to divert the man away and had enough time to dodge the next attacker, a woman with a menacing club in one hand and an infant still suckling at her breast in the other. She swung her club again and it landed on his shoulder, sending him tumbling along with his dragon. He struggled to regain control for a moment, then he rose back up with his head ducked low on the dragon. The sky around him was full of the winged yaks and flying arrows. With each move, the dragon avoided the incoming missiles.
The monk that had sounded the first battle horn, bore a wound on his head that dripped blood down his chin and onto his hands. His eyes were closed, and his lips were moving silently reciting a mantra. He then blew into his hands and threw them open towards his enemy on the dragon. A big ball of fire shot out leaving a trail of smoke in the air and hit Hu Dong full on his chest. He fell on his back on the dragon as an immense pain shot into his heart. In the sky above him, he saw the bare-chested man jump down onto his chest followed by more of his opponents, monks and warrior women. He couldn’t feel anything; he could only make out that as he was attacked, again and again, each of his opponent’s faces became blurry before vanishing, and the clouds were rapidly passing by as he fell into darkness. He started to see the stars revolving in space and suddenly he shot out of the cave and came through the ceiling of his own house landing heavily on his bed in a cloud of dust.
After a while, he opened his eyes and looked at the ceiling. The noises from the street outside came to him through the window. He sat up and looked around the room strangely; it was empty of any other living soul. He called out to his wife,
‘Kunchok, are you there?’
There was no response. So, he got up and walked across the room; the floor was thick with dust and spider webs hanging from the beams on the ceiling. He looked at the pictures in the frames on the wall. The husband and wife were smiling at the camera.
He shouted for his brother-in-law. The living room was heaped with upturned furniture, the contents scattered and filled the place. He struggled through the clutter of tables and beds to get to the door, only to find it was locked from the outside. He banged on the door several times and looked around the house wondering where his family had gone. Then something caught his eye; on top of a pile of dusty papers was a newspaper clipping, a page from Xinhua China Daily with his picture, inset with pictures of his wife and brother-in-law. The heading read; ‘Respected Communist Party member missing, wife and her brother arrested.’
While clutching the newspaper he kicked open a window and climbed through. He limped down the street towards the police station.
(Thank you very much Fiona Crowe and Varsha Naik.)
Go to Part 1 of “Thebrang — The Tibetan Genie”.