Aktualisiert: 17. Dez. 2020
Xie Lian is controlled by his parents. He is never asked for his opinion, nor has he ever been able to make a decision for himself. He‘s supposed to excel at business for his father and at ballet for his mother, but the two of them don‘t get along. They argue a lot, and more often than not Xie Lian‘s caught in the middle of it all. As somebody whose free will never properly developed, he cannot cross or refute them in any way, and simply lets himself be crushed between the two destructive forces. Year after year after year, he takes everything, quietly, defenslessly... but a vessel that keeps filling up without being emptied has got to irrefutably burst sooner or later.
After a long and exhausting week, he comes home to his mother stumbling around drunk. When she sees him, she suddenly freezes. Her expresson drops, and without warning, she throws a glass bottle at him. Shocked, he dodges just in time. He tries to calm her down, hands trembling with fear, but this results in the exact opposite: Now up close, she strikes him hard and he falls to the ground. Still dazed, he reacts too late as his mother grabs her thin scarf and wraps it around his neck, pulling firmly at the two ends.
His throat contracts and in a flash of pain, Xie Lian‘s ability to breathe is cut off. Eyes bulging, his vision flashes with red as he frantically grabs his mothers wrists, but it is no use. In a last struggle, he reaches around himself with one hand and discovers the neck of a shattered bottle. Without thinking and with his consciousness slowly fading, he rams the jagged edges into his mother‘s stomach.
In an instant, the deathly tightness around his neck loosens and allows him one desperate, hoarse breath of air. Convulsing and coughing, Xie Lian rolls over and grasps at his injured throat, still trying to see past the stars and flashes in his vision. As if through mist, he sees his mother clutching at her bleeding stomach, not seeming to entirely process the situation.
At this exact moment, the sound of a door falling shut sounds through the living room; the father had come home. As he steps foot into the room, the first thing he sees in shock is his wife lying on the floor in a puddle of blood and his son‘s hands wrapped around a spiked bottle, also covered in blood. The father‘s short temper doesn‘t allow him to even utter a word: the next thing Xie Lian knows is that he is roughly shoved against a wall and shaken violently at the shoulders. When his dazed condition doesn’t let him answer fast enough, his father‘s rock-like fist suddenly snaps his head sideways and makes his entire body fill with maddening, white-hot pain.
Finally, his vision goes entirely red. Even though he isn’t being strangled, he still feels like he can’t breathe. Dripping saliva and blood from his torn lips, he raises his hand. There is movement, impact, a scream... then he blacks out.
When he next wakes up, he finds himself in a hospital room, alone.
He tries to move his head, but instantly a searing flash of pain shoots through his body. Mouth open with shock, he tries to relax back into the white pillow and wait for somebody to come. Memories of before he blacked out gradually return and drain the blood from his face. Fright starts to numb his body. What...what if he killed his parents? He‘s already an adult, if just barely... what‘s going to happen to him?
As these questions consume his consciousness and make him tremble, suddenly the sliding door to his room opens. Without thinking, his head snaps around to the sound. The movement is immediately followed by a stabbing pain, but he manages to ignore it. He sighs in relief when from behind the mint-colored curtain, his best friend and confidant Shi Qingxuan steps to his bed.
When she sees that Xie Lian is awake, her eyes widen and immediately fill with tears. As Lian predicted, she starts bawling on the spot and blubbles a stream of nonsensical words.
“AHSJUIBLIAANANNOMGDOYOUKNOWHIWNNNNNUUHHHOWWORRIEDIWAS????XIELIAAAAAANYOUYOUYOUOOHHHHWUHUUUUU“ and throws herself at his lap in dramatic fashion.
Xie Lian can only force a small, apologetic smile. He briefly thinks and wonders if he can speak... he opens his mouth and tries. To his relief, even though it hurts and his voice is soft and hoarse, he can speak.
„Qingxuan... what‘s going on? Are my parents...“ he trails off and hopes that his best friend knows what he‘s meaning to ask.
Qingxuan sniffles and wipes her nose before looking... not at him.
Oh no, please no.
Without her having to say a single word, Xie Lian‘s heart drops to the bottom of his stomach. Shi Qingxuan‘s reddened eyes search through the empty space of his room, obviously avoiding his question. This obviously means something very, very bad.
Xie Lian‘s parched lips tremble slightly as he utters his next question.
„Are...are they still alive...? Shi Qinxuan, what did I do to my parents???!“
He almost loses his temper at the end, and only the swelling pain in his throat tells him to calm down.
Finally, Qinxuan looks at him, face full of apprehension and hesistation.
„Xie Lian... calm down and listen. I know it wasn‘t your fault, okay?? No matter what, I believe in you. I know how they usually hurt you, this time, you...
Xie Lian, your mother is in critical condition, your father died yesterday. I‘m... really sorry.“
Qingxuan says more consolatory words after that, but Xie Lian doesn’t hear them.
As he tries to process Qingxuan‘s words, his head starts to spin and ache with a dull, throbbing pain. As Qinxuan notices that something is amiss, she calls his name and panicks as he is unresponsive and starting to gasp for air.
Immediately, she screams for a doctor, then comes back to plead at him to look at her, to calm down. She holds his hand, but Xie Lian can‘t feel anything, his wide eyes suddenly spin backwards in their sockets and he loses consciousness once again.
With the help of Shi Qingxuan, he was able to testify that he had defended himself against assault and attempted murder. He served a few months on probation and got out soon on good behavior... but he was changed. There was no more joy within him, nothing that could fill him with a sense of being alive. His soul had died.
One day, on the way home from university, he walked past a box on the sidewalk which said „free to take“. Inside it were a bunch of boring-looking novels, CDs and old cassettes. Normally Xie Lian would have walked past something like this immediately, but one cassette caught his eye. It looked rather new and was blood red, all over. The case was red, the cassette was red, even down to the label and tape. It looked like it had been crafted out of pure blood.
Not even conscious of his own actions, Xie Lian reached down into the box and pulled it out. He only started when he already held it in his hands. He realized he didn‘t really want it, but he thought he‘d look silly if he bent back down to put it back, and it was free anyway, so why not take it.
With those thoughts, he stuffed the cassette into his bag and was on his way.
Back home, he ignored the tape until a few hours later when he emptied his bag and it fell out. Amongst his white and inconspicuous textbooks and folders, it was extremely eyecatching, almost beckoning to him. Xie Lian couldn‘t ignore it any longer, grabbed it and sat down in a chair to examine it more closely. Opening the translucent case, he took out the crimson cassette and turned it in his slender hands. On the red label stood one single word in spiky-looking black letters: CALAMITY.
Huh. Sounds pretty edgy, Xie Lian thought.
He wasn‘t much of a music-listener, he didn‘t even own a pair of headphones. Since he was technologically such an outdated guy, he happened to still own a cassette player. He got it out of storage and plugged it in, making the little green display light up for the first time in probably a decade. Fumbling with the buttons a bit, he figured out how to operate it and put in the cassette. Since there was no label other than the one that said CALAMITY, there was no way to know which was side A or B, so he just put it in randomly.
Reaching to press play, Xie Lian didn‘t notice that he had turned the volume all the way up. After pressing the little triangular button, a blood-curdling scream shot out of the speakers and seemed to stab Xie Lian‘s ears, startling him so much he almost fell backwards out of his chair. Frantically, he grabbed the volume knob and turned it all the way to the opposite side. The scream left as fast as it came and left Xie Lian staring at the player dumbfounded and with his heart beating out of his chest.
Question marks started forming inside Xie Lian‘s head. Was this even music, or some kind of sick joke?? Did he perhaps discover crucial evidence of inhumane torture, or even a violent murder?
Still breathing a bit irreglularly, Xie Lian took the cassette out again, this time equipped with a pencil and carefully wound up the dark red tape around the two little wheels. When he put the cassette back in and pressed play again he braced himself, but what came this time wasn‘t the cries of the damned, but after a while of empty running, the sound of an electric guitar. Xie Lian breathed in relief; so it was music after all.
But just barely, he found. After listening to the tape for a while wearing a complicated expression, the most of it was still just painful-sounding growling noises and demonic, incomprehensible screaming. The musical accompaniment was also just compromised of violent guitar strumming, void of any decency or elegance; the drumming sounded like indiscriminate banging and striking. Everything resulted in a deafening cacophony, assaulting the ears and making the listener want nothing more than to turn this noise off.
But Xie Lian couldn‘t.
The more he listened, the more he forgot the room he was sitting in, the more he forgot about his deadlines and assignments, the ballet practice, his merciless professors, his waning friendship with Shi Qingxuan, his ruined reputation, his aimless life... the more he forgot himself.
The more he listened, the more he heard subtle melodies, breaks inbetween the incessant wildness, like the distinct rays of golden sunshine inbetween black thunderclouds... the more he heard lament, anger, insanity, remorse, desperation inside the lead singer‘s voice, making him feel like he was listening to a reflection of himself... his innermost, truest self. He heard longing for peace, he heard accusations and curses, and a deep abyss within the soul... but he couldn’t tell if it was the singer‘s or his own. The two seemed to melt together, connected by something invisible, imaginary, unreal.
Without noticing, Xie Lian seamlessly put on the other side of the tape. His consciousness had long since left the dim living room he was sitting in and was exploring visions of blood, tragedy, salvation and damnation from inside his imagination. The sounds he heard dictated everything: a scream was slaughter, a guitar solo was a war, a quiet verse was a boat in a still ocean... Xie Lian saw himself in everything, killing, being killed, being torn apart limb by limb, being saved by an unknown figure impersonating the faceless singer‘s voice... being protected, crying, laughing, being forgiven... being forgiven.
Xie Lian didn‘t know how long he had been sitting in his chair, long after the sun had set. The cassette player was quiet. Only the little display was still blinking idly.
Xie Lian finally seemed to return to reality when he felt a small, warm sensation on his forearm. When he looked down, he spotted several liquid droplets running down over its curve. Shocked, he touched his cheeks and brought his fingers back wet.
He was crying.
From both his eyes, large, hot tears flooded over and streamed down his red cheeks without stopping. Dumbfounded, he tried his best to wipe them away, but more would just come to wet his face again. Finally, Xie Lian put his hands down and let himself cry.
When was the last time he cried, he wondered. He hadn‘t cried when his parents had died, and never since. So why was it that now... after all this time of inner petrification, what was it that had awakened this within him? What was it... that had made him feel again?
Dazed, he stared at the cassette player... and slowly, a gleam seemed to enter his eyes. This tape... it had to be this otherworldly music. I want to...listen to it again.
So Xie Lian flipped the cassette and listened to it again... and again, and again, and again. Each time he heard more, the intensity of his experience heightened until at the end, he was laughing with ecstasy and screaming in despair in immediate succession. He banged pots and ladles together, drummed chopsticks against the table trying to imitate the drummer... he jumped up onto the counter, danced in a crazed manner and almost twisted his ankle jumping off. He flipped his chairs upside down, danced more and heaved his entire upper body up and down, up and down with the rhythm of the music.
He was completely intoxicated by it.
It only took its end when at three fourty in the morning his neighbor came knocking and complained about the noise. Answering the door was a completely drenched and ghastly-looking Xie Lian. Still, through hoarse heaves of breath, he managed to politely aplogise and promise to turn the music off.
Immediately after he shut the door, Xie Lian stumbled into his bedroom and collapsed onto his bed. He drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep and didn‘t wake up until the afternoon of the next day. He had missed all of his classes, but for once, he couldn‘t care less. After he had taken a shower and changed clothes, a completely unknown eager overcame him. With glowing eyes and flushed cheeks, he held the crimson tape in his hands like it was something holy. This music... CALAMITY... he had to know more about it.
Little did Xie Lian know, this little red tape he had randomly picked up from the street on a gray autumn day would change his fate and life forever.
—TO BE CONTINUED—