Rising Sun

           The old man stood on the balcony, his strong hands gripping the rail as the wind blew his thick white hair about his

face.  His back was straight, his head carried high as he gazed across the city below.

         She watched him for a moment then joined him.  Her peacock blue dress danced around her as she stepped outside.

  “Ba ba, what do you see?” she asked.

        “I see lights in the city,” he said.  “People all around.  Life everywhere.”

        She smiled.  It was the city of long ago, the city that no longer existed.  It was the city he last saw. 

       The earthquake had been the worst ever recorded on the Richter Scale.  In a matter of minutes, it had destroyed what had been his home from the day of his birth.  Everything had fallen.  Thousands of people died.  What the quake didn’t destroy, the tidal wave took with it to the sea.  The Mainland had suffered the most.  The Great Buddha was dust.  The Emperor’s Palace was rubble.  The Great Wall disintegrated in places, leaving huge gaps along its once unbroken path.  Temples and statues, thousands of years of tradition, of life vanished.  Along with it, millions of lives were lost.  A great portion of what had once been China now lay a mile beneath the surface of the ocean.

     She breathed in the clean, fresh air.  Trees and plant life now grew below as if to bury the painful scars and with them, also bury the bodies never recovered.  What miracle had saved her, she didn’t really understand.  She had escaped, alone, afraid, uncertain where to turn.  A boat filled with refugees carried her to the shores of the island and, with them, she had stared in horrified realization that Hong Kong was also gone. 

        She had found him wandering among the ruins in search of what he could no longer see.  He couldn’t tell her what happened.  He remembered the shaking of the ground, the shattering of glass, the twisting of metal, and the screams.  Something hit him and when he woke in the debris and his own blood, his eyes were dark.  What she saw, she was glad he couldn’t.  She knew how much he had loved his city, his people.  She feared the truth would kill him.  She had led him to the peak, the last refuge for those few who survived. 

      Her grief had been short for she knew she had to be his strength and for the fifteen years since she had done so with the guiding hands of a loving daughter he had once denied. 

     Once a king, still a king, but his kingdom was gone.  It survived only in his mind.  He ruled not a country, but a purpose, a hope, an empire built from poverty by determination, desire, strength, and courage.  He had been loved by many, given much not only to his home and people, but also to others.  He had given them everything.

      She took a deep breath.  “Ba ba, your dinner is ready.”  She saw the faint nod to acknowledge he had heard.

     Slowly he turned and walked to the table.  He was ninety.  Learning to live blind hadn’t been easy for him.  It had taken patience to teach and encourage him that all was not over simply because his sight was gone.  She knew what was in his mind, but those skills he possessed would serve him no purpose.  There was nothing left to use them on.

      He ate slowly, his head cocked to one side as if he listened for something.  She wondered what; the telephone, voices?  Their world had gone silent.  There was no communication from the outside and she often wondered if there was anyone left except the few who lived on the peak.  She sipped her tea with a catch in her throat as a tear fell down her cheek. 

       He set his cup on the table and turned to her.  “Why do you cry, daughter?”

       She felt her smile.  He had taken to calling her daughter with his acceptance that he was blind and that she was willing to be his guide.  “How do you know?”  she asked.

      “I hear your tears,” he said.  “like water trickling in a stream.  Why do you cry?”

       She shrugged.  “I guess it is just one of the bad days.  My mind is too idle.  I think too much when that happens.”

       He lowered his head.  “There are times,” he said, “I think I see what I know is gone.  My mind wanders to the past.  I feel lost.  What kind of man was I?  I did not pay my family and friends enough attention.  I did not take good enough care of them.  It makes me cold.”

     “Ba ba,” she said, placing her hand on his sleeve.  “It was nothing you could stop.  No one could.  Even the experts were caught off guard.  There was no warning.”

      “I still should have lived my life as if this could happen,” he insisted.  “Now it is too late.  They are gone and I cannot tell them what was in my heart”

     “You can tell me,” she said.

     His hand covered hers.  “Yes, I can tell you.”  He turned in his chair and she knelt by him and looked into the deep brown eyes that had captivated so many.  “What we did, your mother and I, was wrong.  I betrayed my wife and then tried to cover it up, hide it and pretend it wasn’t true, but truth cannot be hidden.  You were born.  I did my duty to you to see you had all you needed, but still I was blind to you.  Everyone suffered for it, you most of all.  That is something I can no longer turn from.  How can you stay and take care of me after what I did?”

        She took his hand in hers.  She loved him so much.  “Because you are my

Ba ba,” she said. 

      He caressed her hair.  “Forgive me.”

     “I forgave you long ago,” she said.  “You need me and I am here for you.  I promise you will never be alone, Ba ba.”

     Together they walked through the gardens and along the peak in the cool of the evening.  They shared a cup of tea and she kissed him goodnight.  She slept peacefully and rose with the sun.  She fixed his breakfast and went to call him.  He lay on his side, his hand under his face as always, but there was a peacefulness about him she had never seen before.  Slowly she approached and laid her hand on his cold cheek.  Sinking to her knees, she laid her head on the bed and wept.


Comments:
 
TongFengDeMao   TongFengDeMao wrote
on 10/15/2008 6:47:33 PM
Oh, gosh! How sad! Beautifully written. Works beautifully as a vignette, not quite a story. Is this independent or part of something longer? With the reference to Hong Kong, I'm guessing it's an alternate present/future, rather than an alternate history.

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