Sunday, 30 November 2008

nanowrimo 4

An unexpected interlude requiring more work...

The monk breaks into an even larger grin and bows in return. Together they walk back up the path, chatting in broken Chinese and sketching out the occasional Sanskrit word in the air in front of them in order to learn more about each other.

The monk's name is Geshe, Wei learns.

The monastery is larger than he expected. It is built of thick, whitewashed walls that seem to erupt from the earth itself, with small red-framed windows and ornamented eaves.

Li spends a few weeks with them, discussing the sutras, enjoying the debates that form the basis of their teaching style, and learning too about the strange beliefs that accompany their faith. Sometimes it seems like they do not follow Buddhism at all, but then a phrase or an expression will turn his misconceptions on their head and affirm their understanding of the Mahayana to be at least as deep as any Chinese priest. It becomes clear to him that their understanding of the psychology that Buddhism propounds is deeper than any school he has previously come across. Yet he can't help feeling culturally adrift, cut off from familiar practises and even his own language. Eventually it is time to leave.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

nanowrimo 3

More unpolished work...

The crowd is warmed and ready. They have listened to what has been said and know that it makes sense. They have seen the ghostly Christian missionaries come, offering their food and their books of magic to those fools willing to listen and lose their souls to the foreign magic. Big Brother raises his hands.

“These devil princes and their slaves carry weapons that we are supposed to be afraid of. They have defeated the weak armies of the Manchu's but they cannot withstand us. They cannot harm us. We are protected, because we are strong. We do not touch opium, or alcohol or tobacco. We refuse to become slaves.”

Ho'Er knows that this is his cue. His chanting becomes louder. He presses his hands together in front of his chest, his first fingers outstretched. Suddenly he leaps up with a scream and begins his demonstration, leaping with his own well practised kicks, his face an expression of possession and the demon he has become. Reaching the far end of the stage he halts, becoming still once more. The crowd cheers his skills and inside he feels their faith and strength. He has no fear as the young Red Lantern, springing on her tiny feet, climbs up onto the stage, a rifle slung over her shoulder. The crowd fall silent. Even those who have heard of this act are quiet, faced with the reality of the weapon.

The girl raises the rifle to her shoulder and swings it towards a clay pot carefully positioned on the edge of the stage next to Ho'Er. She squeezes the trigger and a firework pop is followed by the sharp crack of the clay collapsing, pieces flying with the bullet's impact. Ho'Er increases the speed and volume of his chanting once more. The crowd is as still as he is. The Red Lantern tilts the weapon towards him and he looks again into her eyes. This is not the first time he has looked down the barrel of a loaded gun, looked into the eyes of the one aiming it at his heart, but he does not have any fear. He knows that he cannot be harmed. Even if there has been a mistake and the bullet loaded into the gun is real the gods know that he is fighting for them and they will protect him. She pulls the trigger.

Smoke pours like liquid from the barrel. Ho'Er raises his hands and turns to the crowd triumphantly. They are cheering him, cheering Big Brother, cheering the Red Lantern girl. Nothing can defeat them.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Nanowrimo 2

“That's right. His full name is King Earth Treasure of the Great Vow. Do you know what the Great Vow is?”

The two boys shake their heads.

“He is the most perfect of the Bodhisattva's. He resides in hell to try and bring enlightenment into even the worst of hearts, the most terrible of places. He has forsaken his own Buddhahood until he is able to bring all beings, even those so lost in hell that they can never be freed, to enlightenment. He was born a young girl who prayed for her mother to be released from hell after she died. Finally Buddha granted her wish to go to hell to see where her mother was. Her mother had already been released, thanks to the girl's efforts in accumulating merit, but while there she saw the great suffering of all the other beings trapped there and made her vow. Are you capable of such a vow? Can you strive to learn from King Earth Treasure and bring enlightenment to all beings?”

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Nanowrimo 1

It's Nanowrimo time, so rather than write something new I'm going to pick something from the novel I am writing and upload it. Unfortunately, with only two days done, there's not so much to choose from yet, but it proves I'm doing something.

His life recently has been an increasing spiral of change that has wound him tighter and tighter until he thought there was nothing more that he could see, or feel; the shifts from joy to sorrow have been so rapid, as in the blink of an eye, that he no longer feels certain as to who he is anymore. Since the death of his father nothing has been certain; he knows this from when he has caught his mother crying to herself, when she thinks he has not been nearby, or overheard conversations she has had with his uncles and aunts that are now long behind him in Guangzhou. He has even lost those few friends he thought he had to come to this cold, dark town.

His mother comes forward and pats him on the shoulder as the gate is opened to the outside and his uncle gestures to him to follow. Outside a breeze catches down the street, cutting through his clothing even deeper than before. The road is edged with snow that is stamped into the blackened and muddy road.

“Keep wrapped up warm.” His mother calls to him from inside the doorway. He turns back with what he hopes is a smile of confidence. He sees the lacquered scripts fastened on the wall on either side of the door: Long life, happiness, prosperity. Those all feel a long way from him.

In front of the steps are four men dressed in greasy padded jackets, straw hats tied on firmly against the wind, blowing through clasped hands to try and loosen them and keep them warm before the journey begins. There are two palanquins waiting for them. Master Li gestures for Wei and young Li to get into the one while he pulls open the door for the other, pausing only to ensure that they are safely aboard.