About the Author: Zhu Yue, born in 1977, a lawyer turned writer and editor, has published three short story collections: The Blindfolded Traveler ( 《蒙着眼睛的旅行者》), The Sleep Master ( 《睡觉大师》), and Chaos of Fiction ( 《说部之乱》). A philosophy enthusiast, Zhu published “Random Thoughts of Philosophy”, collected in Diversification: 2010 Analytic Philosophy ( 《多元: 2010 分析哲学卷》).
A woman gave birth to a son. When the son grew to be ten years old he wanted to study sword fighting, so his mother found a way to get pregnant and secretly gave birth to a little man. The man matured with speed, became a master swordfighter and the son’s sword fighting instructor. Once the son had learned to be a brilliant swordfighter he said goodbye to his teacher and in an instant the instructor aged and died.
Not too long after this, the king went to war with the Persians. The son wanted to join the king’s army. The mother asked him to wait briefly. She secretly got pregnant and gave birth to a mare. It grew quickly into a big and tall horse. Then she gave birth to two warriors to be her son’s guards. Right before her son left, she gave him a precious sword. The sword was also produced by her.
The war continued for years. Eventually the king’s army was defeated by the Persians. The son survived under the protection of his guards. He sent them home and went off to explore the kingdoms. On their journey home the two guards instantly turned into skeletons on horseback.
The son drifted. He felt lonely. His mother was pregnant again. She gave birth to a little girl. The little girl immediately matured into a pretty young woman. Soon the son and the girl met and fell in love. But on the night of their wedding, when the girl removed her clothes and lay down on the bed, she melted into a puddle of sludge. Holding the goop in his hands, the son gawped at it in confusion. From then on he became odd and reclusive. His spirit withered and died and he decided to become a monk. But no monastery would take him. They said he carried an air of evil.
This time his mother gave birth to a friar. This friar was a master theologian and he soon built a monastery and appointed himself director. The son was accepted and earned a stay. He locked himself in a dark stone room. He saw no one and said nothing. He ate little food and drank little water.
Decades passed. The son was confused as to why he had not died. So the mother gave birth to a small black shadow. A whirlwind swept passed and the shadow grew. It grew into Death balancing a sickle on its shoulder. When the director of the monastery saw Death he turned into dust. Ever since, Death has knocked on the stone room door.
“The Son” is a short story from our newest issue, “Mental Health”, coming out soon. To read the whole piece, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the iTunes Store.
Part 2 is here.