a-life-in-the-day-cover
FICTION

A Life in the Day

A wife trapped in an abusive marriage seeks help—and makes a shocking discovery

0

Mrs. He had been abused. She sat in the park, phone in hand, scrolling through the calendar.

The weather was unbelievably good, the grass as green as could be.

1

Mrs. Huang walked by her.

Huang: Oh dear!

She knew what went on in her neighbor’s home. She took out a fine silk scarf, and wiped the blood from He’s face. “He hit you again? What happened?”

He: I don’t know. He went crazy over nothing.

Huang: There’s always a reason, otherwise why would he hit you?

Huang continued: When my husband goes off, I just go along with him. It’s not easy for men working out there. When they come home to let off some steam, just ignore them. Finish your own chores, so there’s nothing for him to take issue with. My household is peaceful and democratic; we don’t encourage violence.

He’s wound hurt, and she didn’t feel like answering. She left to go find her own friends.

On the way she saw a car accident. The driver was busy on his phone, calling in his connections, as a sanitation worker bled out under the wheels of the car.

2

Mrs. He saw Wenzhu, and tears poured down her face.

He: Wenzhu, I’m so scared. Saisheng beat me again. Me being hurt is one thing, but he let Pearl watch. Pearl was so scared that she cried.

Wenzhu: He’s crazy!

He: I want to get a divorce.

Wenzhu: That wouldn’t be good for you. You don’t have a job; if you leave, he’ll probably get custody of Pearl.

He: I have reasons; would I still lose my own daughter?

Wenzhu: You have reasons, he has money.

He: He works to earn money, but I work so hard at home, so shouldn’t I get a portion of our assets?

Wenzhu: There’s no law that says so.

He was pained. “We just do different jobs, but my work doesn’t count. So housework isn’t economic activity, only profit counts? This isn’t what we learned in school.”

Wenzhu felt bad for her friend. They’d both been educated well and found good jobs. But the burden of keeping a house and raising her daughter was too great, and He had to quit. After that, her husband looked down on her.

3

He’s mother heard, and called.

Mother: Saisheng says you haven’t been home all day. Where’d you go?

He could only cry.

Mother: Aie…

She knew how things were with her daughter.

Mother: There will always be conflicts between husbands and wives. You just have to give and take a little, and things will clear up.

He: I want a divorce.

Mother: You’re old, who else would want you? What will your daughter do? Dear little Pearl! As a mother, how can you stand it?

He: I’m afraid.

Mother: Women are weak by nature, but as a mother, you must be strong. Hang in there and you can get past anything.

He had nothing to say.

Her mother asked carefully: Did… you do something untoward?

He was baffled.

Mother: I was just asking. If you didn’t, that’s good.

He hung up the phone, and switched to her calendar, scrolling through it aimlessly.

4

The sky was slowly getting darker. Mrs. He didn’t dare go home. She’d left in a hurry, and hadn’t brought her wallet or keys. The complex had a resident’s council; she could go there to try her luck.

She hadn’t gone far when she saw a group of women in the courtyard, drinking tea and cracking sunflower seeds.

Woman A: In Building E5, he beat her up again.

Woman B: Oh no… what did she do?

Woman A: No idea.

Woman B: Mrs. He is quite good-looking, and reads a lot, but no common sense. Last time I went to buy vegetables, I saw her buying a big-head carp for 15 yuan a pound!

A: Fifteen yuan! She didn’t haggle? You don’t get by like that.

B: She had a super-expensive designer bag, and had powdered her face. Someone like that doesn’t bargain.

The woman was both indignant and envious.

A: You’re right, she loves dolling herself up. Now that you bring it up, I think she has a lover on the side!

B: Really?

A: I think I’ve seen him, tall and thin, often comes around during the daytime. You know, that might be the reason that her husband’s beating her!

B: What a shameless woman! She deserves it—he should beat her to death! Do you think it’s true, though?

A: Yeah! Mrs. Huang suspects it, too.

The two women exchanged a look, both letting out a scornful “hmph!”

He had overheard it all, and was furious, but more than that, she was frightened.

She could rely on nobody.

5

She decided to go to the police.

Two officers were chatting on the street, leaning against their patrol car.

She sobbed as she told them about the details of the abuse, her voice growing softer and softer.

Because she knew from their relaxed posture and amused look that they didn’t intend to help her.

She started from the top: “My husband’s been beating me, I need the law’s help.”

The officers exchanged looks, and their attitudes became even more taunting: “The law can’t help you.”

He: Why? Am I not a citizen?

One of the officers gave her a playful salute. “The law doesn’t protect citizens like you.”

6

Suddenly she heard a scream from a nearby alleyway.

There was a tall, dark shadow, holding a big knife, approaching a girl and pulling her to the ground by her hair.

Mrs. He gulped a breath of cold air: “My God….”

She grasped the office’s hand: “Over there!”

The officer looked over, but just stayed leaning on the car, unflustered, unmoving.

He: What are you doing! He’s committing a crime! He’s…He’s…

Her face turned red as she heard the sounds in the alleyway.

The look on the officer’s face was one of detached pity.

He took two steps back, feeling something wasn’t right.

“This can’t be happening...it can’t be.” Her eyes were full of tears. “My husband abuses me, nobody feels for me; my mother looks down on me, other women blame me; even the law isn’t on my side. You cops won’t even stop a crime when it’s happening in front of you…This can’t be real.”

She looked around in the gathering dusk, mumbling.“This surely isn’t real…”

7

Beeeeeep…

“CONNECTION LOST DUE TO FAULTY LOGIC.”

“SWITCHING TO HOST PERSONALITY.”

8

The dust faded slowly, revealing a concrete ceiling.

Two prison guards waved a flashlight, checking his pupils.

A guard joked: “Mrs. He, do you know where you are?”

“This is…”

As soon as he heard these two words come out, he shut his mouth.

This wasn’t “her” voice.

It was a deep, raspy, masculine sound.

Why was “he” a man?

He looked down in fright, to see an orange jumpsuit and manacles.

The guard finished checking his body, and ticked a mark on a form. “You can go back and sleep now.”

A cement ceiling, iron bars, coldly smiling guards…He got up to run, but the guard turned around, and shoved him back into the prison chair.

“Don’t you want to go back and be Mrs. He some more, He Saisheng?”

Hearing the name “He Saisheng,” He trembled.

That’s right. He remembered. He wasn’t Mrs. He—that was his wife. He was…He was serving a sentence.

And in the long row of prison chairs before him lay convicts of all kinds.

He recognized the careless driver in the accident; the scary man from the alleyway.

They were deep in sleep, eyes spinning rapidly.

The entire room had the atmosphere of a nightmare.

9

[SYSTEM SELF CHECK]

[CONNECTING TO SECONDARY PERSONALITY]

[SCENE NO: 638]

[23 DECEMBER, 2052. TIME: 08:05 AM]

Mrs. He had finished busying about, and finally was able to sit down at the dining table. Saisheng had already flipped through today’s paper with cigarette in mouth.

Mr. He: Whoa, the government developed a chip that can implant someone else’s sensory inputs and memories in your brain, so you can immerse yourself in what they went through. Something this cool—and they’re using it in prisons?

Mrs. He: Oh?

Mr. He: Extract the victim’s memories, and immerse the perpetrator in them. An eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth.

Mrs. He didn’t approve at all: That was Hammurabi’s code. Eye for an eye, both people just end up with one eye.

Mr. He: You’re a real saint, huh? Long on hair but short on sense. If you ask me, this is how it should be.

10

The Alternate Chip allows a person to be implanted with the sights, sounds, and even memories experienced by another. One can be immersed in another’s experience, and it’s currently widely employed in the penal system.

Complicated sentencing guidelines are a thing of the past: Extracting the memories of a victim—and implanting them in the perpetrator—is the most extreme form of punishment.

An abuser becomes a victim, experiencing their own abuse.

A reckless driver becomes a traffic fatality, crushed under his own car.

A rapist becomes an innocent girl, assaulted by himself.

Sometimes a judge will decide an eye for an eye isn’t enough, and add to the severity of the sentence, using data to manipulate the surroundings of the convict.

He Saisheng’s sentence had been “Hell.”

He went back to his cell, thought about all he’d been through, and sobbed. When he’d been beaten by the man in his wife’s memories, he was petrified.

But his sentence had only just begun.

Written on the wall, his time remaining was as long as the years he’d abused his wife.

“My husband abuses me, nobody feels for me: my mother looks down on me, other women blame me; even the law isn’t on my side.”

This was Hell.

0

Mrs. He had been abused. She sat in the park, phone in hand, scrolling through the calendar.

The weather was unbelievably good, the grass as green as could be.


Author: Wang Shuo (王说)

Wang Shuo (@Ezreal-500金) is a “Big V” opinion leader on Weibo whose identity is verified by the microblog platform and given VIP status. With over 750,000 followers, Wang writes short stories, mostly romance parodies, and published an anthology, Bedtime Stories (《睡前故事》), in 2016.


A Life in the Day is a story from our issue, “Cloud Country.” To read the entire issue, become a subscriber and receive the full magazine. Alternatively, you can purchase the digital version from the App Store.

SHARE:


Translated By

Moy Hau is a contributing writer at The World of Chinese.

Related Articles