THE END OF YOUTH
The car made a sudden sharp turn and charged onto the road. Bai Luo Yin’s deep heavy breaths faintly echoed with the spine chilling feeling that raced down his back. He could feel his heartbeats pounding chaotically in his chest, beckoning to rush out. The beating gets louder and louder to the point that he could clearly hear the cacophonous thrumming rhythm. The sound was intolerable as his breaths get deeper and deeper by the second. He swung his head to the side to look at Gu Hai.
“What’s wrong with you today?”
Gu Hai turned stiffly like an old rusty machine and smiled cunningly, “I’m not completely awake yet.”
Noticing that the street ahead was a straight line with fewer vehicles presence, Gu Hai heaved a sigh of relieve for a moment. It does not matter that the brakes were not working properly, he could forcibly decelerate by shifting the gears from one to the other. Calming himself, he shot Bai Luo Yin a glance from the corner of his eyes only to discover that Bai Luo Yin was looking straight at him with a bit of restlessness and impatience drawn in his eyes.
“Gu Hai, I don’t know why but I feel really nervous.”
At those words, every single tightened muscle on Gu Hai’s face suddenly loosened up as he deliberately slowed down his speech and adjust it to a warmer tone just to console him. “Everything’s okay. You were just scared a moment ago. You’ll feel better after I tell you a joke.”
“Okay, tell me.” Bai Luo Yin faintly said, somehow unenthusiastic.
Like the incoming spring days after a harsh winter, a warm, gentle and relaxed smile drew silently on Gu Hai’s lips, “Close your eyes first.”
“Why do I need to close my eyes?”
“You have to close your eyes to listen to this joke.”
Bai Luo Yin does not know what farcical scheme Gu Hai was trying to conjure but welling with curiosity, he complied and closed his eyes. He thought to himself, if he was going to fall into a trap then he might as well fall properly since at best it would just be a surprise attack and nothing else.
“It is said that there’s a village with a constantly high fertility rate……”
Gu Hai said calmly while shifting to the second gear and lifting the clutch to loosen the throttle which immediately decreased the speed of the car.
Sensing the gradual change of speed, Bai Luo Yin was about to open his eyes but Gu Hai started to speak again, “One day, an official from Tianzhen county went to this village with the intention of spreading knowledge about contraception. He brought a box of condoms with him and taught the villagers how to use……”
Hearing that Gu Hai was still talking, Bai Luo Yin let his eyes remained closed to the darkness that was stretching out in front of him. Although he felt that something was strange, he reasoned that Gu Hai had urgently pulled the brakes because there was another car ahead.
Gu Hai silently took in a deep breath and waited for an opportunity to shift into the first gear before he slowly pulled the handbrake up. Then he carefully tightened and loosen it intermittently as to avoid any making any sudden noise……
“Then two years later, some officials went to the village again for an inspection and discovered that the village still had a high fertility rate.”
Just as the car was about to come to a complete stop, a massive logistic trunk suddenly emerged at the speed of light from an intersection. In just seconds, it directly swept by the front of their car.
“Do you know why?” Gu Hai asked as thick beads of cold sweat dripped down his forehead.
Bai Luo Yin shook his head, “Why?”
“A man said this to the official: ‘I listened to your words and wore it every day, but I discovered that it was impossible to pee if I have it on so I cut the tip of it off.’”
Hearing those ridiculous words, Bai Luo Yin scoffed and immediately burst into laughter.
Meanwhile, someone was crossing the street and the massive truck ahead of them abruptly pulled the emergency brake. It was so sudden that even if Gu Hai wanted to turn the steering wheel to evade it, it was already too late.
“What’s the difference between closing your eyes or having it open just to listen to your joke?”
Just as Bai Luo Yin was about to open his eyes to look at Gu Hai, he suddenly felt a powerful and violent force like that of a thousand militant horses galloping majestically on the wasteland charging towards him. In a split second, his head swung intensely to the side, nearly crashing into the solid glass window. Although the clear sky was not in his view, he could vividly feel it spinning and flipping uncontrollably with the earth. Loud droning noises then blitzed into his ear and rung in complete pandemonium before a heavy object pressed firmly on him, making it impossible for him to breathe normally.
When he finally opened his eyes again, all he could see was Gu Hai’s face plastered in front of his……along with the blood that dripped down rhythmically. Each droplet was magnified clearly in his vision, bringing a sense of utter devastation to his insides.
Bai Luo Yin’s face turned a deathly pale–he could almost feel the white in his cheeks as the blood drained. His hand ashen as he held dearly onto Gu Hai’s face with both of his trembling hands. He pressed his palms lightly into Gu Hai’s face as if trying to keep his head from falling out of his hands while his fingers tapped it softly in an attempt to wake him up. At first, his voice hid deep in his throat but as the blood slid onto his hand, he shouted for Gu Hai.
There was no response.
Gu Hai remained silent and even his closed eyes showed no sign of movements.
When Bai Luo Yin shifted his gaze from Gu Hai’s face for a moment, he was met with a frightening scene playing out in front of him that made his heart suddenly stopped.
There was a rear-end collision between two cars, causing the front part of the car to be severely damaged. A broke steel plate sharp enough to shatter the windshield to pieces pierced straight into Gu Hai’s back as if it posed no resistance while his shoulder and head suffered the most lacerations.
But……he came out almost completely unscathed aside from the small scratches on the back of his hands.
Although the driver side was also destroyed, the damage was not as severe as what the passenger side has sustained. If Gu Hai did not rush over to shield him at the last minute, he would have not suffered such an extremely parlous injury.
Since the accident occurred on such a bustling commercial district and the car that struck them was the city’s public vehicle, the driver ahead does not have the guts to flee from this perilous responsibility. He quickly got out of the vehicle and examined the situation at the rear before dialing 120.
Feeling extremely distraught with the situation and worried that the car would explode, the driver quickly rushed over to help Bai Luo Yin out. And, just as quickly, he and Bai Luo Yin tried to pull Gu Hai out only to discovered that Gu Hai was being jammed tightly in place by the steel plate that struck him. Breathing heavily while trying to calm himself down, the driver rushed to the trunk of his vehicle and grabbed some tools. When he returned to help again, he was stunned by the scene drawn in front of his eyes.
Bai Luo Yin used his bare hand to pull the steel plate that was blocking Gu Hai’s escape. His five fingers were soaked in blood, making it hard to see where the deep cuts that produced it start and where it ended. But what was clear was that two of his fingernails were slowly peeling off then it was broken completely as he exerted more strength.
For the sake of getting Gu Hai out of the wrecked car as soon as possible, Bai Luo Yin ignored the throbbing pain that tore his skin and nerves.
When the road was finally sealed off, Bai Luo Yin sat in the middle of the street holding Gu Hai tightly while waiting for the ambulance to arrive. At once a fountain of red came from the wound on Gu Hai’s back, ebbed and flowed in time with Bai Luo Yin’s terrified heart. His hands were dyed in red as it pressed lightly on the wound, trying to prevent any more from leaving Gu Hai’s body but his efforts were wasted. The blood continued to slide down and mingled harmoniously with the blood from his own wounded hand before dripping endlessly on his pants. A pool of blood that was part congealed and dulled to a reddish brown soon formed around them.
The pain that welled in Bai Luo Yin’s chest tore his heart to pieces as he tightened his hold on Gu Hai’s bleeding, unresponsive body. The despair surged with every expelled breath he took, always reaching a higher peak, never sufficiently appeased by his long intakes of the fresh spring air.
“Gu Hai, Gu Hai……”
Even when Bai Luo Yin’s voice became hoarse from shouting his name, Gu Hai still did not show any reaction.
The driver that stood nearby watching them, carefully said as a reminder to him, “You should put him flat on the ground. Holding him like that is dangerous.”
As if deaf to all the noises surrounding them, Bai Luo Yin does not hear what he said. He held Gu Hai firmly against his chest, unwilling to loosen his arms and allowed no one to come closer.
There was never any other moment in his life that made him felt so frightened and helpless as he is now. Once he picked his head up and glanced around, only the unfamiliar faces of strangers appeared in his eyes.
Who can help us? Who can wake him up? Who can stop his bleeding? Who can prevent the passage of time from flowing and allow hope to remain as long as possible, forever even……
“The hospital called just now. They said since it’s rush hour, the ambulance is blocked by traffic on the road here.”
As if he was being struck by a series of lightning bolts, Bai Luo Yin’s eyes heated up. He lowered his head to look at Gu Hai, feeling as though his heart was being cut out and torn apart.
“Which way is it coming from?”
“From the east……hey? Hey, what are you doing?”
The worried driver questioned him intensely trying to get an answer while the crowd around them shouted with fear-drenched in their voices. But Bai Luo Yin heeded them no attention and let the noises remained behind him with every step he took forward.
By now, there was already a long traffic jam going towards the eastern and western roads. But none of that mattered. He simply carried Gu Hai’s bloodied body on his back and charged ahead. As he ran madly along the right side of the road with vehicles that constantly moved and stopped, a trail of blood and tears spilled out from the corners of his helpless eyes and stained the ground.
Gu Hai, nothing must happen to you! We were famished for so many days and still managed to survive. We’ve overcome the desolate feeling of isolation from our families and found joy in spite of the suffering thrown at us together. The things we should bear and the things we shouldn’t have to, we’ve already bore them all. Open your eyes and look, we’re only one step away from happiness!
Da Hai, Da Hai……do you hear me calling you? Just answer me once, please just answer me once! We’ve just bought our SUV a few days ago, there are still so many places we haven’t gone to yet. Listen to me….in the future, we don’t have to be scared anymore when we travel afar…. we won’t miss those beautiful sceneries anymore.
Gu Hai remained unresponsive as his head rested on the crook of Bai Luo Yin’s warm neck. Every time Bai Luo Yin’s heavy footstep met the ground as he ran, Gu Hai’s face would rub against Bai Luo Yin’s cheek again and again. The temperature of his cold, nearly lifeless body decreased a bit at a time with the frequency of Bai Luo Yin’s breaths.
All pretense of quiet grieving was lost. The world ahead turned into a blur, and so did the sounds. Bai Luo Yin felt his heart skip a beat as he tightened his own on Gu Hai before more tears traced down his cheek, and just like that, the floodgates opened once again. So many tears burst forth like water from a dam, spilling down his dirtied face. His chin trembled in fear and his breathing became heavier than before. He was strenuously gasping for air that seemed to escape him as his throat burned, forming a silent scream. But, with everything seemingly against them, his worn-out legs were still speeding ahead……
Da Hai, your body can’t cool down like this. If your limbs turned to ice, what should I do?
By the time Bai Luo Yin’s legs became numb and lost all sensations, a few medics were rushing towards them. They carefully took Gu Hai off his back and urgently lifted him into the ambulance.
Bai Luo Yin’s legs buckled and his knees weakened before he collapsed at the ambulance door. His complexion was deathly white as large beads of sweat rolled down along the side of his cheeks.
As he listened to the sounds of the doctor’s footsteps quickening and various equipment echoing all around him, Bai Luo Yin’s body began to tremble uncontrollably…… There was an emptiness in his heart and numbness pounding his brain. And, as the salty tears continuously ran unchecked from his face, he could sense the sheer nothingness that now took hold of his soul threatened to engulf him entirely……
At this moment, he suddenly realized that in his mind, Gu Hai has always had the strong body of an immortal being. All of his so-called courage and fearlessness are all firmly built upon this unwavering foundation. The reason he dared to say those harsh and passionate words in front of Gu Wei Ting back then was not that he did not fear that Gu Hai would die, but rather it was because he simply believed that Gu Hai would never die.
Moreover, in Bai Luo Yin’s consciousness, sickness has never visited Gu Hai before. His healthiness was eternal, ingrained deeply in him and he never needed to be taken care of.
In the past and even unto this day, Gu Hai has always been the one to take care of him. When he was sick or suffered even the smallest wound, he would bustle about just to take care of him. In the depth of the night, he would always keep his hands and feet warm. When he was trying to cook, wash clothes, or buy breakfast……
His energy and spirit always seemed endless as if he has never stayed up with him all night as if his daily routine always lasted several more hours than his……
And so, when Gu Hai collapsed into his embrace and doesn’t wake up no matter how much he cried and called out to him, Bai Luo Yin’s faith was completely shattered.
It seems, he is not immortal after all. He can also be wounded. He can also be weakened. He can also sleep and never wake up.
As it turns out, I’m so afraid of his death……so afraid to the point that I will never hesitate to give up everything in my possession in exchange for his life, so long as he can survive.
The traffic jam did not improve at all. But just as all the medics were feeling helpless about the situation, a helicopter suddenly appeared in front of everyone and snatched Gu Hai’s life—that was hanging on a nearly translucent thread—back from the hands of death.
The emergency room light was on the entire time.
Bai Luo Yin’s tears have long run dry. He could feel his mind waning…again. He could feel it slowly unraveling, the threads of every happy memory he could ever recall, all but disarray of strings scattered about his feet as he looked at Gu Hai’s blood painting his hands red.
When Gu Yang finally arrived at the hospital, the person that stood before him was covered in dried blood and had no sign of life whatsoever.
After a long time passed by without any exchange, a doctor walked over, “He is out of danger for the time being and has been transferred to the intensive care unit.”
Bai Luo Yin’s pallid lips trembled, but no words came out.
When he turned around, Gu Yang was standing behind him.
“You actually wanted to kill me, didn’t you?”
Although Gu Yang’s voice was not pressed with urgency nor relaxed, it appeared to be drenched in seriousness inside that tranquil corridor.
“You’re a very dangerous person. If you stay beside Gu Hai, you’re bound to destroy him.”
“Were you constantly trying to give me a good impression of you so that I would let my guard down around you? Or could it be……you’ve made up your mind to get rid of me a long time ago, but your conscience made it difficult for you to go through with it so you wanted to compensate me in advance?”
Hearing those stern words, Gu Yang did not give him an answer.
After a long time, Bai Luo Yin spoke again, “Thank you for giving me such a nice hairstyle before sending me off.”
An undercurrent of darkness surfaced in Gu Yang’s eyes as he remained still and silent amidst everything.
When Bai Luo Yin walked by Gu Yang, his legs stopped involuntarily.
“If Gu Hai wakes up and asks for me, you can just tell him I died.”
A burst of cold shivers suddenly erupted in Gu Yang’s heart. Just as he was about to turn and say something, Bai Luo Yin’s silhouette had already disappeared from the end of the corridor.
The good impressions that I expressed towards you were all real but I’m sorry, he is my most beloved brother.
Bai Luo Yin went to the market for the first time to buy vegetables and meat before carrying it all back home alone. He turned the fire on the stove for the first time to make stir-fry and beef stew. He busied himself until the sky slowly changed from a vibrant blue to a dark lonely night. When the last plate of food was served on the table, the first plate has already turned cold a long time ago.
Standing silently in front of the dining table, Bai Luo Yin stared attentively at it for a minute. Then he grabbed his belongings and left this place forever.
In the dead of night, when the twilight faded to blackness, Bai Luo Yin stood alone on a large bridge and shouted until his voice became hoarse: “Gu Hai, I love you!!! Gu Hai, I love you!!! Gu Hai, I love you!!!…”
Gu Hai, I love you.
He screamed those words into the night over and over again until the awful hollowness and waves of wretchedness in his heart burst. His tears flowed freely before his knees collapsed on the cold stone surface of the bridge.
Gu Hai, I’m actually a coward. I’m afraid of loneliness, afraid of traveling far, afraid of hurting my family and those close to me……but because I met you, I’ve become stronger.
That is why you have to live properly for me!