Two brothers, whose names I will not now disclose, were long ago good primary school friends of mine. Being separated, news of them steadily decreased as the years past. A few days ago I heard that one of them was very sick, and as I was planning on returning to my hometown anyway I made a detour to check on him. But I was met by only one person, who proceeded to tell me the stricken was his younger brother. He apologized for the inconvenience of my trip, but said his brother had already recovered and left to become a minor official in some other area. This made him smile and he took out two of his brother’s diaries to show me. Being a gentleman and old friend, he gave them to me and stated they demonstrate his brother’s past condition. I carried them home, and after reading them knew that what he suffered was a type of “persecuted madness”. The writings were jumbled, without order, and contained many fantastical claims. Dates were also absent, and it was only the presence of different shades of ink that hinted it was not the work of one sitting. Present within were connections among some writings, and I’ve gathered these into one to give to doctors to research purposes. Not one grammatical mistake within the diary was altered. Only the names of a few villagers unknown to the outside world were changed because it had no impact on the whole. In regards to the title, the protagonist himself came up with it after his recovery and I see no reason to change it. Written on the second of April in the seventh year of the Republic.
This evening there is bright moonlight.
It’s already been more than 30 years since I’ve seen him; seeing him today made me especially cheerful. It was only then I realized that the last thirty years have been complete darkness. I need to be especially cautious, otherwise the Zhao’s dog might not even bother to pay me any attention.
I fear there’s meaning in the dog’s eyes.
Tonight is completely without moonlight and I know that’s not a good sign. This morning I was careful going outside. Old Zhao looked at me in a strange way--almost like he was afraid of me, or that wanted to hurt me. There were seven or eight others huddled together whispering about me, smiling at me with their mouths wide open. A chill swept down from my head to the soles of my feet, for I knew their plans were already in place.
I’m wasn’t afraid of them and continued on my way. Ahead was a group of small children also talking about me; their iron-colored faces looked at me with the same gaze as Old Zhao. I wondered what enmity the children and I could possibly have that would cause them to look at me in this manner. Being unable to contain myself, I said in a loud voice, “Tell me!”. They immediately scurried off.
I thought about all possible enmities Old Zhao and I could share, as well as with those whom I ran into on the road. There’s only one thing: an incident from about 20 years ago, when I stomped on Mister Ancient’s Book of Aged Flowing Water. Mister Ancient was quite sore about it. Though Old Zhao doesn’t know Mister Ancient, he certainly must have heard of the incident and is now expressing anger on his behalf. He arranged for everyone on the road to point bitter fingers at me. But why the small children? They were not yet born when this happened; how can they now look at me with strange eyes, like they’re afraid of me or want to hurt me? This truly frightens me, surprises me and saddens me.
I know. Their parents must have taught them.
I never can sleep at night. All things must be studied before they can be understood.
Those people I saw yesterday--some of them have worn the magistrate’s cangue and slapped by gentlemen, others have had their wives violated by officials and their parents hounded to death by creditors. Yet in comparison to when these things were happening, yesterday the looked more terrified and far more ferocious.
The strangest thing yesterday was the woman I saw hitting her son on the street. She said, “Big man, huh! I’m going to bite you a few times to let my anger out!” The thing is... she was looking at me. I couldn’t conceal my horror, and that group of rat-like fiends all began to laugh at me. Old fifth-brother Chen hurried forward and forcefully guided me home.
Everyone in the house pretended like they didn’t know me after my return. They wore the same expressions on their faces as those I had just seen outside. They put me into the library, left and locked the door in the same manner as they would shut a chicken or duck in its cage. I was left feeling even more unsure as to the meaning of this.
A couple of days ago a tenant from Wolf Village came back to share the news--he told my elder brother that the villagers beat a big villain to death. A few of the villagers, wanting to become braver, cut out his heart and liver, fried them with oil, and ate them. After hearing this I interrupted them, and both the tenant and my elder brother looked at me for a moment. It was then that I realized their gazes were precisely the same as those I had seen earlier on faces outside.
When I think about it, a chill sweeps down from my forehead to the soles of my feet.
If they can eat people, then there’s no reason they couldn’t eat me.
Observe the woman’s “bite you a few times” talk, the laughs of that group of ratty fiends together with the tenant’s story, and it’s clear that a signal is being sent. I can see the poison in theirs words and daggers in their laughs. Their teeth, lined up, glitter white--these are folks who eat people.
It’s my opinion that, although I’m not an evil person, ever since I stomped on that great family’s book it’s difficult to say one way or another. It’s like they have other thoughts, ideas that are completely foreign to me. In addition, they’re quick to call somebody a villain. I still remember my elder brother instructing me in the ways of rhetoric. It didn’t matter how good a person was, he would immediately draw a red circle around opinions I formulated myself; if I wrote a few sentences forgiving a bad person, he would say “What a skilled person, different from all the rest.” I was able to guess what he really meant by his words, and this is when he wanted to eat.
All things must be studied before they can be understood. I can still remember, though not very clearly, that people have eaten human flesh since ancient times. I flipped open the history book, one that doesn’t mention which years it covers, and each crooked page has the words “Humanity, Justice, Virtue, Morality” written all over it. I read the book closely late into the night, I couldn’t sleep anyway. Finally, I saw between the lines that the whole book was filled with two words: “eat people”!
For all the words written in the book, and all the things the tenant said, they’re all actually grinning at me with strange, wide gaze.
I’m also a person. They would like to eat me!
I sat silently for a while this morning. Old fifth-brother Chen brought me food--one bowl of rice and one of steamed fish. The fish’s eyes were hard and white, the way it mouth hung open was the same as that group of people hungry for human flesh. After a few bites the fish became so slippery that I didn’t know if it was fish or human, and I threw up everything I had eaten.
I said: “Old fifth-brother, tell my elder brother I can’t stand the stuffiness in here. I want to walk around the yard a bit.” Old fifth-brother started to leave without answering, but then stopped a minute and opened the door.
I also didn’t move. Having studied their methods of manipulation I knew that they would certaintly be against releasing me. As expected! My elder brother led an old man with eyes filled with fury slowly into the room. Being afraid that I would notice, he kept his head pointed towards the floor and looked at me quietly from behind the corner of his glasses. Elder brother said, “You look very good today.” I answered, “I am.” “I brought Doctor He here today,” elder brother continued, “to take a quick look at you.” “Sure,” I answered, as if I didn’t know that this old guy was acting the butcher. He was simply using the premise of examining me in order to appraise the quality of my meat. For his labor he would get a piece of my flesh. I was not afraid; even though I don’t eat people I am actually braver than they are. I stretched out two fists and waited to see how they would do it. The old man was sitting with his eyes closed. He rubbed my wrists for a minute and then paused. Finally, he opened his evil eyes and said, “Don’t have crazy thoughts. Rest up in peace and quiet for a few days and you’ll be better.”
Don’t have crazy thoughts, rest in peace and quiet! Rest until I’m fat and then they’ll have more to eat, but what good will that do me, how will I “be better?” On one hand, these people want human flesh, on the other hand they want to cover it up--not being daring enough to just do it they search for a method to disguise it. I’m going to die from the comedy! I couldn’t contain it and started laughing loudly--it felt great. I knew that inside those laughs were righteousness and justness. That righteousness and justness crushed the old man and my elder brother, draining their faces of color.
But my bravery makes them want to eat me even more, so that they can absorb some of it. The old man strode out the door but before going too far said to my elder brother in hushed tones, “hurry up and eat!” My elder brother nodded in response. So you’re in on it too! This huge discovery, although unforeseen, was not completely unexpected. My elder brother is part of the group of people who wants to eat me.
My elder brother eats people.
I am the brother of a person who eats people.
Though I may be eaten by others, I am still the brother of a person who eats people.
In the last few days I took a step back in my thinking. Hypothetically, even if that old man wasn’t a butcher pretending to be a doctor but actually was a doctor, that doesn’t change the fact that he is still a person who eats human flesh. That book, Medicine something or other, that the forefather of all doctors Li Shizhen wrote clearly states that you can eat fried human meat. Can you still say that you don’t eat human flesh?
As far as my older brother is regarded, it is not like I’m slandering him. He himself told me, while he was giving me lessons, that it is okay to “trade children for food in times of distress”. There was another time when he unexpectedly started discussing a bad person. He said that not only should the person be killed, but that his “flesh should be eaten and his skin made into blankets”. I was still quite small at the time remained jumpy for a long period afterwards. When the tenant from Wolf Village returned a few days ago to tell us about eating a man’s heart and liver, elder brother didn’t show the slightest sign of thinking this was strange; in fact he didn’t stop nodding his head. It’s clear that his thoughts are just as cruel as they were before. Being that it is acceptable to “trade children for food in times of distress”, then anything can be traded, anything can be eaten. Before, when I listened to him speak of reason, I was confused and let these things slip past. Now I know that when he spoke of reason he not only had fat from flesh smeared over his lips, he mind was also packed full with thoughts towards eating people.
Pitch black. I don’t know whether it’s day or night. The Zhao’s dog has started barking again.
Ferocity of the lion, timidity of the hare, cleverness of the fox.
I know their methods now. They don’t want to simply kill me; they wouldn’t dare because they’re afraid it will bring evil spirits upon them. Everybody’s working together to lay a trap with the purpose of driving me to kill myself. Observe the way the kids looked a few days ago and how my brother’s been acting these past few days, and it’s pretty clear what’s going on. The ideal outcome would be for me to undo my belt, drape it over the rafters, and hang myself. They could realize their wishes without being labeled murders, and they’ll of course rejoice, letting out laughter disguised as sobs. If I were to die frightened and worried, although I’d be a bit thin, I’d still be able to nod my head a few times.
They can only eat dead meat! I remember that in a book I saw there was this thing called a “Hyena”–both its appearance and glare were very ugly. It would methodically bite and swallow the rotten meat off of even the largest of bones--just thinking of it is enough to make people frightened. The “Hyena” is a relative of the wolf, and dogs are in the same family as the wolf. It’s clear by how the Zhao’s dog looked at me two days ago that the matter has already been discussed and it’s in on the plan. The old man looked at the floor, but could he fool me?
The most pitiable one is my elder brother. How is he not afraid—he’s a person too—and how could he be part of the group that will eat me? Is it that we’ve become numb to it and don’t think it’s wrong or is it that we’ve lost the goodness in us and we clearly know what we’re doing is wrong?
If I curse people who eat human flesh, I will start with him. If I can persuade people who eat human flesh to change , then with him is where I must begin.
Actually, they should already understand this reasoning by now…
A person came out of nowhere. He was about 20 years old–I wasn’t able to get a good reading on him–and his face was covered with a large smile. He nodded at me; his smile didn’t look genuine. Then I asked him: “You’ve come for eating people, right?” He maintained a smile and said: “There is no famine this year, how could people be eaten?” I knew immediately that he was part of the group. My courage increased hundred-fold, and I really wanted to ask him.
“Why would you ask this kind of thing. You really can… Joke… The weather is really nice today.”
The weather is good, and the moon is very bright. But I want to ask you: “Right?”
He didn’t agree, and sputtered out, “No.”
“No? Then why did they eat?!”
“That never happened…”
“It never happened? Wolf Village just did, and it’s written in the books too, like it was just written yesterday!”
His face changed and became black as iron. With wide eyes he said: “There has happened before, but it’s always been like this…”
“Does that make it right?”
“I’m not going to speak about these things with you. You shouldn’t talk about them, and you’re making a mistake in doing so!”
I jumped up with wide eyes and this person was gone. My whole body broke out in sweat. Although he is much younger than my elder brother, they’re still part of the same group. This must be something he was taught by the elders. I’m worried that he’s already taught his son and even his small son now looks at me with fierce eyes.
You want to eat people but you’re afraid of other people eating you. Each individual looks at the others with extremely suspicious glances.
When thoughts of this are banished, it becomes so simple to have confidence when walking outside, eating, and sleeping. This is just one stumbling block, one door to pass through. They’re fathers, sons, brothers, husbands, wives, friends, teachers, students, enemies, and all different types of people who don’t even know one another. They came together as a group, encouraging each other, pressuring each other, and they’d rather die than to take this step.
It was early in the morning when I went to look for my elder brother. He was standing outside the front door looking at the sky. I walked behind him and blocked the door, and with an unusual calmness said to him: “Elder brother, there’s something I’d like to tell you.”
“Please, go ahead.” He said quickly turning and nodding.
“I only have a few sentences, but I haven’t yet been able to say them. Elder brother, around the beginning savages all ate a little bit of human flesh. Because people came to have different feelings over it, later some no longer ate human flesh. With one taste they became good, they became real people. There were some who, like insects, continued to eat human flesh. Some changed into fish, then birds, then monkeys; some even changed into humans. Some people weren’t good and continue to be insects to this day. People who eat human flesh are unquestionably lacking in comparison with those who don’t. I’m afraid that even guilty monkeys are much more worse than insects.”
“Yi Ya of the Qi Kingdom steamed his son and gave him to Zhou of the Shang and Jie of the Xia dynasties to eat. This was always a thing of the past. Who would have thought that from the time Pangu created the world to Yi Ya’s son, and again from Yi Ya’s son to Xu Xilin, from Xu Xilin in an unbroken line once again when the person was caught in Wolf Village. They killed a criminal in the city last year. There was a man sick with tuberculosis who dipped his bun into the criminal’s blood and ate it.”
“They want to eat me. At the beginning I couldn’t imagine that you would also want to --why would you join them? People who eat human flesh can’t do anything. They’ll eat me; they can also eat you. They’ll eat members of their own group. But all you need to do is have a slight change of heart, to change immediately, and everyone will be happy and peaceful. Even though its always been this way, we can start to be exceptionally well today. Can you say we can’t? Older brother, I believe you can say it. The day before yesterday the tenant wanted cheaper rent but you said it wasn’t possible.”
In the beginning he just looked at me with a cold smile. As I went on his gaze turned more and more to anger, to the point of turning completely black when I aired his secret feelings out in the open. There was a group of people standing just outside the great door who leaned quietly inward to get a better look. The group included Old Zhao and his dog. Some of the people’s faces were difficult to see clearly, as if they were covered in dark cloth. Others looked the same as before with their rat-like, fiendish faces, using their hands to cover up their smiles.
I know they’re a group of people who eat human flesh. But I also know that their thoughts were fairly mixed. There is a portion of them who think that people should be eaten and that its always been this way; and then there’s some who know you shouldn’t eat human flesh but still want to. He feared that others will raise this with him, so as he listened to me speak he became more and more furious, but he just covered his mouth and smiled coldly.
At this point my older brother’s face suddenly broke out in anger and he yelled: “Everybody leave! What’s so fun about a crazy person?”
I then came to understand another one of their clever moves. Not only did they not want to change but they had prepared early to slander me with the label of a crazy person. This when when they eat me all will be fine and no one will see the true nature of the deed. The tenant said that everybody ate a “wicked” person, and it’s clear that they’re using the same trick here as well.
Old Fifth Brother Chen cut a path directly towards me with an angry look on his face. I don’t know how he managed to cover my mouth but I wanted even more to say to this group of people: “If you start with a pure heart you can change. You need to know that in the future people who eat human flesh won’t be tolerated in this world.”
“If you don’t change, you’re going to eat each other until no one is left. Even if you have lots of kids, you’ll wipe out all of the real people. Just like how the hunters hunted wolves to extinction-----just like insects!
All the people watching were herded away by Old Fifth Brother Chen. I had no idea where my elder brother went. Old Fifth brother Chen persuaded me to return to my room. The room was pitch black. The beams and rafters shook above my head; after a little while their intensity increased and they piled up on my body.
The weight was crushing to the point where I could not longer move. They wanted me to die. I knew the weight wasn’t real so I started struggling against it. I was sweating profusely and now wanted to say even more:
“Change immediately, start with a pure heart. You need to know that in the future people who eat human flesh won’t be tolerated in this world...”
Each day is two meals. The sun doesn’t appear. The door doesn’t open.
I thought of my elder brother as I pinched my chopsticks together. I was now certain that our sister’s death was also his fault. She was five when it happened; I can still see her cute, pitiful face. Mother wouldn’t stop crying. He tried to assuage my mother’s tears, probably because he ate her and seeing mother cry made him feel bad. That’s if he was still capable of feeling bad...
Our sister was eaten by my elder brother. I will never be able to find out if mother knew the truth or not.
My guess is that mother knew but she chose not to say anything because she believed that what my brother had done was probably right. I remember being four or five and sitting out in front of the house. As I was enjoying the breeze, older brother came up to me and said that if father or mother ever became sick, as a son it was my responsibility to slice off a strip of my skin, cook it and give it to them to eat. This is what made a person good. I do not remember mother objecting even though she heard what he said. If they could eat a strip of skin it’s only natural that they could eat the whole thing. But to this day when I think of mother’s tears I become sad--what a strange thing this is!
I can’t think about it anymore.
Four thousand years of people eating other people and only today do I understand that for many years I was one of this group’s members. Our sister died when my older brother was responsible for the doing our family’s chores. There’s no reason to believe that he didn’t feed us some of her meat in the meals that he made.
It’s possible that I ate some of my sister’s flesh without even knowing it, and now it might be my turn.
Me, with four-thousand years of experience eating human flesh, know now what I didn’t know in the beginning--it’s hard to meet real people.
Does this earth still have children who know not the experience of eating human flesh?
Save the children...