There were a bunch of murals depicting immortals on the wall next to the slogan. Based on their crudeness and bold colors, they weren’t from ancient times but had been painted by the villagers themselves. Ah Tou, who was majoring in fine arts, actually liked non-traditional art styles without professional techniques because they represented a kind of realness and vitality.
These immortals were all two meters tall and looked as if they were standing there frozen since the wall was also about two meters high.
Not only was this a weird form of artistic expression, but the pictures actually showed a kind of tension.
It seemed like the strange tall man was treated like a god here.
“This village was famous for having an amazing fortune teller. He was a man who stood more than two meters tall and his predictions were incredibly accurate. But he somehow died in the end,” the driver explained. “People say that he was a great god descended to Earth. That man was very normal in the beginning, but he began to grow taller and taller as time went on. And the taller he grew, the more incredible he was in seeing things more accurately.”
“How long ago was that?” Ah Tou asked him.
“I can’t remember. My father’s the one who knows all about it.” The driver continued, “Before this man died, he left a message saying that no one should continue living in this village after he was gone. All of the villagers believed him, and many moved out. Those who stayed are all dead, I think. But a majority moved out. The man was nicknamed Long Immortal.”
As he spoke, Ah Tou saw that Liang Yanyan had stopped and seemed to be standing next to a very tall object that had startled her. She shined her flashlight at it and found that it was a big tree.
The tree was very tall; or she should say, it was extremely tall. Such a tall tree wasn’t common in China at all. Ah Tou looked around and found that there was more than one such tree in the area.
“The trees here all grow very tall. They say there’s a particularly tall one in the mountains that was the Long Immortal’s prototype. We don’t usually cut trees here, so they can grow however they like. That’s why the Long Immortal’s tree was never cut. To thank the villagers, he resided here and blessed them. At that time, many people visited here because of the Long Immortal so the village made a lot of money.”
As they were talking, they had already entered the village.
The village was very dilapidated, but the previous villagers had used concrete and steel for construction. With the exception of broken glass, all of the houses were intact. The roads in the village had even been paved, so you could easily tell that they had been rich. But now the asphalt was all cracked and overgrown with grass.
Behind the village was the sea, where they could hear the sound of the waves. Liang Yanyan’s ribs were still hurting, so she continued to take medicine. Based on Ah Tou’s calculations, this was the third time already.
She can’t take medicine like that, Ah Tou said to herself. It wasn’t like Liang Yanyan was a childish person, but taking medication like that made it seem like she had a wanton disregard for her own body. It was basically self-hatred.
When Ah Tou looked at Liang Yanyan now, she didn’t think that the other woman felt so familiar. As a result, she started to relax a little. She wanted to express concern for this female Yan Chixia-like character (1), but she didn’t know how to. In the end, it was the driver who brought it up, “Kid, you’re destroying your liver by taking drugs like that.”
Liang Yanyan ignored him and took out her phone, finding that there was only a 2G signal. When she dialed Black Glasses’ number, they immediately heard the distant sound of a phone ringing in the dark village.
As the call was quickly cut off, Liang Yanyan went over and grabbed Ah Tou’s hand, “Stay close to me. Don’t hold me back.”
Ah Tou was dragged along as they headed to the place where Blass Glasses’ phone had rung just now. Liang Yanyan’s hand was very hot, and as they moved forward, Ah Tou felt like the insects and darkness in front of her were all scattered away by the other woman’s heat.
The village was so large that they circled around it twice but still didn’t find any signs of Black Glasses. Instead, they saw numerous murals of Long Immortal and other long men, all of which were in ruins. Some of the clay sculptures had even been cracked to such an extent that only half of them were left. Many houses had murals covering their doors and walls in such dense clusters that it was a little out of control and went beyond common sense. Some of these immortals were dressed as the God of Wealth, some as Buddha, and some as the Sanqing God (2).
There were also unpainted clay immortals placed on the roadside, almost every single one of them very tall as well. Some were three meters high, and some were five meters, but even the shortest one was two meters high. These clay figures were all looking down at the three of them, which gave them the sense that countless giants were watching them. It was extremely disconcerting.
“It’s a bit like ‘Spirited Away’ (3),” Ah Tou said to Liang Yanyan. Truthfully, she was a little scared. But at the same time, she was also attracted by the complexity of the landscape.
Liang Yanyan dialed Black Glasses’ number a second time.
A phone rang from a dark alley between two houses nearby. When they went over and checked, they found that it was a narrow alley that was about two people wide, with two-story homes on both sides. These homes had been constructed from old bricks, which seemed to indicate that they were some of the older houses in the village. The windows and doors were all broken, and everything inside was so dark that they couldn’t see anything even with the flashlights. It felt like a hand was about to reach out and grab them at any moment.
The call didn’t end abruptly this time and kept ringing.
After entering the alley, they passed a dozen homes before they found themselves at the gate of an old ancestral hall. The old hall was hidden in the middle of the alley and the door was wide open. This building had been constructed between the Ming and Qing Dynasties, and the plaque had already been taken away. The inside was like a huge dark vortex.
“This was where Long Immoral told fortunes,” the driver said. His voice was trembling a little and he seemed like he also wanted to find someone to hold hands with but was too embarrassed to do so. Ah Tou smiled at him while thinking that she also wanted to run away. This place was just too scary.
“It goes downward,” Liang Yanyan said.
When they stepped into the ancestral hall, the ringtone sounded extremely harsh in the empty space. They swept their flashlights around and saw that there was a staircase leading down and the ancestral hall’s floor was set deep into the ground. When they looked down the stairs, they could see that the tiled floor was at least 1.5 metres below.
“Since Long Immortal was so tall, did they dig down a little so as to allow him to move around more conveniently?” Ah Tou asked. Her flashlight moved around the ancestral hall and landed upon a huge bamboo lounge chair lying in the center of the hall.
At this time, the ringtone disappeared.
The lounge chair was big enough for someone who was more than two metres tall, but whoever used this chair must have been at least six meters tall.
The three of them were completely shocked and went over to examine the chair more carefully. “How tall did Long Immoral end up growing to?” Liang Yanyan eventually asked the driver.
“I think it’s just a symbol. Even if he had gigantism, it’s impossible to grow that big. There would be complications, and he would have a short life span without medication,” Ah Tou said.
Liang Yanyan shook her head and used her flashlight to illuminate a hole in the chair’s seat cushion, “This is the hole for excrement and urine to pass through. He sat on this chair and couldn’t move. It probably wasn’t gigantism, but some other disease.”
The ancestral hall’s walls and beams were covered in silk banners that had phrases printed on them saying that Long Immortal responded to every request. The hall was like a shrine made out of flesh. At this time, Ah Tou noticed a lot of rolled up thread-bound books on the beams.
“How old are you to still be playing hide and seek with us?” Liang Yanyan shouted while dialing Black Glasses’ number again. “Come out!”
At this time, a phone suddenly rang from behind Ah Tou. Startled, she immediately turned around and found that the phone was ringing from inside the wall.
<Chapter 23><Table of Contents><Chapter 25>
(1) Yan Chixia, a character from “Eternity: A Chinese Ghost Story” movie series. He is very outgoing and righteous, but he retains childlike innocence. More info on baidu here.
(2) Sanqing, or “Three Pure Ones”, refers to the Taoist Trinity. The outfits looks like the ones here.
(3) “Spirited Away” is a famous Studio Ghibli movie. Info here.