When I saw the airplane, I thought it was strange because it appeared in a place where it shouldn’t have been.
Warehouse Eleven was famous for being strict. This strictness wasn’t ordinary strictness, but the strictness that meant there were rules for everything. The first goal of this strictness was that there should never be any mishaps.
I saw the airplane in a wine cellar in Warehouse Eleven. A lot of wine had been stored there, and it was said that the oldest wine was more than three hundred years old. It was apparently transferred over from other old warehouses. The documents on the wine jars were changed every year, and some of them were folded in such a way that the wine jars looked like coffins covered with talismans. Since this area was used for storing wine, the humidity, temperature, and ventilation had to be strictly controlled. Moreover, the wine cellar was small, so the jars were stacked on some special shelves in a haphazard way.
The area occupied by that plane was quite large in the wine cellar, and its location also made one feel very uncomfortable. If I were someone with OCD, I’d probably die on the spot.
The whole plane was surrounded by plastic insulation cloth, which almost looked like a huge curtain. Not to mention Warehouse Eleven, but any normal warehouse wouldn’t store goods like this.
Fatty was very silent as the two of us looked at the plane. Eventually, he said, “This is a Ki-57 Japanese military transport plane that was used during World War II. They were later seized in various places and used for civilian transport. In fact, there are still some flying in Nepal. Any military enthusiasts are familiar with them. I also had a model airplane of one when I was a child.”
The airplane was practically wrecked, making it was obvious that it had crashed. It looked like the front of the plane had hit the ground first, and both the wings and engines were knocked off, leaving only the fuselage which was full of scratches and dents. Moreover, it seemed as if the plane hadn’t been cleaned for a long time, for it was covered in dust. This plastic insulation cloth seemed to be dust-proof, which indicated that the airplane owners had been very concerned about keeping the dust off of it. But now it was covered in so much dust that it looked as if it hadn’t been cleaned for decades.
“What do you think?” Fatty asked me.
I touched my chin, “Warehouse Eleven wouldn’t make such a mistake. This plane not only takes up space here, but also affects the handling of the wine cellar. So, the only reason it’s here is because they can’t move it.”
“What do you mean? Can you make it clearer?”
“In other words, this area was originally used to store this airplane, but it was later changed into the wine cellar. The plane was supposed to be removed, but for some reason, they couldn’t do it. In the end, they could only maintain the status quo.” I carefully ducked under the plastic sheet and walked to the edge of the plane.
The plane was actually quite big. I tried to walk as slowly as possible so as not to raise any dust. Fatty saw an incense burner on the ground in front of the plane with a brick in front of it that was holding up a lot of yellow paper. When he squatted down, he saw about a dozen names written on the yellow paper. “People have died here.” My heart thumped. When I was younger, I had heard that there were many evil things in Warehouse Eleven. Because many of the objects were so old, the source records and warnings for them couldn’t be found. Accidents would occur if they were touched, which resulted in the deaths of many warehouse staff. Maybe this thing was one of them?
Fatty wanted to go up and have a look, so he told me to wait outside of the plastic sheet. Since my lungs were so bad, he was afraid that I might choke. I didn’t think it was a good idea since we didn’t know when the guards outside would come in. But then again, it was a good place to hide considering there wasn’t anywhere else for us to hide in this wine cellar. We were dead if we got caught anyways, so it was better to take the gamble. When I went back outside, I heard a clanking sound coming from inside. Fatty still hadn’t gone in after a long time had passed, so I said to him, “Airplane doors open inward.” I heard his quiet “shit” and then the sound of the door opening. The structure of the airplane must have been unstable, for I heard creaking sounds as soon as he entered. It was as if the plane was going to fall apart at any moment.
I heard him cough again, and then he shouted, “Mr. Naïve, you were right. They’re all zombies.”
“This plane is full of zombies.” After saying that, he quickly got out of the airplane and lifted the plastic insulation sheet. As dust went flying in the air, he coughed and said to me, “You have to come and take a look. This plane is full of mummies, but it’s very strange. They don’t seem to be goods. They look like warehouse staff who died in there.” The plastic sheet was just like a curtain and could be pulled open, so Fatty immediately did so.
I looked at Fatty and suddenly froze. There appeared to be a stele jutting out of his back, but it was like he didn’t notice it at all because he kept talking to me. He was like a Bixi with a monument on its back (1). He was sweating all over and looked like he was about to be crushed.
The stele was so tall and big that I couldn’t understand how Fatty hadn’t noticed it yet. But based on his expression, I was positive that he had no idea there was anything on his back. Judging from the color and degree of weathering, it was an ancient stele with a lot of indistinct words on it.
What’s going on here? I asked myself.
Three years ago, Fatty and I met a fortune teller in a farmhouse at Qiandao Lake. I remember that we ate four different goose dishes at that time. After drinking a little too much, Fatty started socializing with the table next to us, where a group of wives had surrounded a fortune teller. Fatty was always provoking others, and it looked like he was trying to take the top position from the women.
The groups of wives encouraged the fortune teller to tell Fatty’s fortune.
The gentleman said that Fatty wasn’t a human being, so his fate couldn’t be calculated. But he did say that the fat master was carrying a stele on his back.
Looking at someone’s back was a kind of metaphysics which had widely spread in the market, but hadn’t become a theoretical system. People who could read others’ backs generally weren’t fortune-tellers, but were usually painters or gangsters.
In their view, there were many people in this world who weren’t “people”. When they walked on a crowded street, they would see some people with steles, books, or bodies on their backs, but the people themselves were unaware of it.
After hearing such a thing, we didn’t pay any attention to it, but I never expected that I would really see a stele on Fatty’s back.
I slowly leaned over. I couldn’t see Fatty anymore since his whole body was almost crushed to the ground by the stele.
“Fatty! Fatty!” I called him twice, but he kept talking like nothing was wrong.
I went to look at the words on the stele.
My prior research on seal script enabled me to understand these characters, but there were too many parts that had been worn away. I looked at four or five characters, which were very strange: one was the character for pig, one was for circle, one was for corpse, one was for disaster, and one was for building. The two characters “corpse building” formed a phrase, but the other words weren’t clear.
Was this a stele for a corpse building? A pig corpse building? Or maybe a circular corpse building?
I didn’t know.
The more I looked at Fatty, the lower he squatted. By the time I reacted, Fatty had been crushed to the ground and couldn’t get up.
“Mr. Naïve, what am I doing? How did I get pushed to the ground? What pushed me to the ground?” Fatty shouted.
“I don’t know. It looks like you’re going to become a tortoise,” I said.
But Fatty couldn’t hear me at all. The stele seemed to be getting heavier and heavier, and he began to lose his voice.
I suddenly remembered what Fatty had told me just now about the plane being full of zombies. I immediately covered my nose and rushed inside. Sure enough, it really was full of mummies, and they had all been piled up in a disorderly fashion. Moreover, these bodies were all dressed in the clothes of Warehouse Eleven’s staff.
The airplane was full of dust, which caused me to cough so violently that I thought I was going to cough up a lung. When I looked at the bodies again, I found that they were all lying on their stomachs, just like Fatty. Not a single one of them was facing up.
I rushed out of the plane and looked at Fatty. I couldn’t see the stele anymore, but I did see Fatty lying on the ground and coughing up blood. I tried to lift him up, but couldn’t do it at all. It was like he was being pressed to the ground by a huge force and would sink into the concrete soon.
Fatty’s eyes rolled into the back of his head.
That was why the plane couldn’t move. All of the workers who approached it were crushed to death by a strange force.
Steles…how could people have strange steles on their backs?
“Mr. Naïve, go quickly!” Fatty cried in an almost inaudible voice.
I turned and moved away from him, but as soon as I had gone about seven or eight steps away, the stele immediately appeared again. I smacked my head. After experiencing so many things, I wouldn’t be nervous at all unless things had happened too fast.
“Think, think quickly!” I smacked my head twice, trying to force myself to calm down so that my mind could race through ideas quickly.
Why am I ok?
Why am I ok?
What’s the difference between me and Fatty?
Dust…lungs…Fatty was worried about my lungs and didn’t let me go in first since my lungs were bad and I was already coughing.
I didn’t know if I was right, but I was wracking my brain like crazy when I suddenly saw that there was a stone door on the back of the stele. When I looked at it, the stone door actually opened.
I was met with a dark entrance that seemed to want to pull me in.
That was….weird. Like “Bronze Tree of Death” level of weird. Oh well. I doubt it makes it into the final book.